Group Session 10


Exploring Alternative Strategies

You should have nearly all of the elements of your project assembled. You know who your target population is, what their major strengths and problems are and how close the formal and informal resources in the community come to meeting the population's needs. Now your task is to develop effective ways to increase the strengths and reduce the problems of the target population and the community.

Once you have identified the problem that you will try to address, you should identify the target of your change effort. There is a tendency to identify organizations or institutions in the community as targets because that is generally were the problem is located. However, many organizers believe the target should always be a person. "Personalize the target" is a fundamental rule of organizing. That does not mean we are critical of an individual or attacking them personally. It does not mean the person is evil, inconsiderate, insensitive to the plight of others, or has a narrowly defined self-interest. It simple means that by virtue of having the power to give you what you want, that person becomes to focus of your change effort. Even if the power to give you what you want is held by an organization or governing body such as a city council, board of directors, legislature, etc., find out the name of the person/s who can make the decision or significantly influence it. Make that person the target.

Personalizing the target helps narrow the focus of the campaign and can make the members feel that it is possible to win. An effort to change a person's mind is much more believable than one to change the policy of a large bureaucracy or institution in the community. In addition, individual decision makers have human responses such as fairness, guilt, fear, ambition, vanity and loyalty. These do not exist in institutions or formal organizations. Such responses can only come into play if one personalizes the target.

A distinction is often made between primary and secondary targets. Primary targets refer to the individual/s who have the power to give you what you want. A secondary target is a person who has more power over the primary target than you do and you have more power over this person than you have over the primary target. For example, in East Austin a couple years ago it was discovered that the large storage tanks on the "tank farm" represented a significant health hazard to people living in the adjacent neighborhood. When the residents began to organize, their primary targets were the CEOs and Board Members of the oil companies that owned the tank farm. But because of the health risk to them and their children, they made an official of the City Health Department a secondary target. They were able to get the health department to conduct tests of ground water, perform health screenings in the neighborhood, and place a considerable amount of pressure on their primary target to get them to close the tank farm.

Its not essential that every change effort have a secondary target. If the action system has sufficient influence over the primary target, a secondary target may be unnecessary. Other times, the secondary target may be more generalized then the primary target. For example, the United Farm Workers are still sponsoring a grape boycott. Some of you may have been approached when you enter the supermarket not to buy grapes. In this case, one might argue that the secondary target is "the general public." However, one might argue that you are the individual target. The target is still personalized. Its just that there are many thousands of secondary targets. Mass media campaigns and broad educational efforts to change community opinions and attitudes can be viewed as trying to influence many, many secondary targets.

In thinking about planned change, its important to distinguish between strategies, tactics, and actions. A strategy can be thought of as a general approach or model for initiating change. Jack Rothman identifies three models of community organization practice: locality development, social planning and social action. These general models represent alternative strategies for initiating change in communities. In selecting a strategy, you should keep in mind the characteristics of your target population, the problems to be solved, the structure of the community, and the nature of the support and opposition you have identified.

Tactics and techniques are the specific methods for carrying out a strategy. That is, each strategy has a set of tactics that one can be applied in implementing that strategy. For example, tactics that would be consistent with the social action model might include boycotts, strikes, rallies and marches, etc. Tactics from the social planning approach might include a community survey, program evaluation, demonstration project. Community development tactics might include organizing a community forum, starting a support group for a group of concerned citizens, or organizing a coop.

Actions are the specific steps that you will take to accomplish the change effort. Actions might include a rally to protest the plan to close a local agency, a voter registration drive before an important election, etc.

Its also important to keep in mind that an overall plan for initiating change may include multiple strategies, tactics, and actions. This is what Rothman refers to as mixing and phasing. For a change effort to succeed, you must define the tasks that need to be performed, the resources you will need, and the resistance you must manage. You must choose tactics that will gain support from your target population and the community. You must have a clear agreement with individuals and groups regarding goals and responsibilities for action and/or inaction.

For the next group meeting, you will focus on identifying basic strategies, tactics and actions for your plan to initiate changes that will help meet the needs of your target population. You may want to consider more than one problem. The table below provides room to consider up to three problems confronting your target population. It is intended to help you conceptualize plans that flow from the three basic strategies outlined by Jack Rothman.

Strategies
Problem Locality Development Social Planning Social Action
Problem 1 Target: (Primary & Secondary)

Tactic 1

Actions


Outcome Criteria

Target: (Primary & Secondary)

Tactic 1

Actions


Outcome Criteria

Target: (Primary & Secondary)

Tactic 1

Actions


Outcome Criteria

Problem 2 Target: (Primary & Secondary)

Tactic 2

Actions


Outcome Criteria

Target: (Primary & Secondary)

Tactic 2

Actions


Outcome Criteria

Target: (Primary & Secondary)

Tactic 2

Actions


Outcome Criteria

Problem 3 Target: (Primary & Secondary)

Tactic 3

Actions


Outcome Criteria

Target: (Primary & Secondary)

Tactic 3

Actions


Outcome Criteria

Target: (Primary & Secondary)

Tactic 3

Actions


Outcome Criteria


Back to Syllabus