Community Organizing: Theory and Practice

Joyce McKnight all

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Community Organizing: Theory and Practice

By Joyce McKnight, Joanna McKnight Plummer
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Explores how helping professionals effectively work in the community.

Community Organization: Theory and Practice provides readers with the theories, tools and strategies needed to organise effective, participatory change efforts in communities. Readers will learn how these theories inform and can help direct the type of organising that will work best for a specific community based on its personality, needs, and resources. Community Organization is designed as both a textbook and a reference guide for professionals in the helping field.




Joyce Sheldon McKnight, D.Ed. is Associate Professor of Community and Human Services at the innovative Empire State College of the State University of New York.  She has over forty years of direct  community organizing experience in urban and rural place-based communities, communities of interest, diasportic communities and online social networks. She has taught community organizing principles and practices to hundreds of adult undergraduate and graduate students from around the world, many of whom have used participatory community organizing to implement exciting community-based projects including projects in Haiti, India, and South Africa. Since 2003, she has had major responsibility for the development and supervision of comprehensive community and human services and public affairs curricula for the burgeoning Center for Distance Learning of SUNY/Empire State College. In 2007 she received the college’s prestigious Altes Award for Community Service and Scholarship and in 2009 received the Phyllis M. Cunningham Award for Social Justice Research from the Adult Education Research Conference. She is a frequent contributor to national and international conferences and has reviewed articles on participatory research and popular education for the Adult Education Quarterly.  Her areas of expertise are participatory community organizing, self-directed learning, distance learning, prior learning assessment, open educational resources for developing nations and on-line community building.


Joanna McKnight Plummer is a recent  graduate of the State University of New York in community and human services with additional graduate studies in mental health counseling.   She brings practical experience in community-based organizing in both city and rural settings as well as the student perspective to the tone, content, and readability of this student-focused text.

  • Encourages Critical Thinking -  Standards for Excellence critical thinking questions challenges students to think critically about the standards in relation to chapter content. Chapter reviews allow students to connect to scenario-based reviews including short-answer discussion questions. Self-study quizzes found throughout the text, self-study quizzes test student knowledge and comprehension of key chapter topics.
  • Engages Students Through Case Studies - Two composite geographic communities based on real organising efforts are used throughout the text to illustrate key ideas, principles, and applications. A process-centered approach enables readers to apply participatory principles to their own organising efforts.
  • Incorporates Solid Academic Research - Based on decades of practical experience, this book is backed by solid academic research. Senior author Joyce McKnight is a recognised scholar, teacher and organiser with forty years of experience in participatory research, popular education and social justice.
  • Emphasis on Participatory Organising Processes - This title has an emphasis on participatory processes - enabling community members to improve the quality of community life through maximum local participation and minimum outside intervention.
  • Simplified System Thinking - Written in a learner-friendly style, this title uses the metaphor of a microscope to help readers grasp the intricacies of system thinking by looking closely at the focal system and expanding outward to understand the intricacies of a community.
Table of contents
  • Chapter 1. Defining Community
  • Chapter 2. Communities as Systems
  • Chapter 3. Living and Working in Communities
  • Chapter 4. Varieties of Community Organizing
  • Chapter 5. The Community Organizing Cycle
  • Chapter 6. Building an Effective Leadership Team
  • Chapter 7. Participatory Research
  • Chapter 8. Planning and Implementation
  • Chapter 9. Management and Evaluation
  • Chapter 10. Organizational Structure, Budgeting, and Funding
  • Chapter 11. Power and Empowerment
  • Chapter 12. Navigating the Political Labyrinth
  • Chapter 13. Value Systems and Ethics
  • Chapter 14. Community Organizing with Web-Based Tools
  • Chapter 15. Organizations that Support Community Organizing