The Best Books, Podcasts, and Websites for Community Organizing
How do we ensure that every human has the right to health? PIH staff have learned, and employed, many strategies over the decades. Below, three community organizers share some of their favorite resources, from a children's book to a proudly wonky website.
Ortal Ullman’s picks
Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals, by Saul Alinsky
This classic, first published in 1971, is for anyone looking to really dive into the thinking of an organizer. Alinsky was a powerhouse, maybe best known for fighting to improve housing in poor parts of Chicago, and is often credited as the "father of modern community organizing," having inspired young Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and many others. Rules for Radicals is your handbook to his basic beliefs and strategies.
Ever heard of an artistic vigil? Want to plan a flash mob? Beautiful Trouble has got you covered. The two-year-old site—a collaboration between the YesMen, Ruckus Society, and many more activists—is chock full of powerful, artistic ways to organize and take action on any number of issues. Sure, writing a letter to your congressperson is always a good use of time, but Beautiful Trouble can help you imagine more creative strategies to show your constituent power.
The Good Fight with Ben Wikler
Wikler says his podcast aims to tell David versus Goliath stories “from the behind-the-slingshot point of view." With topics like "The 347 Climate Wins You've Never Heard Of," each episode is a dose of sunshine. Wikler put the show on hold one year ago. His day job as the Washington director of MoveOn.org simply got too busy. But there are still 44 episodes, with each reminding us that, while the fight for social justice is long, the underdogs have plenty to celebrate.
A is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara
For the tiny change-makers in your life, there's nothing like a progressive grassroots alphabet book. “F” is for "Fair pay." “P” is for "Power to the People." Nagara's words and illustrations offer activists of any age a reminder of the great (and many) tools in our belt.
Justin Mendoza’s picks
When you're trying to advocate, it's really important to keep an eye on relevant political happenings. For me, that usually means checking the Wonk blog, which offers expert opinions from a ton of different folks. The Hill is also important, especially for insights on seemingly mundane things, such as congressional floor votes, that can shape the timing of advocacy campaigns. The Lancet, a weekly medical journal, is one of my favorite places for global health policy. Their opinion pieces are written by leaders in the field and address the issues that matter most.
Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
This book is an awesome introduction to behavioral economics, the way we make decisions about our lives and what's important to us. Written for a general audience by a pair of distinguished professors, it makes me think carefully about how to present choices, opportunities, and messaging to the people I organize. Think of it as Freakonomics with a policy agenda.
Adarsh Shah’s picks
Organizing For Social Change, by Kimberley Bobo and Steve Max
The 4th edition of this hefty tome is the most comprehensive grassroots advocacy resource I have come across. Essentially a textbook, it walks any aspiring organizer through crucial theory and skills, from power mapping to building coalitions, generating community power to pressuring officials. If you are looking for a place to start a deep and intellectually informed engagement with community organizing, this is the place to start.
RESULTS, an advocacy organization focused on poverty reduction, has created lots of really excellent material. And unlike other toolkits and trainings, RESULTS’ “Meeting Face-to-Face with Members of Congress” or “Advocacy at Town Halls and Public Events” are action-focused and based on many years of experience in both domestic and international issues. Whatever you are passionate about, these resources can get you started on the road to, well, results.