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What is social action?

___Social action is the practice of taking action – usually as part of an organized group or community – to create positive change, generally in the direction of greater equity and economic and social justice.

___The Iron Rule of community organizing is never to do for people what they can do for themselves.

___The Iron Rule of community organizing is never to do for people what they can do for themselves.

Examples of social action include:

___Organized communication (letters, phone calls, e-mail) with policy makers and others in authority.

___Encouraging media stories and reporting.

___Putting together or backing a slate of candidates for public office.

___Attending, as a group, a public meeting at which an issue of interest to your community is being discussed.

___Picketing or organizing a strike.

___A boycott.

___A sit-in.

___Street theater.

___Demonstrations, rallies and marches.

Why engage in social action?

___It empowers and energizes populations that have traditionally been powerless, or haven’t understood their potential for exercising power.

___It unifies communities.

___It demonstrates to the world that the community is a force to be reckoned with.

___It may be the only thing that will move a stubborn opponent.

___It motivates people to take other kinds of positive action.

___It can be the beginning of a process that ends in a more unified larger community.

___It can lead to long-term positive social change.

When should you engage in social action?

___When negotiation and reason will get you nowhere.

___When time is short.

___When you want to make a dramatic statement that will focus public attention.

___When you want to energize and empower the community, and develop community leadership.

___When you want to catch the attention of the public – and the media – and galvanize public opinion in your favor about an issue or about your organization or community.

Who should be involved in social action?

___Planning and implementing a social action strategy should be inclusive and participatory.

___Involve previously existing community groups.

___Involve individuals affected by the issue(s) at hand.

How do you engage in social action?

___Get to know the community.

___Identify the issues that are likely to lead the community to social action.

___Identify and contact key individuals and community groups.

___Recruit community members to the effort.

___Build a communication system.

___Encourage leadership from the community from the beginning.

___Create a structure to help the community accomplish its goals.

___Develop a strategic plan for social action.

___Decide what kinds of actions will work best in your community, and what kinds of actions the community is and is not willing to take part in.

___Develop contingency plans based on the level to which you’re willing to escalate.

___Choose the time, place, target(s), and nature of your action based on its purpose, and on how it fits into your overall strategy.

___Provide training and other support necessary to carry out a successful action before you engage in it.

___Plan the action in detail, then follow your plan.

___Organize for action.

___Carry out the action.

___Follow up and evaluate.

___Finally, plan your next move based on how what you just did fits into your overall strategy. 

Phil Rabinowitz