Category Archives: How Organizations Develop Activists

Building Leaders in Our Classrooms and Communities

By Melissa Michelson

Extensive research supports the proposition that community service is important and should be encouraged among our nation’s young people. It teaches compassion and understanding, building stronger communities. It gives young people a sense of purpose and cultivates adult citizens who are more engaged in their communities and in politics, strengthening our democracy. In his speech earlier this month promoting the idea of two years of free community college, President Barack Obama called attention to existing programs in Tennessee and Chicago that require their students to do community service, and throughout his presidency has expanded programs to encourage service by all young people. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this quotation from Dr. King makes its annual appearance: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” Continue reading

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Balancing Strategy and Constraint in SMO Practices: Insights from How Organizations Develop Activists

By Edward Walker

Hahrie Han’s How Organizations Develop Activists represents an important contribution to scholarship on social movements and advocacy organizations. All too often, in my view, studies elide the distinction between thicker forms of engagement that build and enhance relations among participants (“organizing”) and forms that mainly involve getting people to take action regardless of whether those relations have been cultivated in a meaningful way (“mobilizing”). Yet, understanding this distinction has serious consequences for a variety of features of advocacy campaigns. It impacts the extent to which interests are established through participation rather than necessarily prior to action, whether activists feel that their personal efforts are being recognized and acknowledged by others active in the cause, as well as more pragmatic issues about maximizing the potential that activists can most effectively marshal their collective energy and effort into the larger enterprise. Continue reading

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Reflections One Year Later on How Organizations Develop Activists

By Hahrie Han

It is both humbling and exciting to read so many responses to How Organizations Develop Activists, and to develop perspective on the ways it is being understood, interpreted, and put to use in the world. When I was finishing graduate school and deciding whether to stay in academia, one of my mentors encouraged me by describing academia as a good “perch” from which to do work that dialogues with both scholarly thinking and practical politics. Although I have strived throughout my career to stay on this perch, it is rare (and gratifying) to have the opportunity to gain such insight into the ways my work fulfills that promise, and the places where questions remain. Continue reading

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