Alinsky at 100: Community Organizing in the 21st Century

October 15–17
Whitman College
Walla Walla, Washington

Thursday, October 15, 2009

“Who was Saul Alinsky?”

7:00 p.m. Kimball Auditorium

Presenters: David Alinsky (Saul Alinsky’s son) and Mark Santow (Professor of American History, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)

Please join us for a special evening when we are given the unique opportunity to listen in on a conversation between Alinsky’s son David, and Professor Mark Santow, author of the forthcoming book, Saul Alinsky and the Dilemma of Race in the Post-War City (U. Chicago Press).

Our two guests will explore many fundamental questions about Alinsky, such as: What did he believe? What were some of his ideas about organizing? Who were his influences? How did he regard his role as an intellectual, and as an activist? Where did he think the future would take his ideas? All of these questions, and others, will be addressed during this session.

Friday, October 16, 2009

“Public Sociology and Community Organizing”

8:00-9:00 a.m. Reid Campus Center Ballroom. Invited guests only.

Presenters: Michelle Janning and Gilbert Mireles (Professors of Sociology, Whitman College)

How is community organizing an important topic for understanding the sometimes blurry boundary between sociological scholarship and social action? What role can sociology play in understanding the significance of organizing in contemporary society? What about Saul Alinsky's early thinking is sociological and how has this informed organizing over the last several decades? This session serves as a welcome and introduction to the Symposium and to the year-long discussions on public sociology being held in the Sociology department at Whitman College. Invited guests only.


“Alinsky Lives!?”

9:30-11:30 a.m. Reid Campus Center Ballroom

Discussants: Dick Harmon (Alinsky protégé and former Co-Director of the Industrial Areas Foundation Organizer Training Program) and Joe Chrastil (Lead Organizer, Sound Alliance)

Where and how are current grassroots mobilization efforts drawing on Alinksy’s methods? A great deal has recently been said about Alinsky-style organizing in the United States, particularly in the national political arena. However, the vast majority of the IAF’s work has been non-partisan, broad-based local organizing. This session will survey current broad-based organizing efforts across the West, especially in Washington, Oregon and Alberta. The session will also explore the meaning of these campaigns, and whether and how they are successful in catalyzing the kinds of changes necessary to enhance social and civic life in the United States.


“What if Saul Alinsky came to Walla Walla Today?”

12:00-1:30pm Reid Campus Center Ballroom - Lunch Included with Registration

Panelists: Rev. Wim Mauldin (Lead Organizer, Spokane Alliance), Julia Leavitt (Whitman College ’09, Neighborhood Organizer, Commitment to Community, Walla Walla), and Louis Gonzalez (Organizer, SEIU Healthcare 775NW, Former organizer with Commitment to Community)

Moderator: Noah Leavitt (Research Associate, Department of Sociology, Whitman College)

What happens when the 50-year old ideas of an organizer from the gritty South Side of Chicago meet a rural Eastern Washington farming community in 2009? Do Alinsky’s theories and methods hold sway in a place like Walla Walla? Organizers who are active in Walla Walla and throughout the region will explore the links – and differences – implied in this question. Audience members will learn about Commitment to Community, a local support network that is making a positive difference in several neighborhoods in Walla Walla. We will also hear about other organizing efforts in our corner of the country. Would Alinsky approve?


“Creating Organizers”

2:00-3:30pm Reid Campus Center Ballroom

Presenters: Joe Chrastil (Sound Alliance) and Rev. Wim Mauldin (Spokane Alliance)

While some people bring certain innate talents and traits to their work, the reality is that organizers are made, not discovered. Come hear how two long-time organizers in the Northwest train talented individuals to become thoughtful, methodical, respectful, effective community organizers. Speakers will cover the qualities they look for in potential organizers, and then review the training and mentoring provided in the IAF Network. This session will be highly relevant to anyone who has ever wondered “How do people actually do this work? Could I?”

Note: This is not an actual training session. Rather, it is an overview about what organizer training looks, sounds, and feels like.


Community Organizing Networking Reception: "Want to become a community organizer?”

Sponsored by the Whitman College Student Engagement Center
4:00pm-5:00pm Reid Campus Center Coffeehouse

Spend a relaxed hour with men and women who are working as organizers in the Northwest. Learn how to break into the field of organizing, how to talk about your Whitman education in ways that connect to the needs of the profession, and find out who's hiring!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Student Organizing Workshop

10:00-11:30 a.m. Maxey Hall 142

Representatives of Whitman campus activist groups will have the opportunity to discuss issues most important to them with seasoned organizers from around the Northwest. Students can learn from the organizers’ experience and consequently develop plans to assist in furthering their own campaign goals.


Interfaith Organizer Training, Part 1

12:00–6:00 p.m. Maxey Hall 142

Do you want to strengthen your congregation’s ability to get things done? Are you looking for ways to put your faith into action, create closer relationships in your congregation, and shape Walla Walla for the common good? This 4-part training series to help local congregations bring our Valley’s many faiths into a single voice for justice. You will learn addresses issues like: building an intentional network of diverse people, and discern their shared interests, analyzing power structures to determine what issues are winnable, strategizing campaigns to win while respecting those on all sides of the issue, and utilizing organizing tools with various size and kinds of groups.

Note: This training series is designed specifically for members of Walla Walla congregations. Please contact Noah Leavitt for more information and to register members of your congregation or faith group for the training.