15 episodes

The Listen, Organize, Act podcast focuses on the history and contemporary practice of community organizing and democratic politics. Alongside this specific focus are two others: the first is to explore how organizing connects democracy and religion, particularly at a local level; the second is to explore the visions and practices that shape small 'd,' participatory democratic politics. The name of the podcast reflects these concerns. Through a series of conversations with folk who live and breathe the work of organizing, each series looks at democracy as not first and foremost about a system of government, or set of laws, or an ideology but as rooted in three things. The first is a commitment to listen to others different to oneself because their experience, their story, who they are as a person matters. Listening honors fundamental premises of democracy, as it marks a way of respecting the dignity of each individual, the importance of dialogue as against killing and coercion as means of resolving conflicts, and that people should have a say in decisions that affect them and be able to shape their living and working conditions. The second is that democracy does not just happen, it needs organizing. And if it is to be democratic, it needs people organizing between themselves to determine their living and working conditions. If ordinary people don’t get organized then they are subject to others acting on them and their living and working conditions being determined by systems and structures controlled by others who either won’t listen to them, don’t have their interests at heart, or are actively hostile, wanting them silenced or disenfranchised. And finally, democracy lives or dies by shared action. Listening and organizing generate the means of coming together, but at a certain point people must act together to move the world as it is towards becoming a more just and generous one in which all may flourish. Each episode is a stand alone discussion, but when listened to together, the episodes build on each other to form an integrated series. Season 1 is a foundational course in the meaning, purpose and mechanics of how to do community organizing and build a more just and generous common life through democratic means. Season 2 is a foundational course in the meaning, purpose, and character of democracy.

Listen, Organize, Act! Organizing & Democratic Politics Luke Bretherton

    • Education
    • 5.0 • 23 Ratings

The Listen, Organize, Act podcast focuses on the history and contemporary practice of community organizing and democratic politics. Alongside this specific focus are two others: the first is to explore how organizing connects democracy and religion, particularly at a local level; the second is to explore the visions and practices that shape small 'd,' participatory democratic politics. The name of the podcast reflects these concerns. Through a series of conversations with folk who live and breathe the work of organizing, each series looks at democracy as not first and foremost about a system of government, or set of laws, or an ideology but as rooted in three things. The first is a commitment to listen to others different to oneself because their experience, their story, who they are as a person matters. Listening honors fundamental premises of democracy, as it marks a way of respecting the dignity of each individual, the importance of dialogue as against killing and coercion as means of resolving conflicts, and that people should have a say in decisions that affect them and be able to shape their living and working conditions. The second is that democracy does not just happen, it needs organizing. And if it is to be democratic, it needs people organizing between themselves to determine their living and working conditions. If ordinary people don’t get organized then they are subject to others acting on them and their living and working conditions being determined by systems and structures controlled by others who either won’t listen to them, don’t have their interests at heart, or are actively hostile, wanting them silenced or disenfranchised. And finally, democracy lives or dies by shared action. Listening and organizing generate the means of coming together, but at a certain point people must act together to move the world as it is towards becoming a more just and generous one in which all may flourish. Each episode is a stand alone discussion, but when listened to together, the episodes build on each other to form an integrated series. Season 1 is a foundational course in the meaning, purpose and mechanics of how to do community organizing and build a more just and generous common life through democratic means. Season 2 is a foundational course in the meaning, purpose, and character of democracy.

    S2.E1: Thucydides and the Athenian-Melian Dialog

    S2.E1: Thucydides and the Athenian-Melian Dialog

    With Jed Atkins, I discuss Thucydides understanding of politics, how he has shaped the history of political thought, and the context for him writing "The History of the Peloponnesian War." We then focus on a passage from "The History" known as the Athenian-Melian dialog, reflecting together on the ways this dialogue frames the relationship between power and politics. In the second part, I discuss with Anna Eng why the dialogue is drawn on by community organizers to teach democratic politics and how she uses the dialog in trainings.

    Guests:

    Jed Atkins is the E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Duke University. He is chair of the Classical Studies Department and Faculty Director of Transformative Ideas and the Civil Discourse Project in the Kenan Institute of Ethics. A scholar of Greek, Roman, and early Christian political theory, he is the author of “Cicero on Politics” and the “Limits of Reason; Roman Political Thought;” and (with Thomas Bénatouïl) editor of “The Cambridge Companion to Cicero’s Philosophy.”

    Anna Eng is the lead organizer of Nevadans for the Common Good, an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). Originally from Portland, Oregon, she has organized for over 20 years in California, Texas and Nevada. 

    • 1 hr 15 min
    S2.E2.1: Saul Alinky - Part 1

    S2.E2.1: Saul Alinky - Part 1

    This two-part episode discusses the work of Saul Alinsky, the “dean of community organizing,” and the different traditions and influences that shaped his democratic vision. The key texts discussed are his two books: “Reveille for Radicals” published in 1946, and his more well known later book, “Rules for Radicals,” written in 1971. In this first part of this two part episode I discuss Alinsky, his writings, and his legacy with Amanda Tattersall. Amanda currently directs the Policy Lab at Sydney University. With a background in social movements as well as union organizing, she was inspired by reading Alinsky to set up Sydney Alliance, a community organizing coalition in her hometown. Since doing that, she has helped develop a number of other initiatives to craft creative, democratic responses to endemic problems.

    Guest:

    Amanda Tattersall is an Associate Professor at Sydney University and a community organiser. She established community organising in Australia founding the Sydney Alliance, and also co-founded GetUp Australia’s largest digital campaigning organisation. She currently uses her community organising experience to lead relationship-driven research with the Sydney Policy Lab on issues like climate change and mental illness. She also hosts the ChangeMakers Podcast.
     
     

    • 45 min
    S2.E2.2: Saul Alinsky - Part 2

    S2.E2.2: Saul Alinsky - Part 2

    This two-part episode discusses the work of Saul Alinsky, the “dean of community organizing” and the different traditions and influences that shaped his democratic vision. The key texts discussed are his two books: “Reveille for Radicals” published in 1946, and his more well known latter book, “Rules for Radicals,” written in 1971. In this second part of the episode I to talk to Mike Miller. Mike started out in politics as part of the early stirrings of the student movement at UC Berkeley. From there he got involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), doing work in Mississippi but mostly organizing support for SNCC on the West Coast. That led him to working with Cesar Chavez as part of the Farmworker Movement. Coming off of all of that he ends up as a community organizer based in San Francisco, his home town, but organizing in different locations around the US for many decades until his retirement. His move from SNCC to organizing in the Bay Area was catalyzed by meeting Saul Alinsky who recruited him to work for the Industrial Areas Foundation for a while. I talk to Mike about his relationship with Alinsky and what he thinks was Alinsky’s understanding of democracy.  Towards the end, Mike reflects on the different pathways organizing took after Alinsky died. Along the way, he draws some contrasts between the different kinds of organizing he has been involved in over the years.

    Guest:

    Mike Miller was a leader in the pre-1960s birth of the student movement at UC Berkeley, a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field secretary, and director of a community organizing project initiated by Saul Alinsky. He has been a lead organizer, consultant, mentor and workshop leader in the field of community organizing over many decades. He has taught community organizing, social welfare, and urban politics at UC Berkeley, Stanford, Notre Dame, Lone Mountain, San Francisco State, University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, and Hayward State. He has also written extensively on the subject and related matters in numerous magazines and journal articles. His books include “A Community Organizer's Tale: People and Power in San Francisco—the 1964 to 1972 story of the Mission Coalition Organization (MCO),” and most recently, a co-edited volume entitled “People Power: The Community Organizing Tradition of Saul Alinsky.” He currently directs the ORGANIZE Training Center: www.organizetrainingcenter.org

    • 52 min
    Introduction to Season 2

    Introduction to Season 2

    A brief introduction to the new season of the Listen, Organize, Act! Podcast. This season explores the people, texts, and ideas that organizers have turned to again and again to inspire shared action and explain the meaning, purpose, and character of democratic politics. I start the series with an episode on the ancient Greek historian, Thucydides. A passage from his book The History of the Peloponnesian War is constantly used to teach about the relationship between power and politics.  And then, in turn, comes episodes on the democratic vision of Saul Alinsky, Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Hannah Arendt, Bernard Crick, and Sheldon Wolin. The series ends back in the ancient world, with two episodes on the relationship between the Bible and organizing. Tune in!

    • 2 min
    S1.E1: What is Community Organizing? And Why is it Needed?

    S1.E1: What is Community Organizing? And Why is it Needed?

    In this, the first episode, I talk to Keisha Krumm and Mike Gecan about what is community organizing, what it involves, and why it matters.  Community organizing can also be referred to as broad-based organizing, institution-based organizing, faith-based organizing, or neighborhood organizing. Keisha and Mike prefer just to talk about organizing as the work of enabling people to come together to build power to effect democratic change where they live and work. As you will hear, boundaries between labor and community organizing and between movement building and community building work are fluid. What is constant is the need for relationally driven, bottom up forms of democratic politics.

    Guests:

    Keisha Krumm and Mike Gecan are two very experienced organizers with the Industrial Areas Foundation. Keisha recently became lead organizer with Greater Cleveland Congregations having been an organizer in Milwaukee for a number of years before that. And Mike has been an organizer for over forty years, written extensively on organizing, and done much to shape its contemporary practice. They each tell something of their story at the beginning of the episode.

    Resources for Going Deeper:

    Saul Alinsky. Reveille for Radicals (various editions), Chapter 11;

    Luke Bretherton, "The origins of organizing: an intellectual history," Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship and the Politics of a Common Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), Chapter 1;

    Bernard Crick, In Defence of Politics (London: Continuum, 2005); 
    Lee Staples, “‘Power to the People’ Basic Organizing Philosophy and Goals,” Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing, 3rd edn (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2016), 1-14, 21-35;

    Mark Engler and Paul Engler, This is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-First Century (New York: Nation Books, 2017), 251-284.

    • 1 hr 4 min
    S1.E2: The Basic Tool of Organizing: The One to One or Relational Meeting

    S1.E2: The Basic Tool of Organizing: The One to One or Relational Meeting

    This episode discusses why and how listening is the beginning point of democratic organizing and the role of the one-to-one or relational meeting in that work. The first part is a discussion with Lina Jamoul about what is a one to one, what it involves, and how it differs from other ways of engaging with people in democratic politics.  In the second part I talk to Arnie Graf to reflect further on some of the tensions and issues that arise in doing one-to-one’s.

    Guests:

    Lina Jamoul is Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. Arnie Graf began organizing work as part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and then went on to work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) for over forty years. More recently he worked with the British Labour Party to develop the insights of organizing for local party politics in the UK. Arnie recently published a book narrating all this work entitled: "Lessons Learned: Stories from a Lifetime of Organizing" (ACTA, 2020).

    Resources for Going Deeper:

    Edward Chambers with Michael Cowan, "The Relational Meeting,"  Roots for Radicals: Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice (New York: Continuum, 2004), Chapter 2;

    Jeffrey Stout, “Face-to-Face Meetings,” Blessed are the Organized: Grassroots Democracy in America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), Chapter 12.

    • 49 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
23 Ratings

23 Ratings

yeloFELO3 ,

Excellent resource

Have appreciated the wisdom and insight of various organizers as they speak about fundamentals of political and communal issues from a organizing perspective. A must listen for all invested in serious questions of community, justice, and citizenship.

Really a footie fan ,

Impressive and substantial

I was skeptical that one could get at the essence of IAF organizing in a podcast - I was afraid it would be too academic - but Keisha and Mike speak from their years of organizing on the ground to answer Luke’s questions with compelling stories. I was especially gratified to hear Keisha talk about the challenges of recruiting both younger people as organizers and institutions other than faith-based ones.

discerningdeacons ,

Great intro to organizing

Brilliant podcast for both those new to organizing and those long in the field looking for a refresh and renewal.

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