IAF What is the IAF? What is the mission of an IAF organization? What do IAF organizations do? What have IAF organizations accomplished? Where do IAF organizations get their money?  Where does the money go? Do IAF organizations endorse political candidates? Where can I learn more?   ORGANIZING What is broad based organizing? What is the Iron Rule? How does IAF organize? Who sets the agenda for the organization? What kinds of issues do IAF organizations work on? What do organizers do?   MEMBERSHIP What is the membership of an IAF organization? What are the benefits of membership? How can my organization join WIN? Are there other IAF affiliates in the Washington DC Metro Area?

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What is the IAF? The IAF is the Industrial Areas Foundation, the country’s oldest and largest community organizing network.  The IAF was founded in the 1940s by Saul Alinsky, who organized the country’s first neighborhood association, “The Back of the Yards Council,” in Chicago’s South side.  Today, the IAF has affiliates in more than sixty cities.  Each affiliates has its own name, sets its own agenda and hires its own lead organizer.  The various affiliates come together for training and for regional leadership development.  For more information on the IAF, visitwww.industrialareasfoundation.org.   What is the mission of an IAF organization? The IAF helps build broad-based, non-partisan organizations of dues-paying member congregations, school, unions, business associations, and nonprofits committed to building power for sustainable social and economic change.  IAF organizing develops a constituency of leaders to become citizens in the fullest sense: participants in democratic decision-making and agents of the creation of a more just society through the exercise of relational power.   What do IAF organizations do? IAF organizations are:
  • POWER ORGANIZATIONS committed to expanding the ability of individuals, families and organizations to act on issues of concern.
  • ACTION ORGANIZATIONS committed to researching local and broader issues, acting directly on those issues with decision-makers in the public and private sectors, and evaluating those actions.
  • TRAINING ORGANIZATIONS where leaders and potential leaders can learn about the skills and concepts necessary to operate effectively in the public arena.
  What have IAF organizations accomplished? Living Wage BUILD, the IAF affiliate in Baltimore, conceived, designed, and passed the first living wage law in the country in 1994. Affordable Housing IAF affiliates built and sold 5,000 new, affordable, owner-occupied homes in Brooklyn, South Bronx, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC.  The affiliate in Montgomery County Maryland created a $16 million annual dedicated fund for affordable housing. School Reform Alliance Schools are engaging thousands of parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders in communities all across the southwest and west.  IAF established partnerships to run seven city schools in the Bronx and Brooklyn and secured agreement with New York City to build a state-of-the-art campus for four new high schools in the South Bronx. Neighborhood Development Secured from the DC government a $1 billion commitment to redevelop neighborhoods, $295 million from the city of Philadelphia to rehabilitate blighted communities, and $59 million for redeveloping neighborhoods in Baltimore. After School Programs Established a model afterschool program in Baltimore, serving more than 1,200 students in 10 schools. Immigrant Financial Services Developed a partnership with Citizens Bank in Boston to enable immigrants to send money home to their families for minimal fees. Health Care Expansion Led a state-wide coalition that won a nationally heralded victory for universal health care in Massachusetts in 2006. Applauded the introduction of insurance coverage for all the children in Illinois — a program called All Kids.  Added to a 2002 health care expansion initiated and won by the IAF affiliates in Cook, DuPage and Lake counties, this means that Illinois has become one of the nation’s leaders in providing health care options to the vast majority of its formerly uninsured residents.   Where do IAF organizations get their money?  Where does the money go? IAF organizations are primarily funded by dues from member institutions and do not accept any government funds.  The vast majority of an IAF organization’s budget goes to pay the salaries of organizers, with a small portion allocated for one support staff member and the organization’s administrative expenses.   Do IAF organizations endorse political candidates? No.  The IAF and its affiliates are strictly nonpartisan.  IAF organizations do hold elected leaders accountable to the citizens they represent.  We value alliances with elected leaders, and welcome their support for the IAF’s agenda.  We also publicize their positions on issues important to IAF members, and encourage individuals to use this information in making election decisions.   Where can I learn more? These books are excellent sources for understanding the history, methods, and successes of IAF organizing. Roots for Radicals: Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice, Edward T. Chambers and Michael A. Cowan, Continuum, 2003 Going Public, Michael Gecan, Anchor Books, May 2004 (Paperback) Black Social Capital: The Politics of School Reform in Baltimore, 1986-1998, Marion Orr, University Press of Kansas, 1999 Upon this Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church, Samuel G. Freedman, Perennial, 1994  


  What is broad based organizing? “Broad-based” organizing brings together a broad base of institutions for power, which we define as the ability to act.  These institutions are schools, congregations, labor unions, business associations, and neighborhood associations.   What is the Iron Rule? The Iron Rule of organizing is: Never do for somebody what they can do for themselves.  The IAF does not bring an agenda of issues to new institutions.  Instead, it teaches the skills and practices those institutions need to determine their own agendas, identify and mentor leaders, and act together publicly.   How does the IAF organize? The process begins when a core team of leaders in an institution conduct relational (one-on-one) meetings and small group conversations called “house meetings”.  These meetings provide an opportunity for individuals to share their stories and concerns.  Through these conversations, leaders begin to understand, value, and effectively tell their own stories and learn how to elicit stories from others.  Leaders’ stories are the inspiration for action on their hopes, grief, and values.   Who sets the agenda for the organization? The organization’s agenda is set by the institutions that make up the organization.  Often, several issues will be identified by a number of institutions, and these will become priorities for the entire organization.  Other issues, important to one or a small group of institutions, can become the subject of local action, supported by the entire organization.   What kinds of issues do IAF organizations work on? IAF organizations work on issues that emerge out of conversations within member institutions.  IAF organizations have worked on health care, education, housing, immigration, employment, traffic issues, safety concerns, the environment, and other issues of fundamental importance.   What do organizers do? The primary responsibility of organizers is to identify institutional leaders who have an appetite for public action and teach them the skills and practices required for effective, results-oriented public work.  Organizers develop the talent within leaders, challenging them to see their potential and the possibilities that can be accomplished through organized collective action.  


  What is the membership of an IAF organization? The members of IAF organizations are institutions: congregations, schools (both private and public), labor unions, business associations, nonprofits and neighborhoods and civic organizations that share a concern for families/communities and are rooted in traditions of faith and/or  democracy.   What are the benefits of membership? In the first instance, IAF relational organizing techniques can be used internally to strengthen an institution, and externally to strengthen that institution’s relationships with its neighbors.  While the organization and objectives of every institution are different, many members are able to achieve victories on local and city-wide concerns that they could not realize on their own.   How can my organization join WIN?  You will probably want to begin with a series of conversations with WIN leaders, and within your organization, about how membership might help your organization bring change to your community. For more information, contact the WIN office at (202) 528-0815.   Are there other IAF affiliates in the Washington DC Metro Area? Yes.  In Maryland: BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development) AIM (Action in Montgomery) PATH (People Acting Together in Howard) In Virginia: VOICE )Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement)  

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