In this episode I examine the second key tool organizing uses for listening, building relationships, and effecting change: the house meeting. As a form of democratic politics that begins with listening and is attentive to the experience, conditions, and stories of people where they live and work, organizing needs practices for listening well. Along with the one-to-one discussed in the previous episode, the house meeting is just such a practice and the other basic tool of community organizing. So in this episode I discuss the history of the house meeting, what it is and why it matters, how to do it, some of the issues and problems that often come up when facilitating a house meeting, how it feeds into building power, and how it contrasts with other approaches to listening and engaging people in democratic politics such as focus groups.
Tim McManus has been with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) for over thirteen years now, organizing in Dallas and Phoenix before becoming the Lead Organizer for Communities Organized for Power in Action (COPA), the IAF affiliate on the Central Coast of California. He is currently building a new IAF organization in California’s Central Valley. Before becoming an organizer, he was a high school teacher.
Maria Elena Manzo was born in Mexico and came to the US aged 14. She was a farmworker, going back and forth to Mexico until she was 30 after which she was able to settle in California. She has been a leader with COPA for almost 20 years and currently works as program manager for Mujeres en Acción.
Resources for Going Deeper
Gabriel Thompson, “The Mexican Problem,” America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016), Chapter 5;
Aaron Schutz and Mike Miller, “Fred Ross and the House-Meeting Approach,” People Power: The Community Organizing Tradition of Saul Alinsky (Nashville: University of Vanderbilt Press, 2015), Chapter 8.