Listen, Organize, Act! Organizing & Democratic Politics

S1.E10: Strategy, Tactics, & Direct Action

April 22, 2021 Kathleen Patrón, Sanford Horwitt Season 1 Episode 10
Listen, Organize, Act! Organizing & Democratic Politics
S1.E10: Strategy, Tactics, & Direct Action
Show Notes

This episode examines the ways organizing develops a strategy to bring about change, the kinds of tactics used to achieve change, and the different kinds of democratic action involved in moving from the world as it is towards a more just and generous one. To ground the discussion it focuses on the initiation, development, and success of a campaign run by Common Ground in Milwaukee which addressed the foreclosure crisis there in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crisis. This serves as a case study through which to stage a wider reflection on the relationship between strategy, tactics and different forms of shared action in organizing.


Kathleen Patrón has been an organizer since 2011 and is currently the lead organizer of Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) where she has been organizing around issues of police reform  and accountability and healthcare.  She is also leading a process of reorganizing GBIO. Prior to her work in Boston she worked with Common Ground in Milwaukee which is the focus of the conversation.

Sanford Horwitt has a wide ranging background. A long time reside of Chicago, he began his career teaching at the University of Illinois in Chicago, he was then a legislative aide and press secretary for Congressman Abner Mikva. Later he was an advisor in the national gun control movement and directed the Citizen Participation Project at People for the American Way where he founded the First Vote program. Sandy is also an author, his books include "Let Them Call Me Rebel," the definitive biography of the godfather of community organizing, Saul Alinsky. And alongside that he is also executive producer of a new PBS documentary, "Mikva! Democracy is a Verb" and the founder of the Mikva Challenge, one of the country’s leading youth civic education organizations. Sandy joined the conversation via phone so the sound is a little muffled.

Resources for Going Deeper

Sanford Horwitt, "Alinsky, Foreclosures and Holding Banks Accountable," Huffington Post (2012)

Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (1971, various editions);

Gene Sharp/The Albert Einstein Institution, “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action” (1973); 

Michael Beer, Civil Resistance Tactics in the 21st Century (ICNC Press, 2021);

Lee Staples, Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing, 3rd edn (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2016), Chapters 4 & 5;

Bobo, Kim, Jackie Kendall, and Steve Max, “Part 1: Direct Action Organizing” in Organizing for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists, 4th ed. (Santa Ana, CA: Forum Press, 2010), 1-105;

Ed Chambers, “The Practice of Public Life: Research, Action, and Evaluation,” Roots for Radicals, Chapter 5.