CTC was established by Christians in east London who found community organising helped their churches to be more faithful and effective. It continues to inform all of our work with churches.
We believe the practices of organising express some of the central commitments of our faith
– that relationship is at the heart of God
– that power is good and God-given, even though it can be abused and distorted
– that in Christ, God engages with the world as it is, not just as it should be
– that faithful engagement with the world inevitably involves tension and struggle.
Community organising involves seven key practices:
1. Beginning with relationships – Community organising begins with relationships. Face-to-face meeting and intentional listening come before action.
2. Realism – Community organising is inspired by a vision of the “world as it should be,” but believes that meaning well is not enough. We need to understand the “world as it is,” so our action has a genuine impact. That is also why, in building relationships, we identify the actual interests and passions of our neighbours – and work on the issues where these interests and passions are shared.
3. Positive about power – Community organising seeks to build relational power; the ability of citizens to act with others to change their neighbourhoods for the better. Power can be abused, but Christians involved in organising understand it to be a God-given capacity which we should develop and use together.
4. Committed to developing leaders – Community organising understands a true “leader” to be someone who listens to, works with, and develops the potential of others. It builds power by identifying leaders through face-to-face meetings, and developing them through training and action.
5. Beginning with what unites us – Community organising seeks to build relational power in the most deprived and diverse communities, by encouraging neighbours to focus on their common concerns and aspirations. This means that when people of different faiths and cultures face issues of disagreement, we do so as friends and not strangers.
6. Willing to generate tension – Community organising recognises that change usually involves a struggle. It is willing to generate tension in order to achieve social justice, but that tension is always deployed to achieve a deeper and more lasting harmony; the true peace (shalom) that can only come when there is justice.
7. Teaching through experience and action – Community organising seeks to develop leaders and congregations through experience. It cultivates a habit of creative, intentional action- so that new relationships are constantly being built, and local leaders are constantly developing their capacities. While a high value is placed on reflection and research, these are always engaged in to improve the quality and focus of action, and not to be a substitute for it.
Community organising is more than the sum of these individual practices. Through Citizens UK (and its sister organisations in other countries), it seeks to build a long-term movement for social change. CTC promotes churches’ engagement in this movement, seeks to ensure such engagement is always informed by the distinctive convictions of the Christian faith, and also uses the insights and practices of organising in its wider work with churches both inside and outside of Citizens UK.