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The Purpose and History of ORGANIZE Training Center

The purpose of ORGANIZE Training Center (OTC) is to strengthen democracy by supporting strong, participatory, democratic organizations whose principal constituency is people of low- to middle-income. OTC is committed to social, environmental and economic justice for all, to a democracy that is based on the active participation of all its citizens and residents, and to building strong communities based on the ideas of individual responsibility, solidarity and our interdependence as human beings. OTC is guided in its work by the values of the democratic tradition and the moral, social and economic justice teachings of the world's great religions. OTC is devoted to citizen education and training for effective participation in a democratic society.

OTC programs include the provision of consulting, workshop and training assistance to community, religious and labor organizations, broader education in the field, internships for individuals who want to deeply explore organizing and who may consider it as a life work, and the initiation of new projects to meet emerging interests and needs.

ORGANIZE Training Center (OTC) is now in its 37th year of operation as one of a number of centers devoted to community organizing and its underlying democratic values. OTC has worked with local multi-issue community organizations, a variety of single-constituency (senior, small business, labor, ethnic/racial, women's, disabled, homeowner and others) or single-issue (housing, economic development, job development and training, education, occupational health, planning, environment) organizations, national unions, religious groups and others.

In its work with local community organizations, OTC either initiated or provided early consulting, workshop and training support for efforts in Portland (OR), San Francisco, San Mateo County, Marin County, Fresno, Santa Barbara County, Statewide organization (all CA), Tucson (AZ), Denver (CO), rural Nebraska and Omaha (NE). Assistance has also been provided to groups in Miami (FL), New York City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cincinnati and Rhode Island.

In its national work, OTC has consulted with and/or done workshops for the Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, National Conference of Catholic Charities, United Methodist Church Board for Global Ministries, World Vision International and the American Federation of Teachers. It has worked with locals of the Service Employees International Union; Food & Commercial Workers; Hotel, Entertainment & Restaurant Employees; Firefighters; Transportation Workers; American Federation of Teachers and in California with the State Employees Association and the School Employees Association.

History of Training and Workshops

Internationally, OTC's Executive Director has participated in workshops, engaged in consultation and otherwise shared experience with those who share OTC's core values in Brazil, Poland, Bulgaria and Israel and in a special consultation with an Eastern European leader of the Roma people. Participants in OTC intensive workshops held in the US have come from Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Palestine, Western Europe, Poland and Romania.

For twenty years, OTC annually led two to four national four- and five-day workshops on community organizing. These workshops presented an overview of organizing as well as an introduction to basic philosophy, strategy and tactics. Participants came from all over the world, and included grassroots leaders as well as executives from national denominations and leaders of national organizations. (This workshop is now only available to groups who contract with OTC for its presentation.)

Because of fundamental changes in the organizational environment within which OTC works, the organization decided to make a major shift in program emphasis in 1992. OTC now engages in more specialized efforts, seeking to:

  • extend its work into the American labor movement by means of the Project for Labor Renewal; this program ended in 2002;
  • develop a program of value-based political education;
  • devote more time to research, writing and education;
  • continue its consulting work with a limited number of groups;
  • engage in international solidarity by participating in educational activities designed to assist organizers and leaders in other countries interested in developing a strong civil society;
  • facilitate efforts that would lead to increased cooperation and collaboration among present national organizing networks, and;
  • otherwise serve as an incubator for emerging new efforts in the organizing field.

From 1993-1999, OTC was the principal consultant to Christians Supporting Community Organizing, a national effort aimed at involving churches of Evangelical, Holiness, Pentecostal and related faith perspectives in already existing congregation-based community organizing projects around the country that focus their efforts on social and economic justice and extending democracy to marginalized groups.

In 1997, OTC initiated the "Project for Labor Renewal," an effort to work with union locals in the San Francisco Bay Area that were interested in the transformation of their organizational cultures so that impediments to full-scale participation on the part of rank-and-file members could be overcome. This effort began with an 18-month exploratory period during which the basic ideas of our approach were presented to a cross-section of leaders in Bay Area union locals. The Project's "action phase" was kicked off March 19-21, 1999 at a 3-day workshop for locals who want to pursue the work of internal renewal with OTC's assistance. The results of this work were published in “Renewing Labor,” available from OTC (see Publications).

Until 2002, OTC published the quarterly, The Organizer Mailing; OTC supports the writing and research activities of its Executive Director and publishes articles and other educational materials in the field of organizing and subjects of related interest. The OTC Publications Catalog offers original articles and reprints on subjects of interest to community and labor organizers, as well as those who have an interest in the field. Items in the Catalog are especially useful for teaching organizing and for people in labor, religious, foundation and other fields that support organizing (see Publications).

About Executive Director, Mike Miller

Mike Miller is Executive Director of ORGANIZE Training Center and has 50 years of experience in the field of community organizing as a lead organizer, consultant, workshop leader, teacher, writer, trainer and initiator of new projects. He is the founding Executive Director of OTC, which is nationally recognized for its work in the field. He has published articles on or related to organizing in Christianity & Crisis, Organizing, The Organizer, Social Policy, Socialist Review, Generations, Religion & Race Reports, The Ark, New Conversations, Z Magazine, The Living Pulpit, International Journal of Urban Planning & Research and the Poverty & Race Research and Action Report, and has taught community organizing and urban politics at Stanford, University of California, Notre Dame, San Francisco State, Hayward State and Lone Mountain.

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About OTC, the author Mike Miller, the book The book: A Community Organizer's Tale Publications and articles Programs with OTC Contact OTC Back to homepage Reviews and Comments Events with OTC Back to OTC homepage