DeRienzo, H. (2008). Community organizing for power and democracy: Lessons learned from a life in the trenches. _The Community Development Reader_, J. DeFilippis & S. Saegert, eds. New York and London: Routledge.

Harold DeRienzo is Managing Member of Greenways Resources LLC. He has served as an advocate, planner, organizer, developer, lawyer, mediator, and protagonist for many of the most pressing housing and community development issues in New York City.

DeRienzo’s polemical chapter begins by distinguishing between the “neighborhood,” a specific, geographically limited “housing services cluster” (p. 181), and the more powerful — and power-related — “community.” The former’s characteristics are: atomization, external economic dependency, and service infrastructure. “Community,” by contrast, requires three things: (1) commonality, which, to DeRienzo, is regrettably sufficient for many community organizers; (2) economic interdependence (Weber, 1968; Berry, 1993); and (3) collective capacity, which follows from the first two and requires sober appraisal.

DeRienzo describes two forms of community building: (1) Static Enhancement, which implies a satisfaction with the status quo, and (2) the Transformative Model, where reality is made (Berlin, 1991). Community power is, like community, fragile and dependent on quality social infrastructure. Given this, DeRienzo sees three types of community organizing efforts: (1) Organizing for Domestication, which he calls “manipulation;” (2) Organizing around Issues, or issue-specific mobilization, which is a bit better but ultimately just minimizes hurt; and (3) Transformative/Developmental Organizing. Here one must recognize the inherent challenges and still strike at the heart of the problem (e.g. public space, institutional accountability and control, political involvement).


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