Book Recommendation: "Going Public"

“Going Public: An Organizer’s Guide to Citizen Action,” by Michael Gecan, is a useful book that illustrates the power and humanity of having relational-style organizations. Just 192 pages, cover-to-cover, this guide is easily digestible but definitely unsettling — unsettling in that its themes and lessons tend to strike home. Gecan, associated with the Industrial Areas Foundation, divides his book into four main sections, presented as “habits:” Relating, Action, Organizing, Reflection. His anecdotes help define the intangible nature of how to get individuals involved as a community, especially in seeking power. Here’s a paragraph taken from within a description of a community meeting:

“Start on time and end on time. Recognize yourself and one another. Hold yourself accountable (“South Bronx Churches has thirty-five leaders here today!”), so that you can demand public accountability from others and hold them to it. Take the power you build and test it against the power of others. Bring energy, joy, and irreverence to the public square, not just ideology, self-righteousness, and rote reenactments. Don’t be deterred when others won’t engage. Flow around the obstacles. Persist in unexpected ways.”

His style of writing is fairly easygoing; I got the sense that these were ideas and stories he accumulated during his time working with actual people on actual causes, as opposed to an abstract treatise. Still, it’s more than a memoir — “Going Public” has a useful approach for those who wish to involve people in a common objective. Check it out!

(Thanks to Priscilla for the gift of this book.)

“Going Public,” by Michael Gecan. Published by Anchor Books, a division of Random House, New York. ISBN 1-4000-7649-8.

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