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close this bookParticipatory Methods in Community-based Coastal Resource Management - Volume 1 - Introductory Papers (IIRR, 1998)
close this folderCommunity organizing and development process
View the documentDefinition
View the documentPurpose
View the documentThe community organizer
View the documentTime frame
View the documentCommonly-used approach


Community organizing and development is a process by which a community empowers itself by working to identify its needs and to resolve its problems in a collective manner. This process develops the confidence and capability of community members to organize themselves. The processes involved in CBCRM are best facilitated through effective community organizing work.



· To enable coastal communities become more aware of their situation and their environment and to realize their collective abilities and responsibility to manage themselves and their environment in a sustainable manner.

· To provide opportunity for participation of men and women in decisions and actions that will affect their lives, thus developing a sense of ownership and collective responsibility for such decisions and actions.

· To strengthen community capacity to access internal and external funds to support viable and sustainable socio- economic projects.

· To enable a community to link and form alliances for advocacy and technology sharing.

· To build and sustain permanent organizational structures for resource management.

The community organizer

The community organizer (CO) is a vital person in facilitating the whole community organizing process.


A community organizer should have:

· an understanding of development theories and concepts and processes of community organizing

· good social and community relation skills to promote social integration in the community

· an ability to work with other teams of professionals

· the knowledge and skills to enable communities to access specialized technical assistance in instances when this is needed

· sensitivity to the local culture

· gender-sensitivity.

Questions to ask yourself as a community organizer

· Do I talk to both men and women in the community?
· Do I feel comfortable living in the community with minimum amenities?
· Do I dress appropriately for community work?
· Am I sensitive to the culture of the people?
· Is my presence felt in the community?

Time frame

Community organizing is a process, hence the time-frame varies depending on the objectives and outcomes set by the people, community organizer and the support agency. This can range from one to several years and the level of effort may change from beginning to end.

Commonly-used approach

This is not a prescribed formula or process to do community organizing. Every community has its own unique situation and context and this should determine the community organizing process for that particular community.


Do the following activities before entry into the community.

1. Community organizing training and orientation in CBCRM.

2. Site selection including establishing a set of criteria for the choice of the area or community to be organized. It is essential that community members are receptive to the non-government organizations (NGOs) and the type of project they are proposing. This is done through consultations with the leaders of the community.

Other considerations include the peace and order situation in the area, interest and willingness of the local government to establish partnership with the project and accessibility of the project site.

This also involves gathering of secondary data about the community from the local government, selected key informants or NGOs that have done organizing work in the area.

3. Administrative preparations on the part of the implementing agency (e.g., setting up a local office, hiring of personnel).

Ideally, a request for assistance in implementing a program should come from the community itself. However, in reality, the initiative almost always comes from NGOs.

Entry into the community/integration phase

Community discussion at the site of a mangrove reforestation project

At this stage, the community organizer integrates into the community and establishes a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Other activities may include:

· courtesy calls to existing leaders

· identification of potential leaders

· data gathering done through involvement in the community's social and livelihood activities, e.g., fishing activities or the use of participatory coastal resource assessment approach.

· formation of a core group that could initiate CBCRM activities. The community may have various ways of working together. These existing networks must be considered when forming a core group.

· leadership training for the core group

Much can be learned from informal conversations.

Community planning and implementation

Once the community organizer has already established rapport with the community and has involved them in assessing their situation through the leadership of the core group, the organizer helps the community in strategic and action planning. The community organizer facilitates the process and provides information that could be used as input for planning. The output of the process would include strategies and action plans, series of activities for organization development, capability-building and resource management. The community decides the time frame and mechanics for actual implementation of the plan.

Example of activities

Organization development

Capacity building/education and training

Resource management

· Recruitment of members

· Gender sensitivity training

· Engaging the community in resource enhancement activities, e.g., setting up of marine sanctuaries

· Leadership formation, training and team building

· Study tours on CBCRM

· Organizational development in management and administration to support economic/livelihood generation projects

· Conflict resolution and management

· Strengthening and formalizing the organization by registering it with an appropriate agency through a local government accreditation process, if appropriate

· Skills training and development

· Advocacy and social mobilization

· Environmental education

Conflict resolution in the community

A community in Bohol, Philippines has an oyster culture project that makes a good profit every harvest. At one harvest, the cash profit was missing after being collected by the chairperson and treasurer. The community organizer called a meeting to discuss the problem. Although the other members of the organization were unhappy about what had happened, they were unwilling to confront the treasurer and the chair person as they were related to a higher official in the barangay Also, majority of the members were family-related to them.

The community organizer realized that meeting the problem head-on would weaken the organization. She, therefore, decided to wait until the forthcoming general assembly. There, both she and another member suggested that an 'auditor' be elected which would help ease the workload of the treasurer and the chairperson. The auditor's function would be to feedback to the organization on the accounts every month. Since then, the financial mismanagement has stopped.

Strengthening the organization

Strengthening the organization is crucial in sustaining the operations of the organization. This entails building the capacity of the organization's leaders and members to take on roles currently assumed by the community organizer. The organizer should then undertake any of the following activities to further institutionalize the processes and mechanisms initiated:

· training of leaders and/or community volunteers to do organizing work themselves

· consolidating organization's operating procedures (e.g., drawing up of policies for membership, refining the organizational structure and functions of each committee, etc.)

· networking and building alliances with other organizations

· strengthening socio-economic services and resource accessing

· specialized training for organizational development training of potential trainers and second-line leaders formation of women's groups

· maintenance and monitoring of resource enhancement measures (e.g., marine sanctuary, mangrove reforestation project)



Often, strengthening the organization in the community organizing process is overlooked. Some NGOs think that once plans have already been implemented and some success has been felt by the community, it is time for phasing out. However, experiences have shown that the initial success achieved by the community is not a guarantee that it can sustain the organization and its activities. The community needs time to consolidate the changes they have initiated, assess their capability to handle more complicated issues and tasks and reflect on the degree of community solidarity that has already been established.

Monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring refers to periodic assessment undertaken within the implementation period to measure progress. Evaluation assesses the degree to which the implementation of community plans has been successfully achieved. Both processes are used as basis for future planning which include changes in the strategies being adopted. (Refer to the topic on evaluation and monitoring tools.)


The community organization, with the help of the organizer, must continuously go through the cycle of planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating their organization and their activities. This will help them keep track of their vision, mission, goals and objectives.

Phase-out/Termination phase

This is the phase when the community organizer already starts to withdraw from the community because goals set by the community and the organizer at the start of the process have been achieved. At this stage, it is assumed that the community has reached a certain level of capability with which they can sustain existing operations, expand or initiate new projects. The community now takes full responsibility for managing their resources.

It is likely that the community organizer and the assisting agency will not fully phase out from the community but simply modify their roles in the partnership.


For example, the community organizer may be less physically present in the community but still makes himself/herself available for some technical assistance or guidance when the community needs it.

A formal community turn-over can be an important ritual for highlighting the phasing out of the community organizer and the autonomy of the organization from the supporting agency.


· The different activities identified at each stage are not mutually exclusive. Many of the activities, especially under the entry and planning and implementation phase, actually run throughout the process.

· The formation of a people's organization is not the end-goal of this whole undertaking, but a means of providing the people with a venue for collective action and for strengthening their capability to continuously deal with needs and problems.

· Most people's organizations usually require some external support mechanism to ensure sustainability.

· The organizing process does not always start with organizing a new group. Oftentimes, when community organizers enter into the area, there may already be existing groups and/or organizations. The role of the community organizer here is to assess the viability of existing groups/organizations and start from there.

· Economic, social and other incentives are often crucial in maintaining the viability of community groups, e.g., seed money for a cooperative economic undertaking can help strengthen the confidence of leaders.

· Gender issues and concerns, as well as indigenous knowledge and practices, should be consciously integrated throughout the process.