Recommended Reading

Series on IAF Organizing from ACTA Publications:

These are short, easy-to-read booklets describing various aspects of organizing. They provide a useful introduction to some of the main organizing approaches of the IAF.

Rebuilding Our Institutions. Ernesto Cortes Jr., 2010. ACTA Publications. “This book is about how we rebuild those institutions of our society so that we can rebuild our democratic culture and use it to change the way we are doing things in this country and around the world,” says Ernesto Cortes, Jr., the co-executive director of the Industrial Areas Foundation.

Reflecting with Scripture on Community Organizing. Reverend Jeffrey K. Krehbiel, 2010. ACTA Publications. Co-chair of the Washington Interfaith Network, Rev. Jeff Krehbiel offers reflections on four passages from the Christian Scriptures and how they relate to the experience of community organizing.

Action Creates Public Life. Edward T. Chambers, 2010. ACTA Publications. Action Creates Public Life is about how our action in the world-as-it-is helps create the world-as-it-could-be. It is written for those who want to participate in Public life, not just sit around and complain about things or hide in their homes watching their TV sets.

Being Triggers Action. Edward T. Chambers, 2009. ACTA Publications. Chambers mulls about the nature of action, why we take action, how we take action, and what happens if we do not take action. He explores the “inter”-action between our self, others, and the world, because it is in that interaction where being takes place.

The Power of Relational Action. Edward T. Chambers, 2009. ACTA Publications. Chambers describes the art of the relational meeting or “one-to-one,” which he helped develop and which is now being used by clergy, leaders and organizers around the United States and in several other countries to build their congregations and community institutions and to take joint action for the common good.

The Body Trumps the Brain. Edward T. Chambers, 2008. ACTA Publications. Collects Chambers’ “mullings” about the “world-as-it-is” (as he called it long before Barack Obama). Chambers recognized that organizing is a vocation and a career; that all organization is re-organization; and that there is power in personal relationship within organizing.

Effective Organizing for Congregational Renewal. Michael Gecan, 2008. ACTA Publications. If citizens’ organizations can be effective and powerful, welcoming and relational, why aren’t some of the religious institutions that make them up always that way? The answer is they can be.

Books on IAF Organizing:

After America’s Midlife Crisis. Michael Gecan, 2009. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Michael Gecan brings his deep knowledge of Chicago’s blighted neighborhoods, bloated bureaucracy, and venal political machine to bear on a thoroughgoing and nationwide critique.

Going Public: An Organizer’s Guide to Citizen Action. Michael Gecan, 2004. Anchor. This book by Northeast IAF Regional Director Michael Gecan describes the IAF’s organizing philosophy and the tools utilized in the IAF’s considerable successes in New York and the surrounding area.

Gathering Power: The Future of Progressive Politics in America. Paul Osterman, 2003. Beacon Press. MIT professor of management Paul Osterman argues in this book that the IAF’s strategies of institution-based organizing provide the outline for revitalizing progressive politics in America.

Roots for Radicals: Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice, Edward T. Chambers, 2003. Continuum. IAF National Director Edward Chambers outlines the IAF’s philosophy of relational organizing in this sequel to Alinsky’s writings.

Going Public: An Inside Story of Disrupting Politics as Usual. Michael Gecan, 2002. Beacon Press. An organizer for more than twenty years, Gecan illustrates the principles of organizing through a collection of stories from his experiences in Chicago and New York City. Very good introductory book.

On History of IAF:

Reveille for Radicals, Saul Alinsky, 1946. Vintage. The founder of the Industrial Areas Foundation, Saul Alinsky, wrote this book on his experiences organizing through the early 1940s.

Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky, 1971. Vintage. Near the end of his life, Alinsky wrote this classic guide outlining his rules for building power.

Let Them Call Me Rebel: Saul Alinsky, His Life and Legacy, Sanford H. Horwitt, 1992. Vintage. A comprehensive biography of Saul Alinsky.

On the Southwest IAF:

Better Together: Restoring the American Community, Robert Putnam, Lewis Feldstein, and Donald Cohen, 2004. In chapter 1, “Valley Interfaith: The Most Dangerous Thing We Do Is Talk to Our Neighbors,” the authors highlight the South Texas IAF organization as a model of civic engagement and an antidote to the decline of civic life in the United States.

Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy, Mark Warren, 2001. An in-depth description of the Southwest IAF in Texas in which Professor Warren argues that a robust democracy requires connecting politics to community institutions.

Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy, William Greider, 1992. In chapter 10, “Democratic Promise,” Greider describes the work of the IAF in Texas, offering the organization as a model for mediating the gulf between American politicians and the citizens they represent.

Cold Anger: A Story of Faith and Power in Politics, Mary Beth Rogers, 1990. Profile of Ernesto Cortes, the Southwest Director of the IAF. Features many stories of IAF organizing throughout Texas.

On the IAF’s Education Strategy:

Community Organizing for Urban School Reform, Dennis Shirley, 1997. Professor Shirley’s persuasive book argues that school reform must recognize the role of community in shaping educational experience and describes the successes of the IAF’s educational strategy as evidence of the value of connecting community organizing to efforts to improve achievement.

Teaching the New Basic Skills: Principles for Educating Children in a Changing Economy, Richard J. Murnane and Frank Levy, 1996. In chapter 1, “Preparing to Meet the Future,” the authors describe the IAF’s work at Zavala Elementary in Austin, Texas, as a model for developing the kind of culture that will ensure that students receive the education necessary for success in today’s economy.

On the Metro IAF/East Coast and Midwest:

The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, William Greider, 2003. In chapter 4, “Work Rules,” Greider describes the work of the Baltimore IAF in creating workers’ organizations that enable workers to own their own companies and lift themselves out of poverty.

Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church, Samuel Freedman, 1994. This profile of Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood describes the contribution of the IAF’s organizing to the growth and development of an East New York congregation.

Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx. Heidi B. Neumark, 2004. Beacon Press. Rev. Neumark reflects on her experiences as a Lutheran Pastor in the South Bronx, and her experience with community organizing with the IAF.

Additional Books on Organizing:

Building a People of Power. Robert C. Linthicum, 2006. Authentic and World Vision. This book presents detailed power strategies that enable the church to build productive relationships, address the primary issues of the people, and develop strong leaders, faithful organizations, and redeemed neighborhoods that live out shalom.

Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community. Robert C. Linthicum, 2003. IVP Books. Robert Linthicum offers an integrative, biblical study of the proper use of power. Based on a thorough exploration of Scripture and decades of real-world experience in community organizing and urban ministry, Linthicum’s model of relational power provides sound, practical strategies for changing individuals, communities, structures and systems.


The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and His Legacy. 2007. Media Process Group.

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