From Alinsky to Zoom

From Alinsky to Zoom

Understanding Relational, Constituency-Based Organizing in 2021

Call for Participation

​​Research across political science, communications, sociology, and human-computer interaction has explored how modern social movements are leveraging technologies and digital tools to mobilize for social change. While mass mobilization has influenced policy, triggered revolutions, and influenced cultures globally, mobilization is just one method of collective action. In contrast, the more structured, relationship-focused practice of community organizing can also enable mass societal change, such as in the US Civil Rights movement and in the development of tech-giant labor unions. While there is exploration into how we might research and design tools informed by organizing, specific frameworks and practices of community organizing – such as the People, Power, Change framework – also must evolve in response to the ever changing landscape of technology in society.

In this workshop, we will bring together community organizers, technologists, designers, and researchers to explore what it might mean to organize and center relationships in the modern era with (or without) computer support, in what contexts we should prioritize organizing rather than mobilizing, and how we might iterate upon our existing framework to respond to our findings. We will produce an iterated draft of a traditional organizing framework.

Leadership is accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty.

Organizing is leadership that enables people to turn the resources they have into the power they need to make the change they want.

Marshall Ganz on leadership


We welcome and invite community organizers, academics, researchers, designers, technologists, activists, artists, and others to attend with varying levels of organizing experience across wide domains with a range of project maturity.

To participate, submit an application through this google form by September 13th, 2021 in which we ask you share about your organizing practice and other work and interests. For questions, please email Maggie at

Workshop Structure

I. Context

To begin, we will work with the participants to understand the context in which we are working and coming together by asking the following questions: Who are we? What do we care about and why? What pulls us to organizing or mobilizing? How have we participated, practiced, or observed this in our own lives? Why are we drawn to this work?

We will prepare and have two participants and facilitators model an example of a narrative engaging with these questions. We will then break out participants into small groups to share basic versions of their narratives and build relationships, and then hold a discussion on these questions for the remainder of the session.

II. Approach

For our second activity, we will dive into the approach and practice of organizing versus mobilizing. We will engage in a series of case studies from participants who are community organizers or activists sharing from their personal experience, as well as a brief selection of case studies chosen by the workshop organizers such as the recent Amazon labor union vote. After a presentation, we will split into discussion groups and dive into questions like the following: What kind of goals do each of these methods reach? When does mobilizing fit a need, and when does organizing? What are the relationships between these two methods? How does technology influence these practices?

These discussions will be captured on a virtual white board tool (e.g. Miro). From what we capture, we will make sense of our collective experiences in order to identify areas in which the existing framework might evolve.

III. Desired Future

Envisioning desired futures is a key practice of motivation in change making. In the spirit of work done by scholars and activists such as adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha in their speculative fiction anthology, “Octavia’s Brood,” or Grace Lee Boggs in her concept of “visionary organizing,” we will devote the final session of the workshop to challenging ourselves to envision new futures.

Some questions we can ask in this session include: What would a future look like where we center relationships and a resilient, distributed, structure of leadership and power building for societal change? In the future unbounded by our technologies of today, how do we want to be supported? What is the dream of your change? Small groups will visualize potential futures through drawing and other techniques. We will capture the outputs throughout the session to deliver a co-created visual collection of envisioned futures.

Important Dates

Call for Participation – August 2nd, 2021

Deadline for Application (at this link) – September 13th, 2021

Notification of Acceptance – September 25th, 2021

Workshop Date – October 23, 9AM-5PM (including breaks)


Maggie Hughes

Maggie is a Ph.D. student in Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of technology. Her current work seeks to understand how social technology practitioners (dialogue facilitators, coaches, organizers) leverage and might leverage design and data in their practice, and explores methods to design technology informed by the values of these practices. She is trained and organizes with the People, Power, Change framework, now coaches and trains others in the craft, and is researching the practice.

Emily S. Lin

Emily is currently collaborating with Marshall Ganz to develop a research agenda around the practice and pedagogy of democratic leadership and organizing. She first started training public leaders in the skills of the People, Power, Change framework over a decade ago and spent the last several years at nFocus Solutions, helping develop digital products and collective processes to support community-based organizations in evaluating their impact. She has a Ph.D. in Human Development from Tufts University and an Ed.M. in Technology, Innovation, and Education from Harvard University.

Create your website with
Get started