Globally, establishing a movement requires organizations and people to be in activism and campaign modes. Members of a movement continuously fight against the faced challenges; sometimes, they are perceived to go against the norms that the group works for or mobilize to achieve in the next win. The Center for Community Change (CCC), is a movement organization, has tried to initiate changes and fight against community challenges for nearly half a century. Formed in the United States in 1968 to fight for civil rights concerns in the 60s, CCC has a mission to “build the power and capacity of low-income people, especially the people of color and women, the intention being to change communities and public policies for the better” (CCC n.p.). CCC can be categorized as a civil rights interest group given that it was initiated to address the violation of minority civil rights in the 1960s (Borani et al. 143). This study seeks to demonstrate that CCC uses effective group approaches to achieve the interests of its members.
The Center for Community Change
Aims and Objectives of the Study
The aim of the study is to explore the organization of CCC and how it pursues its policy interests as a group. The study is aligned with the following specific research objectives:
1. To understand the incentives behind the formation of CCC as an interest group.
2. To analyze the approaches that CCC uses to pursue its policy interests.
2. Literature Review
2.1. Understanding Community Organization
Community organization refers to a process in which people with a particular interest unite to address what affects them (Loomis et al. 26). For instance, members of the community might come together to develop plans on how a given city can be secured from crimes and drugs, or members of a given faith work together to uplift their income levels. Community organizations often form in different contexts that define community like shared places, shared work situations, and even shared experiences and concerns (Borani et al. 143). In shared places, place-based practice such as community organizations is used as a problem-solving approach based on geographic locations. In shared work conditions, people who are concerned with their job securities, wages, benefits, and general job conditions come together to form unions and work together towards achieving a common goal. In a shared experience context, people in a community get concerned and seek to address certain issues, such as violence, poverty, substance abuse, discrimination, and politics among others. The current study reviews the literature on CCC as an organization that was formed due to shared experiences and concerns.
2.2. Pluralist Approach to CCC Politics
In the understanding of interest groups, the U.S. is significantly influenced by its approach to politics. Group behaviors have been researched using constitutional and formal methods. According to Grossmann (13), interest groups (such as CCC) use group theory framed on the fundamental pluralist assumption that active and free group system is critical for democracy. Pluralist groups argue that the effective functioning of any democracy is anchored on a balanced, responsive, and active group system. CCC, like any other group, anchors on pluralist theory to enhance group policy, initiate outcomes and create institutions (Grossmann 13). According to the pluralist theory, most individuals join collective action in groups since they believe that participation as a group contributes to the provision of collective benefits (Grossmann 13). Consequently, CCC exploits the influence of the group as in pluralist theory to help in achieving its policy interests.
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2.3. CCC as a Shared Experience Organization
CCC is a progressive community group that is geographically active in the U.S. (CCC, n.p.). The organization seeks to respond to the civil rights concerns and, as such, can be termed as a shared experience group. CCC, which has affiliations with the Center for Community Change Action, aims at creating social movements that enhance benevolence and friendly environment for every person regardless of his/her race, ethnicity, and gender. Most of the movements and activities that CCC organizes tend to improve the quality of life among the marginalized American communities. Such a tendency is based on the following fundamental missions (Epstein 277). First, there is the need to review the capabilities and power of the marginalized groups within the American communities, especially, of the low-income people of color. Second, the public perception of the persons with low income in the American communities should be changed. Third, CCC initiates changes in the public policies that favor the improvement of the standards of living.
In order to achieve the above missions and objectives of empowering marginalized persons in communities, CCC focuses on a number of primary areas of operation including immigration, jobs and wages, racial justice, retirement security, and removal of barriers to employment for persons with criminal records (CCC, n.p.). As for its operations, CCC’s main focus is on the urban areas with a high concentration of people of color. The organization often makes attempts to create resident-based groups that work on the local issues of concern to the target groups. As a part of its mission to create awareness, CCC offers training programs and internships in its operational mandates, including electoral engagement, union organizing, service learning, and community organization among others. Through the programs on training and internships, CCC empowers people and promote grass-root movements through education and resource provision. In resource provision and mobilization, CCC assists grassroots groups with regards to campaign strategies, social media use for campaigns and funding where appropriate. Education and training help individual members of the community to develop leadership skills that are necessary for social movements. Moreover, CCC offers community groups a platform upon which they can make unionized and collected decisions on the issues affecting them. In 2004, for instance, CCC through collaboration with immigrant groups organized the Fair Immigration Reform Movement that sought to empower immigrants to speak out their frustrations (Leong 266). CCC has also worked with the federal government in the past to initiate programs such as Food Stamp and Community Reinvestment Act.
In seeking to find economic justice for communities, CCC has been involved in major social movements, one of such movement being ‘Putting Families First: Good Jobs for All’. The social movement that was organized in 2015 was intended to help achieve economic justice for marginalized communities within the U.S. (CCC n.p.; Stolz 12). The movement was anchored on the realization that women and people of color do not have equal access to employment, yet they are qualified to apply for these jobs. In this case, CCC has been fighting to create a workplace environment that guarantees minimum wage, values family, and unlocks opportunities in poor communities and among unprivileged.
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The Fair Immigration Reform Movement that was supported by CCC attracted a number of grassroots movements that joined hands to make collective voice on immigration reforms for the U.S. immigrants. In 2004, CCC mobilized immigrant groups, minority groups, as well as civil rights and labor groups among others to protest against the unguaranteed wage equality and poor work terms for illegal workers in the U.S. (CCC n.p.). Following the creation of digital reform campaigns, youths without documents found a platform to speak their frustrations regarding deportation threats and family sacrifices.
In order to gather and analyze information for the current paper, a qualitative research method was used. The methodology specifically entailed the use of focus group interviews to gather primary data from the target participants. The choice of qualitative research was deemed desirable for the current study since it often applies to scenarios where research seeks an in-depth understanding of the research issues (Creswell, 2009). Strategies and approaches in qualitative research are shaped by the research questions and thus suit the research scenarios with limited information on the issue to be studied.
Although CCC is a popular organization, there is limited research on its organization and how it pursues its policy interests. This study takes an exploratory approach to understand the methods used by CCC to pursue its policy interests to success. The interviews particularly examined how CCC organized some of its successful campaigns. The research will be similarly significant in understanding the experiences of the focus group participants with regards to issues that CCC pursues, particularly in pursuing income for the minority and undocumented groups in the U.S.
3.1. Participants and Sampling
The focus interview group included four participants. The participants were chosen using a purposive sampling method. In purposive sampling, participants are identified based on a specific criterion, notable experience with regards to the issue under research. For the CCC study, the researcher sought information from persons who were believed to be well informed and experienced in an issue affecting CCC. Participant Joseph Pate is a CCC staff (working in the communications team), and Beth Rayfied is the staff (working in the institutional advancement team). The two other participants were a young man and a young lady. The young man was an undocumented immigrant, and the lady was jobless and had orientations to LGBT. While the two CCC staff were contacted through the organization website, Pate helped to link the researcher with the two other participants.
3.2. Data Collection
Once all the participants were identified, the researcher conducted a one-hour interview via Skype to discuss the operations of CCC, the approaches it used to pursue its policy issues, and the experiences of participants. Also, it was discussed how CCC has helped them to overcome their concerns. The researcher recorded the interview discussion for later analysis.
3.3. Data Analysis
The researcher used a phenomenological data analysis method to interpret the results of the focus group interview. Phenomenological research seeks to enhance self-expression and non-interference from the researchers. In phenomenological studies, the research sets no leading questions so that the participants’ ideas are not prejudiced. Phenomenological data analysis focuses on the examination of the themes in the collected data as well as pinpointing and recording the themes (Denzin & Lincoln 8). In the analysis, themes are identifiable patterns in the dataset (Denzin & Lincoln 8). These identifiable patterns are related to the study issue and research concerns. Apart from counting the words and phrases within the dataset, the approach identifies both the implicit and explicit ideas within the set. The interpretation entails a comparison of different phenomena frequencies and occurrences. It is also important to understand that participants in the phenomenological analysis approach are assumed to have similar or near-similar experiences. The assumption attempts to demonstrate how certain phenomena are understood within the shared perspectives of the participants. For the CCC research, the participants are believed to have common experiences with regards to the approaches and strategies that CCC uses to pursue its policy interests.
3.4. Results and Discussion
From the focus group interview, there emerged a number of themes and issues that were of concern to the current study. When asked about the approaches that CCC used to mobilize a community and ensure the success of their policy interests, Beth and Pate largely concurred on four main issues. First, the participants suggested the use of social planning and persuasion to address substantive issues faced by target communities including education and training. The participants explained how different teams set goals and objectives, jointly coordinate the organization’s efforts, and review the attainment of goals with regard to mapping key issues that affected the society. It emerged from the discussions that social planning might occur in a context of either conflict or consensus goals. The participants opined that availing information on high rates of unemployment among people of color and women and organizing movements to raise awareness often helped in reaching a consensus for common agreement.
In addition to social planning, the participants mentioned social action as the second approach that CCC has been using over the years to pursue its policy interest. Social action entails increasing resources and the power of low-income and marginalized persons. CCC usually organizes disruptive events such as street protests, boycotts, and lawsuits to draw the attention of the government towards their concerns. On August 1st, 2013, for instance, CCC participated in a civil disobedience action after which its executive director Deepak Bhargava was arrested.
The third approach that emerged during the interview is locality development. Locality development is an approach that the organization employs to reach consensus regarding issues of concern to the community and how to resolve them. CCC used this approach mostly in 2012 and 2013 to address what was perceived as economic injustice to minority groups. The message that the organization passed across was to compel the government to lower taxes and remove the barriers that prevented women and people of color from getting jobs that they qualified for. In order to spark a movement, CCC convinced the groups concerned that they had rights to all jobs and as such reached a consensus for a countrywide debate.
The fourth approach featured during interviews is community partnerships or coalitions. According to this approach, CCC enters into partnerships with community-based groups to change community conditions through specific practices, programs, and policies. The policy changes and practices that are achieved through the partnerships can then be implemented at federal, state, or local levels.
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Asked about their experiences while working with CCC, the two invited participants explained how they benefited in education and empowerment through the efforts made by CCC. With regards to understanding and affecting community context, CCC creates debates and awareness for optimism about public problem-solving. Through raising cross-cutting issues, CCC creates a platform for the public to engage its leader’s ineffective service delivery.
Other benefits that the participants highlighted to have derived from CCC include community planning, community mobilization, promoting community change, influencing systems, and achievement of community-level improvements. CCC has been active in showing the public what the authorities are not doing right for certain members of the community. The community and government recommended the right action they are supposed to take to improve service delivery to all members of the community. In 2013 and the beginning of 2014, CCC initiated its campaign claiming that ‘everyone has enough to thrive’. In this campaign, CCC consulted with experts, partners, and low-income people to galvanize a social movement that would generate moral agency, the public will strategies and leaders to confront poverty.
The current study sought to discuss CCC as an interest group and how it pursued its policy interest. In addition to the review of the existing literature, the study entailed a focus group interview process to explore approaches used by CCC to pursue its policy interest. Mirroring information that is contained within the reviewed literature, the interview participants revealed different approaches that CCC used to achieve its policy interests, mainly social planning, social action, locality development, and community partnerships/coalitions. The benefits and breakthroughs that the participants attributed to CCC during the focus group interview suggest the success of the organization in pursuing its policy interest through the highlighted approaches.