The Face of Month - Paul Cromwell

Posted by (econ) on 05.06.2014
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Name and surname:

Paul Cromwell

What do you do? (position)

I worked as a community organizer in the United States for 25 years with students, workers, and mostly in low-income neighborhoods.  Since 2004 I have worked as a community organizer trainers and consultant in Germany with the Forum Community Organizing (FOCO) and am a co-founder of the European Community Organizing Network (ECON), doing training and consulting in Central and Eastern Europe.

What is your connection to ECON?

I'm co-funder, consultant and trainer.

Why did you chose community organizing?

Community organizing provides a framework and numerous pragmatic strategies to help citizens, especially those from disadvantaged groups, build power and effect positive societal change.  It also helps to bring diverse persons and groups together into relationships of trust and mutual respect. 

How did you start organizing?

As a teenager, my life was impacted by the social (civil rights, ant-Vietnam war, womens, etc.) movements that were occurring in the United States, and my uncle who was a pastor gave me Martin Luther King to read.  I thought I would become either a pastor or a politician when I grew up.

At the university I attended, I organized students to support labor unions who were struggling against exploitative corporations.  From this work I made contact with an outstanding organizer and mentor who was working in the state of Mississippi with woodcutters – a primarily African-American workforce that faced dangerous working conditions and very low pay.  These two years of working in Mississippi convinced me that organizing was the profession I wanted to do and which combined my interest in both politics and religious faith.

What motivates you?

I am deeply motivated by my Christian faith and values – a belief in the importance of justice, fairness, and compassion.  I hold a strong belief in the value of democratic participation as a means for all persons to shape their lives and the society within which they live.  And I am deeply motivated and energized when I see persons (especially from diverse backgrounds and from typically powerless groups) come together and powerfully negotiate their interests with key societal institutions.

What is the victory you are proud of the most?

When I was an organizer with the Interchurch Coalition for Action, Reconciliation, and Empowerment (ICARE) in Jacksonville, Florida the organization worked on school reform issues, especially the theme of ensuring that all children learn how to read fluently in their early elementary school years.  Because of the work of ICARE, a dozen inner-city and predominantly African-American schools adopted a teaching curriculum and strategies which tremendously helped their children achieve reading fluency.  When children learn how to read properly in their early academic years, their chances of ongoing academic and life success increases dramatically.

What makes a good organizer?

Good organizers are people with good relational skills and have a burning passion for justice and fairness.  They must be curious about both people and societal institutions, wanting to learn about what motivates them and makes them function.  Good organizers need a sense of humor, willingness to work long hours, and an ability to intentionally plan – act – and then evaluate both themselves and the organization and people with which they work. A good organizer is a good trainer and teacher, helping citizens learn the skills of effective citizenship.  It is also helpful to have solid writing and speaking skills. 

What would be your advice to young organizers?

Young organizers should do lots and lots of face-to-face visits with potential participants in the organization.  Relationships are the key to organizing!  The more relationships an organizer has, the more people he or she can bring into the active life of the organizations, and the more power and possibilities the organization has to be successful and to win issues.


Paul Cromwell conducted a training and consulting visit with a group seeking housing renovations in Munich, Germany.


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