Skip to main content

This blog is cross-posted at

A very good young organizer and writer named Jason Mann suggested I do this. I hope it is useful. Feel free to distribute any way that advances our cause of workers and human rights.

- Learn to be an active listener. The core skill for an organizer is to listen intently. Listening is much more important than talking. Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing is full of tips on listening.

- Learn to be comfortable discussing matters of great importance with complete strangers.

- Become comfortable meeting new people.

- Learn the housecall or home visit or door knock. You will use this skill your entire organizing life. There are plenty of tips on the house call in Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing.

- Learn to breakdown issues that have been made artificially complicated into simple, kitchen table concepts. That is the entire purpose of Getting America Back to Work. Reading it will not only prepare you to discuss economics policy, but help you see how to break down issues – so will reading this blog.

- Become comfortable with conflict and confrontation. They are inherent in organizing. We are hell raisers, up-enders, outside agitators, rabble rousers. We believe Robin Hood was right – and Jesus and Frederick Douglass and WEB DuBois and Gene Debs and Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and Gandhi and Dr. King. More on this in Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing.

- Stoke the fire in your belly. Maintain a passion for fairness and justice. Love your neighbor. Fight inequality. This is the foundation of your work.

- Learn to teach people to work together for the common good. Lots on this in Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing.

- Hate injustice and oppression and cruelty in all its many forms. Cheer for the underdog.

- Believe in the power of average people to do remarkable things. That is the central story of human history.

- Learn what Dr. King meant when he said “The moral arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” And what Acuff meant when he said that it bends quicker when a lot of us are pulling on it.

There is more. I’ve taught these lessons and many more to thousands of organizers at all levels. Contact me through the contact page on my website BY CLICKING HERE for me to teach or speak about these and many other needs in our struggle for social and economic justice.

© Creative Commons Copyright 2013


Follow @StewartAcuff on Twitter!

Connect with Stewart Acuff on Facebook!

Stewart Acuff is the former organizing Director of the AFL-CIO. Acuff has also written two books: Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing, and Getting America Back to Work.
Get the e-book edition of Playing Bigger Than You Are for $2.99 by clicking here!

Originally posted to StewartAcuff on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 05:25 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Group W: Resisting War.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site