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Getting People Involved

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Developing a Rap

The skill to develop and deliver a rap will serve you well in any organizing work that you do – whether it is a one-on-one, a house visit, a tabling effort or a petition drive.  It is not hard but requires that you take some time to be clear about the goals of the effort and the subsequent conversations.

There are six basic steps:
  1. Introduction  – who are you and why are you talking?  – Establish credibility and trust
  2. Asking Questions – engage quickly, what do you want to know? How do you want to draw out what they think and feel about?   Ultimately everyone likes to talk and be listened to.
  3. Listen   – to identify issues, what they care about, and their interests.  Listen with ears, eyes and body.
  4. Discussion / Make Points – of what you want to talk about – fit with their concerns, build affinity with cause.  If you really don’t agree, respectfully acknowledge the difference without judging the person.
  5. Commitment – ASK for something concrete  – also known as the “Crunch” – will they sign, attend, fund, mobilize etc…
  6. Close   – next steps.  Make sure you each have relevant contact information, leave any educational/visual materials behind and be clear what the follow up will be.  Acknowledge and appreciate each other, the moment and/or the struggle being engaged.

Getting People Involved

  • Ask them one on one
  • Don’t always go for pro people first
  • Make clear what you want people to do
  • Encourage people to ask questions
  • Give the big picture, and how each task fits in with the rest – how others work is dependent on them.
  • Start small and build, make tasks manageable
  • Keep people accountable – check in at each meeting on progress of work
  • Explain how their work will make peoples lives better

Another process for getting people involved if one is trying to rapidly increase your numbers is to:


This cycle repeats itself again and again, with each trainee taking action, recruiting new, training them; they take action and recruit etc.


  • Fear – of change, unknown, repression, job loss, management, economic insecurity
  • I.C.M.A.D. – I Can’t Make a Difference, powerlessness, hopelessness
  • Apathy – loss of feeling, a result of how painful it is to feel that you are being screwed and doing nothing about it
  • Later, Not Now – denial, if I put it off, it will go away.
  • Disgust and tension from the fight between the union and the boss, the power holder and the effected community, etc
  • Confusion, don’t know what’s happening
  • Lack of information, knowledge, not knowing our rights.
  • Cynicism because of bad experiences in the past or individualistic, “I don’t need anybody else.”
  • Divisions due to racism, sexism, or elitism, or sense of inferiority
  • Family or personal problems, illness, lack of transportation or childcare.
  • Other objections, my parents, my spouse, or my church object.

If we blame people for their apathy or belittle their fears they just become defensive or even more apathetic.  But if we understand why a particular person feels apathetic or afraid we can help them overcome the problem that is holding them back.

Moving People Through Fear to Action

1. What holds people back?
  • People make excuses, but really it is fear and lack of belief in themselves and the campaign that holds people back from taking action.
  • When people are scared or frustrated, they make excuses.
  • As organizers, we need to see through that.
2. What will convince people to act?
  • Identifying the person’s fear and then walking them through it – breaking down/addressing the fear.
  • Getting the person angry
  • Recognizing what they have accomplished and the strength they have demonstrated.
  • Refocusing the person on their motivation – agitation.
  • Convincing the person there is a plan to win and the step is critical.
  • What we are asking the person to do is critical to winning.
  • Making the person feel strong.
  • Making the person feel responsible for the greater good, a belief in the collective effort and accountable to others in the community/struggle.
3.    Key steps and prep for pushing

Step 1:  Before we talk to the person
What motivates this person?
What holds this person back?
A Plan:  How do we get this person angry enough, strong enough and committed enough to take the step.

Step 2: The conversation
Revisit the person’s motivation.
Recognize what they have done and their strength.
Recommit to the union/struggle and the plan to win.
Assignment: What do they need to do to win and be true to themselves?
Struggle through the fear:  motivate, agitate, challenge.


Organizers need to create a situation or ”container” that will allow workers to experience and express their fears.  Exploring these feelings can help uncover anger.

Anger directed is a key to change.

Organizing is the process of moving people to see and feel the injustice and then accessing their own power to change it.   This process involves re-thinking their relationship to the oppressor/boss etc.  This process can be quick or long and painful because ultimately it is about accepting and then overcoming things within us. Once we start taking responsibility for and control of our own life, then we have begun changing the relationship with the boss.  One must explore their own interests and decide is the risk of loss worth the benefits to be gained?

From the United Farm Workers – AHUY

ANGER– righteous anger – people need to feel that the boss is taking advantage of them.
HOPE – people need to feel that things can get better.
URGENCY – people need to see that time to move is NOW, later or tomorrow will be too late
YOU can make a difference!

“Nothing Can Withstand the Force of An Idea Whose Time Has Come” – Victor Hugo