The very way we tend to think and talk about the decline of people’s institutions has crippled our ability to wrestle with the causes of the decline of our democracy, to assess the consequences for our communities and our country, and, most importantly, to apply the cures required to make our nation whole and healthy again. Thus begins Mike Gecan, the co-director of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation and one of the most profound theorists and successful practitioners of grass-roots community organizing in the country, in this unique and compelling look at what is going on in America right now.
Gecan here calls on his more than four decades of experience—from organizing in his hometown of Chicago to helping create the East Brooklyn Churches’ Nehemiah Plan to helping direct a network of more than 60 organizations in the U.S. and around the world—to teach organizers and community leaders how to rebuild their own institutions, or build new ones, and then forge them into powerful citizens’ organizations that have reimagined and recaptured their ability to control their own destinies.
Gecan lists six ways that Americans have come to think “individually” rather than “institutionally,” and then explains the consequences of doing so on a wide variety of real issues in people’s lives, including housing, policing, mental illness, opioid and other addiction, gun violence, jobs and wages, the state of our politics and economy, and even our mortality rates. His solution is to return to the time-proven method that has kept America strong since its inception: one-to-one relational organizing.