How to Organize and Mobilize A Community


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To help ensure that your activities are appropriate and successful, you will need to involve representatives of the target group throughout your planning and implementation process.  This is not a one-time task, but rather an ongoing, coordinated effort that involves a lot of time and energy. So, why should you involve the community?




  • Unique sociodemographic features of culturally diverse/ special communities. Do not assume that all communities within a specific minority group are the same. History, location and a host of other factors produce striking differences between ethnically similar communities and even between members of the same community.
  • Elusiveness of local communication networks. There is no standard communication pattern within special populations, even within ethnically similar groups. Each community has its own opinion leaders and unique set of communication channels, which may not be easily identified or traced by an outsider.
  • Community pride in local talent and know-how. Recent decades have seen a growing political awareness among the culturally diverse populations and other underserved groups in this country, accompanied by considerable community pride and a powerful desire for complete self-determination. As a result, what these communities want is the funding and technical assistance needed to develop their own, culturally relevant solutions.
  • Community suspicion of outside change agents. Outsiders should expect that their motives and competence will be questioned by community members. They should be aware of potential suspicion and skepticism and should devise strategies for handling such situations.




Recruit Key People and Agencies

Recruit key representatives of the target population, including people with arthritis, bilingual or bicultural health professionals, individuals who represent community agencies and businesses and individuals who are already serving the group, including the informal indigenous leaders and local politicians.

Through a community assessment, you should have learned about which agencies serve the target population. It will also help to get information about the goals, organizational structure, service capabilities and funding of these agencies in order to learn which ones may be most helpful.

To identify the leaders within a community who might serve as good spokespersons and volunteers start by contacting any bicultural health professionals and contact persons at the community agencies already serving the population. Ask for the names of people who have long tenure in the community, are well-respected and who serve as role models, information sources, problem-solvers and conflict managers.  See the side bar box for some examples of potential community leaders:



  • Bi-cultural/bilingual physicians/ health professionals
  • Public health/home health care nurses
  • Inner city hospital, neighborhood and community center clinic staff
  • WIC staff
  • Local voluntary health organization program directors
  • Unlicensed health professionals/ traditional healers
  • Tribal community health workers

  • Clergy/religious leaders
  • Local chapters of minority agencies and professional organizations
  • Social workers
  • Refugee/immigrant advocates
  • Teachers/academicians
  • Police/peace and community service officers
  • Mail carriers

  • Minority chambers of commerce/ businessmen’s club leaders
  • Grocery store, pharmacy and other shop owners
  • Service station workers
  • Barbers/ beauticians
  • Local realtors
  • Ethnic theaters

  • Political leaders and government officials
  • Tenant/block/neighborhood leaders
  • Civil rights and community activists
  • Union leaders
  • Community elders

  • Community recreational center directors or program staff
  • Senior center director or program staff
  • Women’s social club leaders
  • Youth group leaders (4-H, Boy and Girl Scouts, campus student organizations, sports groups and school coaches, etc.)

  • Media personalities
  • Sports personalities
  • Newspaper editors
  • TV/radio producers


Involve the Target Group in Decision-Making

Involve representatives of the special population in decision-making with the AF chapter’s board and/or state steering groups or other key committees.


Establish an Advisory Committee

This can be a group especially formed for this purpose or a task force within one of your organization’s existing standing committees. The group should not only include movers and shakers who are already working with your organization and who are supportive of efforts to serve culturally diverse and special populations, but also some of the key representatives of the targeted community described above.




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