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Publication #FCS9227

IFAS Community Development: Stage 2 of Empowering Your Community–Organization of Sponsorship1

Mark Brennan, Christine Regan, Muthusami Kumaran, Michael Spranger, and Randall Cantrell 2

This paper is part of a series of discussions on community development. This series includes specialized papers on civic engagement, community action, and other topics important to the development of community.

Introduction

Community action is a participatory and dynamic process, not simply a static occurrence. The first action stage, initiation (Marcus, Brennan, Kumaran, Spranger, and Cantrell, 2014), spreads interest in and increases awareness of community issues/needs and paves the foundation for the second stage, organization of sponsorship. This second stage continues the process of increasing awareness and primarily focuses on establishing group structure and organizing resources needed for grassroots organizations, non-profits, and/or other groups to achieve their goals (Wilkinson, 1991). Such factors are important in relation to assessing community assets and needs as well as formatting action efforts to address perceived problems (Wilkinson, 1970; Wilkinson, 1991). Organization of sponsorship is characterized by the development of formal and informal partnerships among diverse social groups and organizations that cut across social and economic lines. These partnerships and channels of communication set the stage for action efforts that meet the general needs of the entire community (Wilkinson, 1991; Luloff and Bridger, 2003; Theodori, 2004). Partnerships can provide a formal group structure to a focused community action, while simultaneously maximizing resources.

Organization of Sponsorship for Community Action

The organization of sponsorship in the community action process often involves the creation of a new group or the adaptation of an existing group to deal with some local problem or issue (Wilkinson, 1970). This process involves coordination and integration of actions within and across various segments of a community. This is accomplished through the formation of diverse networks and associations among individuals within different organizations. These linkages assure continued interactions across social groups or interest lines that go beyond the lifespan of any single action issue (Wilkinson, 1991; Luloff and Bridger, 2003). Sustaining interest of various stakeholders in community action beyond the resolution of certain issues is a key to long-term community development.

Establishing a group structure and identifying community assets are the keys to the organization of sponsorship stage. These can take many forms including:

  • Convening a meeting of interested parties to discuss a course of action

  • Asking local governmental officials to take responsibility for common needs

  • Forming a committee of concerned citizens to address the issue

In forming a new action group, the members should be both reflective of the diverse community residents and united under a common agenda of needs and interests. This allows for individuals and organizations with distinct, but interrelated pursuits, to come together for community action.

Equally important is the identification of community assets (financial, human, social, and physical), which can be possibly used in achieving community action goals. These resources can take many forms including:

  • Identifying fundraising opportunities and mobilizing other financial resources

  • Finding legal help to resolve issues

  • Developing an inventory of skills and capabilities of community members and groups

  • Asset mapping

  • Assessing local human and financial resources

  • Classifying local organizations into categories to coordinate an organized council of agencies

Including Organization of Sponsorship in Extension Work

When structure and resources are developed during the organization of sponsorship stage, a basis for expanding community action efforts and the development of programs emerges. Recognizing the human, social, and financial assets present among change agents allows for a pooling of the resources necessary to achieve effective community action. The organization of sponsorship stage of community action is therefore vital to long term program development and the development of action plans. Organization of sponsorship can include the following efforts:

1. Develop the framework for forming a group structure

An assessment must be made regarding whether to create a new group or to adapt an existing group to deal with some local issues or needs. In order to make this assessment, several actions can take place, such as calling a meeting of interested parties to plan for action, putting an ad in the local newspaper or community bulletin boards, asking local governmental officials to take responsibility for common needs or issues, appointing a committee to address the issue, or forming a new group/committee to address the issue and build community networks to resolve the issue. Through these and other efforts, a diverse group of individuals who share common and unique ideas emerges. This framework allows for diversity in the decision-making process and links a variety of organizations or members to work toward a common goal. Based on the interest and experience of these individuals, duties and roles can be developed to advance the community group's goals and objectives.

2. Establish a decision-making structure to prepare for goal-setting and strategic planning

Once a group structure is in place, a strategic plan must be developed. In order for the plan to be developed and be properly implemented, a hierarchy or structure must be determined by all individuals involved. Forming a Board of Directors or an ad-hoc committee are two ways to handle this. The formation of subcommittees to address specific components of the action plan can also emerge at this stage. This structure will evolve over time as new members with special knowledge/skills are brought in, and as the complexity of the action plans become evident. Without such structure in place, the goal and vision setting and strategy development that take place in the third stage will be very challenging.

3. Identify community resources

It is important to maximize existing resources within a community. Resources can take a variety of forms (financial, human, and physical). Different social groups have access to different resources; therefore, pooling resources is more conducive to accomplishing joint action and that assists in reaching a wider community with the action efforts. Pooling resources can include:

  • Assessing and consolidating financial resource

  • Coordinating legal assistance

  • Assessing other local groups’ action agendas

  • Assessing and coordinating local human resources

  • Assessing and coordinating local physical resources

4. Develop a strategy for allocating resources

Once resources are identified, a strategy must be developed to allocate those resources effectively and in a timely manner. The key here is to be able to apply resources to accomplish multiple goals and needs. This would include actions to determine what other community organizations or groups are addressing the same issue or need. Such action is important to avoid duplication of attempts to address issues or needs. Partnerships and collaboration with such groups can then be undertaken to use resources effectively and enhance partnerships. For example, if a community is trying to address teenage pregnancy and an organization is already teaching courses on family planning, perhaps the newly formed group could provide follow-up information in a brochure or on its website. Effective resource allocation involves collaborating with other community organizations, examining local and state resources, and long-term planning of such allocation. Conversely, misusing resources can stifle the community action process.

Summary

Organization of sponsorship is the second key step in the community action process. In this stage, the newly formed or already existing group, formally comes together and assesses the resources necessary to develop visions, goals, and a strategic plan.

Stage two allows a diverse group of citizens to initiate social change through focused community action. This collaboration not only enhances individual community members’ well-being and sense of attachment to the community, but it also allows them to see how collaborative efforts can be effective in producing change within their community. Ultimately, organization of sponsorship provides a strong group structure, which is the basis for the third stage of the action process: visioning, goal setting, and strategy formation.

References and Useful Reading

Brennan, M. A., M. Kumaran, M. Spranger and R. Cantrell. 2014. The Importance of Local Community Action in Shaping Development. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy729

Green, G.P. and A. Haines. 2012. Asset Building and Community Development. (3rd Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press, Inc.

Luloff, A.E., and J. Bridger. 2003. Community Agency and Local Development. Pp. 203-213 in, Challenges for Rural America in the Twenty-First Century, edited by D. Brown and L. Swanson. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Marcus, J., M.A. Brennan, M. Kumaran, R. Cantrell, and M. Spranger. 2014. Empowering Your Community: Stage 1, Initiation. EDIS. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy740

Theodori. G. 2004. Preparing for the Future: A Guide to Community Based Planning. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Cooperative Extension Service.

Wilkinson, K. 1970. “Phases and roles in community action.” Rural Sociology. 35 (1): 54-68.

Wilkinson, K.P. 1991. The community in rural America. New York, NY: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Suggested Websites

The Asset-Based Community Development Institute www.abcdinstitute.org

The Community Development Society http://www.comm-dev.org/

Community Resource Group http://www.crg.org/

Civic Practices Network http://www.cpn.org/

International Association for Community Development http://www.iacdglobal.org/

Footnotes

1.

This document is FCS9227, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date September 2005. Revised January 2014. Reviewed January 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Mark A. Brennan, PhD, former faculty member, assistant professor; Christine Regan, former graduate student; Muthusami Kumaran, PhD, assistant professor; Michael S. Spranger, PhD, professor; and Randall Cantrell, PhD, assistant professor; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.