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Local Community Organizing and Change: Altering Policy in the Housing and Community Development System in Kansas City


Brian Christens, School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1300 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.



This article presents a detailed case study of a local group of citizens organizing to hold governmental and nongovernmental organizations accountable for improving housing and communities in Kansas City, MO. The case study draws on a review of organizational archival documents (i.e., organizational attendance records and internal reports); public documents from local, state, and federal agencies; media coverage; and a series of qualitative interviews with participants. The case provides an example of successful local community action. Yet, it also highlights many of the challenges that organizing groups face in making lasting community change. Change is constant and ongoing. Citizens' groups must therefore not only mobilize but also achieve a sustainable and politically viable presence to continually exert pressure. This is particularly true because citizen actions on behalf of community interests often provoke reactions from special interests and other defenders of the status quo. Case study methods represent a critical tool for documenting and understanding important community phenomena in a more holistic way. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.