How to organize a community action group

What is a community action group?

A community action group brings people together to take action on issues that affect their community. These groups often focus on social, economic, and environmental issues, and they work to bring about positive change through various means such as lobbying, campaigning, and volunteering. Community action groups can be organized on a local, regional, or national level, and they may be affiliated with larger organizations or operate independently. The goal of a community action group is to empower individuals and communities to take control of their own development and address the issues that matter most to them.

An illustration of a community action group meeting in a cafeteria

There are many potential goals that a community action group might pursue, depending on the needs and interests of the community:

  • Advocating for policy changes: Your group might work to bring about changes to local, state, or federal laws or policies that affect your community.
  • Improving public services: Your group might focus on improving services such as schools, healthcare, transportation, or public safety in your community.
  • Protecting the environment: You might work to protect natural resources, reduce pollution, or promote sustainable practices in your community.
  • Promoting social justice: Your group could work to address issues such as racial inequality, poverty, discrimination, or other social justice issues in your community.
  • Supporting the arts: You might focus on promoting and supporting the arts in your community, through activities such as organizing events, fundraising for artistic projects, or advocating for public funding for the arts.

How to form a community action group

If the goal is meaningful and relevant to your community, the group will attract passionate participants. It’s not easy to build impact alone! 

Gather a meeting to determine whether there is enough interest to move forward with forming the group. Once there are enough people for a core team, it’s easier to keep the momentum going for the extended network.

Engaging an extended network  can provide more resources – more funding, volunteers, and expertise can help the group achieve its goals more effectively and bring a greater impact on the community.

A larger group can also provide a more diverse representation of the community, which can be helpful in building support and partnerships. A growing number of members is great proof that there is widespread interest and concern about the issues the group is addressing.

Of course, it’s important to note that having a large number of members is not the only factor in determining the success of a community action group. Quality of membership and the group’s ability to effectively mobilize and engage its members is also important.

How to recruit a wide network of community members

  • Identify potential members: Think about who in your community might be interested in joining your group. You may want to reach out to local organizations or individuals who are already working on similar issues, or you may want to try to recruit a diverse group of people who represent different perspectives and backgrounds.
  • Reach out to local organizations: Consider contacting organizations in your community that are already working on issues related to your group’s goals. These organizations might be able to help you recruit members or provide other resources and support.
  • Use social media: Utilize social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to spread the word about your group and recruit members. You can create a group or page specifically for your community action group and use it to share updates and information.
  • Utilize community networks: Talk to friends, family, and other members of your community to let them know about your group and ask if they would be interested in joining. You may also want to consider reaching out to community leaders, such as faith leaders, business owners, or elected officials, to ask for their support and help in recruiting members.
  • Host a public meeting: Consider hosting a public meeting or event to introduce your group and its goals to the community. This can be a great way to generate interest and recruit new members.

How to organize a community action group

Only a well-organized group is effective and achieves its goals. Clear leadership, roles, and responsibilities make it easier for the group to make decisions and take action. A well-organized group is also more likely to attract new members and support from the community, which can help to further its mission. This will ensure that the group is using its resources efficiently and effectively.

Appoint responsibilities

You should establish some kind of a leadership structure to ensure that the group is well-organized and able to effectively achieve its goals. This could be a steering committee or a management team – whatever you feel is the best way to help guide the group’s efforts. 

Based on the goal and activities of the group, you can usually tell what are the main areas that need a leader or a manager. There are many different ways for deciding who gets to take the additional responsibility:

One approach is to invite people to volunteer for leadership roles. Another option is to ask for nominations from the group’s members. If the group is large, holding elections may be a good option. This can help ensure that the leadership team is representative of the group as a whole and can help ensure that the process is fair and transparent.

No matter which approach you choose, it’s important to be transparent and inclusive in the selection process, and to ensure that the leadership team is representative of the group’s diversity.

Agree on policies

Once you have a strong team, it’s time to execute! Have a leadership meeting to put in place some structure and policies for your activities. 

If your group has a decentralized structure, you may need to agree on the level of independence that team members need for making decisions that are appropriate for their specific location and context. It’s important that the whole team is on the same page about the core values so that each team member has the independence they need to make decisions about their area of responsibility.

Make sure that your communication and collaboration methods are accessible to all members of the group, regardless of their location, language, or technological capabilities.

You should agree in advance on how often you will communicate and collaborate with group members. This might include regular meetings and emails, or other forms of communication. Distinguish levels of communication within the core team, with the extended network, and the wider public. 

More often than not it’s expected to establish a digital work environment for the group. Collaboration apps help streamline communication and collaboration within the group, making it easier for members to share information, work on projects, and stay connected.

There are many free project management tools that can be perfect for the core team: for exaple Asana, Trello and Clickup all have excellent collaboration features.

For engaging the wider network, you may consider setting up a forum on your website, establishing a Facebook Group, or registering a free project on grassroots software such as Zelos

How to engage your wider network of supporters

Make an effort to engage with members of your community and listen to their concerns and ideas. This can help the core team better understand the needs and priorities of your community, and can also help you build relationships and trust.

Sharing updates and information through social media, email, or other channels is a good way to demonstrate the impact and value of your group’s efforts. Share success stories and show how your group is making a difference. This will inspire your network to get more involved.

Extending the community should be a core mission for a community action group. Offer an easy way for potential members to apply or sign up to join your group, and make sure this information is easy to find. This could be an online application form or a sign-up sheet at events or meetings. 

It’s much easier to join your cause if your group’s membership process is organized, efficient, and welcoming to new members. Make sure to clearly communicate the requirements for membership – is it enough to complete an application form, or should they pay membership fees and participate in an orientation program.

Once potential members have completed the sign-up process, be sure to welcome them to the group! This might include sending a welcome email or letter, or organizing a social event to introduce them to other members. 

Your goal is to get them more involved in the community action, so you should be making it super easy for them to start participating. Offer group members a variety of ways to get involved and take action, such as volunteering, participating in events or campaigns, or advocating for policy changes. You’re building a community ACTION group after all!

How we can help

Zelos Team Management is a very simple app for getting a larger community involved. We can help you guide a large community to action with chats, task signups, simple scheduling and general announcements. Register your free project today to start activating your wider community!