State of the Field of Institution-based
Community Organizing Research Project
Interfaith Funders, in collaboration with researchers at Duke University and The University of New
Mexico, announces the release the first phase of a comprehensive national census of institution-based
community organizations (IBCOs) in the United States. We seek co-sponsors to fund dissemination of
the report and to create venues for dialogue regarding the future of this community organizing model
and the role of religion in American public life more generally.
In 1999, Interfaith Funders conducted a national census of IBCOs to provide a baseline for
understanding the scope and scale of this community organizing model. It identified 134 local IBCOs
comprised of approximately 4,000 member institutions that represented between 1 and 3 million people.
By portraying the state of the field, this study credentialed the work of IBCOs to a broad circle of
funders, researchers, and potential collaborators. It also provided guidance for Interfaith Funders
community organizing funding initiatives. Since the 1999 study, however, the IBCO field has evolved
substantially. The field has grown by: i) broadening its constituent base to become more diverse along
geographic, racial, class, religious, and ideological lines; ii) projecting people-based influence into
political arenas at the state and national levels; iii) addressing a broader array of political and social
issues; and iv) increasing the gender and racial-ethnic diversity of its professional staff.
Given the substantial shifts in the field, the 2011 State of the Field study was conducted to document
and analyze these developments. Phase I involved surveying the entire field of CBCOs (N=189) using a
comprehensive online survey to gather detailed demographic information about the CBCOs
organizers, board members, and member institutions as well as data on the CBCOs finances,
constituents, collaborators, priority issues, and policy wins. The survey was distributed to the director of
every local CBCO; the response rate was 94% (177).
Phase II involved conducting in-depth phone interviews with a dozen of the most strategic thinkers and
forward-looking leaders in the field. This part of the project aims to mine the insight and strategic
expertise of key thought leaders to synthesize a comprehensive analysis of the current challenges
and opportunities facing the field; and to offer that analysis
back for reflection by organizers, funders, political allies, and scholars with an eye toward improving
understanding and practice within the broad field of organizing.
The overall project will provide a thorough assessment of the IBCO field, track continuity and change
among IBCOs, and identify critical issues confronting the field. Specifically, the project aims to provide
organizers and funders a national lens through which to view IBCO activity and to supply a tool for
refining organizing practices. More broadly, the project aspires to promote public understanding of
institution-based community organizing and its contributions to American society. Each IBCO in the U.
S., all members of Interfaith Funders, and a variety of potential funders and organizing allies will receive
the report. The results of this study will be widely disseminated via academic conferences, faith-based
consortia, media outlets, and other venues.
The 2011 State of the Field study is sponsored by Interfaith Funders and executed by researchers at
Duke University and the University of New Mexico. Funding for the first phase of this collaborative
project has been generously provided by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Unitarian Universalist
Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, The Needmor Fund, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,
Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and the Presbyterian Church (USA). We welcome
Kathy Partridge ([email protected])
Brad Fulton ([email protected])
Dr. Richard L. Wood ([email protected])
Note: We utilize the term institution-based community organizing to include a variety of quite similar models of
community organizing in the contemporary United States, which occur under the labels faith-based, broad-based,
and congregations-based community organizing. Nearly 200 institution-based community organizations (IBCOs)
sponsoring this kind of work exist in American metropolitan areas and a few rural or smaller-city settings; they primarily
exist in affiliation with any of several national (PICO National Network, Industrial Areas Foundation, Gamaliel
Foundation, some National Peoples Action affiliates) or regional (DART, InterValley Project, RCNO) networks; but some
IBCOs exist independently. Each network has its own organizing practices and model, but all are broadly similar
enough to be considered one field which we denote with the IBCO label.