August 17, 2015
In the initial phase of a case study of the merger of two already-effective decades-old community-based organizing groups in Chicago, we examine the extent to which the"scaling up"new organization is increasing its power at neighborhood-wide, citywide, regional, statewide, and nationwide levels. The combined geographic based of the new organization covers ten community areas containing 600,000 residents. At the same time, the organization has redoubled efforts to maintain strong grassroots member involvement in internal organizational deliberation and setting organizational priorities. The previous organizations had a history of working on a broad range of issues of importance to equity and the quality of life in local communities. These have included work on public education, affordable housing, mental health justice, violence reduction, mass incarceration, homeless and LGBT youth issues, youth engagement, as well as a stronger voice for the entire community in political decision making. Using more than 30 interviews with old and new organization staff and members along with observation of the new organization's councils, issue teams, and community actions over the past year, we determine the dimensions of power that leaders and members identify as being affected by the scaling up. As the larger project progresses, these dimensions will be used in measuring the impact of the merger on its power and influence. Both organizations had been known for both their confrontational tactics and effective coalition building. We use a community-based participatory research approach in examining the organization which seeks to promote equity in racially, ethnically, and economically diverse communities on Chicago's northside.