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Going Public: An Inside Story of Disrupting Politics as Usual

The philosophy and methods described in Going Public not only work, but are congruent with core Christian values. Christian leaders who are struggling to articulate why and how the church might improve the quality of life in their communities will find the help they need in Going Public.

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Michael Gecan is a veteran community organizer who works with the Industrial Areas Foundation. For more than 25 years, he has birthed citizen organizations in urban areas and taught them how to recognize, engage and reorient the power structure of their cities.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 
The results are impressive. Gecan and the organization he helped build in New York City were the prime movers in an effort to rejuvenate a large section of East Brooklyn. The end result was the famous Nehemiah Project, which resulted in 3,000 new homes and the positive transformation of the community. The story behind the project provides the book’s framework. 
For those who love good stories, Going Public provides a feast. We are invited to listen in on conversations (some congenial, some confrontational) between the community organization leaders and public leaders such as Ed Koch, David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani. Through the stories, we catch a glimpse of how power actually works in urban environments and of what it takes to successfully channel that power toward improving the community.

Gecan, though, goes beyond storytelling to provide a virtual manual for creating a community organization that can get the powers that be in a city to do the right thing for the public. This is not a book about how we ought to deal with the powers and needs in our world; it is about how to do so effectively. 
Gecan argues that successful organizers recognize three primary public cultures in today’s world: the market culture, the bureaucratic culture and the relational culture. The relational culture provides the context and paradigm for community organizers. In that culture people build relationships, see needs, develop a response and go into action. Leaders in the relational culture accept that their ability to effect change depends largely on the number and quality of relationships they can develop. 
At its core, the book is about how to tap the vision and energy of volunteers in order to make a community or an entire city a better place to live. As Gecan notes, his story is just one of many playing out across the United States. Organizers in Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, Nebraska, California and Tennessee have their own tales to spin. A similar effort is under way in my small city of 80,000. 
The philosophy and methods described in Going Public not only work, but are congruent with core Christian values. Christian leaders who are struggling to articulate why and how the church might improve the quality of life in their communities will find the help they need in Going Public.  
Mike Smith is pastor of First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Buy Going Public now from Amazon.com.