Crucial in the Community Organizing Process: Issue and Target Analysis

After a Demolition

People in the community must learn in an experiential way how to make things happen if social changemust not remain just a concept. People should learn the meaning of issues and targets and connect thiswith their own economic, political and cultural-religious reality. The Community Organizer, therefore, after learning how to spot potential community issues, must understand what issues are and why people consider certain felt needs as issues rather than simply problems.

An issue is a deprivation or a need that people must see the possibility for a solution. Whether the issue or issues are short-term or long-term people must be willing to take them up not because of a push from an external factor but because they believe that they deserve to live like human beings. Without clean drinking water in the community, for instance, life becomes so difficult for a family. People can’t take a bath as they need to everyday, they can’t normally do their daily functions in which water is a basic need. When people realize that the lack of basic services in the community is not just the fault of an inefficient government but also the citizens’ neglect in exercising their duties, slowly, they begin to grasp the real meaning of rights and responsibilities.

How does a Community Organizer get to the bottom of issues? A felt need becomes an issue when people are willing to act on the issue, when there is a Target (A government Agency that is supposed to deliver the Service or Program but is not delivering) and when a solution can be achieved in a given period of time. For instance 500 families have a problem of potable drinking water. But because some of them can dig a hole in the main water pipe and therefore can manage even without a legitimate water installation, not all the 500 families affected by the water issue will be willing to act on the issue.The Community Organizer then must learn to figure out how to challenge the people to act. Creativity is important in developing an issue, but first, the people must learn how to analyze Issues and Targets. More so, the Community Organizer should have the skill and knowledge of Issue and Target Analysis.

What are the factors to be considered in Issue Analysis?Here are the Trainee’s guide in the Analysis:

How many are affected by the issue? The Trainee should be keen in identifying the self-interest of the people in a given issue.Self-interest could range from a family man or woman's need for water, his/ her ego as someone being looked up to as a leader, his/ her reputation, his/ her role as a Father/ Mother, as a Husband/ Wife and other needs that surface during the Community Organizer's social investigation and integration work using the dialogical method.

Are the people willing to act on the issue, meaning – Are they willing to attend meetings, mobilize to concerned government agencies so that a solution to the issue can be reached?If they are not willing to act, how do they manifest that unwillingness? What could be the reason for the unwillingness to act – Do they have an alternative? Do they have a relative in City Hall that they think they can approach on their own without depending on a collective action? What is the people’s concept of collective action? Do they prefer the patronage type of dealing with those in government?

Is there a Target for the Issue? The government has programs and services for the people but normally, because of an “elitist” bureaucracy, these programs and services are not delivered to communities efficiently. People have to walk the extra mile to make government accountable for the programs and services that are there because of the taxes people pay. The poor pay indirect taxes and therefore are entitled to the programs and services of their government. What type of Target is the identified Target? Is he/ she good for organizing which means that the people don’t need to unmask him/her to see who the real government official is under the mask? Or is the Target the “pro-people” type who treats the people courteously but doesn’t act on the people’s demands?

Issue and Target Analysis can be compared to a doctor’s diagnosis of his/her patient’s ailment. A wrong diagnosis can kill a patient in much the same way that a poor analysis of an issue and a Target can hamper a solution from being reached by the people.