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Abstract

This paper seeks to situate current efforts of The Right to the City Alliance and selected member groups in a longitudinal and cross-sectional qualitative study of the limits and potential of contemporary organizing. For three decades politicians, policy makers, advocates, academics, and even activists have promoted community-based efforts as the primary vehicle for contemporary social change. Local organizing has been seen as the best site and strategy for initiatives as diverse as community economic development, public school reform, social service delivery, and challenging the powers that be. In almost all cases these efforts have been constrained and moderated by a global political economy of neoliberalism, which promotes community initiatives at the same time as it foists additional burdens on local communities and community organizations. An overview of the Right to the City Alliance and selected member organizations reveals its relatively unique, alternative model of organizing. Study of the organization and its model enables us to look at some of the limits of this nascent effort, including how well the alliance model accomplishes the need for greater scale and power. It also enables us to compare it to other community organizing efforts and see how it fits with and informs contemporary mobilizations since 2010.

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