By Michael Kaufman, Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
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Extra info for Community Power & Grassroots Democracy: The Transformation of Social Life
Usually the group’s leader was backed by one or two assistants who gradually developed the required leadership skills through onthe-job learning. In the meantime, the other members of the organization simply waited to see what the leader accomplished. At this time, participation was limited to attending the meetings called by the leader to report on the progress of the organization’s petitions, as well as to maintain a sense of unity and permanence. At these meetings, participation was passive and principally limited to listening to the leader’s report.
Of the communities we studied, only Guarari was an exception to these norms. This community is completely under the control of COPAN’s leadership. These leaders assume all decision-making responsibilities, including the designation of grassroots leaders. The great power and control they exercise as a result of their close links with the state has impeded the community from adopting more democratic forms of organization. ’ The services consist in managing and obtaining housing; leaders grant the service and families consume them, and when a leader does not perform adequately, another is found.
The leader must know or learn which institutions to apply to, the requirements of each, who its officials are, who makes the decisions, how they are made, how the institutions operate, the most effective forms of pressure to utilize with each, who the best contacts are in each, and how to negotiate with government officials and politicians. This set of abilities can turn into a profession in and of itself, in the service of the community. After serving her own community, one of the leaders from El Nazareno was sought by another housing organization as a consultant on institutional negotiations.