The education and liberation of the poor in community organizing : the personal growth and transformation of leaders in the Anti-Displacement Project (A-DP)

Degree Name

MA in International and Intercultural Management

First Advisor

Janaki Natarajan


The question I address in this capstone is: What kind of change and personal transformation takes place when poor people organize for social change? This research was done around the work of the Anti-Displacement Project (ADP) a poor people’s membership organization organizing for social and economic justice and change in the Western Massachusetts area of the Eastern part of the United States. ADP leadership are multi-racial, low-income tenants in affordable housing complexes. The focus of the research is in determining how ADP leaders are personally transformed in the process of organizing. This study identified and interviewed 20 ADP leaders. Though racially diverse all leaders interviewed are exclusively low-income. All interviewees were leaders I had worked with directly on organizing campaigns and/or tenant ownership and asset management work. Because ADP has such a large number of participants, I chose the pool of interviewees based on my organizing experience amongst them, number of years they had been with ADP, and what I knew of their ADP experience. Organizing and social change theories were also examined in this research. Findings are that ADP leaders recognize and appreciate the opportunities for personal development that ADP provides. The developments of tangible skills and personal change or growth were the two central themes in the interviewee’s responses. These two themes are closely interconnected as each is necessary for the development of the other. Personal transformation and its relation to leader’s growth and change are highlighted in the last section of eight stories of personal transformation in the collective struggle for social justice. It is suggested that ADP work towards presenting itself not only as an opportunity for people to have a greater involvement in and impact upon their community but to also present itself with the ability to revolutionize and change people from disenfranchised powerless individuals to informed and organized community leaders… you too can be revolutionized. My two years organizing experience with ADP shows that they are a dynamic enough organization to promote and execute organized social and personal change.

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