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Saul Alinsky is often referred to as the father of American community organizing, though his influence was felt mostly in the United States rather than in the rest of “America.” The civil rights movement was also important for generations of community organizers, but Alinsky was the strongest influence on neighborhood-based community organizing, which is the practice of bringing people together face to face to solve local problems and, sometimes, to change the distribution of power.

Alinsky was born in 1909 and grew up in Chicago, where the urban culture shaped his strategies of political action. As an undergraduate and then graduate student at the University of Chicago, he was greatly influenced by the crimi-nologists there. He found himself impatient with the academics' emphasis on studying community ...

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