Family Focused Organizing
The COFI model uses parents’ strengths and commitment to their children and to their neighborhoods to help make positive change in their own lives, their families and their communities. It emphasizes the commonalities (rather than the differences) between family and community leadership, and between private and public issues. COFI’s Family Focused Organizing is a systematic and proven model of how people who are far outside the centers of power, become leaders, build organizations, and win. Here’s how it works.
Leadership begins from within. Parents individually assess their needs, wants and values. They create supportive teams with one another, set goals, and establish plans for achieving those goals.
Parents become stronger leaders in their families. Parents support one another in gaining skills and confidence as family leaders, and also learn to set goals with their family members.
Parents work together to create change in community institutions such as schools, day care centers and social service agencies. To make their community more family-friendly, parent leaders meet with neighbors, find common ground, develop new programs, organize community-wide campaigns, and realize the power of a collective voice.
4. Policy & Systems
Parent leaders create a community-based policy agenda that starts with common concerns raised by parents, such as childcare, safety and school quality. Together, parent leaders organize to communicate their ideas and concerns to community decision-makers. They may change programs and challenge policies that aren’t meeting the needs of families, and they build partnerships with professionals to develop programs and policies that work. Family Focused Organizing is distinct from, but also can be complementary to, more “traditional” community organizing models. COFI targets its organizing work toward a population that is often not involved in traditional organizing or the public sphere — very low-income families including welfare recipients, recent immigrants (primarily mothers), and grandmothers raising grandchildren.