A Day in the Life of a PICO Organizer

PICO organizers wear lots of different hats. In this work, you are a teacher, coach, colleague, and supporter, and each role requires a different skill set. Flexibility, the ability to live in the moment, and a commitment to your own intellectual and spiritual growth are required in order to thrive in the field of organizing.

8:30 a.m.: Read through the local newspaper to keep up-to-date on what’s happening, review your calendar and plan out your day.

9:30 a.m.: Meet with a new community member for a “one-to-one.”

11:00 a.m.: Pre-meeting with your local organizing committee (LOC) to prepare for a research action with the Mayor on the city’s response to the wave of foreclosures

11:30 a.m.: Research action with Mayor

12:30 p.m.: Evaluation of the meeting

1:30 p.m.: Meeting with your director to debrief your week

3:00 p.m.: Meeting with LOC leaders to lay out a research report for a public action meeting

6:30 p.m.: Meeting with leaders at a new congregation to plan a one-to-one listening campaign

PICO Terminology

One-to-one

In PICO, the first step in any organizing effort is to listen, and the primary vehicle for listening within the PICO model is the one-to-one. A one-to-one is a 30-minute face-to-face conversation whose purpose is to discover the self-interest of another person. Initially, these conversations help organizers and leaders alike to:

  • Build relationships with new people and to deepen relationships with old friends
  • Discern the core values of a community
  • Name common problems and shared concerns
  • Identify potential leadership for the organizing effort

Later on, one-to-ones become a valuable tool for thinking with, preparing, and challenging individuals within the context of their development as leaders.

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Local organizing committee

In PICO, a local organizing committee, or LOC, is a gathering of congregants (all of whom first met you or a leader through one-to-ones) who have shared self-interest and expressed passion in taking action about particular problem(s).

Initially, the purpose of an LOC meeting to talk about what the congregation can do to move forward. Eventually the LOC becomes a sustaining organization that implements the PICO organizing model with an organizer’s support. The LOC is the basic building block of each federation and the most important. In fact, a federation cannot exist without active LOCs.

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Research action

In PICO, research is an intentional process carried out by community leaders, with the goal of defining a specific, resolvable issue within a larger problem. (E.g., “poor schools” is a good example of a problem; “equitable distribution of money across a school district” is an example of an issue.)

Research usually occurs within a pre-planned research action and is preparation and the training for future public action meetings or actions.

Through the research process, leaders strive to:

  • Understand the problem they are confronting from multiple perspectives, so as to identify and define a specific issue to be publicly addressed
  • Explore possible solutions, seeking to locate the necessary resources to implement a desired solution
  • Identify the decision-maker with the authority to resolve the issue
  • Gather “political intelligence” on the power dynamics that contribute to the problem

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Evaluation

The PICO model of organizing involves a constant “praxis” of action and reflection. Throughout the organizing process, leaders and organizers learn by challenging ourselves to take on new roles.

Reflecting on these personal and collective experiences is an integral part of our learning culture. Understood this way, evaluation occurs at any moment that we step back from activity to assess our effectiveness, take stock of what we’ve learned as a result of successes and/or failures, and clarify our next steps. Evaluation may occur after a meeting, an action, or after specific one-to-one conversations.

Evaluation is the step that demonstrates the principle “empowerment is developmental.” Although we engage with people where they are (not where we want them to be), we endeavor to help them grow and develop as individuals and as an organization. This growth occurs through challenge, often with tension, and almost always within the context of actions taken.

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Debrief

PICO organizers spend much of their time teaching, coaching and supporting other people. At the very same time, they must prioritize their own learning and development. It is a core component of an organizer’s job. In fact, to be a really good teacher, one must also be a dedicated lifelong learner.

Fortunately, PICO organizers do not need to learn everything before they begin organizing (impossible!), or learn everything by themselves. PICO provides a space for never-ending learning -- directors, fellow organizers, and community leaders are all partners in an organizer’s development (as an organizer is in theirs!).

PICO strives to create organizations that are safe havens for learning – for everyone at every level. This includes leaders, community members, organizers, directors – everyone. PICO organizers are responsible for contributing to an environment where people feel safe to ask questions – in their roles as teacher and as a learner.

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Public action meeting

In PICO, a public action meeting (or action) is a structured public event, where a decision maker capable of creating some desired change meets with our community to:

  • Hear research findings on the problem
  • Listen to public testimony
  • Respond to recommendations
  • Make public commitments for tangible steps to be taken

Individuals (leaders) directly affected by the problem act to plan, conduct, and evaluate the meeting. Essentially, a public action involves interconnected people acting together to manifest their common values.

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Listening campaign

In PICO, a listening campaign is an intentional effort by a local organizing committee to reach out and listen to a certain number of people in the congregation within a defined period of time. A listening campaign often initiates the organizing process in a community.

The goal of a listening campaign is to strengthen the congregation’s presence in the community by sitting down and listening to families in our church community, and identifying fundamental problems in the community that we need to address.

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