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Title page for ETD etd-04012013-120117

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Tesdahl, Eric Anthony
Author's Email Address tesdahl.eric@gmail.com
URN etd-04012013-120117
Title Out of many, one: Participation and collaboration in congregation-based community organizing
Degree PhD
Department Community Research and Action
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Paul W. Speer Committee Chair
Douglas D. Perkins Committee Member
Holly J. McCammon Committee Member
Paul R. Dokecki Committee Member
  • participation
  • inter-organizational networks
  • community organizing
  • social movements
Date of Defense 2012-12-10
Availability unrestricted


Eric A. Tesdahl

Dissertation under the direction of Paul W. Speer

The practice of congregation-based community organizing combines salient elements from the experience and writings of Saul Alinsky with a strong emphasis on relationship building and individual leadership/skill development. This dissertation examines important elements of congregation-based organizing through three distinct but interrelated research studies. Each of these studies are based upon a single important idea: the vitality and long-term viability of metropolitan-level CBCO federations is of crucial importance to the wider practice of congregation-based organizing. Metropolitan-level CBCO federations serve as the primary arena in which relationship building and collaboration across diverse groups – a crucial element of the practice of CBCO – take place. It is through issue work at the metropolitan level that clergy and lay leaders from historically segregated communities are able to engage in discussions on issues of import, discover sets of common interests, and devise strategies for pursuing those interests. Further, it is within the forum provided by the metropolitan federation that community leaders and clergy learn the skills necessary for collaborating with groups not situated within their immediate neighborhood – skills which are crucially necessary for efforts to conduct campaigns beyond the metropolitan area.

The research questions posed in each of these three studies draw heavily upon prior theory and empirical work in the fields of community organizing and social movement studies. The empirical evaluations of these research questions pair data generated by the daily functioning of congregation-based organizing in several US cities with multi-level regression modeling, exponential random graph modeling, and qualitative data analytic techniques. By integrating theory from the study of social movements and community organizing together with data collected in congregation-based organizing settings, this dissertation sets out to make contributions to knowledge which are of relevance to practitioners and scholars of both community organizing and the broader field of social movements.

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