Salute to Studs Terkel – a community organizer extraordinaire

Studs Terkel died in Chicago yesterday at age 96.  He enjoyed a full life to be sure, with the possible loss of an opportunity to cast his ballot for a fellow community organizer, Barack Obama.  Click here to read an excerpt from an October 23rd interview with Studs about Election 2008.

As one whose first "professional" job was with a community-based employment development agency... …with two sons who work to repair the earth, one through higher education and another via social entrepreneurship/BOP…whose family has walked the talk, I join Studs Terkel and Barack Obama in celebrating the value proposition that "community organizers" can bring to the workplace.

Some may scoff or snarl at the idea that "do-gooders" offer value to the traditional world of employment (e.g. Rudolph Guiliani at the Republican National Convention), but with the perspective of an interviewer like Studs Terkel, let's look at what a hiring manager may find:

  • Excellent interpersonal skills – listen twice as much as they talk to people who are not often heard
  • Needs assessment ability – understand the needs that are underneath the expressed frustrations
  • Problem solving/Resourcefulness – able to identify needed resources and people
  • Project/Program management – ability to keep a lot of balls in the air, all headed for home-plate
  • Sales/Marketing ability -  accountable for outcomes; identify continued and new funding sources
  • Communication tools – written, verbal, print, visual, audio, Web 2.0, and in several languages

The service that community organizers perform is as valuable as that offered by our military, our teachers, our police officers and fire-fighters, and by journalists, broadcasters, and interviewers like Studs Terkel, who respectfully chronicled American workers since 1957.