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25th Anniversary Reflection: "One-on-Ones, Building Collective Strength"

Updated: Nov 2

by Patrick Zukemura, former Faith Action Organizer

A quote from President Barack Obama:

“As some of you may know, I got my start as a community organizer with a Gamaliel affiliate in Chicago… I learned that meaningful change always begins at the grassroots, and that engaged citizens working together can accomplish extraordinary things.”


In 2005 as a Faith Action organizer, I was fortunate and privileged to attend a weeklong national training with the Gamaliel Foundation in San Diego. Attendees were ordinary citizens learning how to unleash the power within themselves to collectively impact the social, political, environmental, and economic decisions that affect their lives.

The most valuable practice I learned was one-on-ones. This process emphasizes the importance of one person taking the lead to have a conversation with one other person to start and sustain relationships and to find out what’s important to that person. As organizers, we were to do 25 one-on-ones per week. Just imagine, in 52 weeks we related to people in a personal way 1,300 times. The collective result is powerful.


The way FA finances its work also relies on collective power. Its members don’t have much money, but collectively amazing things can happen. DART (Direct Action and Research Training Center) trained FA members on “organized money.” Again, it emphasized the one-on-one process.


Examples in circa 2005:

  1. An Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church member went door-to-door in her neighborhood to tell FA’s story and raised money to reach her church’s pledged goal.

  2. Annually, we asked corporate businesses for $5,000 donations. A banker offered $50,000 so we would not have to come back for 10 years. We thanked him for his generosity, but we insisted that the $5,000 donations made annually helped to renew our commitments to each other.


Today in 2021, our Unit and Corporate Campaigns continue to raise money from our members, our community, and businesses.


There are 2 kinds of power – people and money. Let’s faithfully do our one-on-ones to keep building Faith Action as a grassroots organization and raise money collectively. Together we can accomplish extraordinary things for the common good.

RESULTS OF ONE-ON-ONEs brought huge numbers to 2010’s Accountability Assembly held in First Methodist Church. Faith Action members listened to candidates for Mayor, Lt. Gov., and Governor who stated their stands on issues. Photo appeared on the cover of the 2010’s Annual Report which described accomplishments and listed monetary investments from members.

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