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Consensus Organizing Center
History
Development of the Consensus Organizing Model

 

michael eichlerMike Eichler, founder of the Consensus Organizing Model, originally began his career as a conflict organizer. In the early 1980s Mike was contracted to work for the Perry Hilltop neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The community was the target of “blockbusting” by several real estate agents, which involved provoking racial fears, flooding the market with home sales, and ultimately, decreasing property values. Mike responded in traditional conflict organizing fashion, and the community of Perry Hilltop was successful in their immediate efforts. However, Mike realized that conflict organizing led to short lived victories and did not have long-term effects; from this realization he developed the Consensus Organizing Model. This new model ties the self-interest of the community with the self-interest of others to achieve a common goal.consensus pub

 

Following the success in Perry Hilltop, Mike was contracted by a new project in the Monongahela Valley of Pennsylvania where he applied the Consensus Organizing Model. Through the collaboration of community members and owners in the steel industry, the Mon Valley Initiative was established. The Initiative is a non-profit community and economic development coalition of 12 community development corporations. For the first time in Mon Valley history, stakeholders of all socioeconomic levels were working together to formulate solutions where everyone benefitted. From this experience Mike learned that the Consensus Organizing Model could not only be successfully replicated in a different community, but could also facilitate long lasting systemic change.

 

At the completion of Mike’s work with the Mon Valley, he was contracted by the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), a national non-profit agency that provides grants, loans and equity investments to Community Development Corporations. LISC was interested in applying the Consensus Organizing Model in local community development corporations in cities across the United States, and to achieve this goal Mike hired, trained, and supervised talented individuals to take charge of Consensus Organizing efforts. The Model went on to be successfully applied in six urban areas: Little Rock, Arkansas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Palm Beach County, Florida; Houston, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Las Vegas, Nevada. Each venture in Consensus Organizing reflected the trials and lessons of the earlier efforts, which enhanced the Model’s applicability in new settings and with new issues.

 

Establishment of the Consensus Organizing Center

 

In the fall of 1994, Mike Eichler and his LISC development team colleagues decided the time had come to create an institutional home for Consensus Organizing. The new organization, to be known as the Consensus Organizing Institute (COI), would practice and teach Consensus Organizing in diverse settings across the nation. The COI advised local organizations on how they could address issues and solve problems using Consensus Organizing techniques. After directing COI for five years, Mike felt the method of Consensus Organizing needed to be institutionalized. He identified the need to develop a formal curriculum so the Model could have more influence within the organizing profession. Mike began looking into universities that might be interested in developing Consensus Organizing courses, recruiting students, and building career paths for generations of college students.sdsu

 

In 1999, because of its diverse student body, positive reputation in San Diego’s neighborhoods, and vision to develop partnerships between community organizations, faculty, and students, San Diego State University (SDSU) was chosen among a number of competing schools and the Consensus Organizing Center (COC) was established as a project of SDSU’s School of Social Work. This establishment would not have been possible without a strong commitment from then University President, Dr. Stephen Weber and School of Social Work Director, Dr. Anita Harbert. This commitment has continued with the support of our current University President, Dr. Elliot Hirshman.

 

The COC has maintained a strong pledge to support community based learning by training a select handful of highly qualified SDSU Social Work interns in the Consensus Organizing Model and placing them in the San Diego community. Under the direction of Executive Director, Jennifer Cosio, the COC remains a strong influence in the San Diego community and has developed several successful initiatives using the Consensus Organizing Model.


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