Community organizing pays off.
That’s the message in a report released Tuesday by Gamaliel, a national faith-based network with affiliates in 16 states, including Metropolitan Congregations United in the St. Louis region and United Congregations of Metro East.
The authors of Jobs And More Jobs said that in 2012 and 2013, Gamaliel's 43 affiliates’ community organizing efforts won campaigns worth more than $13 billion and created more than 450,000 jobs. Those jobs led to a bump in gross domestic product of another $17 billion, according to the study.
"Our takeaway from this report is that community organizing is actually far more effective than we anticipated in terms of creating jobs," said Laura Barrett, Gamaliel’s campaign director, who is based in St. Louis.
She said Gamaliel is taking what it learned in transit organizing efforts here in St. Louis and applying it nationally. Barrett said the efforts to ensure a higher percentage of minority and women participation in the rebuild of I-64 were so successful that it has become known as the “Missouri model" and was recognized by former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
That model has since been used by organizers in the Metro East. It led to the employment of 138 women and minorities construction workers on the recently-opened Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. The report estimates those jobs drew $4.6 million in transportation funding. As explained in the report:
"Because these jobs went to women and people of color we counted them as new, benefiting historically underemployed populations. Using the highway construction funding ratio documented in Appendix A, of 27,800 jobs per billion dollars, these 138 new workers translate to $4,964,029 in funds, raising the GDP by $6,502,878, using Moody’s 1.31 multiplier.”
But Barrett said they’ve found the organizing efforts go beyond transit work.
"Then when we started to apply this same methodology to all the other community organizing wins we’ve had, we were pretty amazed to see how many jobs, for instance, putting a grocery in Syracuse, New York ends up creating," she said.
Through the report, Barrett said Gamaliel is hoping to convince others -- from foundations to government entities -- that investing in community organizing is effective.
"That’s part of what we wanted to prove," she said. "It’s not just about Gamaliel and Metropolitan Congregations United and all of our local affiliates. This is a very effective way to fight poverty and we need to think about that more seriously."
And organizers see that such investments could have benefits in areas such as Ferguson, where unemployment remains high among young African-Americans.
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