Marshall Ganz grew up in Bakersfield, California, where his father was a Rabbi and his mother, a teacher. He entered Harvard College in the fall of 1960. He left a year before graduating to volunteer with the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. He found a “calling” as an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and, in the fall of 1965, joined Cesar Chavez in his effort to unionize California farm workers. During 16 years with the United Farm Workers he gained experience in union, political, and community organizing, became Director of Organizing, and was elected to the national executive board on which he served for 8 years. During the 1980s, he worked with grassroots groups to develop new organizing programs and designed innovative voter mobilization strategies for local, state, and national electoral campaigns. In 1991, in order to deepen his intellectual understanding of his work, he returned to Harvard College and, after a 28-year "leave of absence," completed his undergraduate degree in history and government. He was awarded an MPA by the Kennedy School in 1993 and completed his PhD in sociology in 2000. As senior lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government, he teaches, researches, and writes on leadership, organization, and strategy in social movements, civic associations, and politics. He has published in the American Journal of Sociology, American Political Science Review, American Prospect, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and elsewhere. His newest book, Why David Sometimes Wins: leadership, organization and strategy in the California farm worker movement was published in 2009, earning the Michael J. Harrington Book Award of the American Political Science Association. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity by the Episcopal Divinity School in 2010.
Marshall Ganz also teaches "Leadership, Organizing and Action: Leading Change" an online program designed to help leaders of civic associations, advocacy groups and social movements learn how to organize communities that can mobilize power to make change.
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Outside Professional Activities For Marshall Ganz
The Leading Change Network
The Leading Change Network (LCN) is a community of practice: organizers, educators, and researchers committed to developing leadership, continual learning, and creating capacity. LCN emerged from efforts to address three critical needs:
Recruiting, training, and developing organizing leadership. Youthful organizers are emerging across diverse domains around the world. In the Middle East, for example, young people who compose a major portion of the population are struggling to translate their capacity for mobilization into their capacity for organization. In the United States, constituencies pushing for action on climate change need focus. Colleges and universities largely ignore their responsibility to equip students with the tools for effective civic engagement.
Supporting systematic continual learning across the field. Despite their creativity, energy, and hard work, with some exceptions, organizers often move from one campaign to the next without systematically reflecting on their learning, capturing the lessons, and adapting their practices accordingly. This inhibits their learning, the training they can offer others, and the development of the field as a whole. At present, scholarly research contributes little to the improvement of organizing practice, while the needs of practitioners count little on the agenda of researchers.
Creating greater capacity for organizing in key constituencies. The potential of constituencies strategically oriented toward “change”, whether defined by issue, region, or values, could be more fully realized by encouraging development of their own organizing capacity. The New Organizing Institute, for example, has begun to play this role among younger online and offline organizers in the US. Similar “nodes of practice” can be developed around other issues such as climate change—or in other places, such as the Balkans. Nodes of practice can also be developed around other domains, such as communities of faith and health care. Sharing experience across domains, geographical locations, or issues can encourage the development of greater capacity within all.
Marshall Ganz has been on The Leading Change Network's Board of Directors and the Leadership Team since April 2012.