Roots to Power
A Manual for Grassroots Organizing, 3rd Edition
by Lee Staples
February 2016, 483pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3365-6
$64, £48, 56€, A87
Paperback: 978-1-4408-3371-7
$39, £29, 34€, A53
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3366-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

More people are now involved in grassroots organizing than at any point in recent history.

The third edition of the manual for community organizers tells readers how to most effectively implement community action for social change, clearly laying out grassroots organizing principles, methods, and best practices.

Written for those who want to improve their own lives or the lives of others, this thoroughly revised how-to manual presents techniques groups can use to organize successfully in pursuit of their dreams. The book combines time-tested, universal principles and methods with cutting-edge material addressing new opportunities and challenges. It covers basic concepts and best practices and offers step-by-step guidelines on things an organizer needs to know, such as how to identify issues, formulate strategies, set goals, recruit participants, and much more.

The work focuses on six organizing arenas: turf/geography, failth-based, issue, identity, shared experience, and work-related. It offers new or expanded material addressing community development, use of social media, internal organizational dynamics, electoral organizing, evaluation/assessment, and prevention of burnout for key leaders. There are also nuts-and-bolts articles by experts who address topics such as action research, lobbying, legal tactics, and grassroots fundraising. Numerous case examples, charts, worksheets, and small group exercises enrich the discussion and bring the material to life.


  • Provides clear, step-by-step guidelines for building grassroots organizations, selecting and framing issues, establishing goals, developing leadership, planning and implementing actions, and assessing results
  • Explores the distinct roles of members, leaders, and organizers
  • Shares case materials that demonstrate community organizing strategies and tactics used to leverage institutions at the state, regional, and national levels
  • Discusses why some strategies succeed while others fail
  • Includes campaign-planning worksheets and small-group exercises suitable for community-based training sessions and workshops as well as for undergraduate or graduate level courses
Lee Staples, PhD, MSW, is Clinical Professor Emeritus at the Boston University School of Social Work. He received his master's degree in social work from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his doctorate in social work and sociology from Boston University. His professional career includes extensive experience as a community organizer, supervisor, staff director, trainer, consultant, coach, and educator. Staples practices and publishes in the areas of grassroots community organizing, consumer/community empowerment, task-oriented group work, international development, and immigrant rights. His research has focused on NGO development in the Balkans, consumer empowerment in Israel, social capital in Chelsea, mental health rights with the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition, grassroots leadership, social action groups, immigrant worker centers, and youth organizing. He has conducted hundreds of training sessions for a wide assortment of groups on a broad array of organizing topics.


“One of the book’s major strengths is the author’s emphasis on power at every turn in the organizing process, from making decisions about who to involve, to conducting the research necessary to analyze a situation, to uncovering what facts will mobilize the public and keep them engaged. . . . For social group workers and students of group work, the 3rd edition of Roots to Power presents essential elements of grassroots community organizing. Regardless of context, these elements are solidly grounded in practice theory. The book is methodically laid out with plenty of examples, case studies, and exercise to promote reflection, critique, and learning.”—Social Work With Groups, May 17, 2018

"Those who are under the mistaken assumption that progressive community organizing is an outmoded approach to social change need only to read the newest edition of Roots to Power to learn otherwise. Social action organizing is alive and well and happening at national and local levels, and Staples’ case examples throughout the book are hot-off-the-press relevant. Through detailed guidelines and recommendations, a myriad of illustrations from which to draw lessons, and a special section from experts on various related topics, Staples gives currency and new depth to what has become a classic textbook."—Jacqueline B. Mondros, DSW, Dean and Assistant Vice President, Stony Brook University

"This book could not be more timely! Grassroots organizing has become a global phenomenon. And no one knows the nuts and bolts of organizing better than Lee Staples. This third edition of Roots to Power captures 50 years of experience, analysis, and organizing wisdom, primarily from Staples but also from the many new contributors to this volume. The breadth and range of this new edition are absolutely unparalleled." —Robert Fisher, Professor and Chair, Community Organizing, University of Connecticut
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Accept All Cookies | Decline.