Grass-Roots Social Movements: Industrial Areas Foundation

I settled for Industrial Areas Foundation, an organization based in Chicago that seeks to target empowerment of the people with a view to improving life, pursuit of happiness and liberty for Americans. It is a powerful social movement that brings together people of all races and backgrounds in order to forge a strong society. It does so by working closely with parents, religious leaders, immigrant societies and other social groups. I chose the organization mostly due to its proven ability to transform the lives of people and ability of its activists to interact with what Meyer, Whittier and Robnetts (2002) call cultural and political contexts in their duty. I was particularly interested in the fact that the movement has been able to conduct and sustain interventions geared towards social transformation such as provision of affordable housing and good schools.

After preliminary search over the internet, I made a point of visiting offices of the organization at South Dearborn Chicago where I interviewed Tom Marshal, a lead organizer. His duties entail organizing specialized training for various groups, a task he has been performing for the last ten years. During the interview, I learnt that the organization looks forward to improving the welfare of American citizens by enabling them attain affordable housing, decent schools and crime-free streets. They also aim at improving the well being of communities concerned by increasing earnings of individuals. He informed me that they set their goals then steadfastly focus on their achievement.

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Constant obstacles that people face on a daily basis serve as reminders of the fate of communities as they seek to intervene on the status quo. Tom revealed that the organization has been in existence since 1940 and was borne out of the need for the then meat packers of Chicago to get together. They formed a kind of a workers’ union and later transformed it in to a community organization for social change. According to Tom, its pioneers included Alinsky and Chavez though it later spread to other cities and states. There was an overwhelming desire among its founders for an organization for the people at grassroots level, which would mobilize available resources for the welfare of the people. I would say that the organization has been to a great extent successful particularly on housing and wage law. It is credited for successful construction of affordable housing for low income Americans dubbed Nehemiah Homes (Industrial Areas Foundation, 2010) and the conception of living wage law which specified the minimum wage of an individual that is necessary for meeting basic needs such as shelter and food.

Though this is different from the legal minimum wage which is established by law, it serves as a guide to social actors in determining the threshold upon which quality of life is determined. Currently, Tom informed me that IAF is seeking to have smaller, new and effective schools; affordable healthcare for all; a pollution free environment; immigration reform as well as a cap on interest rates. The organization is looking to the future with optimism. It hopes to make schools more successful by strengthening the capability of parents to negotiate with schools concerning their children’s welfare. They also wish to pressure the government to provide modern urban environment where Americans live comfortably and are empowered to make important decisions that are likely to impact their lives. Through extensive training, the organization aims at enhancing Americans’ awareness of policies for change hence seize opportunities during democratic processes. I have appreciated the need for people to come together and seek power t confront common problems and would wish to become an active activist in the organization.


Meyer,S.D., Whittier, N.& Robnett, B. Social Movement: Identity, Culture and the State.

Oxford: Oxford University Press. Industrial Areas Foundation. (2010). Initiatives.

Retrieved from http://wwwindustrialareas


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