The Citizens Handbook
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greenpeace founders
Greenpeace began as the Don't Make A Wave Committee in 1970 in the basement of the Vancouver Unitarian Church. It's sole objective was to stop a second nuclear weapons test at Amchitka Island in the Aleutians. The Committee had seven members in its core group: Dorothy and Irving Stowe, Marie and Jim Boland, Ben and Dorothy Metcalf, and Bob Hunter.
Forming a Core Group

What if you have a public concern, but there is no group with a similar concern? Or what if a there is a public interest group addressing your concern but they are moribund or unable to make any progress? It may be time to assemble a group of people who feel the same way you do.

Forming a core group is the single most important part of creating a new community or public interest organization. A core group without funds or staff should not expand beyond nine people — what sociologist’s call a primary group. The core defines the purpose, ways of acting together and the initial actions of the group. Because members of a core group usually spend a lot of time together, they should be people who enjoy one another’s company.

The makeup of the core will determine the friendliness, effectiveness, and longevity of the group, so don’t open the door to just anyone, and don’t extend an open invitation to anyone who wants to join. Instead, carefully choose friendly, keen people with a record of getting things done. If you need more people to pursue the group's purpose, create alliances with similar groups, or open the door to more members once the core group has found its legs.

Those involved in community development usually want to include everyone who shows up. In an ideal world, this makes sense. In practice, small groups with no external support tend to break up when they include incompetent, unreliable, or simply unpleasant people. See the Handbook heading titled Preventing Grassroots Rot

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The Troublemaker's Teaparty is an updated and expanded print version of The Citizen's Handbook. It contains all of the handbook plus additional material on preventing grassroots wilt, strategic action, direct action and media advocacy. You can get a copy of The Teaparty from Amazon or from New Society Publishers.