New Masters gives graduates the 'Obama factor'

Barack Obama’s formative experience as a community organiser in Chicago honed the leadership skills behind his successful presidential campaign.

Queen Mary, University of London will soon offer students the opportunity to gain similar experience, with the launch of a new MA in Community Organising in September 2010.

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As course-lead Professor Jane Wills, of the Department of Geography, points out, the Masters – the first of its kind in the UK - provides students with the chance to study "political theory while getting their hands dirty with political practice".

"Community organising means helping people to empower themselves; to build strong alliances with local faith groups, trade unions and other influential associations that can stimulate change, together," explains Professor Wills.

“We will be structuring the programme so students learn about finding and supporting local leaders, facilitating political relationships and running successful campaigns.”

Each student is guaranteed a five-month work placement as a community organiser with London Citizens, the organisation behind the living wage, CitySafe and the demand to turn Strangers into Citizens.

The Department of Geography joined first forced with London Citizens during its successful bid to pioneer the living wage; a campaign now ensuring thousands of poor workers in London receive a better salary and standard of life.

The College even won a 2009 Green Gown Award for social responsibility from the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges, after introducing the living wage for campus cleaners.

"Just like Obama did in Chicago’s projects in the 1980s,” said Professor Wills, “our students will learn how broad based power alliances like London Citizens, organising the interests of communities, get a place at the decision-making table and ensure their voice is heard."

The programme provides both the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to begin a successful career in community organising, and alumni will be well qualified to go into related fields in the faith and education sectors, local government, the third sector and political campaigning.

Neil Jameson, Executive Director of CITIZENS UK and lead organiser of LONDON CITIZENS, said: "At a time when the three main parties are interested in methods to mend or build the ‘Big Society’ we welcome Queen Mary’s pioneering Masters in Community Organising.

"Young people should see the development of civil society as a vocation,” said Neil. “The Masters will provide them with the practical tools and political intelligence to make this happen from both the lecture theatre and on the streets, among the diverse communities of London."

For media information, contact:

Paul Jordan
Faculty Communications Manager (HSS)