The ACORN Model

The ACORN Model

ACORN’s model is simple: local, member-based, democratic organizations that operate like a union for their members. By forming our own community unions, we build our own power. 

How do you build a union for your community? ACORN organizers use our proven approach: 

  1. People to people:
    • Learn about the issues people in their neighborhood, building, or workplace are experiencing, often through home visiting or door knocking.
    • Sign-up them up to be members and to pay dues. 
    • Invite them to a launch meeting to form a campaign to address the issue.
  1. Launch meeting:
    • Ask attendees about the issues that came up while door-knocking.
    • Focus the conversation on a common issue campaign: an accessible win that starts to address an issue. 
    • Plan a campaign that uses direct action. Direct action is when those directly affected by a problem take action themselves to resolve it, instead of relying on politicians, lawyers, non-profits, or other professionals to do it for them.
    • Elect from the attendees potential leaders with the greatest motivation and initiative.
  1. Campaign:
    • Meet with the potential leaders and secure commitments for them to take the lead on aspects of the campaign.
    • Support the leaders in carrying out the campaign.
    • Review the campaign together. Discuss successes and areas for improvement.
  1. Take action and persist until victory
  1. Choose the next issue while expanding the membership:
    • ACORN is a multi-issue organization.
    • Some organizations are devoted to a single issue. When they win or lose on that issue, the organization usually fades away.
    • For ACORN, taking on and winning on issues is only a means to the broader end of building power.

Illustration of an organizing drive: