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Jim Diers

Jim Diers
Jim Diers has a passion for getting people engaged with their communities and in the decisions that affect their lives. His work in the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods was recognized with an Innovations Award from the Kennedy School of Government. He was appointed the first director of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods in 1988 where he served under three mayors over the next 14 years creating what some would say is a miracle of neighbors where he put his passion to work for a direct-action neighborhood association, a community development corporation, a community foundation, and the nation’s largest health care cooperative. He teaches courses at the University of Washington and serves on the faculty of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. Jim travels internationally to deliver speeches and present workshop on neighbours and neighbourhoods. His book, Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way, is available in both English and Chinese editions.

Recent Posts

Social Connection Needed in Battle Against Coronavirus

Posted by Jim Diers on March 17, 2020

In the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, public health officials are warning us to practice social distancing. That seems like good advice given the contagious nature of the disease, but it is also essential that we connect.

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Hippocratic Oath for Community Workers

Posted by Jim Diers on August 28, 2019

“First, do no harm.” This dictum is frequently but mistakenly associated with the Hippocratic Oath. Although it was disconcerting to learn that our physicians are not guided by this rule, I’m suggesting that it be adopted by community workers as the basis for our own code of conduct. We need to acknowledge the ways in which we often inadvertently harm the very communities we are trying to help and pledge to work in ways that contribute to their health. Here, then, is an outline of principles I would like to see included in a Hippocratic Oath for community workers whether they are social workers, recreation coordinators, clergy, community police, public health workers, planners, educators, service learning students, outreach staff, organizers or other community-based professionals.

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Building 21st Century Communities

Posted by Jim Diers on June 29, 2017

At the turn of this century, Robert Putnam wrote the most depressing book for those of us who believe that there is no substitute for community. Putnam cited all sorts of indicators of the breakdown of social capital over the previous fifty years – closed pubs, fewer voters, less families eating together, and declining membership in Rotary, League of Women Voters, NAACP and other associations. The book was titled Bowling Alone because Putnam documented a dramatic loss in the number of bowling leagues.

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If you want to build community, start where the people are

Posted by Jim Diers on January 16, 2017

A fundamental principle of community organizing is to start where the people are. The closer you engage people to where they live, the more likely they are to get involved. You should be able to get successively larger turnouts for gatherings at the neighborhood, city, state and national levels, but the percentage of the population engaged will most likely be the highest at the street, block, building or floor level.

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Citizen Power in Rotterdam

Posted by Jim Diers on December 19, 2016

Today's workshop took me to Rotterdam, another city with many inspiring examples of burgerkracht (citizen power). Here, Joop Hofman and I facilitated a workshop for 80 community workers.

This city is home to the Opzoomeren movement through which the residents of 1700 streets have self organized to improve their physical environment, to support one another, and to sponsor all sorts of community activities. The residents of each street met to develop an agreement regarding their shared etiquette.

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We Need Fewer Volunteers and More Community

Posted by Jim Diers on July 19, 2016

Recently, I was invited to speak at a conference of not-for-profit organizations on the topic of “How to Recruit More Volunteers.” The conference organizers must have been distressed when I began my remarks by asserting: “What we need is fewer volunteers and more community.” I went on to explain what I see as the difference.

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