Community Leadership and Organizing

Use this element of our Charter Toolkit and add your name and support to our transformative governance agreement -- the Great Lakes Commons Charter Declaration

See, share, and download this Charter Toolkit invite by clicking on the image.

See, share, and download this Charter Toolkit invite by clicking on the image.


When organizing around any issue, often the most challenging part is to know how to get started. Taking the time to start with some detailed planning and research will make your efforts more efficient and successful. Though there are many resources for community organizing out there, we are sharing the following collection -- hand picked for their focus on water and commons principles.

The Campaign Planning Handbook by Toronto & York Region Labour Council focuses on "understanding the power relationships that shape our world and learning how to better create our own power is at the heart of effective campaign planning." It "draws on the work of countless people and is meant to be shared and improved upon through experience. It was written for unions, but principles of campaign planning apply to all social movements."

The six principles for democratic organizing illustrate important guidance for water leadership. Practicing these principles will bring more people into your circle and strengthen your efforts.

  1. Be Inclusive

  2. Emphasis on Bottom-Up Organizing

  3. Let People Speak for Themselves

  4. Work Together In Solidarity and Mutuality

  5. Build Just Relationships Among Ourselves

  6. Commitment to Self-Transformation

"Re.imagining Activism provides practical advice and questions to ask ourselves when we want to change organizations, campaigns or become active on system change in a transformative way. What obstacles do we need to overcome and how can we achieve this? Inside, you will find examples and case studies of other activists who have interesting experiences to share."

Looking at others who have already demonstrated water leadership in their communities can inspire and provide examples to adopt to your efforts. Below, co-founder Alexa Bradley shares Milwaukee Water Commons story, lessons learned and successes organizing a community around water. MWC's effort to "create a community-defined vision for Milwaukee as a model water city" is proof that a community can coalesce around water care. Deeply rooted in a commons perspective, MWC embarked on "Water City 3.0 to...ensure that the community was at the center of envisioning and decision-making about our city’s water future" (access the report below her video).

Blue Community

Communities across the Great Lakes can take steps to show that water is a valued and protected part of the community. The Council of Canadians' Blue Communities Project offers a practical, guided path for communities to take action. "A 'blue community' is one that adopts a water commons framework by taking the three actions outlined in this guide. A water commons framework treats water as a common good that is shared by everyone and the responsibility of all."

Ask your community to become a Blue Community by adopting a water commons framework that:

  1. Recognizes water as a human right.
  2. Bans the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events.
  3. Promotes publicly financed, owned and operated water and waste water services.

These guides provides information and resources to help you achieve these goals.

Finally, showing leadership and organizing depends on understanding our cultural connections to water. Each culture has a unique relationship. Use this water meditation guide to harmonize perspectives and teachings across the community.  

We welcome your feedback on how these resources can be adopted, improved, and expanded.