Mobilizing and Staging Leaders

Special Report: Ethnographies of Participation
Behind the Scenes at the Democratic Assemblies of London Citizens
By Hélène Balazard

Built on the model of broad-based community organizing initiated by Saul Alinsky, London Citizens represents a wide range of organizations—religious congregations, schools, unions, and other associations—which collectively seek to make their voices heard and promote the role of civil society in the governance of London. This article analyzes the genesis of a campaign within the organization. Through an ethnographic approach, it examines how London Citizens reconciles the participation of as many members as possible to make collective decisions with the effectiveness of implemented actions. The development of leaders, from their participation in decision making to their theatrical performance at meetings and other collective actions, is designed to expand London Citizens’ ability to perform in the public sphere.


  • assembly
  • collective action
  • community organizing
  • deliberation
  • empowerment
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