Much has been written about the decline and possible fall of democratic habits and practices in the United States and abroad. In a nation that reputedly values democracy there is near universal agreement regarding what IAF Co-Director Michael Gecan calls the "mid life crisis" of American style democracy and IAF Co-Director Ernesto Cortes calls the "unraveling of the fabric of democracy". Alinsky's obsessive care for who did and did not have a voice in public life, who was or was not able to come to the table of decision making led to a remarkable series of discoveries - he called them "rules" - that inform successful public interventions by ordinary people and the institutions that represent them.
Iron Rule: Never do for others what they can do for themselves.
For Alinsky the first rule, the Iron Rule, was grounded in the Scriptural call to respect the dignity of the person. He believed that the capacity of individuals to do for themselves should be respected at all times and embodied in democratic practice.
Power, defined as the ability to act, is a relational concept dependent on having two or more people with a plan.
For Alinsky, ordinary people could learn about the exercise of power by participating in community organizations as they developed plans and relationships to effect positive change.