About PICO

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do the initials in P.I.C.O. stand for?

People Improving Communities through Organizing.

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How did PICO get started?

PICO was founded in 1972 under the leadership Father John Baumann, a Jesuit priest who had learned community organizing Chicago. PICO began as a regional training institute to help support neighborhood organizations in California. With guidance from Dr. Jose Carrasco, a veteran organizer and teacher, and Scott Reed, PICO developed a new congregation-community model. In this model, congregations of all denominations and faiths serve as the institutional base for community organizations. Rather than bring people together simply based on common issues like housing or education, the faith-based or broad-based organizing model makes values and relationships the glue that holds organizations together. These innovations have resulted in the development of a national network of powerful, long lasting community organizations.

Today PICO has fifty affiliated federations working in 150 cities and towns and seventeen states. More than one million families and one thousand congregations from fifty different denominations and faiths participate in PICO. In 2004 PICO changed its name from the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations to People Improving Communities through Organizing. We now refer to ourselves as the PICO National Network to reflect our growth into a national organizing effort.

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What is community organizing?

Community organizing is a systematic approach to addressing the root causes of social problems. It is a process by which people investigate and act together to change their communities and society. Through community organizing people meet others who share similar values and interests. Together they identify common goals and learn tools to build organizations and participate in public life.

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Does PICO only work through congregations?

Most of the institutions that belong to PICO federations are congregations. PICO members also include schools, community centers and business associations.

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Why the focus on congregations and faith?

Faith is central to our work for many reasons. While we experience faith in very different ways, many of us share a common belief that the community and the world in which we live in can look different. The belief in the unseen is a powerful ingredient to overcoming the apathy and resignation that often stands in the way of improving communities. Many of us find strength and guidance in our faith to take the risks necessary to act on behalf of ourselves and others. And in many of our neighborhoods faith institutions hold together the fabric of community life and thus provide a strong social and financial basis for a broad-based community improvement effort.

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What kind of congregations does PICO work with?

All types. Congregations from more than fifty different denominations and faith traditions participate in PICO. They include Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, Non-Denominational, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist.

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Can individuals join PICO?

Not directly. The PICO National Network is made up of affiliated non-profit federations. These federations are membership organizations of institutions like congregations and schools. People are members of PICO because they belong to or live nearby an institution that belongs to PICO.

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Where does PICO get its funding?

Each PICO federation is responsible for raising its own budget. Nation-wide PICO raises $18 million annually. Funding comes from dues paid by member institutions, foundation grants and support from individual donations. The PICO National Network is supported by funds from local federations, foundations and individual contributors. All donations to the local affiliates and the PICO National Network are tax-deductible. PICO does not receive government funding. To learn more about contributing money to support PICO, see our Donate page.

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Is PICO aligned with a political party?

PICO is non-partisan and is not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. We do not endorse or support candidates for office.

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What issues does PICO work on?

PICO works on issues such as housing, education, public safety, immigration reform, neighborhood revitalization, youth activities, transportation and health care that directly affect the quality of life in communities. You can learn more in our Issues & Results section.

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Who makes decisions in PICO?

The issues that PICO works on are determined by volunteer community leaders who run their local federations. A steering committee of volunteer leaders representing each federation makes decisions on issues and strategy for the PICO National Network.

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Does PICO only work in large cities?

No. PICO has affiliates working in rural areas, towns and small cities, as well as some of the largest cities in the United States.

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How does PICO get started in a community?

The most common way in which a PICO organization is started is that a group of people, often but not always clergy, invite PICO staff to meet with them to help build a new community effort. People involved in the effort may participate in PICO National Training sessions to learn more about congregation-based organizing. Based on an assessment by experienced organizers local leaders raise funds and recruit institutions to participate on what PICO refers to as a Sponsoring Committee. This committee sponsors the development of a new organization effort during its first few years of existence.

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What if there is no PICO organization in my community?

If you are interested in learning more about starting a PICO organization in your community, please e-mail Scott Reed, or call him at (619) 501-1804.

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