Noelle Damico

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service

The Rev. Noelle Damico is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She is also a Senior Fellow at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, in New York City.  She has worked side by side with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) organizing institutional and grassroots involvement in the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food since 2001 and is a member of the board of directors of the Fair Food Standards Council that monitors the CIW's internationally recognized and award winning Fair Food Program.   

An expert in the field of forced labor, human rights, and corporate accountability, Noelle lectures widely at universities, institutions and conferences including keynotes at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe High Level Conference on Human Trafficking, the US Department of Justice’s National Human Trafficking Conference, and the NGO Working Group on Food and Hunger Policy at the UN.   

For twelve years Noelle served as national spokesperson for the two million member denomination’s commitment to fair food, organizing thousands of congregations across the country to join farmworkers in successful rights advocacy and defining the denomination’s human rights based approach to human trafficking.  Prior to that she directed the UCC’s legislative advocacy network on Capitol Hill, served as a pastor of congregations on Long Island and in New Jersey, a campus minister at SUNY Stony Brook, and worked in the field of software design.  She started Shalom Interfaith Partnership in 1996, a non-profit that pools resources from 13 congregations of different faiths in order to meet emergency needs and address root causes of poverty with people who have been made poor in Suffolk County Long Island.

Noelle is deeply involved in efforts for justice and collective well-being in Westchester County.  She is the Co-Chair of the Westchester Women’s Agenda (, the co-founder of Interfaith Clergy for Social Action(, on the planning team of #KeepWestchesterThriving a super-coalition of non-profits, community organizations representing environmental, human services, faith, the arts, and housing rights to ensure county financing and support for the common good, and a founding member of the Stewards of Cranberry Lake Preserve (  She and her elementary-aged son have led a grassroots district-wide effort in White Plains to reform recess practices in all five elementary schools.  This effort is bearing fruit in changed practices, funding commitments and anticipates a district-wide roll-out of child-centered rights based recess practices in 2017.

Noelle holds a B.A. with high honors from Swarthmore College in religion, politics and economics, an M.Div. in philosophical theology and a Th.M. in aesthetic philosophy and liturgy from Princeton Theological Seminary.  She resides in White Plains, NY.

Community Organizing will provide an overview and introduction to the fundamentals of organizing to win, implement, monitor and sustain change in the private and public sectors. We will compare, contrast different forms of participatory community organizing and explore the linkages between community organizing and social movement building in the 21st century.  We will probe the moral values and priorities imbedded in different organizing approaches and cultivate or hone participants’ concrete skills in active listening, leadership development, strategic analysis, campaign design, research, coalition-building, mobilization, design and use of non-violent direct action, communication (including use of symbols and art), assessment, role of funders, monitoring and sustaining change.  While the principal focus will be organizing in the US, we will examine approaches taken by people’s organizations in Sri Lanka and Haiti and how these approaches can be adapted in the US context as well as how strategic international support for organizing can effect change in these countries elsewhere in the world.

Through readings, class activities, speakers, reflections, and a final organizing project, students will emerge with an enlarged vocabulary and set of models for organizing, the skills to catalyze and build organizations, and the ability design campaigns for the purpose of achieve and sustain change. 

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Introduction to Community Organizing is for those who could imagine running national or local advocacy organizations that make change happen or anyone who wants to understand the art of community organizing. It will provide an overview of and training in contemporary community organizing practice in the United States. This includes defining what community organizing is and identifying its value base; exploring the strategies, tactics and activities of organizing; and thinking about marketing, language and evaluation. We also will examine the transformations of civic engagement and voluntary associations in the United States and the impact of these transformations on the ways Americans organize and advocate for change.

But there is a larger lesson here: The skills of community organizing – listening, finding areas of consensus and building on that consensus, finding ways to make change happen – are skills that can be applied to all professional and life settings. Through readings, class activities, cases studies, speakers and reflection, students will examine skills and techniques for effective organizing, including building a membership base, developing ordinary people as community leaders and running member-led issue campaigns. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on and strengthen their own skills as community organizers and advocates.

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