Dick Harmon, 1937-2024


Richard Harmon, an influential community organizer and mentor to generations of organizers, died in his sleep Feb. 6 in Portland from complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 87.

Born in Colorado in 1937, Harmon attended Colgate College in Hamilton, New York, and the University of Chicago. 

Harmon’s career as an organizer and trainer started with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), which was founded in Chicago by the legendary community activist and political theorist Saul Alinsky. After Alinsky’s death in 1972, Harmon helped lead the IAF and was part of developing its 10-day training program on how to build power though organizing people, how to use confrontation, and how to negotiate from a position of strength. The training promotes a “relational” method of organizing, in which people mobilize their existing networks of friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances. IBEW’s “Member to Future Member” training is rooted in relational organizing.  

After working with IAF in Chicago, he moved to New York City, where he helped lead Brooklyn Ecumenical Cooperatives, a coalition of several dozen churches that worked with the state AFL-CIO and union pension funds to convert abandoned buildings into affordable housing. 

In 1993, he moved with his wife to Portland and went to work as the lead organizer of the Portland Organizing Project (POP), an IAF-affiliated alliance of churches founded in 1985 to further social and economic justice. He soon reorganized POP and recruited union locals and community organizations into a coalition called the Metropolitan Alliance for the Common Good (MACG). MACG influenced development efforts in the Pearl District and the South Waterfront in Portland and lobbied for state and local policies that promoted affordable housing and union jobs.  

Harmon also worked with faith, local, and community organizations to support new IAF organizing in the Seattle area (the Sound Alliance), in Spokane (the Spokane Alliance), and in Edmonton, Alberta (Greater Edmonton Alliance). 

He is survived by his wife Carole and children Rob and Tasha.

A celebration of life will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 8. To get details about the location, RSVP here.    


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