Marshall Ganz grew up in Bakersfield, California, where his father was a Rabbi and his mother, a teacher. He entered Harvard College in the fall of 1960 but left a year before completing his studies to volunteer in the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. He became a field secretary with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, discovered a vocation for organizing and, in the fall of 1965, joined Cesar Chavez in his effort to unionize farm workers. During 16 years with the United Farm Workers he learned union, community, issue and political organizing, became Organizing Director, and was elected to the national executive board on which he served for 8 years.
After leaving the UFW in 1981, he put his organizing skills to work in the broader community. He designed organizing programs with union, electoral, issue, and community groups; formed an institute to recruit, train and develop organizers; and researched causes of decline in civic engagement. Working with mayoral, Congressional, Senate, and Presidential campaigns he developed new techniques for mobilizing citizen participation.
Concerned with the growth in political inequality and fragmentation – but realizing techniques alone could not meet this challenge – and that he needed to deepen his understanding – in 1991 he returned to Harvard College from his 28 year “leave of absence”, completed his undergraduate work in American history and government, and graduated magna cum laude in June 1992. He continued his studies at the Kennedy School of Government, where he earned an MPA in June 1993 and began to teach organizing. He joined the faculty in 2000 upon completing his Ph.D. in sociology at Harvard.
He now teaches graduate and undergraduate students organizing, public narrative, and moral leadership; trains practitioners with community based organizations, advocacy groups, faith communities and unions; and researches leadership, organization, and strategy in social movements, civic associations, and unions and their role in public life. He has published in the American Prospect, American Journal of Sociology, American Political Science Review, Social Science and History Journal and elsewhere. His first book, co-authored with Theda Skocpol and Ariane Liazos, What a Mighty Power We Can Be: African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality, was published in 2006. His new book, Why David Sometimes Wins: leadership, organization and strategy in the unionization of California agriculture will be published late in 2007. He currently serves as a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.