Maureen O'Connell: How SOCM Started

Susanna Hegner

Maureen O’Connell worked at SOCM for 35 years, 16 as Executive Director. During her tenure, SOCM expanded from a five-county grassroots community organization focused on coal (Save Our Cumberland Mountains) to a statewide organization working on a host of local, statewide, regional, and national issues of environmental, social and economic justice (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment). 

Before joining SOCM, O’Connell taught high school history and social studies in Louisville, Kentucky. She has served on many boards, including the Tennessee Valley Energy Coalition, Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, Tennessee Partnership on Organizing and Public Policy, Southern Organizing Cooperative, Community Media Organizing Project, Southern Empowerment Project, Grassroots Leadership, Forest Organizing Project, the Alliance for Appalachia, Rural Coalition Natural Resources Task Force, Citizens Coal Council, Campaign for Human Development, Youth Project and Citizens Lead for Energy Action Now. Beyond her board service, O’Connell has volunteered extensively for a broad range of organizations and causes. O’Connell studied at Webster College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

In this clip, O'Connell describes how research into the root causes of poverty led to the formation of SOCM.

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