Our curriculum prioritizes teaching you how to:
- Tell your story to persuade and motivate others
- Recruit and retain volunteers
- Structure your team of leaders for growth
- Strategize and choose tactics that build power and move decision makers
- Fundraise, go viral on social media, and more!
This model comes from Marhsall Ganz, a Harvard professor who codified much of this relationship-building organizational framework after years of organizing with and researching social movements. He began organizing with the Civil Rights movement, worked with the United Farm Workers in the 1960s and 70s, and advised many unions, non-profits, and political organizations for decades. He was a key trainer and organizing strategist behind the Obama U.S. presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2012.
It was during the Obama campaigns that Ganz and literally millions of fellow organizers built on best practices and techniques of community organizing. Ganz codified these practices based on past movements, and the training programme he developed was critical to Obama’s victory in the 2008 election. Our lead trainers have taken Professor Ganz’s course and continue working with him to continually improve how we teach the curriculum.
5 key practices
Community organizing is all about people, power, and change – it starts with people and relationships, is focused on shifting power, and aims to create lasting change.
Organizing people to build the power to make change is based on the mastery of five key leadership practices:
1. Telling stories that connect to the heart
To break habits, you need to tap into sources of hope and empathy, and tell stories that show how people overcome a challenge they are facing. Storytelling communicates emotional content. We teach story-telling so people can know why you are doing what you are doing; we teach this by coaching students to tell their stories of self, us, and now. Students leave able to communicate what drove them to work on a cause, why their people must come together, and why their community must act now.
2. Building relationships
To sustain a movement you need relationships, and that takes commitment. Moreover, relationships allow you to coach new volunteers until they become leaders and are recruiting new members to your cause as well. We teach how to effectively recruit volunteers, maintain deepening relationships with them to secure commitment, and give them the courage to take on increasingly important roles in supporting your work. We teach a coaching model so new members are not just supported, but learn how to reflect on their contributions and continually grow their capacity.
How can I use what I have, to do what I need, to get what I want? Everyone strategizes every day. But there are proven ways to implement campaigns that increase engagement, continually build capacity, and choose tactics that best accomplish your goals - and that’s what we teach. Furthermore, our curriculum teaches you how to scan the social environment of your cause and plan how to move the most important actors to support you.
4. Creating a structure that cultivates leadership
Leadership is no longer about the ‘alpha’ leader, but about being part of a team where we are all leaders. But without structure, there is no space for creativity and imagination. A distributed leadership structure is like a snowflake— you need to ask how people will honour commitments, and who is responsible for providing leadership for the different parts. Then you create opportunities for people to grow their leadership skills within the work.
5. Moving your people to action
The capstone component of our curriculum is moving people to take action after you have told your story, fostered relationships, and have structured your team so that it’s ready to grow. We teach what techniques catapult your community to do specific tasks, and feel they are supported and growing in the process.
To date, we have trained over 2000 aspiring organizers with projects striving to change the status quo of governance practices, LGBTQ advocacy, environmental justice, labour rights, social planning, immigration practices among many other causes. We host large events for people of all levels of progress in their projects as well as personalized smaller workshops for your organization or team. Please visit our Contact Us page to inquire about setting up a training or being a part of our movement.
We also teach:
Making Government Work for you: This training teaches students how to meet with elected officials. By learning how legislation is developed and understanding elected officials' priorities, students will finish prepared to meet with their politicians, and get the most out of those meetings.
Communication and Media Campaign Planning: This training by Patrick Gossage teaches students how to integrate media with their organizing initiatives. By understanding how media can amplifying organizing objectives at different moments in your campaign timeline, students finish this training with a better understanding of how more effectively tell their organizing story to the media at the right moments.
Social Media: Do you know how your Twitter audience differs from your Facebook audience? How well do you understand how digital algorithms guarantee that some posts will do better than others? This training teaches students how to use social media as impactfully as possible when organizing.
Strategic Mentorship: DVP Olivia Chow has given organizations strategic advice about how to organize as effectively as possible as part of their campaigns.