Last week, I spent 5 days in the Chicago Teacher’s Union building learning about direct action organizing from true veterans in this work. The experience was packed with new information, relationship building, and detailed reflection on best practices in organizing.
I learned so much that I don’t think it would be possible to summarize it all, but I walked away with a few things that I found particularly salient:
- You don’t win by being more right. So often I get caught up in the facts of our issues; There are studies proving that water shut-offs are a public health crisis. There are studies proving that communities of color are systematically over-assessed on their taxes in Wayne County. While this information is valuable to us in this fight, facts alone will not allow us to win. Unfortunately folks with all the right answers don’t always have power. Public Policy is set by people who have power.
- Power Analysis is POWERFUL. (Duh!) It was eye-opening to get into detail about how to analyze power and determine if a campaign is winnable. Whether it’s policical/legistlative power, legal/regulatory power, consumer power, or the power of disruption, I learned how to look at our organization with an objective eye to where and to what degree we have power on particular issues.
- Strategy will help us win. The strategy portion of this training was by far the most valuable and interesting to me. I basically spent an entire day learning about how to build strategies for campaigns in a way that is thorough, thoughtful, and collaborative. I thought Midwest Academy did an incredible job of distilling the importance of strategy in an approachable, intuitive way. I CAN NOT wait to implement this tool in whatever campaign DJJ takes on next.
- It’s all about relationship building. It was great to get a refresher in 1:1 meetings and to practice on other organizers with lots of amazing stories and skills to share. I focused on learning as much as possible from the other folks at the training, whether it was their stories of activation, or their day to day challenges as organizers. This portion of the training really helped me glean tips and tricks for seasoned organizers about how to structure their work/life balance, how to deal with organizational conflict, and how to intentionally slow down in a time when the work feels so urgent.
The Midwest Academy Organizing training turned out to be a very powerful experience for me. I felt like I walked away with a lot of new perspective on the work, and what I can bring back to make DJJ a better, more sustainable organization.