Community Organizing and Civic Engagement Workshops

Understanding Power – Why do we always lose, even from the beginning?

Understanding the importance of relations of power in civic engagement and organizing is the critical first step to a successful organizing campaign. This session will demonstrate that it is not enough to be intellectually, morally or historically right, have good arguments, understand the legislative process or know important people. When confronting organized power it is necessary to develop measurable power of your own. Participants engage in a strategic and tactical role-play designed to demonstrate the need to understand their relationships of power, then analyze the forms of power available to most citizen organizations.

Choosing the Right Issues – For the right time, while maintaining unity

One of the most difficult tasks to achieve when organizing or engaging community members is selecting the best issue to work on. This two hour session will start with the distinction between a problem (the thing that is wrong) and an issue (the solution to the problem), followed by a presentation, discussion and demonstration of why and how to collectively develop a list of criteria that an issue should meet in order for a campaign to be successful. We also cover how to create safe space where everyone’s voice and visions can be shared and heard, to heal, empower and transform people and organizations, in order to build a stronger sense of common unity (community).

Cutting the Issue to Attract the Right People and Organizations

Sometimes an issue has already been chosen for a campaign. This session will reexamine the issue in terms of the comparative criteria process and discuss ways in which to present the issue to different constituencies based upon self-interest or organizational self-interest.

Strategy Development

Strategy development always has been, and always will be, the core of any community engagement or organizing program. Using the strategy chart developed by the Midwest Academy, participants learn how to identify and analyze the relationships between goals, organizational resources and objectives, constituencies, decision-makers and tactics. The presentation is followed by a small group exercise with reports back to the whole class. Participants can later use this method when holding strategy sessions in their community or organization.

Recruitment and Volunteer Leadership Development

Understanding the importance of active and engaged volunteers with clear roles and responsibilities is fundamental to successful organization building.

This session includes presentation, discussion and one-on-one role-plays with the goal to get participants to understand and practice how to identify the self-interest of a potential member, and then match them to the vision, goals and needs of the organization. Participants will learn qualities to be sought and cultivated in volunteer leadership.

Coalition Building and Maintenance is Possible

Beginning with identifying and understanding organizational self-interest, participants go through the advantages and disadvantages of building and joining coalitions. In addition we explore the critical questions of why, how and should your organization join a coalition. We review guidelines for building and joining coalitions, with an exercise to help participants determine who to invite into their coalition and how to get them to join and be held accountable.

Meeting with Elected Officials

This session will reveal the guidelines for meeting with elected officials in a clear and powerful way. The interactive session will cover developing a clear agenda and a clear ask(s), presentation of relevant power, how to adjust to decision makers reaction to their power and ask(s), and how to debrief the meeting. The role-play will involve a group of constituents meeting with the decision-maker at his or her office.

Media and Message as a Tactic in your Campaign

The goal of this session is to demystify the process of getting media coverage for a campaign and/or a specific ask of decision makers. Based on a simulated scenario, working in small groups, participants develop a message and short “media demonstration” in front of a group of reporters played by the larger group. Trainers, acting as reporters, ask clarifying and headline-making questions, some of which are designed to get the spokespersons off message. Each presentation is then debriefed.

The Election Process and Increased Civic Engagement Courses

The highest level of civic participation requires that citizens and non-citizens alike learn how governance processes work, how decisions are made, how systems are organized and how to intervene in these processes.

Researching the Power of Your District

Community members must learn to see, and create, power from a district level as well as a citywide level. Participants will receive a presentation on the importance of knowing where the power resides in their district and the impact that power has had on their daily lives. Following the presentation and discussion participants will analyze a case study to learn why election numbers, political positions and policies matter. The four hour session will conclude with participants utilizing a list of research tools to learn how to research where power resides, who has power, and discusses ideas on how to expand upon the existing power.

Researching the Power of Decision Makers

Participants will learn the importance of knowing where the local decision makers derive their power. During this interactive hands-on session they will learn how to research the different forms of power local decision makers have and from where they get that power. Teams will research local decision-makers and produce a report including, but not limited to; a biography, their top 10 contributors, top five endorsers, past 3 election results, as well as boards, committees and awards of decision makers.

Analyzing Election Results and Predicting Election Outcomes

Participants will increase their understanding of the importance of knowing the election results of past elections, demographic and power shifts. With an eye towards understanding and building electoral power participants, working in teams, will research and analyze the results of the last three elections, demographic and boundary changes and shifting political conditions. They will then make predictions before a panel of their peers (and possibly others) of where power could be built and why, and predict the outcome of upcoming elections.

Researching the Policy and Voting History of Decision-Makers

Understanding why and how policies affect the day-to-day lives of people is the most important element for increasing civic engagement and organizing. Working in teams, participants will analyze a case study to research the positions elected officials (and those possibly running for office) have taken on a policy. Teams will discuss who supported the policy position and why, and who opposed the policy position and why. They will present findings of their research. A list of research tools will be provided to all participants.

Working with Board of Elections to Increase Civic Engagement

Voting in America is falling to almost historically low levels. Therefore those communities and organizations that can increase and focus participation can yield and wield more power. Increasing electoral participation can build inclusive, collective action; raise awareness, involvement and responsibilities in public policy formation and strengthen community and democratic institutions. Working with the Board of Elections in a three-hour interactive session, participants will learn the process and timeline of elections.

Working with Board of Elections for Election Day Jobs

Elections cost lots of your money, create many jobs and functions that must be filled and play leading roles up to, and on, Election Day. Many such jobs and functions take place at the citywide, community, or district level, offering both short-term employment opportunities, as well as valuable learning opportunities. In some cases working with the Local Board of Elections participants, and/or their organizations, participants will sign up for required training to fill Election Day jobs and undertake election day functions.