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Learning in the Streets

Building strength in numbers. Developing grassroots leaders. Raising independent money. Mapping power relationships.

These are some of the key ingredients that go into building powerful community organizations that can win transformative change – which is why they’re core elements of the Alliance’s flagship Four-Day Organizer Training.

Our training team has been leading the Four-Day program annually for over a decade to build the organizing, strategic planning, and media skills of Alliance affiliate organizers and grassroots leaders.

This summer, there was so much demand that we had to multiply our Four-Day training schedule. We trained a cohort of 21 organizers at our West Coast Four-Day in Seattle in June (hosted by Washington Community Action Network). We ran an East Coast Four-Day for 25 organizers in Albany at the end of July (hosted by Citizen Action of New York – see photos).

And we just wrapped up a special Four-Day intensive for staff from our newest affiliate, the Restaurant Opportunities Centers-United, in New York City.

The Native Organizers Alliance (a project of AJS) also led a tailored Four-Day Native Organizing Training for 28 Native organizers working in Indian Country in June, along with a Native youth training in Montana in July and a condensed organizing workshop for the American Indian Center of Chicago in August.

What makes the Alliance’s training program stand out?

  • We learn by doing. While we hit the books (learning about the history and theory of community organizing), we also hit the streets. That’s how organizers from Washington to Maine and New Orleans to Vermont ended up shoulder to shoulder on a field canvass in Albany a few weeks ago, mobilizing residents of a working class neighborhood to urge their state senator to support a $15 minimum wage for all workers in New York. That’s what we call learning in the streets.
  • We lead with race. Where concerns about “divisiveness” sometimes lead groups to avoid talking openly about race, we teach organizers how to put race up front and centralize a racial justice analysis in their work – including internal training on the levels of racism, integrating racial justice analysis into picking issues and developing campaign strategies, investing in leadership development in communities of color, and leading with race in the media.
  • We’re serious about numbers. From the 80/20 rule for home visits to the 50/50 rule for counting turnout to the rule of 3 contacts for increasing engagement, we know building strength in numbers requires learning the science of effective organizing, setting measurable goals, and then holding ourselves and our teams accountable for outcomes.
  • We build strong ties.Our intense trainings build new relationships among staff and leaders across organizations to strengthen our team going forward. When you find participants staying up until two in the morning sharing organizing stories (like they did in Albany), you know you’re building strong ties.

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With summer winding down, it’s back to school time and that may mean time to hit the books for many… but here at the Alliance, our training team is busy planning the next round of learning in the streets.