Do More with an Agenda Review

By Daniel Hunter
Most agenda reviews are a ritualized reading of a written agenda. It may take as little as five minutes (or less!), with a few logistical questions. However, when done with intention, agenda reviews can build safety, set tone, build rapport – even begin working conflicts that might otherwise get in the way of the workshop. Here are a few vignettes that may expand your sense of possibilities to make the review count!

Break the Rules: How Ground Rules Can Hurt Us

By Daniel Hunter
I am not always against ground rules. However, ground rules as widely practiced are poorly understood and are often a waste of time. At worst they are pious rituals of political correctness designed to enforce mainstream norms. Too many facilitators limit themselves to using ground rules when other tools might work much better. Here’s why.

Training for Change: Moving from Theory to Practice in Adult Education for Empowerment

By Elowyn Corby
This research examines the possibility of using adult activism training to facilitate the development of participatory skills. It considers the impacts and pedagogy of Training for Change, a social action training collective in Philadelphia. As well as surveying the major democratic theory on participation and the educational theory dealing with education for empowerment, the research includes a qualitative and quantitative analysis of Training for Change’s work. Based on a survey of past-participants, Training for Change tends to increase participatory skills among trainees, as well as identification with social change maker identities like ‘leader’ and ‘organizer’ and the frequency and intensity with which trainees participate in social change work. These effects were disproportionately pronounced among participants of color. This finding counteracts the effects of more traditional skill-development institutions such as the workplace or non-political organizations, which disproportionately increase participatory skills among the most privileged members of society. At the same time, people of color were slightly less likely to report that they felt the training was designed to be helpful for people like them, indicating that TFC has a complex relationship with questions of cultural relevance in the training space.

Doing Your Detective Work: Figuring Out What a Group Really Needs When They Request an Anti-Oppression Worksho

by Nico Amador
One of the elements of direct education, TFC’s training methodology, is a value on being learner-centered, rather than curriculum-centered. When we get asked to do a training, we do not usually rely on a pre-established curriculum that we use to teach the content we’re being asked to deliver. We think that in order to be effective as trainers, we need to first consider the context and the group that we are working with— who they are, what the culture of the group is, what their specific goals are and the ways they might need to be challenged. Once we know that, we can think creatively and flexibly about the design, pulling from a wide variety of tools in order to produce a learning experience that can truly move the group forward.

Right on the Tip of Our Tongues: Considerations for Training in a Second Language

by Andrew Willis Garcés and Patrick Lincoln
It was obvious the facilitator wasn't catching everything. He looked back and forth from Melinda to Elvira, smiling slightly but wondering where all the laughter was coming from. He asked, in the language he didn't grow up speaking, "¿No entiendo la risa, de qué trata?" Melinda stepped in to explain, and in doing so shifted discussion away from the expected route toward a topic more in tune with the group's process. The facilitator's question, born of a self-conscious awareness of having more limited Spanish abilities than the participants, allowed the group to identify where it wanted to go and a new voice to come forward in leadership. Moments like these are common when working as a trainer in your B language.

Taking Stock of Taking Stack

By Nico Amador
I first noticed the downside of taking stack at a conference for organizers and radical activists I attended three years ago. Taking stack is a process in which the facilitator makes note of the people who raise their hand to speak and responds to them in turn. At the conference, I attended a workshop called “People of Color and Radical Organizing,” led by an experienced organizer of color who I respected. I hoped that we would have time to get into some rich discussion about some of the questions I wrestle with as a person of color doing organizing work and strategies for being able to work effectively from that identity.

Make Anti-Oppression a Strategy Issue

By Daniel Hunter
“Oh no, not another anti-oppression training,” a leader in the organization complained to me, five minutes before our training was scheduled to begin. “Another training where we hear how we need to be politically correct. We have real work to do, you know.” I could relate to his sense of impatience. When I am thinking as an organizer, I need our limited time for meetings and trainings to build group morale and develop a sharp strategy.

Into the Streets! Training as a Tactic

By Nico Amador
I've never been arrested. Many of the people I'm currently organizing in Philadelphia to stop casino development haven't either and have gotten nervousness about the possibility of it as our movement has escalated. As luck would have it, this fall a roadblock in our campaign provided just the opportunity to innovate a new tactic to boost our confidence with arrestable actions and create a strong push-back on our opponents. What did we come up with? A public civil disobedience training - a training that we took to the streets and used as a tactic.