The Leading Change Network Global Affiliates (GA) Gathering 2015 was a three-day event bringing
community organizing practitioners, trainers and coaches together from across the globe to discuss trends and challenges in community or1ganizing, and to shape the path for future activities of the Global Affiliates. The meeting was held in Andrevlje, Serbia 27 – 29 March 2015.
The GA meeting was attended by professor Marshall Ganz, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government; Rawan Zeine, Leading Change Network Board Member, Nisreen Haj Ahmad, Project Coordinator for Global Affiliates, Sung E Bai, Leading Change Network Executive Director, and sixteen representatives from the following Global Affiliates member organizations:
- Serbia on the move (Serbia),
- Ahel (Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon),
- New Organizing Institute (USA),
- United We Dream (USA),
- Planned Parenthood (USA),
- Community Organizing Japan (Japan),
- Tatua Kenya (Kenya),
- Haiyya (India) and
- ReThink Health (USA).
During the GA Gathering, it was established that the members have jointly trained over 32,000 people in approximately 350 trainings and have coached and/or led over 200 campaigns, while over 2 million people have been engaged through their campaigns.
Summary of the 3 day gathering
Day One: Knowing our Affiliates
Day Two: Training and Coaching
Day Three: Campaign Challenges and Impact
Closing: Path forward
The agenda was outlined in order to enable first an overview of what and who constitutes the Leading Change Network and Global Affiliates, devoting the entire first day to presentation of organizations and participants, as well as to the comparison of different organizational structures, variations in mission and vision, fundraising schemes, and the discussion of challenges and sustainability of programs. Through this first session, common challenges, key lessons learned and topics for further discussion were identified at the level of building and sustaining an organization/institution, and the ground was laid out for a discussion of campaigns, trainings and workshops as well as coaching others in days two and three of the Gathering. With a clear picture of different organizational paths and work, day two was focused on the work we do in delivery of trainings, how we ensure quality, and how we measure outcomes and the impact of the work we do. The day continued with a session on the coaching journey and practices, followed by a session where participants generated an extensive list of campaign and organizing challenges and then decided which to discuss in depth and jointly find answers to during the third day. Day three was then divided into sessions which covered both “Structure & Capacity” and “Strategy & Urgency” in growing and sustaining campaigns, as well as a special session led by professor Marshall Ganz on “impact,” which was a topic that participants identified as playing a major role in the their daily work and decided that the GA will do an intensive learning session in the near future. The meeting was finished with a session on establishing a consensus on the GA path in 2015 and an agreement on the list of goals for 2016.
The major outcome of the first day, gained through sessions “Knowing our Affiliates” and “Stronger Affiliates”, was that although differing in organizational cultures and setups and operating in different societal, political and cultural contexts, organizations face similar challenges in their daily work. Having the opportunity to express these common challenges at the event, coach each other and discuss potential approaches and solutions was an extremely important value of the GA 2015 meeting. The key challenges and questions were either related to the individual organization’s level – e.g building and jumpstarting a movement, holding people accountable, governance models, leadership transitioning; or to the topic of developing the GA – measuring impact of our work, financial sustainability, and the expansion of the organizing model to other organizations.
Day two sessions “Training and Workshops” and “Coaching” covered curricular developments built from the original community organizing model and the five leadership practices as applied both to campaigns and coaching. Complementary trainings and modules developed for different contexts were explored (e.g. Listening Drive in Kenya, Power and Healing, Adult Learning Practices, Conflict Sensitivity, etc.), and new tools for strategizing in campaigns were shared (e.g. Self interest map, Spectrum, Issue tree, etc.). The need was expressed to create an overall rubric that would list criteria for developing and ensuring that the GA provide excellent trainings and grow great facilitators, trainers, organizers and coaches, as well as to develop metrics which would quantitatively and qualitatively show the impact of the work, both on the ground in our own campaigns and those in which we coach others. As a result of these sessions, there will be an outline of different trainings and modules for everyone to review and ask for details from the organizations doing them, as well as a paper focused on tracking and evaluating our work and how we grow and monitor leadership practices and skills we are building with our people. An additional paper will be written on how we enable learning and growing on an individual, organizational and campaign level through our work. During the coaching session, different practices were combined so as to draft a Coaching Journey template with various techniques and ways of providing coaching based on the context and needs of the leadership teams and campaigns.
Day two of the GA Gathering ended with a session on “Organizing Challenges” where the GA listed the challenges they struggled with in their work and we approached them through anecdotes – looking at them on a principle level, examining them from different perspectives, and developing a menu of challenges that as the GA we will tackle further in our work and choosing three challenges we decided were important to dig in deeper at the event itself, since we had the opportunity to discuss them in person.
The chosen challenges affecting most of the participants were: creating urgency in campaigns, strategizing challenges, and developing structure and capacity. We looked at urgency as the concept that engages constituency and leads to their taking a role and committing to a campaign, and we learned that the power of creating urgency mostly lies in our hands as organizers and that creating urgency should always be followed with clear ways for people to engage. Some light was shed on the use of research in planning campaigns and different tactics on how to acquire information that is purposefully kept unavailable, as well as how to assess power relations and make the switch from “power with” to “power over” campaigns. An incremental value of this session was evaluating ways of moving on after the campaign is won and enabling the teams in campaigns to escalate in the key moment of the campaign. A deeper understanding that opportunities for social change come in flashes, as a moment, and the discussion of how to best prepare for that moment were also meaningful for the practitioners. In terms of structure and capacity, time was devoted to discussing “snow flaking” campaigns, or intentionally growing the layers of your structure, and one of the key learnings was how we can integrate scaling as part of the training within the campaign, which in a way builds the campaign team(s), keeps the existing teams motivated and under deadline while the structure is being developed, and all until the peak of people is reached for the campaign to kick off. It was important to understand how making the vision of scale and intentionality of the processes during the strategizing period of campaign helps maintain people in the campaign and prevents them from burning out.
In the planning of the GA Agenda, time was reserved for professor Marshall Ganz to provide his input and insights into some of the issues the GA identified as pressing. This led to a session covering the impact of our work, how we approach the issue, what there is to consider and how we eventually measure it. What we concluded in this session is that our challenge is to organize our work so as to achieve the impact we seek, generating as much as we can of the resources that are needed from the constituency whom it is our mission to empower. Otherwise we run the risk of doing lots of solving of immediate problems while leaving the structures responsible for those problems intact and, perhaps even strengthened by the legitimacy we led them through our own dependency upon them. If the primary goal is to empower our constituencies, along with that is the preservation of our own autonomy, except with respect to our own constituency. When looking at ways of evaluating impact, we found two formulations that could be used individually or combined as ways of checking if we are doing the work effectively. One of them is based on the tripartite evaluation of organizational outcomes and looks at the change we targeted, the internal capacity of the leadership team and constituency being strengthened, and the growing and learning of individuals, especially in respect to our practices; it is based on the work of Richard Hackman. While in the other framework – Steven Lukes looks at the three faces of power: solving immediate problem, change in the conditions responsible for the problem, and finally – restructuring of the power.
At the end of the GA Gathering, the participants agreed on future steps the GA will be taking to further our collaborative work in 2015 and the outcomes of the training. The participants agreed to come together again next year in 2016, making this gathering an annual convening, a stable place for learning together from each other’s experience, provide support and coaching. One of the greatest outcomes of the Gathering is a commitment to our online Resource Center, and an established mechanism for mutual coaching among GA members. The Resource Center will be an online platform providing space for sharing and learning, as it is filled in with community organizing and campaigning materials, curriculums, agendas and cases, to be updated on a quarterly level with translation of materials to English. The Resource Center will serve as the basis of evaluating the work from year to year as a way of tracking our learning and publishing lessons learned by others.
The GA also agreed to grow its membership by recruiting three new organizations by 2016, with the intention of supporting emerging groups in other countries – mentoring them to become a member eventually. We will expand keeping in mind the need to keep the balance of different types of organizations and geographical mix. There will be three Learning Rooms in 2015, two of which will be closed for GA members only and the third one will be open to other organizations. Some of the resulting documents that came out of this GA Gathering are a resource log for Coaching (showing different members’ strengths which will enable direct and easy coaching for those who need it, what makes a good trainer, coach, organizer and facilitator) a list of criteria and qualities for different roles in community organizing work, and the Measuring Impact Metrics which should enable GA to more easily track all the work that is happening on ground and what impact is achieved through it.