I’m drawing more connections between how my meeting facilitation affects and impacts my relationship with folks I’m organizing.
Base-building is a crucial foundation of community organizing and one of the most challenging areas of growth currently faced by groups throughout the DMV region. Changing demographics in the Washington, DC area have meant that a privileged, politically savvy population is advancing policies, practices, and priorities that devalue the experiences and contributions of long-time low-income communities of color. The region’s growth and prosperity are touted while Black and Brown neighborhoods are destroyed, new development pushes communities to the fringes, racial wealth and income gaps increase, and institutions critical to the culture and survival of low-income communities are undermined.
In the face of these dynamics, our organizations and communities will be powerless without a cohesive and well-developed base that shares a rooted analysis and has built the trust and discipline to react as a united group. Well-designed, consistent gathering places, and the reflective and skilled facilitation of them, are irreplaceable steps in developing this type of constituency. However, these essential skills are often overlooked as expendable “soft” components of organizing.
Far from being a luxury, effective meetings and skilled facilitation are vital in building a sense of common identity and cohesion necessary to transform a group of individuals into a constituency that can envision change and take the necessary risks to attain it. These ensuing ‘relationships of action’ drive movement-based organizing work.
Movement Matters grounds our Advanced Facilitation Training in this constituency building context, lodged within our own community organizing framework. In October 2018, we brought together 24 participants representing 12 regional organizations to connect the theoretical role that facilitation and meetings play as the “spine” of the organizing process with practical skills to create more dynamic meetings.
The MM Advanced Trainings gave me concrete ideas to build from, especially with more creative approaches to centering community members in our work.
I feel that my organizing will be strengthened because of this community and identity building aspect of facilitation.
We engaged in activities that increased participants’ abilities to utilize physical movement and graphics in their facilitation, reframe and redirect comments to deepen participants’ engagement with a theme, and incorporate activities that create strong relationships of action among members.
Movement Matters staff modeled these tools and approaches to facilitation throughout the training, allowing participants to experience the process and its impact as they honed their own skills.
This training confirmed that I have the capacity to be a bad ass facilitator and I should step confidently into the role.
We are already actively working with several participating organizations to incorporate the skills and approaches from the training into their organizing work. For example, Movement Matters is helping the tenant organizing team at LEDC build a structure for their city-wide multi-lingual, multi-racial tenant leadership group that is based in liberatory approaches to group learning and identity. We are also helping to strengthen the organizers’ utilization of graphic facilitation and meeting design to move away from a lecture style of training and group building. This tenant leadership group is also leading the development of DC's first tenant union, which will launch the Summer of 2019. We are engaged in similar conversations and practice with several other local groups to help them tweak and/or revamp their constituency building practice through enhanced meeting design and facilitation.
As we reflect on this training, we are envisioning ways to strengthen and expand the content. We expect to repeat this curriculum on a regular basis with organizers from the DC area and other regions throughout the country.
This advanced training helped me remember my “why.” I was having a difficult time figuring out if I was in the right position, but now I am ready to apply everything I’ve learned here in my facilitation practice.
Organizations in attendance include: Critical Exposure, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, DCGreens, Identity, Inc., Impact Silver Spring, Justice for Muslims Collective, LEDC Tenant Organizing Team, Many Languages One Voice, ONE DC, UFCW Local 400, and Young Women's Project.