I spent this past weekend at the southeastern regional training for trainers (t4t) of PowerShift 2011. This event was packed with Dirty Hippies and DFH Ideas. A good time was had by all, and the earth will be better for this collective having gathered in Atlanta.
This spring, over 10,000 young leaders will converge on Washington, DC to stand up for our future. At Power Shift 2011, we’ll stand together to reclaim our democracy from big corporations and push our nation to move beyond dirty energy sources that are harming the health of people and the planet.
To train 10,000 in DC, they held regional trainings throughout the nation this past weekend. In Atlanta we had roughly 80 attendees learning to be Coaches and Facilitators, sharpening their skills as organizers and activists. PowerShift itself is a program of the Energy Action Coalition, which includes 50 youth oriented environmental and social justice organizations.
Through the New Organizing Institute, PowerShift gains a great program, training materials and some very talented master trainers. The regional program was a three-day adventure, not without logistical & communication lapses and mishaps, but overall execution was very good. The base of the training materials comes from Marshall Ganz‘s organizing model, as many of you may have learned through the Obama campaign. The materials themselves are published by NOI to coincide with the program, with some occurring a bit out of sequence from the program as it was presented in Atlanta. You can find some of NOI’s great training materials online at their Toolbox.
There was a pre-training session for Coaches Friday evening at a quaint little hotel North of Atlanta, with a nice drive through blooming dogwood trees along the way, but the feature venue for the Southeast Regional training was Fuzion Lounge at Atlanta’s Underground at the end of “Kenny’s Alley.” I’ve done trainings in all sorts of venues, from living rooms to civic centers, I even chaired a caucus in a Las Vegas Casino once – this was my first training in a night club, giving or receiving. My team’s breakout sessions were held in the “VIP” Area (I think they call it “the Blue room”), complete with stripper pole. No, I didn’t try it out. I won’t speak for the rest of my team though. Quite an experience, we could have done without the black lights, but we worked through the breakouts and much learning was done.
Saturday started with a narrative journey down the timeline of PowerShift’s history as well as the first examples of Story of Self. For those who never heard of him, the story and actions of Tim DeChristopher are quite remarkable, a young man who stood up against all odds for justice, when few others were even paying attention. We heard about Dan Cannon’s involvement with student organizing on campus and Anita Poushan’s border crossing revelation. Through their stories, everyone became more engaged and inspired, this is the strength of this snowflake organizing model. We found unity when Dan asked the crowd, “Do you know who Monsanto is?” The resounding chorus of boos was instant and passionate. In general session and in our group breakouts we heard diverse stories of how people came to be at this event, part of this movement. Some were well aware of the moment they became inspired, the events and experiences that caused them to join the movement. For others, it was the beginning of a process by which they will gain self awareness and through a better understanding of themselves, become better at understanding and persuading others to join the movement.
If you are organizing an event with a bunch of activists that starts early in the morning and is expected to go well in to the evening, what is the one logistic you can’t fail to deliver? Yeah, so there was a coffee deficiency, it happened, we got through it, and much learning was had. It isn’t a big deal to me, as I don’t drink coffee, I brought my own caffeine source with me, for others the situation was dire. Everyone survived, no blood was shed, and due to hydration deficiencies, there weren’t even tears. Logistics were managed by the Master and Lead trainers, and coffee was had by all that desired – this is a lesson in having faith in organizers. Another lesson was had with the failure of technology was an inability to get a laptop working with the projector, an easel, pad and marker were located, teamwork was employed and training was conducted with great success. One big lesson I learned early in my campaigning/organizing life – things are going to go wrong, in ways you couldn’t have possibly imagined, and some in ways you should have, all we can do is move on and find solutions to accomplish our goals in spite of the unexpected obstacles. Getting through such obstacles is the mark of a good organizer, never panicking, expressing despair, or becoming consumed by the emotional roller coaster – that is the makings of a great organizer.
I was placed in a group that later became known as a the Green Tigers, an homage to the bulk of our group being students at Clemson University. With a wide array of ages, experiences and interests. Through our breakout exercises, we shared our stories of self and helped each other improve our presentation of our individual inspirations. In the process we learned just how different our lives have been, and yet each of us was drawn to the same place and time for this shared experience. In the beginning of every DFA Training Academy, the lead trainer for the opening session informs the attendees, “You are not normal.” Showing up for a training about improving your capacity to participate in Democracy early on a Saturday, that isn’t normal. Knowingly subjecting yourself to the physical, mental and emotional abuse of running for office, that isn’t normal. Volunteering to work (paid or not) on candidate or issue campaigns, very not normal. Within this group, the Green Tigers, the members may feel a sense of normalcy they don’t typically find in other groups and settings.
The second key early morning lesson at a DFA Training Academy is, “There is no magic. There is work.” The PowerShift Training, like DFA is about providing activists with the skills and understanding they need to do the work needed to create change. In a little over a week, 10,000 participants will have the curtain pulled back, they will see that it isn’t magic, that they can make a difference. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? PowerShift 2011 is still seeking facilitators, can you do your part to help achieve the goal of training 10,000 youth energy activists? Discount registrations are available for facilitators who participate in pre-training (5-7 hours of webinar and/or phone based training), contact me directly if you are interested.
From my tweets during the Southeast Regional T4T:
@mpiscatella: I’m @ #PowerShift because as one, my power is limited, as an empowering trainer my power is limitless – join us in dc #pfla #p2
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