Center to Support Immigrant Organizing (CSIO), an intermediary organization that supports individuals and organizations that cultivate immigrant leadership in social change organizing, launched its third Grassroots Leadership Institute on October 16, 2012, in the TSNE first floor conference room. TSNE is CSIO’s fiscal sponsor.
Some 30 activists from grassroots organizations in greater Boston, Lawrence, Brockton, Chelsea, Somerville, Southeastern Mass. and Rhode Island attended the first of 5 sessions. Participating organizations included Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores of New Bedford, Brockton Interfaith Community, Lawrence Community Works, LULAC Evolución Boston, Matahari: Eye of the Day, East Boston Ecumenical Community Council, Mass. Advocates for Children, Bromley Heath BHA Development, Community Training Assistance Center, Padres Latinos de Somerville, Fuerza Laboral of Rhode Island, Taller Boriqueño of Lawrence, Federation for Children with Special Needs, Chelsea Collaborative, Mass. Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, United for a Fair Economy and City Life/Vida Urbana.
Delving Into the "How-to" of Leadership Development
Institutes offer 5 sessions on the how to’s of leadership development in organizations and campaigns. For years, immigrant organizers and leaders told CSIO that while many groups professed to good leadership development in working class, immigrant communities; the reality is that groups find it very challenging to draw out sustained leadership from people who are directly affected by racism, xenophobia, economic exploitation and lack of English language skills and other resources.
To help organizers and leaders move their work forward, CSIO’s Grassroots Leadership Institute provides a 5-session, 25-hour curriculum on:
- How to conduct political education processes that help communities understand the socioeconomic forces that cause injustice that surfaces at the local, issue-based level (like in slum housing, inequities in education or health care, wage theft, environmental injustice, etc.)
- How to facilitate meetings and processes that are democratic, cultivate broad community participation, and help individuals realize that they are the agents for change
- How to conduct organizational planning processes (strategic planning, operational planning and short-term work planning) that are based on community participation, vision and leadership
- How to develop membership structures in organizations that cultivate community ownership of the organization
- How to develop campaigns that are effective and led by people affected by the issue
CSIO offers these Institutes in Spanish in the fall and in English in the spring. Sessions are offered every other week in 5-hour blocks. The Institutes provide comprehensive content about the subjects, as well as the opportunity for participants to learn best practices from each other.
In the October 16 session on political education, for instance, United for a Fair Economy and City Life/Vida Urbana collaborated to share their tools in helping communities understand the roots of immigration and the foreclosure crisis, as well as the connections among struggles of immigrants, tenants, women, etc. Participants engaged these groups in their methodologies, and analyzed how they could bolster their political education efforts in their own communities.
With support from TSNE and key funders Hyams Foundation, Common Stream, Inc., Lenny Zakim Fund and Burgess Urban Fund, CSIO launched the Institutes in 2011. The first two pilot Institutes from last year drew nearly 70 participants from two dozen community organizations. Many of the graduates from last year’s Institutes did outreach to send more members to the 2012 fall Institute.
Continuing to Share
CSIO has come to the understanding that building relationships and networks among leaders and staff in the work of organizing and leadership development is the most important outcome of our work. The more that we can develop processes where leaders learn about and from each other’s communities and strategies, and build and sustain those relationships over time, the more we will foster the movement for social change.
In fact, graduates of last year’s Institute did not want to end their term at graduation day! They decided to remain an active network, and meet quarterly to dig deeper into leadership strategies, form stronger relationships, learn more about each other’s best practices, and support each other in solidarity. CSIO launched this network of Institute graduates in September 2012, hosting a training on popular education led by Institute graduates from Rhode Island’s English for Action. Graduates are now planning a second session (to be held in January 2013) on fundraising for grassroots leadership and organizing, led by Institute grads from Community Training Assistance Center and Boston Tenant Coalition.