Social Justice Leadership’s New York Transformative Organizing Initiative (NY TOI) completed its third consecutive program year in June 2011. NYTOI is a multi-year, multi-level training program for grassroots social justice organizations that focuses on transformation and leadership at the individual, organizational, and movement levels.
In the 2010-2011 TOI program year, 75 staff and 79 members from 14 organizations participated in 37 full days of training over the course of eight months. The goals of the program were for participants to:
- Practice and refine a transformative model of organizing based on the 5 Core Practices;
- Create shared high standards for staff, leadership, and organizational development, and help organizations hold each other accountable to them;
- Develop a personal grounding and centering that gives clarity to purpose and vision and provides a foundation for growth and sustainability.
- Deepen trust and relationships among staff and leaders across organizations to facilitate effective alliance work and a more effective social justice movement.
The NY TOI program had numerous levels that included on-going training programs, individual and organizational coaching, and personal development intensives. These levels are described below.
Full Circle trainings were attended by all participating staff, and focused on developing political analysis, organizing strategy, and movement building approaches. This level included a three day opening retreat and four day-long sessions. Early sessions focused on understanding the roots of Transformative Organizing, developing an understanding of the nature of personal and social change, and defining movements and the factors that determine their success or failure. Current and historical examples of successful movements in Egypt and South Africa were used to build understanding, after which participants assessed the current state of movement alignment in New York. They examined the work of their own organizations, and were pushed to make honest assessments of how they contribute to or create obstacles to this alignment. The final session explored approaches to making a qualitative shift in the conditions of our society. Participants were excited by the opportunity these sessions provided to look beyond their organizations and issue campaigns to broader questions of analysis, vision, and movement-building strategy. Many commented on the depth of cross-organizational relationships they built, and the alignment that grew among many of the participating organizations over the course of the year. Several bold and enthusiastic discussions took place during Full Circle sessions about how the organizations present could more deeply collaborate to build their power and impact in the city and beyond. Many commented on the hope and energy that were generated, and on the potential for fundamentally shifting organizing in New York. Follow-up discussions are on-going, as both participants and SJL staff want to capitalize on the opportunities opened by this program.
Grassroots Leaders in Organizing (GLO) is our training level for grassroots member-leaders from participating organizations. GLO sessions were designed to help members 1) develop a broader understanding of leadership that includes personal and organizational transformation; 2) develop a basic understanding of our social, political, and economic systems and their history; 3) learn the basics of Transformative Organizing; and 4) build deeper relationships and alignment among leaders across organizations. The program involved five full-day sessions, including a two-day closing retreat. The program was very successful in introducing members to personal transformation. Many had powerful experiences in the opening session, and developed regular personal practices to move them towards their vision of how they want to be as leaders. Staff from participating organizations noted the change in how many GLO participants showed up as leaders in their organizational work. Another powerful impact was clear in the development of political analysis and vision in participants. This took place on an individual level, among members within each organization, and across the organizations, and was evident in the ambitious collective vision that GLO participants created during the closing retreat. Since NY TOI was initially designed only for staff, the success of GLO marked a significant advance in building alignment around the TO approach within many participating organizations.
Each organization that had members participate in GLO was required to enroll at least one staff in Transformative Leadership Development (TLD), our program to train organizational staff to effectively support, coach, and train the members with whom they work. TLD participants engaged in deep personal development themselves in order to become competent to support the transformative development of the GLO participants. As they developed their own competency in deep leadership development and training, they took on more responsibility in leading the GLO sessions. TLD participants attended 11 full day sessions, and helped lead all the GLO sessions. This program was especially important to SJL because it involved training organizational staff to teach Transformative Organizing to their members. Participants appreciated the practical nature of the program, and the opportunity it provided them to practice a much deeper form of leadership development with the members. It demanded a great deal of them, and clarified that personal transformation among staff opens possibilities for helping members grow in a way that is deep and lasting.
NY TOI provided several other opportunities for personal and organizational growth and transformation in 2010-2011. For the first time we offered Somatic Intensives, two three day intensive introductions to personal transformation. These sessions supported participants in identifying their habitual reactions to pressure, and beginning to embody new, more intentional responses that allow them to more purposefully move towards their vision of effective leadership. The first Somatics Intensive had such a profound impact on participants that numerous attendees requested permission to repeat the training by attending the second session as well. Other NY TOI participants received similar support through SJL’s Coaching Clinics, in which NY TOI participants received individual coaching from SJL staff on their own development. Coaching helps people identify their habitual reactions to pressure and practice new ways of responding that are more in line with their values and vision as leaders. Intensive Practice Path Individuals made a commitment to monthly coaching with SJL staff, and were able to maintain the pace of their development for the duration of the program year. Similarly, two organizations (Domestic Workers United and Families United for Racial and Economic Equality) participated in the initial stage of the Organizational Intensive Practice Path. This level offered organizations the opportunity to incorporate deep change at all levels of their organization. SJL supported this process through observation, training, and individual and organizational coaching, all aimed at helping organizations sharpen their vision, strategy, organizational culture, infrastructure, and impact.
Participating Organizations in this year of NY TOI included CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, Community Voices Heard, Domestic Workers United, FIERCE, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, Good Old Lower East Side, Jobs with Justice / Urban Agenda (now ALIGN), La Fuente, Mothers on the Move, Make the Road New York, New Settlement Apartments, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, and an individual staff from Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.
2010-2011 was a year of significant advance for NY TOI. We were able to build on the previous years’ focus on personal and relational growth to achieve a more action-oriented focus on building power strategically. Building this outward focus on the internal foundation built over the previous years proved to be successful beyond our expectations. Participating organizations engaged with enthusiasm and clamored for collaborative action based in the strong relationship of trust built over the last several years. We are excited to move into next year’s program, and to actualize the promise so vividly displayed in this year’s NY TOI.