Behind the Headlines: The Power of Community Organizing

“Change does not happen from the bottom down, it happens from the top up.” – President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama put community organizing in the spotlight during last year’s campaign. And while Sarah Palin took to mocking his community organizing credentials in her acceptance speech, there is no doubt that Obama’s experience as an organizer was at the heart of the powerful grassroots movement that got him elected.

At Bread & Roses, supporting activists and organizers at the community level has been our approach to change for over 30 years. Every grant we make supports community-led efforts to strengthen our neighborhoods, our workplaces and our schools.

But we realize that just making grants is not enough by itself. We also have a responsibility to help the amazing groups we fund to cultivate the expertise they need to continue their drive for progress. That’s why our Barbara Smith Community School offers workshops and training to help grantees become even more effective.

Last Fall, 32 grantees joined us for an intensive weekend-long training retreat. Facilitated by Jackie Kendall from the renowned Midwest Academy, the training was designed to strengthen our grantees’ skills and help them think more strategically about their organizing work.

As Kendall explains, “Some of these activists have years of experience and victories under their belt. But they also need a common language and framework so they can pass on their knowledge and be even more effective.”

Over three days, Bread & Roses grantees worked in small groups to develop recruitment, mobilization and media strategies for mock organizing campaigns. These strategies serve as critical tools for activists to take back and put into action in their own efforts.

In the words of Jorge Rivera, a representative from Proyecto SOL who attended the retreat, “I am taking away a lot of knowledge, techniques and information that I will use daily,” in efforts to advocate for Philadelphia’s Latino community.

Many of our grantees are facing shrinking budgets this year and training is often one of the first casualties. That’s why Bread & Roses is more committed than ever to offering low-cost training opportunities like this to all our grantees.

It’s just one more way that your support for Bread & Roses helps strengthen the movement for social change in our region.

“We don’t just write checks. We help train people to change our world.” – Casey Cook

 Jackie Kendall, of the renowned Midwest Academy, trains Bread & Roses grantees in community organizing techniques at our Barbara Smith Community School. Photo by: Marlan Marlit