‘Preparing to Win’ Provides Blueprint for Creating Pathways to Community Change Careers

A new book, “Preparing to Win: Developing Community Leaders, Organizers and Allies,” by Andy Mott, provides a roadmap for creating educational pathways into careers and leadership positions tackling many of the most challenging issues facing America today. “

“At this time of crisis and great uncertainty, it is inspiring to see brilliant, far-sighted and determined young people step forward and assume leadership.   They have begun leading remarkable mass movements on racial justice, the climate crisis, immigration, community safety, democratic renewal and social reform.  It is time to invest heavily in fully preparing these and other emerging leaders for long-term leadership roles and careers tackling the awesome challenges facing America and the world.  

As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”  Preparing to Win reviews how the Community Learning Partnership is using that powerful weapon to strengthen the next generation of community leaders and organizers so they can meet our country’s deep challenges.  The book draws from CLP’s extensive experience creating 14 educational pathways into community and social change work, currently reaching over 1000 students, 80% of whom are students of color.

The book mines from Mott’s experience creating and helping grow the Community Learning Partnership (CLP), a national nonprofit bringing together robust partnerships between colleges and grassroots community groups to prepare large numbers of  knowledgeable and skilled leaders and organizers to address issues of poverty, race, climate change, community building and strengthening faith and participation in our democracy.

Mott brings to this work over five decades of experience organizing alongside low-income leaders, and building organizations seeking to make progress on issues in their communities. Before founding CLP, Andy served as Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, a national nonprofit which helps grassroots groups build the power and capacity to change their communities and public policies for the better.   

“I’m excited to share our learnings in this new book from our collective experience building highly creative learning Partnerships developing many new approaches,” Mott said. “It has been challenging and fascinating work, which I hope will provide insights and strategies to others seeking to strengthen efforts to achieve progressive, community-based change.”

Organized around 23 chapters, “Preparing to Win” touches on specific aspects of learnings and resources developed while growing the CLP network — which now includes affiliates inSan Jose, Los Angeles, Minneapolis / St. Paul, Mississippi, New York, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and Southeast Michigan. Specific chapters explore- best practices for recruiting students to Community Change Studies programs; ways to connect students to community change jobs; and practical field experience to  deepen key competencies required for those careers, among many other topics. 

The book also explores key ways to support leaders from low-income communities and communities of color — including chapters devoted to student finances, peer support, and community change career counseling navigation. “It’s a key tenet in community organizing that leadership on issues of poverty and race must come from the people who are most directly affected by those issues,” Mott said. “But less discussed is how to recruit, train, and support these leaders, which is exactly what CLP-affiliated community change studies programs across the country are doing every year.”  

The CLP network, which inspired the book, is premised on the idea that community colleges and public universities are uniquely positioned to attract and train a broad constituency of future leaders, across racial and class backgrounds IF they develop genuine partnership with organizations deeply rooted in communities often left behind.

“These are spaces where students can create dialogue, build relationships and friendships, and develop a shared vision of what our future should hold,” said Mott. “It is time to invest in helping growing numbers of young people to prepare fully for the awesome challenges facing the US and the whole world.”

Towards that end, the book includes  the perspectives of several CLP alumni, who recount how CLP programs have helped shape their community change work. For instance, the book includes the experience of CLP alumna Angelica Esquivel, who obtained a certificate in Leadership and Social Change (LSC) from De Anza College in Cupertino, California. Now a member of CLP’s national board, Angelica said she appreciates how her LSC classes relied on the lived-experiences of students in the program. “Usually, it’s the other way around,” she said. “You take what you learn in the classroom, and then apply it in your life.” In the LSC classes, she said, “I brought to the class what I had from my experiences on the streets. That’s the whole message of LSC — Come here with your experiences. Your experiences are important.”

“Preparing to Win” comes as the CLP network enters a new phase of growth. The network is on the cusp of expanding to five sites in California, while expanding existing programs at sites across the country.  

The book is available immediately on the CLP website for free, as well as on Kindle or paperback on Amazon.

‘Prior Learning Assessments’ Help Students Earn College Credit

CLP’s Senior Advisor, Andy Mott, has recently written a one-page resource on how Prior Learning Assessments (PLA), based on knowledge students have learned outside of the college classroom, can be used to earn college credits. “Studies show that students earning PLA credits have higher graduation rates than other students,” Andy writes. “Their practical experience pays off in many ways.

PLA does not refer to credit for the experience, Andy explains, but instead provides credit for the learning from the experience. If that learning is ata  college level, it can be tested and given credit through the PLA process.

This approach is particularly useful for community leaders and organizers, since many of these folks are already knowledgable in assessing community needs, building teams, campaign strategy and coalition building.

Read Andy’s entire document here.