Review of ‘Preparing to Win’ by Longtime Organizer James Mumm

The book goes to the “very heart of what it means to be an organizer in the 21st century,” writes Mumm.

In a recent post published on Medium, James Mumm, former campaign director of Greenpeace USA, and a longtime community organizer and activist, reviewed “Preparing to Win: Developing Community Leaders, Organizers and Allies” — a book authored by CLP founder Andy Mott that outlines how our national network of community change studies programs is expanding the pool of community change leaders in low-income, working class, and communities of color.

In his review, Mumm recognizes the impact of CLP’s programs on the field of community organizing — and the opportunity to scale this impact even further. Our network’s vision to create degrees and certificate programs across the country, designed specifically to prepare low-income people and people of color to become leaders and organizers, can be “a straight-up antidote” to social ills like poverty, discrimination, white privilege and classism, Mumm writes, “and that’s one hell of a standard to set for the organizing movement.”

Mumm has graciously permitted CLP to republish his essay — which was also published in Vol 51 of Social Policy Magazine — in the post below. We encourage you to read the essay in it’s entirety, which also includes a review of another important book, Prisms of the People: Power & Organizing in Twenty-First Century America. Please also visit Mumm’s website for additional essays, and to learn more about his work. 


How Long Must My Journey Go?

An Organizer-Bodhisattva’s Guide to Enlightenment

Republished with permission by the author, James Mumm. This post was originally published in Medium on February 10, 2022

“How long must my journey go? And my sorrow no one knows.” — Subrosa

It’s tough to be a bodhisattva these days. Sorry, I mean community organizer. Or anything in between. In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, a bodhisattva is someone who gets close to enlightenment, yet chooses to forgo liberation until every other being is also enlightened. This always struck me as eerily similar to what organizers try to achieve through their work.

I’m now three decades deep into the craft of organizing. But two years of a global pandemic have tested my commitment. “How long must my journey go?” I wonder. Then I hear the rising voices that always inspire me — my mentors in organizing, and the grassroots leaders I’ve known — then I find my feet again. Yet I ask myself this question over and over, as I get lost now and again.

This burning question led me to two books that get to the very heart of what it means to be an organizer in the 21st century. Andrew Mott’s Preparing to Win: Developing Community Leaders, Organizers and Allies (2020), and Hahrie HanElizabeth McKenna, and Michelle Oyakawa’s Prisms of the People: Power & Organizing in Twenty-First Century America (2021).

Andy Mott has been in and around organizing for half a century. Having seen him in action, I can easily imagine Andy holding the door to enlightenment open so every other being can go through before him. Preparing to Win, indeed, strikes me as a kind of bodhisattva’s guide to how to prepare others for this journey

Mott describes a highly intentional start to this journey, one that focuses on bringing BIPOC people into organizing with a strong foundation to build upon.

Preparing to Win is not a beach read, or even a gripping narrative. Yet it’s well worth every minute of your attention. This is a comprehensive how-to guide and adaptable model for setting up programs at community colleges, colleges and universities that prepare people for careers as organizers. This blueprint for programs that will dramatically increase BIPOC people and those from low-wealth communities to become paid community organizers and social justice leaders.

Mott’s experience leading Community Change and the Community Learning Partnership, which he founded to create pathways into social justice careers, has led him to four fundamental conclusions:

  1. Low-income communities must become the prime movers in community, social and political change efforts to ensure that the future responds to their needs and priorities.
  2. They must build their own democratically controlled organizations to represent their interests, and they must hold those organizations accountable.
  3. Those efforts require volunteer and staff leaders with broad knowledge and skills, experience in involving people and developing leaders, a long-range vision and sophisticated strategy.
  4. People with lived experience with poverty and discrimination bring unique insights, knowledge, commitment and interpersonal skills as well as enormous latent talent to leading and staffing organizations working on these issues at the local, state, regional and national levels, and they also are uniquely qualified to be role models for other potential leaders, organizers, and change agents.

Preparing to Win goes through the ins and outs of “creating College Degree and Certificate programs which are designed specifically to prepare low-income people and people of color to become leaders and organizers, tackling issues of poverty, discrimination, power, community-building, and reinvigorating our democracy.”

This goal may sound too nuts-and-bolts, but creating a credential for BIPOC and low-wealth communities to get a foothold into successful careers is essential to progress. And getting one that opens the door for these communities into a career in social change is even better. These programs are a straight-up antidote to white privilege and classism and that’s one hell of a standard to set for the organizing movement.

Low-wealth and BIPOC people and communities need to be in the leadership of multiracial, cross-class movements, Mott argues, because “Leadership on issues of poverty and race must come from the people who are most directly affected by those issues, and this will require bold measures to build outstanding community leaders and democratic organizations.”

He goes further to say something crucial to all of the billionaires and foundations out there who think they can just create their own change-making machines, then expect them to spew out progress.

“Well-led low-income community organizations and social movements are essential to the success of other partners committed to positive community change,” Mott explains. “Without effective systems for involving low-income people themselves, efforts to transform the lives of poor people and minorities will fail. So will initiatives to bring people together across race and class lines to confront the growing inequities, divisiveness, and racial tension which are ripping our social fabric apart.”

My on-the-ground organizing career in Chicago and The Bronx tells me that he is right. I have seen what happens when the wealthy and big foundations start to think they know more than the communities most impacted by today’s biggest issues: they, and their well-meaning initiatives, fail. What’s worse, they reinforce dominant narratives that blame poor people and people of color for failing to follow their brilliant blueprint.

Lasting change will only come from organizations led by the people most affected by injustice, who take the lead in building a “Bigger We” that brings together a critical mass of constituencies to create multi-racial, cross-class movements.

The track record of the Community Leadership Project is impressive. Mott describes how by 2020 they had helped create 14 college degree and certificate programs in Community Change Studies, with over 1,000 students enrolled (80% of whom were people of color and 70% were income-eligible for Pell grants, and 15% had experienced homelessness during the school year.

CLP’s vision is to expand this to 30 programs by next year, and more than double the number of students enrolled. He continues to describe how the findings from a recent CLP alumni survey suggest that the model is working. Of those who are working, over 60% have found jobs with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or educational institutions where they can contribute to community change.

The CLP curriculum reads like a mashup of the best organizer training programs in America, where they are also leading on “issues of race, cultural identity, class, prejudice, white domination, historical trauma and healing, and, especially, how they relate to a person’s sense of agency and identity as an agent of change.” And for those who assume this is grounded solely in the teachings of Saul Alinsky, Mott clarifies that CLP and its partners “draw lessons from a wide variety of movements and traditions of nonviolence, including the civil rights, Chicano, and American Indian movements, Welfare Rights, the Poor People’s Campaign and Black Lives Matter. The Women’s, LGBTQ, global climate change, student-led and criminal justice reform movements have added greatly to the richness of experience in bringing about change.”

In Preparing To Win, Mott also shares the perspective of his long-time colleague and friend, Nakota/Yankton Sioux leader Syd Beane, who “disagrees with Alinsky about making anger central to organizing. He thinks anger separates and divides and that instead the emphasis should be on pain and healing.”

This is a true bodhisattva’s insight — that a variety of sources can, and should, inspire our work as organizers. I appreciate the diverse traditions that my mother, Maureen Dolan, drew upon and shared with me in her lifetime of organizing work, as well as the legacies of civil rights leaders and Alinsky I came to know through Shel Trapp. I know that I would be further along in my own journey if I had gone through the rich grounding that CLP is calling into being on campuses across the country.

Mott knows firsthand the deep history and development of major community organizing and support networks in the United States and he understands their evolution around elections, as well as race and gender, internally and externally. Increasingly, multiracial, class-conscious, anti-oppression values and politics define their operations and campaigns. There is no perfect organization, but one can take heart that the arc is bending in the right direction.

So if we accept Mott’s invitation, we have the tantalizing prospect of thousands of budding bodhisattvas supercharging community organizing all in the United States. But as every organization and network discovers, this requires public support. Mott delivers an answer here, too. Paid fellowships modeled on the California Youth Leadership Core or “earn while you learn” programs at community colleges would make these programs attractive and possible for students from BIPOC and low-wealth communities. This model is a real public service and deserves serious public support.

Mott concludes Preparing To Win with his own question to us: “What does it mean to be an organizer who is really contesting for and wielding power? Who can you be?” For some real-life examples, let’s now turn to Han, McKenna, and Oyakawa’s Prisms of the People to learn more about the strategies and successes of some of the best living bodhisattvas. Uh, I mean community organizers.

These three authors add insight and depth to the literature on collective action, showing that the power of the organizations they study is due to the breadth of their strategic choices — not just the sum of their resources, “the leaders and organizations we studied were able to exert power in large part because they were grounded in constituencies that had committed to standing together, to becoming something new together that they could not be alone.”

As you might expect from the title, the authors use the metaphor of prism to describe how the internal design of the organization “determines what kind of power (or light) is refracted outside.” They continue, “The organization (a term we use to refer generally to vehicles of collective action) is the prism that refracts the actions of a constituency into political power. The shape and extent of the vector of power the prism can project depend on design choices internal to the prism.”

The four core organizations they study are familiar to students of the game — ISAIAH in Minnesota, The Amos Project in Ohio, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), and the New Virginia Majority. Two extension groups were also studied — Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

What these groups all have in common is a “dynamism” about the relationship they establish between power and constituency-building. These are state-based, grassroots organizations that came into being mostly in the early twenty-first century or reoriented to the project of building independent political power during this period.

This book is a gripping narrative. If you love organizing stories told at the bar or the campfire, gather ‘round — because Prisms of the People is chock full of them.

In Before the Storm: The Unmaking of the American ConsensusRick Perlstein chronicled Goldwater’s election to the Phoenix City Council. This presaged his run for the U.S. Senate in 1952, when he also asked his cabal of proto-New Right acolytes to run for Arizona State House seats on a statewide GOP ticket.

Goldwater won, and so did lots of Republicans on his coattails. This catalyzed Arizona’s transformation into a red state, only broken half a century later in the crucible of the immigrant rights fights that exploded in 2010. The state purpled, and then blued.

Arizona’s rebirth was not an accident, as these authors explain:

“In the six years between 2010 and 2016, a strategic coalition of immigrant rights groups emerged and won a series of important local and state victories. They helped entangle SB 1070 in lawsuits, oust a key architect of the law through the first statewide recall in Arizona history, win five seats on Phoenix’s city council, advance a municipal ID policy, and win a new minimum wage law. In 2012, the coalition tried to remove Sheriff Arpaio from office, but lost by six percentage points. By 2016, however, this coalition had built enough power that they were able to help defeat Arpaio, beating him by a margin of more than eleven percentage points.”

In 2018 ISAIAH and Faith in Minnesota ran a faith-delegate campaign to “influence the narrative around race, class, and immigration” in the 2018 governor’s election “by running ISAIAH leaders as delegates to the Democratic-Farmer-Labor state-party convention.” Check this out: they ran 500 people for elected office in the party, and turned out 3,800 people (actually turned out, not just texting or cold calling) to attend state caucuses with a united agenda on race and class.

Now that’s a story worth sharing. Since it’s Minnesota perhaps it would be best heard over some hot dish in an ice house.

In Ohio, a once reliably Democratic state Donald Trump won in 2016 by 8 points, “62.2 percent of Cincinnati voters elected to pass a municipal levy to fund preschool, a levy that would raise taxes by $278 per year for every $100,000 of a home’s value. The levy contained key concessions to AMOS’s People’s Platform, including guarantees that families living at up to 200 percent of the poverty line would be served first and that preschool providers would receive a $15 per hour wage.” AMOS was a player in this initiative because they organized a constituency rooted in values and beliefs, and their People’s Platform demanded that “any universal preschool program should allocate funds to directly address Cincinnati’s racial disparities and guarantee a minimum base wage of $15 per hour, paid sick time, and affordable health insurance for preschool providers.” The AMOS constituency was the winning factor in the final two years of the campaign leading up to the passage of the initiative.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is similarly guided by a north-star vision of a world that lives up to their shared values of multiracial democracy and economic justice for all. Their vision statement guides their strategic choices, including a robust community and democracy internally that powers their progress. Virginia restored voting rights for 173,000 formerly incarcerated citizens in 2016, a victory directly tied to New Virginia Majority’s multiracial, statewide constituency and strategic choices in their inside-outside game. The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) played a critical role with allies like the Culinary Union to win a statewide corporate tax increase to fund education while the national headwinds were going in the opposite direction on taxes.

The “prisms of people power” Han, McKenna and Oyakawa introduce us to create space for low-income constituencies of color to exercise political power, because they do not mistake scale as a proxy for impact, and efficiency over effectiveness. This is a deep and powerful observation, yet it may surprise some in the organizing world, as it runs counter to arguments articulated by critics of “structure based organizing,” such as Mark and Paul Engler’s This Is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-First Century and Becky Bond and Zach Exley’s Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything (both previously reviewed for Social Policy Magazine, the former here and the latter here). So let’s look closer to better understand this.

There are four key elements, the authors say, to the logic of prisms and their expression in people’s organizations that you can cultivate where you organize:

First, organizations seeking constituency-based political power are working toward political outcomes that are dynamic and fragile. The fragility is particularly heightened for low-income constituencies of color that have been historically marginalized… achieving political power requires sustained work over a long period of time, and strategic creativity to overcome long-standing structural hurdles.

The reason organizers build organizations, these authors argue, is because that is the best way to institutionalize the leadership of BIPOC, low-wealth, youth, women, gender non-conforming, disabled, and others who experience structural oppression. It’s not perfect, but the organizations in this study are definitely on a journey toward justice that creates and holds space for this leadership.

Second, given the dynamism and fragility of their work, and their inability to anticipate all the challenges that will come their way, the most strategic choice that leaders seeking durable political power can make is to cultivate resources that will give them the most tools in their toolbox to respond to contingencies… Our argument thus shifts the focus from asking what resources organizations have to asking what strategic choices are enabled by the resources they have.

What a great way to think about organizers’ work: our goal is not scale, but the ability to make strategic choices. The ability to act itself is power, and Han, McKenna and Oyakawa clarify that the purpose of organizations is to create the conditions that allow leaders and their constituencies to make such choices.

Third, for people-powered organizations, the resources that expand their strategic choice set are constituency bases that have three key characteristics: independence, commitment, and flexibility. Independence means they possess resources that are not beholden to another person or group’s assessment of value… Commitment means the members are loyal to the organization… Flexibility means that the constituency can adapt as political circumstances shift.

It’s not just any constituency we’re talking about here, but one that’s intentionally cultivated, trained, invested in, in order to bridge across identity so intensely that their commitment to each other is far stronger than the issues.

We all know that political winds ebb and flow, so the key insight here is that being able to make strategic choices no matter which way the winds blow is the path to sustainable power.

Fourth, prior choices leaders had made about how to design their prisms determined whether they had independent, committed, and flexible constituencies that were prepared for uncertain negotiations for power. These leaders recognized that in order to develop constituencies as an independent source of political power, they could not treat people’s engagement like a spigot that could be turned on and off. Instead these leaders had to be accountable to and in a durable relationship with that constituency…To maintain that kind of relationship, however, they had to build a set of relational ties, cultivate a set of bridging identities, and distribute the work of strategy in ways that would give their base ownership over and capacities for engaging in the work of collective action.

Building constituencies in this way is about trust, vulnerability and faith in people. It is about formation of self in the context of others, self-interest. When we tell stories about who we are and how we got this way, we open up space to connect deeply with others. Do that thousands of times in crucible moments, in training or house meetings or one-to-one, and you have the makings of a powerful grassroots organization.

Things are changing in the field of organizing for the better. Han, McKenna and Oyakawa describe how:

A new generation of leaders, many of whom are now directing and guiding the most significant local and state-based organizations, have driven changes in organizing and organizational form in response to a shifting political landscape that includes challenges such as political polarization, changing demographics, a globalized economy driven by multinational corporations, surges of migration, urbanization and deindustrialization, and persistent structural racism and extreme wealth inequality. In response to these changing political conditions, practitioners have pushed their organizations and the field to adopt a stronger analysis of race, class, and gender into their work and to develop a deeper analysis of the kinds of structural changes needed to enact the goals they want.

This is the way of the organizer-bodhisattva. It is open to anyone who wants freedom and liberation, but who remains fully engaged in the world until we are all free.

So how long can my — your — and our journey go? It will be long, and one with starts, stops and new beginnings. But collective enlightenment is worth every step. And it is also the heart of the Bodhisattva Vow:

Creations are numberless, I vow to free them.

Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.

Reality is boundless, I vow to perceive it.

The awakened way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.

BOOKS REVIEWED:

Han, Hahrie, McKenna, and Oyakawa. Prisms of the People: Power & Organizing in Twenty-First Century America. University of Chicago Press, 2021.

Mott, Andrew. Preparing to Win: Developing Community Leaders, Organizers and Allies. New Community Press, 2020.

Job Announcement: CLP Communications Associate

About the Community Learning Partnership (CLP) 

The Community Learning Partnership is a national network of community change studies  certificate and degree programs – based at community colleges and public four-year  universities. These dynamic programs partner with social justice organizations and community  leaders to prepare low-income students and students of color to become community organizers and young leaders who can effect transformative change with and for their local communities.  

In 2021, CLP collaborated with its state partners to launch the California Youth Leadership  Corps (CYLC), a statewide partnership focused on expanding learn-and-earn community change  career pathways at selected community colleges. CYLC is designed to serve marginalized youth  – particularly young people of color, young people living in poverty, Opportunity Youth and  immigrant youth, offering young people pathways to postsecondary educational opportunities,  internships paying a living wage, and community change careers. 

Through its partnerships with community colleges and community-based organizations, CLP has been working to expand community change career pathways in the areas of leadership and  social change, public and community health, clean energy planning and development,  community planning and economic development, environmental justice, and career pathways  that provide critical services to immigrant communities with low incomes.  

Position Summary 

The Communications Associate will work closely with CLP Executive Director and the CYLC  Program Director to carry out the day-to-day communications in support of CLP’s mission and  goals. This is a full-time position with benefits. This is a remote position and candidates  considered may be based in any location in the U.S. Strong connections to California media  outlets are a plus. Position will remain open until filled; a review of applications will begin on  May 1st

Key Responsibilities 

The Communications Associate will have responsibility for carrying out day-to-day  communications in support of CLP’s mission and goals, working under the direction of the CLP  Executive Director and CYLC Program Director, including: 

  • Work closely with the Executive Director to develop communications messaging for the  organization. 
  • Assist with the development of a new website and regularly update website content.
  • Create a plan for increasing CLP and CYLC’s digital/social media presence, enhancing  current channels (Facebook) and launching new social media channels (e.g., Instagram). 
  • Produce messaging for print and digital campaigns, including media kits, event flyers,  website, and social media assets, event programs, e-newsletter, and other projects. 
  • Create original content for and post on social media channels. 
  • Create graphics and/or videos for social media and web use. 
  • Monitor digital and social media analytics. 
  • Build a media distribution list and assist CLP and CYLC programs with pitching stories to  local and national media outlets. 
  • Draft and distribute press statements to a variety of audiences. 
  • Create and curate a space on social media for CLP program participants and alumni to  be part of a supportive online community. 
  • Collaborate with CLP network members to promote their program activities. 
  • Prepare regular newsletters. 
  • Attend regular CLP and CYLC staff and program meetings. 
  • Other tasks as assigned.

Desired Qualifications and Competencies 

  • 3-5 years of experience in nonprofit advocacy and communications or other  comparable/related experience. 
  • A demonstrated understanding and use of nonprofit advocacy and communications  tools. 
  • A Bachelor’s degree in a related field (such as communications, journalism, political  science) strongly preferred, but not necessary. 
  • Familiarity with social media platforms (IG, FB, Twitter), and basic graphic design (Canva  and/or Photoshop/Illustrator). 
  • Experience creating engaging social media posts and designing basic graphics for social  media. 
  • Knowledge and ability to utilize video and photo editing software (Adobe Creative Suite,  iMovie, etc.) and graphic design to create content. 
  • Experience with posting new content and making basic website changes using Word  Press. 
  • Strong interpersonal skills, as well as verbal and written communication skills.
  • Team player with the ability to work both independently and in close collaboration with  others. 
  • Attention to detail, organized, and able to meet deadlines with simultaneous projects.
  • Passion for and commitment to social justice, community organizing, and movement  building. 
  • Bilingual English-Spanish speaker preferred.

Salary Range 

Salary range is $60,000 – $75,000. 

How to Apply 

Please submit cover letter discussing your interest in Community Learning Partnership’s mission  and goals and your experiences and skills that qualify you for this position, and your resume to: Hilary@communitylearningpartnership.org 

CLP is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to racial equity, diversity, and inclusion.  People of color, women, LGBTQ, and people with disabilities strongly encouraged to apply. All  qualified applicants will be afforded equal employment opportunities without discrimination  because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age, genetic information, disability or marital  status.

California Youth Leadership Corps & Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Announce $1 Million Jobs Initiative for Low-Income Youth

The partnership will create “learn and earn” career pathways at two Los Angeles area community colleges within rapidly expanding economic sectors: public health and clean energy

Today, the California Youth Leadership Corps (CYLC) and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced a new partnership to develop and launch two new community college career pathway programs for youth with low incomes in Los Angeles. The $1 million initiative aims to increase access to good jobs for young people and people of color in growing sectors of the economy through the creation of “learn and earn” career pathway programs.

Under this Hilton Foundation grant, the CYLC-LA program will collaborate with selected community colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District, the Emerald Cities Collaborative, and nonprofit organizations to recruit, enroll, and train 160 young people in career pathway programs in two rapidly expanding sectors: public and community health and clean energy planning and development. These career pathway programs will provide young people with postsecondary credentials and state-subsidized internships at local nonprofit organizations, where students will earn at least $15 per hour and do meaningful community-based work. Program participants will also receive critical academic and social-emotional supports, leadership development opportunities, and mentoring to help them succeed.     

“The new CYLC initiative comes at a critical moment as the City of Los Angeles seeks to recover from the economic and public health devastation caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” said Rosa García, Executive Director of CYLC. “It is estimated that 42 percent of job losses within the low-wage sector, which disproportionately employ youth from communities of color, will be permanent. We are thrilled to be working with the Hilton Foundation to connect young people to the growing sectors of our economy, like public and community health and clean energy.” 

Through these paid, experiential learning opportunities, participants will increase their civic engagement, and expand their leadership development skills. Through pre- and post-program surveys, policymakers will gain a better understanding of issues facing youth with low incomes and communities of color — helping to create more inclusive workforce pathways in public and community health and clean energy planning and development and related fields.

The CYLC program will target the geographic locations of Downtown Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, and South East Los Angeles — areas where many young people with low incomes have faced significant barriers to education and employment, but that also have strong community-based organizations interested and well-positioned to participate in the program. The CYLC program will have a specific focus on “opportunity youth” — those between the ages of 18-25 who face barriers to postsecondary education and employment due to poverty, lack of college access and opportunity, immigration status, homelessness and other circumstances. 

“Even before the effects of the pandemic, over 145,000 of young people in Los Angeles were disconnected,” said Elizabeth Cheung, Senior Program Officer of the Opportunity Youth Initiative at Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “We’re proud to partner with the CA Leadership Corps and the state of California to ensure that young people throughout the county receive training for two important career pathways and the leadership skills and support they need to become leaders within their own communities.”

As part of the partnership, CYLC will also document its learnings over the two-year period and share best practices with other community colleges and stakeholders across the state who may be interested in replicating the model.  CYLC program staff will also conduct trainings and host convenings for students, faculty and program staff from the participating sites over the course of the two years. 

The California Youth Leadership Corps (CYLC) is a new statewide partnership between the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, selected California community colleges, the Community Learning Partnership, local nonprofit organizations, the California Endowment, the Hilton Foundation and other philanthropy and community partners. CYCL is preparing a new generation of young people to become community organizers and change agents in their local communities. 

International hotelier Conrad N. Hilton established the grantmaking foundation that bears his name in 1944 to help people living in poverty and experiencing disadvantage worldwide. Today, the work continues, concentrating on efforts to improve early childhood development outcomes, support older youth as they transition from foster care, ensure opportunity youth can access career pathways, prevent homelessness, identify solutions to safe water access, help integrate refugees into society and lift the work of Catholic sisters. Additionally, following selection by an independent, international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $2.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to an organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. The Foundation is one of the world’s largest, with assets recently growing to approximately $7.5 billion. It has awarded grants to date totaling more than $2 billion, $207 million worldwide in 2020. Please visit www.hiltonfoundation.org for more information.

For more information, contact David Dodge, CLP Communications Coordinator, at dgdodge@gmail.com.

‘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.

A ‘Year of Wins’ for Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action

Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action is a group of young people organizing to combat climate change in their local communities through aggressive public policy initiatives.The group, co-founded by Cynthia Kaufman — who coordinates the Community Learning Partnership program at Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action at De Anza College — released this video that includes some of the group’s impressive wins from the last year, which include wins like:

  • Helping bring aggressive building electrification codes to Santa Clara County and San Jose
  • Securing new bike and pedestrian funding at VTA
  • Passing an all-electric/carbon-free building code in Mountain View
  • Helping organizing a “climate strike” with over 2,000 attendees. 

Check out the video below and be sure to visit their website to keep tabs on their exciting work.

Congratulations to Dr. Hannah Ashley, recipient of the 2019-2020 WCU Excellence in Service-Learning Teaching Award

Dr. Hannah Ashley, who coordinates the Community Learning Partnership (CLP) program at West Chester University, was recently honored with the “Excellence in Service-Learning Teaching” Award.

As her colleague Dr. Delshad, the Service Learning Faculty Associate, wrote in a newsletter about the award, “Dr. Ashley has made countless contributions to the field of service-learning at and beyond West Chester University over the past two decades. In addition to incorporating high-impact service-learning projects into half a dozen of her own courses and partnering with a wide-range of organizations in our region, Dr. Ashley has also played a central role in creating and leading academic programs focused on community-engagement.”

These programs include, of course, the CLP-affiliated Youth Empowerment and Urban Studies (YES) minor at the undergraduate level, which is built around community engagement in urban areas alongside urban youth, and also the Rustin Urban Community Change Axis (RUCCAS).

As Dr. Delshad further notes in the newsletter, Dr. Ashley has also served for many years on the board of Reflections, a community-based writing peer-reviewed journal, and she has been a mentor for many other faculty as a previous WCU Faculty Associate for Service-Learning and in her ongoing role as a member of the service-learning faculty work group.

Congratulations to Dr. Ashley on the well-deserved recognition!

President of Johns Hopkins University Calls on Colleges to Train Citizens

In a recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Ronald Daniels, the President of John Hopkins University, said higher education is failing in its responsibility to create informed citizens — a problem the Community Learning Partnership is working to rectify.

As evidence, he cited a recent poll that showed — despite the recent impeachment hearings that dominated the media over the past several months — fewer than a third of Americans actually know what impeachment is.

Daniels listed several other warning signs of the failure of higher education to engage students in the very basics of democratic participation, including:

Daniels also makes a clear distinction between “service” and democratic participation. Educational educations have long stressed the importance of giving back to one’s community but, as Daniels notes, this hasn’t prevented the breakdown in student’s basic knowledge of and engagement with the practice of democracy.

“Colleges and universities must train not only engineers, scientists, humanists and business leaders but also citizens,” Daniels concludes. “And we must do so in the hope that our students will help us to build a democracy where the constitutional glass can remain unbroken.”

We at the Community Learning Partnership have long made it our mission to do just this — equip students with the skills they need to be leaders in their communities. We applaud Daniels’ attempt to draw attention to this need, and hope other educational institutions and inspired by the call to action

Read the full article here.

A Decade of Supporting Change Agents

As we approach the end of another year and the end of the decade, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the work of the Community Learning Partnership (CLP).

Since its founding more than a decade ago, CLP has grown a network of 15 new college and community partnerships that bring together academic institutions and leaders from local low-income communities and communities of color. Working as genuine partners, they have collaborated in creating unique credentials in community organizing, development, and leadership. Close to 1,000 students have completed CLP credentials over the decade. As we enter 2020, the CLP Network includes 10 active programs at eight colleges in six states. Together, these programs offer five community change certificates, three community change degrees, and two community change minors. Each semester, over 300 students enroll in core CLP classes across the network, with about 100 completing CLP certificates, degrees, or minor programs each year. 

But these numbers don’t mean very much without a picture of the actual people they represent: individual students and alumni around the country doing critical work to transform their communities. This includes alumni like Angelica Esquivel who now coordinates De Anza College’s certificate in Leadership and Social Change (LSC) — the very program she herself completed — and who also serves on the CLP Board; and Lisa Owen, who applied her learning in the CLP-affiliated Community Development Program at Minneapolis College to cofound the only woman and minority-owned signage company in the state. 

This also includes current students like Dawn Wilson-Clark, who plans to use her training through the Community Leadership Program at Henry Ford College to improve education policy in her hometown of Detroit. And Nyeelah Rousseau, who is enrolled in the Youth Empowerment and Urban Studies (YES) program at West Chester University, and plans to pursue a career in community development after graduation. 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned since our founding, it’s this: our country needs people with not only the knowledge, skills, and experience to organize change, but also the deep cultural understanding of their community’s needs and aspirations to lead the vision for change. Angelica, Lisa, Dawn, and Nyeelah are just a few of the many faces of CLP students and alumni contributing to progressive social change.

Lastly, as the current decade drew to a close, CLP reflected on the strategies that will be needed to vastly scale up the work of our network. With the wide-spread gap in opportunities for CLP student to “earn while they learn,” we decided to take the lead nationally in advocating for large-scale government funding for internships that provide good pay, deep immersion in community work, and serious experiential education for college credit. We have already made significant progress — we succeeded in incorporating language into the Higher Education Act that would allocate more money for community-based internships by increasing funding for the Community Services set-aside of Federal Work Study. We are excited about the potential for policy change to leverage resources for CLP students and others like them, and look forward to sharing our progress in the next few years ahead.

While 2020 will be an important year we also know that the need for progressive community change leaders goes well beyond election cycles. The CLP Network will continue to support students like those featured in our newsletters in the months and years ahead, as we strive towards building a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, equitable and sustainable society where justice triumphs over exploitation. 

In solidarity,

Ken Rolling
Executive Director
The Community Learning Partnership

Salt Lake Community College Students Participate in Annual Day of Service

Recently, the Thayne Center for Service & Learning, a CLP-affiliated program at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), organized a “Day of Service” as part of “its commitment to enhancing the communities of Salt Lake County.”  As part of the annual  event, nearly 200 students, staff and faculty donated a combined 450 hours during the event alongside nine organizations in the Salt Lake Valley.

Volunteer opportunities included meal preparation, reading stories, and general office support at organizations like Esperanza Elementary School, Catholic Community Services,  and the Maliheh Free Clinic.

The event is just one of several opportunities organized by the Thayne Center throughout the year to provide SLCC with opportunities to engage with its community. 
 

“I have been reluctant to organize service projects at the risk of perpetuating a ‘helping’ or deficit-perspective approach to community engagement,” Sean told us. “That said, we’re striving to incorporate our college’s Community Engagement Leave Benefit into a larger strategy around an institutional culture of reciprocal community engagement. In other words, we are trying to find some balance between the feel-good service projects that send our employees and students into the community, with the acknowledgement of community assets and more systems-oriented approaches to community change.”

Read more about the event here

15-Chapter Report on the Creation of the CLP Network


We’ve recently uploaded a 15-chapter report authored by Andy Mott, CLP founder and Senior Advisor, and Denise Fairchild, Co-Chair of the CLP Board of Directors, among others, explaining the reasons behind forming the Community Learning Partnership.

“A sense of crisis is growing throughout the world as formidable trends converge to create enormous new challenges for all of us,” Andy writes in the introduction. “Our institutions of higher education must commit themselves to preparing a new generation of leaders and organizers to have the broad knowledge, wisdom, range of skills and effective strategies which are needed to create the great reforms our times demand.”

Read the entire report here.