Manchester One of the best sessions at the recent meeting of ACORN International organizers and leaders was a plenary on the multinational efforts underway to create the ACORN Organizing School. The moderators were Eloise Maulet, with ReAct Transnational and the Alliance Citoyenne / ACORN France, David Thompson, ACORN International’s research director, and Kat Wright, ACORN’s field director in England/Wales. They had been working to assemble training materials, videos, readings, manuals, and experiences from the US, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom to sift and sort the plans for launching the AOS early in 2023. Judging from the meeting, great progress has already been made. Materials have been gathered and assembled in a useful and accessible fashion. Progress has been made in thinking about how to create stages of training, both internally and externally, and that’s not easy.
Part of the task of this team, besides balancing the experiences of four different national organizations and several languages, is deciding what parts of the school will be razor-focused on training ACORN’s organizers and what programs of the school will be available for other organizations interested in learning more about ACORN’s model and methodology, either for free or contractually. We have obligations to the long tradition of organizing that have to be met to make tools available to advance the field, not just our organization, and this has always been important to us. At the same time what we do, and the way we do it, isn’t for everyone, and we appreciate and respect that, even while some organizations and their organizers might want to pick some things from the menu.
Kat Wright’s presentation on how training had been implemented and refined in England and Wales demonstrated why this is not simply a question of add-water-and-stir. Earlier, we had talked about the specialized training Kat had developed for women organizers and how it had been adapted in general organizer training and leadership development on Wade’s World. There are various levels of training for new organizers up to senior staff with individual development plans for each staff member, both short and long term. Without a doubt the program works, as evidenced by the great growth of the organization over the last eight years, but it takes detailed organization and the kind of staff organization needed by almost 40 on board now, but also available because of that number of staff.
With Kat in Leeds, I had watched Dave Aldwinkle, one of our hugely talented national organizers, run a Daily Morning Rap training that was happening on Zoom with organizers in Bradford nearby. They were doing a role play and he was monitoring the session on his computer, and I saw him typing comments from time to time. At the end of the rap in our dialectical process, the team critiqued the strengths and weaknesses, and Dave gently added comments at this point. When it was over, I asked him if I could see the form, because as it turned out he was producing a daily report of all of these comments and observations at the manager level. This report could be fed into the training system in making a development plan for the organizer and continuing to assess at every level, progress being made.
That’s an example of the training detail that builds the operating skills of ACORN organizers, one building block at a time, but it’s a small one that doesn’t even hint at the work that instructs training on leadership development, vision, strategy, tactics, and the endless array of things an organizer has to master to serve the membership and build the organization. All of which makes it very exciting to see the development of the ACORN Organizing School now to standardize our work and export any pieces valuable to others.