Chris Dixon: Training for movements

Many activist spaces these days spend time developing critical analysis through events, writing, and discussion. But as much as we might wish otherwise, sharp analysis doesn’t automatically translate into the skills required for working in groups, making collaborative plans, and taking effective action. Successful movements create intentional mechanisms for helping people to learn such organizing skills.

There are lots of examples in recent history. The U.S. civil rights movement set up intensive civil disobedience training as well as African American freedom schools. The women’s liberation movement generated consciousness raising groups, peer-topeer education practices, and touring workshops. The labour movement created summer schools, labour colleges, and worker education programs; although much less widespread today, some of these spaces continue to exist.

During the 1970s and the 1980s, the direct action anti-nuclear movement developed a culture of training inspired by the civil rights and feminist movements. In preparation for large-scale civil disobedience actions involving hundreds of people, organizers regularly held workshops on decision making, direct action, and campaign building, among other topics. These trainings, some of which were daylong, combined presentations, facilitated discussions, and participatory activities, often with role-playing.

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