Midwest Social Forum 2008

Starting Date: 03-28-2008
Ending Date: 03-30-2008

Wonderland Camp And Conference Center
Camp Lake, Wisconsin 53109
United States
Throughout the Midwest, thousands of dedicated individuals, grassroots organizations, and communities are engaged in the demanding work of struggling for progressive social change. Yet despite their numbers, many of them work in virtual isolation, with a limited sense of their connection to others or of their real potential for effecting deep and enduring systemic change. Divided by geography, race, gender, age, sexuality, ability, issue focus, and/or strategic perspective, they frequently find themselves cut off from others engaged in the same or similar struggles, and are thus unable to benefit from the shared experiences, insights, and mutual support that are essential to building a larger, more broad-based, and more effective movement for systemic social change.

This weekend-long organizing teach-in is a follow-up to the United States and Midwest Social Forums for Midwest-based grassroots organizations, activists, and students. The teach-in develops collaborative relationships and teaches organizing skills, strategies, and tactics needed to break out of the "silos" that segment the social justice movement. The event seeks to strengthen regional social and issue area networks and their interconnections. Workshops provide valuable training in certain key aspects of organizing, focusing in particular on the challenges of building broad-based coalitions across race, gender, class, age, sexual orientation, ability, issue area, and other sources of division within the movement. Organizers from novice to veteran are welcome, with different workshops geared to people with different levels of experience.

Take advantage of this rare opportunity to build connections with other groups struggling for social change and to learn from some of the top organizing training groups in the country.

Training provided by, among others:
Campaign against Violence
First Wave Spoken Word & Urban Arts Learning Community
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
National Training and Information Center
Ruckus Society
Unidos Against Domestic Violence
Urban Underground

Immigrant Rights
Environmental Justice
College Students

Caucusing: A portion of the program will be set aside for caucusing, with the goal of developing and strengthening relationships among people and organizations working on the same or similar issues or in communities confronting common problems. Caucusing offers an opportunity for groups to determine what they have in common and how they can work together most effectively – via exchanging insights and experiences, sharing best practices and strategies, providing mutual support, and potentially engaging in joint campaigns.

Cohort Groups: Participants will also be assigned to Cohort Groups of 10 or more individuals, designed to foster relationships that cut across caucus interests, led by a continuing facilitator for the duration of the teach-in. The objective is to encourage participants to break out of their “comfort zones” and build ties with people from other communities or working in different issue areas.

RootsCamp: Some sessions will be decided on site. People who want to hold sessions can put their times and session descriptions on a wall, and people can self-select which ones they want to participate in. The sessions are very fluid and half-way through the event, people cross out, add, or change, but participants know to check the board. It is sort of like a real life wiki. The process is very democratic and engaging.



11:00 am Registration (lunch on your own)

1:00 pm Conference Opening
• Welcome, introduction of general goals and agenda of the teach-in:
* Broad-based movement- and relationship-building
* Building networks (caucusing) and cohorts
* Gaining skills for cross-community organizing

1:30 pm Plenary: Can We Win it All?
• As conditions to create grassroots-driven social and economic justice become more difficult, how is it possible to carry out effective cross-sector work that brings all issues the attention, support, and bodies needed to effect lasting change? When communities approach organizing drives not with a view to the short-term need to win – more jobs, fewer out-of-school suspensions, improvements in housing – but with a broad vision that encompasses the needs of every community and builds on every community’s resources, highlighting relationship-building, conscious change, and strategic use of privilege, communities have the essential ingredients needed to win it all! It starts by developing consciousness and it continues by practicing that consciousness in a daily way in the context of relationships. It results in being able to have effective decision-making with shared leadership, and genuinely democratic processes for building the kind of world we want.
• Facilitators: Rose Brewer, Project South; Adrienne Maree Brown, Ruckus Society; George Friday, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution

3:00pm Relationship Building: Cohorts

4:30 pm Relationship Building: Caucusing

6:00 pm Dinner

7:30 pm Plenary: Intergenerational Fishbowl on Cross-Community Best Organizing Practices
• We recognize that many of the attendees of this gathering are organizers who are doing cross-community organizing every day. Some are new to the work and bring fresh approaches, while others have been working on different models for years. The variety of approaches in the room include those who struggle for state power, those who build alternative community responses to today's problems and everything in-between. We want to harvest the best knowledge of the teach-in, from every background and generation present. In order to do that, we are going to have a fishbowl, selecting representatives from the generations present and hearing from as many participants as we can what they have learned about this work.
• Facilitators: Rose Brewer, Project South; Adrienne Maree Brown, Ruckus Society; George Friday, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution

Evening Activities (e.g., youth theatre, open mic/spoken word)


8:00 am Breakfast

8:50 am Opening – Introduction to workshops and overview of day

[See list of workshops below]

9:00 – 10:30 am Concurrent Organizing Workshops I

10:45 am – 12:15 pm Concurrent Organizing Workshops II

12:15 pm Lunch

1:30 – 3:00 pm Concurrent Organizing Workshops III

3:15 – 4:45 pm Cohort group discussion (cross-dialogue about workshops attended)

4:45 – 6:00 pm Free time

6:00 pm Dinner

7:30 pm Plenary
• Panel discussion of organizers who have worked on campaigns that brought diverse communities together around a unifying issue - how was the coalition built, what were the challenges in coming together, what lessons were learned about cross-community organizing?

Evening Activities (e.g., youth theatre, open mic/spoken word)


8:00 am Breakfast

9:00 am Plenary
A brief presentation/exercise to pull everyone together before they break up into caucus groups

9:15 am Caucus Group Meetings
• Connection between big picture and local organizing
• Lessons from cohort meetings
• Where do we go from here?
11:00 am Plenary: Tying the threads of the teach-in together

1:00 pm Lunch

3:00 pm Teach-in Ends


An Introduction to Community Organizing: The Basics
Facilitator: Aaron Schutz, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Learn about how organizing is different from other forms of community engagement and explore some key organizing concepts. Participants will learn about the difference between "problems" and "issues," and how to "cut an issue" from their own personal set of concerns to fit the realities of their local context. Designed for people who are brand new to organizing for social action.

Bridging the Urban and Rural Divide
Facilitators: Kari Carney and/or Erica Palmer, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Poverty in rural and urban America is being driven by the same forces – the deregulation of our economic system and the undue influence of corporations. In response to these forces, however, low income constituencies often compete against one another rather than recognizing their commonality and working together for constructive change. Sometimes this is because of what they perceive to be competing issues or because of a lack of understanding of diverse groups or cultures. This workshop will explore the challenges of organizing diverse constituents in both urban and rural areas and will help participants develop ideas and tools they need to break down barriers and bring people together.

Direct Action Training
Facilitator: DeAngelo Bester, National Training and Information Center

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue so that it can no longer be ignored.” The Direct Action Workshop is designed to give leaders an understanding of the different types of direct action, why direct action is sometimes necessary, and how direct actions can build their organizations. Participants will also go through the step by step process of how to plan and execute a successful direct action.

Developing Leaders for the Long Haul
Facilitator: Kari Carney, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Powerful grassroots leadership is the heart and soul of community organizing and building social movements. Groups across the country struggle with not only building new leadership and expanding their base, but keeping leaders for the long haul. This session focuses on the art of developing leaders and what keeps leaders involved for the long term.

Money and Organizing in Social Movements
Facilitators: Cynthia Lin, Jen Sandler, Julie Andersen

What is the role of money and fundraising in social movements and social change organizations? Is it a tool of the organizing or is the organizing shaped by the source of the funds? Are funding issues creating "turf battles" among movement allies instead of cooperation? Are funders setting your organization's agenda? This workshop will discuss the pitfalls of money and funding as it is connected to social change work and important principles for maintaining integrity in a funding strategy. Participants will also generate ideas for building a grassroots fundraising strategy that serves the social movement goals of your organizations.

Developing Strategies for Organizing across Communities for Immigrant Rights
Facilitators: Isabel Anadon, Coalition of African, Arab, Asian, European and Latino Immigrants of Illinois; Salvador Carranza, Latinos United for Change and Advancement; Teresa Ortiz, Workers’ Interfaith Network; Carlos Rios, Iowa Immigrant Rights Network

Description pending

Antiracist movement building in the era of Neo-liberalism
Facilitators: Rose M. Brewer and Shannon Gibney, Minneapolis, MN.

This workshop focuses on the key question: How do we build a global antiracist movement in the era of neo-liberalism? Central here is the necessity of incorporating a critique of trade and transnational capital into our struggles against racism. So how do we build solidarities in this country and across borders to organize an antiracist movement? Why have struggles against racism waned in the neo-liberal moment? Our challenge then is to understand the common roots and persistence of racism today and build across our multiple organizing efforts to fight white supremacy.

Organizing across Multiple Issues
Facilitators: Kimberly Wasserman, Lorena Lopez, and Lili Molina, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO)

As a ten year organization, LVEJO has been working on seven campaigns in the Little Village Community and across Chicago. We will share and hear from participants about best practices, linking issues, organizing, planning, and community involvement.

Building a Queer Left in the Midwest
Facilitators: Ryan Li Dahlstrom

This workshop will serve as a follow-up to the Building the Queer Left event at the U.S. Social Forum. This space is open to anyone interested in building a stronger regional connection, coalition, and movement toward an organized and powerful queer left. Some of the questions we will discuss are: How do we define the region we live in? What are some of the key issues in our region that should be addressed? Of these issues/areas, where do we need to build our analysis? How do we connect LGBT and queer organizing with broader racial and economic justice work? Where can we build coalitions to do multi-issue, multi-racial, multi-classed organizing within and across communities? How do we “get on the map” in terms of an organized queer left movement, one that is not solely rooted in and defined by the coasts. What is our vision for a Queer Left in the Midwest?

Student Power! Democratizing Your Campus
Facilitators: Taylour Johnson and Ashok Kumar, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution; Sam Daly, Campus Anti-war Network

Higher education represents a unique intersection of various ongoing struggles in the U.S. and across the globe. There is a definite relationship between the war, radical labor, the prison industrial complex, patriarchy, the media, the queer liberation movement, environmental struggles, the education system and beyond. How do we connect those issues in our own work as student organizers, while strengthening our base and addressing our own issues effectively? Students have historically been and continue to be essential "agitators" in society and play an increasingly important role in the broader social justice movement. This workshop will provide concrete skills for understanding and maximizing student power. We'll utilize the strategy chart to plan successful direct action campaigns and outline best practices for building effective coalitions. Participants will leave with a better understanding of how to develop a strategy within your campaigns that: addresses the intersectionality of our movement; creates grassroots decision-making within our campaigns; and builds sustainable, autonomous, democratic structures on our campuses.

Conflict Resolution Training
Facilitators: Kwabena Nixon and Muhibb Dyer, Campaign Against Violence

This training curriculum is specifically tailored to deal with the problems facing today's youth and adults. More than just your average workshop, the Campaign Against Violence engages youth and adults in "real talk" and encourages them to discuss aloud many of the problems that they face in their neighborhoods and lives.

Hustling for Change: Youth Organizing
Facilitators: Urban Underground

This is a "how-to" workshop for young people interested in building a campaign around an issue in their schools or community. This interactive workshop takes young people through step-by-step strategies for community organizing. Objectives: 1) to understand what organizing is and how to do it; 2) to understand the steps to building a campaign and to get practice at it by going through those steps.

Facilitation 101
Facilitator: Adrienne Maree Brown, Ruckus Society

Facilitating a good gathering, coalition/alliance meeting, or strategy session is truly an art to be honed over time. While there are many approaches, this session will focus on popular education based models that can help any organizer or activist to increase their facilitation prowess and bring out the best in the participants of any gathering. Come to learn, share and experience best and worst facilitation practices with Facilitation Evangelist Adrienne Maree Brown.

Strategic Campaign Planning
Facilitator: Adrienne Maree Brown, Ruckus Society

A campaign is a powerful framework to help a base of people win concrete improvements in their lives. Learn the basics of developing a strategic campaign with a clear target and goals, and gain tools for identifying allies, developing a timeline for your campaign work and evaluating your campaign.
Geographical Scope: State

Log in to write a comment.