Inspired by the DuPage Green Party (IL) Hot Topics Series.


Running a consistent traditional education program requires the setting of topics, booking of guests aligned with those topics, the preparation of guests and hosts/moderators/etc, and more.  In short, it can be a lot of work to do well, especially  if the responsibilities fall on too few people and as time goes on direct contacts for experts, presenters, guests begins to run dry.  Often, these types of general education programs get started fine, but then die off over time, as organizers get burnt out, finding new content becomes more work, and the audience tapers over time.  

Beyond the logistics of booking and scheduling, while the use of experts and guests to guide a discussion can ensure quality of information, it also creates a more one-directional transfer of information that minimizes the knowledge, experiential, theoretic, or practical, of the “students,” at whom the information is directed.  An alternative to this more one-directional approach is popular education, a method by which participants share their knowledge and experience concerning a topic and then through discussion, identifies common themes and develops action oriented conclusions.

The Program

This program utilizes popular education to both engage in a more radical and experiential education method and to reduce the background organizing needs for the operations of the program.  Each session a different issue or topic is chosen and a public discussion/debate is held.  Rather than having “experts” present on a topic, the knowledge and experience of participants is centered.

This program can be either internally or externally focused.  

The Benefits

  • Low logistical requirements for organizers.
  • More participatory methodology encourages group members to get to know each other and understand each other’s varying positions on issues.
  • Development of group members research, presentation, and public speaking/debate skills.
  • Opportunity for group members to develop facilitation skills.
  • Allows for more responsive scheduling.

The Requirements

  • Skilled facilitators: Facilitation is a key to successful popular education.  While simply discussing issues amongst participants has values, a skilled facilitator can help guide the group towards consensus and action oriented outcomes.
  • Participants do not need to do in depth research beforehand, but should be ready to present their ideas in a clear and concise way.  Clear and effective communication is key to successful popular education.
  • Promotion: Participant-based education can only work with participants.


Popular education requires a multi-directional exchange of ideas and works best when participants can communicate directly with one another in a humanizing way.  Because of this, this program is ideal for in-person gatherings, but can be done remotely through a video conferencing service such as ZOOM.

  • Each session will feature a different topic, which has been announced ahead of time in order to give people time to prepare.
  • The moderator should review any rules, constraints on the scope of discussion, and give an overview of the sessions topic and goals for the session. (If public facing, don’t forget to promote the series!)
  • Using a progressive stack, participants should share their thoughts on the topic.
  • The moderator should, as time progresses, guide discussion towards common themes and then potential action items.  This can be helped with the use of white boards or similar mediums that allow participants to see themes, commonalities, or areas of disagreement emerging.
  • At the end of the session, a review should be made and any discussion regarding the next session should be finalized and the next session’s details shared. 
  • If public facing, be sure to collect contact info for participants!  These events are an access point between you and potential new members!


What Exactly is Popular Education Anyway? – A short 2 page overview.

Popular Education Overview – American Friends Service Committee: A brief overview of popular education.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Pablo Freire – Foundational text on popular education.

Training for Change Resources – Training resources for a variety of meeting facilitation topics.

Popular Education Training Manual – Longer manual on popular education facilitation methods.