Decentralized Education: Member Guided Discussion Sessions
Educational events are an important part of any independent political organizing project. They provide an opportunity to establish baseline political education. They can provide an opportunity to collaborate with current and potential allies, both individuals and organizations. They can provide an area of work that your current organizers can engage in. They can provide access to potential members and supporters that are outside of your usual engagement areas.
But the prospect of developing a whole political/skills education curriculum can be overwhelming for a local grassroots organization. Pre-packaged education programs are often not developed for independent political organizing. That doesn’t mean that they cannot offer valuable techniques or strategies, but it does mean that there will need to be some adjustment to the overall perspective and strategies. So even trying to find an education program to adopt or modify can be difficult. Beyond the scope of the work of developing an education program, people can feel intimidated about getting involved in political education planning, because they see it as a space reserved for those who are well read in academic theory or who have a lot of experience in community or political organizing or campaigns.
Greens tend to be passionate people who are often very informed on different issues. One does not have to be an expert with years of experience or academic credentials to inform others on an issue.
This program sees a different member of the group leading a discussion on a topic each session. This can be a broad topic, written piece, video or other source of information. The presenter will give a short overview of the topic, including background and application to current event/organizing/etc that will be followed by a broader discussion by participants.
This program can be either internally focused or open to the public/allies.
- Low logistical requirements for organizers.
- More participatory methodology encourages group members to get to know each other and understand each others’ 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.
- Ensuring that presenters have enough lead time to feel comfortable preparing is essential to a successful program with a diverse group of presenters.
- Promotion: Participant-based education can only work with participants.
While there is a presentation portion of each session, this program benefits from 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 presenter leading a discussion on a topic of their choice.
- Because the presenter will be an active participant in the discussion, a separate moderator should be selected to facilitate the session.
- 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!)
- The presenter should give a short presentation on the topic of choice.
- Using a progressive stack, participants should share their thoughts, knowledge, and experience 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.