Thanks to ‘Great Lakes Consortium for international training and development’ & U.S. department funding: eighteen professionals from four European countries could arrive to U.S. at the end of September and attend Legislative fellowship program. They have been learning from American organizations (their organizers, leaders, members) how to work more on grass-roots building, democracy teaching & community organizing. So how was the first week of our legislative fellowship in U.S.?
In first few days the group was able to absorb a lot of interesting information – about ‘Community organizing’ definition; two minutes presentation of poster (public speech & the narrative-building of NGO); the examples of successes & failures of communities’ action plans; techniques of leadership building; powerful campaigns to make social change within minority & neighborhood organizations; Door-knocking method & One-on-One interviews. Young professionals from Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary will try to implement these experiences, skills and knowledge – towards making social change in their communities, subcultures, minorities, neighborhoods… Do not forget: the story of organization is one of the most powerful tool of community work and building a trust (but also for fundraising and marketing purposes).
European group had very intensive training in Maumee (in Ohio), then moved from Toledo (in Ohio) to Detroit (in Michigan) to visit the organizers (former homeless people) from Detroit Action Commonwealth, to talk about urban gardening and soup kitchen project. There was also time to visit the Harriet Tubman Center and learn more about Harriet Tubman brave activity. Underground Railroad was a part of leading slaves into freedom. Her famous saying was: “I freed 1000 slaves and I could have freed 1000 more, if they only knew they were slaves…” Do we see now: how important is organization’s story-building?
Fellows had also a chance to meet with student leaders from Youth Voice – fighting against the suspensions at American schools and school-to-prison-pipeline. All Europeans were inspired by success stories (presented life-experiences and organization-narratives) of community organizing towards particular social change and building organization’s structure. There will be enough time to take an action, build on own story or field diary; and to test learned methods during 21-days’ internships of 18 European fellows within nine American organizations (mostly dealing with issues of vulnerable groups).
Written by: Boba Baluchova (founder of Slovak NGO: DocUnion & professional fellow in American CCH – as a part of GLC program); Photo: GLC program