Member statements on GR2: Create Chapter Training Goals and Boost Training Department

This is a thread of member statements on GR2: Create Chapter Training Goals and Boost Training Department

Statement from Ben M. IN FAVOR of the resolution:

My name is Ben M, and I’m writing to encourage you to support GR2 to build a Training Department within Metro DC DSA. As an organizer with the Defund MPD working group over the past few years, I have led, participated in, and consulted on organizer trainings and whole-heartedly believe they deserve a permanent place in our chapter. Socialism won’t be built by chance, or the mere confluence of certain conditions — it’ll be built by organizers, and only if we have as many of them as possible, each capable and confident in their abilities. I don’t believe organizing itself is terribly complicated, but it is indeed a certain set of skills, and those skills must be learned at a broader scale if we are to expand our capacities and material impact as a socialist organization. I have seen many members, especially newer members, struggle to get engaged in chapter work, both because there aren’t obvious projects to get involved in, and because they do not believe themselves capable of leading projects themselves (when they definitely are!). Training alleviates both problems — by instilling skills and confidence in newer organizers, we increase the volume and effectiveness of chapter projects, while at the same time easing the burden on experienced organizers and leaders. I firmly believe in the ability of every one of our chapter members to be not just a participatory activist but a very capable organizer — but we’ll only get there if we properly invest in training as a scaled-up institutional practice, available regularly throughout the year and coordinated with all of the chapter’s work. And by establishing a Training Department, with goals, expectations, and roles accountable to the chapter, we’ll do just that. I strongly encourage you to vote in favor of this resolution, and to attend and help lead the future trainings that are developed as a result.

Statement from Taylor W. IN FAVOR of the resolution:

My name is Taylor W and this statement is in support of GR2, Create Chapter Training Goals and Boost Training Department, a Resolution I introduced. This statement is to explain where the Resolution came from, what its intention is, how it will work, and identify issues it has brought up but not fully resolved. I hope to have your support for the resolution and if you’re interested in building Chapter members’ capacity, and invite you to apply to serve as a Steward of the Training Department or an affiliated member if it is created. I wrote this resolution as a practitioner, as someone looking for more support and to expand existing chapter efforts and organization around training. I attended the Chapter’s first organizer training in Winter 2021, then coordinated the 2 Organizer Trainings following it. This organizer training is a cohort-based, 5 session virtual training that features segments about motivation, organizers’ values, how to hold relational organizing conversations, and principles of successful organizing campaigns. I have also started and coordinated the Chapter’s Reading Groups and have been coordinating its Walking Tours. Through that work, I initiated a How to Facilitate Training for reading group members and held and coordinated a How to Organize a Walking Tour training. My resolution draws on this experience attending and holding trainings. I’m proud that the list of cosponsors you see includes other coordinators, trainers, trainees, and Steering members consulted on the portfolio -this Resolution is intended to expand on and continue the direction we’ve been moving in. This Resolution came from the thinking that a core function of a socialist organization should be to build its members’ capacity and that its structures should reflect that. Metro DC DSA is excellent at doing that through doing work within its campaigns and has wonderful campaigns going -but without a dedicated training program, few trainings as such have been scheduled throughout the years. For the past year, training has been a function of a single person designated on the Membership Engagement Committee -but because of the lack of goal setting and lack of support, the Chapter hasn’t put many trainings on the calendar or made similar efforts without outreach from National. To create more support, the structure of the Department was set up to have 3 people, along with the Steering Member associated with the relevant portfolio. The intention is quite simply, to make sure trainings get done, the body is visible, and that Steering and everyone else in the Chapter knows where to go if a training should or shouldn’t take place. Because building member capacity is an important function deeply connected to Member Engagement, the Resolution keeps the Department as part of the Member Engagement Committee. While training could be perceived as something that shouldn’t be broken off because of how tied it could be into Chapter organizing campaigns, the goal of this Resolution is to hold trainings that could be applicable across formations and campaigns and that anyone who initiates a campaign-specific training has the support of people who know how to hold these events and design pedagogy. Similar to political education in the chapter, the presence of the Training Department isn’t to choke off training and skill building in formations and campaigns, but to make sure some work gets done and that people doing it within other formations have support from experts if they require it. The Resolution sets goals for training and the goal of the Resolution is to be able to hold the body accountable. The goal of putting down a target number of trainings is that I do want Steering and the Chapter’s members to ask what’s going on if the Department isn’t routinely holding trainings. Socialism isn’t going to be built standing still and each of the members should be able to average a training every 3 months over a year. While that sounds like a tall order if someone is building something from scratch, I hope the Training Department will draw on the drastically increased training support from National DSA, use relevant trainings from other left/labor organizations, and perhaps trainings from other Chapters to deliver on this. In the same spirit, I hope some trainings we develop or hold can assist other Chapters or allied organizations with their needs. I want to acknowledge some aspects between the lines of the Resolution: The goals of these trainings are to boost the capacity of as many Chapter members as possible to organize on existing or yet-to-be-created projects. The goal isn’t to have trainings that aren’t publicized and have only 1 or 2 people in them. Instead, we want to reach as many people as possible, through finding topics that people need training on, and use existing or new tools to get word out to the Chapter and allies about them. I emphasized the number of trainings to make the core responsibility of Department stewards to actually hold trainings clear -but outreach and meaningful application to Chapter work is essential as well. I also want to acknowledge Sheena S and Hayden G, who provided feedback that improved the Resolution and raised issues that go a bit beyond the Resolution itself. Sheena specifically wanted to ensure a democratic process was used to approve Stewards for the training Committee, and it was modified to include a democratic vote in the relevant body. While the ultimate decision was left in the hands of the Steering member who has this in their portfolio, I want to say it was improved and clarified by Sheena’s comments and I’m proud to have Sheena as a cosponsor. Further Resolutions or Bylaws changes can change or include more details on the process in the future or change things related to the Training Department, but I’m glad I had Sheena’s input into this to make sure the Resolution balances the need to get this up and going with the need for democratic decision making. While the ultimate decision on method will rest with the Steering appointee, this is important to making the body democratic, responsive, and increase the visibility of the Training Department. I also want to highlight comments and edits from Hayden that I left it out but are important for the Chapter to consider. Hayden thought that the Department members and Steering member should also have the “Coordination” portfolio because some of Steering because I wasn’t sure it belonged together and wanted to keep this as streamlined as possible to emphasize holding trainings. That said, I want to use this occasion to note the importance of the coordination portfolio and the need for Chapter support beyond 1 member of Steering handling our interaction with National and Regional bodies, and the need for the Training Department to make sure their work with regional and national bodies aligns with the “Coordination” Portfolio. In conclusion, I urge your support for GR2 -and if it passes, ask you to support the trainings, apply to be a Steward, attend trainings relevant to becoming a better socialist organizer, and spread the word about the Chapter’s new capacity. I look forward to being part of a Chapter with the right structure to build members’ skills and thank everyone for their support.

Statement from Aparna R. IN FAVOR of the resolution:

My name’s Aparna, and I’m the chair of the Steering Committee. I am voting for GR2 and encourage you to do the same. Our training department is critical, for the recruitment and retention of newer members and for the leadership development and continued mobilization of longer-term members. Members have asked if we offer trainings from everything around how to navigate the chapter to how to write a resolution to how to power map. The organizer trainings have been extremely useful for both new organizers in the chapter and those who want a refresher. The trainings have been in high demand and have been highly successful in both engaging and retaining members, and this resolution will help provide the training department with the structure and support it needs to establish consistent Organizer Trainings and expand their training portfolio. Growing the capacity of our training department is vital as the movement grows and as we try to keep more and more members engaged with the chapter and leading campaigns. I fully support this resolution and am excited to see how the training department takes off!

Statement by Dieter L.M. IN FAVOR of the resolution:

As the chair of the Membership Engagement Committee, I am in full support of GR2: Create Chapter Training Goals and Boost Training Department. I will be the first to recognize that our Training Department - in its inaugural year - did not live up to its full potential after its establishment within the MEC. Understaffing, and the lack of a clear vision, led organizational training to fall by the wayside. Thankfully, this resolution aims to resolve both of these issues - and more. To start, this resolution requires that the Training Department be sufficiently staffed and constitutionally obligates it to hold regular and varied training to chapter members. Additionally, this resolution will make the Training Department more publicly accessible to our members via Slack and our chapter website. And by increasing cooperation, both internal and external, we can improve the quality of our training and expand our organizational capacity as a chapter. Therefore, for the reasons outlined above, I urge all members to vote in favor of GR2.

Statement by Stuart K. IN FAVOR of the resolution:

I’m writing in favor of GR 2: Create Chapter Training Goals and Boost Training Department. As a chapter member for just over six years now, I’ve learned a lot through chapter administration, organizing campaigns, and structured training programs. The training programs that I’ve attended stick out to me as particularly effective, mostly because I attended these programs with little background experience in the subject at hand. For instance, although I’ve expanded my knowledge substantially about how to run electoral campaigns since joining DSA, I also entered our DSA chapter with existing foundational experience in using electoral campaign tools. This was not the case for me with nonviolent direct action tactics, as I had no experience in participating in or planning these types of protests. The only way I became more adept with direct action was through a structured training hosted ahead of the DC climate strikes in the autumn of 2019. I have used the skills I acquired during these training sessions to help coordinate later DSA actions. I hope every member of our DSA chapter can develop their skills through a similar training program. I urge fellow Metro DC DSA members to vote yes on GR2.

Statement by Shannon T. IN FAVOR of the resolution:

I’m writing to express my support for our chapter running more frequent trainings for membership. I have over a decade of professional experience in providing trainings on a variety of topics, and I believe trainings are extremely important to building the skills of our membership to build the movement we need to win. The skills we learn in trainings and elsewhere aren’t simply “yes I have this skill now” or “no I do not have this skill yet”. It’s important to remember that for every single skill we have, we improve that skill through practice. The more opportunities to practice, the sharper our skill. When we teach others our skills, we are honing and refining that skill. This is why any organization serious about making change needs to invest in training its membership. But let me talk specifically about DSA. In 2021 I participated in the Relational Organizing training our chapter provided. For some attendees, this skills learned were new. For others, it was review. But for everyone, it was a chance to practice and sharpen the skills we learned and importantly, learn exactly how to practically apply those skills to real-life organizing situations and campaigns. These relational organizing skills were vital for me when organizing my co-workers into forming a union:

  • Having 1 on 1 conversations with co-workers
  • Identifying the bases of support – who are our core organizers? who’s on the margins?
  • Identifying leaders within
  • Having effective meetings
  • Power mapping to understand who to apply pressure to

I could go on, but these skills were essential to the successful unionizing efforts at my workplace. Whether you think you know these skills already or whether they’re new to you – you need to practice them. So do I. Because this is how we win. Applying these skills is how we won our union campaign. Applying these skills is how we won a damn good contract. Applying these skills is how we’re going to keep my workplace accountable to the contract we won. And applying these skills is how we’re going to win an even better contract next time. But my appeal is also to you, to participate in these trainings. And to practice these skills, because these skills will show up in every sphere, every campaign, and every working group’s efforts, not just union organizing fights.