Distributed leadership gets support with the launch of a new coaching cohort

January 7, 2018 · by Alvarez Porter Group · Filed Under Choices, Featured · Leave a Comment

This year, a group of fifteen organizing leaders from economic and racial justice organizations across the country will launch the CIWO/APG Ignite Coaching Cohort on Distributed Leadership. 

The Coaching Cohort is a pilot program being sponsored by the Alvarez Porter Group and the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization [CIWO] at Rutgers University.

Jeremy Orr from Interfaith Worker Justice is one of 15 organizing leaders in the Coaching Cohort

Through community calls and individual coaching, they will have the opportunity to explore how to lead and develop others in new ways.  For many, this is a rare opportunity to have that level of attention to their own development. It is especially powerful to offer this in service of growing sustainable and powerful social justice organizations.

Distributed Leadership:  Good organizing with new tools

When responsibility is distributed and small groups of people are connected to each other authentically, it creates powerful and transformational movement for social change.  This age-old truth about organizing has gotten a major boost with the addition of new technology, social science research and successful examples from electoral politics and social movements.

The snowflake model as practiced in the 2008 Obama campaign

Marshall Ganz introduced distributed leadership to the 2008 Obama campaign with the “snowflake” model, which invested significant responsibility in teams of volunteers.  The Bernie Sanders primary campaign used distributed leadership principles with viral effect. Field directors Becky Bonds and Zack Exley wrote about their experiences and proposed applications in their book Rules for Revolutionaries: how big organizing can save everything and The Nation article, “The Revolution will not be Staffed.

Outside of electoral politics, Occupy, #blacklivesmatter, the 2017 women’s march and the current #metoo movement took powerful ideas, decentralized control, and connected both online and offline to share information and take action.  Sustainability of these forms has been a challenge, but there is no doubt they tapped into the talent and energy of their base in a way that traditional membership organizations have failed to do.

Joe Alvarez from APG is one of the talented coaches

Matt Price’s new book, Engagement Organizing: The Old Art and New Science of #winningcampaigns, describes this approach as combining “community organizing practices, digital tools, data and networked communications to engage people at scale and win campaigns.”

Solving for growth

To explore the potential of distributed leadership for economic and racial justice organizations, the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at Rutgers held a gathering of leaders and organizers last summer in Silver Spring, Maryland.  Over 60 people participated in the event, “Activism, Resistance, and Sustainability Joint Convening”.

Dialogue at the CIWO Convening on Activism, Resistance and Sustainability in August 2017

To launch the discussion, Janice Fine, Jill Hurst and Allison Porter wrote a paper on this entitled “Solving for Growth: How to build leaderful economic justice organizations.” Becky Bond, Marshall Ganz and Cristina Jiménez were among the featured speakers.

The convening sparked intense interest in learning more about how to apply these ideas in the world of low-wage worker organizations.  In response, CIWO set up a community of practice that will continue to deepen the learning and experiences through webinars, conferences, and site visits.  In addition, CIWO partnered with the Alvarez Porter Group to offer a leadership development program called the CIWO/APG Ignite Coaching Cohort.

Transformational change 

Mari Ryono is another one of the talented coaches in the Coaching Cohort

The CIWO/APG Ignite Coaching Cohort provides community and individual support for participants as they work to apply the principles of distributed leadership in their organizations.  The program was designed with the understanding that even when people very much want to lead transformational change, they need to start with the person in the mirror.  They are their only instrument of change and it is through increasing their own self awareness and self mastery that real transformation occurs.

Each participant is assigned a trained, professional coach, who will work with them over six months to advance their own development and ability to develop others. This community calls will provide opportunities for learning, dialogue and building relationships. In addition, written materials and webinars on distributed leadership will be made available.

A very special cohort

The announcement of the CIWO/APG Ignite Coaching Cohort received an overwhelming response.

Diana Lopez from Dignidad Obrera in Tennessee is bringing her wisdom and questions to the Coaching Cohort

Fifteen people were selected from an extremely talented pool of organizers and leaders who applied.  Participants are from the National Domestic Workers Alliance, NDWA-We Dream in Black, ROC-United, KIWA, OUR Walmart, Bay Area Black Workers Center, Dignidad Obrera, United for a New Economy, AFIRE, Missouri JWJ, Interfaith Worker Justice, Somos CASA and the Matahari Women Workers’ Center.

Allison Porter from APG and Janice Fine and Jill Hurst from CIWO provide the support for the community calls.  Each participant also has six one-on-one coaching calls.  The coaches include Allison, Joe Alvarez, Michele Berry, Damon Azali, Tony Richards, and Jessica Beaumont from the Alvarez Porter Group  as well as Mari Ryono, Shawnee Spitler, Lisa Ahn, Amy Dean, Lina Bracero and Lorri Manasse.  In addition to being trained and talented professional coaches, they each bring substantial experience supporting the development and resilience of social justice leaders and organizations.

A pilot program

The CIWO-APG Ignite Coaching Cohort is a maiden effort.  We will be learning throughout the six month program about supporting the growth and sustainability of practicing distributed leadership.  We look forward to the people we will meet and the journey we will share.


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