Putting the “Organizer” in “Socialist Organizer”

Proposed by: DSA-LA Steering Committee

Summary: The establishment of a chapter-wide organizer training program available to rank and file members to build internal capacity as well as develop an organizing-specific culture.

Whereas:

  • DSA-LA is one of the largest chapters nationwide
  • The chapter’s active core membership is a fraction of the total membership
  • Comrades in the chapter range in their organizing experience
  • Our chapter stands to benefit from activating and developing more comrades
  • Our chapter stands to benefit from work that is more intersectional in its analysis
  • A common organizing framework can help facilitate cross-committee communication and collaboration, making our work more intersectional

Be it resolved that:

  • DSA-LA will create a training program for its membership that will be available to all rank and file members
  • The trainings will comprise of both “Fundamental” and “Advanced” trainings
  • Fundamental trainings will include but are not limited to basic organizing skills such as meeting facilitation, direct action training, and canvassing
  • Advanced trainings will include but are not limited to power mapping, strategic research analysis, coalition building, and social media strategy
  • This training program will be developed in partnership with interested members from chapter committees and working groups
  • By the end of the year, these trainings should be made available on a quarterly basis for all rank and file members to attend.
  • These trainings will be integrated into the new and inactive member engagement practices of the chapter, with a goal of maximizing participation to ensure that the knowledge base is broadly distributed across the organization

Component I

Description of the Chapter Resolution, including a detailed timeline, and Local resources required.

DSA differs from many other left wing formations in that it is by design a big tent, multi-tendency organization. One of the results of this is a lack in a clear, unified program that teaches political and organizing skills to new members. This is in stark contrast to other left wing organizations such as Worker’s World Party (WWP) or Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) that provide rigorous education and organizing programs that aim to build member capacity and their commitment to their organization through shared struggle. If DSA is to take advantage of this historic groundswell in membership, it’s imperative to develop the political skills of our membership.

Some attempts have been made on a national and local level to address this. At the National convention, a resolution calling for nationwide trainings for locals passed, but with no clear timeline as to when this would be accomplished. Meanwhile  some DSA locals,  such as the Piedmont Chapter, have developed trainings on basic political skills designed to teach their members the fundamentals of community organizing.

This resolution calls to dedicate resources from the chapter’s treasury and communication channels to mobilize members and create materials for a series of trainings that can be provided on a quarterly basis aimed at developing the skills of the local’s membership. Basic training programs will be developed for members that are new to left-wing organizing, with the intention of fostering shared agreements that can be held across the chapter. In addition, intermediate and more advanced trainings will be developed to support and expand the organizing capacity of our committees and membership. Proposed trainings include the following  areas:

  • Meeting facilitation and participation
  • Direct action planning and participation
  • Canvassing
  • Organizing conversations
  • Internal research (reading SEC filings, FOIA requests)
  • Power mapping and campaign strategy
  • Conflict mediation
  • De-escalation
  • Strategic Listening and Story Sharing

Some of these trainings will be developed in-house from experienced comrades in the chapter. Some resources will also be developed from field-tested programs such as the CWA Racial Justice Boot Camp as well as organizing material developed from comrades in other chapters such as NC Piedmont’s Community Organizing Program.

If approved, Steering Committee will put out a call for the creation of an Internal Training Working Group that will work over the course of 2018 to develop the content and presentation of training materials for the committee at large. Participation in the Internal Training Working Group is available to any member in good standing in DSA-LA.

Timeline

  • April 1, 2018: First Direct Action Marshal “Pilot” training
  • April 28, 2018: First Direct Action Marshal training held at Annual Convention
  • May 2018: Formation of Internal Training Working Group
  • May 30, 2018: Internal Training Working Group convened for first time
  • August 2018: Fundamentals training(s) for New Members held for membership
  • November 2018: Intermediate training course(s) held for membership
  • November 2018: Feedback from trainings collected, training process is refined
  • December 2018: Schedule for 2019 trainings shared

Component II

Organizational Priorities with which this proposed resolution is aligned and motivation for the resolution.

Two of our chapter’s organizational priorities are central to this resolution:

  • Develop and implement training materials for a variety of skill sets that help members develop their skills as rank and file organizers and step into the new leadership roles confidently.
  • Ensuring ongoing development and support of organizers and leaders within our organization.

However, the long term aims of this resolution go beyond teaching rank and file members how to use progressive stack. The trainings as envisioned are meant to also create shared agreements and vocabulary for organizers in the chapter to use, facilitating cross-committee communication and collaboration. This not only will help in making our work more intersectional as committees can work more closely together in coalition with each other, but also strengthen the internal democracy our chapter envisions in our own Bylaws. Training new members with the political skills necessary to properly engage, utilize, and critique our current structures helps to foster an even stronger culture of accountability, transparency, and responsibility among all of our comrades. These will help fulfill the following organizational priorities of the chapter:

  • Commit to accountability and transparency for leadership in DSA-LA
  • Build an organizational culture that embodies our socialist ideals, and a welcoming community that supports all members to engage in collective work to dismantle systems of oppression, in accordance with our shared values.

Our external organizing capacity stands to benefit as well. The skill sets one learns to strengthen member retention - effective list work, story sharing, organizing conversations, and active listening also strengthens our capacity to have effective actions and recruit new members. Rank and file members of DSA-LA should feel empowered to be able to go to an action, know the meeting point for other comrades, know how to keep fellow comrades safe during the action, and how to actively engage with passers by and potential new recruits. These practices lead to not only safer public actions, but ones that amplify our message and leave powerful impressions with our coalition partners as well as our capitalist opponents. This will lead to our chapter having more deliberate and reciprocal relationships with other organizations, fulfilling the following priorities:

  • Forge and maintain intentional, deliberate and reciprocal relationships as well as share resources with other organizations who share our broad political goals
  • Build respectful relationships which allow DSA members to both contribute to the broader movement as leaders, and as allies, as appropriate.
  • Work to develop partnerships with other organizations to challenge and transcend the stratifications that divide Los Angeles.

There is so much fantastic, creative, and powerful work happening already in DSA-LA. What these trainings will aim to do is distill the best of what was learned in those experiences and impart those throughout our entire membership. Distributing these lessons throughout the rank and file not only empowers our membership, but it strengthens the chapter by magnitudes.

Component III

Across all applicable Committee and Working Group platforms, identify relevant goals which this resolution supports and advances.

The purpose of this resolution is to strengthen the capacity of the chapter and thus each of the chapter’s committees and working groups. As such,the Internal Training Working Group shall be organized to ensure representation across committees and working groups. Over the course of developing and refining these trainings, stated committee needs should be prioritized, and  feedback shall be regularly sought out to ensure these trainings fulfill these stated needs. Many of the anticipated trainings developed for new rank and file members will be centered around work already being done in committees. Canvassing training, already provided by the Healthcare Committee, could be scaled up and offered to other committees that are currently engaging in similar work in campaigns endorsed by the membership, such as the Affordable Housing Act (through the Housing and Homelessness Committee) and Gayle McLaughlin for Lt. Governor (through the Electoral Politics Committee). Ensuring that new members understand the fundamentals of organizing conversations can make them incredibly potent comrades in whatever door-knocking campaign they want to organize in.

Similarly, trainings focused on direct action can strengthen work across committees and working groups. Last year, the Immigrant Justice organized a ““know your rights” training in partnership with the National Lawyers Guild, and as other committees demonstrate increased interest in confrontational actions (such as NOlympics, Climate Justice and Labor), it is important that our membership has a solid understanding of their rights and best practices when interacting with law enforcement.

Collectively working to develop a training program that builds shared agreements and members’ organizing capacity promises to not only benefit our chapter’s current work, but till the ground for even more ambitious projects in the future.

Members in support