Community Organizer Training Program


There is a growing recognition in the education justice movement that community organizing and parent leadership are essential to achieving significant change, including opening and sustaining high-quality schools and in creating systemic changes within districts and states.

Through successful organizing efforts in the Bay Area and across the country, effective grassroots parent leadership and organizing has been key to changing the political landscape and challenging the status quo. Education justice organizations pledging to make fundamental change in communities have the opportunity and responsibility to engage parents at a deep level as true partners in building the necessary power to create and sustain change.

Now accepting applications. Deadline to apply is Friday, August 16, 2019.  


The Need – a pipeline of organizing talent

One ongoing challenge to making authentic grassroots parent leadership a strong component to the education justice movement at a broad scale is the lack of talent and capacity in the community organizing field to develop more successful efforts. While there are education organizations doing advocacy work and occasionally mobilizing parents, very few are developing parents as leaders and building parent-led committees or organizations. What separates successful, sustainable organizing from mobilization is sustained leadership development and engaging parent leaders in long-term strategy building work, which is the essence of Innovate Public Schools’ approach.

Innovate Public Schools’ staff bring more than 40 years of professional experience in grassroots community organizing, with significant demonstrated success in building long-term reform efforts led by low-income parent leaders in California.

Like becoming an excellent teacher, becoming an excellent organizer requires intensive training, support, and ongoing development by other seasoned professionals in the craft. Without significant training, feedback, and counsel from experienced practitioners, new organizers often fail and frequently burn out. Organizations with the desire to organize parents or communities find themselves hiring organizers who lack any experience or expertise, who then find themselves failing and burning-out, because they don’t have the necessary training and support. Similarly, education organizations lack in-house expertise to manage organizing staff, and end up asking them to do other important work, rather than continuing to prioritize long-term parent empowerment.

Innovate  regularly gets requests to grow its work into other regions of the country, or to provide training and on-going consulting to help organizations build their capacity. To begin to meet this need and scale successful community organizing efforts, Innovate Public Schools created a nine-month Community Organizer Training Program designed to meet the needs of organizers and organizations through quality professional development sessions on community organizing theory and practice.

Program Highlights

The program is a nine-month commitment, including four day-long sessions, four overnight sessions, and one-on-one coaching between sessions. The program is designed to move participants from community organizing theory to practice. It emphasizes developing strategic thinking skills into coherent political judgment and clear strategy development for internal and external change. Participants will be required to complete reading and writing assignments between sessions. Participants will also attend Innovate’s three-day overnight institute for volunteer parent leaders during the course of the program.

Through reading, seminars, reflective writing assignments, observation, and critical feedback, the program will include these topics:

  • Technical skills of doing relational “1-1” meetings and house meetings – building a powerful network of relationships
  • Issue and strategy development
  • What is an Organizer? What is a Leader?
  • Using data to fuel your campaign
  • Grassroots leadership development
  • Mapping, understanding, and navigating the public arena
  • The culture and norms of a strong Parent Leadership Team
  • Working with public officials
  • Role of self-interest in political philosophy and organizing
  • Developing an orientation toward power and clear values
  • Training parents to organize and lead effective meetings with public officials
  • Understanding the education justice movement

2019-20 Schedule (Tentative)

*All overnight sessions will be held in San Jose, CA, or nearby. Single day sessions will be available remotely for out of region participants.

  • October 11-13 2017 (includes 2 overnights)
  • November 16 – 17, 2017 (includes 1 overnight)
  • December 14, 2017
  • January 25, 2018
  • February 5 – 6, 2018 (includes 1 overnight)
  • April 26, 2018
  • May 21, 2018
  • June 7 – 8, 2018 (includes 1 overnight) 

* 3-day Parent Leader Institutes will take place during a weekend in March 2018.

Additional Sessions & Expectations

Community Organizer Training Program sessions are all in-person and will include five three-day sessions (with overnight stays at retreat centers). All sessions will be in held in the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern, CA. The tentative timeframe is September 2019-April 2020. All dates are still being finalized and will be posted on this website in June.

A three-day Parent Leader Institute will take place over a weekend (Friday-Sunday) in Feb. 2020 for Bay Area organizations and in March 2020 for all other participating organizations.

All participants in the Community Organizer Training Program are expected to attend all sessions.

Participant Expectations

This is training program designed for organizers with less than three years organizing experience in a local leadership or institution-based model of community organizing. Attendees will be expected to participate in sessions fully, including role-plays, observation work, feedback, and problem solving. In between sessions, participants will have reflection, writing, preparation, and required reading assignments (about two hours a month). In addition, role-playing and concentrated critical feedback are a significant piece of this program. All participants are expected to attend every session, have assignments turned in on-time and readings completed, and to demonstrate a willingness and appetite to practice role-plays and receive critical feedback from peers and training staff.

Applicant Requirements

Innovate’s training program is focused on serving education justice organizations in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Denver.  However, we are also open to applicants from outside these regions.

We recommend that the job description of participants include at least 5 “one-to-one” meetings each week with individual parents and stakeholders, as well as a clear goal of identifying and working with/developing parents as leaders. We will be teaching participants to move along a trajectory of professional work that leads to building organization, developing a political presence through public meetings, and taking public action toward the goal of creating, supporting, and sustaining world-class public schools, particularly for underserved groups of children.


The cost per participant is $7,500. This includes lodging and meals during training sessions, but does not include any travel expenses. Organizations interested in sending teams, costs are as follows: teams of 2 participants is $10,000, and teams of 3 participants is $15,000.


We are accepting applications for this program until Friday, August 16, 2019. Please contact Hannah Gravette, Senior Manager, National Community Organizing, at to submit your registration or for more information on this program.

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