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 August 17, 2018.  

Building a Pipeline of Organizing Talent

One ongoing challenge to making authentic grassroots parent leadership a strong component to the education justice movement at a broader 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 sustained parent-led organizations. Innovate Public Schools’ staff bring more than 60 years of professional experience in grassroots community organizing, with significant demonstrated success in building long-term reform efforts led by low-income parents in California. What separates successful 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.

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 them 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 gets requests nearly every month to grow its organizing work into other regions of the country, or to provide training and ongoing consulting to help organizations build their parent leadership capacity. To begin to meet this need and scale successful community organizing efforts, Innovate 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 seven overnight sessions, one day-long remote session, 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. In early Spring, participants will also attend – along with a team of their parent leaders –  Innovate’s three-day overnight institute for volunteer parent leaders.

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 values 

  • Training parents to organize and lead effective meetings with public officials 

  • Understanding the education justice movement 


2018-19 Schedule (Tentative)

All overnight sessions are in-person, and will be held in San Jose, CA, or nearby. The February 7 single day session will be available remotely for out of region participants. 

  • October 22-24, 2018 (includes 2 overnights)
  • November 13-14, 2018 (includes 1 overnight)
  • January 10-11, 2019 (includes 1 overnight)
  • February 7, 2019 (remote – only for non-Bay Area orgs)
  • March 28, 2019 (only for Bay Area orgs)
  • April 25-26, 2019 (includes 1 overnight)
  • May 20-21, 2019 (includes 1 overnight)

A three day Parent Leader Institute will take place over a weekend (Friday – Sunday) in February 2019 for Bay Area organizations, and in March 2019 for all other participating organizations.

Parent Leader Institute

During the nine months, participants will be attending one of Innovate’s 2 National Parent Leader Institute Trainings (one in the Bay Area and one in Los Angeles area), which is a three-day overnight retreat/training for parent leaders, led by senior organizers. Additionally, organizations participating in the Community Organizer Training Program will be given approximately five spaces for parent leaders or staff to attend (the registration fee for additional parents and staff to attend the National Parent Leader Institute is not included in the Program fee). 

Participant Expectations

This training program is 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, and required reading assignments (about three hours per month). In addition, role-playing and focused critical feedback are a significant piece of this program. All participants are expected to 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 organizations committed to powerfully engage parents in their struggle for education justice.

Participants job description should include a minimum of 5 “one-to-one” meetings each week with individual parents and stakeholders, as well as a clear goal of building a parent leader team focused on advocacy and action. 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.


Organization’s sending 1 person = $7,500

Organization’s sending 2 people = $10,000

Organization’s sending 3 people = $15,000

This includes lodging and meals during training sessions but does not include any travel expenses.


We are accepting applications for this program until August 17, 2018. Please contact Corey Timpson, Director of National Organizing, at to submit your application or for more information.

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