Community Organizer Training Program


There is a growing recognition within the education justice movement that community organizing and parent leadership are essential to achieving significant change. With the long-term impacts of the global pandemic on instructional loss, unemployment rates, and the subsequent racial justice uprising, the stakes are even higher today for parents, who are frequently excluded from the current decision-making process on these important issues.

Effective grassroots parent leadership and community organizing have proven vital in changing the political landscape and challenging the status quo.

The current pandemic-related crisis in education offers new opportunities to transform existing structures that have proven ineffective at serving all students. Now more than ever, education justice organizations have the unique opportunity to harness the capabilities of both traditional and online organizing tools to deepen parent leadership and amplify parent voices in order to set a new direction in education.

We are now accepting applications for our 2021-22 cohort. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, June 30, 2021.

The Need – A Pipeline of Organizing Talent to Build Parent Power

While many education organizations are doing advocacy work, very few develop parents as leaders to build influential parent-led organizations capable of advancing their interests in the public arena. What separates successful and sustainable parent organizing from periodic mobilization efforts is the grounding and ongoing development of parent leaders in the principles and practices of community organizing.

Education organizations often lack the in-house expertise to train, manage and develop parent organizing talent. As a result, the parent-facing staff is usually assigned to other important work or find themselves alone, overwhelmed, and on the verge of burnout.

Each of Innovate Public Schools’ organizing faculty brings decades of professional experience in grassroots community organizing. All of our trainers and coaches have demonstrated success in building long-term reform efforts led by low-income parent leaders.

Innovate Public Schools regularly receives requests to provide training and ongoing consulting to help organizations build their parent organizing capacity. To meet this need, in 2014, Innovate launched a six-month Community Organizer Training Program (COTP) designed to meet the needs of organizers and organizations through quality professional development sessions focused on community organizing theory and practice.

Program Highlights

Innovate’s Community Organizer Training Program (COTP) is a six-month commitment, including four, three-day virtual sessions* which concludes with one two-day in-person (pending government health guidelines) Parent Leader Institute in Los Angeles, California. Additionally, we offer professional coaching in between each session. Upon completion, COTP graduates will join our distinguished alumni network. As an alum, participants will have access to Innovate-sponsored professional development opportunities as well as our Alumni Resource Center (ARC).

Our program is designed to provide new organizers with a foundational understanding of community organizing theory and practice. We also encourage organizations seeking to launch a new community organizing effort to consider sending a small staff delegation in addition to their organizers to ensure alignment when implementing the organizing tools learned from COTP.

Over the six months, cohort members will cover the following topics:

  • The role of an organizer vs. the role of a parent leader
  • Innovate’s community organizing model, including
    • How to conduct powerful 1-1 meetings;
    • Building a parent network through house meetings;
    • Building strategic relationships with key stakeholders and public officials through research meetings;
    • Coordinating meaningful community action events to secure policy changes at the local level; and
    • Practicing the art of reflection to deepen leadership capacity.
  • Adapting classic organizing approaches to the current online/remote environment
  • Online base building best practices
  • Engagement of officials and leadership development
  • Development of strategy and campaigns focused on local policy change
  • Building a solid and sustainable Parent Leadership Team
  • Effective use of data to make a case for the need for change in the community
  • Understanding and navigating the public arena and opportunities in the education justice movement

In between each session, organizers will reflect, write, prepare, and complete required reading assignments (about two hours a month). Additionally, we expect all cohort members to attend every session and demonstrate a willingness and desire to engage in role-plays and receive critical feedback from peers and training staff.

Hear from previous participants about their 2019-20 COTP experience:

“COTP has personally given me confidence to understand the systems of education, that I work within, and to invite other parents along the journey.”

Lia McIntosh, Kauffman Foundation

“I appreciate everything that they’ve made me reflect on and this has really cleared up how I’m showing up for my parents.”

Mercedes Carbajal, Downtown College Prep

“The COTP experience has been really instrumental in how I, and those in my organization, think about the way organizing fits in our broader strategy.”

Isral De Bruin, City Forward Collective

2021-22 Schedule

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have shifted the majority of our program to virtual sessions over Zoom. The first four sessions will be held over three days (approximately 5 hours per day).

If current public health recommendations allow for in-person gatherings in the beginning of 2022, the program will conclude with an in-person Parent Leader Institute over two days (one night stay) in February in Los Angeles.

  • VIRTUAL: Tuesday, September 14 – Thursday, September 16, 2021
  • VIRTUAL: Tuesday, October 12 – Thursday, October 14, 2021
  • VIRTUAL: Tuesday, November 9 – Thursday, November 11, 2021
  • VIRTUAL: Tuesday, January 18 – Thursday, January 20, 2022
  • IN-PERSON AT THE PARENT LEADER INSTITUTE: February 26-27, 2022 (likely in Los Angeles)

(Note: We will also have a Parent Leader Institute in March 2022 either virtually or in person in the Bay Area, but all Community Organizer Training Program (COTP) participants are encouraged to attend the February in person Parent Leader Institute.)

Meet our National Organizing Team!    The Team

Meet our National Organizing Team!

Applicant Requirements

Innovate’s training program is focused on serving education justice organizations and designed for entry-level organizing and parent engagement staff currently working in the education space.

We recommend that the job description of cohort members include at least five “one-to-one” meetings each week with individual parents and stakeholders and a clear goal of identifying and working with/developing parents as leaders.

We will teach organizers 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.

Space is limited. Therefore, we will prioritize organizations demonstrating a clear commitment to grassroots organizing and staff in an organizing role. This program is not intended for personal enrichment, but the professional development of education organizers in the field.


The cost is $7,500 per participant.

For organizations interested in sending more than one person, the registration fee is $5,000 per organizer (i.e. for a team of two organizers, the fee is $10,000; for a team of three organizers, the cost is $15,000; etc).

Registration fees include materials, coaching time, lodging, and meals during the Parent Leader Institute. Please note that travel cost to the Parent Leader Institute is not included.

We know and understand the tremendous amount of economic stress that this pandemic has created for individuals and organizations alike. If you have a strong interest in the program but find the registration fee to be a barrier, please contact Alicia Ross, Sr. Program Manager of National Organizing, at


We are currently accepting applications for the 2021-2022 Community Organizer Training Program (COTP) until Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance on a rolling basis. Please contact Alicia Ross, Sr. Program Manager of National Organizing, at with any questions or for more information regarding this program.