On September 14, 2022, The Horizons Project hosted a webinar to bring together movement trainers, facilitators, and organizers to discuss the current state of movement-building support in the US and how training and convening spaces could be better coordinated and envisioned more creatively to build a broad-based pro-democracy movement to counter the rising authoritarian threat.
Maria Stephan’s opening remarks are below.
“Hello everyone and welcome to today’s discussion on Facilitating and Training in Cross-Sector Movements: Turbo-Charging Efforts for Coordination and Collaboration. Today we’ll be speaking with a distinguished group of panelists about the current state of movement-building support in the US, and how training and convening spaces could be envisioned more creatively to support a broad-based front or movement to counter the rising authoritarian threats and to build a democracy that works for all Americans. While our conversation today will be focused on the US, we think there is significant cross-border import and relevance.
Why are we having this conversation now? Like most or all of you in this room, Horizons is deeply concerned about the state of US democracy, which was formally classified as “backsliding” last year by the Stockholm-based International IDEA. We’re concerned about the alarming rise of political violence and extreme us vs. them politics. This is not our first experience with authoritarianism in the US, however: the system of Jim Crow following the end of the Reconstruction period was one of the most virulent and violent forms of single-party rule. While the January 6th 2021 attempted insurrection was a dramatic reminder that “it can happen here” (to cite Sinclair Lewis, who wrote about rising fascism in the US in the 1930s), the rise in political violence (mostly but not exclusively from far-right groups) and state and local efforts to undermine free & fair elections are worrisome no matter which issues we care about the most – whether that be climate, health care, workers’ rights, or many others.
At the same time, we know that the only way that we have ever gotten closer to freedom & justice for all in the US, and what plenty of research has shown to be the strongest bulwark against authoritarianism globally, has been powerful, broad-based coalitions and movements capable of mobilizing people across difference. The history of USA is in many ways the history of movements – to achieve independence from colonial rule, to abolish slavery, to make suffrage truly universal, to expand civil and political rights for all. These movements have relied on a combination of dialogue and nonviolent action to build bridges, build power, and build belonging.
Training and facilitation are essential to building movement strength and sustainability. They have played a critical role in pro-democracy movements in the US (including the Civil Rights movement), the Philippines, Serbia, South Africa, and countless other places. Members of our panel have written extensively on this topic.
At Horizons we believe that both dialogue and direct action, organization, and mobilization, blocking harm and building democratic abundance, are necessary to overcome the divide and rule tactics that endemic to the Authoritarian Playbook.
To help shed light on the roles played by movement training and facilitation in both upholding and reimagining US democracy, we will now turn to a very talented and accomplished group of speakers. Let me introduce them briefly.
- Ivan Marovic is the Director of Field Education and Applied Research at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. Since playing a leading role in Otpor, a youth movement which helped bring down Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, Ivan has become one of the leading educators in the field of strategic nonviolent conflict.
- Nadine Bloch is the Training Director at Beautiful Trouble, a global network of organizers, artists, trainers, and writers where Nadine’s work explores the potent intersection of art, movements, and politics.
- Jake Waxman is an advisory board member and senior trainer with the Leading Change Network. He has led over 200 workshops and trained over 1,500 coaches and 15,000 participants in the craft of Public Narrative and Leadership, Organizing, and Action.
- Carlos Saavedra has been active in the immigrant rights movement for the last 20 years building and co-founding organizations for immigrant students and workers. Since founding the Ayni Institute in 2013, he has been coaching and training organizers and leaders in movement building.
- Reverend Stephen A. Green is an activist and pastor who leads with radical love in action through his ministry at the St. Luke AME Church in Harlem, and as Chair of Faith for Black Lives, a faith-based social justice organization. He is also the creator and host of the podcast, “Sacred Desk with Rev. Stephen A. Green,” which features conversations with thought leaders and change agents focused on the latest headlines.”