Resisting? Running for Office? Get Trained Online, You Will

The next generation of activists and candidates trains online. As Yoda teaches Luke in Star Wars, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

New Epolitics.com contributor! Deepak Puri has held executive positions at Oracle, Netscape and VMware, and is the founder of SkilledAnalysts.com, an IoT consulting firm, and co-founder of Democracy Labs, a non-profit hub in San Francisco that connects technical volunteers with progressive causes. Learn more about why training is so important in 2017, and how our own Beth Becker is working to fill the gap.

Darkness is in the air. The Rebel Alliance is hopelessly outmatched. The Empire terrorizes the galaxy. The rebels train to fight back. The ‘force‘ is with them…

Oops. Wrong script. That’s Star Wars.

Back in the real world, thousands of activists hone their skills to resist and run for office. But, how do you train an army of volunteers and candidates to bring about change? Does online training really work? What resources already exist? What’s the right software platform?

Background

Training thousands of people on civic activism and running for office is hard. Classroom training can’t keep pace with the demand. Online training delivers and is independent of both time and location. Students are better prepared with with online training to attend classes in person. Here are some other benefits:

  • Time – Students need to be able to learn at times convenient for them.
  • Distance – Traveling to a class might be too costly or just not feasible.
  • Content – A wide range of skills need to be learnt requiring many lessons.
  • Teachers – Scarcity of experienced instructors to meet the demand.
  • Budget – The logistics of organizing classes physically makes them costly.
  • Revisions – New courses and revisions to current classes are required.
  • Lifestyle – Short attention spans. More social media and mobile phone usage.

What’s your story?

Training someone to advocate for change is hard. They have to be able to connect with others to persuade them to work together for a cause. No jedi mind tricks are needed. Instead, learning the ‘Personal Narrative‘ method is a good first step. Personal values are shared through storytelling in order to inspire others and enlist their support for a common goal.

This technique was developed by Marshall Ganz, a legendary activist and Harvard professor who worked with Cesar Chavez at the United Farm Workers. Ganz later developed grassroots organizing training for President Barack Obama’s winning 2008 campaign.

Activists are often taught the technique in a day long, interactive workshop. Recently in order to meet demand, it has also been adapted for online delivery to expand its reach. The adaptation has to be done carefully in order for content to be effective. Online courses are often designed as short, engaging segments to accommodate typical attention spans of under two minutes. Questions embedded in the modules track students’ comprehension.

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