From Membership to Leadership: Equipping Our Members With Tools for Organizing

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Members write down their thoughts about social justice in an ice-breaker activity.

On Thursday, JCUA convened our second member meeting. Following our first meeting in June, the intention of this meeting was to teach skills and frameworks essential for effective organizing.

By equipping our members with some of the same training and tools used by professional organizers, we aim to empower our lay leaders to advance our organizing work with greater efficacy and impact. We hosted our meeting at Yusho, a trendy Japanese restaurant in Logan Square.

Unlike our last meeting, JCUA staff took a back seat and allowed members to conduct the majority of the meeting. JCUA member Stacey Aviva Flint managed the agenda for the evening, allowing all attendees to review and approve of the agenda. Member Shannon Cochran then led a workshop on leadership development. Shannon presented a model of leadership development that relies on building organizational power by rotating leadership positions and allowing opportunities for growth among as many members as possible.

Unlike leadership models that house knowledge and power in the hands of a few, we are offering our members to take the reins as much as possible. Rather than rely on a “head,” “brain,” or “heart” of a committee or task force, we are operating under the premise that we are all stem cells with the ability to assume the responsibilities of leadership.

JCUA’s leadership model is rooted in our own Jewish heritage. A text study – organized by Rabbi Ben Greenberg – demonstrated how leadership models shifted in Judaism after the destruction of the second temple. As Judaism’s leadership moved away from priests and towards rabbis, more people gained access to Jewish knowledge, empowerment, and connection with God.  We are inspired by our tradition to advance leadership in a way that brings more people into the fold.

Following our leadership development workshop, member Michal David led a 1-on-1 workshop with Centro Autonomo organizer Antonio Gutierrez. Michal explained the purpose of a 1-on-1: an intentional conversation used in organizing to develop a relationship with current and potential partners. Michal further explained how 1-on-1 conversations allow us to better understand people’s underlying motivations in committing to their work, and better understanding the individuals and communities we work with. Michal and Antonio then proceeded to engage in a short 1-on-1 conversation so everyone could get a sense of how 1-on-1 conversations play out in real life.

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Michal and Antonio engage in a brief 1-on-1 conversation.

When we arrived at the end of the meeting, we outlined steps for follow-up action. Everyone committed to doing two 1-on-1 conversations over the next month in order to build up their relationships for organizing. Everyone also committed to participating in at least one action with JCUA this month.

Moving forward we will breaking off into two organizing teams: one legislative and one grassroots. Our first two member meetings have set us up to effectively transition our organizing program from training and base building to meaningfully taking action around the issues in Chicago. We’re excited to see how our membership will organize a Jewish voice for positive social change.

Join us for our next member meeting over the first week of September. Don’t forget to RSVP!

Join JCUA either August 21st or August 31st for actions in our gun violence prevention work. Visit our Calendar for more information.

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