Leadership Academy for Social Change

The Global ARC developed the Leadership Academy for Social Change  in order to support progressive social change at the neighborhood level. The focus of the Academy is to increase the skills, knowledge and abilities of individuals who wish to engage in creating positive change in their communities. It is designed to work with people at several levels from awakening to people who are knowledgeable, organized and engaged.  Awakening involves helping individuals who have never been or are newly engaged in social change activities to gain an understanding of why social change may be necessary in their community and how to participate in it.  At the other end of the continuum, the Academy supports engaged individuals and organizations in several ways including organization building, campaign development, research and evaluation, etc.

What the Leadership Academy for

Social Change Does:


1. Training: Working with groups and/or individuals, the Academy provides both basic training on community organizing and development and advanced training on Popular Education Techniques.  In addition, the Academy has expertise in several technical areas and provides training and education in those areas as needed.


2. Strategy Development: Working with individuals and/or organizations to clearly define their issue(s) and develop both long term and short term strategies (campaigns) for achieving their goals.   


3. Research and Evaluation: Authentic Demand calls for constituents to have access to the knowledge and information required to fully participate in decision-making processes.  The Academy provides participants with that access through education and training.  In addition, the Academy works with participants to build monitoring and assessment into their campaigns.


4. Science Communication: Colleges and Universities produce knowledge and technology capable of improving our overall quality of life yet much of it remains out of the reach of communities.  The Academy working closely with entities such as UC San Diego’s Bioregional and Superfund Research Centers to translate and communicate research findings to the broader community in ways that are useful and can lead to individual and collective change.


5.Convening and Network Building: The Academy works with individuals and organizations across many silos providing it with the capacity to convene diverse groups of individuals, community organizations, professionals, civically engaged researchers, scientists, educators and students in mutually reinforcing ways for the common good.


6. Organizational Development: Specific skills and knowledge sets are necessary for any organized effort to sustain itself over time, especially people new to social change.  The Academy provides institutional and administrative support to emerging community efforts.


How the Leadership Academy for Social Change Works:

The work of the Global ARC is rooted in Place-Based Theory that states: healthy communities tend to produce healthy people and unhealthy communities tend to produce unhealthy people.  Your zip code is a better predictor of your longevity than your DNA.  If we want people to be healthy we must create healthy communities and creating healthy communities requires the leadership of the residents in that community.   


The Academy uses a Popular Education approach to build on and strengthen the existing social networks within a community by working with people embedded in those networks and providing them with any or all of the six sets of services described here.  As these “weavers” become more knowledgeable, the Academy trains and supports them as they share this knowledge with the people within their networks.  The objective is to both educate and activate members of the community around the issues impacting their community.


The Academy works with individuals and/or organizations to clearly define their needs and to design a set of services that uniquely fit their situation.  These services can range from the Academy being highly involved, i.e., serving as the Backbone Organization, to consulting and/or providing training/services on specific projects.

Working to include the voices of refugees and immigrants
Working to include the voices of refugees and immigrants

Civic Engagement is:

Individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern.[1] 

Building meaningful Civic Engagement begins with understanding the complexity of the issues that face us.  It recognizes that there is no singular way to understand our present situation nor is there any singular way to address the challenges to creating an equitable and sustainable world.  In Nelson Mandela’s words, “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”  The fact that there may be a common problem in a community doesn’t mean everyone will see it and that those who do will see it the same way.

If we want things to change we must include new people in the public dialogue

In supporting the development of Civic Engagement, the Global ARC is sensitive to the questions: Who is the public?   Does it include everyone in the community or is it just those who have access to the public dialogue?  Does the “collective action” speak for the community as a whole or for vested interests within the community?  How do we determine who the public is and how inclusive the process should be?  Meaningful civic engagement occurs when all segments of the community are knowledgeable, organized and sitting at the policy table with the capacity to influence policy.

Our goal is to educate and activate people.  Our approach to Civic Engagement does not stop at making people aware and informed but facilitates their becoming engaged.  Power comes from organization.  Our goal is to support the development and maintenance of constituent-run, democratic organizations.

Meeting ith Marten
Refugee & Immigrant Parents meeting with School Board Member and School Superintendent

Core Strategy

Civic Engagement involves politics and power.  To the Global ARC politics is defined as "the art of translating the ideal into the real."  Our goal is to expand the number of people who are engaged in political life of their community where the “ideal” is defined and the process for creating it is developed. Our core strategy is to use a Popular Education approach to build networks for disseminating information, sharing knowledge, and engaging people in conversation for the purpose of increasing their involvement in the political life of their community, i.e., Knowledge/Action Networks.

This strategy is based on the belief that:

  1. Civic Engagement is an act of hope and faith. If we are to engage those who are disenfranchised, we must build their belief that their participation is meaningful.
  2. Arguments in support of the status quo often make sense on the surface.  If we are to change the status quo we need to have people go deeper and challenge the thinking behind the status quo.
  3. Effective and sustainable change only comes when there are established democratic constituent organizations with the power to hold policy-makers accountable.

TCE MarchGetting people to believe that their involvement matters and getting them to be active in the political life of their community requires conversation and cannot be accomplished with ads, fliers, media stories, etc.  In addition, the conversation needs to happen over time and be with someone who is respected and trusted.  The issues in the conversation must be directly relevant to the lives of the people engaged in the conversation. Often times, the conversation starts with how the pressing issues (e.g., community plans, changes in school policy, etc.) are directly relevant to the quality of their life and their ability to take care of their family.


The Knowledge/Action Networks created in this process provide the infrastructure for spreading knowledge and information throughout the community in a way that encourages and facilitates people becoming more engaged in the public dialogue on the issues that impact their community.  The content of the Popular Educators’ conversations with the people in their network includes both the immediate issues facing the community, as well as a broader, deeper analysis of issues with a particular focus on root causes, the distribution of power, and effective ways to participate in the public dialogue that influence policy.  


[1] American Psychological Association definition – see: www.apa.org/education/undergrad/civic-engagement.aspx