Popular Education and Leadership Development

Popular Education and Leadership Development

By Pacific Institute Staff

Popular education is an approach to building leadership that draws upon the everyday experiences of the people most affected by an issue as an important source of knowledge. In this approach, people “scale up” their individual experiences by creating a space of trust to share and discuss patterns in their experiences at a community level. This can be done through a variety of activities that help distill the common themes in the lives of participants and facilitate a discussion about how to use those experiences to create positive changes in community conditions. Popular education can empower people with limited educational and economic opportunity to engage in and take leadership in decision-making, policy, and system changes that tackle the root causes of this lack of opportunity at an individual and community level.

Our popular education and leadership development work focuses on elevating the voice and power of low-income communities and communities of color, where environmental pollution and poverty are concentrated, in environmental and economic decision-making. We partner with community-based organizations and coalitions to develop and co-facilitate popular education curricula and leadership development trainings on issues ranging from alternatives to incarceration to community resilience to climate change. With the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative and other community partners, we developed a curriculum guide, Gearing Up for Action, to build the capacity of community residents to engage in generating solutions to the impacts of diesel truck and train traffic on community health quality of life. With the Oakland Climate Action Coalition, we developed an activity workbook for community organizations to use in educating residents about action they can take to build resilience to local climate change impacts at a community level.

The Pacific Institute, through the CEO Water Mandate, is developing tools and guidance to help companies interested in working on collective action to do so in a responsible and effective manner that is in line with the principles outlined by the Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy.

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