How a Decentralized Network is Building Community and Decentralizing Leadership Development

Trainings are a critical part of our movement. As young organizers working toward the huge vision that is climate justice, we know that we need training to succeed. We often experience frustration, disempowerment, and confusion when we try to do our work without a baseline of theory and skills from which we can start or return. We also find it difficult to thrive in the midst of the non-profit industrial complex that perpetually suggests that competition is key to survival.

That’s why when 95 people from 71 climate and justice organizations gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Power Shift Network 2018 Annual Meeting, we took the opportunity to build our wealth of training knowledge. Over the course of that weekend, many of us met as a “trainings circle” in which we identified needs we had and resources we could offer when it came to trainings. Facilitated by Hope Ghazala from PSN and Brian Gomez from the Sierra Student Coalition, we asked ourselves: “What would make training and getting trained in the youth climate movement easier?”

Unsurprisingly, many of us shared the same needs. It was agreed - we needed a calendar of trainings and webinars, a one-stop resource for training materials, and space to share learnings and challenges with each other. Once we were all in the same circle, the abundance of our resources and knowledge became clear. Where there was someone needing support there was always someone there on whom they could call. So we needed to create a culture of sharing and collaboration rather than competition. Several people said they would often miss training or webinar opportunities because they didn't know about them or because they conflicted with another important training - so we created a plan for a shared, accessible calendar. On the shoulders of the PSN Anti-Oppression Curriculum and Resource Bank (co-created by Organize Florida, the UC Berkeley Students of Color Environmental Collective, and many others) we started the beginnings of a trainings resource bank.

From these conversations, we were able to directly relate back the broader vision of PSN - supporting young leaders, by allowing them access to resources, connections, and knowledge to build more effectively and powerfully. Our shared vision as a trainings circle was to do the following:

  • Respect that we come from different issue areas and reaches (from local to national)
  • Respect our various points of intervention
  • Allow everyone in our movement to be involved in leadership development for themselves and their base
  • Make it easier for those of us working with frontline communities to access resources
  • Create opportunities for people to offer their knowledge to the network
  • Collectively create a tangible network-building tool

For me, Alyssa Lee, I definitely felt the power and manifestation of this vision within that weekend. As a relatively new member to PSN, I had no idea what to expect coming into the Annual Gathering and I was doubtful and fearful that I wouldn't be able to provide much to the space. However,  as soon as I joined the trainings circle, I felt gratitude and affirmation regarding my choice. I was shown that I had something to offer to the circle and the wider Power Shift Network community. This is the beauty of a network - the ability to make space for everyone to bring what they have, to ask for what they need, and to deepen their investment. At the close of the weekend, I felt confident in our plan to create concrete resources which would be published within a couple of months and freely usable by all. Not to mention the fact that I also had several new friends! The development of these tools was directly in response to climate justice organizations from all over the country coming together with the intention of working collaboratively and building our power.

The Annual Meeting’s ‘training circle’ planned to remotely co-develop the tools they agreed upon by transforming into a Trainings Support Team. This Team developed this Trainings Resource Bank that folks can add to, edit, utilize & share. The Bank includes:

  • Recurring Training & Webinar Programs
  • Fellowships
  • Downloadable Training Materials, such as: recorded webinars, toolkits, manuals, short readings and much more

The Team also expanded the PSN Actions Calendar to include trainings, webinars and conference that anyone can share and add to. Here is the format to add trainings/webinars to the calendar.

Both the Trainings Resource Bank and the Actions & Trainings Calendar are available to folks in and out of the Power Shift Network. These resources are only as good as they are used. So, be sure to honor this work by utilizing and sharing them.

After co-developing these important tools, the Trainings Support Team decided we wanted to transform into a Trainers Peer Learning Circle (TPLC) so we can continue to meet and support our fellow trainers. Our Circle is a community in which we can share best practices of training, troubleshoot training challenges, pilot trainings we hope to launch at our respective orgs and much more. As a PSN Learning Circle, we also have opportunities to apply for up to $5,000 per year in microgrants to fund registration, lodging and/or travel to trainings, webinars or conferences hosted by our ally organizations.

What’s inspiring about this collaboration, is not only the output of these useful tools, but also the experiences that our Network have. Organizational staff from all across the country came together at PSN’s Annual Meeting not anticipating that they’d be working together to make leadership development more accessible to our movement. However, it’s clear that the folks in the trainings break out group had a shared vision for the youth climate movement that they were willing to co-create. The process of developing these resources gave them opportunities to not only build relationships with one another, but to build trust. Despite the tools being fully developed and launched, our team wants to continue supporting ourselves and our Network. We recognize that we develop as stronger trainers, as stronger leaders, when we learn with and amongst each other. If you’re a trainer or anticipate taking on a training role, you’re more than welcome to participate in our Circle. Our TPLC meets bi-weekly. If you’re interested in joining, please reach out to Hope Ghazala at

Tags: Events, Network Members Stories