Relational Organizing is a class initiated by the people who became STOKE Collective founders and STOKE network folks. The class was initially intended to provide workshop-style trainings and relationship building structure for student organizers and activists working on different projects. We expanded it to include community organizers from outside the university in the second year, and to date this course has trained and built meaningful relationships among organizers working on immigrant justice, a POC collective, the school to prison pipeline, climate justice, workers rights, and more. Many important collaborations have arisen from this course: people are working more closely together, bringing practices of leadership, mentorship, meetings, healing, to the way their organizations function, and STOKE continues to be involved in offering trainings for UACT’s Relational Organizing course each spring.
"I was looking for guidance about how to do the actual work of organizing and building power, and RO seemed to offer some of that framework. [...] [Relational Organizing] opened up a lot of potential—instead of being paralyzed by an analysis of privilege and oppression, I could engage authentically with people. Already, I have seen the impact of this on my organizing work: it has become more well-rounded, holistic, and genuine. I have relationships with a variety of people, and not just those with whom I get along socially or am friends with. As a result, I am more empathetic, and better able to navigate organizing spaces in a way that is aware of where more people are coming from.
It is easy to get caught up in the sense of urgency that pervades most organizing these days, but the reminder to slow down and pay attention to the people I am organizing with has been important and timely. The projects and politics don't mean much if they aren't supported by strong relationships, and if we aren't actively building alternative power-structures and worlds. I believe that RO has given me the skills to start thinking about and enacting this process, and—more importantly, maybe—the framework to continue investigating, asking questions, and learning from the people around me.
From how to run a meeting to how to do leadership development or engage in self-care, RO has helped me think deeply about—and challenge!--the ingrained assumptions I have that impact the organizing I do and the organizing culture I am a part of."
-Alli Langley, Pioneer Valley Workers Center volunteer