8.4 Report Back from PTO conference

I just returned from the Pedagogy and Theater of the Oppressed pre-conference institute, “Beyond Silly Games:” Popular Education as a Methodology for Political Education, Leadership Development, Grassroots Organizing, and Movement Building with our brilliant and talented facilitator, Francisco “Pancho” Arguelles Paz y Puente.

One of the things I was most looking forward to exploring within this space was how we at GIFT can better use popular and political education tools within our training curriculum. I consider my training approach to be based in popular education, so I appreciated a space to reground and reflect on how I’d like to hone my facilitation skills and how to bring it to my work here at GIFT.

As many of us have experienced, talking about race, class, money, access to resources, and power within our communities and organizations is often difficult and complicated. We each have our own experiences of having or not having “enough,” feeling alone, isolated, and powerless. These experiences have a profound impact on us individually and collectively in re-imagining what is possible and what it is that we’re fighting for. (I’m using “enough” as a relative and subjective term within a capitalist system. See enough online discussion by Dean Spade and Tyrone Boucher for more on this). I’m interested in finding ways that we can deepen these conversations to help us think and act differently about how we do our work within and outside of our organizations and how we’re in relationship to one another. I so desperately want us to move away from a scarcity, competitive, individualistic and fear-based model and toward one that is about abundance, collaboration, collectivity, love, and connection.

But how? How do we move away from these harmful models that maintain the status quo and keep so many of us struggling and suffering? How do we build new ones that sustain us and are sustainable? How do we develop models that create space for accountability, transparency, healing, and transformation? How can we all begin to more consciously and intentionally open up and have real conversations around access, interdependency, and resource sharing and/or re-distribution in which all of our communities are taken care of and sustained?

I see popular and political education as an important tool in helping us to get there.  It’s a way for us to strengthen our collective knowledge and histories of struggle within a political context, find points of connection, solidarity, and commonality, and take action together toward creating a more just world. I see this type of work happening in communities (often outside of nonprofit organizations), and it brings me great joy and hope to see people developing new ways of deepening relationships and community toward collective access and liberation. I see exciting new models toward creating collective access and liberation being created in communities that brings me great joy and hope. There are so many possibilities for developing new ways of sustaining ourselves and our communities.

Where are you finding places of hope and ways of building connection and interdependency? How have you seen political and popular education be transformative within your work and communities?