GENERATIONS TO COME
Top Left: Highlander’s Social Change Workshop. Top Right: Presentation from Children’s Program at Highlander’s 80th Anniversary, 2012. Bottom: “80 on 80,” with Vincent Harding and Helen Lewis at 80th Anniversary, 2012.
HIGHLANDER RESEARCH & EDUCATION CENTER STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT AND ACTION OCTOBER, 2013 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
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Introduction The Highlander Research and Education Center is a world-renowned beacon for progressive organizing and widely acclaimed as a leadership development center for grassroots and community leaders across race and generations. Highlander is a critical resource and gathering place for strategy and action, social justice research, best practices, and movement building. Over the past several months, board, staff and constituents, with consultants, have been engaged in a Strategic Assessment and Action Process with the intention to reflect on our role and work in the current context and continue strengthening our capacity for strategic, adaptive work. We looked honestly at our challenges and celebrated Highlander’s unique role and enduring contributions. We engaged in a broad process of inquiry, asking what people need in the current context to build effective leaders, organizations, networks and movements, and how Highlander can best bring its particular role, assets and capabilities to bear for transformative impact. This process is based on a spiral of continual listening, action, learning and adaption. Through that process, we have heard affirmations of Highlander’s role and contributions, and appeals that the movement needs Highlander to play an even stronger role in these times. Highlights of new and expanded areas of work for the next fifteen months of our operational plan include: Developing a new curriculum on governance/democratic participation and the economy, set in the southern context and adaptable for different uses and issues. Highlander will convene five Horton Chairs to work with our Education team to develop, pilot and implement a workshop curriculum that can be used on the ground in communities for analysis and praxis. Co-anchoring the development and implementation of a new economic transition fellowship in Appalachia, addressing economic transition by nurturing emerging leaders from the region and strengthening local and regional networks and strategies. The Appalachian Transition Fellowship program will increase the capacity and connectivity of actors working for the economic transition of the region, while simultaneously fostering the next generation of leaders to carry that work forward, through a year-long, full-time program that will incorporate institutional placements, independently designed projects, training, and mentoring. Increased sharing of methodologies of popular education and cultural organizing at Highlander and in communities across the south and country. Highlander is often consulted by organizers, activists and educators across the country, and internationally, to share methodologies of popular education and cultural organizing for integration into their organizing efforts, campaigns and classrooms. These methodologies are building blocks of strategies for long haul effectiveness. Intensified efforts for worker justice, through sharing methodologies, leadership development, strategic convenings and facilitation, on-the-ground support of organizing efforts, amplifying worker justice issues, and connecting worker justice to other issues. “[Highlander is] the most notable American experiment in adult education for social change.” – 1979 Ford Foundation report on adult illiteracy, via Atlanta Constitution, 1982 “[Myles Horton] left behind an institution that is not only alive but also remains one of the most stubbornly tenacious instruments for social change in the nation.” – Peter Applebome, New York Times, 1991 “In the mountains of the southeast, one of the poorest regions of the country, a bastion of revolution has nurtured the great social movements in the United States for 75 years: from the great Labor struggles of the 30s to the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s, from the defense of the environment…to the current battle for the rights of immigrants.” – David Brooks, La Jornada, 2007
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Current Context of the South The South bears a legacy of brutal exploitation and courageous resistance. Centuries of aggressive underdevelopment have created a pervasive need for sustainable economic development, environmental restoration, active civic participation, progressive education and social justice. The economic fallout of globalization and the recent recession has raised national poverty rates to their highest level (15%) since US Census data collection began in 1952, increasing existing economic disparities and disproportionately affecting people of color. The highest rates remain in the South, exceeding the national average in almost every Southern state, including Mississippi where more than 21 percent of residents live in poverty. In many places, local law enforcement officials have been empowered to use racial profiling in collaboration with federal immigration agents. Our prison system has been largely privatized in order to profit from the criminalization of Black, Latino, and other people of color. The current electoral map may allow the Democratic Party to win national elections, but if the political landscape of the South is not changed substantially, it is questionable whether progressive gains can be sustained, the country governed effectively, or democracy thrive. Efforts to disenfranchise voters are sweeping the South, and the rights of people of color, women, immigrants, the poor and LGBTQ people are still under attack. Rightwing strategies count on holding the Southern electoral bloc by repressing civic participation and deepening economic and racial divides. Ecosystems from Appalachia to the Gulf Coast have been ravaged by extraction, and climate change and pollution of natural resources threaten communities regionally and across the globe. While the current political, social, and economic context is one of great struggle and injustice, there is also great opportunity and resistance, and the South has to be part of a national strategy. Communities across the South are working on a wide range of issues: improving education, decriminalizing youth, holding their government accountable and drawing public attention to corporate interference in democracy. There is a growing movement to develop alternative economic systems designed to sustain people instead of exploit them. There are strong efforts for fair and just immigration, and workers are organizing. Youth are taking over the state house in Florida. Moral Mondays protested repressive legislation in North Carolina with hundreds arrested and the effort continues with organizing strategies across the state. Appalachians are working to stop environmental degradation and towards economic transition from a coal economy. There have been herculean efforts to exercise democratic rights. All these efforts protest what is, while putting forth a vision of what can be, from the region that profoundly affects the entire country. Highlander is making key contributions to each of these efforts and is uniquely positioned to affect lasting impact by bringing its legacy, vision, credibility, methods, skills, creativity, resources, political education and analysis to support selected efforts in four areas: 1. Cultural, Human and Civil Rights are strengthened and protected; 2. Participatory Governance systems and practices are broad and robust; 3. Natural resources are protected and restored; the commons reclaimed; and, 4. Economic life of the region is thriving, inclusive and sustainable. The ways Highlander contributes in these arenas are further detailed on the following pages in Highlanderâ€™s Theory of Change. The Theory of Change details root causes, values, methodologies and key leverage points toward social, political and economic justice. It should be read from the bottom of page 5 with root causes, pulling each level up through the top.
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Highlander’s Work and Impact Highlander is a popular education center and works in local communities as well. We bring people together to learn from each other to build relationships, develop skills and analysis, and strategize for progressive social change. Highlander works on multiple levels to help create and resource the building blocks of strong social justice movement infrastructure. Highlander’s work includes: Nurture and foster the skills, analysis and capacity of community-based, grassroots leaders to ensure a strong and diverse intergenerational leadership base for the complex political work in front of us; Support groups and organizations through intensive technical assistance and capacity building; connect groups to each other, to other resources, and to networks, alliances and collaborations; Anchor and participate in key networks that amplify efforts and help build strong, unified movements; Conduct workshops and residencies in popular education and cultural organizing to strengthen organizing efforts; Organize strategic convenings to build skills, analysis, strategies and actions; Document and disseminate resources, models, and curricula to collectivize learning and share analysis; Nurture a collective and historical identity for movement workers through land-based programming, celebrations, and residencies.
Highlander’s Key Points of Leverage The needs in our region are great, and Highlander’s work is structured on key points of leverage where our methodologies and the current moment converge to create great potential for lasting, decisive change. We approach this work through resistance to repressive policies, creation of progressive policies, and development of new alternative systems beyond existing structures. Crucial to these approaches is how we do the work, based in the centrality of race, class, gender and sexuality through a broader understanding of oppression and intersectionality. These leverage points are interdependent, so that engaging with one has the potential to shift others. For this reason, each of our programs targets and impacts multiple leverage points: Increasing Migrant Justice in the Context of Global Economics: Highlander has been at the leading edge of creating the infrastructure of Southern organizations pushing for migrant justice and building multilingual capacity. We developed the region’s first immigrant leadership program, pioneered language justice workshops and a toolkit used across the country, and provided key support in the launch and work of local, state and regional organizations, including Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, Southeast Immigrant Rights Network, Black Immigration Network and groups fighting for the Dream Act. Highlander continues to provide training, resources and support to these groups and campaigns, including leadership development of immigrant activists and building networks connecting immigrant, African American and working class white people. Spreading Access to Quality Education, Decriminalization of Youth and Restorative Justice Processes: The dismantling of public education and the privatization of the prison system have hit young people hard. Through its Seeds of Fire program, Highlander has nurtured and trained young people working on this issue, helping them develop a broad, intersectional analysis. Power U Center for Social Change, Miami, SpiritHouse and El Pueblo, NC, Kids Rethink New Orleans, and Action Communication and Education Reform (ACER), MS, are just a few of the groups with which Highlander has worked over 13 years of the Seeds of Fire program. We have also been instrumental in the launch of new youth leadership efforts in Appalachia, including Stay Together Appalachian Youth and Supporting Emerging Appalachian Leaders, assisting youth who want to address economic and communities’ issues so they can stay in the mountains they love and call home.
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Increasing Practice and Innovation in Participatory Governance: Participatory governance, in which people are empowered to make decisions about matters that directly concern them, is a basic concept in Highlander’s philosophy and methodologies. Recently Highlander provided support to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which is working to jumpstart participatory budgeting in Jackson, Mississippi. Highlander’s role is to knit together disparate participatory governance efforts such as this across the South and help them learn from each other’s work. Highlander is developing a new curriculum on economics and governance/democratic participation and will be piloting that curriculum this coming year. Transforming Exploitative Ownership and Use of Land, Water, and Air into Sustainable Practices for Healthy Communities: In 2013, Highlander facilitated two national Extreme Extraction Summits, bringing together a broad range of groups fighting resource extraction for cross-movement strategy. We are being asked by other groups for help in developing a larger, systemic framework for their strategies. Through Highlander’s relationships with Coal River Mountain Watch, Ohio River Environmental Coalition, The Alliance for Appalachia, Appalshop, and other groups, we help connect local struggles against extraction to broader issues of climate change and social justice. Highlander’s own land is a learning environment integrated into all our programs on these issues. Building a Regional Network of Economic Alternatives and Shifting Policies toward Transformative Economic Models: Highlander is a founding partner and continues an anchoring role with the Southern Grassroots Economics Project that has included hosting the Solidarity Economy Workshops at Highlander, serving on the US Solidarity Economy Network national steering committee, and helping organize CoopEcon gatherings to bolster alternative business ownership structures in the South and Appalachia. Efforts to formalize Cooperative Business designation and establish Local Community Broadband policy are growing across the region, but in fragmented form. Highlander is helping these groups build a connecting infrastructure and organizational framework to propel them into truly transformative movements. We are launching the Appalachian Transition Fellowship program in collaboration with Rural Support Partners to work for a just and sustainable economy in Appalachia. Strengthening Worker Justice: Throughout our history, Highlander has worked to deepen labor education, build bridges between unionized and non-unionized workers, amplify worker organizing, expand worker solidarity within communities and beyond borders, and connect worker justice to other issues. We have a long relationship with Jobs with Justice, regionally and nationally. Recently, we have done leadership development with members of Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights and the New Orleans Racial Justice Workers Center. Earlier this year, we conducted a cultural organizing residency with Service Employees International Union in New Orleans, as well as helping plan and facilitate workshops with JWJ Working Women’s Council, Teamsters Women Facebook group, United Association of Labor Educators Southern School for Union Women in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Tennessee Education Association.
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The Place of Highlander Highlander has always been connected to place. For years, Highlander was one of the few places in the South where people could come together across race. In this place, workshop participants, researchers and visitors connect to that history, learn from the curricula, videos, and photographs of people like themselves uniting to accomplish great things, and are inspired by being part of the larger trajectory of the struggle for justice. The Highlander land shapes our work, stimulating discussion and modeling sustainable practices. From every vantage point on this land there is a distinctly different view far into and over the distant mountains, inviting us to step away from the confines of the moment and into new and larger perspectives. Through watching the sun set, braving walks up steep hills, and joining together for meals, the place of Highlander gives those who come here, many of whom rarely have the chance to enjoy a place of such natural beauty, the chance to create relationships and restore, reflect, relax and recharge.
The Generations to Come Capital Campaign The Generations to Come campaign will increase comfort and accessibility, renovate buildings for long-term durability and energy efficiency, and enable our programs to grow while keeping our workshop size small and intimate. With the generosity of Highlanderâ€™s community of donors, the Generations to Come campaign has raised over $1,600,000 towards our $3.2 million goal. These funds will enable us to: 1. Create lodgings for 40+ workshop participants that are fully accessible, energy efficient and comfortable through a combination of new construction and renovation, including one new, 16-person sleeping lodge. 2. Complete the purchase of the 80-acre property and house next to us for use in small-scale, extended-length residencies and to protect Highlander from encroaching development. 3. Upgrade all our facilities for energy efficiency and durability, reduce operating costs and create a $360,000 maintenance endowment. The improvements in facilities and land will enable a profound expansion and integration of Highlanderâ€™s popular education and organizing work on the intersection of labor, immigration, race, land and food justice issues--regionally, nationally and internationally. This is the work we believe crucial to achieving a socially just, sustainable economy. Highlander is grateful to the friends, constituents, and colleagues who participated in the strategic assessment process, and to the consultant team of Nina Gregg (Communication Resources, Maryville, TN) and Attica Woodson Scott (Louisville, KY). Web: www.highlandercenter.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 865-933-3443 Fax: 865-933-3424 Printed in-house at Highlander Research and Education Center 1959 Highlander Way, New Market, TN 37820