DC’s ‘Rising Organizers’ Train 1000+ New Leaders

The organization Rising Organizers has trained over 1,000 Trump-traumatized Americans to organize toward a fairer future. Their first public training of 2018 will be at Shaw Neighborhood Library in Washington D.C. on Monday, Jan 22 from 6:30 to 9pm.

Organizing Basics: Creating Goals for a Progressive Future,” is the name of the workshop that will start-off their second public training series.

I spoke with Elyssa Feder and Kalyani Grad-Kaimal about the organization they founded as an emergency response to the election of a self-proclaimed billionaire President on a Republican ticket. The attendees will learn how to set achievable goals large enough to be worth achieving.

From Founding To Thriving

Elyssa Feder and Kalyani Grad-Kaimal of Rising Organizers

Elyssa Feder (Left) and Kalyani Grad-Kaimal (Right), the founders of Rising Organizers. Source: Rising Organizers’ website.

They held their first training three weeks after the 2016 election, on November 28. The organizers are training people to lead outside of their day jobs, as organizers. They get paid for work that impacts international human rights issues. Their evenings, weekends and out-of-pocket expenses go toward planning and training their fellows and the public.

“Originally we didn’t mean to become a real organization with all of these programs that we ran. We were meant to run one training and it turned out that 200 people showed up to that training and that meant we had to keep going,” said Feder.

The Rising Organizers Fellowship

The organizers, who both graduated from George Washington University, expanded their program to include an 8-session, 16-week fellowship. The fellowship is free for those who wish to take part. A guiding principle for the founders was to train people who Donald Trump inspired to lead to organize effective campaigns.

Rising Organizers Workshop

A Rising Organizers public trainings in March 2017. Photo: Elyssa Feder’s Instagram.

“If you have something that you want, if you have a vision for the future, like a way you think the world could be better than it is right now, and you’re trying to figure out how do you get there, then apply. Apply, apply, apply because we will make it seem approachable,” said Grad-Kaimal. They started the organization to train people to organize around issues in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“We will give you the skills to do it and show you that you had so much of the power to achieve it all along,” said Grad-Kaimal before blushing, looking at Feder, and saying, “Oh god that sounds so cheesy!”

The birth of the organization was made easier by the connections that the women already had, the skills they had already developed as organizers, and, according to Grad-Kaimal, because Feder wouldn’t hesitate to ask people for help.

Through bi-weekly sessions over 16 weeks the fellows learned core organizing skills, how to build a base of support and foster a strong community identity, and then how all of that help to achieve their goals. They are also planning to add one or two modules to the next class.

Sara: What Success Looks Like

They told me about one of their stand-out successes, a student who only wants to be identified as Sara. She has been with them since the first training two Novembers ago. “She came because she was feeling really motivated after the election to defend science policy and fact-based policy,” said Feder.

They took her to a networking event to advertise the Rising Organizers program after she’d attended three trainings. Feder heard her say to an interested passerby, “I never thought I could be an organizer, I cared about politics but I never thought I could be somebody who actually made politics and changed politics and I’ve learned through these trainings that I can absolutely do that.” Sara’s story exemplified the purpose of the trainings. They were able to train and inspire her to organize toward the justice she sought.


For more information about Rising Organizers visit them at risingorganizers.org or through their Facebook page.

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