For a decade — from 2005 to 2015 — the New Organizing Institute (NOI) helped to shape an entire generation of progressive campaigners. Nine classes of organizers graduated from the bootcamp program, and hundreds more attended NOI-sponsored trainings, workshops, and conferences. People all over the world used the training manuals and frameworks that were regularly updated on the NOI website.
And then NOI ran out of money and closed its doors.
Today, there is nothing quite like it. Re:power (formerly Wellstone Action) inherited most of NOI’s assets, hosts RootsCamp every year, and puts on excellent trainings. Movement School and Momentum are doing groundbreaking, movement-defining work.
But nothing really exists with the reach or influence of NOI in its heyday. And I’ve never felt its absence more than over the past year when the pandemic left all of us isolated and unable to sit down together to compare techniques or share notes.
Thankfully, there are emerging collections of organizers working to fulfill one of the core knowledge-sharing functions of the old NOI.
Blueprints for Change is a community-created library of campaign manuals covering topics ranging from distributed organizing to information security. Each new how-to guide is written by a practitioner and peer-reviewed by another expert. There’s a crowd-sourced list of future topics to come.
The Commons Library is a project from a group of Australian activists and organizers for social change. They’ve compiled hundreds of resources — from case studies to scholarly articles — that cover topics ranging from direct action tactics to management techniques.
It’s hard to say enough about the utility of resources like these. They create space for organizations with limited resources to take more risks — or at least prevent the absence of knowledge from being an excuse. And over a year where many traditional tactics have been closed off to campaign teams of all kinds because of the pandemic, these reference materials have served as a source of inspiration — the jumping-off point for trying something new.
But as with NOI, the real question is whether they persist or fade away.
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