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California Organizing Academy

Campaigns and social change of any type have organizing at their core, which is why we have developed the California Organizing Academy. Developed originally by our Executive Director for the Sierra Nevada Alliance in 2009, the California Organizing Academy is a non-partisan, intensive two-day program training community activists on the Midwest Academy model, and focuses in part on key environmental and social justice issues identified by regional leaders. Over 500 community organizers are graduates of this program, and of that number, 27 now hold county and state elective office and 35 are running non-profits.  

Organizer trainings have historically taught the basics of how to influence decision makers, but the lack of focus on one or two core regional issue has resulted in uneven success. We intend to change that with a more issue focused approach.

Our goal is to create a cadre of trained organizers to move the ball on key environmental and social justice issues in the state, and to encourage candidates to embrace those positions as part of their platforms. This work is strictly non-partisan in nature-- the more candidates that embrace the position, the better the chance for success.

The development of personal organizing skills is often the individual’s first foray into the world of direct action campaigns. We have found through the years that contacts made as a function of the organizing effort sometimes open a door to further public service. There are now numerous sitting Supervisor and City Council members in the Sierra and Central Valley who trace their road to success back to these past organizer trainings.


We encourage funders and other organizations to partner with us on these annual trainings, to nominate promising individuals and organizations for participation, participate in the training themselves, and to help us identify the key organizing issues and campaigns for the current cycle.

Mentoring Program

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The Strategic Mentoring Program utilizes retired elected officials to act as mentors to newly elected representatives, teaching them how to effectively govern, build coalitions and better reflect their constituencies. First implemented in 2012, it teaches newly elected how to:

  • Use the appointment process

  • Establish policy initiatives

  • Reach out to constituencies

  • Create model ordinances and resolutions

  • Hold town halls, and

  • Increase government efficiency.

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