Growing New Leaders: Tammy Nguyen and Sean O’Neill discuss Got Green’s Movement School

OpEds by Got Green appear in the South Seattle Emerald every month. This month, Got Green Development Director Sean O’Neill and Movement School Coordinator Tammy Nguyen talk about Got Green’s Movement School.

Sean O’Neill: What is the movement school?

Tammy Nguyen: The movement school is for Got Green’s volunteer leaders to come together to build relationships, learn together, and build collective power. Our first series was six sessions, which focused on building a common language around the history of Got Green, environmental justice, anti-oppression 101, just transition, climate resilience, and the Seattle landscape. We had a total of 20 graduates of our first movement school series — all people that are involved in Got Green’s grassroots committees — our Young Leaders Committee, the Food Access Team, and the Climate Justice Committee as well as our Board of Directors.

SO: Why did Got Green start the movement school?

TN: There was a need for a Movement School so all Got Green leaders can be on the same page on different areas of our work. A lot of times our volunteer leaders stay within their committees and only get to connect with fellow committee members and learn about issues that is most directly connected to their committee efforts. The movement school allows leaders to not only connect with one another, but to have a deeper understanding of the multi-issue approach of Got Green.

SO: Why do social movements need community education?

TO: Power — I feel like the more we educate each other, the more we are able to build collective power. We are also can deepen the potential of the larger movement and be more effective in getting what our communities need. Got Green has received a lot of training and education, mostly through our national alliances and partnership — for example, the Feminist Organizing School of Grassroots Global Justice and AMP by Western States Center. We thought that we can do this for ourselves.

Fun Fact: During the 1960s-70s, community education was used to organize. Freedom Schools were used throughout the nation to provide literacy training, basic education, and served as a tool to build power in Black communities. Freedom Schools continue to exist today (shout out to local groups Youth Undoing Institutional Racism and Washington Building Leaders of Change who facilitate Freedom Schools right here in South Seattle). Got Green’s Movement School is in the tradition of using education to build community power.

SO: How has the Movement School been — can you share some quotes from participants?

TO: It’s been good. People have been appreciative of the space to engage with each other and the material. Got Green looked at a lot of different curriculum and our facilitators came up with some interactive workshops for us. Here is what a few of the Movement School graduates said…

  • “I like learning objectives variety of learning activities for different learners, national to local topics.” —Member of Got Green’s Executive Board
  • “Lag effect timeline- Powerful. Really brings home the gravity of the situation.” —Climate Justice Leader

*the lag effect is an interactive timeline that visually shows the exponential growth of fossil fuel consumption since the industrial revolution till today, and what this teaches us about the extractive economy.

SO: What does the next Movement School look like?

TO: So the next Movement School is focused on developing the organizing skills of our leaders. It will be a week-long series, every day, and we are calling it the Building Power Academy. In this series, folks will be doing some door-knocking, learning how to engage in outreach, have one-on-ones with new people, personal and organizational storytelling, campaign development, as well as the basics of the policy process.

SO: Why are you door-knocking in the next Movement School series?

TO: We want to be in our community — that’s where we are rooted. We want to inform our communities about our work (for example, Got Green is fighting for a Green New Deal for Seattle), and we want to invite our community into this work. People will learn by actively hitting the doors — along with this experience, members will learn the community organizing process by directly engaging in it — they will meet people at the doors, build a list of enthusiastic community members, follow-up with them, and organize them to directly get involved.

SO: What have you appreciated about this project?

TO: For me, I normally don’t get to work with other Committee members — despite being at Got Green since the founding. As the Movement School Coordinator, I have gotten to meet different Got Green leaders with a different hat and help facilitate a space for folks to deepen relationships across committees. You can see how folks have deepened community session-to-session — from the ice breakers to the different activities.

SO: How has Got Green grown as a result of the Movement School?

TO: We have grown because all of our leaders are on the same page on the variety of issues Got Green is working, relationships are deeper, and our folks are excited about building multi-issue campaigns. People in Got Green have a deeper capacity to lead — more confidence, more analysis, and more skills.

Featured Image: Tammy Nguyen. (Courtesy Photo)