The Action Lab provides literal space and a broad set of resources, support, and expertise to allow frontline organizers and other movement leaders to take a step back. Granted this all too rare space and time to reflect, The Action Lab helps our partners to gain a new perspective on our shared work and then to experiment, innovate, allow evolved practices to surface, and ultimately to both deepen and broaden our collective impact. We do this through a core set of programming streams that support, rather than duplicate, the work of our many powerful partners in the field. These programming streams are in constant evolution, a work always in progress, and we proactively bring participants and partners into our processes of evaluation and organizational learning.
The Action Lab Nurtures Our People and Strengthens Our Practice
- Take A Breath Fellowships: Each year, the Action Lab provides several cohorts of organizers, and their families, space at our upstate New York 23-acre retreat space. All expenses are covered, including travel, room and board, and a broad range of somatic, reflective learning, and mindfulness offerings that take into account the holistic wellbeing of individual organizers. Without exception, our Take a Breath Fellows report that the experience is deeply rejuvenating, helping them to return to their work with renewed energy, insight and resilience.
- Training and Coaching: Central to The Action Lab’s vision is an organizing ecosystem where what might otherwise be one-off, forgotten learning moments or inspiring movement-building experiences are, instead, integrated into a long-term, inclusive and participatory learning process. The Action Lab builds this scaffolding by way of training cohorts and coaching relationships to catalyze ongoing innovation and growth. We provide follow-up work in support of, and in partnership with, a diverse group of high impact organizers and organizational and movement leaders.
- Organizing and Movement Workshops: We offer space at our retreat spaces, and elsewhere, for new groupings of organizers, academics and cultural workers to think, connect and experiment together to let new and effective tactics, narrative frames, and strategic methods emerge. The Action Lab helps to bring together well-matched people and organizations, and curates a set of offerings, including organizing praxis groups, theory seminars, arts and music classes, and somatic practices.
The Action Lab Sparks Learning, Innovation & Re-imagination
- Think Big! Convenings: Gatherings like our recent Dismantling Racial Capitalism and Countervailing Oligarchic Power conferences create openings into The Action Lab’s work, as they provide a broad range of organizers, academics, and practitioners space to form new, shared vocabularies, and link their initiatives in fruitful ways that The Action Lab helps to nurture in follow-up sessions and projects.
- Strategy Camps: The Action Lab is deeply committed to expanding and sharpening our collective strategic thinking and planning. The history of resistance, popular education, and power building is rich, with millennia of case studies waiting to illuminate our current struggles. More fundamental than a skills training, The Action Lab’s strategy camps invite organizers to go deep, read, learn, and play together, returning to their core with an expanded taxonomy of new moves to win.
- Learning Delegations: Gaining perspective on our work allows us to make critical connections to the challenges and advances of popular movements around the world. The Action Lab’s support for housing justice work, for example, has included many of the above offerings, in addition to a mind-opening learning mission to Vienna, where New York organizers, elected officials, and tenant leaders together learned firsthand from proponents and residents of one of the largest social housing programs in the world. Such missions not only deepen the relationships of the diverse group of participants in a unique way, but also provide lessons that organizers and The Action Lab work to apply in new campaigns at the municipal, state and federal level.
The Action Lab Breaks through the Silos of Culture and Organizing
- Cross-sectoral Collaborations and Cultural Production: Organizers are generally so accustomed to acting politically that we forget culture is how we first make meaning of the world. The Action Lab creates opportunities to integrate organizing, politics, arts and culture. In spaces like our Freedom Writers’ Songwriting Lab, inspired by our Board Member Harry Belafonte, we bring cultural workers together with organizers as co-equal partners in envisioning new narrative and political pathways to desperately needed base- and power-building work.