Community leaders unite for OFA Coaches Huddle

By Kevin Lane, OFA Training Projects Manager

“The people here are our greatest asset.”

At first glance, they might seem like just a random assortment of people. They’re different ages, with different backgrounds and different accents. But on closer inspection — watching how they interact with each other, how they learn from one another — you can tell, they’re family.

This past weekend, OFA volunteers from all across the country joined together in Chicago for a weekend full of learning, professional development, and — to be quite honest — a little goofiness. We had veteran alumni like Victoria W. from NYC, who’ve been organizing and running fellowships for years; and brand new organizers like Sharmaine O. from Union City, CA, who are pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones to take on leadership roles for the first time. It was an incredibly diverse group of people, all excited to pass on their knowledge, skills, and wisdom to the next class of organizers. These aren’t just coaches for the next six weeks — they’re mentors, friends, and family for years to come.

These OFA fellows leaders and campus coaches spent Saturday diving into the concept of what it means to be a leader — how we all can view ourselves as leaders, and how to construct a vision for what effective leadership looks like. The day began with a group leadership simulation where communication, teamwork, direction, listening, strategy, and vision were all critical to the success of the exercise. Who knew building a spaceship out of marshmallows and kabob skewers could be so educational and informative?

While the group spent several hours examining their own strengths and weaknesses — both individually and as a group, it was the little moments in between training exercises where organizers really got to connect with one another, reuniting with old friends and starting new friendships.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to be here and to connect with a group of driven, compassionate, dedicated people.”

On Sunday, we took a deep look into the programs OFA volunteers and alumni will be leading throughout the fall — the OFA Community Engagement Fellowship and the OFA Campus Organizing Academy. These programs, and the volunteers gathered here who will run them, will shape the next generation of organizers, community leaders, and change-makers for years to come.

Overall, the Coaches Huddle weekend was a salve for the organizer’s soul. If you’ve experienced a moment (or more) of cynicism over the past few months, you too should feel confident knowing that there are good people out there — folks with passion, optimism, and perseverance — who are in this fight for the long haul.

We are so excited to see all the great things these leaders will accomplish over the next few weeks. The students and fellows they’ll be working with will have an incredible experience thanks to these dedicated and passionate leaders!

Keep up with them over the coming weeks — check it out on #OFAFellows and #OFAction on Twitter.

Quotes from the weekend:

“It was a fun and memorable day. I really felt like the OFA staff offered helpful insights and their personal story sharing throughout made this feel like a mutual learning journey, rather than one that is top-down.”

“One of the most effective leadership training events I’ve attended from any organization. The courses and breakouts were extremely effective. Indicative that there was a great deal of strategic effort and planning put into this event. Thank you!”

“Superbly done. Encountered a great number of new people. I was extremely impressed with the level of engagement.”

“I am thankful that OFA is providing this leadership and organizing training for people like me.”

“OFA continues to provide training that helps me do the job required of me to organize and help others that I come in contact with on a daily basis.”

Originally published at