Alejandra Batista on the Debating for Democracy Conference

By Alejandra Batista, CCAR Outreach and New Media Projects Coordinator

At the end of February, the Center for Community Action and Research (CCAR) and Project Pericles hosted Debating for Democracy: An Activism Training with Beautiful Trouble.  Debating for Democracy (D4D) brought Beautiful Trouble to Pace NYC for an advocacy training workshop designed to provide novice and seasoned activists with the tools and tactics they need to get their message across to policymakers, communities, leaders, and the public. Beautiful Trouble is a book and “web toolbox” known as the “toolbox for revolution.” It lays out core tactics, principles, and theoretical concepts that drive creative activism, providing analytical tools for change-makers to learn from past successes and failures. During D4D, I met Nadine Bloch, the Training Director for the Beautiful Trouble organization and a contributor to the book Beautiful Trouble. She is an innovative artist, non-violent action practitioner, political organizer, direct-action trainer, and puppetista. Since 1980, Nadine has been combining the principles and strategies of People Power with creative use of the arts in cultural resistance and public protest.

During D4D, participants explored civic engagement tools and tactics. For the first part of this workshop, we were placed in groups of approximately seven people to discuss and present one successful or unsuccessful movement in history or one we participated in. The importance of this activity was to identify a few of the best and worst actions to take when organizing a movement. We identified the campaign or issue, the goal, tactics used, and whether or not this campaign/movement was effective. Before taking a break, we looked at a slideshow that presented creative actions taken in history to inform the public about an issue. One of the creative actions that stood out to me was the testing of water quality by lighting it on fire. This was a simple and effective fracking test used to determine the drinkability of water in certain locations.

For the second part of the workshop, we were placed in groups according to our interests, some of which included LGBTQA+ rights, reproductive rights, and mental health awareness. Nadine introduced two non-violent, chart-like forms of organizing a movement, known as “Points of Intervention” and “Spectrum of Allies and Opponents.” If someone is interested in creating a non-violent movement, they can use “Points of Intervention” to list their specific issue’s point of destruction, decision, production, consumption, assumption, and opportunity, along with each point’s action idea. With “Spectrum of Allies and Opponents,” people can list the active opponents, passive opponents, middles/neutral, passive allies, and active allies of an issue. In my opinion, the most important part of both of these charts is the section created for research questions. This space allows us to research and solve any part of a campaign/movement we are not 100% sure of, such as a certain location’s policy in regards to protesting. Before this conference, I was unaware of what it took to start a campaign or movement. However, this conference introduced me to a Pre-During-Post Action Checklist that can be used as a guide for action planning.

As a political science major and CCAR staff member, this workshop relates to a lot of my interests. Before starting college, I looked for ways to participate in organizations that allowed me to help ignite change. I did a lot of volunteer work before and while attending Pace University, yet I still wanted to do more, which is why I applied to work at CCAR. CCAR has provided me with the opportunity and power to encourage fellow Pace students to make and participate in change. Through Take Action tablings, I’ve been able to address certain issues I am passionate about and find ways to solve them by collecting signatures for a petition, for example. My position as a CCAR staff member allows me to continue to find ways to create change and the Debating for Democracy workshop opened my eyes to effective non-violent forms of organizing!