We’re excited to announce a major shift in how OPAL builds power for transit riders through our Bus Riders Unite membership program!
In previous years, OPAL and BRU brought together a cohort each summer in the Organizers-in-Training program, a ten-week intensive that gave new organizers a chance to learn skills for grassroots organizing from OPAL staff and outside trainers. Organizers-in-Training built new BRU membership while giving the next wave of community leaders a chance to hone their organizing. The program has turned out some pretty incredible organizers who work to this day all over Oregon and across the nation. Bus Riders Unite Organizer Orlando Lopez was himself a graduate of the first year of OIT, in 2011.
We took a look at how OIT has functioned in the past, and though the program has been an unqualified success for six years, we recognize that building power through longer-term relationships is key to this work. Ten weeks just doesn’t seem like enough time to spend with these incredible organizers. As a result, we’re restructuring Organizers in Training into a new program, changing the name, and the most exciting change: it will run (nearly) all year long! BRU presence on the buses and trains, at transit stations, and across the low-income neighborhoods of our city will be greatly amplified by this change.
The new program will run two, six-month cohorts of five to six organizers each, per year. We restructured the program to be more accessible to low income people, parents, and people who already have full-time jobs, but who want to develop organizing skills. Every member of the cohort will receive bus passes and stipends to participate, alongside an opportunity to learn grassroots organizing for Environmental Justice from OPAL and our network of partners. We will also be training the cohort in deescalation tactics and providing them tools to support positive relationships between riders and drivers, as the safety of our transit system can and should be controlled by the community. The training we offer will come from the former Organizers-in-Training curriculum, regional and national movement partners, and our membership, the experts in the room on decisions which impact them.
The first cohort starts in January! Stay tuned for the unveiling of this new brand of ongoing leadership development at OPAL early next year! We’re so excited to announce this positive change, building strength into our movement for the long term, build out a year-round organizing training program, and add capacity for the campaigns of the future. Stay connected as OPAL looks to 2018 and prepares to keep up the push for a safe and healthy environment in the places we live, work, learn, pray, and play. Join our email list to be the first to hear when the program launches.