Stories of Our Work

We’ve had the honor of supporting the inspiring work of groups that represent a wide variety of sectors, sizes, and geographic regions. Below is a small sampling of in-depth stories of our work with clients.

GRID Alternatives: "Upping the Equity" Day-Long Training

About the Client

GRID Alternatives is a non-profit organization focused on expanding sustainable energy sources with an emphasis on solar energy. GRID Alternatives is based in Oakland, CA, but has regional offices across the United States as well as staff working in Nicaragua.

Scope of Work

In February 2016, AORTA trainers Esteban, Lydia, and Marc facilitated day-long training “Upping the Equity: Strengthening Social Justice” with all 275+ staff members of GRID Alternatives.

Collaborating with facilitators from the Mosaic Project and the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, we were thrilled to support GRID’s work of building an inclusive solar economy as a piece of building up environmental and economic justice broadly. GRID staff participated in both broad political education on systematic power and injustice as well as in a number of breakout workshops including the AORTA-led workshops on hiring, evaluations, and white anti-racism in the workplace.

We were particularly moved at the end of the day when one of GRID’s executive directors committed as a next step to developing a 3-5 year plan based in a reparations framework.

COLLEGE HOUSES: ANTI-OPPRESSION AUDIT AND CONFLICT RESOUTION TRAINING

ABOUT THE CLIENT

College Houses is a student-owned housing cooperative that serves 500+ members in seven different residences in Austin, TX.

SCOPE OF WORK

AORTA trainers Jenna Peters-Golden and Roan Boucher conducted an anti-oppression audit and provided conflict resolution services over the course of three months.

ANTI-OPPRESSION AUDIT

An anti-oppression audit is a training and consulting process to assess, evaluate, and build/develop an organization’s social justice practices, providing support and recommendations for racial, economic, and gender justice, and accessibility.

The audit process began and concluded with day-long trainings to help College Houses staff and members build a shared analysis of how anti-oppression politics and principles affect member houses, organizational leadership, staff dynamics, and overall structure of the organization.

As part of the audit, AORTA conducted an in-depth survey of College Houses staff and members, along with a review of College Houses policies and documents. AORTA synthesized this information into a report that summarizes findings and provides reflections on four key areas of College Houses’ work. The report also includes a series of recommendations to support College Houses in improving education and training, communication, and accessibility and addressing various issues that came up during the audit process.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION SERVICES

AORTA trainers provided a conflict resolution training for conflict mediators. This training helped mediators build their skills in resolving conflicts and also equipped them to conduct a similar training with student leaders. AORTA also created a conflict resolution manual for College Houses, which includes tips, tools, and options for resolving conflicts.

What College Houses Says About Their Experience:

“Members and staff members at College Houses have had nothing but positive feedback concerning our relationship with AORTA. Jenna and Roan were very responsive by email and phone throughout the anti-oppression audit process, and always took the time to thoroughly answer all questions that came up during our work together. The audit was systematic and in depth and revealed things about our organization that were lurking beneath the surface. Since working with AORTA, our members have formed an Anti-Oppression Alliance Committee to prioritize and put into action the recommendations given to us in the audit report. There is excitement in our organization about the positive changes that are on the horizon, and a genuine respect and appreciation for the good work that AORTA is doing in communities across the US. We will continue to consider AORTA a partner in our pursuit of making our co-op organization a place where everyone is welcome and comfortable.”

-Kim Penna, Membership and Development Director, College Houses

Justice Now: Organizational Transition Support

About the Client

Justice Now partners with people in women’s prisons and local communities to build a safe, compassionate world without prisons. Justice Now combines the provision of legal services with political organizing to support people in women’s prisons and challenge the prison industrial complex.

Scope of Work

kiran nigam supported core Justice Now staff in planning for an organizational leadership transition, moving to a shared leadership structure that centers those directly impacted by the prison industrial complex as the co-directors step down.

Two-Day “Advance” (Rather than Retreat)

AORTA facilitated a two-day “advance” that laid the groundwork for the transition. The advance was an opportunity to map the organization’s current work, develop a shared organizational vision, define the structure going forward, and plan for the upcoming transition. Justice Now staff came out of this retreat with a clear timeline and implementation steps for moving through the transition. This information was then shared with the board of directors.

Consulting and Training

kiran provided ongoing consulting and training with Justice Now staff to support them in implementing the steps coming out of the retreat. The group followed up with an additional one-day “advance” to develop systems for collective evaluations and accountability after the transition. The co-directors were able to leave the organization with a clear plan for taking over their responsibilities, and the remaining staff felt supported and confident in taking on shared leadership.

What Justice Now Says About Their Experience

The feedback about the training kiran delivered has always been extremely positive, and when we needed to make a decision about who to ask to help us transition from a hierarchical to a collective leadership, there really were very few other options!

kiran worked with us to understand exactly what we wanted from our ‘advance’ and the different steps we needed to take to ensure a smooth and supported transition. We knew the advance would present us with some difficult questions and tough decisions to be made – but working with kiran, they didn’t feel anywhere near as tough! kiran’s energy and positive nature, combined with their understanding of our values and practices, really left us feeling that we were ready and prepared for whatever was coming next.

We referred to the work we did on our advance often over the next few months, and arranged another check in advance with kiran a few months after the first meeting. We will continue to work with AORTA as we continue to build and grow our community, and often recommend them to our allies and comrades within the anti-prison movement.

-Hannah McFaull, Justice Now

Girls Rock Philly: Leadership Development and Planning

About the Client

Girls Rock Philly (GRP) is a volunteer-based non-profit music and mentoring organization dedicated to empowering girls and young women from the greater Philadelphia region through music education and activities that foster leadership skills, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.

Scope of Work

At the beginning of 2014, Jenna Peters-Golden kicked off a year-long consulting contract with Girls Rock Philly with the goal of exploring, challenging, and offering education regarding Leadership within the GRP community.

Facilitated Discussions and Survey

We facilitated discussions with staff, board, volunteers, and other constituents in the GRP community to gather their perspectives and input on shaping the leadership plan (below). We also surveyed these constituents to help further identify roadblocks and hopes for leadership.

Trainings

Jenna provided three half-day trainings to the GRP group.

  1. Anti-Oppressive Meeting Facilitation. This training helped the board of directors to improve their meeting facilitation and participation skills.
  2. Fighting the Systems: Destabilizing Systemic Oppression in the U.S. This training was open to the GRP community and was an opportunity to discuss methods and tactics for deconstructing systemic oppression.
  3. Training for Trainers. This training helped members of the GRP community to gain skills to design and facilitate quality educational workshops.

This retreat was an important opportunity for all GRP stakeholders to be in the same room discussing the ins and outs of GRP’s values as an organization on a large scale and specific to leadership. It was a key moment to solidify the organization’s identity.

Leadership Plan

As a final outcome, AORTA created an integrated leadership plan (1,3, and 5 year) that dynamically interfaces with GRP’s other organizational documents (budget, programming cycle, and other plans). The plan includes a detailed hiring timeline for a Co-Director, recommendations for forming a Youth Advisory Board and a Volunteer Coordinating Committee, and advice for preparing for organizational growth. The plan also incorporates “fabulous practices” from other organizations on leadership principles, structures, and priorities.