Creating Power, Changing Systems, a Popular Education Leadership Development Training Process

On January 28th, 2017, Waite House and Mesa Latina launched Creating Power, Changing Systems, a Popular Education Leadership Development Training Process aimed at strengthening the capacity of community-based teams to create the ‘critical mass’ necessary to advance policy change in their communities. It is based upon methodology and tools developed and collected by an amazing variety of organizers and popular educators during more than thirty years of experience in México, Central America and the U.S.


The training was organized after an initial assessment of interests, needs and capacities of possible participants and allies in May of 2016. The goal was to identify where the participants were in terms of interest and readiness for a leadership development process that seeks to improve their capacity to advocate for policy change at different levels and to advance in the construction of their own organizations. After the conversations, areas of interest identified included Popular Education, Community Organizing, Leadership Development, Public Policy and more.


The process has been designed and facilitated by Pancho Argüelles (bio below) and his team in collaboration with staff from Waite House. The training program consists of a series of four two-day workshops every three months during the year of 2017 in addition to continued individual technical assistance for teams.


Overall Goals:

  • Strengthen the capacity of Latinx community organizations to build their local power and to promote and win public policy that protects the rights and improves the quality of life their communities.
  • Train Latinx community leaders and organizers on frameworks, skills and practices in the areas of Popular Education, Base Building, Leadership Development, Human Rights and Public Policy Advocacy.


The Model:

  • The training model uses a Popular Education methodology, which, at the core, is a commitment to value the experiences of participants as a source of information, knowledge and wisdom and to acknowledge the expertise of our communities when developing organizing and policy initiatives.
  • A Human Rights Framework also guides the training, which will help participants re-define and integrate the multiple issues affecting their communities.
  • Community Organizing and Leadership Development are the cornerstone of this model: Participants will continue their process developing as leaders, benefiting from sharing skills and knowledge with their peers and connecting their personal experiences of activism and leadership with a collective history of survival and resistance.
  • Last, participants will be supported to enhance their knowledge of and skills in Public Policy Advocacy so that they are better equipped to mobilize and connect their communities to systems and institutions that have power over their lives. Effective policy advocacy from a grassroots perspective means identifying and dismantling systemic barriers to equity and advancing policies and institutional change that are inclusive and respectful of the rights and dignity of all members of society.


With 25 local and statewide community organizers in attendance, the January 28th-29th  session began with a sense of excitement and left participants feeling empowered and invigorated as social change agents in their community. Always recognizing that people are our greatest assets, this has been an exciting development for Waite House to engage and partner with community members on ways to create positive change within their communities.  



Pancho Argüelles is one of the founders of Fe y Justicia Worker Center, a community organization in Houston that organizes and advocates for low-wage immigrant workers. He has also worked tirelessly to grow the capacity of Living Hope Wheelchair Association, a grassroots organization of immigrants with spinal cord injuries. In 2004 he co-authored an award winning popular education curriculum, BRIDGE: Building a Race and immigration Dialogue in the Global Economy, which has transformed organizing and empowerment in the growing immigrant rights movement. It provides movement organizers with the tools to address issues such as racism, sexism, and homophobia within immigrant communities and frameworks to analyze human rights and globalization in migration.