Learning and Leadership Development

“The struggle is eternal. The Tribe increase. Somebody else carries on.” —Ella Baker

Our Learning and Leadership Development Philosophy

What We Believe

Democracy North Carolina believes that we are all learners and teachers. The term “training” can reinforce a division based on privilege and an oppressive notion of expertise. Community members hold an expertise that is fully present and often grounded in a deeper wisdom than found in teaching institutions, but it may need a supportive space to be ignited or reanimated. We aim to create the spaces and opportunities for mutual learning, peer respect and leadership growth. For a society to be truly democratic, the people must participate as agents for their own self-determination and then for the broader community. Without that grassroots leadership and community solidarity, our democracy is merely aspirational and will never be fully realized.

Our Principles and Approach


Democracy North Carolina is committed to providing learning spaces that facilitate a deep understanding that voting, community organizing and public service are pathways to be fully engaged in a democratic society and that holding policymakers accountable is vital to fostering equitable and just communities. We are also committed to support learning spaces that are cross-cultural, intergenerational, cross-class, progressive and grounded in an anti-oppression analysis

Click here for more specifics about our training principles.

  • Learning is fluid, continuous and organic.
  • All community members – regardless of race, class, gender or sexual orientation – are wisdom-bearers and leaders whose narratives and ability to advocate for themselves is invaluable and should be made more apparent to those who would render them invisible.
  • Learning spaces should be constructed to facilitate community members’ ability to see their narrative in the context of the information shared.
  • The use of popular education models, multi-media, community and individual narratives is valued to make meaning out of data and policy issues.
  • Leadership development  transcends generation, is transformative and is best supported through mutual practice where knowledge and skills are shared and honed and authentic relationships are developed


To demonstrate our commitment to reflect our values around learning and leadership development, Democracy North Carolina has developed the following set of goals.

  • Create spaces–virtual and in-person — where issues and policies related to voting rights and money in politics can be addressed by sharing lessons from our history as a state and nation,  exploring what is happening in governmental structures,  and developing new strategies and innovative practices
  • Increase the knowledge and skills of community leaders working on voting rights efforts
  • Strengthen the number and capacity of young people who will be champions for voting rights in this and future generations
  • Build a diverse network of leaders and community members who have the ability to communicate and work in partnership across the lines of difference (race, class, gender, sexuality, age, region, educational background, etc.) 

For more about how we achieve these goals, click here.

These goals are achieved by:

  • Creating spaces – virtual and in-person – where issues and experiences related to voting rights and money in politics can be shared and strategies and innovative practices can be developed.
  • Increasing the knowledge and skills of community leaders working on voting rights efforts.
  • Strengthening the number and capacity of young people who will be champions for voting rights in this and future generations.
  • Building a diverse network of leaders and community members who have the ability to communicate and work in partnership across differences (race, class, gender, sexuality, age, region, educational background, etc.)

Our Learning and Leadership Development Programs

Democracy has a diversity of programming we provide to facilitate learning and leadership development. Our programs include:

  • Pathways to Power (The Remix!)
    • Our core Pathways to Power training is a two-day, hands-on learning experience. Participants are community members who are already engaged in community activism or organizing and are ready to develop a keener analysis of power, systems of oppression, and North Carolina’s political history and culture. Pathways also provides community members with an introduction to strategy development tools and an opportunity to apply those tools to situations in their community. Pathways participants deepen their relationship with our organization by making a year-long commitment as a Democracy Advocate to work on a community campaign or initiative that they identify during the workshop.
  • We the People! (New!)
    • Many people in our community are marginalized by systems of oppression and discouraged or prevented from participating in civic engagement. They are marginalized because of their age, class, race, sexual orientation, or lived experiences. They may be the working poor, individuals involved in the justice system, immigrants, queer, or youth, and they often do not have the opportunity to participate in supportive learning spaces. Democracy North Carolina is committed to providing an abbreviated version of Pathways called We the People! in partnership with community groups with marginalized constituencies.This one-day learning experience focuses more on the individual journey of the participants and uses more Popular Education and Pedagogy of the Oppressed approaches than the standard Pathways curriculum. Participants will also be introduced to historical and contemporary narratives related to voting rights and civic participation via film, music and cultural arts. We the People! can stand alone or as a joint learning experience and can be a precursor to participating in the two-day Pathways for Power program.
  • Pathways Training Institute (Coming summer 2014!)
    • We receive multiple requests to provide community members and other social justice organizations with train the trainer opportunities as well as access to our Pathways curriculum. Many of our Democracy Advocates who have participated in Pathways to Power have expressed an interest in being supported in developing training skills so that they can facilitate training in their communities. Because we believe that all community members are wisdom-bearers and leaders, we need to invest in strengthening their skill-set to hold intentional learning spaces. The Pathways Training Institute will provide the basics of training and facilitation as well as a deep dive into the Pathways to Power curriculum. The first day and half of the three-day Institute will focus on the nuts and bolts of facilitation, Popular Education, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, etc. The last day and a half will provide participants with a thorough understanding of the Pathways curriculum content and facilitation approach. Democracy North Carolina plans to offer the first Pathways Training Institute in early 2015.
  • Democracy Summer Internship
    • Built on the legacy of Freedom Summer, Democracy North Carolina has provided a life-changing community organizing experience for students from colleges across the state since 2000. After an intensive, three-day orientation, teams of Democracy Summer students are placed in communities for nine weeks under the supervision by our staff organizers. They develop work plans, learn the basics of grassroots organizing, and engage in a variety of strategies for civic engagement. They gain skills that will serve them throughout their lives, from public speaking to facilitating meeting, as well as a greater respect for the wisdom of the people in the communities where they work. At the end of their experience, each team provides a Presentation of Learning that highlights their work and learning. Because we offer a $2,500 stipend, we can attract a broad range of students. More than 60% of the Democracy Summer organizers have been people of color, and the cross-cultural learning is a feature the students consistently say they gain from the program. Democracy Summer is effectively producing the next generation of social justice advocates.
  • Skill and Issue-based Learning
    • Because Democracy North Carolina has a long track record with community organizing, research and advocacy, we are often asked to sponsor or participate in skill or issued-based gatherings in communities. These are often focused on the technical or practical aspects of GOTV work, voter registration, and election protection or voter engagement. The issue-based gatherings tend to be focused on policy issues that are emergent or particularly complex. For example, Democracy North Carolina hosted 27 community-based dialogues across the state related to North Carolina’s new voter suppression law. Because the law is complex and echoes the devilish Jim Crow era, we called our gatherings the “Monster Law Tour.” Each event gave participants accurate and timely information about the new law, as well as a learning space to discuss a menu of volunteer opportunities with Democracy NC and develop a plan of action. We have also hosted or co-facilitated conversations on a wide range of topics related to the political process, money and politics, and grassroots empowerment.

Requesting a Training

To request more information about our training programs, click on the link and complete the form: http://demnc.co/TrainingRequest.

“A long-range goal to me is a direction that grows out of loving people, and caring for people, and believing in people’s capacity to govern themselves.”

— Myles Horton