„Advocacy and base building” – this was the training that was most interesting to me when I was encouraged to apply to the School of Public Life. I had become interested in community organizing and many other things such as the operation and function of nonprofit organizations, the advocacy work of civil activists, the engagement of those who are open to support good causes, and many other things that I have been already doing, but I could not always explain in professional terms what I am actually doing. So it was time to find a place where I can get some help with this!
When I was approaching Gólya Presszó in the 8th district in the morning, the landscape did not seem like Rózsadomb, to say the least. The whole place appeared too alternative to me at first sight: building operations, noise and mud. Gólya was furnished with the junked stuff of underground pubs.
Then we started the course. We had two trainers: Tessza, who I had already heard to speak at a another event, and Gyula Balog. I am not sure if I have to say, but it was not something I was used to. After four universities and countless trainings, what am I going to learn from a homeless man? I was waiting curiously, and it was good that I did. I was worth it!
We immediately started with climbing the six steps of advocacy, and by the time we got to the top, my insight into the trainers, the other participants and the venue became totally different. The place, which had been dreary before, became homely and functional. The quality of a training does not depend on the venue, but on the people and what the people are doing and saying. This is true to such an extent that the place was also changed by these people, as I could experience it that weekend.
We closed the session on advocacy with a map of power analysis, and we addressed the different possibilities of communication with those in power. The trainers could actually tell me new things after so many other trainings on communication I had attended before, because the way they presented negotiations with those in power had some special features which are not taught at management schools. The sharing of concrete stories, examples and experiences seemed even more important than the theoretical background.
On the second day, I was welcomed by the homely and friendly Gólya where we had a very nice lunch again. Fruit, cookies and tea were provided during the whole day. As an introduction, we dealt with the different types of civil movements and the classical onion-model of grassroots organizations. The big AHA experience for me was the different ways in which nonprofit organizations are able to grow and increase their base. The concrete example of The City is for All served as a perfect model of networking and for the creation of satellite organizations.
Finally, we turned to the external and internal communications of our own organizations. We gave a radio interview and designed and presented a campaign. We did and could not stop and it was incredible that the two days were over, and the training came to an end.
I have already participated in many trainings, including a lot of good ones, and I can say that what has been created by Tessza, Gyula and the participants was of an exceptional quality. I would emphasize only one aspect, which describes the atmosphere and the working method really well: while in other trainings people usually feel a kind of pressure to do or not to do something, to say something or not to say something, here I never had such a feeling. Everyone participated in the things as much as they wanted, but everyone had an equal opportunity to take part and express his or her opinion. This was real democracy in practice.