FEEST's Organizing StrategyIn 2021, FEEST overhauled our organizing strategy. Learn more about what we did below!
What We Did
From February to October 2021, 10 FEEST youth leaders, 9 staff, and 3 board members came together for 4 Strategy Retreats, 5 Pre Retreats, and 19 working group sessions to figure out how to build enough power to win our campaigns. The retreats and pre-work sessions were led and guided by our organizing coaches and mentors Eric Zachary (Co-Executive Director of Midwest Academy) and James Lopez (Executive Director of PowerU). During that time, we assessed our strengths, the extent of the problem with school food, and the gaps between our strengths and the problem.
We uncovered two fundamental challenges in our organizing work that limit our ability to build enough power to win – our narrow focus on improving food in schools, and our current practice of youth advocacy, rather than organizing.
The first solution we identified is to expand our campaigns beyond school food to encompass systems change in schools. The second solution is to concretely shift our practices from advocacy to organizing. This is for two main reasons: we want to be responsive to youth needs, and we need more power to win our campaigns. In order to build a larger base with enough people power to win, we need to work on issues that are widely and deeply felt by youth.
To fully shift to organizing, we identified key practices in 5 areas: Base Building, Leadership Development, Running Campaigns with Clear Solutions Directed at Decision Makers, Building the Organization, and Building the Movement. We drafted a mission statement, two vision statements for society and schools, an “about FEEST” section, and brainstormed who we want to build power with. We also created a youth leadership scale and took a deep dive into how youth decision making operates at every level of our organizing strategy, organizational structure, and board structure.
Why We Did It
We made a collective commitment to overhauling our organizing strategy because we don’t have time to waste. With the increase of climate catastrophes, political violence towards our communities, police murders of Black people, coronavirus and more, we understand that we are at a choice point. What we do in the next 5 years is going to be critical for the survival of our planet and the survival of our communities. We need powerful youth leading the way to more just futures, right now.
Youth organizing is a viable and necessary strategy to win. To truly shift power in the United States, we must support young people in shaping decisions that will impact generations to come. FEEST sees itself as part of a larger ecosystem of youth organizers across the country who are building power, escalating pressure on decision makers, and changing systems to actually serve our people. At FEEST, we know it’s crucial for us to train young people in organizing skills and strategic analysis so they can keep our movements for justice alive and growing for decades to come.
We know that in order to do this, we have to make a concrete shift from advocacy to organizing. This began with taking a deeper dive into our strategy work in the summer of 2020. At that time, we had just won our first large scale campaign to remove police from Seattle Public Schools with our partners Black Minds Matter and WABLOC. It was our first time truly organizing and proved more strategic and powerful than our advocacy work. This time, we showed power to decision makers, and could increase pressure on them if they refused to meet our demands.
However, we didn’t know how to replicate that process. We didn’t have a strong base of supporters we could recruit and mobilize for actions. We didn’t know how to run our own campaigns authentically led by and for youth. So we reached out to Eric and James to see if they could help us sharpen our basebuilding and organizing strategy.
Image is of Methods of Addressing Social Problems Chart by the Midwest Academy in their Organizing for Justice Training
What We Want to Try
From this strategy process, we have created a collective path forward to win the futures that our communities deserve. To help guide us in our new direction, we drafted new vision statements, a mission statement, and an “about” section. We also identified Key Organizing Practices, a Youth Leadership Scale, and Youth Decision Making Structures that we want to experiment with as an organization along with action steps for each. We believe these are necessary to reach our vision for better schools and the society we want to live in.
A strong vision statement is critical for us to win, because it illuminates the futures we’re fighting for and believe are possible. The statements below bring our visions for society and schools to life.
Vision Statement for the Society we want:
We envision a society where working class youth and families of color are thriving in vibrant, politically powerful communities. We see this society built on values that include, but are not limited to:
Transformative Racial, Economic, and Environmental Justice
- Eliminating oppression at its roots, prioritizing equity, and ensuring that everyone can live a healthy life on a sustainable planet
Interdependence and Collective Liberation
- Recognizing that our struggles are linked and that we need to build trust with each other and work together to achieve liberation for all people
- Those most impacted by injustice should be the primary decision makers on how to address it
Creativity and Radical Joy!
- We embrace our natural impulses for happiness and creativity to connect with each other, build community, and energize our movements
Vision Statement for the Schools we want:
We envision a today where youth of color and working-class youth exercise their power to change systems that serve them so that they can thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally. In our vision, schools are vibrant learning centers that reflect the students they serve and support the long-term growth and holistic wellness of students and our communities.
Image is of FEEST Youth Leaders, posing at the Fresh Flavor 2019 Photo Booth
Our mission statement gives us a clear path to our vision and the futures we deserve.
FEEST trains youth of color and working-class youth to build collective power and organize for transformative and systemic change in their schools.
Our About FEEST section grounds us in our organizing history and where we’re going.
FEEST trains youth of color and working class youth to build collective power and organize for transformative and systemic change in their schools. Our power comes from building a strong base, developing youth leaders, and running dynamic, radically joyful campaigns for systemic material change. Our work is both youth-led and multigenerational.
Our roots started in food justice and through that, we have won systemic improvements in school food in Highline and Seattle Public Schools. Since the 2020 campaign to remove police from Seattle Public Schools, we have expanded our campaign goals to include a wide range of systemic solutions that improve student wellness at school.
Why We Center BIPOC and Working-Class Youth:
To effectively organize around issues of injustice, those most impacted must lead our work. BIPOC and working-class youth are often disproportionately impacted by the social and economic issues we face in South King County and thus have a deep understanding of the problems and the solutions that will work best for youth. It is FEEST’s job to provide a space for training, coaching, and community-building so that our students can lead the creation of systems that serve our people.
Why We Need Youth-Led Intergenerational Movements:
At FEEST, we know it’s crucial to train young people in organizing skills and strategic analysis so they can keep our movements for justice alive and growing for decades to come. By also working with adults and elders, we can harness the unique strengths and knowledge of different generations to expand our strategies for applying pressure to decision makers. Together, we are a more powerful and sustainable force for systemic change.
In order to fully shift from advocacy to organizing, we need to ground ourselves in Key Practices and Action Steps to help us embody this change.
Base Building and Outreach
We need a strong base of people to build enough power to pressure decision-makers to make the changes we need.
Youth Decision Making
It is essential for us to prioritize youth leadership and decision making throughout our organization so that we are responsive to youth needs, and continue to train youth to step into their power. We identified three categories for Youth Decision Making: Campaigns, Coalition-building and Outreach, and Organization. For each category, we brainstormed the decisions we want youth to be able to make alongside FEEST staff and board, the support structures our team needs to make them, and the training they need to be successful.
We need to develop youth to be powerful leaders and organizers so that we have a sustainable, long-term movement for justice! We identified Youth Training, Youth Action, and Staff Development as our key categories for leadership development.
Building The Movement
We can’t win alone. It’s critical that we build people power with other organizations that are by and for our communities so that we can win our campaigns.
Special Thanks To:
MSW Intern/Consultant & Data Wizard:
FEEST Board Members:
FEEST Strategy Team: