‘Republicans now control the Senate, House, and more state legislatures than they have in almost 200 years. Those losses have emboldened the right to launch an all-out attack against our nation’s creed — that all are created equal. <…> Resistance School is building a national network of progressives committed to in-person collective action,’ reads the brief on the Resistance School official website. Some time ago, graduate students of the Harvard University started the Resistance School to find out how can they most effectively fight Donald Trump’s agenda. Today, the School counts more than 11,000 followers and 5,000 participants and offers 4 educational courses to teach the community how to start a movement and keep the activists together. The members of the School associate themselves with the Harry Potter’s ‘Dumbledore’s Army’.


The need to start changing


The Resistance school is an educational anti-Trump activism project made by progressive graduate students at the Harvard University who have created the School in response to the presidential election 2016. The goal the School is fighting for is clear: Its founders want to support the transformation of their country back to a truly great America. The planned course lasts four weeks and is free for everyone. The founders expect socially active youth from all over the world but mainly US citizens who are dissatisfied with the election’s result to join the School and make America free of Trump again. On the website, the School describes itself as a functional education program made to clarify tools needed to fight the Republicans back at the federal, state, and local levels. The School’s main task is ‘to keep the resistance movement ‘alive’ by detailed learning, society engagement, and forward-looking performance. 

How did the school start? Shortly after the inauguration of President Trump, a group of the Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government students and graduates came together to reflect on what a new government could mean for liberal values. What started as a small conversation, by late February turned into an activistic movement called the ‘Resistance School‘. A plan – to organize four-part sets of online lectures aimed at fighting Trump’s agenda back – emerged at the same time. ‘We just came together as a group of friends who care about something in common. And it just turned into this thing,’ said Yasmin Radjy, a second-year public-policy student and one of the founders of the School, in an interview with the Boston Globe. This ‘thing’ mutated into a large-scale student’s movement, into a student ‘army’ focused on a big social and political change. ‘We were trying to figure out what we wanted to do with the political energy and activism that we were seeing in this country. We sort of came up with doing something that was really focused on skill-based training to sustain our movement,’ Yasmin’s ‘colleague, Shanoor Seervai, said in a conversation with the HuffingtonPost.

Dumbledore’s Army

The Resistance School is completely student-run and has no official connection with the Harvard University. Its members prefer to associate themselves with the ‘Dumbledore’s Army‘ as a reference to the ‘Harry Potter’ films and a group of wizarding students who secretly meet to exercise opposing dark magic. ‘It came up as a joke, and I think something about our logo feels Harry Potter-esque,’ Yasmin Radjy said. According to the group’s Facebook page, which has gathered more than 11,000 followers, this magical Army has collected at least 5,000 associations from six continents and activists from all 50 states. ‘This past election was a wake-up call for policies that have been hurting families across this country for much longer and have been undermining progressive values for a long time at local and state levels,’ Radjy said. ‘We want to keep the embers of the resistance alive.’

The School’s team wants many people who are either new to the political process or have some experience to get involved in the movement. To organize their community and keep it, as announced, ‘alive’ the School’s founders started teaching courses which topics vary from discussions about preparing and forming grassroots efforts to learning how to maintain impulse for the long term. According to lectures’ description, experts in public policy and advocacy, community organizers, and human rights activists, including former campaign staffers for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former President Barack Obama, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, will organize and participate in the sessions.

Resistance Courses

The School includes four in-person and live-streamed sessions, which were held through the month of April. The lectures explore how to communicate values in politics, mobilize activists and organize communities, structure and build capacity for action, and sustain long-term resistance. ‘The energy in the country right now is amazing,’ Radjy said in this regard. ‘There are so many people who want to do things around how to be politically active.’

Session 1. How to Communicate our Values in Political Advocacy. The opening session of Resistance School dives into the moves necessary for involving effective communication for change by creating on history, exploring the tools of value-based co-working, and finally reviewing the most important ways to perform the big change in our world. Historian and activist Timothy McCarthy explained how to develop a compelling frame and narrative for initiating meaningful conversations that build bridges and connect people through stories.

Session 2. How to Organize and Mobilize our Communities. In the second session of Resistance School, grassroots organizer Sara El-Amine tells about the inefficient emphasis recent elections have placed on mobilizing compared to coordination and how coordination can allow a community to better mobilize in the future. Sara gives her students the key components of successful issue-based and electoral campaigns and focuses on the importance of getting the people involved in those efforts. This lecture ends with ways one could try to convince fellow voters shown as a more fundamental exercise in reinforcement the framework of our democracy.

Session 3. How to Structure and Build Capacity for Action. In the third session of Resistance School, senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard University Marshall Ganz demonstrates how individuals can determine their ability to lead within teams. Ganz has formed one of the most famous approaches to movement’s management and organizing.  During the session, he also reviews types of leadership and grassroots organizing clarifying a successful team dynamic. This lecture looks more like an instruction for how individuals across the world can start their own teams.

Session 4. How to Sustain the Resistance Long Term. In the School’s final lecture, New York Assemblyman and DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake explains how to build associations and support movements over long periods of time. Referring to the examples, Blake shows why and how movements must be mapped strategically and how the best movements are built from aligned impacts and goals. In the end, Blake speaks about a ‘correct’ sharing and how shared benefits help the leader win hearts and minds of his followers.

All sessions, lectures, and videos are in free access and can be watched by everyone who’s interested in learning more about grassroots organizing and activists’ motivation.

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