Lizzie Foley is a Harvard graduate, author and community organizer.
Lizzie Foley is a Harvard graduate, author and community organizer.

Drew’s Freedom School Initiative presents Lizzie Foley of NJ 11th for Change.

April 2017 – A leader of a grassroots coalition explained how to effect change during a talk at Drew University.

Feeling frustrated after the 2016 presidential election, Lizzie Foley helped mobilize fellow residents of the 11th Congressional District to do something constructive. Together, they created NJ 11th for Change, which advocates for more transparency and better representation from U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.

NJ 11th for Change calls for greater transparency and better representation.
NJ 11th for Change calls for greater transparency and better representation.

At Drew, Foley was the guest of the University’s Freedom School Initiative, a new collective of students, professors and staff that aims to expand the understanding of social justice. Via workshops, the program offers practical advice on non-violent resistance and community organizing. Here are Foley’s three best tips for organizing communities.

Embrace social media

Facebook in particular has been a powerful tool for NJ 11th, enabling members to share ideas, add friends and neighbors and plan meet-ups. Looking back on the launch of the coalition, Foley said: “Facebook turned out to be our best friend.”

Take stock of your resources

Associate Professor Kesha Moore helps run the workshop.
Associate Professor Kesha Moore helps run the workshop.

Coalition members regularly ask each other, “Who knows how to do this?” That basic query enables the group to match talents to tasks, be it staging protests, writing letters or organizing social activities. “What we started finding out is we have a lot of deep talent in the group,” Foley said.

Remember the power of yes 

In the beginning, NJ 11th members regularly shot down ideas and accomplished little. The solution? A change in tone. “We actually had a discussion and made the decision that … every time someone wanted to do something, we were going to say, ‘yes.'”

Fellow NJ 11th member Jon Wilkins also spoke during the workshop. His advice? Know your goals, don’t treat volunteers like employees, say thank you a lot and build a narrative or “origin story” about your group.

Upcoming Workshops

This semester, the Freedom School initiative has presented five workshops. Here are the next two:

April 20: “Street Justice: Protecting the Lives of Black and Brown Youth”
Craig Chapel, Seminary Hall, 6-8 p.m.

May 8: “Voices of Our Youth”
Original scenes, monologues, poems, songs and dance created and performed by high school students from Newark. The students were mentored by Drew students via the course, Theatre in the Community.
Dorothy Young Center for the Arts, 5-7 p.m.