We may have our eyes on a better future, but the activist life often just looks like dog-paddling: dashing between meetings, events, and work, churning out blogs, leaflets and facebook invites. Planning for the long haul can get lost in the scramble, but taking the time to build strong, skilled, sustainable movements is as critical, if not as tangible, as keeping afloat day-to-day.

Such were my thoughts as I left my Tools for Change workshop, Campaign Planning 101. Tools for Change is a training collective in Toronto helping skill up activists, and they represent a long-term, collective investment in our movements, one that bucks the culture of individualism and commodification of each and every minute that keeps us dog-paddling and dashing around.  Active Greenpeace volunteers can attend trainings for free, and Tools for Change has made their trainings financially accessible for anyone, with sliding scales and scholarships availalble. Check out more info and upcoming workshops here.

Campaign Planning 101 was facilitated by Jennifer Huang of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and TTC Riders. Jennifer and the workshop attendees drew from experience campaigning at both grassroots and institutional levels, allowing for exchange between activists with varied skill sets and knowledges. As a bit of a newbie with little experience beyond the community organizing, learning how to employ concrete tools developed by high-level union activists was like learning how to draw order out of chaos. We learned how to use visual devices to map out political landscapes and strategies for navigating them. We drew charts and diagrams as we plotted hypothetical campaigns. I felt like a seasoned sailor charting a course through the high seas of a group brainstorm.

Just as important were the introductions, conversations, and skill-sharing between local activists. When we invest in our networks and each other, we cultivate a deeper and more enduring practice of solidarity. We build a sense of collective responsibility, to one another and to that better future.

Ava Lightbody is an activist and researcher based in Toronto, who also volunteers for Greenpeace.