What does justice-based governance and advocacy really look like? Let’s talk about SoPL!

By Marla Karina Larrave, Political Education Director, HEAL Food Alliance

At the HEAL Food Alliance we believe that all of us, no matter who we are or where we come from, deserve to have a say in the policies that affect our families and communities. We recognize the importance of getting progressive and justice-based activists and organizations politically seated, but also know that in order to change the current system of corporate dispossession and exploitation, our movement needs to support local campaigns that benefit families, working people, and our planet. 

HEAL created our School of Political Leadership in 2017 for this very reason – to develop justice-based governance and advocacy rooted in fair and sustainable food systems that truly work by and for all of us. We’re proud to say that to date, we’ve graduated 34 leaders from our School of Political Leadership and this year, we’ve welcomed 12 new leaders to our program!

SoPL officially kicked off our 4th cohort earlier this year with three incredible teams: Chinue, Dominique, Marco, and Chito, our “Rooted in Richmond Food Justice” team are working together to improve healthy food access & promote food sovereignty among low income residents of color in California’s Bay Area. Violeta, Felix, Brandin, and Nicholas, our “Illinois Food Alliance” team are organizing with food warehouse workers to push for better protection and safety measures. Bea, Jazmin, Ren, and Viviana, our “Together Honoring Earth’s Mycelia” team are honoring the sacred history and cultural practices of BIPOC foodways while cultivating a thriving real food community.

The communities that our SoPL teams represent have been purposefully excluded from major decision making processes and policies that directly affect their lives. We’re so excited to support the development of their campaigns this year through SoPL, in order to help drive control of our food system away from a few select corporations and politicians, and back into the hands of accountable leaders who are grounded in values that support equity, community, and care for our planet. 

So how exactly are we doing that?! 

SoPL is a six-month long virtual program. We’ve been through two intensive sessions with the cohort already. We spent the first SoPL session orienting the new cohort to HEAL’s purpose, our vision, mission and history, and talked about SoPL’s aim to shift accountable leadership, governance & political feasibility. We also spent time getting to know each other and the HEAL staff, to set the stage for the concepts and skills that we will dissect and build over the next several months together. 

During our second session we dug into political leadership life mapping and storytelling. The cohort increased their understanding of their personal trajectory/role in food and farm systems work as well as their confidence in anchoring their work in their own storytelling culture. We also engaged in political education via a movement timeline, root problems & visioning activity to diagnose root causes of incoming threats and ongoing abuses to land and life, and grounded ourselves in the need for cohort’s collective work. The two days that we spent together built a real sense of solidarity and shared struggle across race, sector, and geography and deepened our conviction to defend the most marginalized to make towards transformational change

We have four more sessions left, which will focus on power analysis & campaign strategy development, field & base building strategy, and communications campaign strategy and development. These sessions will dig deep into contextualizing the tools, knowledge, and skills our teams will need to lead campaigns and drive political change, and will set our teams up to present fully formed campaign plans that they will begin to implement together at their respective organizations after SoPL ends.

We’ve invited our 2022 SoPL leaders to reflect on each of the following sessions here in this space, so stay tuned to follow them on their journey and to learn more about how they are using SoPL to build political power in their communities.

And please take some time to meet the amazing SoPL cohort!