The point of a Wildfire Jumpstart Process is that it is an intervention into real, live crisis, so the process is fluid, dictated by the circumstances. Still, a Jumpstart Process is generally divided into three phases:
Phase 1: Fighting Fire with Fire
The beginning of a Jumpstart Process is really about a assessing a crisis that’s already in motion, by working closely with impacted community members and embedded activists. Based on the real circumstances and needs, Wildfire team members join the organizing effort to help build a strong grassroots group of impacted community members. One of Wildfire’s central contributions to an organizing effort like this is to help create space for regular and frequent community meetings where local leaders can draw new people into the struggle, and where community members can participate in political education, skills training, group development, and campaign planning. Through the leadership development, mentoring, and education that takes place in that space, local activists and community residents gradually take it over and manage it themselves, while organizing in the community to build a powerful base that can win. As this process – sometimes taking many months – comes to fruition, Wildfire team members become facilitators and supporters rather than organizers, allowing the group to develop autonomously from the Wildfire Project as a training project and network. Wildfire trainers work hard to balance the complex needs on the ground – on one hand investing deeply and personally to help the group form and succeed, and at the same time always working to create a situation where the group has a strong enough center to lead itself.
Phase 2: Stoking the Flames
Phase 2 in the Jumpstart Process begins when it’s clear that the organizing until then has led to the development of a group able to undergo a process as a unit to some degree. Phase 2 is an educational process for that group, and in that sense, it is not so different from its parallel in the Group Process. Wildfire trainers facilitate seminars in or near the group’s organizing environment and combines a unique synthesis of political education, organizing skills training, group-building, and leadership development. The process also engages directly with the group’s active campaigns, generates effective work-plans and practice opportunities for the time between seminars, and strengthens the group’s strategic plan for the future. The time between seminars (which ranges depending on the stage and needs of the group) is spent continuing the organizing work the group is already engaged in with a renewed focus toward long-term goals, attention to themes covered in seminars, and new tasks the group generates for itself in order to practice and experiment with new skills learned. The only major difference between Phase 2 in the Jumpstart Process and Phase 2 in the Group Process is that in this case, the group is still very early in its development, is still in crisis, and needs a greater focus on developing a shared group identity and organizational structures that reduces dependency on outside organizations or trainers.
Phase 3: Spreading the Wildfire
Phase 3 in the Jumpstart Process is the same as other Wildfire processes. In truth, the real work begins after the program, as the group continues to grow and develop in action, using the tools gathered in training to become a cohesive, visionary, skilled, and politically grounded force in the movement. The Wildfire Project maintains contact with the group by supporting its organizers, offering continued training, connecting it to other Wildfire groups, and consulting when helpful. Most importantly, the group will have the opportunity to participate in trainings and convergences that bring Wildfire groups together to work across issue lines, continue to train, identify common objectives, go through trainings to become trainers themselves, and build shared structures for the movement work ahead.
*** A good example of a Wildfire Jumpstart Process is the organizing that The Wildfire Project carried out in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy alongside community residents, Occupy Sandy, and others in Far Rockaway. That work resulted in the emergence of a community-led organizing group, Far Rockaway Wildfire, with which Wildfire team members and a strong group of allies still work closely.