Building New Power through leadership development

There are many important stories coming out of the 2014 General Assembly – the outcomes of bills, the work of citizen lobbyists, the story of all the rallies and lobby days KFTC participated in.

For me, one of the highlights of KFTC’s work in the General Assembly – and, really, a highlight of all the work KFTC does – is the leadership development that happens around the session.

Throughout the session, KFTC is committed to developing leaders and helping their voices be heard. Whether it’s my friend Al lobbying for the first time. Or Mantell from Lexington taking his turn at the mic in front of the large crowd at the Voting Rights Rally. Or all the KFTC members who serve on various strategy teams that, throughout the session, contribute to our collective game plan … KFTC is about developing leaders.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about KFTC’s approach to leadership development.

As more folks develop their leadership skills, they’ll bring more of their friends and neighbors into the work and we’ll be steadily building the power we need to create a bright future for Kentucky.

Through my work with KFTC, I’ve become involved in the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice Family Advisory Committee. We’re thinking about what it would take to build a national movement of low-income families who join their voices and take action on important issues facing our communities.

As I think about what it will take for that to be successful, I keep coming back to KFTC’s focus on leadership development. It is a critical piece of our work.

KFTC’s commitment to leadership development has changed my life. Before I became involved in KFTC, all I’d experienced was an exclusion from decision-making. I thought only a few had power and I didn’t see how my voice could have an impact. I felt so disconnected and deeply cynical.

But then I found KFTC.

As KFTC members, we meet community members where they are. We start with simple conversations. We learn what’s important to folks. People begin to feel heard. They begin to feel like their perspective is important. They begin to see people standing in solidarity. They begin to feel like they can change things, that their voice matters.

There are lots of ways that KFTC members can develop their leadership skills. We host issue trainings and conferences. We work with folks to develop spokesperson skills. We teach basic organizing skills like how to plan a good meeting. We help folks feel empowered to engage in conversations – in chapters, with allies and even with legislators who don’t necessarily agree with our positions.

And this happens all the time within KFTC, throughout all our work. That’s why we call leadership development “the first among equals” of our strategies.That’s what happened to me, and I no longer feel powerless and disconnected. I know that I can have an impact.

Why is this leadership development important? For me, it’s about making our democracy healthy. We have to diversify who is engaged in our democracy, who is being heard. We want to build New Power in which regular folks like me feel we have a voice, that if we connect with others, we can create sustained power to tackle problems and create change.

Within KFTC, there’s room for everyone. We’re looking for leaders at all levels, folks who’ll work alongside others to fight for justice. As more folks develop their leadership skills, they’ll bring more of their friends and neighbors into the work and we’ll be steadily building the power we need to create a bright future for Kentucky.

I’m proud of every member who lobbied in Frankfort, attended a rally, called the message line or wrote a letter to the editor. I’m proud of every KFTC member who organized a carload of friends to come to a lobby day, who talked with their friends and family about one of KFTC’s legislative issues, who shared an action alert on their Facebook page.I’m so proud of the work KFTC did during the legislative session. It was putting our leadership skills into action.

All those things are courageous acts of leadership. It just takes one step – a start – and then you become more empowered. Each of these steps give power to the people.

And it’s those acts of leadership – big and small, all year long – that are helping KFTC to build New Power that strengthens our democracy and creates the change we want in our communities.