Established in 2010, The Organizing and Leadership Academy’s (TOLA) mission is to train the next generation of grassroots organizers and leaders.

Our country faces significant challenges. Despite the wealth of our country, many people suffer because of the lack of affordable health care, the lack of good jobs, and poor educational opportunities. Low voter participation among young people and among the poor, and the need to integrate immigrants into the fabric of our society are persistent challenges. Nimbyism inhibits economic development or stalls projects that can provide jobs and housing. Our governmental institutions and elected officials are often overly influenced by Big Money or special interests.

To overcome these obstacles or to find solutions to these problems, an individual is often overwhelmed and overmatched. However, by working with others it’s possible to build enough power to solve problems. An effective organizer can be the catalyst for change. In communities around the country, effective organizers have sparked the civil rights movement, efforts to improve schools and economic development.

Many organizations are looking for organizers to work in communities to help address these problems. Individuals are also looking to learn practical and effective organizing skills to make improvements in their own communities. However, finding individuals who can develop into effective organizers, can be frustrating. Training people has also proven to be difficult and expensive.

TOLA is a one-of-a-kind “hands-on” training program for people interested and motivated to learn or brush up on their skills before pursuing a career in organizing.

TOLA Fellows spend sixteen weeks in a “real-life” organizing boot camp. During this intensive fellowship, fellows are assigned to existing community projects and campaigns and participate in classroom instruction.

Learn from founder Larry Tramutola how TOLA differs from taking a college course.

TOLA Fellows will gain an appreciation of the history of community organizing as well as understand their own motivations for doing this work. As they progress through this four-month academy, they will develop the fundamental skills necessary to become effective organizers including the use of a personal narrative to inspire others; an ability to listen and communicate persuasively; an ability to set goals and organize volunteers into action; and an ability to recruit and train volunteers in community outreach, door-to-door work, phone banking, and get-out-the-vote efforts.

At the end of each week, fellows are exposed to various guest speakers who share lessons and provide advice on how to be better organizers and leaders. Guest speakers have included Marshall Ganz, Larry Tramutola, Fred Ross Jr., Dolores Huerta, and other experienced and effective organizers.

TOLA Fellows receive a monthly stipend to help with living expenses.