The Virginia Progressive Leadership Program (VAPLP) is holding its tenth pod, a small cohort of 15-17 leaders. This year’s program will take place from May – August 2024. The program is composed of two primary components: learning retreats and mentorship. You can find more information about those program components below, as well as information around accessibility, the application process, and FAQs.
Each participant must attend all learning retreats and participate in the entire duration of the weekends (Friday afternoon – Sunday afternoon) to successfully complete the program.
This first retreat sets the foundation for the rest of the program. We explore an analysis of the “what” and “why” of Virginia as it is today – unpacking the social & political movement history, uprooting white supremacy culture, and identifying our own roles in the social change ecosystem. We then explore the depths of our radical imaginations and vision what a liberatory future for Virginia looks like… and strategize how we aim to get there.
The core of our approach is rooted in organizing as a practice to build community and relationships rather than to solely win campaigns. We’re focusing on organizing as a sustainable practice and political home for those most on the margins.
We’ll start with a reflection on the movement leaders whose shoulders we stand on and then move towards key components of community organizing, including base-building, leadership development, campaign development, and generative conflict & principled agreement. We’ll host a speaker panel of local community organizers. Then, we’ll close with a simulation and tactical practice of organizing strategy. Most of these learnings come from the School of Unity and Liberation, Southerners on New Ground, the Highlander Center, Movement Strategy Center, Center for Community Change, and other movement scholars.
The bulk of the workshops are focused in narrative change & strategy. Through numerous case studies and role plays, participants will unpack narrative change through understanding your audience, framing & messaging, and evaluating narrative campaigns. Sprinkled throughout is the practice of storytelling. Participants share their stories of self, us, & now, listen to work from spoken word artists, share their own poetry, and craft stories of our liberatory futures. This curriculum is adapted from the learnings of BIPOC narrative campaigns and organizations like the Center for Story-based Strategy, the Butterfly Lab at Race Forward, and Narrative Initiative.
We hold the tension of the value of financial capital (aka money) in a racist and capitalist society, and within the nonprofit industrial complex, by spending equal time exploring alternatives and practices for the next economy while gaining practical skills and tools to fundraise in the economy that exists today. We draw on the work of solidarity economies, mutual aid, community-centric fundraising, trust-based philanthropy, and new economy practices.
This is also the last retreat of VAPLP, so the last day is spent reflecting on this leadership journey and celebrate our shared growth with our friends & family.
Participants are paired with a mid- to senior-level mentor with shared lived and/or field experience. The mentorship program operates in between program weekends, primarily virtual. Throughout four 60-minute mentorship sessions, participants develop their goal/s and an action plan for next steps post-graduation. Both the participant and the mentor can choose to close or continue the relationship upon completion of the program. Take a peek at past mentors here.
Connect with the VAPLP Team to learn more
Email the VAPLP Team
Attend an info session
Meet virtually for a one-on-one
- Empathy + Growth Mindset: can relate to and care about others’ experiences; have demonstrated comfort to lead with vulnerability
- Effective Communication: are able to listen deeply and lean into difficult conversations
- Relationships + Community: committed to the wellbeing of others; are able to build authentic, safe, and sustainable relationships
- Commitment to Equity + Social Justice and Intersectional Analysis: are conscious of the world around them and the unique ways identity manifests and shows up
- Process as Product: live out values and intention to actualize personal and shared vision; committed to “how we do” as much as “what we do”
- Critically Reflective: are curious about personal assumptions, narratives, beliefs, values about self and others
- Self-Awareness: are aware of how their own identity shows up across lines of difference and power; applies strengths & asset-based lens
- Liberatory Imagination: invite in ways of being based on equity, community, and self-determination; desire for transformation to discard relationships that center power based in supremacy, division, and dominion
Most frequent questions and answers
Our program model is guided by a north star of liberatory leadership. As described by the Leadership Learning Community, liberatory leadership is an invitation to leaders to live out the compelling vision of collective liberation through the transformation of ourselves, our communities, and our institutions. Liberatory leadership is rooted in self-love and right-relationship with others and facilitates the power, joy, and thriving of all people.
Strategies for Social Change takes this idea further; liberatory Leadership operationalizes liberatory vision. It draws on numerous personal, organizational, and community practices that invite us to assess, reflect on, unlearn and discard relationships that center power based in supremacy, division and dominance, and invite in models based on equity, community, and self-determination.
Unlike holistic leadership development programs like Rockwood, political and public service leadership programs like Sorensen, or candidate training programs like Meet Our Moment, VAPLP provides training, networks, and resources to drive social movement strategies forward. Through reflection and analysis of the Virginia today and visioning of the Virginia as it should be, participants focus on three core skill-building topics to get there: community organizing, storytelling & narrative, and money & capital.
Our curriculum centers theory and practice from BIPOC movement leaders and organizations.
VAPLP is open to any Virginia resident who is actively doing social change work. We prioritize BIPOC folks and those with diverse lived experiences. Our program is for both emerging and enduring leaders. What we primarily look for is a set of characteristics:
- Empath + Growth Mindset
- Effective Communication
- Relationships + Community
- Commitment to Equity + Social Justice and Intersectional Analysis
- Process as Product
- Critically Reflective
- Liberatory Imagination
Each pod is multiracial and multigenerational. The demographics of Pod 9 include folks in age from mid-20s to mid-50s, primarily Black and other folks of the global majority, geographically across Virginia, and primarily women and trans/nonbinary folks. When we select the final participants for the pod, we’re not just considering each individual but we’re looking at the collective pod as a whole.
Each learning retreat will have a five-person team, three facilitators and two operations staff. Your program team for the entire summer is Nico Climaco, Leadership Development Manager, and John Frazier, Program Coordinator. The team for each learning retreat can be found here.
You can find a template for a Letter to Your Employer here. Make a copy and download it if you’d like to use it. This can be shared with your employer to make a case for attending the full length of the learning retreats. Upon acceptance, all participants will be required to sign an agreement with their employer to ensure that they will have capacity and approval to attend the learning retreats on-time on Fridays – Sundays. We recommend you starting the conversation with your employer earlier than later.
Unfortunately, we ask that you postpone applying until the following year. It’s crucial that participants attend the full length of all four learning retreats. If you know you won’t be able to attend the full extent of any learning retreat, it also takes away an opportunity from somebody who has that capacity. If you do end up missing a retreat fully or partially, you may be responsible to reimburse the Virginia Civic Engagement Table for any incurred expenses as per the Participation Agreement to be signed upon acceptance.
The Virginia Progressive Leadership Program strives to create an inclusive and respectful space for all participants. To do that, we have incorporated several ways to increase accessibility, including no-cost attendance, travel stipends, simultaneous Spanish-English language interpretation, all-gender restrooms, mobility access, sensory/quiet rooms, fidget toys, printed participant guides with visual aids, fragrance-free spaces, and more. We aim to ensure accessibility is not a barrier or determining factor for folks to attend. We don’t assume that we know all access needs or pose this as a comprehensive list of options and needs. As we build this community of care, we welcome folx to share any access needs – please email Nico directly at email@example.com.
Unfortunately, we are not able to offer childcare stipends as in years past. We hope to offer this again in the future.
Participants are required to travel to the sites on their own. Participants are eligible to receive a stipend based on distance to sites to cover the cost of travel upon acceptance to the program. The travel stipend will be calculated based on each person’s home address and the federal mileage reimbursement rate. Stipend rates and eligibility details can be found here. For participants without a vehicle, there will be a carpool signup for any travel during the program days itself. Please note that you’d request carpooling in the application.
Be prepared for an intensive weekend filled with workshops and community-building. Consistent feedback we receive is that each retreat is jam-packed with content and people time. There’s always an ask for more time to spend together and that it’s equally a lot of time spent together. We hold the tension of both, so we ask that you self-regulate and take time & space to rest when you need to. There are 15-minute breaks in between each workshop and no workshops go past dinner in the evenings. You can get a sense of the schedule here.
Lodging is varied between the retreats. We stay at a mix of retreat centers and universities.
At Smith Mountain Lake, we will be staying at the Skelton 4-H Center. Accommodations are hotel-style with each person having their own room and bathroom at the Hepler-Jamison Lodge.
In Fairfax, we will be staying at George Mason University. Accommodations are apartment-style with each person having their own room and potentially sharing a bathroom with one other person. Some basic linens will be provided, but we recommend folks bring comfort items.
In Hampton Roads, we will be staying at a university (exact location TBA) with similar accommodations to George Mason University.
In Buena Vista, we will be staying at Heartstone Retreat Center. Accommodations are a bit unique given the retreat center-style. Some folks will have their own room and private bathroom; others will be sharing rooms and bathrooms. All rooms are hotel-style with linens provided in their Suites, Studios, and Loft Dorm.