The wisdom of the progressive movement needs a digital home.
Since 2016 hundreds of thousands of newly activated community organizers have hit the streets, the editorial pages, and the halls of Congress to join forces with veteran organizers in calling for “a more perfect union”.
These organizers need skills and tools for what is revealing itself to be the new normal – civic engagement and community organizing as a lifestyle.
Swell School offers intentionally curated content from progressive influencers on scaffolds already proven successful in the eLearning space. More than videos or webinars this is a full Learning Management System and community. Learning pathways incentivized by gamification make Swell School engaging and effective.
Over the past two years, many challenges for grassroots leaders have revealed themselves. These challenges are often related to interpersonal conflict, organizational development and equity. TSC is regularly called on to help. We provide coaching, facilitation and training, and we maintain a strong network of the nation’s most well respected trainers and facilitators working with these themes.
We recruit and coach trainers and facilitators, creating a platform for teachers and leaders, primarily from historically marginalized communities, to amplify their wisdom and support their work.
This project is more than a technology project. It is a relationship and capacity building project – that is our jam.
Why Swell School? Aren’t there already learning platforms out there?
We hoped you’d ask that! There are some beautiful and robust eLearning platforms out there already. Udemy, Lynda, Coursera to name just a few. They are great, but wading through them to find just the kinds of curriculum emergent leaders and change agents need can be a challenge. What to search? “Dismantle the Patriarchy”? “Hosting your First Protest”? “Avoiding Activist Burnout”? The courses may be hidden out there on those platforms but you have to wade through a ton of “How to Make your YouTube Millions!” and “Making Gluten-free Desserts” before you ever find them. Who has the time? Swell School is built on nearly identical architecture as Udemy. This user experience has already proven to be attractive to millions of users and Swell School will offer the same clean, easy to navigate interface to our participants and teachers, while serving up just the kind of content they are looking for.
As trainers and facilitators ourselves we spent several months researching platforms and couldn’t find the right fit for our type of content. We talked to other trainers and found them similarly stymied when trying to find the right place to launch their courses AND the technical help they needed to get their courses from a live experience to an effective online course. Swell School is unique in the eLearning space in that we will coach our community of trainers and teachers in developing their online courses. They wont just be left to muddle their way through tutorials alone. Swell School offers proven technology while also being heavy on the personal touch. Passive income generated for teachers and trainers will support their work and allow them to continue to serve the activist and organizer communities in new and innovative ways. Economic security is a regular challenge for those working in the gig economy. We hope Swell School will serve trainers and teachers, especially those from marginalized communities, to achieve some economic independence through the support of the global community of participants. Swell School will also serve to introduce the global community of participants to the work of teachers and trainers they may not have had the privilege of seeing live.
What kind of courses will be offered?
We currently have over 50 courses in development to serve the needs of change agents, activists and leaders and hundreds more in ideation phase. We are working with the nation’s best trainers in the movement to get their wisdom online. We are developing collaborative relationships with those organizations and individual trainers who have already deployed learning content online in order to amplify their work by linking them to other complementary content and creating learning pathways to incentivize completion of these pathways. Courses generally fall into the following themes:
• Collaboration and consensus building
• Diversity, intersectionality, power and privilege
• Facilitation skills
• Designing effective meetings
• Resiliency and wellness for change agents
• Civic engagement and influence
• Art, creativity and activism
We belong to a number of communities of change agents and leaders to stay abreast of the learning and skills building needs as they evolve and can be responsive to these needs. As stated earlier, this is as much a relationship and capacity building project as it is a tech project. We are also plugged-in to the diverse communities of teachers, trainers and leaders throughout the progressive landscape. Swell School will amplify the wisdom of women, people of color, and other voices often marginalized in teaching and learning spaces.
Aren’t there already courses available online to progressives?
Yes! There is some great content already online for progressives. We are in dialogue with a number of those creators to collaborate on linking the content together into learning pathways. By linking together existing videos, webinars and learning content around these themes and adding incentives for applying the knowledge in creative ways, we will amplify the great content already out there. Our plan is not to supplant any of the great work being done in this vein by others in the movement but rather act as “digital facilitators” to increase awareness, access and diffusion. Gamification is key.
What is “gamification”?
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “gamification is the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation.” What that means at Swell School is that our participants will be rewarded with badges, points and credits to spend and share for their completion of courses, their journeys through learning pathways, and for inviting other participants to Swell School. Beyond just digital accrual, we are exploring ways to issue actual patches, pins and/or challenge coins to participants so the digital community extends into real life too! Research suggests that gamification offers tremendous potential to engage and motivate. We intend to keep up the momentum unleashed in 2016.
We can get more and more change agents equipped with the skills they need. If we make it fun, we can amplify our impact.
How will Swell Collective use the money raised?
- Many of the tech projects that have arisen since 2016 to serve the movement have been helmed by startup wunderkinds who have been able to build incredible businesses out of their innovative ideas. That is terrific! Our model is a little different. The Swell Collective is a 501c3 nonprofit organization owned by our community so investments in this project contribute to its growth and operations, we don’t need to pay off investors. Our small crew of volunteers has gotten us this far but we need to accelerate the work in order to meet our target launch of Fall 2019. The money raised will allow us to hire a small team including:
- – a full time developer/designer to get the platform ready for prime time,
- – a content producer to handle video production and design of course materials.
- – a community manager to facilitate the growing community of teachers and participants.
We will be able to complete the build out of our own courses and convene the coaching groups of other trainers to develop and deploy their courses. With your investment we will be able to kick-off our marketing campaign to enroll participants and recruit more instructors.
Our business plan forecasts Swell School being self-sustaining after one year. Income realized beyond the platform’s operational needs will go to support our IRL offerings allowing us to bring our collaborative leadership & resiliency curriculum and facilitation to coalitions and collaborative efforts all over the US.
That’s not all. Because we don’t have to secure big profits for investors we can ensure that everyone will have access to Swell School regardless of their ability to pay with financial capital. Through scholarships and credits earned for social sharing, the platform will be accessible to all. To the best of our knowledge, there are no other eLearning platforms that can offer unrestricted access to all content for participants unable to afford course fees or site subscriptions.
What is the timeline?
With your help, we will fully launch in the Fall of 2019 but you can see the site now and watch it evolve at school.swellcollective.org.
What impact will Swell School have?
Not gonna lie. We have big dreams. With your help, we are positioned to have significant impact over the next 5 years. Will you be a part of it? If you’ve made it this far, we’ve definitely piqued your interest. Wont you invest in Swell School? #goodgrows