Backpack is a Program for Campaign Professionals

Whether you are working in union organizing, electoral campaigns, issue-based advocacy, non-profit campaigns, or social entrepreneurship - Backpack is a program that can help you accelerate the change you want to see in the world. Backpack training has been used to develop campaigns of all sizes in different types of community organizing. If the work is worth doing, it is worth doing smarter, more focused, and with intention. 

Contact us to see how we can help accelerate your campaigns.

What is the Backpack?

Brain Change provides training and intensives on organizing. Organizing is defined by Marhsall Ganz as: "leadership that enables your people to turn their resources into the power they need to make the change they want.” The Backpack is an organic, adaptable acceleration program with multiple components grounded in storytelling. The Backpack is a real-world, field-tested program informed by academic and popular theories and ideas from the robust ecosystem of English-speaking community organizing. Whether in labour organizing, the student movement, electoral campaigns, or issue-based campaigns - the Backpack has a host of best practices to offer in accelerating change and creating the change we want to see in the world. The Backpack is a living, breathing, organic set of teachings and best practices that are subject to fault, success, and evolution. 

View the curriculum below:


Training/Intensive Modules

The following modules are core components of the Backpack. Each module name includes a gerund - active verbs that signify action. All of the modules are presented as components that contribute to good campaigning. Modules can be presented separately; however, they were developed in conjunction with, and interact with one another. Trainings and intensives can be developed using any number of the modules based on your needs. 

Organizing Campaigns

An introduction to the idea of organizing, defined by Marshall Ganz of Harvard University - “Organizing is leadership that enables your people to turn their resources into the power they need to make the change they want.”

Being Inclusive

All disruptive work to change systems must come from a grounding in equity. Campaigns must constantly work to dismantle systems and processes of oppression, always. Learning how to critically approach the work you do through an equity-seeking lens is essential.

Sharing Your Stories

Public Narrative is a structured approach to storytelling that situates stories in a context of self, us, and now. Bringing a personal story forward, with the intention of sharing, and asking something specific of the listeners

Coaching Leadership

A radical departure from typical top-down experiences of leadership, coaching recognizes and enforces a decentralized power model based on humility and a desire for constant growth without personalizing and demonizing fault, mistakes, and responsibility.

Fostering Resilience

The challenges that your campaigns are attempting to change can be incredibly hard. Knowing that people are your number one resource, there are ways in which you can build resilience amongst you and your teams to ensure sustainability and effectiveness, even under difficult and challenging circumstances.

Nurturing Relationships

People are your number one resource, always. Organizing relationships require intentionality. They are relationships that are cultivated and grown; they can also wither, go dormant, or die.

Building Teams

Once relationships are established, you can do the work of ensuring that there are roles that meet the needs of your work and that these roles have core criteria to be successful. Building teams is different for every group, but there are core principles that are necessary in any functional team.

Developing Strategy

Strategy starts with acknowledging that you have limited people and resources. How your prioritize and direct those resources and people will determine the longevity and sustainability of your work.

Setting Goals

Goals are functions of our interests. Our goals are what we want done. But we don’t go from A to B in reaching goals. Goals are A to Z and every permutation in between.

Perceiving Power

Deeply theoretical and extremely difficult to name, power is how all relationships between people operate. Recognizing that power comes in different forms, what are the ways in which power can be used to create the change we are trying to make.

Using Theory of Change

This simple, yet challenging tool requires us to dig deep and interrogate whether we are in fact creating the conditions for change. Mainly, Theory of Change asks why this strategy or action will be successful.

Choosing Actions

What do we want to do with the resources you have? What actions are there that you can take that will help solidify your position, use your strategy to prioritize your resources and work towards your goals.

Teaching Materials

Backpack includes a full suite of training materials, resources, and readings that help facilitate learning. All the modules are incorporated into slide decks, worksheets, and readings, available to participants. Some of the materials are attached below:

READING | Why Advocacy Doesn't Work

READING | Why Advocacy Doesn't Work

Advocacy isn't an end goal by itself. Recognize that providing information cannot be your sole purpose. Information is rarely scarce, courage to make strong decisions is often scarce. This short reading provides a short and direct explanation of how advocacy isn't enough through Brian Chang's experience in the HIV/AIDS non-profit sector. 

WORKSHEET | Backpack - Values

WORKSHEET | Backpack - Values

Core values are powerful expressions of important ideas we have of the world. They are persistent, deeply held values that affect how we interact with others, the things we want in the world, and our ideal world. This worksheet helps identify some of the values and a starting place to see how shared values can bind people together.

SLIDES | Conversations for Change: More than just Canvassing

SLIDES | Conversations for Change: More than just Canvassing

This Canvassing training was developed for the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. Including best practices, information on types of canvasses, marks, lists, and emotional intelligence. This training was uniquely developed for Labour Council.  

Trainings in Action