Action Circles Academy

Policy Change Workshop 2016

Would you like to learn how to use advocacy to build your organization’s strength, capacity, and success?

With our trainings, you will learn how to apply the Action Circles model to:

  • Plan a winning campaign
  • Develop a compelling message and change the story
  • Identify and engage activists and supporters at all levels to maximize their effort
  • Build broad and deep leadership to increase your organization’s power and resilience

Contact us to inquire about custom workshops. We offer access to recordings of our webinars for a small fee.

“Citizens Awareness Network’s work with Action Circles was essential for us to move forward with a clear vision and effective goals. With Action Circles’ help we transformed our approach to organizing and created the necessary paradigm shift to accomplish our goals and protect our community.” – Deb Katz, Executive Director, Citizens Awareness Network


The Action Circles Academy is a series of modules we offer in three formats: series (multiple sessions over multiple days, or spread out over multiple weeks), workshop (single sessions, usually 1 or 2 hours unless noted) or webinar. Learn one or a number, but they all work together to make every component more effective. See an example of a full Academy Series lineup here.

Happy Ending

All campaigns must begin with the end in mind. Your HAPPY ENDING is a clear expression of how you will know when you have succeeded in achieving your goal. Writing your HAPPY ENDING is sometimes the most difficult part of a campaign, and it is also one of the most important steps. Knowing where you want to go will provide a touchstone at difficult moments in the campaign, so you can decide the most strategic actions at those times.

Does the proposed action lead to the happy ending?

Current Story Analysis & Message Development

Before you can develop a plan that leads to your HAPPY ENDING, first you must determine what story is currently being told, who is telling it, and what ending this story leads to. Then, you know the story that is being told and the BAD ENDING it leads to, and you know the ending you want – your own HAPPY ENDING. The next step is to determine how to CHANGE THE STORY so that it leads to your HAPPY ENDING instead of the BAD ENDING that you are heading toward now. This work will lead to your new message frame and talking points.

An overview of our Current Story Analysis process, the first step toward setting goals and developing strategy and messaging. You might know what you want the story to be, but do you really know what the current story is? Deep media analysis and reflection can give you the means to create an effective map to move from the current story to the ending you desire.

Power Analysis

A power analysis is used to assess where your power comes from, where your opponents’ power comes from, who else might have power in the situation, and how you can shift the power to your advantage. Paired with the work you have done to CHANGE THE STORY, your POWER ANALYSIS will help you to develop a strategy that leads you to your HAPPY ENDING.

Everyone has power, and not all power is the same. Learn about different types of power and how you can build smarter campaigns when you understand how to use them.

Build A Platform & Let Them Stand On It

For this part of the plan, first, identify who has the power to do the thing or things that lead to your HAPPY ENDING and then SET THE STAGE for them to do that thing and be celebrated for it. Building the stage often requires you to CHANGE THE STORY first.

Action Circles Organizing

Workshop version is 6 hours (includes time to do work for your group) – Each Participant will receive their own Action Circles Workbook

This module is best for leaders in an organization – staff, interns, board members

After the Workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Identify people who are interested in their work or cause and engage them in that work or action
  • Identify the infrastructure they need to build a strong organization and movement
  • Develop a plan to bring more people into their campaigns
  • Have more productive meetings and events
  • Identify and develop leaders in their organization
  • Avoid burnout in themselves and their organization
  • Get more done with the same resources

Invite, Support, Feedback

Learn how to issue calls to action and other communications with your members and activists in a way that will keep them interested and involved.

Hopes, Fears, Priorities

An Action Circles Activity to help you identify your group’s priorities.

This activity is designed to help a group come to consensus on a set of priorities that will help you move toward your overall goal. Ideally, when you do this exercise you already know what your overall goal is, but if you don’t this exercise can also begin to clarify the direction your group wants to move in, so you can build on the results of this exercise to develop your broader goal statement.

Fun Events

Events to get people interested in your work
Workshop version is 3 hoursEach Participant will receive their own Sign Me Up! Workbook

This module is best for people who are responsible for organizing people for a specific cause or group.

Fun Events are the first step in the Action Circles Model of Organizing. Fun Events are FUN and will help you find people who are interested in your issue and plug them into your campaign. Although these events require a fair amount of up front work, they pay off in a solid group of people who want to be involved in your work. This workshop is best for people who are responsible for organizing people for a specific cause or group. After this workshop, participants will know:

  • The key elements of an organizing event
  • How to create a workplan to get everything done on time
  • How to get people to come to the event
  • How to get people to sign up while at the event
  • How to design the event so people want to come back for another
  • How to get help to get it all done

Let’s Meet Again!

Meeting Design for effectiveness, satisfaction, and productivity.

This workshop is for anyone who wants to have better meetings.

After this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Define goals and objectives for every meeting
  • Develop an agenda that is satisfying and productive
  • Set up a meeting for maximum effectiveness
  • Get all meeting attendees to participate
  • Identify clear commitments made in the meeting
  • End the meeting clearly, with next steps and commitments

Tell My Story!

Working with the Media to Get Your Message Out

Workshop version is 6 hours (can be combined with another session to actually develop a media plan) – Each Participant will receive their own Tell My Story! Workbook

This module is for anyone who wants the media to tell their story.

How do you build a press list? Work with reporters to pitch a story? Get coverage for your press conference or event? When do you send a media alert or press release and what do you put in them? Find out how to do nitty gritty old school press work in this Action Circles module. After this module, participants will know:

  • The key elements of a media plan
  • When and How to have a press conference
  • How to develop a media list
  • How to cultivate relationships with reporters
  • When and How to use Letters to the Editor
  • How to pick the right spokespeople and how to direct the media to them
  • How to develop an effective media message
  • How to do an interview – TV, radio, newspaper
  • How to write a press release
  • How to pitch a story

Hosting Events for Policy Makers

Legislative forums, breakfasts, coffees, panels, etc.

Getting Ready for Candidate or Legislator Meetings and Events

One-on-one meetings and public events for candidates are great opportunities to highlight your organization and your issues. For these meetings and events to be effective, they should have some value for the candidates as well as for you. Remember, candidates are always struggling to find ways to talk to voters, distinguish themselves from other candidates, and get press coverage. If you can offer these things, candidates will appreciate the opportunity, even if they don’t agree with you on your issue. Because politics is all about relationships, building a base of goodwill with the candidates can help you in the long run. This webinar will help you have an effective event or meeting.

Tips for Testifying to a Legislative Committee

When a committee is working on a bill and you have a chance to testify, how can you best prepare? What should you say? How can you provide the most useful information? We’ll show you how to get the information you need and how to be an effective witness.

Sample AC Academy Series


The Action Circles Academy Series is a series of six classes where participants will learn how to apply the Action Circles advocacy model to:

  • Build broad and deep leadership to increase your organization’s capacity and strength
  • Develop a compelling message and change the story about your issue
  • Identify and engage activists and supporters at all levels, offering meaningful ways to participate that are effective and accessible

Participants will have some homework, but no more than 2 hours’ worth of work between classes. We will communicate via google group for the duration of the series, where folks can share thoughts, ask questions, etc.

Schedule at a glance:
Class 1 – Backstories Activity & Principles 
Class 2 – Happy Ending & Current Story Analysis
Class 3 – The Action Circles
Class 4 – Invite-Support-Feedback Communications Loop & Hopes-Fears-Priorities
Class 5 – Power Analysis & Build a Platform
Class 6 – Fun Events & Key Players in a Campaign 


All classes are 4:00 – 6:30 PM. Classes will be held on Tuesdays with one or two weeks between classes.


Classes will be in-person at the Action Circles office in Montpelier.

Participants who sign up should be committed to attending all six classes. The program cost of $600 includes all materials (in both paper and PDF format), six in-person classes, and three “reviews” sent after the 6 sessions are finished. 

This six-class course is limited to 10 people, so be sure to register today! Registration will close once the max capacity is reached. Participants must be either fully vaccinated or masked. 

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  1. Pingback: Thank you to Amy Shollenberger of Action Circles! « wbonstowe

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