For the Project Pengyou Leadership Summit this spring, we condensed 10 weeks of community organizing coursework into two-and-a-half days. The job fell to nine coaches to teach all that material to 40 strangers over a single weekend.
But these weren’t just any coaches—they were veterans of Marshall Ganz’s organizing and public narrative courses at Harvard. Each coach lectured on an aspect of the training and led a group of fellows through the material, from constructing a story of self to organizing a leadership team and mobilizing action.
The fellows spent 11-hour days studying the art of crafting a narrative and asking for commitments from strangers and their coaches were with them every step of the way. Emotions ran high as the coaches pushed them to look inward for the truest stories of self. Some fellows felt we were going too fast while others were frustrated they didn’t have more time to practice what they learned, but time, or the lack thereof, also proved to be a saving grace. As one fellow put it, “You had to let it go; there was no time to dwell.”
In spite of the ups and downs—or perhaps because of them—the fellows grew to appreciate their mentors. On the coaches’ last day, each group prepared a short toast. Some sang songs, others gave heartfelt speeches. Their honesty made us laugh and cry.
The wonderful coaches deserve our thanks but we have to hand it to our fellows too. Even with all their work they still had the energy to thank their coaches in a fun and creative way. See for yourself what they had to say: