Mission & Methodologies

Mission

Highlander serves as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South. We work with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny. Through popular education, language justice, participatory research, cultural work, and intergenerational organizing, we help create spaces — at Highlander and in local communities — where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible. We develop leadership and help create and support strong, democratic organizations that work for justice, equality and sustainability in their own communities and that join with others to build broad movements for social, economic and restorative environmental change. 

Methodologies

Popular Education

Popular Education is a participatory process that combines people’s experiences and knowledge to develop collective analysis and strategies for action for positive social change. In this process, everyone is a teacher, everyone is a learner, and everyone contains within them the seed to make change. It is critical that those most affected by injustice should lead the work for creating change and popular education should support that. Popular education and organizing are not separate processes, but together they express the action-reflection cycle for social change. 

Language Justice

Language is at the core of people and their cultures; it is the vehicle for people to share their ideas, strengths and dreams for a better world. In order to build broader movements for justice, it is important to create multilingual spaces where language is used democratically and as a tool of empowerment, so that people can communicate, learn and strategize together.

Participatory Action Research (PAR)

PAR challenges the belief that only academics or trained professionals can produce accurate information, and instead recognizes information as POWER and puts that power in the hands of people seeking to overcome problems in their daily lives. PAR is a collective process of investigation, empowerment, and action. The people most affected by the problems, sometimes with the help of ‘experts’, share information and knowledge, investigate and analyze the issues, and ultimately act together to bring about meaningful, long-term solutions.

Cultural Work

Cultural Organizing places art and culture at the center of an organizing strategy to shift and move progressive policies and practices within marginalized communities. People and their communities have cultural practices that help them move forward, work together with others, build bridges, celebrate and inspire action. 

Intergenerational Organizing

We need everyone in our communities to make change happen. This includes people in all age groups. It is important to have youth-led, youth-focused, and intergenerational organizations and relationships so all have voice. In this way, we take advantage of what each generation has to offer while incorporating all of our experiences, energy and leadership to unite the lessons from the past, the power of the present, and our dreams for the future