• Popular Education
  •   Practicing Freedom provides workshops, curriculum design, coaching and training for trainers in Popular Education “We believe that we can build...


mapping on floor

workshop at the Teachers for Social Justice Conference

Practicing Freedom provides workshops, curriculum design, coaching and training for trainers in Popular Education

“We believe that we can build our collective power through participation in popular political education and organizing collective action”  ~ Peoples Movement Assembly US Social Forum Food Sovereignty Declaration

What is Popular Education?
Popular education is education as a practice (or praxis) of freedom. It is an approach to education where participants  engage each other and the educator as co-learners to critically reflect on the issues in their community and then take action to change them. The words "Popular Education"  are often referred to to describe any education "for the people" where the educators take complex information and simplify it or make it entertaining with performance, games, or slogans in order to facilitate quick and easy "absorption" of the material for people of any educational background. But this is not popular education, atleast not according to Paulo Freire, Myles Horton and other stewards of PE. This is still rooted in the idea that the educators are experts while the students are empty and passive receptacles.

Principles of Popular Education:
These following principles were mostly created by both paraphrasing sections of Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, The Long Haul by Myles Horton, class notes from the Popular Education course taught at Berkeley by John Hurst, and personal experiences working with groups.

  • The purpose of Popular Education is conscientization or the cyclical process of people joining with peers to name their world by critically reflecting on the socio-economic and political conditions they exist in, then imagining possibilities for something much better and emerging from the oppressor-oppressed dynamic both inter-personally and institutionally to create that better world.
  • Praxivism: Reflection and action. The process is not complete until it leads to informed and reflective action (Horton said, "The best education is action.")
  • Start where people are at:  begin with their experiences, knowledge and skills.
  • Ensure that Learning comes from the whole group, not just the teacher and not just some people in the group.
  • Connect the personal with the systemic.
  • Contextualize: Connect to the history, present and future of the topic.
  • Build capacity so that the expertise is within the community.
  • Create a felt and experienced equality with the facilitator and other participants.
  • Trust in people, the knowledge people bring and value each voice.
  • Build solidarity.
  • Take time.
  • Make space for the diversity of backgrounds, opinions, and perspectives that everyone comes with, not just parts of people.
  • Find shared problems.
  • Maintain relevance and continuously check that it is fulfilling a need.
  • Respect everyone's unique perspective, voice and personal process.
  • Creativity. This work is generative, you create it as you go and use multiple creative means to provide everyone opportunity to contribute in a medium that works for them.
  • Love.



Popular Education For Educators and Organizers; Theory and Practice - Not just a Methodology! This workshops covers guiding principles of popular education and co-creating processes for conscientization with people you work with, whether they be students, community members or co-workers. We will dialogue about dialogue, question asking, problem posing, capacity building, connecting the personal with the political, power dynamics, and review tools that support popular education like participatory theater and participatory action research. We will also problemitize mainstream concepts of popular education as a methodology.

Paulo Freire 101: What is popular education really? How can organizing be truly liberatory and build capacity for long term movement building that catalyzes community based knowledge for reflective and strategic action. How do we make education a practice of freedom? What kind of education and organizing is relevant in 2011 given the social, economic and ecological situation we find ourselves in? These are some of the questions we will be exploring through dialogue and participatory activities with a focus on principles and tools that organizers and educators can apply directly to what you are already doing. While we will review the broad scope of Freire’s work, we will also explore together Freirian practice (and praxis) by starting with the practices participants are currently working with (if any) and include Dialogue, Popular Education, Participatory Action Research and Ecopedagogy.

Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed was an educator from Brazil. He created a framework for working with education as a practice of freedom, and criticized modern education as a practice of domination. He was exiled by the Brazilian Dictorship for the work he was teaching adults how to read the word, and their world.

Community-Building Exercises: A training for trainers full of hands-on games and activities to “break-ice”, establish a comfortable space and teach content using metaphors. This highly fun and experiential workshop covers oodles of fabulous games to build relationships and create healthy group dynamics and norms that can be used throughout any educational process. We will not only play the games, but reflect on how to adapt and facilitate them, how to use them to teach content as well, and who to use them or not use them with!

Power and Privilege in the Workplace; Collaboratively addressing issues of diversity, communication, and culture towards creating a more just, inclusive and resilient organization. Practicing Freedom offers a broad range of workshops that are designed to get to the "heart" of issues of power and privilege. As organizations vary widely as to what the "heart" of these issues is, we begin with one on one explorations with key staff in order to tailor the work for outcomes, content and style. Generally, whether through dialogue,  presentations, or interactive exercises like Theater of the Oppressed, we establish a common language and non-accusatory framework, and create space for people to hear each other and explore pathways forward so that each member of the organization (or team) has both a role, and a clear way to benefit from engaging in and doing the work.



“We have the desire and energy to create something different that sustains us. As a people, we must rely on each other. We can realize our dreams to treat each other as equals and to build alliances and relationships across our commonalities and differences” - Peoples Movement Assembly US Social Forum Food Sovereignty Declaration



About Us

The Practicing Freedom Collective supports communities to generate and enact their own solutions while strengthening their relationships through Popular Education practices. We amplify the liberatory, participatory and humanizing potential of programs, schools, campaigns, organizations and businesses working to create systemic social and cultural change. We believe that if we want our institutions, and political and economic systems to be participatory and democratic, then each step of the process to transform them should be participatory and democratic as well.

Upcoming Events

PAR - T! A celebration of Participatory Action Research for practioners and "the PAR curious" alike. Date TBD. Please contact us if you'd like to be involved.

Theater of the Oppressed 6 week spring series. For seasoned TO practitioners as well as folks totally new to this work. Date and location still being confirmed

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