In the wake of the disastrous election of 2016 and the rise of hate crimes and harassment in our community, those of us in the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MCCRC) have provided Bystander Intervention trainings to almost 2,500 activists in Maryland and around the Washington, D.C. metro area in only two months. We’re proud that this included some 1700 people who were trained on January 20th (Inauguration Day) through Swamp Revolt by 70 trainers we taught, in advance of the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st.
Our Bystander Intervention training was created so that communities could do two things:
- To provide a community service that would increase the likelihood that people will step up to support any community member who is being harassed. We do this by grounding our training in nonviolence, de-escalation, and compassion for others.
- To use the trainings to provide a conduit for people to become interested in becoming progressive political activists and to help them find community groups who are doing activist work that challenges systematic injustices.
We have found this model to be very successful for us — and we think it might be useful for other communities as well. In only a few months, we have doubled our mailing list and now have hundreds of people interested in our general meetings and committee work.
As a civil rights / civil liberties group, we chose to focus on four politically relevant issues:
- Sanctuary for immigrants
- Working against Islamophobia
- Police accountability
- Stopping surveillance by local, state and national government
These have worked well for us (see our homepage for details), but we believe that bystander trainings can serve to bring new activists into any kind of progressive work. We have developed a variety of materials to help you do Bystander Intervention trainings:
- A script for a general Bystander Intervention training
- A handout for people who attend a general training
- A template for how to prepare a handout about your local organization and resources
- A script for a Training of Trainers
- A sample publicity blurb
The trainings are presented as scripts that anyone can pick up and read to an assembled group. They have been extensively tested, so we can assure you that even though they may seem too wordy, they really do work very well as written. If you’re going to give a training to your group, make sure to read through the Training of Trainers document beforehand. It contains lots of helpful hints that we have collected over our many trainings!
We wrote these materials based on our experience as activists, organizers, and trainers in nonviolent action. Although we have received feedback from all of our training groups and dozens of fellow organizers, we welcome any additional suggestions or revisions you might want to share with us as you gain experience in your own communities.
It is our philosophy that our trainings should be given for free, so that as many people as possible can receive the training.
If you are planning on doing a training for personal profit, please do NOT use any of our materials or create your own training based on this one. It took us an enormous amount of time to write the script, to get real-life experience with thousands of people to see if the training worked, to make revisions, and to prepare the training of trainers. The materials are protected under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license, so please don’t use us like that, okay?
We would love to know which groups are using our materials, so please give us your group’s name, a contact name, email address and zip code. We hope to get a map up showing where trainings have happened around the country — and where they will be happening — so that people can find your organization, come to a training and get involved in your work.
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Very helpful – thanks for sharing so generously! Will respect your Creative Commons rights!
Hey Stephen — We’re just curious — did you ever hold a training? We’d love to hear about it! Kit on behalf of MCCRC
How can I have you come and teach/provide training to my congregation in Oakton VA?
We’d be happy to come! Can you please email us at with details about your group, how many people you expect for a training, and what dates you had in mind? We often encourage groups to reach out to other like-minded groups to make connections and increase the numbers we can train in one setting, if that works for your group and space. Our trainers have day jobs, so we are available evenings or on weekend days. Thanks for your interest! Kit on behalf of MCCRC
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Thank you for highlighting our Bystander Intervention work and the scripts that are available for anyone to use in their own community!!