Image of Build the bench group photoThe Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) is leading and facilitating a dynamic project to “build the bench” of leaders from worker and community based organizing networks. This innovative leadership and organizational development program was launched to address the new challenges and complexities that have emerged in recent years for leaders within economic justice networks. The Build the Bench (BTB) initiatives seeks to sharpen individual and organizational effectiveness while deepening cross-organizational networks to advance shared economic justice goals. 


  1. Get smarter with others faster to win bigger. Create trusting communit(y/ies) that provide a well of knowledge, experience, and practices that senior staff of power building organizations can draw from and contribute to.
  2. Build and deepen relationships. Create relationships of mutual trust and respect that foster individual growth, support organizational strength, and deepen interdependence in the movement ecosystem.
  3. Collective Innovation. Utilize collective brainpower and organizational resources to innovate solutions to shared organizational and movement challenges.

Latest Updates

  • CIWO's Build the Bench community of learning and practice for managing directors in worker justice movements held its seventh annual convening on November 9 and 10, 2021.  Read more about the event.
  • Build the Bench has welcomed two CIWO Fellows for 2021:  Felicia Griffin (Partnership for Working Families) and Kathleen Gaspard (Institute for Policy Studies), who will also serve on the program's new Advisory Committee with Mackenzie Baris (Jobs with Justice), Aisha Satterwhite (, Chevalier Lovett (Florida Rising), Renata Pumarol (ACRE), Vivian Huang (APEN), and Beth Shipp (Caring Across Generations).
  • Build the Bench hosted its 6th annual convening virtually on July 28-29, 2020.  Over 20 movement leaders come together to share their successes & challenges with supportive peers. Sessions included: Building Team Resilience & Re-imagining Productivity, Leading in Disruption, Exploring Habits of White Supremacy Culture in Ourselves and Our Organizations, Racial Equity and Justice Values in Practice Within Our Organizational Structures and Operations, and Peer Coaching. Read more here.
  • BTB Webinar Series: Peer Coaching (April 23, 2020).  Build the Bench participants & CIWO Fellows Denise Collazo (Faith in Action) and Felicia Griffin (Partnership for Working Families) led a refresher on peer coaching, followed by time for BTB leaders in groups of 3 to take turns listening and coaching each other through a challenge they are experiencing in their role. Participants told us that this time with their peers was "insightful," "super helpful," and "very refreshing," even "a welcome break from the usual!"  The CIWO team is glad to be able to provide a space for you and your fellow BTB leaders to come together and support each other. These are unusual, complex times and Build the Bench participants continue to innovate and lead.
  • The Build the Bench community came together on March 17, 2020 to share strategies about leading during the stressful COVID-19 pandemic. Participants from around the country joined a video conference to share solidarity and insight into the balance of leading at their organizations and as caregivers in their families.  BTB leaders were eager to share their organization's resources for communication and policy in this time of upheaval, as well as personal, grounding sources for keeping mentally and emotionally well when there is so much out of our control.  Participants expressed gratitude and relief at connecting with other leaders who are persevering in a similar professional role. CIWO is glad to be able to create these spaces for leaders to connect and thrive, even in uncertainty.
  • Build the Bench 2020 Webinar Series kicked off on February 27, 2020 with Webinar #1 - "Managing Up/Leading Up in Tumultuous Times."  20 Build the Bench leaders from across the country came together to engage with each other around managing up.  BTB participants & CIWO Fellows Felicia Griffin (Partnership for Working Families) and Denise Collazo (Faith in Action) led the session. We are excited to see the BTB community grow and deepen! 

Build the Bench5th Annual Convening: On July 10, 2019, a group of 27 leaders from regional, and national worker center and community organizing networks gathered at the Tommy Douglas Conference Center in Silver Spring, MD for the fifth annual Build the Bench Convening.  Hosted by the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO), Build the Bench Convening brought together creative, passionate, and inspiring managing directors from across the country to support their growth as organizational and movement leaders through connection with CIWO and others in similar roles. Read more

Community of Learning and Practice

Build the Bench creates peer networks and communities of practice through convenings and periodic webinars that foster multiple connections across staff in similar roles from different organizations. 

Participating organizations include:

Jobs with Justice, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Partnership for Working Families, Center for Popular Democracy, People’s Action, Interfaith Worker Justice, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, Grassroots Collaborative, Organization United Respect Walmart, USAS, PICO National Network, Gamaliel, United We Dream, Enlace, Right to the City, Center for Community Change, Food Chain Workers, Institute of Policy Studies, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, LA Black Worker Center Network, Workers Dignity Project, New York Communities for Change, Raise the Floor Alliance, National Black Workers Center Project, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), Asian Pacific Environmental Network.

Convenings and Webinars