Photo by Noel Hidalgo
BUild With, NOT FOR
Build With is a training, facilitation, and consulting practice led by Laurenellen McCann. We help organizations and collectives design and implement power-shifting community programs and evolve institutional cultures.
We are guided by the movement principle of “build with, not for”: the essential notion that those most impacted by systems that need changing must be the ones in charge of the arc of change. In other words: we believe the work of social change requires practicing what you preach, inside and out. Whether you’re seeking to realign internal team structures for meaningful accountability or to make major shifts in your organization’s practice of community partnership, we’re here to help ensure that your vision and action is rooted in real collaboration and accountability with those you seek to serve and organize.
We have experience working with a wide array of organizations in a variety of fields and contexts. Past clients have included theatre companies, universities, libraries, community networks, artist collaboratives, U.S. local governments, neighborhood associations, think tanks, unions, direct action teams, non-profits, and more.
Think we might be a good fit for you and your community? Learn more about our services and our approach below.
Convenings, meetings, retreats
Team visioning, mission-setting, and roadmapping
Collaborative research, design, and production (AKA co-design)
Mediation for accountability (among staff, between staff and leadership, within communal contexts)
Community resource mapping
Workshops, trainings, classes
“Play spaces” (interactive arts-based events and games that de-specialize and de-wonk policy and research issues and enable co-design)
Accountability structures and agreements
Community engagement strategies that are power-aware and non-extractive
Relational organizing support for teams
Burn Out prevention and recovery
Workplace collective action
Power-aware. Consent-driven. Relationship-centered.
Our work is guided by context, and we take our charge to build with, not for seriously. That means, we’re not here to help you with inclusion. We’re here to help you dismantle patterns of exclusion.
Build With’s approach to design and organizing is informed by twelve years of direct field work, non-profit leadership and labor, peer learning, and research. We’ve learned from where traditional diversity trainings, inclusion programs, worker advocacy, and “community impact” practices fail to shift power (both within teams, and between institutions and communities), and we’ve tailored our services to respond.
Our work is informed by best practices in relational organizing, research and design justice, and institutional trauma studies. We deeply understand the complexity of how identity, oppression, history, and culture entwine and impact power dynamics on an interpersonal, organizational, and communal level. When we work, we base our efforts in the reality of these dynamics, while helping to create opportunities for different outcomes by centering consent, transparent negotiation, and the reallocation of resources.
We are active members of the Design Justice National Network and strive to keep our work in alignment with the network principles. Find those here.
The word “community” gets thrown around quite a bit in both non- and for-profit spaces, so we want to be clear that when we say “community”, we’re not talking about some abstract feel-good projection of people, nor are we using coded language to refer to shallow diversity quotas that prop up the authenticity of white institutions.
For us, community is sacred. When we use the word, we are always referring to real people in real, complex, pre-existing or potential connection to one another. Rather than helping you “build” community, our work is designed to help you weave connections with and between communities - your own and others’ - to make long-lasting impact and necessary short term change.