Gamaliel training adapts to pandemic, prepares leaders to build power in any circumstances

From Sr. Cheryl Liske, National Training Director and  Senior Trainer:

On March 12th, when the World Health Organization declared a pandemic and our lives changed overnight, Gamaliel was threedays away from our week-long National Leadership Training in Nashville. The training obviously wasn’t going to happen, but waiting for the pandemic to end wasn’t going to work either. We needed to adapt – and fast.


Many of us had experience with Zoom and Facebook Live, but we knew them as platforms for one-way communication, not a way to connect or build relationships. Gamaliel Power and Leadership Training is ALL about relationships and connecting deeply with our participants. Typically, comments on our training evaluations sound like this one from Summer 2019: 


“Thank you, trainers, for showing my true self-interest and unlocking my confidence; this training overall has been one of the most powerful trainings I have ever been to in my entire life. It has taught me so much and has given me the courage to get out there and fight harder for my community.”


We didn’t want to lose the core of who we were and how we acted as Gamaliel trainers. We knew we needed to ensure our training still maximized interaction and “unlocked” the leadership potential in all of our participants.


To pull off our August and November Online National Leadership Trainings, an average of 35 staff organizers met in 13 rehearsal meetings to adapt our training material, learn the requirements of Zoom, Jam Boards and Kahoot, and find useful media sharing services like YouTube. For maximum interaction between participants, we established limited classrooms to 20 people or less. Instead of our usual ratio of one trainer per class session, we paired trainers to build more connections in each group.  On the first day of our August session, our “Super Tech,”  Mario Gonzales, saved us from a massive Zoom outage and made sure each classroom was up and running on time. In November, we added a dedicated tech support worker to each classroom to mitigate bugs in the six Zoom accounts, four Facebook accounts and 70 MeetZipppy links needed to provide our programming. 


Despite the pandemic, we trained and built relationships with 101 participants in our August and November trainings. Participants’ evaluations showed that all our work to adapt paid off. A November participant put it this way: 


“I went into this thinking it would just be a lecture-based training and I would just take notes and not have to participate. What I didn’t realize was that it would be life changing for me and a chance to truly invest in myself and understand what it takes for me to be powerful and to build power in the community.”