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10/10/2019 | Justice Transformation

First 'Freedom Lab' Held in Milwaukee, Bringing New Momentum to Divest/Invest Work

On Oct 4-5, 2019, Center for Popular Democracy, Law for Black Lives and PolicyLink held the first-ever Freedom Lab, a two-day divest/invest community workshop focused on redefining the way our society defines public safety. 

Alongside local partners in Milwaukee -- including BLOC, LIT and the Liberate MKE campaign (which is calling for a $20 million divestment from the Police Department and investment into community priorities) -- the Lab had more than 25 organizers from Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, and Detroit -- including a solid delegation from Detroit Action.

Over the two days, the group discussed challenges, opportunities, and lessons from ongoing and anticipated campaigns to demand we shift resources away from policing and prisons towards community investments in health and well-being.

There was a session on budget analysis 101 and a fishbowl conversation around campaign experiences -- in which LIT staff masterfully presented their recent victory at the Milwaukee school board redirecting money from school policing to trauma care.  

There were also deeper dives into communications strategies, engaging with electoral politics/elected officials, and breakout sessions on lobbying and storytelling, and participatory democracy and power mapping.  

The Freedom Lab developed a range of budgetary, campaign, narrative, organizing resources and tools, which the group anticipates converting into a more robust divest/invest toolkit for affiliates and the broader movement ecosystem.

The group is planning another Freedom Lab in Nashville in mid-November, where we will be inviting folks from around Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.