Workshops and Talks

I lead a diverse variety of workshops and other offerings - and not just about challenging corporate rule. I also have many decades of experience leading workshops which help people come to terms with their difficult feelings about the current state of our world, from despair and rage to grief and numbness. As well as teaching active listening skills to activists. I would thoroughly enjoy working with you to create a special event in your community. Please get in touch!

(Click on each offering below to see a detailed description of that offering, or simply scroll down the page to view them all.)



We the People Are More Powerful Than We Dare to Believe: First Steps in Dismantling Corporate Rule

We the People are more powerful than we dare to believe. For almost two centuries now, since large corporations started to win Constitutional so-called "rights", We the People have been slowly forgetting who We are. And forgetting that the American revolutionaries who founded our nation designed corporations as a subordinate legal fiction, chartered to serve a specific public need and to cause no harm. How far we have strayed from that reality!  But it doesn't have to be that way.

If we relearn our history, if we understand again that corporations were designed to serve us, not to rule us, in this "democratic republic", then we can reclaim our sovereignty. Once we understand this, the sky's the limit. We can rein in corporate constitutional "rights" as have more than 200 communities in PA, NH, ME, MD, NY, NM, OH, CO, and CA. We can get back to governing ourselves, collectively determining what a majority of us wants, in this nation founded on the principle of majority rule.

What would this look like at the county level? What do the majority of county residents want regarding water policy, land use policy, cell phone tower policy, economic development policy, etc? And is the Board of Supervisors in your county prepared to stand tall with that majority when push comes to shove?

Are local residents prepared to shift their activism towards more effective tactics and strategies that literally rein in corporate constitutional "rights", which tend to be one of the PRIMARY barriers against citizens getting what they want for their communities.

This is the focus of my transformative workshop. I would be honored to present it to a body of local residents who are tired of losing over and over again, when corporate interests interfere in our political processes.

The workshop includes a series of history and strategy presentations, as well as numerous opportunities for focused discussions and small and large group exercises to assist participants in: 

 * understanding the history and root causes of the rise of corporate rule, and corporate usurpation of our democratic authority to govern ourselves
 * examining the local impacts of corporate rule, how citizens are currently challenging corporations locally, and how these efforts could be reframed to be more effective
 * decolonizing our minds and our language from the firm grip of corporate culture
 * taking time to express and feel our sorrow, anger, despair, etc about living in a society drenched in corporate culture
 * learning the art of 'democratic conversation'
 * beginning to craft strategies to recover our democracy from corporate rule (with specific focus on existing local campaigns)

This is a workshop lasting two full days (and ideally also a Friday evening). I can handle as many as 35 and as few as 10 people per workshop. 15 to 25 is ideal. No previous experience or knowledge is necessary to attend.

I have been leading this workshop since 1998 across the US and Canada. My desire is to bend the workshop towards the specific needs of your community members, and focused on the corporate harms taking place in your community.

See many comments from previous workshop participants


* Introductory 3-hour Community Rights Workshop

Did you know that it's illegal for a city, town, or county government to pass laws that protect the health and welfare of a community from destructive corporate activities? No wonder it's so difficult to stop corporate mines, pipelines, and factory farms, even when an entire community opposes such activities. There are fascinating historical reasons why communities are not allowed to pass such laws, but these reasons make no sense as they violate We the People's right of self-government that our ancestors fought and died for in the American Revolution.

Paul Cienfuegos' introductory workshop will...
* share some of this history,
* introduce the Community Rights movement as a bold response to these unjust laws, and
* outline how We the People can breathe new life into civic engagement by reclaiming the structures of law that have made real democracy impossible until now.

Since 1999, 200 communities in nine states have passed legally groundbreaking locally-enforceable Community Rights laws which...
* strip corporations of their so-called constitutional "rights",
* ban specific harmful corporate activities, and
* enshrine the right of a community to govern itself and to protect the health and welfare of its residents – human and otherwise.

These laws have banned fracking and oil drilling, water withdrawal for bottling, toxic sludge dumping on farmland, corporate-managed infrastructure, unsustainable energy development, and more. 95% of these laws have never been challenged in court.

“We the People” must exercise our RIGHT to pass laws that protect our community's health and welfare. Let's get organized!

This is a workshop lasting just one evening, which I normally offer on a weekday evening from 6 to 9pm. I can handle as few as a dozen people (arranged in a circle of chairs), or as many as 100 or more (in a lecture hall setting). No previous experience or knowledge is necessary to attend. In my experience, this is the best event for a new community to organize FIRST, if your goal is finding a dozen or more folks who want to dive in deeper towards mobilizing your townsfolk to run a Community Rights local law-making campaign.


* Next Steps in Dismantling Corporate Rule: Visioning, Developing and Managing a Campaign

Continuing where we left off - developing/designing tactics and strategies to shift power towards We the People. Kind of like Organizers Training 101, but unlike the standard training, we do NOT concede/assume that corporations have legitimate rights of persons under the Constitution, and proceed from that more democratic assumption.

Additionally, we can focus on and practice some of the following, depending on the group's highest priorities:

* how to interact with the corporate and independent media, and create our own media,

* how to do public outreach and mobilize citizens,

* how to meet with and challenge government officials,

* whether to consider doing nonviolent direct action/ civil disobedience as one tactic among many,

* organizing and running meetings,

* reaching out to diverse communities,

* building political power (electoral and otherwise)

This is a workshop lasting two full days. I can handle as many as 25 and as few as 8 people per workshop. 12 to 20 is ideal. To attend, you must have already attended my "First Steps in Dismantling Corporate Rule" workshop, or an equivalent from other workshop leaders.

This is a new workshop which I have not yet led. I would bring in one additional experienced trainer for this workshop.


* Taking OUR Local Mass Media Back From Large Corporations: We the People Are More Powerful Than We Dare to Believe

In a so-called democratic society like ours the people are supposed to be sovereign over our corporate institutions. That means mass media has a responsibility to the citizenry to provide accurate and comprehensive news and analysis - they must either fulfill this responsibility or be replaced by those who will. But how would we determine these minimum standards for our local corporate TV and radio news stations and daily papers? What would this process look like? And how would communities organize themselves? In this workshop, we will:

* Discuss what minimum standards should be required from our local corporate media institutions,

* Dare to contemplate that we citizens actually have the right to insist on such standards,

* Envision how local residents in communities across the country could be meeting - across the ideological spectrum - to begin to identify common-ground issues,

* Explore the historical and legal precedents that provide strong support for such a movement to succeed, and

* Begin to design creative tactics and strategies to take our local corporate TV and radio news stations and newspapers back via mass democratic action.

This is a workshop lasting a minimum of one full day, and ideally 1.5 or two days. I can handle as many as 25 and as few as 10 people per workshop. 12 to 20 is ideal. No previous experience or knowledge is necessary to attend.

I have been leading this workshop since June 2003 in numerous cities and towns in California, Oregon, British Columbia, and Minnesota, after premiering it at the annual National Conference on Media Reform in Madison, Wisconsin, in November 2003.


* Despair and Personal Power in an Age of Corporate Rule and Climate Crisis

A workshop to help you to deal with your difficult feelings of pain for the world. Based on the work of Joanna Macy and others.

Through sharing and group exercises, this workshop will help us access, express and transform our grief, rage, depression, numbness, despair, guilt and sorrow into genuine empowerment and renewed energy with which to meet these challenging times.

This is a workshop lasting two full days. I can handle as many as 20 or as few as 8 people per workshop. 12 to 15 is ideal. No previous experience or knowledge is necessary to attend.

I have been leading this workshop since 1982, after becoming one of the first Americans to be trained to lead them - by Joanna Macy, Chellis Glendinning and others. I then led dozens of workshops for the next three years in England, Scotland, Wales, France and Holland. I was the founding director of Interhelp-UK, bringing this profound work to Europe for the first time in an ongoing way. In 2002, I attended a second intensive training led by Joanna Macy.


* Active Listening for Activists

In this workshop, we will learn how to listen actively to members of the public whom we do not know. Activists tend to be much more comfortable (and experienced) talking about issues than we are really listening to members of the public. There will be sufficient time for us to practice what we are learning in groups of two, as we head out into public space to interact with a variety of strangers. We'll then come back together to report on what we experienced, and have time for additional roleplays and evaluation.

This is a workshop lasting one full day. I can handle as many as 30 or as few as 10 people per workshop. 12 to 20 is ideal. No previous experience or knowledge is necessary to attend.

I have been leading this workshop since 1984 in Great Britain and Washington State. I invented the workshop in 1984 while living in Scotland and working with the British peace movement. I trained others to lead it, and led it myself eight times.


* Yanking Corporate Culture Out of Our Heads: learning how we think and speak living in a society saturated in corporate culture

Corporate leaders want us to act like consumers, not citizens, so we can leave the act of governing to them, while we happily vote with our dollars. They also manage to get us to think corporate, even when we think we're acting rebellious. We the People are mostly fractured and confused. Life itself is at stake. Learn how to change the way you think and speak about corporate rule. Believe it or not, it's even fun!


* Is a Truly Sustainable Society Achievable As Long As Corporate Rights Trump the Rights of People?

Americans already want better environmental protection and they're willing to pay for it, according to polls. But our elected officials continue to allow the rapid degradation of our environment. Americans are strongly in favor of bold legislative responses to the climate crisis and the health care crisis, but our elected officials hem and haw. Why? Because we the people are no longer the primary constituents of the people we elect - corporations are! Why? Because corporate constitutional "rights" trump the rights of people. And how do we tend to respond to this travesty? By continuing to struggle in vain against one corporate harm at a time, one corporation at a time, mostly via the regulatory agencies. We cannot possibly win in this manner.

We must change our tactics and start boldly challenging the constitutional rights of corporations to participate in American democratic processes. Only then can we achieve a truly sustainable and democratic society.


* How Your Community Can Successfully Replicate Arcata, California's Groundbreaking and Historic "Initiative on Democracy and Corporations"

In 1998, I co-directed a campaign to place an advisory initiiative on the ballot in Arcata, CA, titled "Measure F: The Arcata Advisory Initiative on Democracy and Corporations". We won with 55% of the vote in the November 2008 elections. The Initiative called on the Arcata City Council to host two town-hall meetings on the topic: "Can we have democracy when large corporations wield so much power and wealth under law?" 4% of Arcata registered voters attended the meetings - about 600 people - a huge turnout.

The Initiative also called on the City Council to create the "City of Arcata Committee on Democracy and Corporations", with a mandate to reign in corporate rule within the city. The Committee has been meeting every month since 2000. I served on the Committee for its first seven years, and was its chair for a portion of that time.

Thus far, the Committee has proposed, and the City Council has passed, a permanent ban on any further corporate chain restaurants opening in Arcata (2002), a resolution abolishing corporate personhood within the city (2004), and is currently working to finalize ordinance language which would expand the existing ban on new corporate chain restaurants to include all corporate chain retail establishments in the city. You can view the Committee's agendas on the City's website here.

I am convinced that any town or city that has the ballot initiative option in this country could run and win a similar vote. The cultural impact of such a campaign on the people of a community is massive and long-term. Residents re-think what their proper relationship is in this democratic republic between themselves and the corporations in their community. They gain a deeper understanding of their own history, and discover that we don't have to put up with this sort of corporate interference and manipulation of We the People's democratic processes. And the City Council Committee can have significant long-term impact as well, as it drafts ordinances for the City to consider, and builds community support for passage of its proposals.

Would you like to learn more about what your community could do to run and pass such an initiative?


* Fishbowl Conversations - for large groups

I offer facilitation services to any group wishing to explore the "Fishbowl" technique that we have been perfecting for use at major public forums and town hall meetings since introducing it in 1999. The Fishbowl technique offers the possibility of an intimate small group dialogue in a large room of upwards of a few hundred people, with dozens of participants filtering in and out of the small group conversation taking place in the center of the room, while the entire room is actively listening. It's a truly extraordinary process to participate in, both as a speaker and as a listener.

In the Spring of 1999 in Arcata, California, I helped to organize two fishbowls which each lasted for more than four hours and accommodated crowds of 350 people. In January 2004, I was invited to facilitate a fishbowl-style four-hour town hall meeting in Corvallis, Oregon for a number of groups wanting to collaboratively discuss the growing hunger crisis in their community.

Fishbowls are ideally suited for any event of 40 to 400 people where the organizers want as many people as possible to participate in a conversation that has a specific focus or topic.


* Consulting Services - by the hour, the day, or the week

Is your local or regional activist group looking for help rethinking your own tactics or strategies regarding how you're going about confronting specific corporate harms in your community? I thoroughly enjoy working closely with local groups.

First, I begin an ongoing communication with your community activists. I review your fliers, your press releases, your campaign goals, and anything else you want to share. Then, if you wish, I visit your community, and give a talk to a group of any size on how you can effectively reframe your campaign as a symptom of corporate rule, illustrating powerful alternatives to conventional single-issue tactics and strategies. And sharing details about how more than 100 communities in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Maine are successfully rethinking their own campaigns against corporate harms.

You are welcome to hire me by the hour, the day, or the week. I can offer a single consultation by phone or in person, or an ongoing series of sessions over a longer period of time.

Reframing your campaign has other benefits as well. It makes it much more likely that you will find allies in a diversity of other groups that you wouldn't normally think of working with. You stop acting like single-issue activists and start acting like We the People. It's a very exciting and empowering shift in your activism, and a profound expansion of your sense of who "We" are.

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