About the CAPACES Leadership Institute

The CLI is a non-profit organization based in Woodburn, Oregon that was founded to prepare leaders with the political consciousness and capacity needed to lead and support social justice work.


The Institute is a permanent part of the Oregon farmworker movement, led by PCUN and is a place where leaders of today and tomorrow:

  • Engage the values and big ideas of social and economic equity
  • Increase their knowledge and appreciation of social change history—their own and the history of struggles which have shaped theirs
  • Gain the skills to advance workers’ struggles—in agriculture and allied industries, for farmworkers collective bargaining, and for Latino community well—being
  • Foster greater unity and collaboration

The CLI is a place to connect with our history. It is an entry point to engage the wider political world and a laboratory for critical thinking and analysis. CLI provides an environment to crystallize a clear sense of greater capacity and responsibility. It is a recognized space for dialogue and conflict resolution. The Institute offers a faster and surer route to leadership skill mastery and a venue to systematically prepare to assume leadership in our movement before actually undertaking it.

Who we serve

The CLI  focuses first and foremost on the one hundred individuals who have taken up staff and board roles in PCUN or in one of PCUN’s eight sister organizations: CAUSA (immigrants’ rights), Farmworker Housing Development Corporation (farmworker housing), Latinos Unidos Siempre (youth leadership), Mano a Mano Family Center (social service), Mujeres Luchadoras Progresistas (women’s economic development), Oregon Farmworker Ministry (faith-based solidarity) Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality (education reform), and Voz Hispana Cambio Comunitario (voter organizing and civic engagement).

Collectively, these organizations comprise at least one thousand farmworkers and family members. They’ve assisted six thousand immigrants to gain legal status. They’ve trained over five thousand parents to advocate for their children in public schools. There are thousands who tune in to Radio Movimiento, PCUN’s noncommercial, low-power FM radio station launched less than three years ago and now the most popular Spanish-language station in the Woodburn area.

Here’s a profile of those 100 leaders. At least 80% of those served by the CLI are Latino immigrants or from come from Latino immigrant families. More than half are under 35 years of age. Sixty percent are women. A sizeable portion has had no formal education in the U.S. and less than eight years of school in Mexico. Most had no prior leadership experience and no formal leadership training.

The CLI also serves those intending and preparing to take leadership roles. If its capacity permits, the Institute will work with leaders from ally organizations. We will contribute to the national farmworker and immigrants’ rights movements and the broader progressive movement by sharing the methods and materials which the CLI develops.

How we approach leadership development

The CLI builds on the lessons and successes of the “CAPACES” process begun by the nine organizations in 2003. CAPACES brings together the organizations’ staffs at monthly round-table meetings and quarterly “mass gatherings” to forge stronger peer relationships, foster a sense of movement scale, promote common values, and share expertise.

The Institute believes in the CAPACES orientation of capacity building which begins with our collective experience and knowledge. Where the CAPACES approach has left off at the anecdotal and the ad-hoc, the CLI will work more consistently, methodically, and in greater depth.

The CLI conducts an assessment with every participant, set goals and create plans for their leadership development. We will ask each participant to start by writing or telling the stories of the events or influences which brought them to political consciousness or which draw them to the movement.

For new and prospective staff, the CLI offers a “Movement 101” course which summarizes who we are, what we believe, what we’ve done and how we’ve been shaped by and are tied to broader movements. Farmworker collective bargaining will be a central topic in this course. “Succeeding at the Next Level” is another course the CLI will offer, delving more deeply into supervision, work and learning styles, communications, and strategic planning. Other topics we’ve brainstormed are: “Mistakes that taught us the most”, “Leadership ‘Ego-esterol’: differentiating the good kind and bad”, “Maturity at any age”, and “Saying ‘no’ in a ‘Si Se Puede’ movement.”

Beyond courses, classes, and one-on-one work, the CLI will facilitate structured conversations on generational leadership shift and on pressing issues that arise, such as the economic crisis. The CLI will also convene an annual gathering, an occasion for all involved in the Institute to evaluate, sum up, look ahead, sound new themes, and make adjustments.

Our impact

With the CLI’s training and support, our movement’s current and future leaders will: Sustain and improve stewardship of our organizations, programs, assets and credibility that our movement has amassed over three decades thanks to the dedication, the sacrifice, and the resources of movement leaders, of farmworkers, the Latino community, and of allies, individual and institutional; Transmit the values, ideas, and lessons which drive social change; Stimulate vision and forge strategies guiding growth: how much, which kind, in what sequence, based on which assumptions.

The leadership added through the CLI will fuel PCUN’s drive to institute collective bargaining on a major scale in Oregon agriculture. CLI-trained leaders will organize and mobilize thousands of young Latinos eligible to vote—the fast-growing electoral demographic—and educate and engage them to support progressive positions. These two advances alone will significantly close the gap between the Latinos’ marginal political and labor power and their immense contributions as workers and consumers.

Dozens of CLI participants will gain the skills and confidence to speak out on Radio Movimiento and to develop programming which connects our movement’s seminal ideas to listeners’ everyday realities. Among them will be students from Woodburn’s small high school academies. The CLI will actively encourage student who are college-bound to commit to leading their communities by returning after graduation.

Though the CLI will bring people to leadership, its most enduring impacts will be helping leaders:

  • to stay connected with their core motivations,
  • to face and address their weaknesses rooted in oppression or in inequitable privilege,
  • to understand the anxieties about security and status which they and their families associate with movement leadership, to wrestle with often conflicting qualities of patience, determination and steadfastness, and
  • to balance the sometimes daily feelings of “I can’t believe we have all this” on the one hand and “I can’t believe this is all we have” on the other.

Why we’re needed

Our movement has committed, creative, and dynamic leadership, but not enough to simultaneously and fully meet the triple challenge we face: defending, renewing and expanding on our successes. The need and opportunity for generational leadership shift only underscores the urgency to act boldly.

Success, it turns out, is considerably harder—and more complex—than failure. That’s just one of the many lessons we’ll explore, debate, internalize and transmit at the CAPACES Leadership Institute.