The Midwest Academy is a national training institute committed to advancing the struggle for social, economic, and racial justice. From local neighborhood groups to statewide and national organizations, Midwest Academy has trained over twenty-five thousand grassroots activists from hundreds of organizations and coalitions. Midwest Academy teaches an organizing philosophy, methods and skills that enable ordinary people to actively participate in the democratic process.

Courses and consulting services are designed for progressive organizations and coalitions that utilize civic engagement activities to build citizen power at all levels of our democracy. Over the years, the Academy has been instrumental in helping to build statewide coalitions in many states. Today, the Academy continues to provide training to these multi-issue, statewide organizations, as well as to numerous other groups, ranging from students to senior citizens and from neighborhood to national organizations.


The Midwest Academy’s organizational mission is to support the building of infrastructure in the progressive movement for social justice.  For us, this means fostering the creation of democratically governed organizations which win real improvements in people’s lives, give people a sense of their own power to improve society, and alter the unequal relations of power to build more democracy and participation for freedom and justice for all.

The Midwest Academy advances movements for progressive social change by teaching strategic, rigorous, results-oriented approach to social action and organization building. The Academy provides training (introductory and advanced) and consulting, equipping organizers, leaders, and their organizations to think and act strategically to win justice for all.


The Midwest Academy was founded as the movements of the 1960s and early 1970s were starting to fracture.  Richard Nixon had not yet resigned.  Manufacturing, and the good union jobs that it represented, were beginning to leave the country.  To people who cared about social justice, it was a confusing time.

In 1973, Heather Booth took funds from a settlement she won from a labor organizing dispute and founded the Midwest Academy as a training institute for progressive community organizers and the organizations they worked for.  Her goal was to create a place to teach strategy, tactics and movement building. 

MWA First Class of '73It would be a place for innovation and to develop new models:

  • Statewide organizations, when what existed was generally national or community-based.                                      
  • Multi-issue organizations when many people were doing single issue or single constituency work
  • Engaging with elections at a time when most organizations did not, to do both policy and politics.      

Midwest Academy First Class of ’73

Steve Max was the first lead trainer, and with Heather they designed and implemented the first curriculum, including the Midwest Academy strategy chart.

Some organizations were still questioning whether women could be organizers, but the first Academy session was focused on women organizers.  Classes soon broadened to include a wide range of organizations, issues and people who reflect the face of America.

Connections with the labor movement were made very early.  There is no justice without a decent standard of living, and that depends on working people being organized.

Tens of thousands of people have come through Midwest Academy training sessions over the past four decades, and hundreds of organizations have been impacted.  We are very proud of the impact we have had across the nation, and in the lives of so many people struggling for justice.

Following Heather as Executive Director have been Karen Thomas, Jackie Kendall, and Judy Hertz.  Steve Max remains as our Director Emeritus.

We couldn’t have done it without thousands of friends and colleagues along the way.  We look forward to many more years working together to make the world the beautiful, just and loving place where all people are treated with dignity and respect.