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What to expect at the March Online Arena Academy

March 08, 2021
What to Expect at Arena Academy

In three days, we will welcome more than 250 future campaign staffers from 34 states, selected from a competitive pool of more than 1,000 applicants. We couldn’t be more excited.

This will be our eighth Academy, and our third hosted online. It also happens to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the NBA canceling its season, one of the first signs of the unprecedented changes we would face because of COVID-19. While we miss greeting participants in person, sitting in a grand ballroom, and sorting printed name tags, there are several ways the virtual setting has enhanced Arena Academy.

For those of you reading this who are poised to attend Academy this week, I want to give you a peek at what you can expect. If you’re on the fence about participating in future online training courses, I hope we inspire you to join us at the next Academy.

Feel together, while apart.

In the past, we carefully selected the locations of our in-person Academies. One of our goals is to provide world-class political training in states that have often been underinvested in and overlooked. We’ve held Academies in Iowa, South Carolina, Arizona, and Texas. While we don’t have a physical setting for this Academy, we are thrilled to partner with Hood to the Holler, an organization based in Kentucky and founded by Charles Booker that seeks to build political power to transform Kentucky’s future. We’re bringing together more than 80 people from across Kentucky at this Academy. They are already connecting virtually and building the political power we need to change Kentucky for the better.

Additionally, bringing Academy online allows us to reach a broader and more diverse set of applicants. For those whom the idea of spending five days away from family and home seemed prohibitive in the past, they can now join. We look forward to children, cats, puppies, and parents all making cameos on Zoom. Likewise, our trainers come from all over the country to offer years of experience and expertise. We’re thrilled the virtual setting allows us to recruit trainers like Deanna Reed in Alabama, Anatole Jenkins in Washington, DC, Lauren Dikis in Ohio, and Luis Avila in Arizona.

What to expect at Arena Academy?

Our goal is to create an energetic and collaborative space where folks from all backgrounds can come together and learn. Adults learn best by doing. So be ready to interact, ask questions, share your ideas, and take notes.

Participants spend about 60% of their time in tracks learning skills specific to their specialization. They’ll spend the rest of the time in plenary sessions on topics ranging from “Beyond Unconscious Bias” to “Combating Misinformation and Disinformation” to “Digital and Data Integration.”

Arena Academy culminates with the Arena Cup, a campaign simulation using real districts and data and a fictional Democratic challenger. Participants will work with teammates from different tracks to create a winning campaign plan for their district. It’s a catalyst for creativity and teamwork. Teams navigate working remotely, applying their new skills, and performing under time pressure. They’ll also have the guidance of an expert coach.

Eight tips and reflections for how to approach training at Arena Academy.

Over five days, we encourage participants to lean in and make the most of this experience. You deserve this space to deepen your learning, and campaigns across the country need your talents and skills so that progressives can continue to win in 2021 and 2022. We encourage participants to reflect on why they want to attend this training and what they hope to get out of it. Setting an intention and goals for yourself helps you stay focused and alert. Here are eight tips for getting the most out of Arena Academy.

  1. Respect our time together. Academy participants and trainers will be joining virtually from all over the country, and nearly everyone is taking time off work and/or away from family to be here. Let’s demand this time together be great.
  2. Be present. There are many strengths and challenges to working virtually. We encourage you to stretch, make the most of breaks, take care of your family, and move when needed.
  3. Participate in “Wellness Bingo.” A tool we created to encourage healthy habits vital to both this training and campaign life in general.
  4. Take part in our daily offerings designed to make this a well-rounded experience. We offer yoga and meditation to start the day and end the day with optional happy hours to unwind.
  5. Make space, take space. Please be mindful of your participation relative to the group.
  6. Train to win. Between now and 2022, three-quarters of states will elect governors, the entire U.S. Congress is up for re-election, and there are countless other local elections. It will take excellent staff to win races across the country.
  7. Come with purpose. Spend some time before joining us to center yourself in your purpose and personal goals (we promise if you do this, you’ll get even more out of this experience).
  8. Let’s get creative. We need to get creative to make time feel personal, connected, and fun. Change locations in your home throughout the day to create distinct moments (remember to keep it appropriate—your kitchen or living room? Excellent choice! Joining from your bed in PJs? Not so much!). Try curating what is in your background so we can create something beautiful together. You’re welcome to use our custom Zoom backgrounds. Come with your favorite mug and wear something you love.


At past Arena Academies, participants have made lifelong friends, and the Academy has been a catalyst for their political careers. We know this Academy will have these stories, too. It might even be your story.