Highlander Cultural Organizer Position

Highlander seeks a new Cultural Organizer to carry educational work that places art and culture at the center of organizing strategies to shift and move policies and practices within marginalized communities in the South & Appalachia.

Highlander’s Mission

For over 86 years, Highlander has served as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South. We work with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny. Through popular education, participatory research, and cultural work, we help create spaces — at our center and in local communities — where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible. We develop leadership and help create and support strong, democratic organizations that work for justice, equality and sustainability in their own communities and that join with others to build broad movements for social, economic and restorative environmental change.

Overview of Position and Highlander’s Program Work

Education Team members lead the work of popular education and organizing training, movement accompaniment and support, advancing social solidarity economies, and supporting intergenerational leadership by folks on the frontlines of movement struggle. Highlander’s programming includes Mapping our Futures economics and governance trainings and community support, the Appalachian Transition Fellowship supporting emerging leaders and a just economic transition in Central Appalachia, Seeds of Fire supporting leadership development and youth organizing across the South, and contributing to movement work via partnerships and support for networks including the Southern Movement Assembly and the Movement for Black Lives.

Fundamentally, Highlander is an intersectional resource for the U.S. South, a place where grassroots leaders, networks, and movement strands come together to interact, build relationships, craft joint strategy and develop tools and mechanisms to advance a multi-racial, intergenerational movement for justice in our region. Cornerstones of the work are building the skills of grassroots people and capacity of organizations for long haul work, and connecting people and issues for holistic analysis and broad-based movement building.

Highlander works on a variety of issues because we believe these issues are connected, because the needs in the region are deep, and because we are asked by the people we serve. We also target specific issues where we believe strategic focus will maximize our impact and help develop a critical mass of people to make change.

As a regional intermediary with an extensive history, widespread network of friends, contacts and associations, and a physical place connected to a history of struggle of which people want to be a part, we work with local, state, regional, national and international organizations, networks, and coalitions.

Primary Responsibilities

Highlander assumes that people and their communities have cultural practices that help them move forward, work together with others, build bridges, celebrate, and inspire action. For Highlander, Cultural Organizing places art and culture at the center of an organizing strategy to shift and move progressive policies and practices within marginalized communities. For additional thinking on Cultural Organizing from a Highlander perspective, read this: https://culturalorganizing.org/interview-with-ebony-noelle-golden-part-2/

Drawing upon decades of resources and cutting-edge cultural work, Highlander’s new Cultural Organizer will build upon Highlander’s long-standing Cultural Organizing programing, integrating cultural organizing practice into & across existing educational programs and organizational practices while identifying, connecting, convening, and supporting emerging cultural organizers across the US South. A specific desire of the new Cultural Organizer is that they can incorporate a deep knowledge of and respect for spirit- and faith-rooted practices and healing justice into our current curricula, train emerging cultural organizing to do the same, and serve as point staff-person for faith and spirit-rooted movement formations in the region and beyond.

The Cultural Organizing team member will be an integral part of the Education Team. The Cultural Organizer will design a program that supports emerging cultural organizers in the South, including Appalachia. The Cultural Organizer is also responsible for coordinating the design, implementation, budgeting, evaluation and documentation of leadership development programming. The position requires exercising a high degree of discretion and independent judgment.

Specific responsibilities of this position include:  

  • Lead planning and program implementation of a robust Cultural Organizing program, which would work with emerging & existing regional leaders, communities, and networks in the South
  • Do extensive fieldwork to identify and encourage grassroots cultural work that’s supporting and creating change in the South
  • In first year, coordinate an assessment and evaluation process to identify program outcomes and impacts and strategic needs of cultural organizers in the region
  • Work directly with the We Shall Overcome (WSOC) fund committee, WSOC grant administrator, and WSOC grantees to implement WSOC goals, including communications, evaluations, and general support for grantees
  • Develop an annual plan to implement the program goals and objectives
  • Support participants’ work and leadership development through telephone/video calls, emails, and fieldwork
  • Provide opportunities for participants to network and attend Highlander and other events
  • Troubleshoot and problem-solve issues related to the program and its work
  • Develop a program budget and monitor program expenses
  • Document and evaluate program work
  • Maintain program files and participant database
  • Share information about the program with the rest of the staff, our funders and donors, our allies, and our constituents
  • Help process applications, communicate with applicants, work with Education Team members to contact references and make selections
  • Support planning and implementation of popular education methodology trainings and workshops
  • Support Education Team general program design and implementation, including outreach, communications, documentation, information sessions, workshops, and providing support to Highlander movement family and groups, both on-site and in the field
  • Support grant writing and reporting
  • Ensure and participate in organizational and team planning and evaluation
  • Keep the purpose of our work and the people with whom we work at the center of our activities and decisions
  • Actively participate in participatory decision making within team and among the whole staff

Required Qualifications

  • Extensive cultural organizing experience in the US South, which includes Appalachia
  • Previous experience in popular education facilitation, curriculum development, and leadership development
  • Minimum of 3 years’ experience advancing progressive social change and community organizing
  • Demonstrated commitment to liberation struggles
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Able to establish rapport with activists and community members in diverse ethnic, racial, social and economic groups
  • Organized & able to handle several projects at one time and maintain focus
  • Creative and strategic thinker, good problem solver
  • Sense of humor
  • Diligent
  • Willingness to travel

Desired Qualifications

  • Bilingual in English and language(s) with large representation in the US South
  • Spanish fluency (speaking/writing/reading) is a plus


Highlander is a rural residential workshop center located on 186-acres in Jefferson County, Tennessee (just outside Knoxville) in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, and the position is based here.

Expectations of all staff positions at Highlander:

  • Passionate about Highlander’s purpose and able to communicate our program work effectively
  • Committed to dismantling all forms of intersecting oppressions and for building a new world collectively
  • Self-starter as well as a team player
  • Organized and ability to balance multiple responsibilities with grace
    • Be an active participant in a democratically participatory organization
  • Keep Highlander’s purpose and the people with whom we work central
  • Sense of humor welcome and most helpful
  • High degree of honesty and integrity

Time Commitment:  

This position is full-time and exempt, with an average commitment of 40 hours per week required.  Flexibility in arrival and departure time may be needed to support the work, including night and weekend work as needed.  Some travel is required. As exempt, this position is not entitled to overtime pay.

Salary and Benefits

Highlander has an existing pay scale. This position is a Level II position at Highlander, which is currently $44,629.08/year. Highlander also offers an excellent benefits package (health, dental, vision and retirement, HRA, generous vacation and holiday days) for permanent salaried employees.

Start Date

Applications will be reviewed as we receive them, and applicants will be contacted on a rolling basis. We hope to fill this position by April 1, 2019.

To Apply

Send letter of interest, resume, and 3 references in one PDF document to apply@highlandercenter.org. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed. Women, people of color, bilingual folks, immigrants, and LGTBTQ+ applicants strongly encouraged to apply.