query: political campaigns and community organizing

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Fri Feb 22 08:54:43 CST 2008

[ed:  thanks to Kathy and Bill for responding to Dave's query.]

From: Kathy Partridge <interfaithfunders at yahoo.com>

I thought that Dave's question about engagement of young election 
activists into organizing is timely and right-on.  Cultivating the next 
generation of organizers came up as a broad concern in an internal 
member survey of Interfaith Funders, and I suspect other national 
networks are talking about it now.  Is there something more 
(collectively and individually) that we might be planning for Dec. 08 
and thereafter?

Another incubator of organizers/social justice leaders was the Carter 
era VISTA program, where many folks (myself included) got organizer 
training through the Midwest Academy.  I still run into VISTAs Class of 
'77-'80 all the time.

My daughter was a top 2004 youth voter recruiter in this state, and 
never ONCE contacted thereafter by any of the lead organizations.  Their 
loss, she's going into nursing instead now.

Can we stir up some intentionality here?

Kathy Partridge
Executive Director
Interfaith Funders
2719 Denver Ave.
Longmont, CO  80503
Voice 720-494-9011
Fax 708-585-6434  Cell 303-594-6434

From: Bill Spears <william.spears at wright.edu>

I can't contribute to the discussion about what is actually being done to
engage these people.  I do support your idea!  It is worth serious thought
to say "how do we engage these energetic and idealistic young people."  I
wonder what can happen if there is an effort to reach out to the thousands
of engaged volunteers to create a sense of community that reaches beyond
political campaigns.

I feel frustrated when I hear people say we can eliminate poverty or we can
change the system, just go out and vote!  Voting is good, but to change the
system we need engaged people ready to work for change.  It seems to me that
you may have hit on a key.  People who are engaged in political campaigns
are more involved than the average. Many are developing leaders.  I happen
to be a member of the class of '72.  After the campaign I stayed somewhat
active in politics and eventually decided to go to graduate school with the
goal of having an impact on social policy.  It has been a slow steady
journey.  I wonder if someone had made an effort to connect with the
thousands of us in that time to nurture the civic spirit, the desire to
create social capital and taught us about servant leadership how much more
might have been accomplished. 

Let's not stop with the Democrats, I have to believe that there are
complementary good energy among Republicans.  This could be a time to move
out of politics as usual and learn to collaborate toward the mutual
community good. It could be as simple as creating a space for the class of
08 to connect or it might be something more complex like scholarships to
graduate programs with community oriented goals.  The window of opportunity
will close (this time around) in November. 

I am interested to see what others have to say about Dave's idea.
Bill Spears, PhD
Associate Professor of Community Health
Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine
Center for Healthy Communities
140 E Monument Ave
Dayton, OH 45402
(937) 775-1117
(937) 775-1110 Fax

Ask me about Wellness Matters - a coalition building a Healthy Dayton.

> [ed:  please feel welcomed to copy COMM-ORG with responses to Dave's query.]
> From: "Dave Beckwith" <dbeckwith at needmorfund.org>
> We just had an Obama staffer move in with us here in Ohio, and she's an
> energetic young woman with two organizing jobs since college - one union and
> one community - who says she wants to go back to community organizing after
> the campaign. Given the massive engagement of young - and not so young! -
> folks in this campaign, and given the understanding from both candidates on
> the Democratic side of the need to put pressure on from the grassroots (ok,
> so one gets this better than the other, and even that one will probably
> forget us once elected - don't be so cynical!)...
> Anyway, I think it's a major challenge to the field to catch these folks
> when they fall out of politics, looking to make a difference in the world. I
> hope the major networks and great teachers are planning - recruiting drives,
> one-to-one contacts with the best campaigners, trainings/internships/new
> recruit classes starting around Dec. 1... I think this will be a key time in
> the history of the next generation of organizers, like the civil rights
> summers, the anti-war drives, the farmworker boycotts, the McGovern and
> McCarthy (and Kennedy!) campaigns of the past - we'll look back ten years
> from now and see, "That's where the leaders in the field got fired up and
> got going and when they shifted into organizing, things really heated up!"
> I'd love to hear about practical steps being taken to engage the class of
> '08?
> Dave Beckwith
> Executive Director
> The Needmor Fund
> 42 South Saint Clair Street
> Toledo, Ohio 43604
> 419-255-5560
> fax 419-255-5561
> www.needmorfund.org
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