query: political campaigns and community organizing

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sun Feb 24 10:59:53 CST 2008

[ed:  thanks to Jackie for continuing the discussion.]

From: Jackendall at aol.com

Glad to hear you are still out there doing good work and passing it on.
The Midwest Academy continues to train new (and old!) organizers.  The 
Carter era VISTA program placed 400 VISTA Volunteers with the Midwest 
Academy.  Many leaders of progressive organizations, institutions and 
government came out of that program. 
One of the biggest challenges that we all face after every election is 
that there are not enough organizing jobs to accommodate the number of 
people that were active in the election.
After Clinton won his first election many of the progressive 
organizations actually laid off their field staff thinking "they" had 
won.  Although in many cases it was forced on them because funding dried up.
Regardless of who wins we will have to organize in 2009 and beyond.  
Hopefully we will be offensive and not defensive fights.  However if the 
past is any indication of the future the roller coaster cycle of funding 
will mean that organizations that "staffed up" during this election year 
will not only be unable to hire new talent they will be laying off their 
current staff.
So Dave is right we need to be thinking now about how to keep many of 
the election year activists involved beyond the election.  Even if there 
are not enough paid jobs to go around, organizations that don't have 
ongoing volunteer programs might think about structuring them in to keep 
people involved.
Hopefully there will be a major campaign for health care for all, a 
massive program for youth (a la Carter VISTA program) and we can work 
for and win significant social, racial, and economic justice.
Jackie Kendall
Executive Director
Midwest Academy

Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
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> [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?
> Cheers,
> Kathy Partridge
> Executive Director
> Interfaith Funders
> www.interfaithfunders.org
> 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>
> Dave,
> 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
> _________________________________
> 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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