Posts tagged RootsCamp
I have two sessions proposed for RootsCamp 2012 at DC’s Washington Convention Center.
Already scheduled for Saturday in Room 149B at 10:30 AM (first session) is: “Where are we & how do we fix it. Auditing campaigns to right a sinking ship, even when already under water.”
You can find the handout for this session here.
Beth Becker of Progressive Social and I have also proposed a session entitled: “The word Consultant really isn’t the dirty word some would have you believe. How to find the good ones!”
You can find the handout for this session here.
Back in December of 2010, I reflected on the previous RootsCamp. Among the biggest negatives was the large crowd & less than stellar session leaders. The positives? The wonderful people and efforts of the New Organizing Institute, the activists and enthusiasm.
A little over a year later, we returned to the scene of the first RootsCamp (2006), the NEA Building. Attendance was limited to a more reasonable number and the quality of experience was back up to the expected (very high) levels.
There was one session that was horrifically bad and I would certainly like to see more content geared at challenger candidates/campaigns, but overall it was a great experience with some wonderful sessions/presenters/discussions.
One of the more amusing sessions Saturday was led by Adam Green & Stephanie Taylor of the PCCC, “Fire the Consultants: Venting & Solutions.” Similar to sessions they have conducted in the past, the intent is both therapeutic and to stop so many campaigns and organizations from repeating the mistakes happening far too often every cycle. Among the more amazing revelations, one participant discussed how a consultant was 4 months behind schedule on a 6 week deliverable. They asked what they could do about that, several in the room responded, “Fire them.” A better question would be, why weren’t they fired after passing 12 weeks on a 6 week deliverable?
Too often candidates and lefty non-profits find themselves in this sort of situation. Sometimes the result is a poorly communicated proposal, an inadequate or absent contract, or just the unwillingness to demand what was paid for by the organization. Refer back to the Rules of Organizing, #9 If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. The consultant telling you they have written a plan, collected the data, and so forth isn’t good enough. They have to both write down the plan and share it with the customer. A good contract will specify that all data procured or created by the consultant in the process is also handed over (or shared digitally) to the customer.
Some RootsCamp attendees were put off by the title, and the animosity directed at consultants. As a consultant, I say get over it. The profession is rife with leeches, hacks and stuffed shirts. The few good and honorable among us need to understand that, accept it, and not get hostile about being mistaken for one of vast majority of vultures that dominate the profession. Unfortunately the burden is on us to prove we aren’t part of that majority that serves only to inhibit or exploit challenger candidates.
Notes from the closing session of RootsCamp 2012, “Some Guy Candidates: How they Delay Progress & How to Make Them Suck Less.”
You can find some background here: ‘Some Guy’ vs Contender – which are you?
Reviewing, the basics of the ‘Some Guy’ candidate: Lacks money, social network and the experience/understanding of how to be a candidate.
We talked about the common ways ‘Some Guys‘ push back – blaming the system, proclaiming too much purity to be sullied by doing the work, and of course attacking those that try to help them.
We explored the common motivations of ‘Some Guy‘ candidates, that they typically have a high degree of ideological (or egocentric) resolve. This means that if you are trying to move a ‘some guy‘ out of a race, you better have an idealistic win-win proposals for them, the right advocate to make the case and an expectation that their resolve is much stronger than rational logic can conquer.
As an idealist, I admire the confident idealism of these candidates. But, I’m also a strategist – one that recognizes that these candidates running on sheer idealism are hurting the progressive movement and damaging the Democratic party brand.
The best thing you can do to help these candidates is get them to attend a Democracy for America Training, like the ones coming up in Miami (March 17-18) or Gainesville (March 24-25). The DFA Training program is a comprehensive overview of campaigning designed to help people at all levels of experience and engagement. Whether you are a 5 hour a week activist/volunteer, full time staff to a candidate running for office, the DFA Training Academy will make you more effective. The DFA Training Manual (provided to Academy attendees or purchased direct from DFA) is also a fantastic resource that you will use day after day throughout your adventures in campaign politics.
After they attend the training, the next step is rule #9 again, If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. This means writing a landscape memo and campaign plan (and all the component parts, field, finance and communications). Somewhere in the midst of this process, if not sooner, the (former?) ‘Some Guy‘ candidate should begin to recognize that the water is way over their head. This is the best time to do a ‘right size’ analysis. Very few candidates should be running for Congress the first time out. State House, State Senate and city/county offices are much more attainable and can help build the foundation for a later campaign for Congress. This is also the point that we should remember that local offices hold the most power.
Long term, ‘Some Guy‘ candidates need to work to expand their social networks (offline more than online). This means reaching out to like minded organizations, attending meetings and conventions, building relationships and working to earn media. This process can also serve to help (future) candidates improve their campaign skills without the pressures of an impending election. If you are not certain three hundred people will give your campaign money in the first 30 days, you aren’t ready to run for Congress. Write down the list.
It was a great discussion, thanks to all who attended.
This weekend I joined roughly 1000 progressive activists in DC for the 5th RootsCampDC, my 4th, having missed the Februrary 2010 camp. RootsCamp is a fantastic “un-conference” put together and beautifully executed by the New Organizing Institute.
A space to bring people from all aspects of campaigning, advocacy and governing together to discuss successes, failures, experiences and opportunities, RootsCamp is great atmosphere for progressives to network and grow their talents. There is a fantastic spill over from the sessions to the common areas and of course to the twInterwebs (hashtag #roots10).
As always, NOI assembled and executed a great event, staffed by fantastic members of their team and a terrific group of volunteers. The facility at GWU was also great, with plenty of signs and human navigational aides provided to get people where they wanted to be in a timely fashion.
Thank you to all the participants, volunteers, staff and supporting/sponsoring organizations.
From the “back in the day” perspective, I feel like the first two RootsCampDC’s worked slightly better, with half (or less) the attendance, due to both smaller session sizes allowing more participation and the ratio of veteran activists to “rookies” being closer to 1 to 1 than what I would speculate was more like 5 or 6 to 1. It seemed like there were far more people who only have a historical knowledge going back to 2007 or 2008 than those who can put thoughts in the perspective of understanding from 2006, 2004, 2000, etc.
My two suggestions for the next RootsCampDC would be:
A: Lock down the open session schedule to just Saturday until just prior to the final session on Saturday when you open ONLY the first session time slot on Sunday. The remainder of Sunday should not be opened until Sunday morning. Let people process what happened Saturday, discuss with peers what they want to learn more about, which sessions should be repeated/extended/expanded, which presenters they want to hear more from, I believe the content will be more beneficial and more enjoyable.
B: More rooms/spaces for sessions. Too many sessions were standing room only, too many subjects/aspects weren’t well addressed. Beyond the obvious disadvantages to this situation, there comes one that may be overlooked… One of the great aspects of these conferences is the “Vote with your feet” option – when a room goes to standing room only, it makes attendees far less likely to leave, as to do so would be a massive disruption to the session. Some of the most productive RootsCamp sessions I’ve experienced in the past have been 5-15 people, where discussion can evolve to action in 45 minutes, something much harder to achieve with 40+ people.
My one complaint with no corrective suggestion is that too many session facilitators were lecturing more than fostering discussion or just not allowing enough time to have a valid dialogue, while really not having nearly the level of competence/expertise in the subject to justify such. An actual quote from one presenter “the message really doesn’t matter, we just have to organize more…” Really? Do we really need to explain to the presenters the relationship between messaging and organizing? To be clear, this wasn’t the norm of the sessions I attended, but really shouldn’t be happening at all.
My call to action: Now is the time to find, recruit and train progressive candidates if we want to take back the majority in 2012. We have state elections in several states in 2011 and a rough map coming our way to defend the Senate and White House in 2012. To have success, we must start laying the ground work for strong challenger campaigns at all levels, meaning now is the time to identify potential candidates, even though the district lines are still pending post-census redistricting. There is plenty of preparation that can be done in advance of the redistricting process, anyone considering a run should be taking a “be prepared” attitude rather than a passive “wait and see” approach. We need to do far more to prepare and train our candidates and staff for 2012, and we must fill more races with competitive and competent candidates.
Is there a potential progressive candidate you know? Now is the time to introduce them to DFA’s Training Academy or direct them to a good, honorable progressive campaign professional (Like MPA Political).