Send Florida Organizers to The People’s Summit

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Activism and organizing in America is a half-full glass right now, at least, that's how we see it. To make it a full glass, we have to connect some dots. While corporations spend billions of dollars a year lobbying Congress, the President, state legislatures and even city councils and school boards, most Americans are left under-represented. That means we have to represent ourselves, and this realization has led to a renaissance in civic engagement.

While this is exciting, there is nothing more dangerous that an unprepared activist because the actions of one engaged citizen can impact and represent so many that are not active and engaged. So, shouldn't we do our very best to make sure they have the tools, information and education they need so that they can be effective? Of course, and that's why we need to go to Chicago in June.

The People's Summit is a gathering of some of the top minds in the field of progressive activism. Attending this event will improve our skillsets, give us guidance from people in the field and allow us to share our market research with others.

Since the November elections, we have worked with several groups in the Northeast Florida Region. These are groups that formed organically: Indivisible, Women's March, Progressive Democrats of America, Our Revolution, Brand New Congress, other Resistance groups, and newly formed or revived Democratic Progressive Caucuses. Each of these groups identify their greatest needs as training, education and leadership development.

Therefore, we began to work with these groups and organizations to improve their knowledge base, facilitate collaborative development of training modules and perform training around those modules. We helped identify subject matter experts, provided opportunities for public speaking and coordinated events and locations. Getting Government was one of the products developed that we are most proud of. The program focuses on local government, how it operates,  who is elected and when.

We have worked with dozens of new activists who have little to no support from any other source. Without our work, it is likely we will witness the same fate as other areas, in that these groups will slowly lose momentum because they want to work locally but there isn't anyone to give solid guidance. By educating from the ground up, we provide permanent infrastructure; activated and engaged, self-deterministic communities.

We want to share our model with other activists and have their input in making it better. We want to learn better ways and gain access to tools that will help us keep ahead of the needs of the organizer market. Our approach to this in the market that we have studied and worked within is to host a Regional Leadership Conference. The purpose of the event will be to communicate the information we gather at The People’s Summit, provide organizer training, leadership development and create collaboration with local, state and national organizations.

By doing this, we will strengthen the relationship between institutional organizations and organically developed local groups that each have their own leadership dynamic and unique needs. This is what the national organizations are missing: they don’t have good intel from the ground gathered by seasoned political activists to inform their approach. Our approach can provide a model going forward that will dramatically improve the effectiveness of efforts to build sustainable infrastructure and self-organizing, self-deterministic, civically engaged communities that produce candidates and the grassroots support structure to get them elected.

More often than not, candidates that run for office on a platform that represents poor and working class citizens struggle to compete because they don’t have the access to funding that their opponents do. To close that gap, we must find ways to reduce the costs of campaigns. The most effective form of communication is direct voter contact. Therefore, to level the playing field, organically developed organizations need to be in a position to hit the ground running to support candidates that represent their values with canvassing, phonebanking and grassroots organizing support come election season.

Thus, the approach beyond the regional conference will be to activate leaders in identification of local issues around which, they can organize. From these efforts, leaders and support resources will emerge. This model offers a non-institutional approach to candidate recruitment and canvasser development. When leaders within issue campaigns transition to candidates for office, they have a built in support network having demonstrated their authenticity by having a local footprint of success and leadership.

To begin the process, we will spend the summer attending The People’s Summit, bringing back the information and contacts gathered and hosting a Leadership Conference to disseminate that information to local leaders in the Northeast Florida region.

Since November 2016, The People's White House has funded our market research and continues to provide supporter housing and a workspace. However, to meet our personal monthly expenses (car payments, food, insurance, cat litter, etc), we need both project funding and monthly sustainers. The budget for this project includes these expenses so that we may continue our work in developing the infrastructure in Northeast Florida and sharing our model with other organizers across the country.

While institutional organizations have systems with which they fund staff, often the efforts of those on the grounds assets are dictated by the goals of a national organization with objectives and outcomes that may not always align with the interests or produce buy-in by local citizens. In light of the formation of many of these groups and the leadership dynamics within, any top-down approach will often be rejected if it does not coincide with their preferred brand, learned tactics or strategy. Therefore, it is critical that organizers have autonomy in terms of their activities, that these efforts utilize the various resources of several national organizations, but that ultimately, the endeavors are driven by local collaboration and identified by those in the community.

Updates

Project FAQ

Q: Why should I help you?

A: Since the November elections, we have worked with several groups in the Northeast Florida Region. These are groups that formed organically: Indivisible, Women's March, Progressive Democrats of America, Our Revolution, Brand New Congress, other Resistance groups, and newly formed or revived Democratic Progressive Caucuses. Each of these groups identify their greatest needs as training, education and leadership development.

To begin the process, we will spend the summer attending The People’s Summit, bringing back the information and contacts gathered and hosting a Leadership Conference to disseminate that information to local leaders in the Northeast Florida region.

Q: Who am I helping?

A: You are helping a group of Florida activists who work with local grassroots organizations to build sustainable self-organizing communities.

Q: What is a sustainable self-organizing community?

A: It's a group of people in a community who identify ways to fix problems by utilizing government.

Q: That sounds too simple.

A: Well, that's not really a question, but you're right. It is that simple. When people who live near each other begin to get to know each other and pay attention to what's going on in their government, they can have an amazing impact. At the same time, they need to know things like how to lobby their legislators, who their elected officials are and what they do, how a bill becomes a law on the local, state and federal level and even how to organize a precinct.

Q: Who currently funds your work?

A: We are autonomous organizers. Our work is funded by individuals who see the value in what we do. Because we're autonomous, we don't have someone giving us top-down direction. In other words, we help facilitate growth from the grassroots by identifying leaders and empowering them with education and resources.  Sometimes, that means connecting them with organizations that offer them resources that they don't have access to.  Guess where are those organizations and representatives are going to be?

Q: The People's Summit in Chicago?

A: You got it. And that's why we need to go.