As Bernie Sanders' 2016 Presidential bid proved, people are ready for real change in our political system. They know that there is something wrong when the decisions made by legislators and local governments across the country continually make decisions which benefit wealthy campaign contributors to the detriment of their own constituents.
People are ready to mobilise behind a movement that will once again give the working classes a voice in our democracy. But in order to mobilise, we first need to organize. People are rightly skeptical about the ability of a single individual to make a profound change. One person complaining about inhumane working hours may be ignored - a dozen people joining forces over the issue may be able to change the dynamic of a workplace - a dozen unions bringing it up at the national level can result in the standard workweek and overtime pay being codified into law.
This same model had been proven time and again in political and social movements. If we let the issues unite us, and not let personality differences divide us, we can have a profound impact on our communities and the country.
We recommend you begin by determining what your community already has by way of social and political groups, and where there are gaps that need to be filled or alliances that need to be formed to better achieve shared objectives with existing groups.
The Our Revolution platform is very broad, which will give your group a great deal of space to grow and develop around the issues that matter most to you. Don't try to tackle them all at once! We know that our issues are all interconnected, and that advancing one will have a positive impact on the others. But we don't expect you to take on every single platform plank within your own community.
Although we work on a wide range of issues, we know that what makes sense locally will vary from state to state, and even from neighborhood to neighborhood. That is why we encourage you to open up the discussion to listen to the issues that your neighbors are concerned about.
As a group, we hope you will continue to reach out to your community, to grow and encompass more issues and the people affected by them. However, if you feel comfortable organizing in a certain space or setting - a college campus, your social club, members of your community with a shared personal investment around a particular issue such as criminal justice reform or immigrants or LGBTQ rights - feel free to start and establish your group within that space before reaching out.
As you do begin to reach out to the wider community, be mindful. Even organizations with great meeting processes inadvertently perpetuate barriers to full member participation and access to democratic process. This happens through group dynamics of power, privilege and oppression that often marginalize women, people of color, queer, trans and gender nonconforming folks, people with disabilities and those with limited access to the cultural cues and financial resources that come with class privilege.
To help prevent this from happening, we recommend that you create community agreements* that all members can work together under, without disadvantaging any one individual. (*"Anti - Oppressive Facilitation." Anti - Oppression Resource and Training Alliance. N.p., July 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.)
Now we get into the practicalities. It helps to establish a regular meeting place that people in your area begin to associate with the group. This will help new members find you, and will help you to know what sort of resources you have to work with in your regular venue.
Look for a venue with reliable internet or wi-fi, sufficient space and seating. Public transport nearby and available parking will help with turnout. Taking care of basic human necessities - having bathrooms, water fountains, even food - will help you keep your group happy throughout the meeting.
Suitable and affordable (often free, if you ask nicely!) venues may include:
A library meeting room
A café or pub (many will allow you to use the space on a 'slow' night)
A union hall or meeting room
A college lecture hall outside of normal class hours
An apartment or dorm common room
It is also useful to establish a regular meeting time. This makes it more likely for people to turn up without an invitation, because they know they can rely on you being there. Whether it is once per month or once per week, establish a pattern of when your meetings will be held.
As organizers, we know how important your time is. Never lose sight of the value of time and energy your meeting attendees and volunteers are also providing. Interminable meetings with no tangible actions taken or decisions made can leave people feeling drained and discouraged. Here are a few suggestions to help you hold a meeting which will leave your attendees feeling like they are part of a community and taking real steps toward creating a desired outcome:
Work together with your group to create clearly understood and attainable goals. By attainable, don't think you're confined to likely. "We choose to go to the moon," is attainable. "We choose to set up a cheese mine on the moon," is not. It would be fun, though.
Determine what concrete actions can be taken to help you achieve those goals.
Create a timeline for your actions.
There's a tendency in any group for the more extroverted and outgoing members to take up the speaking time. Encourage full participation wherever possible by setting time limits on speakers or asking each person to speak in turn on a topic.
Bylaws or community agreements help define roles, clarify expectations, and create a space where all members feel comfortable sharing. It is the group leader, facilitator or Chair's duty to make sure that whatever agreements the group makes are upheld. This isn’t about creating rules—it’s about creating and clarifying agreements and expectations that allow everyone in the group to participate. In order for these to be meaningful, they need to come from the group itself. Once a group creates its agreements, they can be used over and over. As a facilitator, you get to contribute to this list, too.
Be aware of the make-up of your membership. If most of your attendees are getting involved in community organizing for the first time, you may wish to hold trainings. If they are seasoned activists, they may want to jump straight into action planning. A good meeting generally balances sharing information, providing training and planning or taking action.
Whether you have an established group, or are an individual seeking to start one from scratch, it is always important to keep reaching out to people in your community. There is a tendency for any group to reach a 'comfortable' number and stop seeking out new members. But new members are crucial - they bring new perspective and new issues to the group's attention that may not have been there otherwise, and they may have skills which prove highly useful.
There are many ways to reach out to your community. Be visible, be public - and when you are, always have your group's basic info on you. Whether you create fliers, business cards, or simply have a pen and paper to hand, be ready to tell people who express interest in an action or sign a petition when and where you regularly meet, and invite them to come along.
There are many ways to get word of your group and the work you're doing out into the community. You can post fliers at libraries and community centers, list your meetings on local events websites or in the weekly papers' events section, table at farmer's markets and on college campuses - get creative! Anywhere that you know people will be gathered, particularly for a progressive cause, be there, and be visible!
Be sure to maintain a database of people who have attended your meetings, signed your petitions, or expressed interest in becoming a part of your group. This will become your key contact list when you want attendees or need volunteers for any event or action.
In addition to collecting contact information on a sign-in form, it is very useful to ask your volunteers what particular skills they have which may prove helpful.
Some skills that may easily translate to fit an organizing groups needs include:
Organizing → Could maintain the volunteer database, oversee event planning, work out meeting logistics.
Legal or Legislative Experience → Would be useful in helping with filing protest permits, helping decide group organizational and tax status, or drafting model legislation or ballot measures.
Accounting → Could be a treasurer or help with fundraising.
Verbal Communication → Would make a good phonebanker or outreach director.
Written Communication → Writes letters to the editor, press releases, social media content.
Photography / Videography → Can document your group events and actions.
Artistic → Could design logos, fliers, posters, banners, 'swag' and rally signs.
Tech → Can design your website, upload sign-in files, set up a/v equipment at your venue.
Once you have been able to identify which skills your group members have, and what your group needs are, it's time to start determining responsibilities. Keep in mind your volunteers' availability and how many hours they feel they can reasonably commit.
Roles may depend on the size of your group. If you are very small, you may have a single individual responsible for each role. As you grow, and more people wish to participate, you may wish to consider forming committees or teams.
Depending on your group structure, you may wish to elect members to certain roles. A democratic process is ideal for this, as the more say a volunteer has in your group's structure, focus and leadership, the more likely they are to wish to continue to participate. Regular elections will also allow you to integrate new members with new skills into the group as quickly as possible. We encourage full-group participation in leadership decisions as often as possible.
What you will need:
Your group's Name
A brief Description of what your group is about
A Location for your group. Without a location, we cannot put your group on the map to let people in your community know there's a group in their area. If you don't have a set meeting place yet, input a public space in your town, such as a library, park or town hall.
A Contact Person in your group. It's very useful to have one person who is willing to be responsible for communication. They will be the first point of contact for anyone who is interested in joining your group, and the first person Our Revolution's D.C. office will reach out to when we hear of a campaign in your area that we'd like to consult you about. It's highly recommended that you use a non-personal e-mail address and phone number in these fields, as your communication person may change from time to time, and probably won't want their personal email and phone to be swamped with calls, texts and emails. There are many free email servers, and you can get a Google Voice number which will forward calls to your phone.
All of your group's Online Presence addresses. Not only will this help you get traffic to your website and social media accounts, it will help us keep up to date on your accomplishments, and spread word of what you are working on.
A general idea of the Issues you want to focus on in the immediate future. It is useful to have a combination of local issues you wish to affect directly, and national issues you plan on becoming involved with.
Your Meeting's regular date, time and place. If you can, please establish a routine meeting time and place. This will help people find and attend your meetings.
Once you complete the form you will receive a group ID in your email as well as the link to the Memorandum of Understanding presentation. Please be mindful that any information you include here will be publicly available and will go live within a few days of completing the onboarding process. We are developing a system that allows group representatives to update information on their landing page -- but for the time being update requests are submitted via this form. Don’t worry if you do not have all the information for your group yet.
Before starting the Memorandum of Understanding presentation please be sure you have completed step 1. You will need the group ID which you will receive in an email once your form has been submitted. The onboarding presentation was created to address many of the questions associated with the Memorandum of Understanding (the document which outlines the relationship between your local group and the organization and the tools we provide). The presentation runs around 30 minutes. After you complete it the next section of the form will be a short quiz, all the information you need for the quiz is contained in the video. After passing the quiz with a score of 80% or higher you will receive the MOU in an email at the address you provided on the form. You can take the quiz again if you do not receive the necessary score.
3. Sign the Memorandum of Understanding
Once you pass the Memorandum of Understanding quiz with a score of an 80 or higher, you will receive an email from the Organizing Department with a link to access your group’s MOU.
You or another representative for your group will fill out:
Line one with your Group Name and Group ID you received at the end of step 1
Line three with the first and last name of the person signing for your group
Your signature on the last page.
Within 24 hours we will countersign your MOU. You can access your countersigned MOU via Docusign.com by logging in with your email address and creating a password. Once your MOU is countersigned you have an official Our Revolution group!
If you have already passed the quiz but cannot locate your MOU, please search your inbox for Organizing Dept.. If you cannot locate your docusign after searching your inbox, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome and thank you for stepping up to be a progressive leader for your community!