Training: Digital Skills for Labor – Aug. 21

We’re pleased to be co-presenting a daylong training on online organizing aimed at people in the labor movement. Whether you’re a beginner or looking to hone your skills with more advanced trainings, we’ll have something for you.

All participants MUST register here. The language in this form focuses on affiliates of the New York City Central Labor Council, but we are welcoming colleagues from community organizing groups, unions and labor groups who aren’t part of the CLC, students, activists and others allied with the labor movement. Wondering if this training is really for you? Just ask by emailing us here.

Details:

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 | 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM
New York City Central Labor Council
275 Seventh Avenue, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10001

This event is sponsored by the New York City Central Labor Council, the New York State AFL-CIO, the AFL-CIO, Organizing 2.0, the Consortium for Worker Education and the New York Paid Leave Coalition. Trainers hailing from the CLC, AFL-CIO and Organizing 2.0 will be on hand to give you a training tailored to labor’s needs. We’ll be teaching things like the Salsa email blast and petition system, social media skills for all levels, how to get buy-in for online organizing and what to look for in making a campaign website.

Registration is limited and expected to fill up rapidly. Register Today.

An Idea for Big List Online Organizing

Together with Democrats.com, we’re trying to address an interesting – but extremely sensitive – issue. How can the important organizations with large lists of progressives work together to influence the outcome of local races of importance? Specifically, the kinds of races that often fall in the cracks: local, primaries, recalls, non-Federal, but in a context where the outcome can have national significance.

Examples abound: The New York City mayoral primary and the Colorado recall races against John Morse and Angela Giron come to mind for this September. Because of the importance of these local races, it is likely that groups we know and love with large national lists will weigh in – perhaps fundraising, perhaps volunteer opportunities, but for sure with endorsements and calls to help get out the vote.

And yet, more could be done.

Imagine a scenario where different progressive groups combine their names into a single CRM. Some black box mechanism that assures everyone that no one is stealing their names, no one is going to spam folks uncontrollably, but that coordinates the messaging. Imagine further that the names and emails on this shared list are matched with the voter file, so that even smaller chunks can be messaged for campaigners working in smaller geographic units, or that emails can be written ‘from’ someone who is close by. Imagine that this shared list is run through a social media matching service (like Attentive.ly) to figure out who the best prospects are for high touch engagement.

(By ‘coordinates the messaging’ we don’t mean send the same email to everyone, we mean making sure that it’s possible to reach the right people, at the right time, with excellent emails that are both responsive to campaign priorities, are seen as legitimate by the recipients, and that take into account the local news cycle. It can be done!)

I bet such an effort increases turnout for everyone in that shared list. In a low turnout race, that can make a big difference. More importantly, I think that the combined effort would boost overall turnout AND get national press, particularly if this kind of cooperation was trumpeted as a news story. It’s widely known in our circles that simply emailing people might not improve GOTV, but working a list in this fashion, early and carefully with an experienced local staff person taking charge, does not constitute a program of simply emailing to boost GOTV.

There isn’t much time if we wanted to roll such an effort out for September. On the other hand, so many of the obstacles DO have solutions, even if they require some fancy footwork and goodwill. Examples:

Privacy issues and ‘can’t pass on emails to other organizations.’ There are solutions to this. First of all, a combined effort of multiple organizations working in close partnership doesn’t constitute ‘giving emails to another entity.’ It’s entirely possible to work with a CRM that keeps track of every email address’ source, and for that CRM to be formally owned/managed by a consortium of partners.

Lack of staff time in the national orgs for such a small fraction of members. Well that’s the whole point. We can’t really expect the managers of national lists to be focused on a local race, which is why having a local person take charge of the process makes so much sense. Imagine what your list could do if it was worked in the most efficient manner for a specific race for a limited amount of time?

List members might complain. But isn’t that always true? This exercise isn’t about building a list or raising money for the large org, it’s about winning an election. And we can’t trust candidates and their campaigns to do it on their own, particularly in small races that might not have access to the staffing and talents of a statewide or national race. More importantly – our progressive list members want to be effective, want to be informed of how they can make a real difference. That doesn’t always happen in local races.

If you think this is worth doing – please say so and let’s be in touch. If you can identify obstacles or hurdles, even ones you think are insurmountable – please post or email them. Sometimes, what looks like a problem from far away is an opportunity when a talented group examine it close up.

(comment below or email me at clenchner@organizing20.org)

Knowledge Donors for Labor Fights


These days there are many new ways for people who are not members of a labor union to participate in the labor movement.
In addition to working with existing unions people can become members of Working America or join the OWS offshoot 99 Pickets.  If you work in the sector they represent you can join the Freelancers Union, OUR Walmart, Fast Food Forward or one of the many new worker centers like the Restaurant Opportunities Center. or Retail Action Project. Unions as well as these newer entities are all making calls for solidarity from the public in the form of petition signatures, help with picketing and demonstrations, boycotts, and help spreading the word on social media. But with rare exceptions, they do not have a structure for engaging with skilled volunteers – what many are calling knowledge donors.

Managing volunteers can be a challenge no matter what; but managing knowledge donors is a step beyond that. Organizations that have relied on groups of interchangeable supporters to show up at a certain time, perform an action, and then go home aren’t always able to handle individual volunteers with a specific skill. This can be complicated even more with tensions around volunteers who don’t represent your core constituency. What do you do with someone who isn’t even a member, might not come from the same community, and has a generational or class difference from the people they are trying to help? No wonder you won’t find many examples of knowledge donors in the labor world.

Organizing 2.0 is launching a new effort to recruit skilled volunteers who will be in service to labor and community organizing struggles. We’re looking specifically for digitally applicable skills, including social media proficiency, writing for the web, graphic design, online video, web development, trainers in digital tools and online advertising. These are the skill sets that (we observe) many union locals do not have. Even very large union locals are sometimes configured in such a way that staff are unable to run a real digital media campaign.

We have seen many cases where union locals go on strike — an action they have been preparing for for weeks or months — but don’t have a plan for social media outreach or any online communications. It’s only once the strike is imminent that they realize that they want additional support from the broader public and see the internet as a means for getting it and of putting pressure on the employer. However, the union local doesn’t have a plan for how to get that support or relationships with people who can help them. Sometimes they come to Organizing 2.0 for help at the last minute. We want to be able to do that at a larger scale. In particular, we want to help those who ‘don’t know who or how to ask.’

Our plan is to look for both knowledge donors and labor or community organizing fights that can benefit from them. By connecting and applying our knowledge and understanding of both labor and digital strategy, we can make a difference that is both meaningful and visible.

Of course, questions remain. Will we be able to recruit, train, manage and retain skilled volunteers? Will we find willing partners interested in their help? We think so but we’re not sure. As an organization run entirely by volunteers, everything we ever do has a certain question mark over it. But we do have a track record of training and engaging thousands of people at events over nearly four years. We’ve built an amazing Advisory Board (details coming soon!). And a great many of our peers working in the labor movement have offered encouragement and support for this new direction. Plus we’ve already done this on a micro scale for a few locals.

We can’t wait to find out. Meanwhile, everyone reading our post is encouraged to help us figure this out. Please – offer your suggestions and questions below, and sign up if you a)have skills and b)want to contribute them to help workers win labor fights.

Interning For Organizing 2.0 Is Amazeballs

amazeballsHere at Organizing 2.0 we take internships seriously. So we’ve crafted a thoughtful description, posted it in a variety of useful places, and asked all our supporters to share on social media. But there’s nothing as powerful as personal testimony. So here goes:

Hey folks! My name is Katie and I just graduated Harvard. I know, being an intern isn’t always great—lots of busy work, and often little actual experience in the field you’re interested in. But when Charles asked me to help recruit interns, I couldn’t turn him down. I can honestly tell you that interning with Charles a few years ago was an amazing experience. I didn’t feel like an intern, I felt like part of his team.

That’s probably due in part to the small size of his team, but it’s also in large part because of the type of boss Charles is. As his intern, you might be in charge of everything from setting his schedule to helping run presentations to reaching out to contacts yourself. There’s no limit to what the intern can do, it’s just a matter of what you can handle. And that’s the genuinely cool thing about this opportunity: you can grow in your responsibilities as your term progresses. If you’re at all interested in online organizing, you’ll get more experience in this internship than anywhere else.

That’s from Katie, a native of Brooklyn and Russia who worked with me a few years ago.

More recently, I had the pleasure of working with Sam:

My name is Sam and I am a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin. Like many graduates, I didn’t have that much work experience when I left the bubble of college life and entered the real working world. I had done a few summer and mid-semester internships, but always found these work environments more of an opportunity for observation than contribution. Then I joined Charles. Within the first week, it became abundantly clear that I was not there to sit back and learn passively. Charles genuinely needed me to learn the trade and execute tasks to keep things moving forward. This is what I found so great about my experience interning with Charles- I was finally a contributing member of a team.

As my work progressed, I earned more and more freedoms and would say that I worked with Charles rather than for him. I learned so much so rapidly that around a month with Charles equated the same value for me as all my previous experiences. My daily work was dynamic and I learned tons of new areas of expertise: managing, supporter engagement, reporting, social media, design and more. I became more than an intern, I felt like an asset. So, if you are looking to really improve your skills in online marketing, organizing and writing- take this internship with Charles. But only do so if you really want to learn and work; and when you leave this internship, I promise you will be better prepared to enter the workforce. Your coffee making skills will not improve from this internship, but all of your other ones likely will.

Look, these are personal testimonies from people who have interned with me, Charles Lenchner. I’m going to be the primary supervisor for our Fall interns. So while most interns are focused on the letter of recommendation they get from their supervisors, candidates should be aware that at Organizing 2.0 we think about the letters of recommendation we’ll be getting from you.

If you like our approach – please apply to become our intern!