Swing Left Academy

This past weekend I participated in an awesome training by Swing Left, an organization dedicated to swinging the House of Representatives to the Democrats in November.

The training had sooooooo much useful information for activists this election cycle.  It was also three hours long.  (Here’s a link to the full training.)  So I’ve made what you might call a TL;DR version, which hits all the key points in 19 minutes.


Here’s the full outline so you can jump to what interests you most:

0:00 – INTRODUCTION
…..0:42 – Sections Overview
1:21 – ORGANIZING
…..1:24 – The Organizing Fish
…..2:30 – Organizing Definition
…..2:39 – Organizing in Everyday Life
3:00 – VOTER CONTACT
…..3:10 – 5 Types of Voter Contact
…..3:57 – Research on What Works
4:22 – CANVASSING
…..4:36 – What to Bring
…..4:43 – Time Required
…..4:57 – Staging Location
…..5:08 – Walk List
…..5:14 – Canvassing Myths
…..5:51 – Data
…..6:51 – Script
…..7:13 – Canvass Buddies
…..8:09 – How Many Doors?
…..8:18 – How Conversations?
…..8:42 – Lit
…..9:01 – Out-of-District Canvassing
…..9:48 – 3 Types of Voters
11:13 – VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT
…..11:38 – The Hard Ask
….12:12 – Different Kinds of No’s
13:14 – TEAM-BUILDING
….13:45 – Ladder of Engagement
….16:20 – A Pyramid, Not a Column
….16:45 – Group Structure
17:35 – CALL TO ACTION
….17:43 – Get Local Alerts from SwingLeft.org
….18:03 – Canvass for TheLastWeekend.org
18:52 – END

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Help with Demoralized Volunteers

The news just keeps getting worse, doesn’t it?  Here are four simple tactics you can use to maintain volunteer energy and morale:

  1. Self-Care: Maintain your own morale.  Volunteers will take their emotional cues from you.  (Here‘s a self-care refresher.)
  2. Choice: To the extent possible, give your volunteers choices on what they work so they can choose tasks that interest them.  Extroverts will be energized by canvassing.  Introverts may actually like data entry.
  3. Expectations: If you know that volunteers will get a less-than-optimal response from an outreach activity (low voter interest, engaging with opponents), let them know in advance.  Also frame these potentially unpleasant interactions in positive ways, such as “building a new base” or “finding new supporters.”  They will then be emotionally “vaccinated” for less-than-optimal interactions.
  4. Community: Make sure every volunteer activity has some positive social aspect fully controlled by you, such as going out for coffee or a beer after canvassing.  This social time gives volunteers a positive experience of connection and processing regardless of their interaction with persuasion targets.

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Democracy Road Trip #1 – Spokane, WA

Here’s the first of my democracy road trips, which I’ll be taking in the coming months to volunteer for Democratic candidates in swing (flippable) districts.

This first trip is to support the campaign of Lisa Brown, who is running to unseat Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in Washington’s 5th Congressional district.

As Jason Kander says, “the #BlueWave is not a weather event”  We need to get out there and make it happen. I’m going to make it happen by making these videos and taking these trips.

I hope you will too.

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Self-Care Deep Dive

TGIF!  This Friday we go deeper into self-care for activists, asking (and answering) such questions as:

  1. What if I don’t know what self-care I need?
  2. What if the self-care I need isn’t accessible to me?
  3. What if I feel guilty about taking time for self-care?

Our expert in answering these questions is Kathy Clayton, who has over twenty years’ experience coaching individuals to be change agents.

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Take a Moment to Breathe

This has been a brutal few days and I’ll be posting a more in-depth self-care video next week.

For now, here’s a 30-second breathing exercise I use to quickly ground and calm myself so I can get back into the fight.

I hope you like it.

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Create a Vision Board with your Group

How do we help all members to feel engaged?
How do we maintain group cohesion when members differ?
How do we stay focused on our goal when we are demoralized?
How do we connect with one another in a fun yet meaningful way?

Vision boarding is a great solution to all these challenges.
It helps us engage with politics and with each other in a new and creative way.

In the video below, arts facilitator Valentina Gonzalez (artclassestoyou AT gmail DOT com) explains how:

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How to Resolve Conflict in Activist Facebook Groups

Busy and digital as we are, a lot of our activist interactions happen on Facebook.

While convenient, it’s easier for conflict to arise when we interact through a screen, rather than face to face.

This video describes simple methods for assuming and acting with good intentions that can reduce conflict on Facebook and make our groups more cohesive and effective as a result.

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Superhero Canvassing: ID, Persuasion, and GOTV

You already know the canvassing basics.  Now you can level up to be a canvassing superhero and MVP who actually helps the canvass organizer improve their data and effectiveness.

How?  First, you need to know which of the three types of canvass you’re on.  You can ask the canvass organizer that information when you arrive at the staging location.  The three types to expect are:

  • Identity Canvass: The goal here is to get as much information as you can about voters’ positions and preferences so they can be engaged in a more personalized way later on.  This type of canvassing happens earliest.
  • Persuasion Canvass: In this type, you want to move the voter to support your candidate or your issue.  This is about convincing a voter to change her or his mind and happens after some preference information has been collected.
  • Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Canvass: This one is about getting “the base,”  your core supporters, out to the polls.  You aren’t seeking information and you aren’t changing anyone’s mind. You’re just convincing those who already agree with you to actually vote that opinion.   This type of canvassing happens last, no more than 90 days before an election.

Once you know what to expect, you’ll know when voter interactions aren’t matching up: for example, supporters on a Persuasion Canvass or opponents on a GOTV Canvass.  If you find these inconsistencies as you canvass, tell the organizer.  She or he can change the canvass list next time.

Full details for campaign data expert Jamaa Bickley-King in the video below:

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