Project Wonderful

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Get Ready For Some Guest Posts!!!

Hey Guys,

I'm headed off to visit the world's best little brother in that bastion of democracy, Russia! Did you know I was a Russian major undergrad? Anyway I'll miss you like crazy. (Which is actually a little pathetic on my part.) Please enjoy the following guest posts in my absence! They are great, but as a matter of policy, guest blogs are the opinions of the guest bloggers, not yours truly. If you would like to pitch a blog, email me at Thank you so, so much to my incredible guest bloggers. I'll see you when I get back!

In Soviet Russia, campaigns are sick for YOU! CM&L,


Republicans, the Final Frontier, to Go Where No Democrat Has Gone Before

I've wanted to have a post on tracking for a really long time. Thanks to Aaron Fielding (that's me and him above) for making it happen!

I began tracking in 2010 for a gubernatorial candidate. I continued tracking in 2011 for an independent organization in the Northeast mostly Republican Presidential candidates. I have covered events with Mitt Romney, Rick Perry (my favorite), Michele Bachmann (scariest), Jon Huntsman (nicest), just to name a few.

Ever since George Allen’s infamous “Macaca Moment” tracking has become an increasingly important part of campaigns, for our side anyway Republicans still haven’t taken to tracking as extensively as our side, my theory is they are just going to make up what our candidates say so what’s the point.

Tracking is fun, frustrating, and the most unusual position on a campaign. People think it’s easy, but it takes a smart, savvy, thick-skinned individual. You’re job is to attend events featuring candidates and elected officials from the other side. Most of the time (especially during the height of the campaign season) you are attending local County/City Republican Party events and everyone there will hate you and in some cases threaten you. I will be taking you to my process of tracking and also some tracking best practices.

Finding the Event
With Facebook, Twitter and Google, finding events are becoming easier, especially if you’re a Republican tracker finding a Democrat event, but Republican candidates, local parties, and yes even the Tea Party uses electronic media to broadcast events. Every morning, and whenever you have some down time at the office, checking the candidate’s websites (campaign and/or official), state party website, local party websites, local Tea Party website and other like-minded groups (my personal favorite is the 2nd Amendment Task Force they are a fun bunch).
Tweet-Deck is a great tool for finding events, especially last-minute radio interviews event, if you are running statewide it’s hard to be everywhere, but morning radio shows are an easy way to communicate to your constituents, and some elected officials do this pretty regularly.
After an e-media search comes the fun part, contacting their offices. It’s good to have volunteers and interns do this, after awhile their staff (both campaign and official) will know who you are and won’t tell you anything.

The Event
Republican events are just like our events, they have staff, and a sign-in table. It’s good to get to the event early, but you don’t want to get there to early (if it’s just you and the candidate’s staff they are going to have to talk to you and the jig is up).
Going into the event, you are going to be asked to sign-in, I would politely decline. After going passed the sign-in table you need to find a good spot to set up so you can cover the event with your camera, not a flip-cam mind you a camera with your tripod. (It’s not good enough just to get them on camera, it needs to be usable for a television ad).

Good Video – Notice how the camera is not shaking and is in HD.

Bad Video – See how the video is not in HD, the sound is bad and it’s shaky.
After setting up your camera, you should leave it on, if you see someone coming towards you, you should begin recording, sometimes being kicked out of the event is actually a bigger story than what the candidate says. And you never know when something like this is going to happen.

Being Kicked Out – ***Being physically assaulted by campaign staff is always a win*** For the most part it will be a staffer asking you to leave. Tell them no, you are there because it is a public event and you have every right to be there. Now, if someone from the facility where the event is taking place and/or the police ask you to leave, you should.
When the event begins, it’s a good idea to film everything and take detailed notes with timestamps, this is important when Communications wants certain footage.

Post Event
You should film the target until they leave, it’s always good to get footage of what vehicle they take, it’s good to know what they travel in, I once had to go to an airport to get the tail number of a private plane, plus you could get a gem like this: About 40 seconds in.
After the event is over, it is important to get your detailed event memo out to staff so they can determine if there are any issues they want to push out.

Holding candidates accountable for what they say is an important part of Democracy. This is why tracking is so important. Yes, getting a candidate on film using racial slurs, messing up the pledge, or saying how you like to fire people is great and the press loves it, but most candidates are polished enough not to make those mistakes, so getting where they stand on the issues is why we use trackers. After you track someone long enough, you will know what they are going to say, but if they change what they say, leave something out, or add something new it is important we know what that is, it could be the beginning of a Flip-Flop, or something bigger that we need research to start working on so we can create something like this.


If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask, I have been through just about everything and would be glad to help in any way that I can.

Come Join the Party: Why You Need to be a Part of the Young Democrats of America

The Amazing Shayna Daitch invites us to join YDA. (That would be me and her above. I now I REALLY wish we had taken a better picture.)

Shayna Daitch has called the great state of Oklahoma her home for most of her life and continues to be involved in state politics there. She has served on the board of Young Democrats of Oklahoma as National Committeewoman for two years and recently worked on the re-election campaigns of President Barack Obama and Senator Claire McCaskill. She is currently running to be Secretary of the Young Democrats of America with the YDA Progress team. Follow her twitter, @iknowshayna and @ydaprogress.

I’m really excited to write for y’all about, YDA, a group that is amazing and close to my heart. I got involved with the Young Democrats of America about two years ago. A friend of mine was trying to recruit people from Oklahoma to go the 2011 YDA Convention in Louisville, KY. She tweeted like crazy about it and had fundraised enough money to cover the cost of the trip for a bunch of people. I tweeted back at her and said I was interested in this trip. I was a little suspicious, but hey, free trip! Attending the YDA Convention was one of the best decisions I ever made. Growing up as a Jewish Democrat was often a lonely experience in Oklahoma, but YDA helped change that. I learned so much and met truly incredible friends.

As a member of the Young Democrats of America and a campaign staffer, I saw the impact of the youth vote first-hand and it is directly related to the work of the Young Democrats of America. The 2012 election wasn’t just about President Obama. It was about us as young Americans—the issues that are important to us and affect our future. Because we cared so deeply, youth turnout was the highest since 1968, when the voting age was lowered to 18, and 67% of young Americans choose Obama over Romney. Without youth voters, we know Obama would have lost Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

What is YDA?

The Young Democrats of America was founded in 1932 (shout out to North Carolina for being the founding chapter!) as the official youth arm of the Democratic National Committee. We are currently the largest partisan youth organization in America. In 2002, YDA started to operate separately from the DNC, but the relationship between the organizations remains very close. YDA has three voting members on the DNC as well as one voting member on the DNC Executive Committee.

Some things about YDA:

1) YDA highlights issues that are important to Young Americans. The DNC has an increasing sensitivity to the issues facing young Americans and does a wonderful job of pushing many of our issues into the spotlight. There are many issues that are simply more important than others to us, like college affordability, reproductive rights, and reasonable interest rates. While we agree on issues, since YDA is separate from the DNC we are able to take control of our platform, our budget, and our messaging and focus solely on youth issues. We take guidance from the DNC but have the flexibility and freedom to do our own programming as well as work with groups like the College Democrats of America.

2) YDA is an awesome way to network and further your career. Not gonna lie, YDA is the place to meet remarkable young politicos. YDA hosts several conferences each year around the country and it is great to travel and meet new like-minded professionals. Being from Oklahoma, I longed for a network of people who shared my values and were equally as passionate about moving youth issues forward, passing progressive legislation, and electing Democrats—especially young Democrats. I found these people at YDA. Many of our members are young elected officials in their own right or campaign workers, but some have careers in non-political fields. I’ve actually gotten two campaign jobs because of the relationships I had formed through YDA. The networking is helpful, especially to campaign workers who often move around the country. It doesn’t matter what resource you are seeking, someone in YDA can and will assist. Particularly, in my campaign experience, the YDA network connected me to local clubs where I recruited volunteers, they helped me understand my new turf, introduced me to new people, and once it even found me supporter housing. Additionally, it’s a good place to get the political experience you need, especially if you want to break in to state party politics or other national organizations.

3) YDA is a marketplace of ideas and training opportunities. YDA’s strength lies in its diverse and large membership. YDA has 11 constituency caucuses as well as a faith initiative and regional committees. Since everyone comes from different states and backgrounds, it is the perfect place to crowdsource. I’m constantly blown away by what our members are doing across the country. For leaders who run local chapters, it is wonderful to have the support and advice from others who have faced the same problems. Recently, the Kansas Young Democrats got one of their members elected to their state legislature and the Delaware Young Democrats worked on the initiative to pass marriage equality. In my home state, the Young Democrats of Oklahoma played a role in successfully fighting personhood legislation last year. If I needed fundraising advice, I’d call the young Democrats in California and New York who know how to make it rain. And in states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Missouri, and others, their local Young Democrats chapters turned out to help with GOTV in 2012. There are just too many examples to list, but YDs get stuff done by helping each other create change across the country. On top of this, YDA is a great place for cheap trainings. In the last year, YDA has offered trainings from the very best in the business like Planned Parenthood, Democratic GAIN, Democracy for America, and senior-level staffers on major campaigns such as OFA. We haven’t had one from CampaignSick yet, but I’m sure that will change, very soon.

Basically, if you love politics and campaigns and under the age of 36, YDA is the place for you. The next YDA Convention will be in San Antonio, TX on August 8-11th and is shaping up to be the best one yet. There will be high-level trainings, guest speakers, and special events. Won’t you join us? For more information and registration visit us on the web.

Theories of Change and the Practice of Organizing

Welcome guest blogger, Adam Briskin-Limehouse is an organizer, thinker, and returned Peace Corps volunteer who has worked on 9 campaigns. He’s originally from a small town outside of Charleston, SC. Recently, he was the Field Director for the winning Marylanders for Marriage Equality campaign. He can be found on LinkedIn or by e-mail:

First things first - I have to send a shout out to Hope Wood and entire coaching team that New Organizing Institute assembled for an amazing three-day training. Thank you. Much of the following is synopsising a portion of theirs and Marshall Ganz’s work on Theories of Change. Any screw ups are mine and don’t reflect on them.

A little bit more context on the training - NOI and range of organizers from 25+ year veterans of the union movement to first time organizers spent three days talking about how you build a campaign to scale from the first meetings of the senior staff all the way out to winning an election or accomplishing your goal. We started with a talk about Story of Us and Story of Now and then got into the nitty-gritty of strategy, tactics and timing.

Theory of Change fits into the the strategy of campaigning and serves as the germ of its Public Narrative (Story of Self, Us, and Now).

Why do we all do what we do?

Why do we work the crazy hours on issues and campaigns that most people tell us don’t matter? I can’t tell you why you do it. But I know why I do it: I do the work of organizing because I want to change our nation - taking it towards being a more just, more egalitarian place. So, what is the relationship between desiring change, working for it through organizing, and achieving that change? Power. The changes we all work towards take power to happen. But, power isn’t a thing that you can touch. It’s a relationship.

Marshall Ganz, Harvard Kennedy School professor, and the trainers at NOI teach that power comes in two flavors: Power Over and Power With. Power Over is a relationship where someone holds power over the decisions or resources that we need in order to create change in our lives. If they have power over us it means they thing they don’t need us or our resources to get what they want. So, the work of organizing is figuring out how to grow our own resources, or shrink theirs, so that we have equal need of each other and can negotiate change together. Power With is a relationship where we can create the change we need just by organizing our resources with others. For example, we might pool our resources to create a cooperative daycare or a community credit union.

Ok, so power is a relationship. So What?

Understanding this insight can empower us and, more importantly, the people we work with to draft effective Theories of Change. Your theory of change is the basic, fundamental statement of your campaign’s strategy. There are five general theories of change:

the Information Theory: if we educate decision makers, we’ll get the change we desire;
the Legal Theory: if we successfully sue the Decision Makers, then we will get the change we desire;
the Market Theory: if we boycott the Decision Maker’s products, then we will get the change we desire;
the Culture Theory: if we change the societies norms or how they are represented by Decision Makers, then we’ll get the change we desire.
the Organizing Theory: if we challenge and confront the power of the Decision Makers, then we will get the change we desire.

Most of the electoral work we do is based on some combination of the Information and Organizing Theories of Change - the decision makers in question being the voters. Issue work can be any or all of the five and can and does target decision makers from voters to CEOs and Senators. Earlier I said that your theory of change is your the basic statement of your strategy but what do I mean by strategy? Strategy can be defined as turning the resources you have into the power that you need to achieve the change that you want. A good Theory of Change tells your donors and your volunteers who you will be organizing, how organizing them will affect the change you want and what that change means, i.e. what your goal is.

Two examples of Theories of Change:

Let’s say that you are working for a City Council candidate who needs to win 50% + 1 of 135,000 voters. You’re Theory of Change would go something like this: “If we recruit enough volunteers to identify, persuade, and GOTV 25,000 voters in addition to our known base of 45,000 voters, then our candidate wins and will be able to enact the change that we want.” You’re organizing volunteers in order to talk to voters to persuade them to vote for the candidate you want.

A non-electoral example - Let us say that you want to improve how it treats its fulfulment employees: better pay, better hours, and better working conditions. You’re Theory of Change might go something like this: “If we persuade a majority of’s stockholders to support a vote at the company’s annual investor meeting on forcing to improve worker conditions at fulfulment warehouses, then ensure that we win the vote, then the policy we want will be enacted and the company will have to change its behavior.” In this case, you’re organizing’s shareholders in order to get them to directly change the company’s behavior - thus obtaining the change you desire. (Note: easier said than done - also, I’m not sure if’s corporate charter allows investors to vote on specific policy changes from the floor during shareholder meetings.)

Getting to the Point

As you sit down with your campaign teams, think about these questions to develop an effective theory of change or to refine the theory you’ve already been using:

Power Over Power With
1) What change do we want? 1) What change do we want?
2) Who has the resources to 2) Who has the resources to
create that change? create that change?
3) What do they want? 3) If ‘us,’ why is it not happening?
4) What do we have that they want? 4) How will you mobilize resources
in new ways to make it happen?

All Theories of Change adapt as you work towards your final goal - your understanding of who has the resources to create the change you desire can change and so can your understanding of what they want. The point is to think clearly about the work that we’re doing so that we end up being the protagonists of our own story rather than characters in the stories of those who already have power.

One last thing: if your theory of change doesn’t make sense in the context of the questions above or hasn’t been accomplishing what you want, go back to the beginning and redraft it. Don’t get so tied to a single theory that you waste the resources the people your organizing have.