As I pulled into the sprawling parking lot of Plumbers & Steamfitters UA 290 in Tualatin, I knew it was going to be a big day. The lot was already packed, and cars were still pouring in. Oregon’s first Statewide Volunteer Summit and Training was drawing quite a crowd of volunteers.
In fact, more than 140 volunteers came that day to learn how to organize for the 2012 campaign. We came from the cities, from the coast, from the deserts and the mountains. Volunteers who hadn’t seen each other since the last campaign greeted each other like long-lost family.
Acting State Director Brandyn Keating and her team of staff and interns welcomed us all with coffee, pastries, and great organizing tools.
She went over the President’s many significant accomplishments: ending the war in Iraq; eliminating Osama Bin Laden; halting our slide into a world-wide depression; ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; saving the US auto industry; and so much more. Fixating on the day to day struggles with congressional Republicans can be exhausting– it’s inspiring to take a look back and see how much we’ve actually accomplished.
Neighborhood teams are the backbone of the campaign, so they got star treatment during the course of the day. The campaign’s big idea is the” snowflake model. “ But what is it?
It’s actually pretty simple: instead of a few overworked staffers at headquarters making all the decisions while volunteers wait around for answers, leadership is decentralized, empowering volunteers to organize their own neighborhoods, taking on clear roles and responsibilities of their own, and supported by staff.
After learning about neighborhood teams, we broke up into…you guessed it: neighborhood teams! Portland alone had five teams, while other towns and cities like Beaverton, Salem, Hillsboro and Lake Oswego each had one team. The plan is to recruit more and more volunteers. When a team gets too big to manage itself easily, we’ll divide the neighborhood and split the team into smaller teams covering smaller parts of the neighborhood. Anyone else remember mitosis from high school biology?
After a great lunch, we get more people involved. How does volunteer recruitment work? What’s a one-on-one meeting and why do we have them? How can we use our personal stories to connect to people, and use theirs to connect them to action?
I learned one important reason to practice telling me own my personal story. In explaining how the Affordable Health Care act allowed my son have health insurance after being denied for a pre-existing condition, I became too emotional to continue. With practice, I’ll be able to tell my whole story without breaking up.
Later in the afternoon, we split up into groups for smaller, more specific sessions on things like campaign data, digital media, voter registration, and holding successful events. It was hard to pick just one!
By the end of the day, we were all fired up and ready to reelect President Obama and democrats all up and down the ticket. I can’t wait for our first neighborhood meeting so we can get moving!
If you want to get involved too, you can volunteer or find out about neighborhood meetings near you!