The 2011 Summer Organizer Program kicked-off here in Arkansas on June 3rd and 4th, with a busy weekend of training and a bit of bonding among the SOs and staff. We covered a variety of topics — from the big picture of what it means to be an organizer to delving into the world of data and reporting.
The author Mary Beth Rogers has said that “community organizing is a fancy word for relationship building.” We reviewed the tools that we have for building these relationships, including phone calls and 1:1 meetings. Throughout the weekend it was prompts like this and our follow up discussions that emphasized the strengths of good organizing — creating change through empowering others.
We discussed the role of organizing and grassroots efforts in major movements in our nation’s history. From the workers’ movement inspired by Caesar Chavez to Susan B. Anthony’s work with women’s rights, we can see not only how this relationship building can empower others but also how that empowerment leads to progress and tangible change. In this sense we are working for something much bigger than ourselves. We are part of a movement on behalf of progress in our Nation. We are working to continue this progress by electing President Obama.
We also explored the nitty-gritty of organizing, to include data and reporting. As we all learned, “if it’s not in the VAN (the organizing database), it doesn’t exist.” How important could it be to keep up with reporting, you ask? Well, a system like the VAN is a key tool to keeping an organizer organized! It also allows us to track our progress on goals, and allow others to see that progress as well. Simply put — it’s awesome.
This weekend’s training brought four new organizers with a variety of experiences and past campaign involvement to Little Rock. Not only was it an opportunity to learn the needed skills of an organizer and expectations for the summer, but an opportunity to learn from each other and create a strong team. The team of Summer Organizers came up with the name the “Arkansas Hard-Asks,” making a play on words that draws from making “hard asks” of our fantastic volunteers.
This isn’t the only team the SO’s will be involved with. Each organizer will begin working with and forming Neighborhood Teams on their “turf,” an absolutely key element to future success. The organizers and these teams will collaborate on events such as phonebanks and voter registration, among other things. We are all very excited to get to work!