Do You Care about Communicating with Each Other?
The Network Effect. Groundcrew and Feedback

Day Traders and Campaign Plans

Creation of political will and policy change are an outcome.

Changes in political will and policy are not irreversible. It seems increasingly like they are reverse by courts, new politicians and switching party control that long-term shifts will be increasingly elusive if we stay on our current path.

The key challenges to fostering long-term change which protect policy gains and multiply the power of political will are. 
            A. Generating deep cultural interest in the issues, problems and solutions.
            B. Distributing ownership of the effort to fix the problem.

Short term policy activities that do not secure long-term solutions are not a solution for fixing deep systemic problems.  Passing lots of policy that is far beyond where the culture is ready go begs for backlash, the reversal of political gains and waste organizing effort and resources. Focusing on shifting culture and distributing ownership of the effort to create change secures sustainable gains.

Here are three examples....
1. Gay marriage = Culture has shifted. Political will and policy are tumbling now to align with the culture. In the past gains have been easily rolled back in political and policy context while culture has grown more mature and accepting.

2. Climate Change = policy efforts are far ahead of culture and activism increasing targeted at short term policy gain may or may not be successful but are seriously threatened if they do pass because not enough is being done to "distribute ownership of the effort."  It is currently a very centralized effort focused on political will and policy. 

3. Anti-war movement originally mustered massive amounts of political will but has moved into politics and policy (with the new administration) and abandon effective cultural engagements.

The threat is that with a "friendly' Washington many of the professional activists and policy wonky types are leaping into cashing out political will and pushing for policy gains. However, major progressive efforts are now threatened by three trends.

First, the focus on Washington combined with the economic condition has decimated the cultural movement in the field. More dollars are pushing Washington to move faster and farther on policy. State groups and field organizing activity is decreasing. There are less local organizers creating local context to issues and solutions.  The large culture wind that blew progressive into town is no longer being fanned by stupid moves of our opponents or by our own careful nurturing.

Second, the focus on exact policy, committees and specific frames and legislation pushes the Washington groups with more money and staff to exert targeted control to implement the most aggressive and far reaching solutions they believe they enact immediately. This pushes DC groups to reach farther and "cash in" political will to support very specific positions.   This need for control sucks away local feelings of ownership and engagement and diminishes political will with each step.

Third, the opposition is shut out of Washington policy and political process so they are focused exclusively on culture war out in the field and in the states. The have the potential to organize new support almost unopposed. (rise of the tea party)

These trends drive the pendulum to swing back and forth.

What needs to happen?

These trends open up the opportunity for a disruptive third way to emerge which does not push left or right but one that strictly "pushes"  culture -> political will -> policy.

In order to protect the progress that has been made and to avoid the swings of political will and policy, progressives working on the far reaching campaigns MUST add elements to their current  plans that use each activity to do 2 / 3 things.

  1. How does this current activity (cash out of political will) or policy initiative add to the base? Policy work without base building is a strategy doomed to fail. How does this effort engage new people in new ways?   How does this effort appeal to the 10 minute volunteer, the person watching on TV, how does what we are now doing inspire those that don't care to engage just a bit more? 
  2. How does work "spread ownership"? How are the activities and solutions being distributed so that the field and the states pick up the solutions? How does the energy and activity and messaging become a tool for local activity (in addition to national policy work)?  How does the national work elevate the local energy and demonstrate a clear unified and respectful relationship with solutions owned by others?  How does the policy work and organizing spread "across and up" not "just out and down"?  How do activities create a redundancy in leadership? What are the ways the actions "power the edge" vs. empower the center?
  3. Given the assumptions that standing success for a real movement is cultural, distributed and engages many equal leaders, What activities and investments are being made that add the capacity of many leaders to share, collaborate and harmonize actions with each other? How do these harmonizing efforts help leaders act because they understand the situation (not because they are controlled)? How is each action laying more capacity for a base to collaborate so that the policy work and use of political capital is in sync with the field?

Planning for a Movement

This dynamic and lack of cultural and network perspectives on current campaign teams is a direct threat to the gains we have won in the last 24 months. The short sited "day trader mentality" of the current campaign and DC policy leadership is dangerous for the reasons listed above.

Therefore, at senior levels of strategy and planning we must bring a balance to the drive to "cash in" with the staff of equal authority and responsibility to design plans and campaigns which also meet a long-term goal of distributed base building and solving distributed collaboration.  We must honor the feel for the field and the assessments of leaders at local and state levels in-spite of the fact that DC seems so easy to achieve quick gains and we need to carefully retool major national strategies on the big agenda items to intentionally avoid strategies that are not fundamentally focused on bringing new people to engage in solutions.