Rootscamp happened last weekend, and it was a really great experience. I visited New York before the conference, and drove down to Washington with a few friends. The event was full of energy, as the mainly Democratic crowd was pretty happy with how the election turned out.
A few of the sessions I attended were “Long lasting local groups”, “MoveOn’s top 5 lessons from the 2008 election”, “Using merchandise in your campaign”, “ The Obama campaign and social networks”, and “Irony we can believe in” (what’s the role of humor if our guy is in the White House?).
I learned (and re-learned) a lot over the two days, but here are my top three take-aways:
1. Ask your supporters for their advice, then trust their judgment.
MoveOn.org continually asks their members for feedback or tracks their preferences, on everything from tee shirt designs and prices to whether or not to endorse Obama. Consulting with their members and listening to the response is bred into everything they do.
It’s a good idea to ask your supporters questions more often and listen to the response: surveys, split testing, focus groups.
2. “Our ability to get anything done hinges on asking our members to do something they already want to do” – quote from a MoveOn.org staffer.
This is related to the above learning, but is a reminder that you can’t build a campaign without referencing what your supporters are already passionate about.
The key is to seek out those opportunities at the intersection of what your members want to do about the challenge you are working on and the political opportunity to make real change.
3. The importance of personal stories – why we are doing what we are doing – to the viability of the whole campaign process.
From a short story about why the campaigner is involved in the campaign to sending out emails written by supporters, the power of communicating through stories was reinforced. Marshall Ganz, a civil rights and labour organizer turned Harvard professor was especially inspiring.
Campaigns need to be good at eliciting and communicating supporter stories. This is not easy, but is key to inspiring new supporters.
There were all kinds of other great learnings from this conference, inevitable when you get 500 dedicated and passionate people together. You can learn more about RootsCamp at http://www.rootscamp.org/index.php/Main_Page#What_is_Rootscamp