Events — December 3, 2012 at 7:13 am

RootsCamp 2012: A terrific success that gives me confidence & hope for the future.


Success doesn’t happen by accident

As I mentioned last week, this past weekend was the 7th Annual RootsCamp un-conference, an event put on by the New Organizing Institute. This year’s event was bigger than ever with over 2,000 attendees and 250 sessions. I came away from this unique and energizing event impressed at the quality of progressive organizing in the USA right night. While Obama for America, this year’s winner of NOI’s “Most Valuable Campaign” award certainly set the bar high, throughout the weekend, countless other groups shared their best practices and showed how a combination of passion, clever & smart approaches, data, data, data, and data propelled them to victory across the country.

I hosted a session titled “OFA Trained a Nationwide Corps of Community Orgainzers. Who will Capitalize on That New Talent and How?” We had a lively discussion about how the Obama campaign has spent the past 5 years training people across the country to organize effectively and how that pool of trained folks who have tasted victory and know the one-on-one, person-to-person approach to winning elections is the path to victory are ready for their next challenge. However, they need direction, resources, and additional training and it will be the groups who are able to provide that who will benefit most from OFA organizers. As “next steps”, organizing local follow-up events (trainings, discussion forums, etc.) were seen as valuable as well as getting more involved in local Democratic Parties and clubs. By taking an active role in our Democratic Party, we can change the culture to one that understands the elements of successful grassroots organizing.

I participated in a second session, as well. This one was titled “Campaigns ignore bloggers at their PERIL. Here’s why!” Along with New Media Outreach staffers Melissa Ryan from OFA and Greg Greene from the DNC, John Aravosis from AMERICAblog and I talked about how the Obama campaign successfully worked with prominent bloggers around the country to get their message out. From blogger-specific conference calls with campaign and White House staff to enormous amounts of videos, article links and background information on the topic of the day, The Obama campaign set a new standard on how to work with bloggers.

Left to right, Greg Greene, John Aravosis, Melissa Ryan and me. Photo credit: Sarah Burris, used with permission

We talked about our experience working with the Obama campaign as well as my work with state and local campaigns here in Michigan. Most of the questions centered around how campaigns can most effectively engage with bloggers and the consensus was that you must first vet bloggers to make sure they are legitimate and then form a relationship with them. During the discussion, John, took this series of pictures with his smart phone and then posted it to Twitter shortly after it ended:

Photo credit: John Aravosis | AMERICAblog, used with permision. Click for larger version.

This panel led to lunch with Alex Showerman, New Media Manager with Democracy For America (DFA), to continue the discussion. I also met with Erica Sackin who was a key part of the OFA New Media Outreach team along with Melissa and Greg and my main contact with OFA’s blogger outreach throughout most of the campaign. Erica now works with and we discussed how best to promote their actions and events on a go-forward basis. I learned from Erica that is a coalition of progressive groups who are working together on actions that are in their mutual interest, an approach that I am very encouraged by.

RootsCamp 2012 gives me a very good feeling about the progressive movement in America right now. It is powered by smart organizers with a passion for progressive causes and an impressive level of savvy about the use of data to leverage grassroots organizing online and in real space in ways nobody has ever done before. As the Obama campaign winds down, there is a diaspora of sorts of these amazing organizers as they go out to share their knowledge, energy and passion with other groups. It’s good to know we are filling our pipeline with future candidates and campaign managers who are this good.

In addition to the award of Most Valuable Campaign, won by OFA, NOI gave an award to Laura Derrick as the Most Valuable Organizer and to NGP VAN as the Most Valuable Technology. Laura was a Regional Field Director for OFA in Ohio.