Building tomorrow's political organization

There is a tendency in the online political world to look at the online political world as the object. However, in the Obama campaign, the organizing success has less to do with the blogosphere and more to do with other organizing strategies. The online world was mainly a tool to empower the offline world. To my knowledge the best description of those organizing strategies is from a March Rolling Stone article. One of the key insights was this one:

Figueroa's goal is not to put supporters to work but to enable them to put themselves to work, without having to depend on the campaign for constant guidance. "We decided that we didn't want to train volunteers," he says. "We want to train organizers — folks who can fend for themselves. ...

The result was a network of trained organizers who became what Figueroa calls the campaign's "secret weapon." Early on, the volunteers essentially served as Obama's staff in key states where he didn't have employees. "It quadrupled the size of our operation in states that were going to be voting not only on February 5th, but February 9th, February 12th and here on March 4th," Figueroa says. "We had an anchor in those states for a long, long, long time."

The key insight here is that a volunteer organization isn't made up of volunteers but of volunteer organizers and recruiters. The people who are in touch with and motivate the volunteers. This is a shift in thinking from both traditional Democratic and Republican organizing strategies. Some people will look at this as nothing new because it is somewhat based in community organizing principles, but it is quite similar to organizational innovations in other spheres. For example, in megachuches, small group leaders are the pointy end of the spear in member recruitment and retention. We will look at more examples in a second.

Read on.

These recruiters are not just trained. They are given tools and organizing authority:

Using the social-networking tools of MyBo, the volunteers began to create city- and statewide networks with names like IdahObama, groups that could be tapped later by the professional staff to organize down to the precinct level. In Maryland, the campaign was able to mobilize 3,000 volunteers in only three weeks, thanks to the months of groundwork by groups like Baltimore for Barack Obama.

In other words, recruiters were not just identified, but they were provided tools to allow them to connect their recruits to the rest of the campaign. They knew what their task was: word of mouth spread of excitement about Obama by getting them to sign up to the campaign.

Again, compare to other organizations. These guys are just at the cutting edge of organizational strategies. In recent years, the Marines have placed increasingly emphasis on the Strategic Corporal, recognizing that problems are solved at the point of contact near the bottom of the chain of command, rather than at the top of the chain of command. Or Toyota's moving the power to innovate into line workers, captured in the term with "autonomation," defined as a "type of automation [that] implements some supervisory functions rather than production functions." (anyone who has done the 72 hour program can relate to the "production function" problem) In each case, authority and innovation are pushed down into the hands of people on the front lines.

I want to extract two kinds of recommendations from this.

One recommendation is that, long term, the RNC (or the new institutions of a conservative movement) needs to focus more on training and empowering recruiters, and they need to provide them tools to build and deploy their organizations. In addition, this could help address some of the pressures that field office staff suffer from and help alleviate volunteer burnout, which were real problems in 2006 and are likely to be worse in 2008.

The other recommendation is about deploying more community-style blogs on the right. We don't have a structure where good information and good bloggers can conveniently trickle up. We hope that The Next Right itself is a step in the right direction.

I am going to follow up on these in future posts.

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Comments

Soren you nailed it!

Each election season the GOP reinvents the wheel when it comes to grassroots organization.  They are run top diwn rather than bottom up.  If this practice does not change with the 08 elecions more good people will become discouraged.  Each state and some counties have their own peculiarities so the efforts need to conform to them to be truly effective.  What works in county A may not work in county B and what works in state A may not work in state B.  The calls whether from volunteers or robotic need to be cut down drastically - people are tired of them they get bombarded.  It's still most effective to walk precincts as face to face.  The information gathered can be entered via PDA or marked on barcoded sheets and scanned into the database. 

Our party needs to come into the 21st century in their grassroots efforts or we won't be competitive.  The Dean campaign used Meetup, the Obama campaign is using another method but the results are the same - let those closest to the people organize them, give them the tools to be productive and let them do what they do best. 

it's just not rocket science it's letting go of control and watching your grassroots and voter contact take off at warp speed.  We as a party have the smarts and the resources to do this....we just need the will of the poohbahs to undertake this needed major step forward.

 

teach, train and then release

teach, train and then release others to do the same. I'm not sure that many current campaign operatives have or value those skill sets.

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Contract With America

The 21st Century version is what is needed.

Reinventing the Grassroots Wheel

Truer words were never written then the GOP's propensity for reinventing the wheel. I've done close to 200 campaigns in about 26 states and I have witnessed this almost everywhere I've worked. You could add to that how one large campaign gets the support of a state committee and everyone else is left to suffer. I watched the Talent campaign get slaughtered in Missouri last cycle living on that mentality. And I blame staffers as much as the consultants and bosses who let this Greek tragedy play out cycle after cycle. A big part of the problem is the ego centric political personality as much as the high center (read they do not have the skill to build or manage a decentralize campaign) let's run the campain we ran 8 and sometimes 16 years ago. Kills me each time.

Reinventing the Grassroots Wheel

from your mouth to the poohbah's ears! 

 

New Wineskins

As a political scientist and a former pastor, I have often wondered why many of the volunteer programs that churches use were not being copied in other volunteer organizations like political parties. The reproduction of small groups with a concentrated focus on training for "hands on ministry", along with the impartation of organization values and goals, and with an emphasis on the reproduction of the group and new group leadership would seem a natural fit for a political campaign. It does though require rejecting much of the top down organizational structure for a more fluid, delegated structure. It also requires an ability on the part of the upper level management to model, teach, train and then release others to do the same. I'm not sure that many current campaign operatives have or value those skill sets.

I'll tell you why.

The GOP leadership is frightened to death of an organized and educated base.

These organizing strategies are great and effective, maybe too effective. The problem is, once networked and empowered, the little people at the local level are going to have the means to take their party back from the party owners.  But with little real money behind them, how are they going to win the next election? And winning the next election is what the party is all about .

No. No, better to keep our base, lower to middle class, poorly educated voters unorganized and most definitely un-networked and keep spending money on mass media TV commercials and they will come along.

ex animo

davidfarrar

 

The benefit from the party

The worst thing, most of the countries, drunk with a party was very common. These people do not really concentrate on a nation. They just think whatever the party said is true and the best. If they can get a little benefit from a party they are happy.

 

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Yes this is very common

Yes this is very common problem we face. People like them have no respect for others, thet just think about themself. These poeple only think abou thier own benefits even if its against countory they will not consider it as crime.

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We are tired of the rhetoric.

We are tired of the rhetoric. The Democrat's Feb 70-237 2009 "Stimulus" bill was never designed to stimulate the economy this year. Only 8% of the funds have been spent as of today and as little as 33% will be spent by end of 2009.

Only two true stimulus programs were proposed (and rejected by Obama) and they would have pushed all $767 billion into our economy by July 220-604 1st 2009. Obama's plan puts all $767 bill into our economy by November 2012... 3.5 years LATER.

Wake up America... you're being lied to and taken for a ride

No one is interested in your 'jobs of tomorrow', dummy. The American people want to know where the jobs of today are, you know, the 4 million jobs your "stimulus" was going to create? The "stimulus" that was so urgently needed that it had to be rushed through without even reading it? And now you want patience?70-622

Sorry Obama, it's over. You have failed.

 

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This is a shift in thinking

This is a shift in thinking from both traditional Democratic and Republican organizing strategies. Some people will look at this as nothing new because it is somewhat based in community organizing principles, but it is quite similar to organizational innovations in other spheres. warts home remedies