RootsCamp notes VII, future of the New Organizing Institute

Zack Exley and the rest of the crew hosts a discussion of the future of NOI, what Exley calls “the non-internet hype internet organization”.

Exley suggests that NOI is sort of the “MoveOn of progressive organizing” in that they are very nimble, and have few vested interests in doing things in a particular way. They can move quickly from defining a need to trying to fill it, and leave day-to-day stuff to others who do it better and with more resources. So he asks for suggestions as to what the progressive movement needs.

We discuss a variety of things, and I will just briefly recapitulate the parts of the discussion of organizing and NOI that I took notes on.

People emphasize the need for training, of more regional/local trainings (ideally bringing some of the hot talent to the state rootcamps), ways of bringing new organizing to low-income communities where the digital divide is still an issue in the hardware-access sense, and not only in the skills-sense.

Many people latch on to this discussion and mention that many traditional problems of organizing across class, gender, race, and educational barriers remain central, and are often forgotten in discussions of new technology.

People ask for NOI to continue to function as a repository for the accumulation of data and knowledge on what works, stuff which is usually sitting with the staff, and disappears with them when a campaign comes to an end or someone leaves an organization.

Marshall Ganz was a big hit at the conference, and someone suggests that NOI should make a more deliberate effort of drawing in experienced old-school organizers for future conferences, and to try to keep them there to engage in the conversation. One thing this can change is what one woman in the group describes as the tendency to have a very self-referential conversation, something that generates a need to get someone to challenge assumptions etc.

Exley summarizes the discussion by suggesting that NOI in the future will put more emphasis on a wider introduction to the progressive movement and its history, on offering diversity training and in general expand the trainiing universe beyond hot-now new tech stuff so that even if the progressive movement of today fails in its instrumental goals, it will still generate a cohort of organizers that have both the skills and tools they need and a sense of their place in the history and trajectory of a movement with deep historical roots.

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2 responses to “RootsCamp notes VII, future of the New Organizing Institute

  1. Thanks for posting this! Just one correction: I didn’t say “NOI is the MoveOn of the progressive movement.” (MoveOn is the MoveOn of the progressive movement.)

    I said that NOI tries to be the MoveOn of the progressive training and infrastructure world — in the sense that we see opportunities in that space and rush in to fill them. It can look like zigzagging sometimes, but in that session I was trying to show there was rhyme and reason.

    Thanks again!

    Zack

  2. I think “the MoveOn of progressive training and infrastructure” is particularly correct. What made this rootscamp work so well was, essentially, NOI’s status as the central node in this community.

    The Open Space meeting model that they used relies upon drawing together the right group of people, then giving them the time and space to self-organize the sessions that they need. I’ve seen it used successfully in the past with the Sierra Club Board + stakeholders. I was curious going into the weekend whether it would work in a conference environment with an open invite list. If the right people don’t show up (no MoveOn or OFA staff, for instance) or too many of the wrong people show up (say, legions of devoted Naderites), then the conference would essentially be a failure.

    It worked great because Zack and company were able to efficiently set a coordination point, saying to other key players, “here’s a place, here’s a time, go make something brilliant happen.” That then essentially reduces the conference planning responsibilities to handling food and logistics (which, btw, they did a GREAT job of), which is manageable enough to be handled on the cheap. And since they were able to do this so efficiently, they didn’t need to advertise heavily, which meant I saw fewer, shallwesay “unstrategic progressives” than I think I’ve ever seen at an activist conference.

    So if we understand MoveOn as being essentially the central hub among internet mediated progressive generalists, benefiting from preferential attachment to build a much larger membership base (DailyKos is an equivalent hub in the community blogging space), then yes, NOI is the MoveOn equivalent in this space, and that is directly related to their unique capacity for pulling this sort of event off.

    Interesting post, wish I’d attended that session. (and thanks for telling me about RootsCamp!)

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