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What's Really Behind Obama's Ground Game

Posted By Nikki Enfield, Friday, October 17, 2008

In case you missed it, Zach Exely at the New Organizing Institute recently published a great piece in the Huffington Post on the phenomenal work being done by the Obama field organization.

The article, "The New Organizers, Part 1: What's really behind Obama's ground game," highlights the work of several GAIN users and members including Ohio General Election Director Jeremy Bird, Field Director Jackie Bray and National Field Campaign advisor Marshall Ganz, among others.

In addition to putting us into a position of winning a key state on November 4th, this article is an great reminder of the importance of the work we do and the impact we can make on communities.  Below are a few highlights, but I encourage you to take 10 minutes today to read it all, or better yet bookmark it for reading on November 5th!

"The "New Organizers" have succeeded in building what many netroots-oriented campaigners have been dreaming about for a decade. Other recent attempts have failed because they were either so "top-down" and/or poorly-managed that they choked volunteer leadership and enthusiasm; or because they were so dogmatically fixated on pure peer-to-peer or "bottom-up" organizing that they rejected basic management, accountability and planning. The architects and builders of the Obama field campaign, on the other hand, have undogmatically mixed timeless traditions and discipline of good organizing with new technologies of decentralization and self-organization.

Win or lose, "The New Organizers" have already transformed thousands of communities—and revolutionized the way organizing itself will be understood and practiced for at least the next generation. Obama must continue to feed and lead the organization they have built—either as president or in opposition. If he doesn't, then the broader progressive movement needs to figure out how to pick this up, keep it going and spread it to all 50 states. For any of that to happen, the incredible organizing that has taken place this year inside Obama's campaign—and also here and there in Clinton's—needs to be thoroughly understood and celebrated."

Exely continues:

"The Ohio campaign is attempting to build teams in 1,231 campaign-defined "neighborhoods," each covering eight to ten precincts. They are targeting virtually every inhabited square mile of the state. The campaign claimed to have teams in 65% of neighborhoods when I visited in early September. That's risen to 85% coverage at press time—and they are shooting for 100%. In contrast, the Kerry campaign effectively wrote off rural counties, and completely abandoned them in the final few weeks of the campaign in a last minute all-in shift to the cities."

And finally what really hit home:

"In the middle of a good organizing campaign, volunteers will stop and tell you that they are becoming better people. That's sounds cheesy, doesn't it? But I'll tell you, I wrote that line in a first draft of this article while waiting for my own neighborhood team meeting to start in Westport, Kansas City, Missouri. I looked at it and thought, "People won't buy that." I figured I'd delete it.

Then, at the end of our meeting, my neighborhood team leader, Jennifer Robinson, totally unprompted, told me: "I'm a different person than I was six weeks ago." I asked her to elaborate later. She said, "Now, I'm really asking: how can I be most effective in my community? I've realized that these things I've been doing as a volunteer organizer—well, I'm really good at them, I have a passion for this. I want to continue to find ways to actively make this place, my community, a better place. There's so much more than a regular job in this—and once you've had this, it's hard to go back to a regular job. I'm asking now: Can I look for permanent work as an organizer in service of my community? And that's a question I had not asked myself before the campaign. It never occurred to me that I could even ask that question."

Read the entire article at the Huffington Post.

Tags:  field  organizing 

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