DECEMBER 2023 NEWSLETTER

INTRODUCTION

With our final newsletter of the year, Community Change is lifting up four stories you might have missed in 2023. From rural organizing and infrastructure to the promise of relational voter contact, we’re excited to share more about our work this year and the seeds we’ve planted for the transformation to come.

#1 RURAL ORGANIZING AND DIVERSITY

Between 2020 and 2022, Congress enacted trillions of federal dollars of investment that will touch every community across the country. This is not normal, and it presents an organizing opportunity that many grassroots groups have found overwhelming. 

This is particularly true for rural and especially Indigenous organizers, whose presence in conservative places is often overlooked by their representatives, as well as by philanthropy and the broader progressive movement. United Today, Stronger Tomorrow (UTST) is focused on these communities, and Community Change has played a critical role in supporting, housing, and working in close partnership with UTST since 2020. As we shared in our June newsletter, we worked with UTST and Hoosier Action behind the scenes to organize the Small Town Summit.,. The summit was a significant step toward increasing understanding of the diversity of rural communities, creating space for a Native and Indigenous Caucus as well as a POC and Immigrant Caucus.

We built on this momentum through two other gatherings: a November meeting focused on federal infrastructure dollars and our annual Cross Movement Convening in December. 

In November, Community Change brought 28 community-based groups, a third of them representing Indigenous and rural populations, to Washington, DC, to share organizing strategies and challenges and to meet with labor leaders, policymakers, White House staff, and administration officials charged with ensuring the success of implementation efforts. By bridging the divide between grassroots — including rural — communities and DC political insiders, we laid the groundwork to address specific concerns, such as unequal opportunities to access government support.In December, we closed out the year with a rural caucus at the Cross Movement Convening. 

In each of these spaces, we are making sure that rural and indigenous organizers can take advantage of the opportunities to push for healthy homes with clean, lead-free water; schools with reliable heat and air conditioning fueled by renewable energy; local jobs that offer good wages, training, and worker protections; and broadband internet connecting every community. The next five to ten years of investment will reshape the country in ways that last much longer. We’re fighting to make sure all of our communities have the power to influence that direction.

 

#2 ELECTORAL DATA POINTS TOWARD RELATIONAL ORGANIZING FOR 2024 

In 2022, Community Change Action and our partners ran the country’s largest relational voter contact program. We reached voters that other operations couldn’t find, and because we rely on digital tools to reach volunteers’ friends and family members, we can engage folks outside big-city strongholds and on-the-ground centers of organizing power. These are the people who determine the razor-thin election margins we’ve seen from school board races to the presidency. 

For the past three cycles, we’ve experimented with building out this new form of voter organizing, using digital tools to create and equip a community of volunteers to contact friends, family, and infrequent voters. 

Our 2022 analysis shows that one message sent by a relational volunteer has as much impact as 39 door knocks, 280 cold calls, or 2,100 cold texts. And voters reached by their friends and family via relational organizing turned out at higher rates than their modeled turnout — regardless of if they’re regular voters or have never cast a ballot. These programs were particularly effective in communities of color: 44% of people matched to the voter file in our relational voter program were Black voters.

 

In 2024, we will ramp up this work both in collaboration with local partners’ ongoing field efforts and on our own to identify hard-to-find voters in communities of color — voters who are not on the rolls or who aren’t voting frequently — through outreach by friends and family members who are energized and motivated to vote. We’ll begin conversations earlier, when acquisitions cost much less, to allow enough space and time to align values and messaging to political candidate conversations and sustain enthusiasm beyond what the top-of-the-ticket candidates might naturally provoke. Our program will adjust to local needs and create pathways to walk hand-in-hand with voters navigating complex state and local voting systems.

#3 WINNING STATE BY STATE

By now, you’ve heard the long list of progressive policies Minnesota passed this spring, a victory that was a decade in the making (check out this inspiring video if you need a refresher). We’ve talked about New Mexico’s constitutional amendment guaranteeing a right to child care (and celebrated our partner OLE’s role in this victory as a Catalyst for Change). The opening panel of our 2023 Cross Movement Convening broke down some of the ways that governing power is delivering for our communities.

But have you heard about Maine? In 2023, through the patient and strategic work of our partner Maine People’s Alliance and the support of Community Change, Maine expanded the state child tax credit, made big investments in the child care system and child care workers, passed protections for renters, increased access for BIPOC workers to green union jobs in the state, AND, after a multi-year effort, enacted a robust paid family and medical leave (PFML) program. 

Like Minnesota and New Mexico, Maine did not achieve its transformative family-supporting wins overnight — they were years in the making. Community Change walked alongside Maine People’s Alliance to invest in long-term power building and to experiment and adjust in the face of setbacks, cycle after cycle. 

The fundamental lesson from Maine and other state success stories is that there is no universal model or formula for building power; it has to be hand-crafted from local materials. This means starting with a brutally honest power analysis, charting a strategic path that is consistent with that analysis, aligning everything with the chosen path, and sticking with it for a long time, while regularly assessing progress and making tactical adjustments. It takes a deep investment of resources and capacity for grassroots groups to do these things consistently. 

But with patience and a long-term vision, organizing delivers transformational change.

#4 LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT LEADS THE WAY

Organizing is a craft and a practice that evolves to meet the moment. Training and supporting the growth of organizers is one part of Community Change’s role in the movement, and our cohort based leadership development programs are supporting liberatory practices that strengthen the field. With offerings like our Lead Organizer Training and our Management Cohort, we help experienced organizers step into their power and purpose as movement leaders. 

For the past five years, we’ve also been focused on women of color leaders through two cutting-edge programs: Power 50 and the women’s fellowship. These programs not only catapulted personal revelations but also paved the way for organizational revolutions. The alumnae prove over and over that when women of color are truly trusted to lead, they change what is possible — demonstrating how we can start thriving now. 

The Power 50 program provides deep grounding, tools, practices, political analysis, and relationships that women of color organizers need to stay the course of their convictions and lead boldly in a complex world. Take a look at how our Power 50 program leaned into this new era and how we continue to build the cohorts of women of color making change.

With the women’s fellowship, we created a space for women of color who are directly impacted by the criminal justice and immigration detention systems. Since the fellowship’s inception, our goal has been to co-create a program that would be fully led and held by an alumna. At the 2023 Cross Movement Convening, we celebrated the official transition of this program to RestoreHER, a remarkable organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of directly impacted women and working in partnership with those women to end mass incarceration for women of color and pregnant women. Pamela Winn leads RestoreHER, which she built while part of the first cohort of the women’s fellowship.  

RestoreHER’s mission and values perfectly align with the purpose of our women’s fellowship. They are committed to providing a safe, supportive, and empowering space for women to connect, learn, and grow together. With their expertise and passion, we can expect a revitalized fellowship that nurtures and celebrates the strength and resilience of women of color.

LOOKING TOWARD 2024

We wrapped up the year by gathering 200 organizers and partners at our Cross Movement Convening in Washington, DC. We rallied for DC’s Child Tax Credit and joined our Care Can’t Wait coalition partners urging Congress to save child care.

As we think about the year ahead — and yet another election with sky-high stakes — we’re grateful for the community of partners and supporters who have walked with us this year. We hope you’ll continue to celebrate the Catalysts of Change who are driving transformation in our communities. We hope you’ll dream with us about what is possible — and the Bold New Consensus we’re building power to enact.

And we hope you’ll share your perspective with us. Please take five minutes to answer a few questions about the best ways to connect with you. To show our appreciation, we’re giving away five $100 Visa® gift cards,* and when you complete the survey you may choose to be entered into the random drawing. For more information please contact Katherine Ollenburger, Director of Brand Strategy, [email protected].

 

 

* VISA® IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF VISA. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE DRAWING, ENTRANTS MUST COMPLETE THE COMMUNITY CHANGE SURVEY BETWEEN 12/1/2023 AND 12/31/2023, PROVIDE AN ELIGIBLE EMAIL ADDRESS, AND REQUEST TO ENTER VIA THE SURVEY ONLINE FORM. CURRENT COMMUNITY CHANGE EMPLOYEES EXCLUDED. WINNERS WILL BE NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL WITHIN 60 DAYS OF CONTEST CLOSE.

Thank you for reading about what’s happening this month at Community Change. See you next month!