The great leap forward in organizing local groups
by myddaddict, Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 07:45:28 AM EDT
(Cross-posted at my blog, Planting Liberally)
With the dramatic rise of small political groups in the last few years (particularly Democracy for America) coalition groups, there is an increasing need to serve the needs of these groups, and to help them run more efficiently.
I see these needs being met in three "waves", and I think we are on the cusp of the second right now. Follow me over the flip to see what's coming down the pike (as I see it)...
The first wave of efforts to serve these groups were a round of technical fixes, anchored by Civic Space Labs and Act Blue. These efforts were, and continue to be, enormously successful. They have provided free, easy to use tools that help small groups develop websites and donate to candidates on line.
The next wave of efforts is an attempt to make these groups operate more smoothly and efficiently offline. The first inklings of such efforts are diaries on well-trafficked liberal blogs, especially DailyKos and MyDD. Here are some examples:
- NUTS AND BOLTS SERIES:
- Taking over local parties - http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/4 /7/101030/4329
- Grassroots 101 - http://www.mydd.com/story/2006/2/26/1443 /62720 and http://hudson.mydd.com/story/2006/2/3/13 850/50322
In a short while, someone will put all of these great resources together in the form of a booklet or online resource center, and that resource will become incredibly popular among DFA organizers, Democratic committee chairs, and other similar groups of leaders. Hopefully, a few good liberals will make a lot of money because of it. Most likely, this wave will include a "second-and-a-half"-th wave wherein local organizers from across the country can swap resources, tips and ideas with one another. To some degree, resources like the DFAMeetupHosts Yahoo group and the MassDemsGuide Yahoo groups are already making this wave happen.
The third wave will be, hopefully, a range of professional services to go the extra mile and really study these groups and offer critical assessments of what they are doing wrong and what they are doing right. I don't want to say "consultants", because that word is to some degree damaged goods, but that's what they will be. They won't be slick, jargon-headed business school types, of course; they'll be local organizers who have earned their opinions and expertise the hard way - by getting their hands dirty, succeeding at what they do, and earning the respect of their peers.
I think that this third wave will herald an enormous leap forward in the power and efficacy of these groups, and will be one of the best investments in a long time in the infrastructure of the liberal movement. But where will the money come from? No small political group, by itself, can afford the cost of a consultant; moreover, the benefits of a consultant are primarily non-financial from the group's point of view, and certainly are not enough to compensate the original cost.
Instead, I think the liberal investor class will have to, in the short run, finance the development of small political group consultants. The good news is that the investors could pay for these consultants "at cost", without having to bear the usual consultancy expenses of marketing and that sort of thing. The other good news is that these consultants could probably be relied on to donate parts of their generous salaries to other liberal causes, in particular the groups where they made their bones and the candidates near and dear to their hearts.
It's not too clear to me whether we could, or even should, get to this third wave of small political group development without going through the second; but that is how I imagine the next couple of years of small political group dynamics playing out.