Ah, Midwest Academy Organizing Guide. You seem to know exactly what I’m going through. Next up, …choosing an issue.
First, definitions. A problem is a broad area of concern (Ex: pollution, racism, unemployment). An issue is a solution or partial solution to a problem ( Ex: regulation, affirmative action, a federal jobs program).
Can’t forget to consider organization and resources- can you run a campaign? How many people do you have to start? Do you have capacity to recruit more people? Can you put together a retention program to keep the people you recruit? These are the tough questions that force us to take a good look at ourselves and ask whether we have the infrastructure, resources, or even skills necessary to be able to take on a campaign.
The Midwest checklist goes like this:
1) The issue must result in a real improvement in people’s lives. Don’t fall into the trap of simply “raising awareness.” You’ll have made a lot of noise without any kind of direction or intentionality. You can raise awareness, but make sure to couple it with something action-based that results in a real, concrete improvement in peoples’ lives.
2) Give people a sense of their own power. Everybody must have a role to play, no matter how small.
3) Alter the relations of power. Make people sit up and pay attention to what you’re doing. This is harder, because usually money drives anything, and we don’t really have a whole bunch of that.
4) Be worthwhile. Don’t shoot TOO big, but don’t shoot too small. It’s better to fall short than to ask for too little. Beware the policy people who spend too much time with politicians. And beware politicians.
5) Be winnable. Duh.
6) Be widely felt. Can most people connect with the issue?
7) Be deeply felt. Passion for a cause will get people up in the morning and have them work late into the night.
8) Be easy to understand. You’ve got 30 seconds to explain what you’re doing to a brand new recruit. Can you do it?
9) Have a clear target/decision-maker. Can you print off a picture of the decision maker and throw darts at it? If you can’t, you don’t have a decision maker.
10) Have a clear time frame that works for you.
11) Be non-divisive within your own constituency. Choose which bridges you want to burn.
12) Build leadership. People won’t be around forever. They might move, they might get married, they might get abducted by aliens. Develop new leaders constantly.
13) Set up your organization for the next campaign. If you’ve got new leaders, you can always be ready for the next campaign.
This is pretty much what a great worksheet looks like- being able to fill out all the pieces of the puzzle. 1-13 means you’ve got a campaign.