Winning the Internet

12 Ways to Get Field Organizers to Love Digital

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Kandace Montgomery

Kandace Montgomery

Jane Booth-Tobin

Jane Booth-Tobin

As we get ready for Netroots Nation 2015, we’re taking a closer look at some of the convention’s most exciting training sessions. We’re interviewing the trainers and taking you inside some of online activism’s most popular and elusive topics.

Today we’re interviewing Jane Booth-Tobin and Kandace Montgomery of TakeAction Minnesota, who’ll be leading 12 Ways to Get Field Organizers to Love Digital.

NN15 Training Session

12 Ways to Get Field Organizers to Love Digital
Sick of trying to explain what hashtags are and why they matter to your organizing staff? Do you want to live out what’s happening online in the streets? Wanna stop sharing stock photos for your organization’s work on Facebook? When organizers understand the power in digital enough to start integrating it into their work, we can take advantage of digital opportunities that can only be seized out in the field—and most of all, smaller organizations can exponentially grow their capacity. At this training you’ll learn how to shift your organization or campaign’s culture so digital is an integral part of field organizers’ work, how organizers can use digital to make it more real for marginalized communities to be a part of your work, and more.

Interview

Q: Tell us about yourself and your experience working with digital communications and field organizers.

A: TakeAction Minnesota is an organization that is primarily made up of community organizers. Given that, we wanted (and needed) to build a digital program that was deeply connected to the work of our organizers. This was both out of a need to expand our capacity for digital work and to find ways that digital tools could support the work of our organizers. As our sole digital staff member, I could only do so much – and as someone who spent the bulk of my time in the office, saw ways that digital could be used by our organizers as they were out in the community. Since then, we’ve developed a digital training program that each organizer goes through and organizers regularly work with me to develop a plan for how they’ll use digital in their own organizing. This both means we can do more traditional digital organizer, and that our organizers are finding new and innovative ways to bring people into their work using digital tools.

Kandace is coming to Netroots as the TakeAction organizer who has done the most to incorporate digital into her work, developing tactics that she uses in the field to bring in new people and elevate the stories and voices of the women she’s organizing.

 

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake digital communications folks make when working with field organizers?

A: Not recognizing that digital IS organizing. Without getting clear on this point, our work was transactional. It was about quickly getting an email out when an organizer hadn’t reached their turnout goal for an event, rather than using digital in an integrated way to advance their goals. It was only when we invested the time to train organizers and push them around how digital organizing is real organizing that they began to use it – and this is what lets organizers come up with brilliant ideas to use in the field that as digital people, we never could.

 

Q: What are the two most important things to keep in mind when trying to get field organizers involved in digital communications?

A: You might be thinking, “my organizers are so overworked they’re never going to start using digital tools” or “no one in my organization thinks that digital is real organizing.” But this isn’t about adding work to an organizer’s plate. It’s about increasing their ability to move more and more people to act and to elevate their leaders’ voices and stories. If you make a case to them that’s clearly grounded in their self-interest, they’ll go for it. Finally, bringing your organizers around can be a serious investment – but it’s worth it. Our organizers taking on digital work has meant that we run online campaigns that we would have otherwise had to forgo, and has seen breakthroughs that dramatically increased their volunteers’ involvement with and connection to TakeAction.

 

Q: Why should folks attend your session at Netroots Nation, and how can they connect with you?

A: Bringing digital and field together can make incredible things happen, we can see this right now with movements across the country. It means reaching new people in new ways, making it real for marginalized communities to be part of our work by meeting them where they’re at, and creating space for people to tell their own stories. Finally, for organizations and campaigns who have less digital capacity (as is true for us), working closely with your organizers can exponentially increase what you’re able to do online. Come to our training and we’ll sell you on why, then give you some tools and tips to make it happen. Tweet at us @jboothto and @klmontgom if you want to know more between now and July 16.

 

To attend this training, or one of the 39 others at Netroots Nation 2015 in Phoenix, register now.


About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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