Friday, November 7, 2008

Energy Direction

"Make way for millions of new community organizers."

Nicholas D. Kristof, "The Obama Dividend," New York Times, November 6, 2008

Every grassroots political campaign faces the inevitable challenge after victory of where and how to direct all that grassroots energy it drummed up. How to keep the campaign spirit and engagement is the question that is asked while candidates transition to legislate or govern. There have been few satisfying answers to this question over the years.

President-elect Obama has two groups of activists he might want to think about. The first group comprises all those people in his campaign who went door-to-door, set-up offices, and organized rallies and events. An electoral campaign is not community organizing per se, although it uses many of the techniques of community organizing. I hope these activists adopt or jumpstart local and regional campaigns in the spirit of the Obama campaign and/or build a pipeline and capacity for expanding the pool of progressive candidates and officials.

The second group is all those people, many of them young and new voters, who have been inspired by the unique voice and agenda of President-elect Obama. Much like in the 1960s, this group may want expanded opportunities for national service. There are a lot of old and new ideas out there about how to do this. In my mind, I hope that Obama puts together a Green Corp that works as a kind of energy independence and sustainable economy extension and outreach service for cities and regions. We need to figure out ways to seed household conservation, urban agriculture, and community solutions as the big picture gets attention.

We should remember too that good community organizers are talented at inventing their own next round.

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