The election was a shock. Like many, we initially felt confused about the country we lived in and the country we believed in. Then with every policy gutting, each encroachment of power, every abandonment of democratic process and political decorum, we became fired up again. We wanted to fight back, but weren’t sure how. We marched, called our representatives, donated—we knew, though, that we could do more.
To create long-term progress, we believe that civic engagement needs to go beyond protests and campaigns. Elections are exciting, and volunteering for campaigns is alluring—you’ve helped a candidate win, you get the thrill of immediately feeling an impact. This work is incredibly important and part of our ultimate collective goal. But we can’t let engagement be focused only on campaigns; our reignited passions to further our progressive values can’t purely be dependent on a ballot.
We need to focus on developing strong communities that join together to make civic engagement and political awareness commonplace. This happens at the local level and within groups that work for change between elections.
These are the groups that we need to support—the county parties, the Democratic clubs, the student associations—the ones who were doing the work on the ground before November 2016 and who have continued to fight, organizing and activating their local communities. These groups have the power of knowing how their communities think, what’s important to them, and what moves them. They’re known in their neighborhoods; they’re trusted friends. They’re positioned to be the ultimate influencers, yet are often the most strapped for resources.
Our idea is unabashedly simple: we want to strengthen democracy by providing and training people to effectively use digital tools. Post-election we saw many pledge for the first time to be more involved and take action to advance progressive causes. EngageProgress is a way to match remote volunteers with progressive groups, causes, and candidates to build a movement of engagement between election cycles.
We believe that both the message and the messenger are important to make people feel connected to issues and ultimately go vote, which is why we focus on leveraging and strengthening presence on digital platforms. If it’s important to meet people where they’re at, branding and communications matter, as does bridging digital with face-to-face interactions.
Focusing on the long game is hard. We’re asking people who operate in a world of monthly business reviews, quarterly goals, and bi-annual performance reviews to modify their perception of success metrics and believe in contributing to aggregate change where the impact may not be instantaneous. Together, we can channel the surge of activism to grow this movement into a habit while paving another way to turn blue. We hope you’ll join us to EngageProgress. ■