Winning is going to require both becoming better surfers and creating big new waves. Are we ready?
I went to the New Media Reform Conference in Denver, Colorado to practice surfing. I came home both a better surfer and more resolved to learn how to create oceanic waves.
In the past year at Caring Across Generations, we’ve invested heavily in legislative campaigning, civic engagement and direct field campaigns. In our first 15 months we built a base of over one million people. It has been the most fulfilling, cutting edge work I’ve done in my 13 years of social and economic justice campaigning. I’m incredibly inspired by our vision, and proud of our work. It’s exciting to have the infrastructure to reach over a million people…and yet, this is an entirely insufficient scale for what we need to win. Because we are serious about winning, we are now diving in to experiments to learn how to reach and mobilize more people. Several million more people.
Our legislative campaign and civic engagement strategies are aimed at influencing policy makers. They are important and effective and, if standing alone, inadequate. We not only need to win over policy makers, we need to create the political will through changes to the values and behaviors of our mainstream culture.
When I helped launch Caring Across Generations in 2011, we knew that to realize our vision to create two million new quality home care jobs and become a country where everyone has access to dignified long-term care, we knew we needed to elevate the powerful stories about homecare needs from mothers, care workers, grandparents, people with disabilities and domestic workers. We recognize a swell of opportunity opened by both the crisis of joblessness in the recession, and the “age wave” of millions of baby-boomers who are facing retirement, living longer, and negotiating the complexities of supporting both their children and aging parents. This experience touches most Americans, and our ocean of personal stories about our need for long-term care is a great resource for demonstrating the shared values we need to mobilize people.
But who is our audience for those stories? Who should be the audience? How do we not only share these stories with millions more people, but also move millions of people to begin talking about these issues? Then how do we direct those conversations towards collective solutions? We’ve got some ideas about this, in fact, many of you have helped us develop them.
We have, and will continue to do our best to use traditional organizing tools to maximize emerging opportunities. The vast sea of unemployment can feel isolating, but we’ve surfed the wave of joblessness in order to channel personal experience towards activism and advocacy to create new, quality jobs. We’ve been surfing the baby-boomer age wave to land these experiences at the feet of new solutions for how to best care for people as they live longer and be sure that home care jobs are quality jobs. We can, and must, maximize these opportunities but in order to create the political will to enact systemic change and solutions we will also need to figure out how to create new, parallel waves that change how people value work, how we understand reproductive labor, how our society values senior citizens, and how we structure our homes and communities to meet the needs of multi-generational families and home care workers.
In order to heat up the temperature of the water that will start to create the swell for these new waves, we are trying a bunch of new things. We are asking for lots of help, doing our best to learn new, better ways to do things, and broadening our circle of partners and allies. And, it’s working. At the end of April we are launching an online action site that is the platform for both for digital organizing strategies (that will allow us to scale up our outreach and advocacy work) and a distribution platform for our Hollywood engagement and pop-culture change work.
We are augmenting cutting edge online social media and email campaigning with seeding pop culture conversations and media representations with our issues and values, and working with Hollywood and television talent to develop pop culture issue surrogates and spokespeople. We are preparing a host of campaigns to synergize our online organizing our culture change work, and to harness their power to amplify our fieldwork, direct actions and base building.
It’s exciting. The strategies discussed by partners at the #digifem workshop and the UpWorthy workshop at last week’s MMRC helped us sharpen some of our ideas; and the culture change workshop led by Jeff Chang and Faviana Rodriquez affirmed our direction and resolve.
The water is starting to feel warmer. More buoyant. We see the potential for some powerful new wave breaks up ahead. Grab a surfboard, or, better yet – join us in heating up the sea of change, and cultivating big new waves.
To make this happen, it’s gonna take all of us trying something new. Let’s do it!