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Outreach or Reaching Out?

OK, you've been at those meetings. You know the ones I mean, where everyone is sitting around wondering how to attract "People of Color" or "Diversity" or "Constituency Participation" and not knowing how. There are 10 or 30 or 90 of you in the room. Now you remember, right? Well, we talk for a while and a few people have ideas, but months go by and the composition of the group changes little. Some members leave, new members start, but the "E (ethnic) Component" is unchanged. What to do???

Simple. Just remember what Howard Dean is fond of saying: "You Have The Power!"

Yes, that's right. YOU have the power to reach out to those communities, to participate in THEIR meetings and activities, to engage in THEIR communities. Want to have a better sense of what "minorities" need, want and feel? Well, then, BE ONE! With 30 of you in the room, you can easily target 10-15 new groups you can participate in and help. They used to call it Community Service. We call it Grassroots Activism. Get Involved. Stay Involved, and next time you get together, you'll have plenty to talk about to your own group! Too simple? Not really. It works for us in Marin, California. It can work for you at Anytown, USA!

I bet you can think of a few Unions, School, Church, Guild or other civic groups you can feel at home in. And don't forget to wear your "Progressive" buttons!

Posted by Ralph Miller on April 25, 2005 at 08:09 PM | Permalink

[Due to technical difficulties, this blog was originally posted on the Leader's Blog.  My sincerest apologies to those who missed it].  --Charlene Johnston

It sounds like you're saying that the real trick isn't to sit around waiting for people from the other group to come to you, but to instead get up and go to them. That seems pretty sensible to me.

I know a lot of people are reluctant to leave "the familiar." Are there any tricks for convincing people who are reluctant to leave their comfort zone to take that risk and try something new?

Posted by: Liane Allen | April 25, 2005 08:37 PM

Sure, that's it! The "trick," if there is one, is for people to find groups that they will like being in, such as a Church group, or a PTA, or Arts Guild, or Neighborhood Food Drive, or other such activity where interests and talents can be best used. If you're a Democrat, as many on this list are, you can go to those group meetings wearing your "Proud to be a Democrat!" button that can serve as your entre' for conversation. The "trick" is to stay involved, so that the folks you're reaching out to know that you are committed to THEIR cause, not just your own. It's the best way of building reciprocal TRUST. Pretty soon, they might just start coming to YOUR meetings, say, to give a presentation about their cause...

Posted by: Ralph Miller | April 25, 2005 08:42 PM


I'm really sorry I couldn't get here in time. This is posted on the wrong blog (this blog isn't linked to our site anymore). I'll see if Al can transfer it over to the main blog tomorrow.

Sorry, my fault for not being here earlier.

Posted by: Jessica | April 25, 2005 09:03 PM

Posted to the main site now, I think!

Posted by: Ralph Miller | April 25, 2005 09:07 PM

Nope. Still has the framing post up on the top of the main blog.


Posted by: Jessica | April 25, 2005 09:09 PM

Sorry I'm late. Thanks Ralph and Liane

Posted by: Phil*in* Iowa | April 25, 2005 09:41 PM

Dang missed you all.

Thanks for all you do Ralph.

focus is on Virginia this week?

Posted by: Phil*in* Iowa | April 25, 2005 09:47 PM

Focus IS on Virginia. Our new Community Outreach and Coalition Building training effort is framed around getting out there! (We introduced it in South Carolina last weekend during the SC Dem Pary Convention training and it was very well received, so I think it has applicability to other efforst, such as our own, meetups, dfa, etc.

Posted by: Ralph Miller | April 25, 2005 09:58 PM

Ralph, are you talking about the DFA Training Academy?

I noticed on BFA today, Tom Hughes posted:

"Ralph Miller and Steven Ybarra from California and the DFA Training Academy joined the action."

What is the DFA Training Acadamy exactly?

Posted by: Jessica | April 25, 2005 10:30 PM

Thanks for stopping back by Ralph.

Sorry, I thought the room was empty and went back over to DFA.

You guys do training THE BEST!

Posted by: Phil*in* Iowa | April 25, 2005 10:34 PM

Thanks so much for your time, Ralph. Sorry that I wasn't here to help. I'm going to post it on the main blog now, so the topic gets the attention it deserves.

Phil*in*Iowa is right. LFA does the BEST training. Everywhere you guys go, I hear your accolades sung.

Posted by: Charlene | April 26, 2005 07:35 AM

Posted by Charlene Johnston on April 26, 2005 at 07:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Do We Really Need More Spin?

Do we really need any more spin? Isn't there enough already?

I hear this a lot when people first hear about the concept of framing. Framing and spin have a certain common base: both use language to affect the listener’s opinion on a topic. To make it worse, people sometimes use framing in their spin, so disconnecting the two concepts can be very difficult. My favorite way of describing the difference is:

Spin is spraying perfume on a skunk. Framing is using language in a way that takes advantage of the way people’s minds work.

In spin, you’re trying to cover up something you know people won’t approve of. You’re trying to mask the truth. If you use framing in your spin, it will be more effective, but spin itself is not framing. Framing is simply using our understanding of how people’s minds work – our mind’s mental shorthand - to make it easier to understand new concepts by relying on things it already understands. For example, with government, people use their knowledge of how families work to understand how government works.

If you can take a new or complicated concept and describe it in ways that take advantage of things that are familiar to the listener, the listener will understand it intuitively. When something seems intuitive to the listener, it becomes easier for them to empathize with you and your subject. They know "in their gut" that they see eye-to-eye with you. That’s when you can win. So for example, if you can use familiar family concepts to describe government, people will easily understand what you mean.

If you’ve heard about framing at all, you’ve probably heard about "Strict Father vs. Nurturant Parent." When learning about framing, many people may give up on the idea of framing based on their opinion of how the words "Nurturant parent" might sound to "red" voters. You may think of the description of this family frame as if it’s the message you’re supposed to convey. If you think it’s a lame message, you stop.

This is because of a misunderstanding of framing. We’re not supposed to run around talking about how we should nurture each other. We are supposed to think about the parenting values in a Nurturant family, and use language that evokes those values: shared responsibility, doing your best, honesty, fairness, community, and so on. It just happens that the values of a Nurturant family match very closely with progressive values.

The opposition has been speaking in terms of the values used in strict father families: obedience, unquestioned loyalty, retribution/punishment, and so on.

Most people have built-in understandings of both models, both sets of values.

If you want to get people to think progressively, you need to take advantage of the "values metaphors" that fit cleanly into the listener’s built-in progressive mental model (a Nurturant family). If you do that, your progressive ideas will be much, much easier for the listener to grasp.

Because of another aspect of how our minds work, if you talk about those values metaphors using the senses – vision, taste, smell – your ideas will "stick" better in listener’s minds. Memories that involve our senses are usually stronger memories – the smell of fresh-baked cookies, the sound of a loved-one’s voice, the sight of a beautiful sunset. You can probably easily remember any one of these things. Similarly, it will be easier for your listeners to remember what you’re talking about if you can appeal to their senses: "sharing the burden," "turning your back," "handing out a free pass," "protecting Grandma from a diet of cat food," "a cool drink of clean, fresh, safe water."

So that’s a little bit of what framing is all about. It’s different from spin, and it’s different from messaging. It’s not a slogan, or a set of slogans, it’s a way of figuring out how to make your messages intuitive and "sticky." It helps your listeners know why they should care about what you’re saying, by letting their minds’ built-in mechanisms work to lighten the load of understanding.

Posted by Charlene Johnston on April 18, 2005 at 07:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

Interactive Guest Blog: Sandra Ramos

There has been a lot of focus on the direction of the Democratic Party, what should be focused on, and how to utilize these ideas to get to new or undecided voters. We’ve seen what happens when the other side mobilizes its radical base.

Jim Dean had great ideas the other night here on MVIMV – but I’d like to know what direction should these ideas take to reach out to the non-political nonvoters that now understand what it means (in the age of the Bushes) to let their voice be heard.

Any ideas?


Posted by Charlene Johnston on April 11, 2005 at 08:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (52)

A Message to you from Jim Dean

Greetings to all of you at My Vote is My Voice. I’m Jim Dean, the new chair of Democracy for America. I got involved with my brother Howard’s campaign back in early 2002, worked on his presidential campaign, and have been working at DFA full time ever since the end of last year. Most of my previous work was raising money and trying to support the DFA groups that have been organizing all over the country to rebuild our democracy from the ground up.

Make no mistake. I’m in this because our Democracy is in great danger – not from terrorists or foreign invaders, but from our own social, political, and business leaders whose conduct, lack of integrity, and misguided sense of entitlement continue to erode the very foundations that have made America a great country.

I believe we can change this. I believe we can restore the credibility of our Democracy, and I believe we can restore the Voters to their rightful place as the ultimate arbiters of our leadership.

Yet, I know this will take more than working the election cycles. We are on a continuous campaign to take our country back. At DFA this means supporting down-ballot progressive candidates, state referendums, and lending support to critical national efforts, such as Social Security. We will not stop, and we will not fail.

But we are not doing this alone. There are many other like-minded groups that are doing great work. I know your organization is committed to helping groups like DFA work together with other organizations. I feel a lot better these days knowing that so many progressive and reform minded organizations are developing a culture of cooperation. This is critical to our success, and I appreciate all you are doing to make this happen.

Most of all, I want to express my appreciation to My Vote is My Voice, Democracy For Texas, and all of you for planning DemocracyFest on June 17th to 19th. It should be a blast and I look forward to seeing you there.

I'm going to hang out on this blog for a while in case you have any questions.

Again, my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your critical work in our fight to take our country back.


Posted by Jessica Falker on April 7, 2005 at 06:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (137)

Come blog with Jim Dean

Interactive Guest Blogs Return to MViMV

Trust us, you will want to be on the MViMV site tonight, April 7th, at 7 PM EST. http://myvoices.blogs.com/blog/

Tonight the new Chair of Democracy For America, Jim Dean, will post about how he became involved in DFA and what he hopes to accomplish. On top of that, Jim Dean will stay to answer some of your questions.

As the heading implied, MViMV is returning to hosting interactive guest blogs. Past Guest Bloggers have included Governor Dean, Greg Palast and many more (http://www.myvoteismyvoice.com/html/blogger_bios.html). Regularly scheduled Guest Blogs will occur on Monday evenings, at 8 PM.

We look forward to blogging with Jim Dean. Please join us.

Al, Jessica, Charlene

Posted by Jessica Falker on April 7, 2005 at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)