Last month, more than 130 voting rights advocates came together in Savannah, Georgia to strategically address the voting rights landscape and develop a collaborative strategy through the lens of litigation, advocacy, organizing and communication. Participants included representatives from the voting rights funding community and leaders from across the country on the national, state and local level.
Goals from the meeting included establishing a shared understanding of where the field is, improving messaging, identifying opportunities to strengthen collaboration, creating a shared vision of the work and more. We chatted with an attendee and a member of the planning committee to learn about the biggest takeaways from the event.
Takeaways from the event include:
Walking in the Same Direction
Each organization was able to walk away from this convening reassured that they were moving in the right direction – together. It’s so easy for organizations to be stuck in siloes by focusing on the day-to-day work. Coming together as a sector allowed these organizations to take a step back and compare notes and what they found was reassuring.
For example, each of the organizations were looking for ways to create a pipeline for leaders of color. The tactics may not have all looked the same, but their goals and intentions were shared. Similarly, attendees shared the vision of strengthening their communications infrastructures as individual organizations and as a field. Overall, there was a natural synergy around where each organization and the field was headed.
The structure of the agenda allowed attendees the opportunity to talk in groups and have one-on-one conversations. Instead of having talking heads at the front of the room, attendees were able to have frank, honest conversations with each other about challenges and successes. The focus was not about competing for funding. Instead, attendees identified ways to extend the collaboration beyond the convening and achieve multi-state collaboration.
Variety of Viewpoints
The convening brought together lawyers, organizers, strategists and more. Each person brought different perspectives and viewpoints to the conversations throughout the convening. They weren’t just in the room together, they were on panels together and in small groups with each other.
What made having these different points of view in the same room together matter was the level of respect that everyone had for each other. Although they may not go about tackling the issues the same exact way, everyone was there find new ways to expand and protect the voting rights for the most marginalized communities.
Grounded in Connection
When voting rights advocates convene, the topics of discussion are heavy – gerrymandering, impact of the census, disenfranchised voters to name a few. What was so special about this convening was the way the facilitator found ways to ground the folks in the room throughout the day. No introduction started with “what do you do?” Instead, we were asked questions like, “what brings you joy?” Having that kind of conversation and connection builds trust. Especially when participants can be honest with each other and say, “This work doesn’t bring me joy, but I feel called to do it. Instead, I find joy in hiking or running.” Building relationships is the beginning to creating the connection and collaboration we need to institute multi-state collaboration.
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