What do the Sanders campaign and other recent advances in grassroots political organizing, online activism, labor organizing in a world without collective bargaining, and crowdsourced reporting of everything from potholes to wage theft have in common? They are all using new tools for digital organizing—tools for organizing people around shared goals and turning their energy into action. What can grassroots organizers of all kinds learn from each other, and what can businesses learn from their cutting-edge practices? In this unique interactive panel, Carmen Rojas of the Workers Lab, Becky Bond and Zack Exley, who led digital organizing for the Sanders campaign and are now working on an organization they call Brand New Congress, Christie George of New Media Ventures (which funded, among others Change.org), and Ben Berkowitz of SeeClickFix will interview each other about their best practices and lessons learned and answer questions from the audience about how to use the power of the Internet to vastly increase the size and impact of your organization and its message.
Carmen Rojas is the CEO of the Workers Lab, an accelerator that invests in entrepreneurs, community organizers, technologists, economic justice organizations, issue campaigns, and businesses to create scalable and self-sustaining solutions that improve conditions for low-wage workers. The Workers Lab is focused on ideas, services, and products that will achieve sufficient scale to impact workers across sectors, industries, and geographies, and result in self-sufficient revenue models. Previously, Carmen was the acting director of collective impact at Living Cities; the director of strategic programs at the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, where she oversaw the Green Access and Civic Engagement programs; the coordinator of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s Taskforce on African American OutMigration; and the coordinator of the Social Equity Caucus, a program of Urban Habitat, where she was primarily responsible for coordinating the work of a regional network of over 75 public, private, and nonprofit organizations to build a regional social and environmental justice movement that represents the needs of low-income communities and communities of color. Carmen holds a PhD in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley and was a Fulbright Scholar. She taught in the Department of City & Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where her courses focused on the history of cities in the US, a practicum on local economic development, planning pedagogy, and race in the practice of city planning.
Zack Exley is the founder of Brand New Congress. Zack served as a senior advisor to the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and an architect of the campaign’s national, volunteer-driven grassroots campaign. A geek of the Commodore Vic20 generation, Zack was an early pioneer of Internet politics, organizing, and fundraising and had been dreaming of a campaign like Bernie’s for a very long time. While trying to figure out how to use all these tools and tactics to elect not just a new president but a whole new Congress, Zack works as a consultant to global NGOs, companies, and campaigns. Previously, with global IT consultancy ThoughtWorks, he led field organizing software projects for Obama’s 2008 general election campaign and for social movements around the world, and he served as Wikipedia’s chief community officer and chief revenue officer during the Wikimedia Foundation’s growth from 20 to 200 employees.
Zack first made waves on the Internet when George W. Bush called him a “garbage man” in 1998 while trying to shut down Zack’s site, GWBush.com, the Web’s first campaign parody. He organized the first flash mobs in 2000 with simultaneous protests in hundreds of cities around the Bush v. Gore election crisis. He became MoveOn.org’s first organizing director for its campaign to prevent the war in Iraq and led the first “online primary” in 2003. As an early advisor to the Dean campaign, he helped transfer MoveOn’s early fundraising and organizing discoveries into presidential politics, before serving as John Kerry’s director of online fundraising and communications in the general election, where he raised more than $100 million online for the nominee.
Becky Bond served as a senior adviser to the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign and an architect of the campaign’s national volunteer-driven grassroots campaign. Prior to joining the Bernie Sanders campaign, Becky was an innovator in organizing, politics, and philanthropy as the founder and political director of the CREDO super PAC, which was named by Mother Jones as one “2012’s Least Horrible Super PACs” for helping to defeat five sitting Republican congressmen in an independent campaign to unseat the Tea Party Ten. Becky also built CREDO Action, a community of four million progressive flank activists that organize for change on- and offline.
During the course of her career at CREDO, Becky ran several organizing initiatives of note. She ran CREDO’s campaign to register over one million minority and low-income voters in advance of the 2004 election. In 2010, Becky ran the California statewide ballot initiative campaign “Hell NO on Prop 23” and helped stop Texas oil companies from rolling back the state’s global warming regulations. In 2013, she launched the “Pledge of Resistance,” which recruited nearly 100,000 Americans to pledge to risk arrest in peaceful civil disobedience to stop President Obama from approving the Keystone XL pipeline. As a telecom, CREDO was also a major player in fights to obtain strong FCC net neutrality rules and roll back unconstitutional provisions of the Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act. Becky sits on the board of ColorOfChange.org, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization.
Ben Berkowitz is the cofounder and CEO of SeeClickFix, a company born out of Ben’s frustration with traditional civic communication methods with local government. Through SeeClickFix, Ben has been able to set a precedent of transparency and public feedback in the local service request process. Nearly three million block-level neighborhood issues have been resolved on SeeClickFix, and both the platform and Ben’s leadership in civic tech have served as examples of web technology shaping the future of civics.
Christie George is one of the country’s leading experts on investing in mission-driven startups. As director of New Media Ventures, an angel network and seed fund focused on accelerating progressive innovation, Christie has catalyzed the investment of more than $9M into some of the fastest growing for-profit and nonprofit startups of the last few years, including Upworthy, CrowdTangle, and SumOfUs. Christie’s work centers on fostering an independent, vibrant, and diverse media sector by supporting individuals and institutions that are making media that matters. She started her career at a venture capital firm, then spent six years managing sales and marketing for Women Make Movies, the world’s leading distributor of films by and about women. She was also a cofounder of Louder (acquired by Change.org), the crowd-promotion platform for ideas that matter, serves on the board of the Roosevelt Institute, and was named a Social Citizen Ambassador by the Case Foundation. Christie holds a BA from Yale University and an MBA with distinction from the University of Oxford, where she was a Skoll Scholar in Social Entrepreneurship and graduated with the Said Prize. She lives in Oakland and is a proud coowner of the Rio Theater in Monte Rio, CA.
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