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Comments by YACCS
Monday, September 18, 2006

Time for a change

6 ways that MoveOn can save its GCI campaign

ChangeGCI (CGCI) is a group of veterans of Grassroots Campaigns Inc operations--specifically the MoveOn campaigns of Leave No Voter Behind, Operation Democracy, and Call for Change, as well as former high-level GCI staff who were with the company at its inception. We believe that even though GCI is engaged in important work, it has consistently misapplied core organizing principles; we believe that GCI sacrifices the quality of its campaigns for the sake of the quantity of its recruits, and that its result is far less than the sum of its parts; we believe that a campaign organization has a responsibility to honor the commitment of each organizer and every volunteer, and that whenever such honor is broken, the progressive movement suffers.

Upon's request, we have submitted the following recommendations as to improvements that it can make to its GCI field program. MoveOn has not yet responded. We have a wider set of recommendations for mid- and long-term improvements to GCI's campaign model, but MoveOn's campaign is currently entering into a critical phase, and the following actions have been selected because they are all accomplishable in the short-term. We believe that these actions would bring immediate gains in effectiveness to the 2006 Call for Change campaign; we also believe that this would set a precedent of campaign accountability that can continue to develop beyond this election. Potentially, GCI could become a positive force in the progressive movement; however, if it is not held accountable, we believe that it will continue to squander our most precious resources.

1. Volunteer privacy --
According to the fine print on MoveOn's web site, when MoveOn members attend an Operation Democracy or other GCI-run events, their contact information is submitted to GCI's "membership." Supposedly, members are first contacted by an email in which they are invited to "opt out" of this agreement; those who do not "opt out" are transferred to Telefund, GCI's for-profit telefundraising sister company.

ChangeGCI holds that this fine print can help explain GCI's prioritizaion of endless full-bore recruitment, and insists that MoveOn reverse this agreement: GCI should send an email to all MoveOn members (including those who have already joined Operation Democracy), asking if they would like to be contacted by GCI/Telefund about other issues. Any members who do not respond in the affirmative should be removed from GCI's telefundraising list. Changing this process from "opt-out" to "opt-in" will create ample incentive for GCI to reconsider the quality of its volunteers' experience, rather than just the quantity of its signup lists; this action would result in a better campaign for MoveOn, since a better campaign will be the only way that GCI can generate more members for Telefund to contact.

2. A web forum for volunteer teams --
MoveOn members who join Operation Democracy and Call for Change have only the most rudimentary, unreliable means of communication available to them; if not for their GCI field organizer, the volunteers would have no viable access points into the campaign. A simple web forum would allow for better transmission of relevant information, and would encourage a more productive and supportive environment within volunteer teams. We believe this would bring minor but significant gains, in terms of the campaign's social dynamics as well as its effectiveness.

3. Campaign labor standards -- As has been attested in the MOFO diaries and accompanying threads, GCI's workplace standards are a serious issue that must be systematically addressed, and management has actively prevented internal efforts to do so. We understand the demands of the final months before an election (many of us have extensive capaign experience)--and yet even at this late date, there still must be professional practices and established limits. Far too often, organizers must campaign out-of-pocket and face delayed or incomplete reimbursement. In some cases, the extreme work demands have quite literally put organizers' health in danger. MoveOn should engage with GCI and its organizers in an ongoing dialogue, both general and specific, about the best practices by which its campaign can operate.

4. Respect for MoveOn members' commitment --
In much the same way that organizers' needs and concerns are at issue, GCI has a clear record of failing its volunteer recruits. Every MoveOn member who takes on a significant volunteer role should be guaranteed a certain weekly amount of one-on-one organizer guidance.

5. A third-party monitor to oversee the implementation of the model --
We believe this is the most important recommendation. A common thread in most GCI veterans' experiences is the lack of viable channels through which the organizers can communicate--whether to MoveOn or GCI itself. In the short term, the crisis of leadership could be resolved, or at least mitigated, by a third-party monitor. Organizers should be able to provide qualitative reports to the monitor (ie how the raps are working, technical needs, etc); these communications must be exclusively between monitor and organizer, to preserve the security of organizers to speak freely. The monitor must have a viable capacity to process organizer feedback and ensure the model's fair and efficient implementation; the monitor's goals will be shaped by objectives related to conditions on the ground (specifically, with regard to the previous two recommendations). The monitor will report to all heads of MoveOn (not just the MoveOn PAC director).

6. Formal post-election audit --
There is good reason to doubt that the post-LNVB analysis was conducted in a serious and fair manner, and that the majority of organizer feedback was made available to the heads of MoveOn. (On the other hand, they cannot claim total ignorance.) If the monitor finds that GCI is incapable of executing a campaign without serious, repeated failures in regards to the commitment of its staff and volunteers, MoveOn will review GCI's contract after the election and terminate if necessary.

These recommendations were submitted to MoveOn over a week ago. ChangeGCI has not yet received a response. If you agree that these are matters that MoveOn should act upon, please email and cc us at
The Republicans do not do this with their people. They just don't. Dems have to treat these people, the future of the Democratic party, with more respect and a chance for advancement. They are not a renewable resource. How many people have walked away from politics because they were treated like serfs?

This has to end. Every kid they lose is one more future party leader who won't exist. These are the most committed people, the most willing to work for their beliefs, and they get screwed.

posted by Steve @ 5:11:00 PM

5:11:00 PM

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