Community Change Action is a national organization that builds the power of low-income people, especially people of color, to fight for a society where everyone can thrive.
“Community Change Action” is both their name and a statement of their purpose. Their goal is to dramatically improve material conditions for people struggling to make ends meet in the United States, and they have a 15-year plan to do so. On the path ahead, their role is to fuse the power of organized people, bold ideas, and political clout — a three-dimensional power that they believe is the recipe for an economy and democracy where everyone has the freedom to thrive.
This past election cycle, Community Change Action and their partners engaged voters in 21 states, building a cross-issue, multi-racial coalition with the power to decide national elections.
Together, they showed the power of organizing friends and family, connected with people on the issues that matter in their lives, and ran a field program that works year-round to expand from traditional tactics by coaching voters, activists, and members to be trusted messengers in their communities about the electoral process.
Their model is rooted in deep organizing in communities year-round. They partner with community-based organizations and grassroots leaders who are trusted messengers for their voter universe — low-propensity, high-potential Black and Latinx voters, immigrants, youth, and women.
They contacted voters who were looking for a different kind of politics, reaching the people most impacted by the policies of the last four years and the injustice of the last four decades. They worked in all of the key battleground states this past cycle with partners on the ground in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin, as well as 13 other states and Washington, DC.
For the past three cycles, they’ve been running political programs to expand the electorate and re-make our democracy to look more like the real people in our communities.
During the 2020 cycle, they added Relational Organizing to the mix. Their RO program provided training, coaching, access to tools, and support for over 50 state partners across the country and dozens of movement partners.
Their Relational Organizing model is simple, relying on volunteers and staff to reach out to their friends and family to talk to them about the issues and values they care about and then encourage them to turn out to vote. Data from the past cycles and Community Change Action’s experiments showed that this form of outreach is far more impactful than any other form of voter turnout.
Their Relational voter turnout program recruited over 16,400 volunteers who tracked thousands of conversations with their friends and family members. Over 7100 leaders had multiple conversations with 137,278 friends and family members in key battleground states. To achieve the same effect, partners would have had to send 192,189,200 peer-to-peer SMS messages to voters or made 23,062,704 phone calls.
This leadership base also used Relational tools to text both warm and cold lists of voters. Together Relational voter leaders reached 4,518,159 voters with 8,398,965 actions using our Relational Organizing tools.
And the best part: their investment in an organized volunteer base will have a lasting impact beyond this past election. Michigan Liberation built a base of over 230 new volunteer leaders, most of whom are directly impacted by mass incarceration. They reached thousands of voters in Michigan. Their RO program had a statewide impact on the election and real victories in local races including a local district attorney race with a write-in candidate.
Michigan Liberation’s program reached voters who fell outside traditional programs. They developed a robust training program to successfully introduce its leadership base to technology and Relational applications. In some cases, leaders were entering a new world that had changed drastically after being released from prison. They had to learn how to use cell phones and computers for the first time. Since the election, they pivoted to organizing on issues important to their Relational leader base. In December, they met with elected officials in Michigan demanding the early release of inmates due to the deplorable conditions people are facing while incarcerated due to the pandemic.
Organizations used several models for recruitment and base building to successfully build the scale needed to win elections. Organizations with an existing base of leaders invested significant resources in the training and leadership development but then reaped the rewards when their existing base then invited their friends and family to get involved. Earlier this year, they tested the success of Relational asks to recruit new volunteers. In the experiment, the control group’s initial results suggest that when people in our Relational program made lists of friends and family members and then followed up personally, they took action. In some cases, they became volunteer leaders in their own right. There was a substantial difference when the ask to these curated lists of friends and family came directly from the friend rather than a general invitation from Community Change Action. Relational Organizing is a reliable and successful form of volunteer recruitment and an important leadership opportunity.
They also experimented with strategies to expand their Relational programs beyond phone contacts to organize friends and family members on social media. This meant sharing Relational Organizing actions on social media and encouraging volunteers to record and share their stories using tools like Soapboxx. For example, Caridad, a young mother in Arizona volunteered weekly with our Relational parties talking to dozens of her friends and family members. They trained Caridad and other volunteers on how to record and share their voting stories. Caridad recorded her voting as a family story with her adorable kids in the backseat and then posted the video on her own social media channels to encourage others to participate.
Their program reached voters who almost certainly would have fallen outside traditional programs. Of the voters who were successfully matched to the voter file, 45% either had no voter history before this election, were newly registered, or were unlikely to vote in 2020. Their program built a network of voters who would not have been reached by a traditional program using data from the voter file. State partners who expanded and tested their base during the election cycle are ready to launch accountability and issue campaigns.