WISDOM is a grassroots organization, comprised mostly of religious congregations of many denominations, which works to have a common voice on issues of social justice.
In all, WISDOM includes participation from about 160 congregations, of 19 different religious traditions. It also includes Ex-Prisoners Organizing and the Menikanaehkem community of the Menominee Nation.
During this last cycle, our amazing partners at WISDOM used Relational Organizing, as well as other organizing tactics, to reach nearly 400,000 Wisconsin voters.
In September 2019 WISDOM kicked off their Intentional Voter Engagement (IVE) campaign with the main objective of ensuring the communities they served in Milwaukee were taking part in the 2020 census.
With just 2 full-time canvassers, they knocked over 10,000 doors before COVID put a halt to such traditional organizing approaches.
Meanwhile the Wisdom Action Network (WAN) worked to turn out voters and ensure the community was accurately informed surrounding the confusion surrounding the outbreak of the pandemic.
The pandemic posed problems for all organizers, but those who were most successful found a way to transform obstacles into opportunities.
When WISDOM found themselves unable to employ traditional canvassers, they pivoted, onboarding community members and sought to display the direct impact of their Relational Organizing program to their membership. You know it was successful, because many of their RO volunteers have committed to continue this important work even post 2020!
With these invaluable communities onboarded, the IVE team switched to phone banking, reaching more than 40,000 residents leading up to the spring election.
At the same time, WAN put in serious work on one election that was very personal to the community — the race for judge in Branch 29 of the Milwaukee Circuit Court.
The incumbent had refused to meet with WISDOM leaders. He had used his power to block the release of thousands of men and women who had been incarcerated for longer than the sentencing judge had ever envisioned, and the community wanted accountability.
While the incumbent was the only candidate running TV ads, his challenger won a decisive victory.
They used Relational Organizing to change their community in a massive and significant way, even in the middle of a pandemic!
And WISDOM didn’t stop there. They escalated phone banking and lit drops throughout the summer and fall, with IVE alone making 140k total contact attempts.
Their Action Network remained hard at work as well, providing opportunities to voters across southern Wisconsin to educate themselves about Wisconsin’s State Supreme Court race.
The WAN made impressive strides across communities of southern Wisconsin.
Milwaukee: 11,600 Door knocks or calls, with 1,350 personal conversations
4,000 pieces of literature distributed.
Wausau: Outreach to 300 targeted people in the Hmong Community and students
Racine: 4,000 pre-quarantine doors visited; 3,000 post-quarantine phone calls
Waukesha: 300 targeted phone contacts, especially with people in Brookfield
Wausau: Outreach (including “care packages”) to 100 Hmong families; 200 young people engaged in Facebook events.
From September to Election day WAN kept their foot on the gas, reaching out to 196,877 people — 91,324 by phone and 102,803 by dropping lit.
Both IVE and WAN programs were effective despite the massive roadblocks that only the dumpster fire that is 2020 could provide. Getting their Relational Organizing program going early set them up for success, and passionate community members faced every challenge with poise and grace. While 2020 might have been a terrible year, WISDOM showed us how to lead every step of the way.
Learn more about WISDOM and get involved at wisdomwisconsin.org.