Why This Work is Important
Public and political leadership in our country has rarely reflected the communities and constituencies it serves. And many potential leaders feel excluded from candidate selection and political work. There are communities in this country that are majority black with no black leaders, communities primarily composed of young families represented solely by leaders generations older than they are.
Communities want leaders who are in touch with their needs, who can advocate for change from a place of common experience. If our goal is to have real policies that impact real people, we have to start with real people making those policies.
At Wellstone, we believe all communities deserve leaders who represent the demographics and identities of the broader public – leaders who reflect the desires of our communities, collaborate with movements, and have the skills to govern effectively. And it's why developing public and political leadership, especially in the states, is one of our three key impact areas.
Crucially, this work is about more than winning one campaign at a time. Each election is an opportunity to bring more people into the progressive movement. From candidates and campaign staff to volunteers and organizers, we’re building leadership in our movement that can transform the face of power.
What We’re Doing
Building this kind of leadership has to start at the local level, so we support national- and state-based progressive organizations as they build collaborative leadership pipelines across the country. We help states identify new and emerging activists and leaders, train them to explore and advance their community leadership in a multitude of ways, and engage elected officials who are interested in co-governing with community organizations on the ground.
We believe that local organizations must be at the center of this effort to surface, recruit, and support civic leaders because they have the relationships and strategic perspective on opportunities. Our role is to provide the expert training, tools, and technical assistance that are extremely difficult to develop and resource at the local level.
While we are training and empowering today’s leaders and candidates, we are also building the bench for the future by developing diverse, progressive champions at the municipal level. We’re opening doors for those who never thought their leadership was possible, and teaching valuable electoral skills to both candidates and campaign staff.
In addition, we have concentrated our focus to states where this work will have the greatest impact, especially leading up to redistricting in 2020. In partnership with our allies, we are developing public leadership in these states – from identification and recruitment to post-election training and governing support.
Leadership Development Training: We are working with partners in our focus states to build an intentional process that empowers emerging leaders. A great example of this work is happening in Orange County, California where we’re helping to build a leadership pipeline in conjunction with a coalition of social justice organizations.
- Customized Training & Facilitation: Organizations and groups with specific candidate and leadership training needs can contract with us to provide a tailored version of our broader training curriculum. We help to build campaign skills and leadership within their existing programs.
In 2015, we worked with four groups in delivering customized leadership trainings, including 29 members of Working Families Party and a candidate-readiness training with Washington State Labor Council. We also led 48 members of the Congressional Black Caucus in an advanced campaign training.
Governance Trainings: Importantly, our roll in empowering leaders goes beyond election day. We continue to support elected and appointed officials by offering governance trainings to give progressive leaders the skills to govern effectively and effect progressive change. In 2015, we led 67 people in a “How to Govern” session at the SIX national convening in DC.
- Camp Wellstone: The next progression in our pipeline work is focused on practical skills. Here, our flagship training program, Camp Wellstone is open anyone interested in gaining electoral skills, offering the opportunity for candidates, campaign workers and organizers to learn what they need to win progressive change.
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