Joining the League of Superheroes

May 22, 2014

For our new Senior Project Manager, Causten Rodriguez-Wollerman, life as an organizer got started early.

Working at a LGBTQ youth drop-in center, and with an antiviolence crisis line, just after high school in Colorado, a statewide organizing group approached Causten to help with a 2004 LGBT voter registration drive. “I was good at it, and it paid $10 an hour. So after the campaign, when they asked me to stay and work on racial justice issues, I suddenly could do something about all these issues that I was passionate about.”

So for a decade now (not to make him seem old), Causten has been creating change in communities, and states, across America. How? “I do two things: develop leaders and build power. And so I’ve looked for opportunities to do that while surrounding myself with good people.” Causten has worked for groups like the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, President Obama’s reelection campaign, and Center for Progressive Leadership (CPL).

This is all part of Causten’s powerful philosophy of change “Reaching a win number is important, but how we campaign is even more important. Communities change when neighbors talk about issues together on their doorsteps. Our votes should not be divorced from the people we live with.” As an example of the power of this ideal, at trainings, Causten often shares the story of a campaign he led early on in his career to stop the building of a jail in downtown Denver. Spoiler alert: they lost. And lost bad. But because they started the campaign early, participated in a strong coalition and because they focused on building community leaders, they won crucial concessions and strengthened neighborhood power that didn’t previously exist.

While at CPL, Causten was responsible for managing their national youth leadership development program. In that role, Causten worked with hundreds of young leaders in DC as they started their careers in the progressive movement.

And four years ago, after meeting our one-and-only Edith Sargon, Causten joined our Campus Camp Wellstone training crew. “I remember training a freshman at one of my first Campus Camps, and recently I went back to the same campus where, today, she’s the student body president and is working hard lobbying her state senate for a progressive student agenda. She could trace her growth as a leader, directly from her experience at Campus Camp.  That’s the kind of leadership development that I love.”

So why join the team at Wellstone fulltime as a Senior Project Manager? “When you’re invited to join a league of superheroes, you don’t say ‘no.’” Explains Causten, “I have deep respect for the organization, and its people. This job gives me an exciting responsibility to live up to Paul and Sheila’s legacy, and their values.”

And he is.

For his first major project at Wellstone, Causten is leading our inaugural Wellstone Corps, where we’ll train 25 emerging organizers, and place them in campaigns holding far-right-wingers accountable. “I’m excited for Wellstone Corps because it’s what I love doing. It’s what I’m good at. It’s the two things I love, providing the movement with well-trained organizers to build progressive power, and supporting those organizers in transformative leadership development."

This is how we win progressive change. This is why we’re thrilled to have Causten as part of our team. This is how change happens, the Wellstone Way.

Wellstone Corps kicks off June 1st. Stay tuned for notes from the field, and stories about the inspiring leaders who are taking back our country from the far right.