The Wellstone Model of Organizing

December 16, 2014

An elder Hmong woman, deeply connected with her community, comes to a GOTV shift in East St. Paul, she’s trained to use a computer for the first time and the most effective ways to turnout voters.
The result? A merge of technology, Hmong grassroots, and intergenerational organizing so a neighborhood is lifted up and a woman who has years of experience in community mobilization is given a new skill that will improve her life for years to come.
That’s the Wellstone style of organizing, and that’s what the Wellstone Organizing Fellows are all about. Case in point, Bao Lee who worked with the Hmong American Partnership in St. Paul as part of the Fellows 2014 program.
Bao trained that Hmong woman, along with dozens of other volunteers, “In 2012 I did some GOTV (get out the vote) work without any formal training, doing this work again in 2014 as a Wellstone Fellow, with the Wellstone training and support, took my organizing to a new level, it gave me a framework for what we were doing, and it empowered me with the best ways to reach people and turn them out.”
Bao, along with 32 other Fellows and our partners at Minnesota Voice, recruited and trained hundreds of volunteers to turnout many thousands of voters. Along the way, they gained skills and a new progressive community that will endure for a lifetime in the movement.
The Fellowship started with an intensive week long training over the summer:
“We spent a lot of the week talking about how to take on tough challenges. During that intense GOTV weekend, of course we encountered issues, from weird volunteer questions to small glitches with our data system, but we always referred to what Wellstone taught us and the space they provided for us to meet up and discuss how to take on challenges and come out stronger.”
The Wellstone model of organizing says that change isn’t going to come from the results of a single election but from a movement built to endure over the long haul. So while we’re proud of the thousands of new voters our Fellows turned out, and the crucial progressive victories they helped win in Minnesota, we’re even more proud of what comes next.
As Bao says, “Right away, it clicked for our youth volunteers that this is important work. Here’s a group of young people, who couldn’t vote themselves, and were excited about turning out their community. So for years to come, I want to engage more youth, and their families, to see the importance of voting, to understand the process, and the choices. That’ll be a big part of my continued commitment to this organizing work.”
From young volunteers energized by a democracy they can’t yet vote in to older volunteers empowered with new skills and added capacity to lift up their communities, our Wellstone Organizing Fellows spent 2014 empowering their communities, their neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family. Together, they’re standing up, lifting up their voices, and winning change. And they’re doing it the Wellstone Way.