Running Campaigns, Of All Shapes and Sizes

April 7, 2014
Editor’s Note: Over the next few months, we’ll be highlighting a few of our most recent alums to watch in 2014. Esete and Jen are graduates of our December 2013, Advanced Campaign Management School in Columbus, OH. 
They run massive municipal campaigns, managing million-dollar budgets and huge staffs. They organize major community engagement events to help local sports teams better connect with their neighborhoods. They work with tech companies, major nonprofits, and leading advocacy groups. They’re centered in California and work across the country. 
For Esete and Jen at 50+1 Strategies, the work is never boring. Founded by veterans of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, 50+1 Strategies is a political and organizing consulting firm and Esete and Jen both joined over the last few years as Associates. 
Both are experienced campaigners who cut their teeth on congressional campaigns in LA and mayoral races in San Francisco. And as they prepare for the busiest year yet at 50+1, Esete and Jen spent a jam-packed 5 days in a hotel in Columbus Ohio for Wellstone’s Advanced Campaign Management School (ACMS).
Why would 50+1 make that kind of time and monetary investment to send their staff to ACMS? 50+1 Founding Principal, Former National Training Director for the Obama Campaign, and Wellstone Action Adjunct Trainer, Nicole Derse explains:
"Wellstone Action offers the most comprehensive, engaging, and useful training for campaign managers.  I was thrilled to send my staff to Wellstone's Advanced Campaign Management School because I knew that they would come back much more capable of leading successful campaigns."
So they headed to ACMS with high expectations. Says Jen, “We were both hoping for practical skills and systems to win campaigns. Tangible skills. We’ve both been to other trainings that are up in the air, meta, where we just talked about our backgrounds and ideals for a few days. ACMS was a great change from that, we got a real, meaningful, new sets of skills.” And over the five days at ACMS, Jen, Esete, and our other 40 participants dug deep into practical skills like working with the voter file, message development, and digital organizing. 
But, according to both Esete and Jen, the session that will have the biggest impact on their work going forward was on situational leadership. It’s a session that asks participants to do a lot of self-reflection on their preferred leadership style, and offers a set of strategies and tactics to become more effective managers of their campaign teams. Jen and Esete learned how to make an honest, fair assessment of people’s development level, how to identify their “default” leadership type, and how to be flexible to use the leadership style and approach that best fits a specific situation, and is most likely to gain the desired performance and outcome from each member of their team. 
This was especially valuable for Esete, who says, “Every day, we work with different staff members, at different organizations, in different situations, and with different skill sets. The session was eye opening for us. One style of management and leadership is not appropriate in all situations. That was really good for us to hear as managers, and think about our own preferred management style as compared to the styles of people around us. To be the most effective campaign leader, there will be times when we must focus on different leadership styles than that of our bosses and coworkers. That session in particular has stuck with me since we attended ACMS.
So the individual sessions, especially situational leadership, were powerful and impactful for Jen and Esete, to be sure. And, as we often hear, what really made ACMS inspiring was the talented crew of expert practitioners who took time out of their fieldwork to teach a session at ACMS and the other participants that come together for those four days to learn and gain new skills, together. The gratitude for the Wellstone team started with our lead trainer, Sujata, and as Esete says, “Sujata is amazing trainer and really good leader. We both felt like there was a level of quality and knowledge there with every trainer that surpassed any other campaign training we’ve ever attended. And our fellow participants came from all over the country, and brought a breadth of experiences and knowledge, so it was really interesting to meet everyone and learn from their expertise.” 
That’s exactly why we put so much work into hosting ACMS: to give leading campaigners a training that breaks from the theoretical, diving deep into the real-world, practical strategies, tactics, and skills that will serve them for years to come. So whether Jen and Esete’s next client at 50+1 Strategies is a big mayoral campaign, or an environmental advocacy group, they’ll be ready to win the fight the Wellstone Way. 
We offers our ACMS program every other year, so join our list today if you want to be the first to know when applications are open for our 2015 cohort.