Community Organising: The Art of Grassroots Campaigning (Part 11)

Action Plan – 1

What can each of us do to make UVI and Nayi Disha a reality?

Obama’s volunteer-driven 2008 campaign offers the best parallel. While there was some centralised planning, the campaign was powered by over 2 million volunteers. Here is Hahrie Han in her “Groundbreakers” book: “Unlike previous campaigns, the Obama field model did not rely on the party infrastructure, the labor movement, out-of-state volunteers, 527s, or a last-minute GOTV (get out the vote) blitz. Instead, in 2008, OFA (Obama for America) cobbled together an electoral-organizing strategy, one that embraced the gritty but necessary work of recruiting local volunteers and testing their voter contact capacity well in advance of the election. In so doing, OFA revived elements of the shoe-leather politics that had characterized older campaigns, even as it built on the cutting-edge mobilization research and technology that had emerged from the 2004 election… Entrusting volunteers with great responsibility is risky, however, because unpaid recruits are notorious for being unreliable. Even those who consistently show up may not have or be willing to learn the skills the campaign needs, or they may have narrow personal agendas that differ from the overarching electoral goal. How could the campaign build and maintain motivation among volunteers? What kind of support did volunteers need to do their work? How could campaign staff hold volunteers accountable?… Community organizing practices have been largely absent from modern field programs because…campaigns were often viewed as temporary machines created to get voters to the polls—not to build their capacity for leadership and collective action. OFA, by contrast, did want to build the capacity of volunteers, originally out of necessity… The campaign’s motto, “respect, empower, include,” gave OFA an aura…of being more like a social movement than an electoral campaign…The story that unfolds shows how the campaign learned to transform volunteers into an asset, and in so doing, transform the volunteers themselves.”

This is what we have to do with UVI in India.

We cannot wait till the next election to try this out. We therefore need to use the idea of primaries and a parallel government to create versions of UVI, with each new generation a leap from its predecessor. This is where the idea of Sabhas comes in. Think of Sabhas as the precursors to the actual 2024 election campaign. Versions 1 and 2 of Sabhas can be done in 2022 and 2023, offering learnings and opportunities to improve and perfect the game.

The core of UVI will need to be the Circles. Each of us has to create our own group of 10 or 20 people we inspire and recruit. They in turn can fan out and do the same, thus creating snowflakes. Each of us becomes a field organiser – tell our story of self-us-now, build relationships in our neighbourhood and communities, do small meet-ups in our homes, recruit volunteers and then make them into the next set of field organisers by helping them with the planning needed to achieve their goals. A sentence from Hahrie Han’s book captures its essence: “Tell your story, build relationships, learn to lead house meetings, build volunteer teams, and then teach people how to strategize to meet their own goals.”

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.