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Movement-Building Beyond Election Day

The “Capitol Gains: Traditional Vs. Movement Building Approach” tool highlights the ways in which organizations can use a movement-building approach to extend their work beyond Election Day.

During every legislative cycle, organizers work tirelessly with constituents to further progressive policies. But what happens once the votes have been counted? Do grassroots activists go into hibernation when there isn’t a piece of legislation to support or rally against? 

Movement Building Tool Cover

At the Center, the approach to our Building Political Power program uses movement-building in order to strategize beyond any single campaign. The centerpiece of this program is VOTE. Through VOTE (Voter Organizing Training and Empowerment) we work with groups across our region in order to solidify and integrate the movement-building component into the important social justice work that they do.

Click image to go to download page

Sarah Howell, our very own trainer & organizer, has put together a chart to easily distinguish between traditional versus movement-building strategies during legislative campaigns. The “Capitol Gains: Traditional Vs. Movement Building Approach” tool highlights the ways in which organizations can use a movement-building approach to extend their work beyond Election Day. 

Sarah notes:

Legislative sessions can be fast-paced, issue-packed and hard to follow. By using a movement-building approach to legislative organizing, we can:

  • Build our base (including members, supporters, donors, and volunteers)
  • Advance our long-term goals
  • Develop and communicate winning, values-based messages
  • Recruit and train effective grassroots leadership
  •  Hold elected officials accountable

As part of the “Capitol Gains: Traditional Vs. Movement Building Approach” tool, there is also an analysis of how organizations can play effective defense while maintaining their movement-building strategies.

At CAUSA, a VOTE group participant and Oregon’s grassroots immigrant rights coalition, the movement building approach is an integral part of how they organize and mobilize their members. CAUSA organizer, Aeryca Steinbauer, reflected on how movement building within a legislative campaign can create momentum that continues even after facing defeat. She spoke about Oregon’s driver’s license bill that passed the House and Senate in 2008, which denied driver’s licenses for undocumented citizens.

When the legislature took always driver’s license access in 2008, we did an unprecedented amount of mobilization to the Capitol. The community responded like never before. The legislature did end up passing the bill. On one hand, it was really crushing. Every year that driver’s licenses expire, we remember how crushing that was. 


CAUSA ODL Rally Crowd Edited


But the capacity that we built as an organization has helped us to develop our base and brought us into a position in 2011 where we can bring proactive legislation around driver’s licenses. We know that restoring driver’s licenses is a long-term struggle but we’re committed to doing it in a way that builds capacity in our organization and among our leaders. 

As organizations across the country evaluate the outcomes of the most recent election, VOTE organizations have found that the movement-building approach in their organizing work will help to carry them through to the next election and beyond.

The “Capitol Gains: Traditional Vs. Movement Building Approach” tool is available for download here.

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