Every time the guy in the Oval Office does something that makes us all crazy, he creates countless new volunteers for the progressive cause. He is our best possible recruitment tool!
But then what? Being all fired up is great, but what exactly are the next steps? First, we zero in on our goal: changing the course of American history. Yikes! No pressure there…
Learning grassroots skills at Resistance School
Luckily, finding useful ways to work for progressive change isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds. Lots of people have pitched in to develop simple, effective resources. For instance, there’s the Indivisible Guide, created by Capitol Hill staffers to provide insider strategies for influencing your legislators. Want weekly recommendations? Among the best are Jen Hofmann’s Americans of Conscience checklist and the PAGE (Progressive Action Global Exchange) action plans. But for many of us, the best place to start is by learning the “practical skills for taking back America” offered in a free online course called Resistance School, launched in April by a group of Harvard grad students.
Resistance School is a spectacular resource for newbies and veterans alike. I’m far from a novice activist; my mom started taking me to join picket lines and marches and sit-ins when I was maybe 10 or 11. We spent the sixties fighting for civil rights, peace, and justice. Although I worked to get Obama elected, I have to admit I’d let my grassroots skills get pretty rusty. So I was thrilled to discover that in April, some of the best and brightest students in America launched Resistance School to give us up-to-date training.
Fresh from their studies of public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and seasoned with years of field work, these grad students put together a four-session course designed to share some of the best approaches to energizing political advocacy, communicating values, organizing, mobilizing, building a grassroots movement, and sustaining momentum over the long term.
When I spoke with one of those Harvard grad students, Yasmin Radjy, she told me, “We built Resistance School thinking if we were extremely successful and worked incredibly hard, maybe we could get 200 viewers … mostly our moms.” Instead, the course drew nearly 200,000 viewers from all 50 states and 20 countries; a second semester is now in the works. Resistance School has become wildly popular by giving us smart tools and, more importantly, confidence in our skills and in ourselves.
Fieldwork & where to find it
Having completed her Masters, Yasmin now serves as the Virginia State Director for Mobilize America, an organization whose efforts include connecting volunteers with the most urgently needed tasks via the new Moblize app.
She told me her top priority right now is getting Democratic candidates elected in advance of 2021, when America’s voting district boundaries will be revised. The age-old political tactic of gerrymandering — redrawing boundaries to exclude voters unfavorable to your candidate or party — has been systematically exploited lately. Often, the voters are no longer choosing their politicians, the politicians are choosing their voters. If we don’t do something now to get more Democrats a seat at the table when the new voting disctricts are hammered out, it’s going to get a whole lot worse.
Do you have what it takes to volunteer?
Of course you do! You don’t need a Harvard degree, or even a high school diploma, to come to the aid of your country. Never doubt that first-time volunteers are the backbone of the Resistance. If you choose to join the millions of Americans who are working hard to build a better future for our nation, you will be welcomed with open arms. Because it’s clear that we’re all going to have to stand together if we’re going to fix this mess we’re in.
This video is Episode 6 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series here on this website, on YouTube, my blog Enjoy Living Abroad, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on Americans Resisting Overseas and other social media sites. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
Karen McCann is a bestselling author whose travel tips and adventure stories have appeared in Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, and Lonely Planet. She is a founding member of American Resistance Sevilla.