2010 – 2011
At the New Organizing Institute, our “members” represent a wide variety of social change movements. We exist to provide needed resources, tools, and trainings that help them be more effective in their work. But our organizational model, adapted from Obama for America, is contingent upon our members’ contributions, not as donors but as skilled practioners sharing with allies. This principle is baked into everything we do, such as the Organizing Toolbox, where we’ve created processes to encourage trainers to share videos of their workshops with one another. Another example is our months-long evaluation of, and current migration to, a powerful constituent relationship management database. This migration will dramatically improve our institutional knowledge of the wide range of volunteers, trainers, and professionals that make our programs strong.
Our mission is to serve our allies on the front lines of difficult battles for social change, so it’s a central principle to our work to be very sensitive to user feedback and adept at quickly recalibrating to their needs. We regularly mirror the principles of agile software development at the organizational and program levels. For example, a percentage of our small staff is intentionally comprised of 3-month fellows, to ensure organizational agility and allow us to quickly shift direction when changes in the political landscape present a particular need or opportunity.
We also incorporate attendee surveys before, after, and during almost every event, training, or webinar we conduct. I co-led an Advanced New Media training last Spring after member surveys and interviews indicated a strong demand for a more in-depth training. Our programmatic responsiveness was rewarded with high demand for the event, allowing us to double the class size. Prior to the training, I designed and administered attendee surveys that directly informed the curriculum we designed, ensuring an appropriate degree of technical skill and relevant case studies.
At the end of each day of a training, we debrief to make any necessary mid-stream adjustments to accomodate and best serve our trainees. When I co-organized a two day conference for 60 organizers in Boston this November, this ability to solicit and immediately act on feedback greatly improved the second day of the event. We identified the need to hold more breakout sessions with fewer attendees, and incorporated an action-oriented element at the end of each session.
Lastly, we use a standardized post-event evaluation survey modeled off of private sector customer loyalty research. The combination of event-specific feedback and regular loyalty queries allows us to identify trends while controlling for variables over time.