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Keep an Eye Out for RootsCamp, the Progressives' Post-Election Confab

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, November 16 2012

Back in 2006, the left-leaning New Organizing Institute held an "unconference" called Rootscamp with around 500 progressive organizers. One of the sessions, led by Joe Trippi, was entitled "Kick Joe Trippi."

The whole point of the session was for Trippi to confront his critics, and to hash out what went right, and what went wrong during that election cycle, an exercise that's not always easy to execute in public.

"Getting together and admitting what you did wrong is not exactly a popular activity," notes Evan Sutton, NOI's communications manager.

"Also people are pretty territorial about what they do right," since the person sitting next to you might be working in a primary against you during the next campaign cycle.

Nevertheless, NOI persevered and Rootscamp has continued since its inaugural session in 2006, and what was a sometimes awkward get-together for around 500 progressive organizers is expected to mushroom to a gathering of up to 2,000 at the next Rootscamp planned for the end of this month (So far, just over 500 people have registered.) It seems as if that sharing of what went right, and what went wrong over the past six years has paid off. Democrats enjoyed a bumper year up and down the ballot this year from winning the presidential race on down to keeping control of the senate.

In addition to celebrating, progressive organizers are planning to build on the lessons learned over this campaign cycle. To that end, some of the top staff from the Obama campaign will be leading sessions. Some of those staffers include Betsy Hoover, the Obama campaign's director of digital organizing, Toby Fallsgraff and Chris Hass, the campaign's digital outbound directors who managed the campaign's email and social media programs, Evan Zasoski, deputy director of digital analytics, Nathaniel Lubin, the campaign's director of digital marketing, and Catherine Bracy, director of the Obama campaign's tech field office.

"Almost nobody is going to have the budget or talent to replicate what Obama did outside the next presidential cycle," Sutton said. "But that doesn’t mean that aspects of it can’t be integrated. Even with the smallest campaign, you can integrate dynamic voter models just with the voter file."

Beyond that, Rootscamp this time around will act as a kind of Match.com for organizers coming off political campaigns. There will be a job fair with over 100 progressive organizations and companies looking to hire talent, says Jim Pugh, Rebuild The Dream's chief technology officer and one of Rootscamp's organizers. So far, groups that have signed up to participate include the Working Families Party, ActBlue, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, New Partners, the Sierra Club, and the Courage Campaign.

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