The Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation has demonstrated again and again with both mature organizations looking for a fresh approach and new organizations just starting out that the strategies we teach can make the difference between being stalled by good intentions lacking an action plan, and making significant inroads in moving a worthy cause forward.
We focus on identifying the most effective actionable steps organizations and their members can undertake. We then coach key members in the most effective strategies to lead their organization and empower their members to make meaningful and significant contributions.
What results have others experienced working with CCET?
RESULTS was launched from a bedroom in Tarzana, California in 1980. By 1986 volunteers were generating 90 editorials on tripling the child survival fund, and in 1987 100 editorials on microfinance for the poor. After successful work to triple the child survival fund in 1986, UNICEF Executive Director Jim Grant, in a handwritten note, said:
I want to convey my heartfelt thanks for the unflagging and satisfyingly successful efforts of RESULTS on behalf of vulnerable children and mothers everywhere. I thank you in my mind weekly, if not more often, for what you and your colleagues are accomplishing—but I thought I should do it at least once this year in writing.
This advocacy has continued and over the last 30 years child death rates have dropped from 41,000 a day in 1984 to 17,000 a day in 2014.
After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 Muhammad Yunus said:
No other organization has been as critical a partner in seeing to it that microcredit is used as a tool to eradicate poverty and empower women than RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund’s Microcredit Summit Campaign.
CCET began coaching Citizens Climate Lobby three months before it was launched from nothing in 2007 and by 2013 their volunteers in the U.S. and Canada generated 1,265 letters to the editor and 248 op-eds and had 709 meetings with members of Congress, Parliament, or their staff. Leading climate scientist Jim Hansen said the following about the group’s approach:
Most impressive is the work of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a relatively new, fast growing, nonpartisan, non-profit group with  chapters across the United States and Canada. If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group.
What are our first steps with CCET?
The public and even NGOs bring a great deal of cynicism and hopelessness to the conversation around deep advocacy. CCET usually has six conversations with an NGO’s leadership to sort through these issues and align on a vision for grassroots breakthroughs before an engagement begins. Just getting through the NGO attitudes that can kill citizen empowerment is a major step.
What are some of the NGO attitudes that kill citizen empowerment and transformation?
Each of the following attitudes is a direct quote from NGO staff with whom we have spoken. While some may seem reasonable, each one is enough to kill deep advocacy.
- We can’t ask too much of our volunteers or they’ll go away
- We can’t have volunteers write letters to the editor and op-eds because they will get it wrong and misrepresent the organization
- I do this work because I am persuaded by the facts not because of inspiration so I just want to get the facts across to the volunteers, not inspire them
- We just don’t have the time, bandwidth or funds to go on the road to start the groups or to provide much in the way of ongoing support
- We are a multi-issue organization and can’t focus on one issue over a year, even with this deep advocacy work, and besides, the volunteers would get bored if we focused on one issue over 12 months
If you look carefully you can find one or more of these attitudes in your own organization.
Do we work with CCET in person or over the phone?
Most of the work is via Skype video. If that is not optimal, phone can be substituted.
How does the actual coaching begin?
CCET works with each client to identify an issue to focus on for at least 9 months of the first year as focus is a key ingredient to success. We also work with clients to develop a deep structure of support that will inspire and empower grassroots activists. The structure includes
- An inspiring monthly conference call with guest speakers, Q&A, grassroots victories, discussion of the month’s action and a section to learn to be more articulate.
- Weekly coaching calls for the leaders of each group.
How long do we work with CCET? How often?
In the beginning there are typically 2-3 calls a week over the first three months with each call lasting 1-1.5 hours. Over the next three months we drop to one call a month with CCET staff also observing and in some cases co-leading the weekly leader calls.
During months 7-12 the calls are usually once a week and last for an hour. When starting grassroots action teams from scratch it can take 2-3 years to build a solid base.
What materials do we use?
CCET clients are expected to listen to RESULTS and Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) conference calls and discuss what worked about those calls and how they could be improved. They are also expected to read the 20th anniversary edition of Reclaiming Our Democracy and study and discuss RESULTS and CCL Action Sheets, laser talks and other relevant materials as models for developing their own.
What are we expected to do?
With CCET’s coaching, clients begin to draft scripts for and rehearse the following:
- Group start workshops
- National conference calls
- Inviting team calls
- Introductory calls
- Weekly leader calls
With CCET’s assistance clients will also begin to write:
- Monthly Action Sheets
- Laser talks
- Op-ed templates
- Packets for editorial writers
- Invitation emails
- Participation forms, etc.
Why does our organization need to be coached? Is it that difficult?
In 20013-2014 CCET founder Sam Daley-Harris did a 30-city speaking tour. The following are stories from that trip that point to our predicament, the deep hopelessness and cynicism most folks feel about making a difference with their voices as citizens. Daley-Harris tells these stories not to discourage people but to embolden them.
In 2013 Daley-Harris spoke on 15 college campuses on the 2oth anniversary edition of Reclaiming Our Democracy: Healing the Break between People and Government. He told the students that he started RESULTS 34 years earlier after asking 7,000 high school students the name of their member of Congress and fewer than three percent could answer correctly. Then he ask the college students the same question 35 years later and only 10 percent could answer correctly.
In 2014 Daley-Harris spoke at a senior citizens lecture series in Princeton, NJ. He went a month early to check it out and see if they really do get 200 seniors to attend. They do. The moderator said, “In one month we will hear from Sam Daley-Harris on Reclaiming Our Democracy: Healing the Break between People and Government,” and there were chuckles in the room. The moderator said, “Yes, this is something we need to work on.”
Daley-Harris’ take-away was that the students are oblivious and, in this one sample, the seniors are cynical. (They were great, by the way, at the lecture a month later.)
Also in March Daley-Harris met with an eminent professor of organizing at a major Ivy League college. The professor had never heard of RESULTS or Citizens Climate Lobby and peppered Daley-Harris with questions, among them: “Why do you do it that way?” “How do people react when you ask them to do that?” At the end of their 20 minute conversation the professor said, “Yes, but Congress is really dysfunctional.”
Daley-Harris replied, “Yes, Congress is really dysfunctional but this year it appropriated $1.65 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Congress is really dysfunctional but this year it appropriation $700 million for maternal and child health programs globally. Congress is really dysfunctional, but if you roll up your sleeves, do your homework, and get in there you can make big things happen.”
Also in 2014 Daley-Harris spoke at Rutgers. In a small group discussion before the lecture a student in an honors futures class said, “With a view to 50 years in the future, what is the most important issue we could work on?’
Daley-Harris replied, “My friends in climate change tell me that if we don’t solve that, we’re toast. My friends working to get money out of politics say that if we don’t solve that nothing will work. My friends in global poverty tell me it is a blight on humanity. For me the most important issue we could solve is why so few of us see ourselves as changemakers. If we could solve that, there wouldn’t be enough problems to go around.”