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Building the Emerge MA alumnae network

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The bulk of my work with Emerge Massachusetts has centered around alumnae feedback on the organization’s curriculum material and program structure to be considered by a committee largely composed of expert trainers with substantial political experience. This Curriculum Committee had its first meeting last Thursday. I scheduled, assembled material, and created an agenda for this initial meeting. The purpose was to reevaluate the program’s structure and consider the ways trainers can make programming more interactive and engaging for participants, and to think more strategically about the competencies the organization wants to instill in candidates.

Though I was unable to attend the meeting (I was visiting my home state of Oregon), I was accessible via email, read the meeting’s minutes, and was briefed by Ryanne Olsen, the organization’s executive director. I learned that the committee members were able to cover a lot of ground, from setting goals and expectations for the committee to determining the program’s organization and methodology. One goal established by the committee and derived from alumnae feedback is the need to break down material into key component parts to help make different sections more sustainable and applicable for those seeking to run for office, especially important those running while in the program. The competencies that the committee members decided are valuable for candidates are reminiscent of what my program evaluation results suggested and came directly from alumnae, such as how to develop a message, how to answer tough questions, knowledge of the issues, how to effectively use social media, and how to fundraise.

In attempting to bridge these topics and make learning more proactive, the committee members are thinking about the potential to provide each participant with a journal and regular prompts to promote constant writing and brainstorming throughout their six-month training. The committee members also stressed that journaling could be a collaborative process, encouraging folks to converse and share campaign ideas or other relevant thoughts.

Another facet of this meeting was dedicated to figuring out how to be more intentional with Emerge community building amongst candidates during the program, and even after women graduate. The idea is to build relationships and connections throughout the training and to then extend this network beyond the classroom and into the campaign arena. An emphasis here is also to keep alumnae affiliated with Emerge in the effort to advance the organization’s overarching goal of electing more Democratic women into public office by recruiting the talented and motivated women they may know.

Emerge MA alumnae enter the training at various stages of their career and with varying degrees of political knowledge. Yet, they complete the program with the tools and network to pursue elected positions in their cities, states, and country. The Curriculum Committee members who attended this meeting reflected broadly about connecting women to the tools they need and offering them help in using and accessing these tools to ensure retention and to an extent, ensure that alumnae always have an eye for public service in some capacity.

I have been sending Emerge MA’s monthly alumnae emails—a task due by the end of this week that I enjoy because I am in charge of updating this network of amazing women on what the organization has been up to, upcoming events they can attend, how they can continue to get involved, and making sure they know that we are here to support them.

The first time I sent a monthly alumnae email out, I was flooded with responses, which I thought had to be questions or any sort of follow up, but I was pleasantly surprised by replies with the sole aim of welcoming me to the organization and thanking me in advance for the work I was about to embark on. These responses are a testament to the community and sisterhood Emerge fosters, a spillover effect unavoidable even to those who are just beginning their position with the nonprofit. Associating and learning more about Emerge’s alumnae has been inspiring!


Published On: August 3, 2017 |
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