Political Context Analysis: Strategizing

The second question that community groups need to answer is: What can our group offer to other players in the election that will show how valuable we are as an ally?

After all, the point is to get them to answer your phone calls after the battle is over. You can win power for your constituency more efficiently if you base your plans on an understanding of the political environment of the election and the ways that other groups are engaging voters.

If your organization isn’t prepared or simply doesn’t have capacity to launch the sort of  full-fledged election project that we cover in the TechKit, or if staff and membership prefer to get their feet wet this election cycle before taking the plunge in the next, consider joining an alliance or rallying around another community group’s campaign. When they launched SCOPE in the mid-1990s, organizers made it one of their primary goals to build long-term relationships with allies that shared their commitment to changes in public policy and civic engagement. It was, as Anthony Thigpenn explains, a pragmatic approach to building scale that has become a powerful political movement across diverse Los Angeles constituencies.

The ways that a community group can work in an election are somewhat limited by law – but more often by organizers' imaginations. Critically assess the capacity of your organization. Research the other players in the election. Brainstorm ways you can plug in. The more you understand about how your allies think about the election, the more creative and effective you can be in your voter engagement work.

As Robby Rodriguez says in the video, some allies have such a similar point of view that the relationship becomes integral to electoral strategy, while others are tactical allegiances that help both groups achieve short-term goals. Both types are important to the success of a first-time voter engagement project because they make the best use of a group's organizing skills and ties to the community while providing support maneuvering the unfamiliar electoral arena.

So how can your community group puts its power to use? Here are some suggestions:

Click to hear from an organizer

Anthony Thigpenn says that alliances are key to building a movement with major power and capacity

Anthony Thigpenn: allies are crucial for building scale and power

Community groups engaged in electoral work choose different allies for different reasons, as Robby Rodriguez explains

Robby Rodriguez: SWOP chooses allies to meet different goals