Cambridge-Somerville for Political Engagement

“We got used to the politics of disappointment -- figuring out how soon we were going to be let down. ... There’s a different dynamic in the ... politics of hope. It’s much more challenging. It means you’ve got to get up and do something. There’s opportunity. If you don’t take advantage of that opportunity, you really have to bear responsibility for not doing so. That’s how I see the time we’re in. ”

One of the most unique and exciting elements of the 2008 Obama campaign was the distributed leadership model.  When we were starting out, during the spring and summer of 2008, we had so many volunteers to organize, so much work to do, and no full-time staff, that we had no choice but to embrace the distributed leadership model.

The challenge of distributed leadership is that responsibility spreads out far beyond the campaign staff.  So individual volunteers can take on leadership roles.  These can be functional roles like phone bank coordinator, canvass coordinator, and data entry coordinator.  They may also be geographic roles, like town, or ward, or precinct coordinator.  People use a variety of terms - captain, lead, organizer - but the resulting responsibility is the same.

On reason that Cambridge-Somerville for Change has adopted this model is that it allows part-time, unpaid organizers to take turns in leadership and responsibility, sharing the workload.  As people have more time, they can take on more work.  When more tasks come up, we can share in the decision-making, and share in the resulting workload.  This requires a fair amount of communication and collaboration.  It tends to work because we share the same goals - supporting progressive candidates, advocating for progressive policies, and building the progressive movement.

The challenges we face, as an organization, tend to be most difficult when our goals don't all align around a single course of action.  But one of the great qualities of the distributed leadership model is that, as long as we don't all go in different directions, organizers can vote with their feet, spending time on the projects which are most important to them.  When we get together to make plans, we can advocate for spending more time with, for example, the Elizabeth Warren campaign, or more time with the Obama campaign, or more time supporting like-minded activist groups.

To learn more about Cambridge-Somerville for Change, check out our Calendar and come to one of our local events, like our State of the Union Watch Party in Union Square.  You can also send us an email, join us on Facebook, or follow our blog's RSS feed


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Cambridge-Somerville for Change is an all-volunteer community group dedicated to harnessing the grassroots energy and spirit of change inspired by the Obama campaign. Our organizing work includes electoral and issue-based campaigns at the local, state, and national level. Our members have chosen to work on promoting economic fairness, comprehensive health care reform, creating policies that conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide for fair and adequate access to public transportation, and promoting in-state tuition for immigrant youth.

This is an organization built by and for you, the community, and we look forward to your participation and feedback. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about getting involved, please email
or call us at
(617) 302-7324.

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