DemLabs blog

A photo of Genny and Ashley, founders of The Blue Institute
Genny Castillo & Ashley Robinson - Co-founders, The BLUE Institute.

Lack of minority staffers threatens to hobble 2020 Democrats. If you don't have any people of color on your national team ... you're going to be hamstrung,' says one veteran Democratic operative”, wrote Daniel Strauss in Politico.

The challenge
Voters of color are the margin of victory in many races. Candidates need campaign staff who can relate to their needs, but the limited supply of trained, young people of color for campaigns presents a serious bottleneck.

Providing good, affordable training is a challenge. Students have to be identified and recruited to get trained. The right training courses designed. Qualified trainers found. Classroom space rented. Travel costs minimized. Price a course too high, and many qualified students are left out. Schedule courses infrequently, and not  enough students are trained.

A possible solution
A pilot program shows how more young people of color can be trained to work on campaigns. It uses existing qualified student groups, experienced trainers and classroom facilities to keep costs low and ramp up quickly.

YearUp is a non-profit group that enables young adults to move from minimum wage to meaningful careers in just one year. “I thought it was so wrong that the opportunities he (his 'Little Brother') had access to in life could be limited due to things like his zip code, the color of his skin, the bank balance of his mother, or the school system he attended. We are wasting so much talent in a country where we have no one to waste,” said Gerald Chertavian, who founded YearUp in 2000.

YearUp provides students a stipend while they get trained and has produced 21,500 graduates. YearUp students are motivated, talented and often come from communities of color. They get six months of technical and professional skills in-classroom training followed by a six month on-the-job internship. YearUp graduates understand the need for social justice, and are ideally qualified to work on campaigns.

The Blue InstituteMidwest Academy and Campaign Boot Camp 2.0 offer training on organizing and campaign skills. They have collectively trained thousands of students, but often have to struggle with recruiting new students and finding affordable training venues. New delivery approaches can extend their reach to train more students.

Pilot program results
A recent workshop organized by DemLabs shows how training be delivered cost-effectively by having experienced trainers teach pre-qualified students at an existing training facility. A day-long training workshop was conducted at YearUp in San Francisco using a condensed version of the full campaign skills training. Ashley Robinson and Genny Castillo, founders of the BLUE Institute and Christine Pelosi trained thirty YearUp alumni on the skills needed to work on a campaign. Students and trainers both gave the workshop extremely positive feedback. Learn more about the workshop and the lessons learnt here.

Training workshop

Take away
Campaign staff of color enables can better engage minority voters. We need more collaborative training to prepare these staffers who will eventually move on to become leaders in the future.

Co-Founder, DemLabs

Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive groups at the national, state, and local levels. Donate here to support our work.

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DemLabs applies innovative technology and storytelling tools in service of democratic values. It lowers the barrier of funding for worthy candidates and non-profits by applying existing free/affordable solutions.