Sometimes intensity tells you who your partners and allies are…very quickly. Such was the case when the Democratic National Convention brought Big Bowl of Ideas to Philadelphia this summer as one of the co-producers of Truth to Power, an extraordinary pop-up art show, performance space and discussion salon presented by Rock The Vote and #Cut50.
A true spectacle for justice and a testament to the need for movement building, Truth to Power came together in a month’s time and involved a number of producers with varied roles. Big Bowl of Ideas wore many hats, but one of our main focuses was creative organizing and partnerships. From the get-go, there was a challenge: over the course of a mere three weeks, convince dozens of national progressive organizations, already busy with their own DNC-related efforts, and summer campaigns, to support an event that they had never heard of (and didn’t exist yet).
So how did we do it? First off, we used our wide and varied client base to access a diverse set of both local and national organizations doing valuable work in a number of progressive fields. Then, with copious research and targeting via a Partner Mapping Exercise, we dug deep to find specific organizations (and specific people at those organizations) that would yield optimal results–based on the primary issues championed by Rock the Vote and #Cut50.
Once we created that universe of who to ask for support, we crafted strategic outreach messages and methods designed to attract and engage potential partners. And as the event approached, we vigorously and tenaciously followed up with organizations, establishing a tailored working relationship with each partner and making sure everyone was in the loop about new Truth to Power developments. In the end, Big Bowl of Ideas managed to recruit over 35 national organizations to support Truth to Power with everything from endorsements to promotional help to major financial contributions to programming involvement. The following diagram shows how the partnerships we built added depth and intersectionality to the event’s programming:
These partnership “mashups” mixing BBOI clients, collaborators and newly recruited partners resulted in eclectic combinations of panelists who otherwise would not have shared the same stage. Our work got officers from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on programs with the likes of Melissa Harris-Perry, leader of Wake The Vote, and Lady Parts Justice League, another partner of ours who we had already worked with at Politicon. Our friend and client Tatyana Fazlalizadeh not only showed her art at Truth to Power, but also joined Danny Glover, Touré, Asheru and Aaron Huey on stage to discuss the intersection of art and activism.
Our outreach to national organizations like the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) resulted in the participation of LCCR executive director Kristen Clarke and LCCR spokesperson and actor Hill Harper, on two different panels about voting rights and criminal justice reform. Another organization, Global Girl Media, sent a young journalist to be part of our panel about citizen journalism in the digital age.
These are just a few examples of how Big Bowl of Ideas was the common connector among these partners, and how this style of creative organizing and resourceful thinking is an important part of what we do. Our work in securing and maintaining these Truth to Power partners helped make the event unique, and the relationships we’ve forged with these organizations surely will not end in Philadelphia – we will continue to come up with creative ways to engage our partners for Big Bowl of Ideas projects in the future.