Our third day in Austin was the busiest. We began the day at 8:30am and got back to the hotel a little before 11:00pm, spending the whole day in “Campaign Bootcamp.” Fortunately, the day flew by, filled with learning, hands-on activities, and group interaction—much like people involved in real campaigns. With so much to learn over such a long day, we each had our own favorites and lessons we took away.
Jake Rivera: One of the great things about the NPF Bootcamp is that all the speakers have specialties which they share with students over the course of the weekend, providing students with a comprehensive look at campaign work. Today was our busiest day, with about 11 hours of presentations followed by three hours of teamwork. Our primary mentor, Parag Mehta, taught us the importance of taking care of campaign volunteers.
On the other end of warm and fuzzy, Michael Beach taught us the importance of enhancing communications technology. Beach’s style, which is reserved, may be a little less captivating to some of the students, but the substance of what he said was enormously important and, to me, very interesting.
In reflecting on his concepts, it’s easy to see why his consulting firm is successful. Rounding out the day were seminars on fundraising, earned and paid media, social media, voter contact, and political pitches.
One of the things that dawns on you as you move through a program like this is that, in addition to learning the content of the seminars, you are also acquiring skills, especially in the hands-on section. Fundraising is about communication skills and persuasion; working with volunteers is about organization and management; polling is about research and statistics; and cutting across all of these topics is the skill of teamwork.
Of course, we had some of these skills and, in fact, the four of us—me, Joycelyn, Makeebba, and Lupe—came here as a team. Ironically, by working with other teams in Austin, we’ll return to SHSU as an even more effective team.
Lupe Cuellar: There were so many fascinating topics and captivating presenters today that deciding on a favorite could be difficult. For me, however, Ms. Liz Chadderdon stood out as a favorite. Her topic was “messaging” and her style was energetic, engaging, and heavy on opinions. She was passionate about her topic, and it came through as she detailed specific strategies for communicating directly to voters (go for mail!).
My team, which consists of one high school and several college students, has diverse political beliefs. We’ve turned this diversity into a strength, however, incorporating multiple ideas and strategies into a cohesive strategy. I’m hoping it will carry us to victory on mock-election day, tomorrow.
Makeebba Deterville: We had seven speakers today over about eleven hours. It made for a long day, but it also made for a wonderful learning opportunity. Whether it was Parag Mehta discussing campaign volunteers…
…or Michael Beach discussing communications, we got inside the machinery of a successful campaign. The most interesting to me, however, was Liz Chadderdon, who spoke about crafting a campaign message that motivated sufficient voters to win a campaign. She has a unique style, sometimes cursing, occasionally screaming, and always passionate.
At the end of the evening, we broke into our groups and worked on our own campaigns. Although we spent three hours working in a group, it’s not enough time to put together a winning campaign, so I’ll need to turn from the blog and focus on the final touches of our campaign.
Joycelyn Ovalle: The New Politics Forum campaign bootcamp is all about learning—from the importance of volunteers, to crafting a message, to targeting voters, to polling…
…and there is no doubt that by the end of the day our brains were full of significant strategies and knowledge. But the Bootcamp is designed to go beyond filling your head with knowledge; the NPF staff also asks us to put those ideas into action, to apply our knowledge. Accordingly, we followed our many seminars with a three-hour session of teamwork, assisted by our mentors: Luke Marchant, Parag Mehta, and Pasha Moore.
They helped us crunch numbers, finesse strategies, craft messages, target specific demographics, and improve our campaign skills.
The venue for this event was the Belo Center for New Media on the University of Texas’s campus. It’s a large venue, giving campaign groups to move around and settle in different areas. But many of the groups interacted or were sufficiently close such that the conversations trespassed group boundaries. This allowed me to observe how the groups worked together, how they listed to one another and strategized. The teamwork was impressive. If congress could work like that, we would all be very fortunate!
Overall, the day was intense and rewarding, allowing us to learn, apply, observe, and reflect—education at its finest!