Blog post # 4: New York Communities for Change

Hello everybody!

This is Gabriel. Back for my fourth blog post in as many weeks. Today I am answering the prompt:

What skills are you gaining and how will you employ those skills in the future (at Brandeis or beyond)?

One concrete skill I am learning at NYCC is the ability to use Powerbase. Powerbase is an open source database tool for organizing. With Powerbase I can input contact information, communication preferences and more for all the people I meet. I can also log when our contacts attend meetings or 1-on-1s or make commitments. José Gonzalez, the Director of Data Initiatives and Research for NYCC, wrote about how data collection has expanded NYCC’s political and financial capacity: “PowerBase has allowed us to create a realistic landscape of our membership and its characteristics. Because we are able to quantify the amount of members we have and document where they live, we are able to put forth an actual number that illustrates the support the organization has and therefore our political power. We are also able to qualify for funding through grants because of the same numbers.”

While Powerbase is valuable at organization-wide level it also helpful to the individual organizer. It helps me keep track of who I have contacted, when I first met them and how our phones calls or other communications have gone.  In conjunction with Hustle, Powerbase allows me to send out mass text messages reminding folks about meetings or upcoming actions.

Images from our #TenantMarch in DC

I did not foresee gaining technological skills at NYCC. However, I did anticipate learning about how to build relationships with folks and motivate them to join our cause. Throughout my time speaking to people at workforce centers, community centers, parks, bus stops, apartment complexes, barbershops and other local business, I am learning how to best present myself and frame issues in ways that are most likely to resonate and inspire people to join. Every person is different and I have to find that mutual ground. Especially coming as a white dude from Western Mass, I can’t front and pretend like we are all in the same boat. I can’t organize the same as my colleagues who grew up in Brownsville. However, if I come grounded, with an understanding of why I am doing the work and where I stand in the fight I find that I am super comfortable speaking with folks and making a connection. While I am comfortable starting the conversation, I’ve had a harder time getting folks to commit and come to meetings. I don’t like to demand things of people in my daily life. I am working on becoming more firm and insistent. My confidence grows as I understand and build faith in the mission of NYCC.

All these skills are transferable to my future career as an educator. Comfort with data collection and organization is helpful to almost any organization that works with a large contact list. I could foresee a school wanting to send out automated messages to parents from different grade levels or classes. However, the most transferable skill is building relationships and motivating people. Building a strong relationship with my future students and making a connection between their lived experiences and the content material will be incredibly helpful. Motivating them to follow and do their homework will be my biggest challenge.

 

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