“Driving Votes. Driving Leaders. Driving Change.“
This is the motto of the non-profit organization I am working for this summer, The Oregon Bus Project.
The Bus Project was started in 2002 by a group of young Portland leaders in a bar who had a vision for local democracy. They were discontent with the status quo of politics, and decided that they wanted to turn things around by reinvigorating civic involvement among average citizens. So they bought a bus, and recruited volunteers to make real political change and empower a new generation of democracy. They took the bus across the state, helped progressive thinkers win local elections, registered over 70,000 voters, and got thousands of people involved in the process.
Two years later, in 2005, the organization created a political organizing and leadership development fellowship program called “PolitiCorps”. The 10 week, bootcamp-like fellowship, was designed to train young leaders who were ready to commit themselves full time to working in public service. It developed into a vigorous and effective program, with close to 85% of each year’s 24 fellows going on to work in the public-service sector after graduation.
Eight years later, the program is still going strong. As the field intern on staff, my responsibilities are to assist the Field Director with all of the off-site events and activities, to act as a mentor to the fellows once they arrive, and to implement and sustain a social-media plan for the program.
Over the past three weeks, we have been planning the educational curriculum, field training logistics, and program needs, to get ready for June 17th; the first day PolitiCorps 2013.
Instead of discussing my first week, I have decided to write my first entry on my first “phase” of my internship: Pre-Arrival Program Preparation.
I arrived to my internship to find the office space of The Bus in disarray. In the past year, the cost of rent had increased four-fold. This turned out to be a problem for our non-profit due to the fact that… we are a non-profit. Like many 501(c)3 organizations, The Bus Project operates on a fairly small budget. This year’s budget was especially low, due to the fact that net donations (the major source of funding) rise and fall cyclically with political election cycles. Due to the fact that 2013 is a relatively “unexciting” election year in Oregon and the nation, the budget this year is very small. This means that we’ve had to compensate for the 400% increase in cost of rent by consolidating the office into ¼ the space that it took up until now.In addition to getting rid of defunct equipment and furniture that we no longer needed, the individual offices turned into group work-pods (determined by department of the organization).
Although the consolidation of office space might sound unfortunate and less than desirable, the final product we ended up with was more efficient, social, and utilitarian. Everything had a place, and we were able to transform the office into an overall more effective center from which to plan, and eventually facilitate, the 2013 PolitiCorps program.
In addition to office reconfiguration, my duties have been in securing food and supply donations from local businesses (to alleviate program costs), coordinating local events for the fellows to participate in over the next four weeks, and developing a field-safety seminar to deliver to the fellows during program orientation.
Over the next few weeks, in addition to continuously registering first-time voters all across the state, the program fellows will *democratically* decide which social-justice public interest organizations they would like to plan and deliver a campaign-plan for. They will work 7 days a week, for 13 hours a day, for 10 weeks. My job will be to help make sure they stay safe, sane, and on track.
Noah Litwer ’15