What it Takes to Win

Published on October 19, 2021.

Imagine if I could tell you there is an organizing model for Voter Registration and Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) that is 100 times more effective than social media, phone calls or mailings.

I’m talking about Spirit in Action’s organizing model, “TAKE 10.”

A Little History First

It’s a model first developed by folks at Piedmont Peace Project in the 80s. We wanted to get our people to scale up to a size where we could actually begin to win on the policy and social justice issues that affected us. As many of you know, it worked!

In year one, we went from 1.5 staff people working in one county that turned out a few hundred people to the polls to 10 staff people who worked in a whole congressional district five years later. Amazingly, 44,000 of our people turned out to the polls. At the time, Piedmont Peace Project built one of the largest multi-racial organizations in the South.

As a result, we changed the voting record of our congressman from zero percent to 83 percent on peace issues and up to 98 percent on social justice issues. More importantly, we began to get people of color elected to local offices for the first time. White supremacists who had controlled our county and town offices were unseated. We literally became a threat by building power in numbers. That was much more effective than the massive dollars spent by those who said they represented us.

How Does it Work?

So recently, when a donor asked me, “What does TAKE 10 even mean?” I thought back to how effective this model has been in so many contexts and why we are still using it today.

The model is the same as the one we used at Piedmont Peace Project, but TAKE 10 got its name from a group I worked with in Maine several years ago. We teach 10 people to get 10 people to register to vote. We educate them on issues, get them involved as volunteers and make sure they vote before or on Election Day. The following year, we teach them how to teach their 10 people to do the same thing with another group of 10. They teach their 10 people how to teach their 10 people….so it goes on and on.

Within a short time, like at the Piedmont Peace Project, the group can expand exponentially. The best part of this type of organizing is how it develops leadership, grows a volunteer base and keeps people engaged year-round. You don’t have to reinvent the organizing wheel every election or start organizing from scratch, as many national GOTV models do.

We also use what is often referred to today as “relational organizing,” but we always just called it really listening to people and getting them involved in what they cared about most.

At Spirit in Action, we have used TAKE 10 in all our work, not just for voting. In fact, I used this model training groups for the United Religions Initiative, connecting with leaders from around the world.

It’s really very simple, what it takes to win. It takes people, bringing in more people, building up their knowledge of the issues that affect their lives, organizing and then taking action, 10 people at a time.

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