Progressive leaders from all over the country came together last week in Las Vegas to attend the Ballot Initiatives Strategy Center’s (BISC) annual Road Ahead conference. This convening provides valuable training and networking opportunities for organizations working to advance progressive policies through ballot measures.
This year’s conference began with an overview of BISC’s new strategic framework and provided the context behind the meeting’s agenda. Following this big picture look at the work, BISC staff shared a more concrete picture of the ballot measures BISC partners would be working on all across the country in 2020. Following this overview, there was an informative discussion featuring progressive leaders like BISC’s Chris Melody Fields Figueredo and Working Families Party’s Maurice Mitchell about using ballot measures to not only build progressive political power in 2020 but also over the long term.
Following a brief break, BISC provided attendees another insightful panel featuring representatives of the Ford Foundation, Planned Parenthood, Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE), and Kalaro Media. The participants spoke to the importance of defensive ballot measures in the context of the fight to protect reproductive freedom.
In response to attendee feedback at last year’s Road Ahead, BISC provided some exciting new opportunities during Road Ahead 2020’s breakout sessions. One of these opportunities presented itself during the first breakouts of the day with a training from Martin Diego Garcia that focused on evaluating ballot measures after the campaign is finished.
Much like last year, the theme of racial equity was front and center at this year’s conference. Following lunch, a great panel focused on operationalizing racial equity in ballot measure campaigns drove this theme home for attendees.
Another new opportunity was featured in the second set of breakouts for the day where representatives from One Arizona, BISC, and AP Campaigns held “office hours” to answer questions participants had about running ballot campaigns in their state. The first day of BISC wrapped up with a great panel sharing the different models for running ballot campaigns.
After an evening of networking, BISC attendees came together on the second and final day of BISC to continue the learnings of the previous day. The morning began with an insightful keynote from Vanessa Daniel of the Groundswell Fund about the need to center this work in the people it directly affects. Following Daniel’s keynote, leaders in the ballot measure movement from organizations like the Proteus Fund, Civic Nebraska, the Grassroots Collaborative, and Power Coalition for Equity and Justice shared their thoughts on how to expand the map of states which are advancing progressive ballot measures.
After a morning of innovative breakouts featuring trainings, office hours, lessons from past measures, and a lunch full of networking, BISC provided attendees with another great panel. This discussion included representatives from Rockefeller Family Fund, Missouri Wins, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the League of Conservation Voters, and Groundswell Action Fund and focused on how to align the various ballot measure campaign in order to maximize the impact of the work.
The afternoon breakouts introduced yet another new feature based on participant feedback. A strategy conversation that continued through both breakout sessions of the afternoon, provided a way for participants to dive deeper into how to ground ballot measures and other progressive work in racial equity.
Road Ahead 2020 wrapped up with a final panel featuring representatives from the American Federation of Teachers, Mothering Justice, Freedom for All Americans, and Ohio Organizing Collaborative. The conversation focused on how to take the lessons of past campaigns to create a long-term plan for 2020 and beyond.
BISC and the support it provides for those organizations and individuals working to advance progressive ballot measures is invaluable. This was readily apparent at this year’s conference and we look forward to the progressive victories and campaigns grounded in greater social and racial equity that will no doubt result from the foundation that was built for the road ahead.