Stakeholder Update - May 2018

Hello Ohio Voice friends and supporters!

You're getting this email because you have expressed interest in our work at Ohio Voice and we want to make sure you get regular updates. Things have been moving fast, and we are excited to share some recent highlights with you. 

This is a long update (and an intro from me), so please feel free to read as much or as little as you like. There is lot to root for in Ohio beyond just LeBron James and the Cavaliers!!

The top line highlights are that we're:

1) Regranting money to our partners earlier than ever before

2) Growing our team

3) Supporting the big programs that will impact Ohioans in 2018

Since I have not met some of you before, please allow me a moment to introduce myself. I am an organizer from Columbus, OH. Before becoming the Deputy Director for Ohio Voice last September I worked for years to build grassroots organization and movement to win social, economic, and environmental justice in Ohio and across the nation. Most recently I was Training Director for the Ayni Institute where I developed and ran different trainings for grassroots leaders across the country. Before that I spent four years as Co-Director of the Ohio Student Association leading campaigns to end the criminalization of young people of color in Ohio. During my time at OSA, we helped birth the newest iteration of the Black Liberation Movement, the Movement for Black Lives, after police in Beavercreek, OH murdered 23 year old John Crawford. Now I am excited to be working again in Ohio once again, and to bring all the lessons from my years of organizing and training into my work with Ohio Voice. Working with Gavin the last seven months has been a lot of fun, and I am truly proud of how much we have accomplished refounding the c3 table in Ohio. When I joined Gavin as Deputy, I said that turning Ohio Voice around would be like turning a big ship. I am happy that we have been able to make progress even faster than I anticipated. And with your support we are going to grow our momentum into the ability to sustainably support the ecosystem of progressive nonprofit organizations in Ohio year round.

We have launched our earliest ever pool of money to regrant to our partners. We have heard from our partners that they need resources earlier rather than later in order to establish their systems and launch their programs in a strong way. We were grateful to move $150,000 as part of this regrant pool. This money is going to support the strong and innovative civic engagement programs that are partners are running, and there are a lot of great plans coming in. I am most excited by the diverse set of programs we are supporting. From supporting the collaboration between the Midwest Culture Lab and the Ohio Student Association to cultivate truly resonate messages that compel young people of color to turnout in 2018, to supporting the Women's Workbench program that Working America will be launching to deepen the leadership of the women who are leading so many of the inspiring resistance efforts in our state, we have a number of innovative and impactful initiatives happening in Ohio. The only problem is that we don't have enough money to give every program the money we feel they deserve. But that is a good problem to have, and just means more work for us! We are also excited to launch another pool for voter registration work targeting the New American Majority very soon, and to follow up with another round of support for GOTV in the fall. 

We are growing our team. In February we hired Adam Parsons to be our Data and Digital Director, and in March we brought on Helen Stewart to be our Outreach Manager. We are already feeling their impact. Adam has been able to assist a number of partners set up new systems for a strong 2018. Helen has jumped in on a number of projects and is already grown our capacity to respond to our partners needs and identify opportunities for growth. We are grateful to have found them and to add their talents to our team. To give you a specific example, Adam supported our partner Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates (NOVA) to set up a text messaging program and helped streamline their volunteer engagement program for May's congressional redistricting campaign; and Helen has been ensuring we're talking to our partners a lot more often and overseeing documenting all of our relationships so that we can communicate seamlessly with the field. By June we are going to be hiring an Operations Manager to support our backend needs. Then our staff will be seven and we will be rolling stronger than ever!

Check us out during our staff meeting on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse this morning!

We are grateful to continue raising money to grow the work in Ohio. Since our last update we have received funds, in no particular order, from the State Infrastructure Fund, The Brush Foundation (in state), and the Ohio Progressive Collaborative (donor table). We are on track to meet our own goals for the year, but are seeking more opportunities to bring resources to our partner organizations and grow the scale and impact of their work. We are also beginning to talk a bit about what the need will be in 2019 in order to set up a strong 2020. As you all know longterm, year round civic engagement cannot happen without a combination of longterm planning and the resource streams to guarantee consistent and sustainable program. We are working to transition our early momentum re-founding the table into the ability to maintain the sustainable growth of the progressive ecosystem of nonpartisan organizations in Ohio. 

Ballot Initiative Watch:

Criminal justice reform you can believe in!

The criminal justice ballot initiative that the Ohio Organizing Collaborative is spearheading is underway! This ballot initiative will reform our criminal justice system, address the legacy of the war on drugs, and begin to transition how our state treats victims of the opiate epidemic. If the initiative passes, an estimated 10,000 people will be eligible to be released from prison, and countless others will be able to remove old charges from their records. It will be a truly impactful initiative, and we believe it will also be a key to energizing voters in a midterm election. We are working to support the ballot now in the phase of signature gathering. If you are looking to get more information about the campaign, we would love to connect you with the leaders of the campaign!

Issue 1 goes to the ballot. On May 8 Ohioans will vote on Issue 1 to determine the future of our congressional redistricting process. The consensus is that this ballot issue, which has bipartisan support, will pass (though it is not a sure thing!). Though there is more behind this initiative that might appear looking from the outside. For more than a year thousands of grassroots volunteers have gathered signatures for a ballot initiative to reform congressional redistricting. Their relentless efforts -- supported in large part by our partners Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, Ohio Environmental Council, and Innovation Ohio -- forced the state legislature into action. After a long negotiation process in which the grassroots groups stood firm, walking away from the table a number of times and continuing to gather signatures, the legislature came to an agreement and proposed Issue 1 to be voted on in the May 8 election. This deal would not have come without the progressive groups working for years to reform redistricting, and especially without the work to mobilize and manage the thousands of volunteers who provided the power to win. Ohio Voice has been supporting ourpartners who have worked on this campaign by moving resources to support their work around Issue 1. We are also supporting the development of plans to engage the network of seasoned volunteers in a new democracy reform effort. So many leaders have emerged who we are excited to support with tools and resources to carry on their work.

It's going to be a pivotal year in Ohio! We will definitely be reaching out to you throughout the year, but always feel free to contact us. Gavin and I are eager to talk about the work happening in Ohio. So hit us up and/or let us know about any other folks we should be telling about Ohio.

Take care (and root for the Cavs)!

James