Introducing Amplify: The Indivisible App

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 11.46.12 AM.png

We live in the Bay Area, and because of this we can't always be there on the front lines of the resistance, canvassing and registering voters in places where seats are in contention.  But one thing we do have here that sets us apart is a wealth of talent and energy, especially in the tech sector.  Realizing this, the gurus at Indivisible San Francisco have developed an app specifically for Indivisible groups, to help them organize and track participation.

Called Amplify, the app allows you to join or start a local team, where you can view that team's calls to action and see what other members are doing.  Like a FitBit for activism, Amplify lets you see the actions your team has set up, track how many you've done that week, and cheer on your fellow members as they complete their weekly actions as well.  With a simple and intuitive interface that lets you check off which actions you complete from the list, Amplify takes the hassle out of reading each email and Facebook post trying to figure out which actions you're willing and able to take.  Instead, everything IB team members have scheduled is laid out on the screen, and with the ability to see what your friends are doing, you can coordinate your efforts to be most effective.

Amplify was born here in the Bay Area, but is already in use by Indivisible groups across the country.  Join IB Amplify to get started!

A Hundred Days, a Hundred Small Victories

Happy 100th Day, activists!  Actually, by the time you’re reading this, it’ll be slightly more than a hundred days, but a milestone of the administration nonetheless.  We still have a long way to go until 2018 and longer still until 2020. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief that, in the first hundred days of office, the Trump Administration has managed to pass no significant piece of legislation. The same lack of productivity does not apply to Indivisible Berkeley.  For our Hundredth Day Edition of this newsletter, we’ve decided to eschew our usual feature and look back on just some of what Indivisible Berkeley has accomplished in the first hundred days:

In Science and Environment:
Our Science and Environment Team has proven to be one of our most active external teams.  In few short months since their inception, they've led campaigns to stop the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, against HR 5 (Regulatory Accountability Act), S 21 (REINS Act), and S 34 (Midnight Rules Relief Act), and in support of local EPA employees.  They've also led the Indivisible Berkeley contingent at the Climate March and the March for Science, which saw dozens of IB members in attendance among the tens of thousands of marchers, and met with Kamala Harris's staffer Xavier Johnson.

In Elections:
Another tremendously active team, Elections has recently brought us phone banking for Jon Ossoff, but whose biggest success yet is their voter registration at the San Francisco Tax March.  Along with handing out their flier "How YOU Can Elect More Democrats", which helped disseminate important information about registration and the political process, the team managed to register and recruit a number of new voters.

In Economic Justice:
The Economic Justice Team has chosen to focus one of the major issues concerning the City of Berkeley: divestiture from Wells Fargo.  After getting Vice Mayor Linda Maio to speak at one of Indivisible Berkeley's first General Assemblies, representatives from that team met with Mayor Arreguin about the topic, in which they got a firm commitment to end the city's contract with the bank as soon as an alternative option can be confirmed.  They've also met with an advisory committee to the Mayor on the topic and spoke at a city council meeting.

In Trainings:
While our external teams have been making political waves, our internal teams have been working tirelessly to build up our organization's infrastructure.  In the past few months, they've held trainings on Introduction to Activism, helped train nonviolent event monitors for direct action, and hosted "Reaching Out to Trump Voters: An Evening with Arlie Hochschild and George Lakoff," the livestream of which attracted nearly thirty thousand viewers.

From all of you:
As a whole, since the inauguration Indivisible Berkeley has seen nothing short of a meteoric rise.  On January 19, we had fewer than 150 activists on our email list, and today, just three short months later, we have nearly 3400.  Our meeting attendance regularly nears 300, and members have made thousands of phone calls, sent thousands of emails and letters and postcards, and attended marches and rallies by the hundred.  Since the inauguration we've grown from just another small local activist organization into one of the largest Indivisible groups in the Bay Area, getting shout outs from the Huffington Post and Kamala Harris.

I hope to add to this list in the coming days as more of your emails come in about the wonderful things you've done, so keep us updated on how your teams are progressing!

While the current administration struggles to get anything through Congress, our members have been alight with productivity.  We still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go, but the engagement of the community has been unprecedented, and with your support we can get there.

A Weekend of Successes for Indivisible Berkeley

In what was one of Indivisible Berkeley's biggest weeks to date, our wonderful teams successfully organized and executed a quartet of actions.  On April 12, members of Indivisible Berkeley's Science & Environment team met with Barbara Lee's environmental staff lead, Xavier Johnson, at Representative Lee's office in Oakland.  They shared information about local impacts of proposed EPA budget cuts as well as pending anti-environment legislation, and Mr. Johnson committed to providing a response with Ms. Lee's position on those bills.  They are remaining in communication with Mr. Johnson and will meet again in the coming weeks.

Steering Team member Brandon Curtis at the SF Tax March.

Steering Team member Brandon Curtis at the SF Tax March.

Kicking off the weekend was the San Francisco Tax March, one of over 150 such events across the country urging Donald Trump to release his tax returns.  Indivisible Berkeley made a strong presence there amongst the thousands of demonstrators, carrying signs advertising our presence and wearing Resist t-shirts.  Speakers at the march included Representative Nancy Pelosi as well as San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim, and the centerpiece of the demonstration was the thirty-foot inflatable Donald Trump chicken.

Then, on Monday morning, after a 25-year hiatus from public town halls, Senator Dianne Feinstein broke her streak of absence and met with constituents.  Five or six Indivisible Berkeley members trekked out to West Portal to hear what our Senator thinks of our concerns.  The results were mixed: Feinstein committed to opposing far-right rubber-stamp judicial nominees, but gave a noncommittal response when asked about frivolous wars, dismissively saying, "You're asking a single Senator to do something."  Though there were some hecklers, the audience was overall respectful yet persistent. For a review of all of the questions and answers, check out this compilation of our live tweets.

Closing the weekend was the highly anticipated "Reaching Out to Trump Voters: An Evening with Arlie Hochschild and George Lakoff" organized and executed by the Trainings Team.  The house was packed with nearly three hundred in-person attendees, with more than twenty thousand additional viewers of the live stream, from as far away as Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  Trainings Team facilitator Bob Burnett moderated the event and opened with an important address about the necessity for this kind of outreach to the other and the idea that outreach and understanding is itself a form of nonviolent action, and therefore at the core of the Indivisible Berkeley mission.

He then turned it over to Arlie Hochschild, author of the bestselling book Strangers in their Own Land, who talked about her experiences in Louisiana trying to understand the demographic that would eventually become the Trump constituency.  She described people that were well aware of the contradiction they present to the world, in which the states that need the most help from the government are the ones that disapprove of it most, and that the dissonance was irrelevant in their minds because it took a backseat to the desire to be heard.  She described a people who felt their concerns had validity, and the fact that they had a paradoxical relationship with the government was subsidiary in their minds because of the misrepresentation they feel the left has adopted of them.  Hochschild presented three options for the left: 1) Turn your back and refuse to engage, 2) React angrily and violently, or 3) Attempt to reach empathy with them.  The first two options were problematic because they bred resentment and denied the possibility of collaborating, and so, Hochschild says, the only option remaining is to be empathetic.  The difficulty in communication stems not from a disagreement over policy, but that, as Hochschild put it, "we inhabit different truths."  The way to overcome such a gap is not to claim that the other is wrong, but instead to discuss sources of information and to reach a point where the truth they inhabit is one of factuality.

Cognitive linguist George Lakoff then took the floor and put a decidedly scientific spin on the discussion.  He explained the structure of an individual's neural circuitry, and that their perception of reality is primarily wired through their experiences, thus a significant portion of understanding is done at the subconscious level.  As Lakoff described, information passes through this subconscious "neural filter" before the conscious mind considers it, thus creating the wildly disparate "truths" that Hochschild spoke of.

On the more practical side, Bob Burnett presented a list of considerations to ensure a productive conversation with the close Trump supporter in your life, including having the discussion in a private setting, leaving enough time for the discussion, starting with the intent and the energy to listen, and to recognize if you're being triggered.

The evening closed with a round of wonderful questions from the audience as well as via Facebook.  The link to the recordings can be found here.

Action Report: Economic Justice Attends, Speaks at City Council Meeting

The Indivisible Berkeley Economic Justice Team had an impressive presence at the Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday night, April 4, 2017, asking the City Council to divest from Wells Fargo Bank because of their banking and investment practices, particularly in regard to funding the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Four of our Economic Justice Team were picked to speak in the public comment lottery. We had 11"X17" black and white signs that we and audience members held up.

Our "asks" for the Mayor and City Council:

  1. Do Not renew the Wells Fargo financial services contract expiring in May for three years. Instead renew for one year while vetting and selecting financial services providers who are socially and environmentally responsible, according to the City of Berkeley's responsible banking criteria.
  2. Transfer financial services that can easily be severed from the present Wells Fargo contract to socially and environmentally responsible companies now.
  3. Pass the "Divest From Wells Fargo Resolution" on April 25. 

IB Economic Justice members are working with the Mayor's Task Force on Responsible Banking to craft a good Resolution for passage by the City Council on April 25. The Task Force includes members of the City Council, members of the Peace and Justice Commission, and other fine citizens.

Event Recap: Introduction to Activism

Last week, in lieu of a traditional General Assembly, Indivisible Berkeley held an Introduction to Activism seminar hosted by the Indivisible Berkeley Training Team.  Targeted at those of us who are new to activism, the goal was to members a basis for understanding the methods and rationality behind different forms of activism.

After reviewing Indivisible Berkeley's mission statement, emcee Kathy Burnett handed the seminar over to Bob Burnett, who dove into a concept that forms the core of IB's methods: nonviolence.  Aside from the traditional nonviolent activist method of civil disobedience, the Trainings Team presented other nonviolent methods, including political action, sit-ins, boycotts, and symbolic public actions, with the ultimate message being that nonviolence is not only demonstrably far more effective than other means, but that there is room in nonviolent activism for even the typically non-confrontational among us.

Edwin Rutsch then discussed the thorny problem of how to communicate effectively with those who hold opposing viewpoints.  Ultimately, demonstrations accomplish little unless dialogue follows, and increasingly productive dialogue is in short supply when there is a perceived lack of common ground.  Thus, affecting real change in our communities will come down to how well we communicate with Trump voters, and how successfully we can do so without alienating, belittling, or baiting them.  The key to this, ultimately, is to develop circles of empathy.  The Trainings Team also presented their upcoming event "Reaching Out to Trump Voters: An Evening with Arlie Hochschild and George Lakoff," in which bestselling author of Strangers in their Own Land Arlie Hochschild and retired Cal professor George Lakoff discuss their research on this topic.  This event will take place Monday, April 17th, 7:00 PM, at the Northbrae Community Church.

However, communication within teams is just as important in building an effective structure for activism, and so Cris Obieta explained the four different communication styles within teams:

  • Thinkers, characterized by low sociability and low assertiveness, but who are insightful, acute, rational, and careful
  • Doers, who are efficient, decisive, controlled, with low sociability but high assertiveness
  • Team Players, of high sociability but low assertiveness, who are helpful, considerate, and non-critical
  • Connectors, who have both high sociability and assertiveness, and who lead in building connections within the group

The key to clear and effective communication within teams, according to Obieta, is to understand your personal style of communication and the styles of those around you, and to work to your strengths.

The presentation closed by asking the audience what their personal style is, and if they could ask their group one thing, what it would be.  There was the reminder that there is no "best" style, and that the most important thing in team-building communication was awareness and empathy.

Team Spotlight: Interview with Training Team Lead Bob Burnett

Thought still very nascent, Indivisible Berkeley is already no stranger to prominence within the community.  However, we’re very privileged to also have voices with national reach not just working with us in partnership, but amongst our organizational ranks.  For Indivisible Berkeley’s first blog post, I sat down with Bob Burnett, former Silicon Valley executive and current regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and the leader of Indivisible Berkeley’s Trainings Team, to ask him about his long and illustrious history with nonviolence, organized activism, and what role he envisions the Trainings Team playing in resisting the administration.