What to Expect at rootscamp

Introduction to Rootscamp

Rootscamp has been a semi-annual feature in the life of political campaigners in the aftermath of an election. Each cycle folks would travel to Washington DC for a gathering of 3000+ activists, organizers and movement people to understand what happened and what comes next. Since the last rootscamp (2018), held for the first time in Baltimore, many more people have been welcomed into our campaigns, organizations and movements. Rootscamp is designed to be the capstone to that process, welcoming all the parts of who we are into something bigger.

What is an unconference and why does it matter?

An ‘unconference’ is a method of holding events that increases bottom up participation and grassroots control, while also making space for leaders and experts. The most important aspects include:

  • The agenda is not finalized far in advance by the organizers of the event. Instead, we make it easy for people to suggest sessions, and then vote to see which ones have a critical mass of participants.
  • Instead of committing to a schedule in advance, attendees are encouraged to ‘vote with their feet’ by leaving sessions that don’t meet your needs and check out other ones. The transition from a physical event to a virtual one makes that even easier.
  • While some sessions are formal plenaries of panels with presentations, the magic of an unconference comes out when people just get together based on an interest in a topic. 
  • The experience of an unconference is that the attendees did it more so than the organizers. While you are welcome to just show up and go in and out of sessions, everyone involved would much rather see you propose things that interest you, participate, and bring your full self.

Not everyone knows what an unconference is or precisely how to participate. That’s ok! We have resources on proposing a session, voting on the agenda, how we’ll fill up the schedule, and how sessions are managed. The most important thing about this event can be summed up as follows:

We are progressives active in elections, policy and politics. We want our movements to live up to their greatest potential and highest ideals. We want our people to do so as well. We come together to understand the tactics, strategies, technologies, policies, narratives and struggles that power our work. We value who we are when we stand together, exchange knowledge, build closer relationships, and make this work sustainable for communities and individuals.

Who should submit a session proposal and how does the process work?

EVERYONE should feel good about making a submission: veteran trainers and speakers, elected officials, volunteers who campaigned for the first time in 2020, technical wizards and pie-in-the-sky dreamers. Here are some prompts to get you thinking about the session you might propose: 

  • A session comparing digital organizing tools or technologies..
  • Lessons learned in 2020 around GOTV, campaigning during COVID, small dollar fundraising, advancing BIPOC staff, integrating tech tools properly, managing volunteers, managing social media, and more.
  • Community agenda setting: what do particular constituencies want and how do they win? Which groups are demanding accountability inside and outside our movements? Can we learn from each other about threats and how to overcome them?

All of these suggestions are meant to spark thoughts about what you hope to learn when a community comes together to discuss these topics – as well as what you can teach others, especially when you have deep expertise.

Where can I submit a session?

Submit your session here: https://rootscamp.submittable.com/submit
We are using Submittable as our session submission platform. If you previously submitted a session via a google form, don’t worry – we saved your submission and moved it over to Submittable. Note, Submittable will ask you to create a simple login. Why? So that we can keep in touch with you, send you follow up messages and keep you up to date on the status of your proposal.

When proposing a session, consider these questions:

  • Is this a discussion where everyone is equal, and the session proposer is more of a facilitator?
  • Is this a presentation of specific people with a clear agenda, where attendee participation will be limited to a Q&A afterwards?
  • Can you quickly define what broad area this falls into: field, digital, fundraising, policy, career, etc.? We use tracks to help attendees find what they need.
  • Do you have technical requirements? How many active speakers? You can present a powerpoint if so inspired but by no means is it necessary. We cannot display videos though. We care a great deal about having a quality experience for everyone; making sure all speakers look and sound good is important.
  • Are you marketing a product or service? That isn’t always a bad thing to do, but sessions should be about building knowledge and community and not feel like a sales pitch.

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