Since November 2016, NYC-DSA has experienced tremendous growth (more than 10x!), and as a result has focused largely on absorbing so many new members. We now have four more branches, five new working groups, and the Queer and AfroSocialists and Socialists of Color caucuses where members can go to get plugged in. We’ve also launched the mobilizer program, the marshals and medics programs, and the groundwork for a robust grievance procedure. We’ve cultivated several hundred new socialist leaders. And our members have fought hard and made impressive gains in organizing their communities, building relationships with other organizations, and advancing their campaign goals. But there’s so much more to be done!
In the next year, I believe that the primary focus of the Steering Committee must be on building a durable institution by rolling out a systematic process for onboarding new members; launching a recurring series of educational programs and skills; ensuring that all our spaces are accessible; making the structure and processes of the organization intuitive, accessible, and accountable; and planning ahead for the year(s) to come so that all members know what’s coming down the pipes and how to participate. By bringing the organization to members, we will empower more people and cultivate a new wave of leaders, constantly increasing capacity. At the same time, we must be more outward-facing, actively recruiting not just through our organizing, but by tabling and flyering for branch meetings and campaigns. We must establish a clear pipeline of member recruitment, incorporation, and promotion not just by eliminating administrative friction but also by actively making it easy for anyone to get involved and pursue the projects they care about.
I’ve been a member of the NYC-DSA Steering Committee for over a year – first as the representative for the CUNY branch, and now for Central Brooklyn. When I joined the SC in March 2017, the body had been an eight-person group of people who’d been DSA members for a relatively long time and had a functional, if informal, understanding of how to work together and satisfy the needs of the chapter. As the chapter and consequently the SC have grown, however, these understandings have proven inadequate for ensuring that members know what the SC does, who it’s composed of, and how to interact with it. Even newer SC members (myself included) have at times been at a loss to explain how decisions are made or who is ultimately responsible for things.
In the past few months, we’ve made some improvements by clarifying how SC members can raise issues in meetings and introducing Red Letter, a monthly email newsletter. While changes such as these have served to empower branch reps and members to some extent, there is still a lot of work to be done.
As secretary, I intend to use the next year to work on the following areas.
Currently, there is no central location for details about our current campaigns, how to get plugged in, who leaders are across the chapters, what’s going on in meetings of leadership, and the proposals that are considered (or passed!). It’s possible to find most of these things if one knows who to ask, but that’s insufficient for the vast majority of members or interested potential members.
I’ll work to make sure that each NYC-DSA entity (branches, wgs, and caucuses) has their own presence on the website, with information about campaigns, projects, upcoming events, leaders, and past decisions, so that anyone can peruse the website to figure out what’s going on and how to get involved. And I will prepare information about upcoming citywide events (such as conventions and CLC meetings) and procedures (such as elections) well in advance and publishing it in the monthly newsletter and on the web site.
Members often express confusion about where to go when they need to get something done or what kind of outcomes they can expect.
I will streamline processes so that members know how to, for example, request a citywide endorsement, sign up to observe an SC meeting, get proposals on the agenda, contribute to the newsletter, etc. All these processes would have a form on the website.
I will organize the citywide priorities – including those endorsed by the CLC, monthly priorities (defined by the Building an Army proposal), branch priority campaigns, working group campaigns, major events (such as May Day), and coalition support – to clarify how these priorities interact and how resource allocation can be balanced and ensure that member know exactly what they can request.
I will make sure to hold “office hours” with the other officers for rank-and-file members; regularly attending events across the chapter to talk with members; and including officer and branch rep contact information on the web site, newsletter, and emails.
The SC has responsibility for maintaining the integrity of the organization, but how to do so is a judgment call. In practice this has regularly meant second-guessing, rather than supporting, member initiatives.
NYC-DSA is comprised of thoughtful and experienced organizers who contribute their time, energy, and expertise to develop campaign and event plans for the organization and its members. The Steering Committee should honor that by supporting solid plans. I will stay in touch with the working group coordinator and working group leaders about their work to better understand their goals and plans.
Certain responsibilities of the SC can be avoided or delayed significantly if no one volunteers. Further, even after tasks are assigned, there is no list of passed proposals or projects in progress, so initiatives can and often do fall through the cracks unnoticed.
I will maintain an interactive task management program to display the status of all SC projects, with bottom-liners and anticipated completion dates.
I will conduct an audit of past passed proposals to make sure that the Steering Committee and Citywide Leadership Committee are implementing all the policies they have voted to approve – policies that members spent time drafting and submitting.
Work on the SC is completed on a volunteer basis, which means that branch reps and officers may take on projects individually or together as need arises, without serious attempts to share burdens equitably or logically.
I will work with the officers to ensure that we’re ultimately responsible for seeing all projects through. This will relieve the workload on branch reps and allow them to be more active in their branches’ work.
It is not uncommon for the location of the SC meetings to be unknown even up to the day of the meeting, and meeting agendas are not always assembled or available in advance.
I will make sure that the schedule of SC meetings is secured with at least a month’s notice, with time and location. Agenda details should be available with three days’ notice so that all members can anticipate and prepare for meetings. This will also benefit members who can request to attend as an observer.
I’m a Ph.D. student in Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center and work several part-time jobs: as an adjunct at Baruch College where I teach American Government, as a freelance policy researcher, and as an editor a book series. Before that, I spent a few years working with Iraqi refugees, substitute teaching, volunteering as a tutor, and working in restaurants. I was born in Alabama, grew up in Georgia, and now live in Brooklyn with my husband and new daughter.
I joined DSA a few days after the 2016 election and then helped launch the CUNY branch of NYC-DSA as their Steering Committee representative. We quickly adopted the FreeCUNY campaign, and I took the lead organizing canvasses at Grand Army Plaza where we collected nearly 1000 signatures in support of tuition-free public higher education. Accomplishing these tasks required a serious administrative investment, and I realized that I really enjoy this sort of work. Since then, I’ve moved to the Central Brooklyn organizing committee as their Steering Committee representative and contributed roughly 30-40 hours weekly on the following tasks