The Role of the Steering Committee

Many NYC-DSA members we’ve spoken to about the Steering Committee have told us they don’t know what it is, what it does, or who is on it. The top priority of the next officers must be bringing the committee out from behind closed doors and improving its efficiency so that it can best enable and empower members. The officers should be embedded in the membership to answer questions, address concerns, and connect people to the resources they need to organize.

It is the committee’s responsibility to model a culture that is hospitable to all, execute a fair and effective grievance process, and continue building on efforts to make our chapter’s membership more diverse and reflective of the working class. It should support, rather than direct, campaigns. The candidates who have signed on to this platform commit to these responsibilities while demonstrating the kind of open, transparent and accessible leadership is imperative for a truly democratic organization.

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Funding our Fights

Local Dues

NYC-DSA has grown in both size and ambition over the past year, and to meet our goals we need to increase our revenue. To that end, the chapter should institute a voluntary local dues program allowing members to contribute whatever amount they are able on a recurring basis.

A Merchandise Strategy that Supports All of NYC-DSA

NYC-DSA is home to some of the most talented designers in the country. The treasurer should work closely with the Media Working Group to build out an online merch store with items that highlight the great work and character of the chapter, and a model for the physical sale of items at events.Our strategy should also include limited runs of products designed with and for branches, working groups, and campaigns, where revenue goes directly to support their needs.

Collaborative Fundraising Committee

Our members have already demonstrated amazing capability to organize fundraising efforts, and the treasurer should offer formal support and collaborative planning to all fundraising through an open fundraising committee that would give members a chance to gain new skills and contribute established ones. It would offer material support, planning, resources, and coordination to help branches and working groups develop successful fundraising campaigns. It would also be tasked with organizing quarterly fundraisers for the Chapter with ambitious goals.

Participatory Budgeting

As a socialist organization, NYC-DSA must adopt a model of democratic prioritization and allocation of funds. As an adaptive, collaborative, and open process, Participatory Budgeting is that model. It allows representatives from the organization to design a budgeting process with leadership, develop strategic funding proposals, and put them to a membership vote. Inherent to the process is learning and refining its implementation, continuously improving our ability to democratically plan our work and impact.

Sustainability + Finance Committee

In conversations with members, it is clear there are comrades exploring ideas for growing our chapter and it’s resources long into the future. The treasurer should organize an exploratory finance committee in collaboration with the Debt and Finance working group to research new and creative funding opportunities, economic approaches, and emerging practices on the left—like Cooperation Jackson—and to develop strategic proposals for the chapter’s consideration.

Distribution of Funds with the Cash App

In order to organize quickly and effectively, it should be easy for branches and working groups to receive and access funds from the chapter and the treasurer. The Cash App distribution model approved by the Steering Committee will reduce the burden on our organizers as they work day to day, and the treasurer should ensure its effective implementation across the organization.

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Membership Development

Thousands of people have joined NYC-DSA since 2016. Some are disaffected Democrats, some are long time radical Marxists. We have members that have never voted, others are experienced electoral campaigners. This is what the beginning of a mass movement looks like. But to create a true mass movement, we must offer our members the resources and tools to share knowledge, grow in community, deepen their understanding of their own political orientations and build the skills needed to become successful socialist organizers.

A Stronger Onboarding Experience

Creating a flexible New Member 101 program would help give every person who comes to NYC-DSA a balanced introduction to our citywide structure, political education including socialism 101, and a clear picture of how to get involved depending on their availability and areas of interest. Giving each branch and working group the ability to connect newcomers with an onboarding team quickly and easily will help prevent new folks from falling through the cracks. The membership coordinator should make every effort to support branches in creating an onboarding process that works for them.

Political Education

Political education that bridges theory and practice should be available to members citywide. The next Steering Committee should convene the Citywide Political Education Working Group to develop a broad and diverse program for political education. Our goal should be an educated membership that understands how to apply their knowledge to organizing in New York City.

Leadership Development

As our organization has grown rapidly over the past year, so have the number of officer positions and organizing committees. We must work to ensure that we’re developing new leaders to fill these expanding roles to prevent the most active members from being overburdened with work. Every DSA member is considered an official socialist organizer and we all have the ability to lead.

Improving Our Relationships

Relationships are the foundation of all organizing and we’re committed to helping members establish better ones with each other and with their leaders. One way to combat factionalism and discord in the organization is to create more spaces for us to get to know each other as comrades in a shared struggle. We’d like to organize monthly citywide potlucks in different branches to help members connect with each other outside of their usual spaces—and off the internet!

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Base Building and Outreach

Sharing Our Message

To increase our visibility in the political landscape of the city, NYC-DSA must increase our profile within the physical geography of the communities we organize in. We have, to this point, largely depended upon our digital profile to drive recruitment, and while this is an important factor, it has also attracted a particular demographic to our chapter: young, white transplants. In order to win the hearts and minds of native New Yorkers we need to build trust and develop relationships with the people in our neighborhoods. One way to do that is by increasing our physical visibility in our city. We should be tabling in advance of our meetings, and handing out flyers every weekend in high traffic areas. We should be sharing DSA’s message of socialism and democracy with the people in our communities confidently, because we all share the same material interest under capitalism. We should be raising consciousness about the alternative of Democratic Socialism among as many New Yorkers as possible.

Fighting Alongside Workers

We should also focus on outreach to unorganized workers, organized workers, and members of progressive union caucuses. As a socialist organization, we are deeply committed to fights that support and empower people of color and immigrants. We are committed to strengthening and radicalizing the labor movement and fighting the weakening of public sector unions. We should consider how these issues intersect with our outreach and base building going forward. Unionization rates last year were higher in NYC amongst women, African Americans, and Hispanic workers. Immigrants who are naturalized citizens in 2017 had a higher unionization rate in New York City than that of citizens born in the United States. We will work to develop our capacity to assist in the organization and support of unorganized workers in New York City.

Putting Down Roots

Our mobilizer program initially sought to establish the one-to-one relationships upon which deep organizing is built –not to be merely a turnout tool or a phone tree. We see potential for mobilizers to help members grow deeper roots in their neighborhoods. If we provide the proper trainings, tools and coaching, members can learn to power map their communities to identify organic leaders, build relationships, take part in the preexisting local struggles, and build power alongside their neighbors. This local focus will establish feedback loops with our campaigns. Rather than dropping into an area with a readymade campaign, we'll collaboratively build them in partnership with the community leaders and organizations we've built relationships and coalitions with. The branches will evolve beyond meetings into neighborhood institutions. This is crucial to our long term project of building working class power in this city.

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Making Information Available to Every Member

Overhaul the Website

The website should serve as a clearinghouse of information and resources produced by NYC-DSA so that all members (and interested potential members!) can see the scale of our work and easily find details about how to get involved. Each branch and working group should have its own page where campaigns, events, projects, and other information can be shared. It should also include information about what’s going on in the leadership bodies (meeting minutes, agendas, and passed proposals). Administrative processes should be streamlined and all forms and templates must be available. Finally, any educational and instructional materials should be shared. We will provide all the support the Media Working Group needs to make this a reality.

Member Handbook

How do I know what branch I’m in? Who do I speak to if I am being harassed? How do I request money for my event? Who are those people with the red arm bands? These are just a few of the questions anyone trying to get involved in NYC-DSA might ask at some point. The new Steering Committee should work with the media working group to develop a member handbook that can be distributed in print and online, so all members—not just the well-connected ones—can get fully involved in our work.

Streamline Communications

NYC-DSA currently has both too much and not enough communication. We need a deliberate strategy to ensure that members are informed about news, upcoming events, and new initiatives, but that they’re not inundated with repetitive messaging. Part of this strategy will be making sure that all information and newsletters are available on the NYC-DSA website. We look forward to working with the Media working group to this end.

Rapid Response

NYC-DSA must be prepared to quickly and responsibly mobilize its members in response to urgent events. This means having a proven and effective protocol and means of mass communications that can reach members with information and direction in the fastest way possible—ideally utilizing the SendInBlue SMS capability recently adopted by the chapter.

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Efficiency and Transparency

Being honest about & honoring our capacity

NYC-DSA has immense promise, but we must grow and act sustainably. The Steering Committee should be deliberate about passing proposals that its members are confident can be implemented within a reasonable timeframe and with attention to quality control. Fewer proposals, better organizing. Further, we must use a centralized task manager to allow for a big-picture view of workload distributions, progress on projects, and any kinks that are preventing completion.

Audit of past proposals

We will produce a catalog of proposals that have been passed by the Steering Committee and the CLC, beginning with the past year, to determine whether the organization is following through with its decisions and commitments. For passed proposals that have been neglected, abandoned, or forgotten, we will revisit to ensure that they are either implemented or deliberately rescinded.

Establishing an Open, Participatory, and Collaborative Leadership Body

The Steering Committee looks forward to holding regular town hall and office hours events, and making regular meetings open to observers. We will also be present throughout the chapter by attending the various branch and working group meetings and making ourselves available to members.

When members write proposals for campaigns, projects, or other major requests, rather than simply accepting the proposal for an up/down vote, we will work with the authors to ensure that they are able to meaningfully participate in the process and allow them to address any potential concerns in advance. We will ensure that Steering Committee members are familiar with the context ahead of the vote.

Active Transparency

Members of our democratic organization are entitled to know what’s happening in their leadership bodies. To that end, we’ll make sure that meeting notes, budgets, spending reports, proposals, and other relevant information are shared—not just technically available, but easily accessed and pushed to members.

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Building a Culture of Integrity & Respect

Supporting Our Grievance Committee

The CLC passed, provisionally, a grievance committee proposal in November 2017, and a rollout team has been working to launch the committee since. Once the committee is operational, the Steering Committee has a role in ratifying disciplinary recommendations. The Steering Committee is charged with upholding the integrity of the chapter and its members. We appreciate this responsibility and will engage seriously, and in a timely manner, with hard decisions about the consequences of any cases of misconduct.

Ensuring Accessibility

We will work with the newly-forming disability caucus to help implement their recommendations for making our organization and spaces more accessible.

Marshal Program

As reactionary narratives have moved further into the mainstream, threats are increasingly emerging from the far right and their ideology. This puts black, brown, immigrant, refugee, LGBTQ, and working class communities at even greater risk. As socialists it is our duty stand in solidarity with communities under attack while ensuring our actions are safe and effective. The Red Rabbits Marshal Team has created an incredible model for Marshaling within the organization. With further growth and support facilitated by leadership, they could become a resource for other chapters, building practices and skills that can scale across national DSA. As more competencies and trainings are formalized with the RR, they can be shared and seeded across our organization, establishing a connected, national program for organizing safe, effective actions, marches, and internal culture within the DSA.

Medic Program

Within the Red Rabbits, the NYC-DSA Medic Collective have begun forming capabilities to serve the health and wellness of both members and the NYC community. Having already formed a core team of Street Medics capable of supporting direct actions, they are broadening capabilities for training and rollout of Affinity Medics, Jail Support, Mental Health support, and mutual aid. With the goal of decommodifying care and building solidarity, these capabilities should have wide coverage within DSA, with more members trained to support the needs of their comrades and their community.

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