How to Sustain the Resistance Long Term


In our final session, New York Assemblyman and DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake teaches how to build coalitions and sustain movements over long periods of time.  Assemblyman Blake discusses how the best movements are built from aligned impacts and goals, as well as are based on tangible and measurable metrics.  He then explains how movements must be mapped strategically and thrive when individuals from many different highways contribute unique expertise.

Shared Values, Shared Responsibility, Shared Benefits.

We need to show up continuously and we need to show up together. Shared values are what unite us around a deeper cause. Shared responsibilities mean that we don’t just show up for one day but remain accountable to one another. Shared benefits mean that we win hearts, minds, and elections with those who put in effort alongside us.

Being Aligned ≠ Being Monolithic.

Successful resistance movements involve groups that are different from each other but share a common goal. Aligning your values does not mean that everyone has to agree on all issues! For example, the Women’s March brings together women and allies from diverse backgrounds and political affiliations. Do not be afraid to reach out to people that might be different from you and start the conversation!

Determine Your End Goal and Work Backwards.

Organizing requires a tremendous amount of effort and time, so it’s vital that we get clear about what it is we are working toward. Ask yourself: what is the situation? What is the action? And what is the result that we need? Start by figuring out the results and think backwards from there.

Be Clear on Both Your Goals and Your Objectives.

A goal and an objective are very different things! Your goal is the aspirational result you wish to achieve. Your objective is the benchmark to work toward on your path to the goal. For example, a goal might be to raise the age for incarceration in New York, while an objective might be to pass a particular piece of legislation to that end. It is important to be clear on both goals and objectives to enable coalitions to work together in an aligned way.

Tip: A motivational goal means your team or coalition needs to find their “inner why” that sustains them through adversity. Check out Resistance School Session One on getting grounded in your own values for one way to help you find that inner why.

Map a Complete Picture of the Table.

Have a clear picture of your assets. To sustain a resistance, you need to understand the resources you have available. One important resource are the people on your team and how they can contribute to your goals and objectives. This requires clear conversation and a frank discussion about what everyone brings to the table. Know your people!

Tip: Check out Resistance School Session 3 Leadership Teach Launch guide for one way to help bring out these assets on your team: establishing clear roles.

Divide and Conquer.

Not everyone will have the same skills on your team, and this is a good thing! Optimize the breakdown of responsibility in your movement in order to maximize the use of valuable resources and expertise. Be clear about who is working on what and play your part in a dedicated way. How can you break down roles to let people’s skills shine?

Recognize Gaps.

Mapping assets not only allows you to assess your strengths as a team and delegate responsibility, but it also allows you to determine the resources that you don’t have. Consider strengths, opportunities, resources, and threats. Figure out: Who do you want to recruit? Where are you going?

Tip: Think about the 5 P’s: Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Don’t get blindsided by the unexpected -- instead rigorously analyze your resources (and lack thereof). Prepared movements are able to adapt and move forward more effectively (and it will be easier to recruit others!).


Different Lanes, Same Journey.

Successful movements consist of a mass journey towards a similar goal, but at different speeds and in different ways. Everyone brings different skills and backgrounds to a movement. For example, in the response to the travel ban, people came together from many different backgrounds and organizations, bringing legal skills, translation skills, writing skills, and more to effectively resist the ban. Successful coalitions look at the landscape, understand where different groups are coming from, and strategically take on different roles.

What’s My Background? What’s My Skill?

Ask: “Where do I come from and where do I fit into the larger picture of the resistance? Who is in my inner circle? Who do I have influence over? What skills do I bring to the table?” An honest introspective exploration can help you “choose your lane” most effectively.

How Can I Be of Service?

Once you have a view of the highway and an understanding of where you fit in, ask yourself, “How can I be of service?” Maybe it means training people who have never been involved in the resistance before. Maybe it means reaching out to your circles of influence and bringing people into the fold. There is a unique role for your skills and background in the movement. Ask yourself what that might be!

Tip:  Don’t get distracted by vocabulary when you have shared values! When trying to build broad coalition, try to use the other person’s vocabulary to work back to your shared values. For example, to get a coalition involved in supporting minority-owned businesses, maybe talk about small businesses instead.

Change the World.jpg

Start with Brutal Honesty.

The first step in measuring progress is to be totally honest about whether or not progress is happening. Based on the goals and objectives you have set, be clear about what is and is not happening on the ground. If you held a press conference, did any press come? Was a story actually written? Did it have the impact desired? 

Measure Progress Through Action. 

Always ask yourself: did you engage someone in action? It’s difficult to be clear about progress if you’re only focused on thoughts and feelings, rather than concrete actions and numbers. For example, how many people actually knocked on doors or made those calls? Clear numbers enable organizers to give better feedback and better adjust plans if needed.

Stay Focused on Long Term Engagement.

Elections are just one day, but the resistance will require ongoing engagement. Ensure actions enable volunteers to get engaged and stay engaged for the long-term, and enable them to make a difference on issues that matter to them. This requires a shift in mindset from seeing elections as an endpoint to seeing elections as a step along the way.

Tip:  In framing your own progress and the need for long-term engagement, remember that we’re not the first resistance. Engage with your team in learning about previous movements, which will help give you both motivation and perspective.

Ensure Your Measure of Success is Aligned to Impact.

Short-term successes that feel good can sometimes distract from the impact your campaign wants to achieve. Always ask yourself: what are we achieving, and for whom? This requires listening to your community and working authentically with them to know what challenges they are facing and what change they need. It requires getting clear across a coalition about the long-term impact and the short-term objectives so that you can be honest with one another about what progress is being made.

Tip:  Check out this week’s homework assignment for a concrete way to engage your community in defining a goal with you.