What’s Up Next: How Our Alumni Keep the Movement Moving
About Us: Progressive Turnout Project is the largest voter contact organization in the country, specifically dedicated to mobilizing the Democratic Party and defending democracy. Our mission: rally Democrats to vote.
At Progressive Turnout Project, we’re doing important work at a large scale — so we’re always on the lookout for talented and hard-working individuals who power our programs.
We pride ourselves on hiring committed folks who may have a few campaigns under their belt — or may just be starting in organizing and politics. Either way, we want to do everything we can to equip them for a long, successful career in the progressive movement. Our network of committed change-makers is a force for defending democracy across America. That’s why we’re building the PTP Alumni Network.
The PTP Alumni Network is dedicated to fostering connections with our network of progressive organizers. Led by our Alumni Engagement Manager, Kristen, we are working to support alumni on their professional journeys, whether that involves a future of rallying Democrats to vote, issue advocacy work, or roles outside politics entirely.
Kristen, a PTP alum herself, transitioned to politics after 11 years of working in education. She believes that shift was made possible by individual connections with friends of friends and their contacts.
“I know how powerful it can be to have one individual share advice or point you in a particular direction,” Kristen said. “I hope to be that resource or connect our alumni to others in our 2,000 strong network who can help them on their first step, a career transition, or whatever their journey may be.”
Ready to meet some members of that network?
We spoke with two alumnae, Elena Greer and Sylvia Brown. Here’s what they had to say about life post-PTP:
What are you doing on the political front these days?
I’m coordinating efforts to engage young voters across the state of Michigan to turnout in the upcoming midterm election. I’m also working on candidate recruitment. Representation matters, and I believe having a younger and more diverse field of candidates will make us more competitive.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired to find new and innovative ways to improve my community through community organizing and political action. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a problem and being able to develop and implement a solution that improves the lives of those within my community.
What advice would you give young people trying to get involved in politics?
Don’t wait for permission to run for office or begin your political journey; if you feel ready, go for it! Start locally and build from there. Find a local organization or non-profit in line with your political beliefs (doesn’t necessarily have to be party-related) and start volunteering and attending events.
Building relationships and trust is the core of organizing politically or otherwise; by engaging with local leaders in your community, you can network and build the connections that will last a lifetime.
Is there any part of your PTP experience that stuck with you?
I gained leadership skills and grew professionally from managing our Lansing MI-based team. The training we had regarding different types of political organizing has been beneficial as my work has become more diversified.
The flexibility and resilience of PTP during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic taught me far more methods of organizing than I would have learned otherwise. I learned to create a positive team culture where every member could grow and reach their full potential.
Our Lansing team is still in contact with one another, and it has been wonderful to see how many of them have continued to work in the political field and have moved up into mid-level positions themselves. I’ve seen how they’ve been able to use the skills we taught them at PTP, and it has been incredibly rewarding to watch them grow and succeed professionally.
What surprised you about your work with PTP?
While most political organizations merely state their values, PTP lives its values. PTP led the way in providing high wages and good benefits to its team members at all levels during one of the most challenging election cycles in our nation’s history. All team members at every level were able to coordinate and have their opinions heard and be valued.
As a result, the team was more resilient and better able to handle the adversity of this challenging past election cycle. While other organizations only focus on the current election cycle, PTP invested heavily in its staff and their training so we could move forward in our political careers with more opportunities available to us.
What are you looking forward to personally and professionally in 2022?
I’m currently laying the groundwork for a new state-level political action committee and considering running for local office to serve my community.
What are you doing professionally these days?
My career path has led me to RuralOrganizing.org Education Fund where my responsibilities as the Director of Strategic Operations are a mix of human resources, organization management, development, and strategic thinking on public policy opportunities for rural advocates and practitioners at the intersection of rural prosperity and building civic infrastructure.
Key to the work plan is ensuring we disrupt the narratives that rural means white and is only agriculturally stimulated.
What was the last thing to make you laugh?
My father. Over the holiday we watched The Silence. During a nap the silencers must have swarmed him because he yelped and woke himself up.
What motivates you to wake up and do the hard work of organizing each day?
Knowing I have the ability and skill set to navigate between the worlds of everyday people and the political industry to help change a community for the better motivates me to continue the work I have the drive to do.
I launched a project, Visibility Outreach Touch Engage South Arkansas (VOTE SoAR), to till the soil for citizen-led activism and support neighbors embracing their role in problem solving and their life experiences as credible and valuable leadership abilities.
Where’s the best place to eat in your hometown?
My house. I’m a practical person and talk myself out of eating out because I can cook it myself, with COVID that definitely became easier. With that said, I have been inching closer to heading back to a bistro called Julie’s Deli for the chicken salad and to The Lunch Box for the chicken spaghetti.
What advice would you have to those who are looking for their next step with a campaign?
Be comfortable knowing that you are in a career and a valid industry. You’re not job hopping or looking for the next gig. Know your worth, be intentional, and advocate and organize for yourself.
If you could sit in on any historical event, which would it be?
U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm’s presidential run.
Is there any part of your PTP experience that really stuck with you?
Leaning into the adventure of intentional job choices, learning that I could do tough things and there can be room for mistakes and vulnerability.
What’s the best thing that happened in 2021?
I paid down a significant portion of my student loan debt.