Graphic showing the four cornerstones of our 'Uniters #DoOURpart Grassroots Catalyst Organizational Model'

Partially inspired by the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ business model, our organizational model differs from traditional political organizational models in several ways, but most importantly in the role we see ourselves taking in the movement we hope to do our part to help spark, grow and succeed, along with other centrist, moderate and transpartisan organizations, volunteers, donors and activists across the country.

There is nothing wrong with top-down organizational models, and if I were designing a think tank (like the Bipartisan Policy Center or Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget), organization focused on raising money to help candidates get campaigns started (like the moderate dark money group Unite America), we’d go that way.

Our primary goal, though, is to spur faster growth in centrist grassroots organizing – online and offline, among centrists and moderates, and top-down models have an awful track record in this arena.

 

What’s the Alternative to Build an Effective Centrist Grassroots Organization?

Above all else, we’ll pay attention to what works, what doesn’t, what our volunteers want and adapt.

Too many supposedly centrist grassroots organizations in the past, that aimed at representing centrists and/or moderates, not only used top-down organizational models, but made mistakes like choosing to file as forms of political organizations that could hide their donors or tried to twist the definition of ‘centrist’ to fit their personal agendas (The Centrist Project made both of those mistakes, and still on the former since changing their name to Unite America), or were inflexible and ignored reasonable questions and pleas for them to allow the grassroots to earn their way into leadership positions (as Americans Elect did, to disastrous effect).

The following is largely based on the lessons learned from personal activism, informed by what we’ve seen from attempts to spark centrist movements in the past that fizzled, years of conversations with activists, bloggers, regular people at the grassroots level (including the occasional social media poll – more are coming, for the same reason), research on nonprofit and political organizing and no small amount of soul searching.

 

Cornerstone 1: Accuracy, Transparency & Basic Ethics Above All Else

Inspired by fantastic work from a range of transpartisan reform organizations and figures, the spirit of what we call our ‘Issue Zero’ is one that we believe should apply to all political organizations.

If we are to hold those with whom we disagree to standards of ethics, transparency and accuracy – and we will, then I believe we must first meet surpass them ourselves and apply them just as much to those with whom we agree politically, as we do to those with whom we disagree. We’ll go into this stance in much greater detail elsewhere, but there are two top-line stances that underlie everything else:

The Tapper Principle

In short: Either you strive to apply your principles to everyone equally, or they aren’t principles at all.

 

Avlon’s Imperative We should call facts facts, lies lies, and aggressively confront falsehood – no matter the source.

 

Though one of our long term plans is to spin off a centrist YouTube channel and podcast network, which would employ journalists – we are not journalists. But that doesn’t mean we can’t strive toward journalistic integrity, while being honest and fully transparent about the fact that we’re primarily engaged in advocacy.

Accuracy, transparency and basic ethics are never areas that we will hedge on, no matter who or what the subject is, and especially when dealing with other centrists and moderates.

Cornerstone 2: Five Centrist Stakeholders vs Just Donors & Top Staff

Recognize that Our Role is to Help – to #DoOURpart – to Serve American Centrists

Our aim is to help spark a centrist movement, join it and help it – not control, own, manipulate, pretend we are the movement or lie about one existing before it does.

Trying to co-opt a centrist movement will either result in its failure, or short term success, while causing a premature demise – we recognize and embrace that our role is to help / catalyze centrist activism, not command it.

All Uniters.org branches – both online and offline local chapters – are all designed to support centrist voters across the country, through helping us with each other, organize and magnify our efforts, as well as aid in the growth and success of other centrist organizations and campaigns.

Instead of the top-down model where the priority is mostly placed on top-level staff and donors (in business, the traditional model is just management and stockholders/owners), our model spreads it out to five stakeholders. This is our ‘quintuple bottom line’ organizational model, so to speak:

  1. First, our stances are based on survey data from the American electorate – not the personal views of donors or staff. We will have to pick and choose which issues we’ll focus on, as we can’t be everything to everybody, but we’ll listen to supporters and potentially change those top issues based on member feedback. In short, we are here to represent centrists and moderates across the United states – not Uniters.org insiders.
  2. Second, volunteers and donors are treated equally. While we need money to succeed in our mission, we also need a veritable army of volunteers, and if we’re to be a grassroots group, we should treat volunteer leaders on par with top donors – which is why our advisory board (we don’t have a traditional board of directors, that wealthy donors can buy a seat on) will be split equally between volunteers and donors.
  3. Third, our fundraising base will be among small donors. We can only compete with enough resources, so we need to ask for money, but our focus will be on smaller, monthly donations. A $5/mo donor will get the same voting rights as everyone else, $20/mo donors will have access to our full fundraising data before the government and $50/mo donors will have access to our spending records (on top of other perks for each).
  4. Fourth, we consider all transparently funded centrist organizations to be stakeholders. We’ll be welcoming them onto our organizing platform, so they can engage with and recruit volunteers, donors and leaders from our supporter base – in exchange for asking their members to join, and we’ll take feedback from their leaders, as their success is also a core component to a centrist movement being sparked.
  5. Last is staff, as organizations like ours need talented, committed and passionate staff to do the hard work of political organizing, day in and day out, at a level that cannot be reasonably expected of volunteers. At launch, this will comprise of just myself (Solomon Kleinsmith – part-time until the organization can afford to pay me to quit my job), and future hires will be recruited from top volunteers.

Cornerstone 3: Clear Stand with The American ‘Centrist Big Tent’

No Spin or Prevarication – We are of, by & for American Centrists & Moderates

That isn’t marketing fluff. Uniters.org is made up of centrist independents and moderates, was designed by one committed ‘volunteer staff’ member who is a centrist independent and is built for the grossly underrepresented center of the American electorate.

Uniters members are not required to agree with all stances (though we don’t know why you’d want to join if you didn’t at least agree on half or more, but even if not, if you follow the rules, you won’t be booted), but we are crystal clear in our belief in centrist policy solutions to the problems of today, and that those centrist stances are the foundation upon which we build this organization. We don’t have a hard line on requiring that you agree with all of the stances we take – which is what being a big tent is all about, but we will take stances, and pushing for legislation along those lines will be a priority – that volunteers are more than welcome to abstain from, as they are of any specific effort, for whatever reason.

Online and offline, we’ll help where we can, defend what needs defending and fight – honorably, hard and for the long haul – for centrist views, centrist candidates – regardless of party affiliation (or lack thereof) and transparently funded centrist organizations.

We will not waver in our anti-corruption stance, pro-transparency, or opposition to dark money – even for organizations we largely align with, like No Labels and Unite America.

In a few days, we’ll publish a set of core policy principles, based on the priorities and views of the American political center. You can find a selection of policy stances on our frontpage as well, and we’ll be exploring the idea of a sort of managed wiki-esque, ‘citizen think tank’ in the future – where members and bloggers who have shown an aptitude and interest in serious, in-depth policy research and discussion that is well beyond what works in short-form blog posts.

Cornerstone 4: Do What We Can, With What We Have, Where We Are

Our Impact Entirely Dependent on Volunteers & Donors Doing Their Part

Without very many volunteers or donors, all we’ll be able to accomplish is a community blog and limited social network for centrists and moderates, but with roughly a thousand small-dollar monthly donors and volunteers, we could build a national network unlike the country has seen since the height of the Reform Party in the space of a two-year election cycle. It all depends on how many of us decide to step up and #DoOURpart.

Volunteers make it, or break it: the system I’ve put together is based on tried and true grassroots organizing, social media and online marketing practices – if enough volunteers step up, it will work. If not, it wont. As an example – by ‘work’, I mean a few dozen people in the ‘Engagement Team’ would, overnight, dramatically increase the amount of virility, reach, traffic generation, comments and engagement for the social media content put out by Uniters Network blogs, as well as centrist campaigns, and organizations we support.

There is no shortcut here. With our centrist grassroots focus, we simply cannot buy our way to success.

Donations determine the scale and pace of growth. With the funds for a small staff and promotional budget, we would (not might – would… the only question would be how long it would take) recruit, train and support thousands of volunteers across the country, create a massive, sustained spike in traffic to centrist organization and campaign websites, and dramatically increase the exposure good centrist news would get.

With no budget, we’ll grow slowly, hamstrung by how much time I can put into it personally, and we wouldn’t be able to do anything more than provide a bare bones platform, and information hub.

We need more than that to happen, if we’re going to start building an opposition to the corrupt elements on the left and right currrently dominating our political landscape, and the difference between the two is simple – all you have to do is chip in an hour or two a month (we have a very easy way to make it virtually effortless to be reminded to chip in a few minutes here and there, or more if you’re committed to making a difference), and/or chip in monetarily with $20, $50, $100 or just $5 a month.

It all adds up, and our job is to funnel that time and money toward the most impactful actions, and start cutting a path toward a future where centrists and moderates are again fairly represented in government.


 

Please ask questions below, through our contact page, or with me personally – if you’re a member of this website – by clicking on my name below.

I hope you found what you’re looking for here, and that you’ll join, so we can #DoOURpart – together… because that’s how it starts.

Thank you for your consideration,

Solomon Kleinsmith
Lead Catalyst & Editor
Uniters.org

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