, have WE got news for YOU. We are pleased to announce that the Activist Institute
will be launching in the spring with a fellowship program for college-age students in the Washington DC area. The program will be catered towards students with an interest in the environment, sustainability and energy issues who want to work towards making their passion a future career. The fellowship will include twice-weekly activities like field trips, lectures, panels, and networking events. The fellows will receive training in community organizing and advocacy work and will learn how to implement sustainable practices into their own life. Over the course of a semester, they will grow as a team and become a close group of young people confronting today's daunting issues.
Are you a nonprofit (or do you work for a nonprofit) in the DC-area that works on energy or sustainability issues? Want to share your vision with the next generation's progressive leaders? CONTACT US!
We’d love to work with you on an event or a field trip.
Are you a student in the DC-area who is interested in becoming a fellow? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
and we’ll put you on a list to receive information about the fellowship as soon as its ready.
hit this week during blog time and I came up blank. I briefly entertained the idea of writing a blog post inspired by a recent infestation I experienced called, “Bedbugs and Other Unforeseen Obstacles in Life That Only Make You Stronger (and itchier)” but then I realized that I really just wanted talk more about the bedbugs
and didn’t have any moral information to share on that topic besides advising the public to wear oven mitts post-bedbugs. I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve talked about where the idea for The Activist Institute
came from and a long time since I’ve articulated just WHY I think that young people need a place like this. So here we go.
We were ten interns in the youth outreach division at the Center for American Progress, and we were a team. Campus Progress
was the cool place to intern and we were teeming with ideas on how to “stick it to the man” and “make the world a better place.”
Brett Marler was that guy from Missouri who had started Think Green!
at his college, but wanted his group to do so much more. Archita Taylor was the intern to end all interns—a prestige she earned by having internships at the House of Representatives, the Democratic National Convention, and the White House
While most of our peers were making coffee for their bosses at the other think tanks in town, we were sitting in on important staff meetings, no fear in raising our hands with an idea. When Powershift decided to gather young people outside of the Capitol to support the Cap and Trade bill, we were told to grab a T-Shirt, get on the metro, and let our voices be heard. And when the Campus Progress National Conference rolled around, we got to listen to speakers like Van Jones, Kathleen Sebelius, and Bill Clinton
After attending the DREAM Act
graduation ceremony as part of an assignment, I was inspired to go back to my campus and found the Claremont DREAM Act Coalition. The people we met and the work that we did inspired us all that summer and I think we all fondly remember the summer we spent trying to steal sandwiches while discussing the merits and pitfalls of carbon neutrality.
When young people have a space like this, where they can connect and share and learn from each other, they realize their power and their potential. A place where they can get the tools they need to advocate for the issues they care about and bring people together for a cause. Physically we’ll be creating a house, but realistically, if we succeed at our goal, we’ll be creating communities—young people who work together to change the world for the better.This post originally appeared on the PresenTense website as part of the 2011 PresenTense Global Institute.
In the summer of 2008, I showed up at Campus Progress
in my best “Look-at-me-I’m-21-and-professional” outfit and hoped that the other interns would like me. I sat down at my cubicle, only a short wall between myself and two other interns. They were introduced to me as, “Emily Rutherford, our star writing contributor
, and Rachel Fauber, who was arrested last week for protesting mountain top coal removal in the Capitol building.”
Guess which one is my business partner?
I call Rachel “King of the Internet” because despite my expertise in finding things like PHOTOS OF MY CHILDHOOD MCDONALD’S HAPPY MEAL MAKER
, she tops me. She manages something like five Twitter accounts, runs a blog called the Hillary Clinton Hair Salon
(that celebrates the wonders of HC’s hairdos), and somehow finds gems like BARACK OBAMA IS YOUR NEW BICYCLE
Since my original thought of Hostel+Activists=Idea
, 99.9% of the legwork done forThe Activist Institute
has been a conglomeration of my creativity and type-A list-making abilities and Rachel’s incredible communications knowledge and ability to write the most articulate buzz-worthy sentences that actually make people want to read what we’re writing.
This past year Rachel and I have been almost consistently on a 7-hour time difference. I’m in Israel. She’s in Baltimore. And as Internet enthusiasts—we’ve learned to make it work using technology.
Working with a business partner can be difficult at times, even more so if you’re not face-to-face. Sometimes we just don’t agree. Sometimes we actually do
agree, but our agreement is lost in our Internet based conversation and we get frustrated with each other. Complicated feelings and ideas can't always be expressed well with only the option of italics
, or exclamation points!!!
But despite the distance, we manage to make progress almost daily. We spend hours on Google Docs creating surveys and preparing our business plan. We delete and rewrite each other’s comments as we go, using the chat function to point out areas that could use work and discuss how to move forward.
We once had a six hour Skype session in which we completed a fellowship application—each of us working on separate questions, then trading them back and forth, and using the video function to simulate an office atmosphere.
Sometimes I have an idea when it’s 3AM in America and I send her a heads up email. Three days ago I got an email that just said “BIG IDEAS!!” and when I replied to ask her to explain she wrote back, “CAN’T RESPOND YET. AT A PROTEST UNDERNEATH YOUR APARTMENT BUILDING IN DC.”
I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect to be the other half of The Activist Institute than Rachel, the King of the Internet. And though the real work comes from us, the founders, this blog post is dedicated to the tools that made our work possible despite 6,874.88 miles between us
. So thank you Skype, GChat, Facebook, Google Docs, Doodle, Facebook, Weebly, and Twitter. We couldn’t have done this without you, Internet. We think you’re the King
-BeccaThis post originally appeared on the PresenTense Website as part of the 2011 PresenTense Global Institute.
In January, when we found out that The Activist Institute
was an Echoing Green semifinalist
(prestigious social entrepreneur fellowship) I was overjoyed. We beat out 93% of our competition to become one of the 224 ventures (out of an original 2,854) to become semifinalists. Success! I thought. Progress! I inexcusably screamed out in front of large families on the streets of New York (I read the congratulatory email on my iPhone while walking to a museum and did a Rocky-like-hands-in-the-air-move
They posted a list of the 224 semifinalist organizations
and while on an Internet bender (those days when you literally spend your time eating cheez-its in front of the computer while researching important things like How often did they need to dye Zack Morris’ hair on Saved by the Bell
????), I checked out our competition. LO AND BEHOLD in between organizations offering water solutions for developing nations, there was another organization that was trying to offer something similar to us. Who is this “TerraShift
” and how dare they offer a holistic program for environmental enthusiasts! And founded two years before us, no less…
I felt deflated. Like my unique and life-changing idea for a house full of activists was not so unique after all. I was so nervous I checked out the websites of all 223 other organizations and looked for even more organizations that were offering things similar to us. It made me truly paranoid. I tore out at least 4 hairs (from my head) and I remain firm that the laugh line on my right eye is from this period in my life. In March I found out that we did not make it to the finalist round of the Echoing Green fellowship. It was actually a positive day overall because it was the same day I won the Democracy for America scholarship
(allowing me to attend Netroots Nation
). TerraShift didn’t win either. But a few weeks later I found out that they would be attending the prestigious Unreasonable Institute
in the summer. They were clearly doing something right.
I had fully convinced myself by now that we were not actually in competition with TerraShift. They offer a program for college graduates—we offer one for college students. Their program is solely focused on sustainability issues—ours is eventually supposed to encompass a variety of social justice issues. There are many more differences between us, but I won’t waste your time here explaining why each of our ventures is UNIQUELY GREAT FOR SOCIETY.
On another Internet bender (while checking out this awesome LIST OF PRESIDENTIAL PETS
!!!) I went back to TerraShift’s website. And I randomly decided to call them. After mumbling on the phone about why I was calling I finally explained that I was starting an organization similar to theirs, I’ve been impressed with what they have achieved so far and I’d appreciate speaking with them about how they got started.Abe from TerraShift
was more than willing to speak with me and was humble about their achievements. We scheduled a phone call and spoke for an hour. I had prepared a list of questions to ask him about the development and business model of his organization and although I managed to ask all of my questions, he was interested in talking about MY business model and really focused the conversation on The Activist Institute. He was more than willing to give me ideas for how to make a profitable (or sustainable) organization and was genuinely interested in helping us succeed. He recommended a fellowship to me and gave me the names of three more organizations I should contact who are doing similar things and I’m now in touch with both of them as well (in addition to about four others that I’ve found through other contacts). I'm asking ALL OF THEM for advice.
It’s nice when you feel like you’re THAT AWESOME that your idea is the first of its kind. The thing about new ideas though, is that generally they are built upon older ideas… and that means that there’s always some other business or organization offering something similar to what you’re offering. In the business world, these people might be straight up competition (think Pepsi and Coke
) but in the nonprofit world, they might be the best resources and the best collaborators you’ll find. So the moral of the story is, you should not be afraid of the people who have ideas like yours. They’re probably very nice people since they are also trying to MAKE A BETTER WORLD. Call them
. They are nice people and they have very good advice.
-BeccaThis post originally appeared on the PresenTense website as part of the 2011 PresenTense Global Institute.
The Activist Institute
is one year old in a few days…at least our purchase of our domain name is about a year old…so that’s gonna be our official Activistiversary. And although we’ve been around for a full year, I have pitched our idea more in the last two weeks than I have in the entire eleven months preceding this one.
This is mostly because this month I have had the great pleasure of attending Netroots Nation
(the premiere conference for the American Progressive movement) and have started my time here at PresenTense
At Netroots Nation, I would basically thrust my business card at anyone who opened their mouth to speak with me. “Hi, I’m Becca Russell-Einhorn from The Activist Institute.” It helped to have a name badge, which led even more people to poke me a little and ask, “Umm…hi…what’s The Activist Institute.” After foisting over my new “makes-me-feel-professional” business cards, I would give them the “schpeel.”
Doing this over and over, literally forty times a day, made me realize a lot about THE PITCH and how to do it successfully. At least, I recognized, what made it successful for me.
1. A PITCH FOR EACH PERSON
Each person has a different attention span. This might be innate to that person or it might be that they only have 30 seconds because they have to get to that important meeting over there, no seriously they do. So what I needed was A PITCH FOR EACH PERSON. A one-line pitch, a paragraph pitch, the big idea pitch. They all have their places and their times. Having written several fellowship and grant applications this year I was able to draw some key sentences and punchy words from our applications to pull together an articulate picture of our vision in both twenty words and two hundred words, both good for different situations.
2. QUESTIONS MAKE A BETTER PITCH, EVENTUALLY
When you first start out there are people who are going to say, “I don’t get it,” to you. A confident New York woman came into the PresenTense hub just the other day and put us all on the hotseat
after we pitched our ventures to her. And while it’s surely stressful, it’s actually helpful. A mother of a friend of mine spent about two hours asking me the most detailed questions about The Activist Institute. She wanted to know how we planned to organize the food cooking at the Institute when there were fifteen people in a house. Did I know how to cook for fifteen people? Did I? She feigned indifference to our goals and basically made me feel like I was being interviewed with the scrutiny of Oprah (having just found out I falsified a book she recommended). At the time I felt defenseless, accused, and a little sweaty. But the experience made me think about a lot of details I hadn’t yet thought about and made me go back and make sure that I had a good answer for anything that might be thrown at me. At Netroots, I could feel the confidence I had in my answers and I could see that it affected the way that my pitch was received.
3. THROW IT OUT INTO THE WORLD
It’s hard to imagine pitching your venture to literally every person you meet, but that’s what you need to do. Or at least that’s what I’ve started doing. At first it felt like I was selling out—pushing something on people who were just trying to say hi. But you never know who might actually be interested in your idea, or who might know someone who knows someone who knows someone who loves to throw money at social justice ventures (when you hear the phrase throw money do you also picture people actually throwing dollar bills? Because that's what I see).
So this is my advice after one month of being pitch-crazy. Since I hope to work for The Activist Institute for the rest of my life, I imagine that this is only the beginning of a lifetime of pitching and I can’t wait to get even better at it.
-BeccaThis blog post was originally posted on the PresenTense website as part of the 2011 PresenTense Global Institute.
We launched our IndieGoGo Campaign
today to aid us in our efforts at becoming a 501c3 application. We know that you don't like to get hit up for money at every moment. So, we want to hit you up for money now and use that money top become a 501c3 organization. As a 501c3 organization, we will be able to apply for tons of grants that we previously were unable to apply for and we'll be able to stop asking YOU for money.
Plus, if you send some money our way we'll send you a T-Shirt or a sticker or something fun as a thank you for your donation. You can get a t-shirt or coffee mug or sticker with our AWESOME logo on it, which we will send to you THIS SUMMER.CHECK OUT THE CAMPAIGN AND DONATE TODAY!
What’s in a design? Well, a lot. Good design can be engaging, move people to action and represent your values. Sounds a lot like what we try to do at the Activist Institute.
That’s why earlier this month, Becca and I decided to toss our old retro logo – in favor of the creative expertise of Kaleazy Creative
. We knew we needed an eye-catching logo for all the summer networking activities and that Kaleazy would be a great help in finding out creative vision.
We had a lot of ideas – cool graphic, florescent colors, gradients, and fonts galore. (Okay, maybe we had way too many ideas.) But what we ended up with was this:
Bold color, strong image and a clean design.
Becca and I really liked the feeling of power the logo portrayed, as we work on building powerful communities of youth. Look closer at the details – a network roots parallel our core values of progress, organizing and community.
We love this logo and get goosebumps whenever we look at it! It's a constant reminder of the power of the youth.
What a whirlwind few weeks this has been! I’m writing to you now from Jerusalem where I am taking part in the 2011 PresenTense Global Institute
, a social entrepreneur bootcamp fellowship for Jews (Full disclosure: I'm a Jew...). I’m one of the few fellows with a venture that’s not with a Jewish mission, which puts me in the “social justice” track within the fellowship. It’s interesting learning about business tactics and how to formulate a vision and mission through the lens of Judaism and Jewish values. It’s definitely great to be back in Israel and I can see that the next six weeks are going to be full of social media know-how and pitching and I’m excited to have a large chunk of time to devote to The Activist Institute.
Speaking of pitching…. that’s actually what I was doing for the last week while I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota attending Netroots Nation, an amazing conference focused on advocating the progressive agenda using… the Internet (and other means!). I was able to attend Netroots because I won a scholarship from Democracy for America
, who generously took care of my registration fee and my hotel for the duration of the conference.
Netroots was an amazing opportunity to meet and learn from people who are making big moves in the progressive arena—whether it’s through politics or nonprofit work—I was really impressed. I had the opportunity to pitch The Activist Institute to probably forty people while I was at Netroots Nation (including Jim Dean, head of Democracy for America) and it really helped me articulate our mission as an organization.
After Netroots finished, I flew directly from Minnesota to Israel and though I'm kind of jet-lagged and exhausted I'm also charged up for six more weeks of busying myself with working on The Activist Institute and our business model.
Rachel and I are calling this “The Summer of Progre$$” (we have a thing for Internet memes and dollar signs used in the place of S’s) and we’re excited to focus our efforts this summer on moving The Activist Institute out of the idea phase where we’re figuring out what we need to do administratively, and into the phase where we’re actually planning the execution of the Energy, Environment, and Sustainability house in Washington, D.C.
Thanks to Democracy for America and PresenTense for these fantastic opportunities. We’ll keep you updated about “The Summer of Progre$$” as it… progresses.
We are currently looking for several passionate and motivated individuals to join our board of directors. We are looking for board members who have experience in various social justice fields including, but not limited to: the environment, women and gender issues, LGBTQ issues, labor rights and union organizing, immigration and immigrant rights, and human rights. An ideal board member is excited to help us build this organization from the ground up and get the word out about our mission here at The Activist Institute.
To see our full listing, check it out here
Hello everyone out there on the Internet superhighway of information. We're so excited to share with you that we're now a part of the Idealist.org
community, the premier place for nonprofit jobs, volunteer positions, and general resources. We honestly feel a bit more legitimate right now. So, check out our page here
and become a fan!