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What is Frontloading?

Sunrise launched in 2017 after 12 people spent over a year developing a 4-year plan for the movement, ending right after the 2020 election. It included Sunrise’s core “DNA”: the story, strategy, structure, and culture that guided the movement. 

We achieved much more than the founders had imagined, but things are also in need of a revamp: climate change is now a major issue in politics, the Green New Deal is a household name, there have been historic uprisings for racial justice, and an unprecedented global pandemic has changed society forever. Sunrise has outgrown its original structures/practices for decision-making, and transparent communication norms that were designed for a much smaller movement. Other critical things like how to build multiracial, cross-class hubs or building leadership at scale were too basic or missing completely. Our band-aid solutions to these problems just aren’t cutting it. 

Last fall, we embarked on a new frontloading process to take the learnings from the last four years and build new DNA. We built a team of hub leaders and staff members, in our teens and twenties, from big cities and small towns. We’re a majority working class and majority BIPOC team. We’ve been a part of making this movement what it is today, but we’ve also seen the ways it’s come up short and how that’s been deeply painful to ourselves, our communities, and our friends. (You can read more about the team and selection process here.)

Testing Our Plan (i.e. “Content Testing)

Now, we’re beginning the second stage of this process: content testing. Our draft plans have been developed through our own experiences and through conversations with many throughout the movement, but in the end we’re just 11 people. We need real feedback from diverse perspectives to make our plans stronger. 

We’re still figuring out the specifics, but here’s a little of what you can expect from the process.

What is Content Testing?

We want to design a DNA that will help us build our movement to reach many new people, especially Black, brown, indigenous, and poor and working class people who we haven’t reached in the past. We also want to build a DNA that also serves our existing movement. Doing so will require getting meaningful feedback from the public, partners, politicians, our movement, and organizational staff.

That’s where the Content Testing comes in. We’re going to spend the months of August – December actually taking our content (DNA) and asking people what they think of it. Would you join this movement? Will this address the challenges you’ve seen and experienced? Our goal while running this process is to get the input and feedback necessary to develop Sunrise 2.0 DNA that will help us take the movement to the next level.

But making strong DNA is going to require the movement to lean in, both by showing up and being honest. We don’t just want the nice words, want your real thoughts and for you to challenge us if you think this isn’t gonna work! 

What this will look like:

  1. Input sessions for the public, partners, politicians, the base, leaders and staff.
    --> Hosting sessions that are between 2 hours and 2 days long where we share some of our analysis, our DNA, and then ask for people’s reactions.
    --> Some of these will be in person (like the 2 day ones), and most will be online.
  2. Public message testing (via social media) and polling (with Data for Progress) to ground our DNA in the reality of where the public is at.
  3. 1:1 conversations with partners, politicians, leaders, and staff in our movement.
  4. Canvassing at some of our in-person input sessions to test our messaging and strategy with everyday people.

What comes after content testing? 

Through the fall and into January, we’ll be taking what we learn from content testing and adapting the DNA. The first frontloading team radically changed their DNA after getting feedback, and it’s possible we’ll make big changes this time too! (If you’re curious, they tested a strategy that focused a lot on state-level climate action and had a story that was much less hopeful than the current one. They heard from organizers that the former wasn’t the right role for Sunrise at the time and heard from the public that the story was too bleak and depressing to resonate with them). 

Then, by early February we’ll present the new DNA and go through a movement ratification process to decide whether we adopt the DNA. We still haven’t figured out the specifics and will be developing the plan based in part on how conversations about democracy and decision-making go in content testing. One of the things that we’ll likely decide through this process is what campaign(s) we run as a movement. 

If we decide to adopt the DNA, we’ll begin trainings and launch our campaign(s) in the spring. The frontloading team will dissolve and staff and movement leader teams will take forward the task of implementing the DNA as we move to a new era of our movement. 

Frontloading Shareback 
In this section you’ll find more in depth updates, report backs and useful resources from the Frontloading Team.

  1. Frontloading 101 Hub Shareback Toolkit – This doc contains a template agenda and recommendations for bringing info about Frontloading back to your Hub (created 9/15/21).
  2. Frontloading SEPTEMBER Retreat – Movement Report Back
  3. Frontloading AUGUST Retreat – Movement Report Back
  4. Frontloading JUNE Retreat – Movement Report Back
  5. A compilation of past Frontloading Updates