Movement updates

Sunrise General Movement Update: August 2021

On Thursday, August 5, 2021, Sunrise held its first ever Movement x All Hands call, a new monthly rhythm designed to bring together Movement Leaders and Sunrise staff to ground in our current organizing moment, share major updates from Sunrise hubs & the national organization, celebrate movement wins, build relationships and take collective action.

This first call went really well, and for those who couldn’t make it, we wanted to recap some of the highlights and updates that were shared. Below you can find recaps on:

  1. Organizational Transformations
  2. Frontloading
  3. Good Jobs 4 All Campaign
  4. Reclaim Summer: GND for Public Housing Edition
  5. Somos Sunrise
  6. Line 3
  7. Role Networks 
  8. Regional share-outs from Sunrise’s Hubs  

1. Organizational Transformations

Four years ago we came together, an imperfect group of young people who saw that those with the power to avert the climate crisis from destroying our futures were asleep at the wheel, while a generation of young people were viewed as powerless to stop it. That’s what we set out to change, by building a generational understanding of climate change, a generational identity as agitators, and a generational movement that escalated increasingly disruptive protests until those in power had no choice but to act to avert this crisis.

That movement today is simultaneously far beyond our wildest expectations, and nowhere near the reach necessary to protect all of our futures. We could not have imagined how quickly our movement would grow, and in that, we also underestimated the safeguards necessary to ensure that it grew safely, equitably, and without replicating the same marginalizations of our broader society.

While we set out to avoid the many failings of the mainstream climate movement, we have not yet succeeded in completely rejecting the paradigms that have kept working class, Black and Indigenous organizers from finding more of a home in the mainstream climate movement. The reasons for that are many and varied, but ultimately, they don’t matter. Accountability and action do.

Over the course of the last few years, and especially over the last several months after a long, hard fought 2020 election, Sunrise has deeply and wholeheartedly engaged with critiques on how we’ve struggled to build a truly multiracial, cross-class, democratic movement rooted in collective liberation. Beyond listening, we’ve continued to work to fight racialized harm that has shown up in our movement and build out processes to reckon and rectify our past. Staff and movement spaces have formed to heal, process, hold each other accountable, work toward processing and implementing a set of demands made by Black Sunrise volunteers and staff, and rebuild and continue to transform the movement we know is worth fighting for. The work is underway, and there is still much work to do. We’ve never claimed to have it all figured out, and we are swimming upstream in a society that is deeply rooted in white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism.

We know that we are not alone in this struggle. Many movements and organizations are grappling with this, too.  We want to share some of the approaches we’ve been taking to encourage self-reflection, sharing and growth between different movements.  We want to be honest and transparent about our struggles so we can collectively do better.

Here’s a status update on our progress on meeting the demands laid out by the Black Sunrise Caucus.

  • We are currently about to start working with two outside facilitators with expertise in organizational and movement transformations.
  • Sunrise currently has a JEAO (Justice, Equity, Anti-Oppression) Change Team tasked with setting JEAO vision, principles, and goals for the organization. However, the structure has relied solely on a few staff  to hold this; this mandate within the Change Team structure has been unsustainable, and there needs to be a greater orientation of equity amongst the entirety of the Sunrise Movement. As a result the change team is dissolving and distributing its responsibilities across the organization, supporting the distribution of our work and celebrating ourselves. Before disbanding we have a few conditions to achieve in the next few months:
    • We have facilitated a 6-8 week process with original change team members + Frontloading about what worked in the culture + structure of the old team + synthesizing the learnings of our work. 
    • The ED, Managing Directors, Division Directors, Steering Team, Frontloading and Campaign Team’s JEAO mandates, decision making powers, and responsibilities are defined. It is clear who has power + decision making around JEAO accountability in our new structure + culture (including accountability for BSC demands).  
    • And more — read more about the JEAO Change Team’s transition plan here.

Steering Team:

  • One of the major demands and feedback we received in the last year, and as we navigate several leadership transitions founders and high ranking Directors, has been the need for the leadership team that is ultimately the backstop for Sunrise’ strategy, culture and organizational health to be more multi racial and cross-class than our founding team and represent new and upcoming leadership. After several months of running a process to select a new Steering Team for the organization – we have one! 
  • The Steering Team is composed of 7 permanent positions and 3 At-large positions that were voted on by all staff.
  • The mandate of the Steering Team is as follows: 
    • The Steering Team sets Sunrise’s strategic and organizational goals, and oversees their fulfillment by: 
      • Aligning priorities and processes across the organization
      • Working with other leadership bodies in the organization and the base to foresee and address challenges as we transform from Sunrise 1.0 to 2.0 and
      • Acting as the final approver on major high-level organizational decisions
    • Ultimately, the Steering Team is the backstop for Sunrise’s success or failure in setting the conditions to win a just and equitable Green New Deal.

>> Read more updates on our Organizational Transformations here.

2. Frontloading

In mid-2020, Sunrise embarked on a process of frontloading: looking deeply at our story, strategy, structure and culture to determine what the movement needs to be in order to win a Green New Deal. The process of frontloading is an opportunity to answer key questions about the future of our movement and invest in new leadership to guide the movement in the coming years. 

When we launched in 2017, Sunrise was launched with a four year plan. We launched knowing that there was no possibility of climate action at the scale that the crisis required as long as Donald Trump held federal office, but also that we had an opportunity to change the way that our country thought about climate change and build a people powered movement.  It’s now been four years since launching, and we’ve accomplished a lot of what we set out to do. And in that time, we’ve learned a lot about what does and doesn’t work on the path of building a fiercely multiracial, cross-class mass movement. 

Now, we’re coming up against new political and economic scenarios. What does it look like to operate under a Biden presidency? Or under a second term of Trump? What about organizing during the greatest economic recession we’ve seen in decades? How are we to meet the task of building a social movement under possible conditions of extended social isolation due to COVID19? In short, Sunrise up to this point was built for a political moment that no longer exists. 

Because of that, the scope of frontloading is expansive, much broader than a traditional strategic planning process. With frontloading, we’re not only asking ourselves “what should our movement do next,” we’re asking ourselves; “In this moment, what is the movement that is required? And what is the structure, the story, the strategy and the culture that will help us get there?”  Huge aspects of our movement could, and likely will, change as a result of this process. 

Here are the key things you need to know about frontloading.

Why Frontload?

There are a few primary reasons we see to frontload. There are other reasons, but these are the core ones. 

  1. We don’t have a strategy to build the amount of power we need to execute mass non-cooperation and win a Green New Deal. We know we need mass non-cooperation across our society, but we don’t yet have a roadmap to get there in this moment. 
  2. We’ve struggled to build a multiracial, cross-class movement. We need an organizing model, structure, and culture that supports building that movement, which is crucial to achieving a GND that is equitable for all people.
  3. We still struggle to build a movement where hubs are able to set and act on local strategy with autonomy and nimbleness, and how to orient staff to best support a decentralized movement. 

The work of the movement today is essential to our future success. These are not separate pieces of work, but inherently interlinked. 

  • The work of hubs in this moment is crucial and will continue to be crucial. While our structure and strategy may shift in the future, no matter what we will need a massive multiracial movement to win a Green New Deal. Hub building now is essential for whatever our frontloading project launches.

Who is frontloading?

  • The frontloading team is made up of a majority BIPOC, cross-rank, staff & volunteer, cross-class body of movement leaders who are ready to take our movement forward into the next phase. 
    • These people were nominated by a combination of the Movement Support Team, particularly Regional Organizers and trainers since they have the most contact with hubs, as well as Role Network Leads (both volunteer and staff), and the Hub Council.  
    • The JEAO Change Team (Justice, Equity, and Anti-Oppression), the Hub Council, and the Campaign Team all had final approval over the team. 

What timeline are we operating on?

  • The frontloading team itself began frontloading last July, engaging in an iterative process of DNA development for multiple months. In August, we’ll begin to test our materials with the rest of the movement, and in late January and February 2022 we’ll be preparing for launch. 

How has the movement been consulted and informed throughout this process? 

  • Movement DNA (Story, Structure, Strategy, Culture) Assessment
    • Before the frontloading process began, we asked a subset of movement leaders to give input on our DNA Assessment – an assessment of what in our DNA is successful and what has led to gaps. 
  • Culture and Structure Evaluation
    • We then engaged in a process of small group consultation to have our movement vision of what a healthy structure and culture look like in Sunrise, as well as give regional – specific input on the strategy. These were small groups of people led in group discussion, and were made up of hub members. 
  • Content Testing
    • The biggest opportunity for input will be beta testing of the DNA. After the frontloading team has developed a draft story, structure, strategy and culture, we’ll beta test with people within and outside of the movement, including people on the fringes, as well as identity based sub groups (highschoolers, working class folks, Black folks, a BIPOC subgroup, etc). 
    • Content testing has begun! The first part of this process is Movement Pitches, where your hub can submit a “pitch” for what Sunrise should do in response to 5 questions the frontloading team is grappling with. Submit yours here and read frontloading’s explainer post about Movement Pitches here!
  • Ongoing Input & Reflections: After retreats, the frontloading team will synthesize key learnings and send them out to different groups for input.

Read more about Frontloading here.

3. Good Jobs 4 All Campaign 

  • Democrats in Congress are working on a massive infrastructure bill that would be the largest public investment since the New Deal and would be the first time we’ve ever passed significant national legislation to tackle the climate crisis. 
  • As Congress is negotiating the size and scope of this package, we know that Exxon and their fossil fuel friends are swarming offices trying to water it down. We need to be louder and more powerful than them! They may have money but we have a movement. 
  • So, in the coming weeks and months, we have the chance to push Congress, especially key leaders that are playing critical roles over top priorities, to step up and pass historic legislation that would truly begin the decade of the Green New Deal. 
  • More information on our expectations and priorities here: The Legislation We Need to Kick off the Decade of the Green New Deal 
  • IPCC Report
    • On Monday 8/9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report on the science of the climate crisis. 
    • Here’s our response.
  • Upcoming campaign moments 
    • We are launching phone banks to flood the offices of 5 key Democrats [Richard Neal (MA-01), Frank Pallone (NJ-6), Patty Murray (WA-Senator), Sherrod Brown (OH-Senator), Joe Manchin (WV-Senator)] who, as chairs of committees, will decide if components of the Green New Deal become reality in 2021.
    • Taking action while Members of Congress are on congressional recess. 
      • Sign up for updates on how you can get involved.
  • Ongoing CCC and GJ4A Training and support!

4. Reclaim Summer: GND for Public Housing Edition

  • The GND4PH (Green New Deal for Public Housing) is on the line right now. The infrastructure package is being fought over in the hills of congress as we speak, and although the NYC GND4PH coalition’s organizing has lead to Public Housing being at the forefront of infrastructure for the first time in almost 40 years, that funding is only a fraction of what we need to fund Public Housing and keep it public. So in collaboration with Movement School, we’re running an organizing intensive program for young people called Reclaim Summer: GND4PH Edition in 5 cities all across the country. Sunrise Organizers, Public Housing Tenants, and frontline youth from Nola, Miami, San Juan, New York, and Los Angeles are all meeting 2-3 times a week to be trained and mentored by Mentor teams of Sunrise Trainers and Tenant Organizing Mentors to create coalitions and take action to fight for the vision of Public Housing we all deserve.
  • Where we’re at: This week is week 4 of the program and there have been a ton of changes and learnings we’ve gained throughout the last month. 
    • There is nothing like relational organizing when it comes to recruiting and engaging frontline folks. 
      • Of the applicants we received and accepted 83% were encouraged to apply by someone they knew. This was also the least amount of capacity with the highest yield 
    • Accessibility isn’t just about money
    • Flexibility is key 
  • Read more updates from Reclaim Summer: GND for Public Housing Edition here.

5. Somos Sunrise

  • Somos Sunrise is Sunrise’s national constituent network of Latines recruiting and training Latines across the globe to become the next local community organizers. 
  • Top Sunrise Latine volunteers voyaged to the most Latine city in the nation, Laredo, Texas.  An innovative 2-day climate camp was made in partnership with the Rio Grande International Study Center to educate the local Laredo Latine youth about environmental justice and community organizing to create the next generation of Latine Climate Leaders on the Border. Because in the la lucha, we are in this fight together and so let’s learn AND work together.

6. Line 3

  • Line 3 is a proposed pipeline expansion that would build a new pipeline corridor through the treaty territory of Anishinaabe peoples. Sunrise has joined in solidarity with Anishinaabe and all other Indigenous nations as they defend against the desecration of their sacred land and waters where manoomin (wild rice) grows. Minnesota hubs have been taking action with the frontline leaders to defend the drinking water of over 18 million people and invite other hubs to join in the call to leverage the people power of our movement to tell Biden to Honor the Treaties and Stop Line 3. 
  • Recently, state violence and repression has escalated beyond what has been seen before on these frontlines. There was use of tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets at an action in the last few weeks.
  • So far, actions have been successful at stopping drilling during critical moments as Enbridge attempts to complete the dangerous water crossings.
  • However, there has been an unprecedented drought in the region all while Enbridge is dewatering rivers and wild rice bed lakes.
  • Open calls have been made from each of the camps and people are needed to fill every kind of role, from holding down daily living needs at camp to direct action roles. 

7. Role Networks

8. Hub Regional Share-outs:

  • Northeast
    • Providence: Working with Renew Rhode Island!  RI Political Coop to kick out centrists, and working on GND legislation
    • Lancaster High: Big hub transition of leadership.  Took an extended break.  Focusing on Recruitment.  Trying to build a strong base of high schoolers.
    • Boston: In a weird place, trying to figure out how to restructure and how we want to do work.  Doing some endorsements for city council and the mayor.
    • Pennsylvania: Trekked to DC from PA, formed a coalition to target key federal PA reps around bold climate action
    • Newark, DE: Planning our first in person action since the Pandemic with WFP as part of the GND Network Day of Action.  Pushing our Senator on the CCC and infrastructure package!
    • New folks on the Statewide Leadership team!
  • South
    • Discussion:
      • Columbia SC – all SC hubs joined with NC hubs to do an action against the colonial pipeline. Camped out at Thillis’s house all night and had a huge 100 person rally that got a ton of press!!!
      • Atlanta – focusing on local organizing and solidarity. STOP COP CITY is a campaign to stop Atlanta cops from building an 80 mil facility to train cops on land that is currently covered in nature/trees. They’re doing flyering, canvassing, papering, etc. Also doing mutual aid with Atlanta homeless union to gain food/water/sanitation for the homeless in Atlanta.
      • Dallas – took action at ExxonMobil headquarters to hold a rally that was fairly successful and built community/relational organizing with a picnic. Got press coverage in local news AND in Japan!!!
      • DC – solidarity with stop line 3 & trying to connect more with stopping mtn valley pipeline
    • Top updates:
      • #1 – Thom Thillis action in Columbia SC
      • #2 – Stop Cop City in Atlanta
      • #3 – ExxonMobil rally in Dallas
      • #4 – Stop Line 3 solidarity & Stop Mountain Valley pipelines in DC
  • Midwest
    • Top updates:
      • #1 – Michael in KC hub working against utility campaign (Evergy) that has been funding fascism, funding police, and hub has also tied in mutual aid work with a debt relief fund 
      • #2 – Maya in MN, trying to stop a pipeline, doing anti-racism trainings and preparing for divestment campaign in the fall 
      • #3 – Matt did a fellowship (Catalina involved), had new restructure, setting self up campaigns, have FACT team to create district groups to mobilize people based on districts
  • West
    • Discussion:
      • LA has a Youth Hub that did a three day action targeting Feinstein, she signed a letter in support of CCC! Also Bay Area mutual aid wildfire preparedness
      • LA Adult Hub also did a joint action against the senator, and SLAY pushed 4 members of congress to co-sponsor CCC. Sunrise LA also wrote a Green New Deal for Burbank (a city of about 100k in LA County) & it’s coming up for a vote in sept on city council!
      • Honolulu hub focused on internal leadership, and last major action focused on Stop Asian Hate
      • Tucson hub finished collaborative city council & university listening sessions, working with different groups & communities to recognize that climate change is an emergency, working on a collaborative GND!! Also, actions that are focused on border rights and immigrant justice. 
      • Washington & oregon are in collaborative campaigns to stop the building of snake river dam
      • Portland has a youthvsodot campaign that is thrashing the department of transportation on freeways and forests (just got our first regional rep to say NO to all freeway expansions!
      • Tacoma hub is doing similar city council listening sessions and going through a new absorption cycle
      • Eugene hub focusing deep on fossil fuel infrastructure, esp against NWNatural

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