Grow Your Vote

Cultural Strategies for Civic Engagement

Publications

April 02, 2019

Cover of the Cultural Strategy Report shows two women, one wearing a blue hijab, making victory gestures in front of a white van

Download this report here.

View the Cultural Strategy Ambassadors video by Barni Qaasim here.

In the 2018 midterm elections, narratives of inclusion and exclusion went to battle. In the preceding years, politicians trumpeted bold and explicit politics of othering. In response, the midterms became not just a chance to vote, but an opportunity for progressives to more boldly lift up inclusivity and reject narratives and policies of exclusion. With these heightened stakes, the highest percentage of US voters participated in the midterm election since 1914 – and the number of young voters and voters from communities of color in California increased since the last midterm. For instance, the political landscape of Orange County was dramatically altered, aided by a historically high 71 percent turnout from registered voters.

Ahead of these midterms, the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley (Haas Institute) and Power California (Power CA) -- formerly Mobilize the Immigrant Vote and YVote -- partnered on a unique project – The Cultural Strategy Ambassadors Program. This report describes the framework and analysis of the program, its processes and outcomes, and the lessons learned. It looks toward future efforts to create an increased capacity and a robust infrastructure for the social justice field to incorporate narrative and cultural strategies into organizing, communications and power building strategies. The program integrated Power CA’s cultural strategy approach and experience in electoral organizing and the Haas Institute’s Blueprint for Belonging framework on strategic narrative, into direct capacity building and project support for the Ambassadors and their community-based organizations across the state. Through the program, each of the three participating organizations produced arts-based get-out-the-vote (GOTV) projects in California’s Central Valley, Orange County and San Diego.

The partnership between Power CA and the Haas Institute came out of synergy in their respective work. Power CA is a statewide multi-racial civic engagement organization that convenes on-the-ground community partners in urban, suburban and rural communities throughout California. They are building a movement of young people in communities of color and Indigenous communities as informed, regular voters. In turn, the Haas Institute’s strategic narrative analysis identifies voting as a core element in the formation of a more inclusive Californian identity. The Cultural Strategy Ambassadors Program reflects these efforts to form an enlarged “we” that reflects the multiplicity of diverse communities across the state. Essential to this is connecting coastal and inland Californians to a common vision anchored in a racial justice politic, which seeks to ensure that all who call California home can participate in civic processes that shape life in the state.