Bridging Divides, Defending Dignity
How rural Oregonians have moved democracy
forward since 1992!
Welcome to the Exhibit Host Guide for Bridging Divides, Defending Dignity: How rural Oregonians have moved democracy forward since 1992! We are excited that your community wants to host the traveling exhibit celebrating 30 years of rural organizing with the Rural Organizing Project! This planning guide is to support you in hosting the traveling exhibit. You also have a team of folks at ROP that are ready to support you.
This guide includes resources to help plan your local tour stop and help keep the organizing on track, including suggested planning timelines:
What is the exhibit and what’s in this guide?
2022 marked the third decade since a network of rural human dignity groups came together to defend democracy and defeat Measure 9, a homophobic ballot measure put forward by the Oregon Citizens Alliance. Since then, that network became the Rural Organizing Project and together we have won important victories and learned crucial lessons in what makes rural organizing successful for the long haul. We took this opportunity of turning 30 years old to speak with hundreds of current and historic community leaders and organizers around the state and together we reflected on the past 30 years of powerful rural organizing, and the ways we have learned and grown along the way.
The result became this traveling exhibit, Bridging Divides, Defending Dignity, that your group can use to kick-start a community conversation about organizing for human dignity and democracy in your town. It can offer a space for people to connect, share their own memories of this important movement, and relate the past to our present moment while strategizing together about the world we can build for future generations!
Bridging Divides, Defending Dignity consists of eight free-standing panels that lift up stories of powerful rural organizing, from defeating Ballot Measure 9 to saving hundreds of rural post offices from closure and taking action in defense of Black Lives in every corner of the state. The design is specifically created to be easily set up at the ends of library bookshelves, in a community center or grange hall, or out on a pathway in your local park. The sleeves are double-sided, with Spanish on one side and English on the other. We invite you to think of the ways that bringing this movement history to your community could move your neighbors and political leaders toward action!
If you’d like to see the content of the exhibit panels, you can check them out at https://tinyurl.com/3fj6dv8m.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can ROP support my event? ROP will help coordinate getting the exhibit to and from your area as well as support you with planning, outreach, and strategy.
Is there any cost to hosting the exhibit? There is no cost to your group for hosting the exhibit itself.
What does the exhibit include?
- It consists of eight panels that are 7 feet tall and about 3 feet wide. The panels are made up of fabric sleeves that slip over light, collapsable metal frames.
- The whole exhibit travels in 8 bags (holding a panel each), weighing less than 80 pounds total, and can fit in just about any car!
How and where can I set it up? The exhibit can be set up outdoors or indoors, but please don’t leave it outdoors in a downpour or unattended somewhere that it might be stolen. You can find more details in the set-up and take-down instructions section.
Exhibit Planning Timeline
Hosting this exhibit is a great opportunity to begin or strengthen dialogue in rural communities both about the victories won in the last 30 years and what we can do together in the next 30. With good planning, this event can strengthen your local group and bring your community together to advance human dignity for all.
Most importantly, a solid outreach plan will ensure that participants make it into the room! Following this timeline will allow your group to plan an effective and impactful event at a manageable pace:
6 weeks before the exhibit starts:
- Gather your organizing team. The ideal number of people to plan this event is about 5-7, though you should have a minimum of 3 people working on it. If you have been thinking of folks to recruit to your local human dignity group, this could be your opportunity to ask them to pitch in!
- Discuss with your group what you hope to get out of hosting the exhibit. How do you hope the exhibit will influence or shape your work? Will this be an opportunity for your group to reach new audiences and recruit new volunteers? Who could you partner with to hold the event? Do you hope to build leadership within your own group? Do you want to schedule a follow-up meeting to invite event participants to continue the conversation that gets started?
- Brainstorm what events, programming, or educational opportunities could accompany the exhibit. Use the Menu of Options for ideas! Contact ROP at email@example.com and let us know how we can help!
- Confirm a space to hold the exhibit. Keep in mind your target audience– the space may influence who feels welcome to the event. Is the room accessible for people who use wheelchairs and walkers? If you need to use a projector, can you darken the room when the projector is in use? Make sure the location is available, and make reservations. Examples of likely venues include libraries, school auditoriums, and community centers.
- If you are planning an event to accompany the exhibit you will also need a nearby room or space where an audience can gather.
- Brainstorm who you plan to reach out to! Use the next section to help kick-start that planning!
5 weeks before the exhibit starts:
- Start outreach to key people and groups in your community to ask for co-sponsors and people to help spread the word. Educators, faith leaders, and local historians are all good places to start.
- Think about logistics. Investigate what equipment (microphone for larger rooms, projector, projector screen, etc.) is available at the location, and what you need to bring. Think about how to use the space at your location and what kind of food or refreshments you may choose to provide to create a warm, inviting, conversational atmosphere.
- This is a good time to make sure you have a brochure, poster, or other materials to share about your group. This is a big opportunity to grow your volunteer base and your leadership team!
- Create drafts of “save the date” invitations for email and mail, press releases, flyers, and any other materials you might need.
- Samples of these materials are part of this packet for you to use or modify…that was easy!
4 weeks before the exhibit starts:
- Finalize and send out “save the date” invitations on paper and over email. Make sure you include announcements for any event that will accompany the exhibit!
- Start getting the word out to the public with flyers and posters: churches, civic groups, & schools would be good places to try. Can you make ¼ sheet announcements and have a trusted contact distribute them at meetings and events?
- Create your media timeline – check out the Getting Coverage!: Media Planning Guide below. Make sure to do this early – many newspapers and newsletters require 4 weeks’ notice!
- Make a plan with ROP for how we will get the exhibit to you– contact ROP at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do our best to get the exhibit to you with minimal effort from your group members, but we may need your help in coordinating transportation. Also, start talking with ROP about when and how your group is passing the exhibit to the next hosts.
2 weeks before the exhibit starts:
- Call – by phone! – all of the people you would like to see at the exhibit (and any event you are planning with it). Remember that personal invitations are the best way to get people to attend. The best time for calling is in the evening between 6 pm and 8 pm, or on weekend mornings. A calling party is a fun way to make phone calls and be sure to divide up your list so that people get a call from a person that is close to them, if possible.
- Make sure the email announcements are going out from your allies, and that local newspapers and community news sources are carrying your event notice! Don’t see it yet? Give them a friendly phone call to remind them!
1 week before the exhibit starts:
- Prepare logistics:
- food and beverages for events
- any other materials that may be important to the exhibit: information about your group and how to be in touch, a sign in sheet, the ROP exhibit brochures, and ROP donation remittance envelopes. (ROP materials are included in the host packet)
- Send reminder emails and follow-up phone calls to people as needed.
- Make media calls and do other media work as needed.
- Confirm roles for the exhibit and event.
- Who will introduce the event? Who is setting up refreshments? Who is welcoming folks as they come in the door, asking them to sign in on the sign-in sheet?
- Confirm when and how your group will receive the exhibit from ROP.
- The day has come! If you are holding an event to go with the exhibit: set up chairs, tables, equipment, and food! If you are holding an opening event, be sure to arrive a couple of hours early to troubleshoot your technology resources: computer, sound, projector, and screen.
- Put out your accompanying materials (any materials about your group and how to be in touch, a sign in sheet, the ROP exhibit brochures, and ROP donation remittance envelopes).
- For your event, you should designate one person from your group as the official “MC,” master of ceremonies. This person will introduce the local organizing group, ROP, conclude the event, and if possible, ask for donations. Donations should be accepted but don’t worry about setting a fundraising goal. Funds raised will go to ROP to cover transportation costs unless a different arrangement is worked out in advance.
After the exhibit:
- Be sure to follow up promptly with participants, giving both people who attended and your group members that couldn’t make it the highlights of the event. Be sure to include the next moves for your group and give people a way to get more involved in creating just and inclusive communities.
- You can send a follow-up press release (including a photo!) to the local paper sharing your successful event! Are there next steps you’d like to invite potential members to?
- Complete and return the host evaluation form to ROP within two weeks, along with the completed participant evaluation forms and copies of public materials such as press clippings, posters, bookmarks, photos, and advertisements. We would love to share anything you want to be shared about what you did with the network!
- Confirm with ROP who and how your group is passing the exhibit to the next hosts.
Menu of Options: Accompanying Events
This document is to help you brainstorm what event(s) you want to plan around hosting the exhibit! If your group already has something planned or in mind, please roll with that and let us know how we can support you in your planning!
- Film Night: Screen a documentary that draws folks to the exhibit and opens conversations about any of the issues and campaigns in the exhibit, from immigrant rights to election organizing to racial justice. Hold a discussion afterward with possible action steps for people to take moving forward.
- Panel: Organize a panel with longtime local leaders or other movement elders to share their memories of the past 30 years and their vision for the future.
- Feeling stuck? Reach out to your local historians, educators, and librarians and ask for their ideas of possible community leaders and elders who would be great panel speakers.
- Living Room Conversation: Living Room Conversations are casual gatherings in someone’s home or another cozy place where community members agree to respect each other (but not necessarily agree) and talk about a particularly confusing, or controversial issue of the day. It’s a space for education, learning from one another, hearing about each other’s experiences & building our analysis of how issues are interconnected. An ROP organizer can help facilitate this conversation, or support you in developing the agenda so you can lead it!
- Partner with Schools: Partner with local educators to bring the exhibit directly to students and teachers and connect the exhibit with relevant curriculum. Set the exhibit up in the gym or auditorium so that teachers can bring their classes through the exhibit throughout the day.
Make your event part of your plan of action!
- Start a local human dignity group! Get together with friends and others in your community with shared values to talk about the change you want to make. Bring a sign-in sheet like this one to your first meeting, whether it’s a conversation about this exhibit or something else!
- Distribute Small Town Actions for a New Democracy (STAND) election guides from ROP: The election is nearly upon us and STAND election guides are a great conversation starter. The STAND Guide has information on who can vote, how to vote, and what statewide ballot measures will be up for a vote on November 8th. You can use this as a chance to go door to door, connect with your neighbors, and dig into real issues and important decisions we face on our ballots this year.
- Welcoming Posters in Local Businesses: A great first action as a group can be to go around to local businesses and ask them to post welcoming posters. This encourages local businesses and organizations to be overt and proactive in building a welcoming community by placing posters in their store windows. It also helps build your group’s profile in the community while mapping out community allies for future organizing efforts. (Check out this example from Coos County, Oregon!)
Outreach Strategies: Who to Invite and How
Start with your goals: who do you want to visit this exhibit? Do you have a total number of people you’d like to attend? Here are some tips to help you reach your goals!
First, consider co-sponsors. Co-sponsors can help spread the word about the event information, share costs of hosting the event, help with set up and clean up, and provide refreshments. Don’t be afraid to ask for $25-100 to help cover the costs of hosting if you want – refreshments and copying flyers aren’t free! Often co-sponsoring organizations like to have their name on the flyers and invitations, so ask co-sponsors early.
Some examples of good co-sponsors include libraries, community colleges or high schools, historical societies, youth shelters or service groups, churches and the larger faith community, and domestic and sexual violence service providers. Approaching mainstream organizations is a great opportunity to broaden your group’s reach!
- HINT: contact local high schools, community colleges, and universities to ask teachers of related subjects (e.g. history, social studies, sociology, ethnic studies, law, anthropology) to encourage students to attend the program or offer extra-credit opportunities. This is a great way to bring new voices into the conversation.
Next, consider key people and groups in your community who may endorse the exhibit, such as school administrators, political figures, and active members of the community.
Finally, and most importantly, invite your base! With support from your staff organizer at ROP, compile contact information for your group’s members. Brainstorm personal contacts and active community members to add to the list. Remember: personal calls and invitations are the most effective way to get people involved. As with all events, fostering relationships with other neighbors and friends is critical to creating strong, supportive communities. A personal invitation is much more enticing than an email, mailer, or phone call from a volunteer working out of Cottage Grove! Also, keep in mind the rule of halves: half the people who commit to coming will actually attend, and typically it’s even less for people who mark “Going” on Facebook.
Check out the included Media Planning Guide for tips on making a plan to get media coverage!
Additional Host Packet Resources
This host guide is also part of a larger host packet, which your ROP organizer can share with you! The host packet includes:
- This Exhibit Host Guide, which includes a FAQ, planning timeline, ideas for accompanying events, and outreach strategies
- Sample outreach flyers
- Logos and photos for promotional materials
- Getting coverage: a media planning guide
- Exhibit set up and take down instructions
- Conversation facilitation guide
- Sample email invitation
- Sample press release
- Accompanying materials for hosting the exhibit: a brochure, sample sign in sheet, tell us more sheets, and ROP remittance donation envelopes.