Nov 2008 KTA: Breathe & Debrief: Life after the election

This month’s Kitchen Table Activism is to relax, talk to one-another, celebrate, and think about this past year and what the future holds by hosting a post-election debrief.  The focus could be a small gathering for your core leaders, a party with the whole Human Dignity Group, or a special gathering to welcome those new faces you met this year into your group. Whether you were on the campaign trail 24/7, organized a ballot forum, or spent the last few months doing issue work – we all deserve some space to take notice of how things have changed since January. 

WHY THIS ACTIVITY?   It’s over! But it’s not really over. This has been an important year for ROP and all HDGs. We’ve accomplished a lot, met many new faces & built significant new leadership. Remember all those planning, movement building, and capacity conversations from last winter?  You set a lot of great goals – and you know what, you all did a lot of what you set out to do this year! Let’s celebrate your campaigns and the election!

Debrief and assessment is a huge part of organizing and something we really encourage everyone to do. It can be a casual, fun, food oriented event where folks get to air their thoughts about the state of the progressive movement and the post-election world. Even if you didn’t do election work – we have a new president, local representatives, new ballot measures – how will that advance or inhibit the work you want to do?


  1. Get your team together. Share this KTA with your group. Consider inviting 2 or 3 new people to help plan – everyone loves food and discussion.
  2. Meet up with your team to figure out all the details:
  • Who?  Should it be medium (core + active folks), bigger (core + active + members + everyone on your lists) or open to everyone in the community?
  • What do you want to get out of this activity? Just to talk, to meet all those campaign faces and keep them involved, to thank everyone who worked so hard, or to remind folks that even though the election is over, we still care about the issues?
  • What is your style?  What will your debrief be like? What’s right for your community? See below for ideas!
  • What will be your next step? This event will attract your old HDG friends and new community allies. How will you stay connected to these folks after the event? Think about the event, meeting or action that will follow your debrief. Have flyers and a sign up sheet at the debrief event. 
  • When?  After Nov 4, the election is over. Some people might want a little break, time to process before they debrief and reflect. Other folks will want this to process right away, while this moment is still fresh in our minds. Decide whether you want to do this in early Nov. or later in the month. Don’t forget to factor in Thanksgiving!
  • Where? Think comfort! This is a wonderful and casual event, not a meeting. So consider having it in a home or at a cute bakery where you can get tea and all sit together out of the way.
  • How will you describe the event and get people to the forum?  Plan out a catchy title, a short description and how you will get the word out. Think: Post-Election Celebration and Potluck. Come reflect on this year, the election & our political future with YOUR HUMAN DIGNITY GROUP HERE!
  1. As always, let ROP know what your plan is and we will help you in any way we can! Over the phone, over email or maybe even in person; we are here to support your efforts that advance social justice and long-term movement building.

What is your style? 

High energy, down home, glamorous, structured or food based? Pick what works for your community.  Here are some of our suggestions:

  1. Reflection Round Table. What about the issues? We work all year on the issues that we care about deeply, then the election comes and candidates get all the attention. Bring it back to the issues – the war, immigration fairness, queer rights, land use or the environment. Have a discussion about the work you did this year, in the election and how it all fits together. Invite people who were campaign-activists that you want to keep around for the long haul and invite those who were turned-off by campaigns to get reengaged in the issues they love!
  2. Welcome Wagon Express. An event with the specific goal to get all those great new faces into the room to share in the reflection and excitement process. Welcome them to the post-election community! Reflect on the election. Discuss how this November affected your group, all the great work that you did & where you all might want to go from here. Have nametags, sign up sheets & hot apple cider to warm them up.
  3. Pick-me-up Celebration. You all did a lot this year. Do you have newspaper articles, videos, radio clips, flyers or other media that express your success? Did you do a lot that hasn’t been documented yet? Make signs with the number of voter’s guides distributed and handmade posters about other events that you held. Show them off, talk about all the great campaign work, invite people to reflect and reminisce on a fruitful year, invite new folks to come reflect on the election year and together talk about what 2009 holds.
  4. Post Election Potluck. Everyone in the community is invited to come debrief and reflect on the elections, enjoy food and talk about what the next year might hold for progressives in this country and your community.

Questions to initiate discussion and get the reflection rolling.

No matter what your style, pick someone from your group to facilitate the discussion. Ask open-ended questions and let people respond and be inspired by each other! Start off with a go around to give everyone a chance to introduce themselves and share before a free-for-all dialogue. Here are some ideas for good questions that will get the conversation rolling and keep you on track to move through the election into the future.

  • What is one thing that excited you about this year and one thing you are looking forward to in the next year?
  • How do you see your election work relating to the long-term social justice movement?
  • What are you most proud of from this year, a campaign or the election?
  • How did the Freedom Voter Campaign (or the election) build our group this year?
  • How do the changes in the White House (and anywhere else!) affect our group, our issues or our work?
  • What issues are you most interested in working on now that the election is over?
  • What is our next step? Where do we go from here?  Should we have a planning meeting to map out all our visions from tonight?

Contact me for ideas, help or anything else.
Good luck!

PS. Another fun weight-off-our-shoulders event to consider: A returns watching party the night of the election. Get together with your local HDG and watch the results as they come in! Have food, beverages, and election chatter while you anxiously wait to see the future of our county, state and county roll across your news screen. It’s a fun & easy election-night tradition.

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