Sean Thomas-Breitfeld is the co-director of the Building Movement Project and a participant in the CGPS Public Voices Greenhouse.
Being part of the Center for Global Policy Solutions Greenhouse has been great because it pushed me out of my comfort zone. Like most people working for social and policy change, I read the news and have opinions – sometimes they’re even well-reasoned arguments. But when I usually write about issues that matter, I don’t often try to reach beyond my progressive bubble. And when I have the chance to speak publicly about my work, I’m usually preaching to the choir.
Deborah Douglas and Michele Weldon – my cohort’s coaches for The Op Ed Project – have pushed me to think about the value my ideas can have beyond my small world of progressive activists and nonprofit organizations. They’ve challenged me to think bigger and reach broader when crafting my op-eds.
Here’s one example: I’m concerned about the imbalance in funding going to smaller grassroots organizations, which are often led by people of color, and big national groups that more often have white leadership. So at the first training session, I drafted a blog that basically spoke to foundation program officers – a narrow slice of the nonprofit sector, not to mention a completely obscure audience for the general public. Michele rightly pointed out that the piece was way too “inside baseball” and noted that the average reader has no idea or concern with the dynamics of nonprofit funding.
The training and coaching from Michele and Deborah challenged me to think about other examples of fundraising challenges that might be more relatable for people. It took a while for me to think through other examples and talk to people who were struggling with grassroots fundraising and crowd-funding the issues I care about. But eventually, I crafted an op-ed that compared the $220 million raised by the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS with the fundraising struggles of grassroots efforts connected to the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a harder piece to think through and write, but it was worth the effort.