Field & Outreach, September 2023

Written by Grace Long, Field Coordinator | Published: September 11, 2023

Networking at Netroots Nation

Every year since 2006, over 3,000 activists from across the country have gathered at Netroots Nation, the largest annual conference for progressives. Attendees are able to learn new advocacy techniques and strategies, as well as listen to panels addressing pressing social, environmental, and political issues. Perhaps even more importantly, the event is a chance for activists to meet to discuss their work with their peers and forge new connections. Each of the three days buzzes with possibility and solidarity.

I had the honor of representing our sister organization, Population Connection Action Fund, at Netroots Nation 2023 in Chicago this past July. There was a hugely diverse list of trainings and panels this year, all of which were led by experts with years of experience in their fields. However, even though their subject matter varied, there was a core theme: Each of these events was designed to be universally applicable to all organizations, no matter their resources, goals, or area of expertise. The majority of the strategies they shared were based on small but significant changes. All of the speakers acknowledged the heavy burdens of both full-time organizers and volunteers, and they focused on ways to lighten the workload while maximizing the impact of our advocacy efforts.

Another common thread was the need to infuse joy into our activism. I learned some amazing tips about how to support our volunteers, how to encourage and uplift the activists on our mailing list, and how to make sure we share the successes of our work as well as the setbacks. This is a challenging fight, but for every campaign, there are a hundred small victories. It’s important that we celebrate them.

After the main schedule wrapped up every evening, I rushed to join one of the many independent networking events hosted around the venue. This was my favorite part of Netroots—I was so inspired by my conversations with other activists! It provided an education beyond the formal trainings, where we traded tips and ideas that wouldn’t belong in a PowerPoint presentation. Every time I spoke to another organizer, we were able to find an intersection between our missions, as well as ways we could help each other. It was enlightening to hear about the campaigns and organizations that were being built around me, all in support of a shared goal of achieving equity, health, and happiness for all. Everyone was so eager for everyone else to do well and jumped at the chance to learn more about issues outside of their professional scopes.

It can be difficult to remember the thousands of good people working on the issues that are often featured in depressing headlines. That’s the real joy of an event like Netroots. I left not only with new strategies to try, but also with a wealth of knowledge about issues I personally support. Given the intersectional nature of the progressive movement, conferences like this are invaluable. One organization alone cannot do everything that is required for its own success—it takes allies, partners, and supporters working across the spectrum of the progressive movement to advance the cause. With the help of our members and supporters, we are moving forward together.

Our sister organization, Population Connection Action Fund, is proud to have sponsored the Netroots Nation attendance of 10 activists of all different ages—organizing professionals eager to hone their skills at the invaluable workshops and networking opportunities available at this unique conference. These scholarships were prioritized for people from historically marginalized communities and for those with the greatest financial need.

Giselle Arroyo attends a session at Netroots Nation 2023 with her baby | Photo by Steve Stearns

“My favorite part about Netroots was the support and adoration I received as a new mom attending with my three-month-old. So many folks I spoke with had kind things to say to me about how important young voices are. They are our future and will be the ones to help save and repair Mother Earth.”
– Giselle Arroyo, sponsored attendee