This article (and it’s companion, Post-Launch Trajectory) is dedicated to informing ORMA supporters who are not on the Transition Team (and there are thousands across Massachusetts) who want to stay engaged in the process of forming a new ORMA. Here, ORMA”s star reporter and press liaison Andrea Burns interviews four members of the Transition Team.
Chris Braiotta, Coordinating Committee
When it came time to select delegates for the Massachusetts Democratic Convention, Chris Braiotta of Medford, was “really impressed with OR’s well-thought, well-executed attempt to inject ourselves into the process. Tons of small, smart choices made it possible for us to amplify our power. At the convention itself, I was wildly impressed with what we accomplished, again thanks to smart organizing and passion.”
But Chris saw weaknesses as well, such as a lack of “outreach to groups beyond our own. Valuing what we achieved, while also seeing lots of opportunities to do better, made me want to get involved.” So even though Medford lacked an organized affiliate at the time of the call for Transition Team members, Chris applied to be an “at large” member, representing the voices of other non-affiliated OR supporters.
When Chris Braiotta showed up at the July 29th kick-off, he did not know what he was getting into. “I’m new to organizing, so I expected just to watch and learn.”
However, when the call came at the end of the meeting for volunteers to form a Transition Team Coordinating Committee (TTCC), Chris was one of four that came forward. “I walked out of the room as a member of the team that’s going to shepherd the discussion on what the statewide organization should look like. Like a lot of people in that room, I saw my role grow from ‘impassioned observer’ to ‘committed actor.’”
Something powerful must have happened there. This article tells that story, from the perspective of two TTCC members, an affiliate representative and an MSP member.
Chris continued: “We had 40+ people in a room, charged with planning a convention and structure for a brand new organization. By design, the process was only lightly structured, to ensure that the process was OURS and not handed down by the founding members. The risk for chaos there was HUGE.”
If you remember the television show Get Smart, the opposite of Chaos is Control, an equally destructive element when forming a democratic organization. The Team’s task was to navigate between the rocky shoals of top-down overreach and the whirlpools of conflicts that suck the energy out of the room.
Both forces took casualties that Saturday, but the ship maintained its course. “[W]e came up with a plan for establishing a convention,” Chris continued, “and how to talk about what our organization should look like.”
Balancing these two forces — top-down control that destroys organic process, and chaotic conflicts arising between people who forget why they showed up — will continue to challenge the Transition Team and its Coordinating Committee. “It’s a relatively small number of people working on this; that’s unavoidable if we want to do anything. But we can’t succeed unless we reflect the voice of everyone that’s aligned with us, and that includes the people who are only on the edges of supporting us. Them most of all, maybe.”
“Watch for chances to make your voice heard, and stay tuned for the convention.” In the meantime, Chris concluded, “We still have a lot of work to do, but everyone knows what they should be working on. That’s a huge result.”
Matthew Miller, Meeting Facilitator
Matthew Miller had been a member of the Mission, Structure and Planning Working Group (MSP) responsible for kicking off the Transition process, and lead a subteam charged with creating an agenda to organize the day. As part of the Transition Team, Matthew served as an alternate for Caterina Strambio de Castillia, who was in Italy and could not attend.
The chaos Chris referred to happened on Matthew’s watch, as he responded to his sense that agenda needed to take a back seat to decisionmaking in the middle of the day. “I ended up facilitating a large portion of the meeting, including the Robert’s Rules based discussion/debate where a lot of things got decided,” he said. “It was contentious but productive and people got a lot of thoughts out there.”
It is unlikely that anyone participating in this session, which may have lasted as long as two hours, wished they could trade places with Matthew as he took stack while Peter Corbett took notes. “ If I had to do it all again I would have used facilitator’s privilege to insist on us NOT moving into Robert’s’ Rules,” he reflected. “It stifled debate a little.”
Outside of that, Matthew felt very glad about how the day, and particularly the emphasis the MSP had placed on team formation at the start . “The meeting went really well: we created a team spirit and sense of camaraderie. We also discussed a host of issues that ORMA will need to wrestle with going into the convention.”
“I believe Massachusetts desperately needs a strong progressive and leftist grassroots organization committed to fighting for a political revolution,” Matthew concluded. ”[ORMA] is not just another liberal issue advocacy group. We will not be content with a few reforms here or there. We are fighting for a just society.”
Jeannette Rivera, Inclusivity Workgroup
Like Chris Braiotta, Jeannette Rivera attended the July 29th kickoff meeting as an unaffiliated member, in her case from the Springfield/Chicopee area. “I believe i was the only representative from Hampden County,” she said. “I had been attending meetings with our Northampton OR affiliate when I heard about the formation of the transition team.”
Also like Chris, Jeanette was moved by the shift from the planned portion of the Saturday agenda to the wild ride of the “Roberts Rules” period that preceded a late lunch. “It’s hard to wrangle a group of passionate people onto the same train of thought, especially when that train travels through so many places!”
Like her fellow volunteer Coordinating Committee member Chris, Jeannette left the meeting juiced. “Overall, I’m happy with the productivity accomplished after some fresh air and full bellies. We were able to create & establish work groups based on interest to tackle the many tasks needed to create a successful convention! I’ve now also been personally connected with so many brilliant, compassionate, hard working people.”
Jeannette, latinx, joined and leads the Inclusivity Workgroup and intends to reach out to non-white groups in Chicopee, Holyoke and Springfield. To fellow Transition Team members, the TTCC’s Jeannette Rivera exhorts: “Continue to go out into your communities and find out what important work is needed, and ask yourselves how you, yourself, can help. Continue to build bridges and keep us apprised to what’s happening locally.”
To ORMA supporters not on the TT, Jeannette invites: “[W]e are really trying to be inclusive in this process. We are encouraging individuals, affiliated or not, to reach out to local TT members. Heck, we are not opposed to growing our team, especially with newly joined members to represent the currently un/under represented! We are all dedicated to creating an organization that is democratic, progressive in its ideals and process & inclusive of the people that fill our diverse state.”
Garrett Whitney, Structure and Program Workgroups
Although newer organizers Chris and Jeannette were both taken aback by the chaotic pre-lunch “Roberts Rules” section of the kickoff meeting, veteran organizer Garrett Whitney, representing Our Revolution Concord, took it in stride.
“The meeting went really well,” Garrett said. “I believe our biggest accomplishment was everyone worked well together,” In this, Garrett reflected a take-away reported by most of the meeting attendees. “The transition team is a good representative group of people working hard to organize a successful convention and state organization.”
Garrett dove in with both feet to help work towards planning the Founding Convention targeted for October. For Garrett, ORMA needs to become “a well-structured, effective and viable organizing force.” For his own part, “I joined a workgroup on Structure and one on Program. We have had two meetings since the July meeting. We have been exploring the best ways to give supporters a say in defining the structure of the new ORMA, so that it is both democratic and effective.”
To that end, Garrett echoes the pleas of our TTCCS: “Please let us know what you want ORMA to be and continue to advocate for the things you care most about. This is a work in progress and must reflect the members!”