An Evaluation of the Mobilize the Immigrant Vote California Collaborative

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Prepared by See Change Evaluation, Inc

The Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV) California Collaborative is a non-partisan coalition of social justice organizations and coalitions in regions of California with growing immigrant populations. Founded in 2004 by activists concerned about disenfranchisement and low electoral participation rates among immigrants, MIV has developed a leveraged approach to educating and involving citizens in local, state, and national decision-making. Describing their approach as “movement-building electoral organizing,” their innovative strategies involves existing community-based organizations in capacity-building, education about the policy process, and integrating civic engagement activities into their existing services and offerings.

Spearheaded by Partnership for Immigrant Leadership & Action (PILA), MIV is led by a steering committee made up of representatives from PILA and the following five organizations: the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition (BAIRC), the Korean Resource Center (KRC), and Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN), and the California Partnership (CAP). Each partner is an independent organization or coalition, with its own board, staff, and constituency. Based on a set of shared goals, each group builds partnerships with other grassroots groups and community-based organizations in its region of the state, distributing information and providing education for voters and potential voters about the electoral process and issues affecting immigrant communities.

The long-term goal of MIV is not simply to increase voter turnout or win on a given issue. Rather, the "coalition of coalitions" is interested in building political power within the communities it serves. The nature of MIV's movement-building electoral organizing approach is to value the lasting awareness of issues, empowerment, and relationships among community members that are created through electoral work as highly as immediate victories at the ballot box. Historically, national advocacy groups have taken lead roles in communities to register voters and get-out-the-vote (GOTV). These organizations typically will establish a temporary headquarters in a neighborhood, bring in staff and volunteers from outside the community, and then pack up and leave when the given election cycle is over, only to return two to four years later. MIV works differently, building long-term relationships with local organizations and, in turn, individuals within communities in both "peak" times (election cycles) and "slow" times (between election cycles). Indeed, many MIV partners say there is no such thing as a "between election cycle" period; to be effective, the work is necessarily year-round. Their belief is that there is a mutually-reinforcing effect of electoral work on community cohesion and empowerment, and of community cohesion and empowerment on electoral work. The table below illustrates the differences MIV sees between traditional and movement-building electoral work:

  • Focuses solely on election cycles
  • Win or lose
  • Focuses on likely voters
  • Numbers are the only bottom line
  • Tactical coalitions dominated by one strong anchor
  • Year-round civic engagement- links election cycles to the ongoing work of organizations
  • Building power over each election cycle
  • Seeks to educate and involve all stakeholders-likely voters, unlikely voters, ineligible community members
  • Values both numbers and the quality of contacts-critical consciousness, not just mobilizing is key
  • Investment in building strong, equitable alliances with model collaborative practices

MIV seeks to build evidence that supports the effectiveness of movement-building electoral organizing. Rather than assessing only quantitative measures of voting behavior, such as numbers of new voters, or exit poll data, MIV seeks to identify and track indicators that would suggest their desired movement-building outcomes are also being attained. Looking at both types of data over time will provide essential insights about the value of MIV's approach.

In identifying indicators that effectively track movement-building, MIV also seeks to contribute to the field of civic engagement and electoral organizing. Increasingly, grantmakers and community-based organizations are in need of concepts and measurement strategies that document the incremental, and sometimes less tangible outcomes they are realizing in their work. The indicators of change presented in this report offer a potentially useful framework for assessing the progress of integrated voter engagement strategies.


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