How Do I Start a Congressional Community?
Getting groups together to make a bigger impact is what Congressional Communities is all about.
Building something bigger than yourself is one of the best things that we can do for our friends, neighbors, and colleagues. It’s about connecting people. It’s an opportunity to bring people together. Congressional Communities are groups made up of people that believe in each other and help each other.
So, you love the idea of Congressional Communities! We commend your foresight and vision!
But the idea is new. And you’re asking yourself, “Where do I begin? What do I do first? How do I start a Congressional Community?”
The very first thing to do might sound a bit zen-like, but we think it will be helpful –
Decide you’re going to make it happen. This is our country. You and your neighbors have a right to have your voices heard by your representatives. We just need to bring structure to our currently unorganized districts.
Then, decide what kind of role you want to play. Do you want to be a founder and leader in the community, or are you more comfortable in a support role? Either way, we want to assure you that we are building this movement with the average person in mind – the vast majority of us who’d like to spend a few hours a week (if that) trying to stay informed, trying to be involved in government, trying to make things better.
But, for the purposes of this blog, we’ll assume you want to be a founder – that you want to start a Congressional Community in your area.
Here are some practical steps:
- Contact us to make sure someone else hasn’t already begun. Please go here to contact us and we will get right back to you.
- We’ll ask you to provide us with your address or a nearby landmark (restaurant, school, library).
- Unless you happen to live in a town with close to 30,000 people in it, we will use the information to draft proposed boundaries for your Congressional Community. This should not take us more than a day or so.
- While you’re waiting for us to get back to you, continue recruiting people to join you. It’s not a community without other people!
- Once you have a half-dozen people or so, draft an agenda for a meeting with your member of Congress. Get as many people as you know involved in the process.
- Review the boundaries we’ve sent to you with other people in the community. If it looks right, let us know and we’ll finalize it and add it to our national map. If it needs refinements, tell us what to fix.
- After the boundaries are set and you’ve got a core of people interested in the process, contact your representative’s office to let them know:
- You’ve formed a Congressional Community
- What your community will be expecting of them
- That you want to schedule a meeting with your representative in your community
- Send them your proposed agenda and ask them for feedback
- A note about first meeting agendas – Allow time for your representative and for various members of the community to talk about themselves, personally. Get to know each other. Don’t be 100% business at this first meeting.
- Ask your representative to explain the committees and subcommittees they belong to, and why.
- In the event of a large attendance, discuss how people will be selected to ask questions or offer ideas
- Once you’ve gotten a commitment from your representative, decide on a location for the meeting (see the government produced brochure for how to hold a community meeting). Many locations like community centers, restaurants, and coffee shops allow groups to met for free.
- Let CongressionalCommunities.org know about the meeting so we can post it on our website and social media pages.
- Get the word out in the community about the meeting, emphasizing that:
- this meeting is being hosted by your area’s Congressional Community
- Congressional Communities are about working towards establishing a long-term, friendly working relationship with our representative and their staff to identify and solve problems (see, Do’s & Don’ts)
- everyone is welcome to attend
- meeting with our rep and their staff will now be the norm
- you’re looking to tap into the local expertise, especially on specific subjects on the agenda
- you’re prepared to ask questions about those items
- Continue to work with the representative’s office on the meeting format
- At the meeting, have sign-up sheets as people enter so they can join your Congressional Community
- Get their email and mailing address
- Tell them about CongressionalCommunities.org so they can learn more about the movement
- Finish every meeting with an agreed upon date for the next meeting
We will be updating our website frequently with feedback from other communities on what works best. Please feel free to share your experience – to let others know what you did to start a Congressional Community where you live.
Thank you very much for helping us with this movement. America’s great experiment in government by the people is a story that is still being written. It is our belief that this is going to be one of its most important chapters.