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From Harvard Square to the Oval Office offers 10 skills-training sessions throughout the academic year in which students learn how to run for office, be the candidate and survive an election. These sessions are made possible by the Barbara Lee Women in U.S. Politics Training Program and Lecture Series Endowment Fund.
In addition, the cohort meets for “off-the-record” sessions with elected officials and other leaders who speak candidly about their experiences in political life. Students also organize and attend networking events for cohort members and alumnae.
In this session, we explore the political factors critical to making a successful decision to run. We will cover effectively formulating a campaign message, defining your platforms, and achieving a comprehensive understanding of both your constituency and the current political atmosphere. Students will examine how to address the advantages and challenges of female candidacy with a keen understanding of what you have to offer as a candidate.
Once you commit to run for political office, numerous decisions lie ahead. This session will focus on the planning phase of the campaign. Students will learn how to recruit staff and experts to garner success, how to create an effective staff plan, and a strong campaign plan. We will also discuss strategies to survive a primary.
Develop public speaking techniques, and prepare for campaign trail Q&A. We will discuss campaign speeches and slogans, as well as how wardrobe and body language can affect your message. Each student will present a prepared 3-4 minute speech and receive advice on creating a focused approach on message development and campaign strategy.
Money can make or break a political campaign. In this training, we will focus on the design and implementation of an effective campaign finance plan. We will tackle the big challenges: who to ask and how to ask for campaign contributions. Students will develop a method to classify donors and learn the essential tools to make the ask effective. This session will also cover the evolving and complex arena of campaign finance law.
The media plays a vital role in your campaign; it is the conduit for your message, and consumes the largest part of your budget. Learn how to develop your strategy, implement it and keep control of it. We will cover everything from message development to television advertising.
In this session, students will learn how to interact with local media. We will discuss interviews, press releases, how to conduct press conferences, and fielding questions from reporters during political campaigns.
In this session, we’ll practice what we’ve been learning about campaigns, communications, and presenting ourselves to others. We will practice public speaking by sharing a personal narrative. Each student will have two minutes to present. A personal narrative could be: a personal story, an anecdote, a hypothetical story, a fable, a current event, or someone else’s experience. Come prepared with an idea and a brief outline. Remember, in an outline each bullet should have only 3-4 words which help to jog your memory. Each student will have an opportunity to speak, then get feedback from the group and our trainer.
A superior political and communication strategy and a well-funded campaign may still fall short if a candidate does not have an effective “Get Out the Vote” (GOTV) plan. In this session, we will focus on utilizing data to create an effective field plan, mobilizing voters, and review lessons learned from past campaigns. Students will learn how to weather a loss or plan for what lies ahead after victory.
The complex world of party politics and constituency groups proves vital to a campaign’s success. This session will provide a model for navigating interest groups and the traditional party framework. Students will examine how to secure endorsements and how to forge the political partnerships that are critical to the mobilization of constituency groups in order to gain votes.
Learn how to position yourself in your community as a potential elected. We will cover how to get a public appointment, effectively advocate for your issue, getting involved in local campaigns, creating a strong web strategy and how to make the right connections.
Students discussing topics during an Oval Office session.
“Meeting experts and practitioners opened my eyes to many of the aspects of running and serving in elected office, and the supports I can tap into when I choose to run and serve as a community’s representative. Going through this experience with my peers reminded me that we are a strong, growing group of women with aspirations to serve through elected office, and that we need to support and push one another to achieve these goals.”
-Linda Adamson, MPP ’07 and Cohort 2006
Kate Coyne-McCoy, WAPPP Fellow and Oval Office trainer speaking with elected guest Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Sheriff Suffolk County, MA and Victoria Budson, Executive Director, WAPPP.