I've been at this gig for seven years, and one of the most frustrating things I've seen is the amount of talent available to the progressive commnunity, yet ignored because it happens to live outside of the established power centers (DC, LA, NYC), or doesn't hang out in the same circles as the big donors. Sometimes these outside efforts are even met with hostility.
Some people have managed to persevere, like most of the top bloggers, the folks at ActBlue, Drinking Liberally, and so on. But there are far more more talented folks out there with great ideas and passion for building a broad-based, grassroots-centric progressive movement that toil in anonymity, or give up because of lack of assistance and acknowledgment. It's imperative that we harness that energy and continue infusing our movement with new talent, new ideas, new technologies, new strategies, and new tactics. We cannot become as closed and insular as movements before ours.
A few years ago, I started a "fellowship" program for a handful of editors. I wasn't in position to take on employees, but via those self-funded grants, I was able to ensure that their efforts were focused on the progressive movement. In fact, all site subscription revenue has gone to that purpose the last couple of years. Now that this site can afford to hire people, I want to use the fellowship to help people outside the Daily Kos editor corps. I did so a few years ago helping fund Gina Cooper's efforts with YearlyKos, and I'm still blown away at what those efforts helped create (our modern-day Netroots Nation). I want more of that. WAY more of that. And to make that happen I've turned to Joan McCarter (mcjoan), one of the site's first fellows, to craft a program that will identify our hidden talent and:
[bring them] together for a facilitated and intensive training, networking, and idea-building retreat. Each fellow will receive a living-wage monthly stipend until their term ends or once they have created a self-sustaining organization of their own that can provide a livable wage if this event occurs before the fellowship term ends.
In the same vein, I was impressed with the efforts of Chris Bowers, via BlogPAC, to help fund political entrepreneurs.
In the summer of 2007, through BlogPac, Daily Kos and Open Left, I held the first "progressive entrepreneur contest." The contest was designed to find—and fund--emerging, netroots focused concepts for progressive organizations. The grants helped an activist map every precinct in Washington State, allowed Blue Jersey to hire a statehouse reporter in Trenton, and also provided assistance to the Black Agenda Report, Blogs United, and Soapblox. You can read more about the 2007 infrastructure contest here.
So we have teamed up with Bowers to wed his "Take Flight Microgrants" with our own efforts. The goals are two-fold -- provide seed grants to innovative progressives, and provide larger fellowships to those who show the most promise. In addition to the obvious financial benefits for recipients, we hope that our efforts help shine a spotlight on these talented political entrepreneurs and validate their efforts, encouraging them to persist rather than surrender discouraged.
A big difference from the past -- the Kos Fellowship Program is now a 501(c)(3) organization, which means that contributions are tax deductible. We are using the
Tides Foundation Tides Center as our fiscal sponsor.
Kos Media, LLC, will support the project with annual grants approaching (or exceeding, if the economy cooperates) six-figures. However, our ability to support the most innovative among us will require a broader fundraising base.
You can contribute here. Remember, all contributions are tax deductible. Consider, if your financial situation allows, a recurring contribution. Even $5/month adds up.
Over the coming week, you'll be hearing more about this program -- about our plans, and about the people who have already been helped. Sure, this isn't as sexy as beating Republicans in an election, and times are tough, but it's an investment in the people that are making our movement grow. Please help out if you can.