Starting a Pro-Truth Pledge Chapter

Caption: Image of red figure as leader of group (nistdh/Flickr)

Are you excited about the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP) and interested in starting your own chapter? Awesome! Let’s talk about how to be an area organizer for the PTP.

Goals

All the chapters start from a single seed of a passionate person dedicated to fighting misinformation and post-truth politics. You will be recruiting and coordinating others to ensure the outcomes of the Pro-Truth Pledge are met, namely that:

  • The PTP is effectively promoted to the public, getting more and more people to sign
  • There is effective lobbying of public figures, especially politicians, to get them to sign
  • There is effective evaluation of local-level public figures who signed the pledge
  • There are effective behind-the-scenes activities needed to support activities on the local level, such as management of communication processes and collaboration venues, and community support for PTP activities
  • There is sufficient financial support to address the needs of the local group for things like printing, travel, tabling, and marketing, and also donations to the global Pro-Truth movement run by the educational nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit Intentional Insights to run the central operations of the PTP
  • There is effective coordination of all the areas of PTP activity listed above

Sounds like a lot, right? Don’t worry, it takes a lot of time – many months and even years – to build up to the level of a full-fledged chapter that accomplishes all these goals! However, it’s good to know the eventual destination, so that you know where you’re going. It’s also helpful to know that others have already gotten there – for example the Central Ohio chapter – so you have a clear roadmap to follow.

There are clear guidelines for all aspects of PTP activism at this link, so you don’t have to worry about lacking directions. You should also read through and be comfortable with the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to address any concerns. Of course, the central PTP organizers – the PTP Central Coordination Committee (CCC) – will be there to help you every step of the way. If you do decide to take on this role, you will be assigned both a mentor from among more experienced PTP area organizers, and a contact at the PTP CCC who will help you out.

Role and Timing

The role of an area organizer is to empower and support other PTP Advocates – which is the name we use for PTP volunteers – in effective collaboration to advance all aspects of the PTP project. You as an area organizer are accountable for the outcomes of the 6 areas of PTP activities listed above. To do so, we find that seeing yourself as a leader enacting the following behaviors is really helpful:

  • Inspiring people to volunteer and donate by communicating first about the problems that the PTP is solving, sharing successes, and then letting them know about the needs of the group
  • Finding a good fit for the ones who start to get involved in the various activities available
  • Helping those who get involved work together well by setting up clear communication processes and collaborative venues
  • Encouraging shared expectations and sticking to commitments, and renegotiation of commitments and expectations when life stuff comes up
  • Modeling the behaviors of the Pro-Truth Pledge both in-person and on social media (for the latter, follow all the guidelines in this blog)
  • Modeling direct and transparent communication, erring on the side of an overabundance of communication rather than insufficient communication
  • Exhibiting emotional and social intelligence to read people and channel their enthusiasm and other emotions into healthy channels
  • Addressing conflicts that will arise in an effective and healthy manner
  • Providing an engaging community setting: doing fun things together, in-person and online; getting to know each other socially; building a truth-oriented community where people can find a home
  • Being a cheerleader for accomplishments, and giving due praise

Remember that you will be organizing people who have very different values than you do. Whether you are religious or secular, left-leaning or right-leaning, or any other ideological perspective, you will be bringing together people to work on a shared project of advocating for truth-oriented behaviors in addressing value differences. That means that you yourself need to model an inclusive and welcoming attitude for people with different values, and be especially welcoming and inclusive toward people with values different from your own and also those whose values are in the minority in your group. Doing so will be key to helping these people both be engaged in the Pro-Truth movement and as a result reach out to their social networks and communicate the Pro-Truth message to people who hold similar values and change the culture in our society.

It takes a minimal commitment of 2 hours a week for 12 months to build up a chapter, with more on some weeks depending on what’s going on, so keep that in mind as you decide whether to go on this journey.

Caption: Image saying “not sure if I’m ready to make that sort of commitment” (Meme created by blog author)

Fortunately, you don’t have to make a solid commitment to starting up a chapter. You can just start by canvassing to gather signatures or doing public speaking, which are the two main methods of recruiting other participants. This takes a much lower commitment of time and effort, and if you are not ready to make a 2-hour commitment for 12 months, just work on canvassing and/or doing public speaking.

Financial Support

Let’s talk about giving you money! If you or any of the people you are coordinating have financial difficulties for any PTP-related needs, we can reimburse the large majority of them. See this link. For area organizers like yourself, we will consider additional requests for funding for your needs above and beyond the ones listed above, just email finance [at] intentionalinsights [dot] org with your needs and depending on our financial capacity, we will see what can be done.

This is one of the reasons for why eventually – when the group is well-established and self-supporting – there’s an expectation of members making donations to the central PTP organization. We finance any PTP Advocates – whether area organizers or not – who need financial support for PTP activism. We also spend money on marketing, website management, and other costs. So as you do area organizing, encourage members to donate both to local group needs and to the central PTP organization.

Plan of Action

Here’s the plan of action for starting up your area group.

  • As an area organizer, you’d want to do activities that are most impactful, which means moving as quickly as possible in coordinating other people and doing strategic planning, rather than doing ground-level activities (however much fun those might be for you).
  • You’ll start off by first getting signatures: in our experience, at least 20 percent of the people who sign up indicate they want to help, and about 20 percent of those turn out to be reliable and consistent volunteers. Here is a blog with thorough directions for gathering signatures at events through canvassing or tabling. Another way to gather signatures is to do public speaking, and gather signatures from audience members: this blog gives extensive directions on doing so.
  • You can also do local-level social media, and go to various local Facebook groups and other relevant social media to promote the PTP there. You can write blogs in local venues or letters-to-the-editor in local newspapers about the pledge. This will help spread the word in the local area, but not contribute much to building up a chapter. Face-to-face interactions are crucial for doing so.
  • A super-easy way to promote the pledge in daily life is to purchase and wear PTP-themed merchandise, especially when you do PTP-themed activities, but also just out and about – it’s a great conversation starter.
  • Once you gather enough signatures, you would want to focus on coordinating people in their volunteer activities, decreasing your own time doing ground-level activities. Once you have about 5 people in the area interested in the PTP, start organizing meetings: here’s one typical videotaped meeting with an agenda attached in the video description that comes from the early stage of setting up an area group.
  • We suggest you focus these volunteers first on gathering more signatures, enough to form a solid core team in your area of about 20-30 consistent volunteers. At the same time, you’ll want to form a coordinating committee, of about 3-5 people, who can each take charge of different areas of PTP activities and work together to coordinate other volunteers. As you start having increased numbers of people participating, check out these guidelines to help you lead effectively.
  • Once you gather at least 250 signatures, and get a person who is able to take charge of lobbying, you will be ready to start lobbying local-level elected or appointed officials and other public figures in your locale to take the pledge, using the guidelines here. Of course, you can do virtual lobbying earlier, through sending them emails and tweeting them and sending Facebook messages and calling them, but do not take the time to meet them in-person until you have gathered 250 signatures as they will be unlikely to listen to you.
  • In lobbying public officials, we advise you to start with candidates for office rather than office-holders, as the candidates will be more likely to take the pledge, since they have less to lose by doing so. Once a candidate for office takes the pledge, you can then go to incumbents and tell them that the candidate for office took it, and you also have a lot of signatures from their constituents asking them to take it, and see if they take it. After you get a dozen or so public figures signed up, you will want to establish a monitoring system, following the directions at this link.
  • Try to set up collaborations with local groups interested in the PTP, which would usually be various kinds of grassroots political or civic education or science-themed activism groups. Ask leaders in those groups to take the PTP, and get the whole group committed to the PTP, and they will then help you advance the PTP message. Also coordinate with local branches of national organizations.
  • Please make sure that, within any ordinary situation, you will respond to emails or Facebook messages about the PTP within 48 hours, and to texts or voicemails within 24 hours. It’s fine to respond saying “I got your message and will respond by ____,” so that the other person knows that you are accountable to get back to them in that time. As we are trying to promote truth and accountability, it is really important to be accountable as area organizers. Of course, emergencies come up, and that’s totally understandable. Still, if it is not an emergency and you are traveling or on vacation, please indicate that through email vacation auto-responders or something of that style. Be as professional and accountable in your activism as you can be, both to internal stakeholders such as members of the pro-truth movement, and external stakeholders who want to learn more about the movement.

Communication and Coordination

Let’s talk a bit about communication and coordination.

  • If you want to be an area organizer, please email info [at] protruthpledge [dot] org, and you will be connected both to an experienced area organizer as a mentor and an Area Organizers Coordinator on the PTP CCC.
  • Make sure to meet with your mentor once every 2 weeks for 6 months by videoconference or phone to help you get launched on your own.
  • Please join the PTP Area Organizers Google Group, our email list for area organizers like yourself. Just click on the link in the previous sentence and request to join the group if you haven’t been added to it already by one of the core organizers. Add the email pro-truth-pledge-area-organizers@googlegroups.com to your safe senders/contact list.
  • You will be added to the secret Facebook group for PTP Area Organizers. Since it is secret, you can’t join yourself, but let the person who recruited you know if they forget to add you in a timely manner. You will also get an invitation to the Pro-Truth Pledge Slack for core PTP participants like yourself.
  • You should use the Slack and secret Facebook group for things that you only want core participants to comment on and know. For example, if you’re planning out things that might be perceived as controversial, such as how to put pressure on public figures to take the PTP, these are good venues to do so. So are things that require more privacy, such as discussing how to push someone to retract a statement, or how to address problems with other PTP Advocates in your group, and so on. Another good use of these groups is to troubleshoot or run ideas by a small core group rather than the bigger and less in-the-know people in the PTP Global Advocates FB group. For asking questions on PTP strategy and tactics that are of a more general nature, as well to share accomplishments, the PTP Advocates FB group is your best bet. If you want to share relevant articles that are not about the pledge but about politics in general, use the InIn Insiders group. In general, anything that has to do with the pledge is best for the Pro-Truth Pledge Advocates FB group, so make sure that anything you post there is explicitly related to the pledge. The other group is for broader content related to truth and rational thinking, in politics and other life areas.
  • Each month at the end of the month, please fill out this brief update form (5-10 minutes) about your activities for the past month fighting lies and promoting truth via advancing the PTP to ensure shared expectations and clear communication. It will be sent to you in the Google Group for PTP area organizers (pro-truth-pledge-area-organizers@googlegroups.com) and also via FB. That form allows you to share what you are doing, what challenges you might be facing, and how the PTP CCC can help, whether providing you with existing resources you might not know about or develop new resources to address your needs. Please fill it out within 3 days of receipt (might want to just put a calendar reminder for yourself with a link to that form if that works well for you). After you fill it out, the PTP CCC Area Organizers Coordinator will send you names of people who signed up to help with the PTP in your area over the past month, and provide you with helpful resources, both based on your self-description of your activities and plans, and on your specific request for resources (sometimes, area organizers may be unfamiliar with all the resources available, which is why your description of your past activities and future plans is relevant for the resources section). If you due to some life events have not had an opportunity to work much on the PTP in the last month, or anticipate not being able to work on it much in the upcoming month, simply state so in the form.
  • After you get the list of names of people who signed up to help with the PTP in your area over the past month, reach out to them using following this draft template, adapting it to your own needs. Make a reminder to yourself to follow up with them in a week after you sent the original email, using FollowUpThen (simply add 1w@fut.io in your BCC field).
  • Likewise, try to find them on Facebook. We know that some people don’t like Facebook, but we strongly recommend you use Facebook as an organizing tool, so if you currently do not have a Facebook account, please set one up for this explicit purpose, as it’s very effective for that purpose, and encourage PTP Advocates in your locale to do so as well. You can find them on FB (if they have an account) relatively easily: just go to the Facebook search box, and put in their first and last name and state. If you find more than one person with that name in the state, then you can search by city. We recommend not searching by city right away, because some people’s actual city may not match their city on Facebook: for example, people may live in a small suburb of a large city, but indicate on Facebook that they live in the large city for clarity. If you’re relatively confident you found the right person, then send them a message saying “Thanks for taking the Pro-Truth Pledge at https://www.protruthpledge.org/ I’m an area organizer for [area], and wanted to connect on Facebook to facilitate communication and collaboration. Please extend me a Facebook friend request.” If you’re not sure that you found the right person, send a message saying “Did you take the Pro-Truth Pledge at https://www.protruthpledge.org/ ? I’m an area organizer for [area], and wanted to connect on Facebook to facilitate communication and collaboration. Please extend me a Facebook friend request if you did take the pledge.”
  • If you know the person and are connected with them on Facebook or elsewhere, send the email just using their first name instead of first name and last name: the point of this email is to welcome them and give them the background knowledge about the movement. If they don’t respond in a week, check in with a message like, “Dear [first name, last name], wanted to confirm you received my previous email about the Pro-Truth Pledge, and that it did not fall into your spam filter. Thanks!”
  • For folks who you connected with by FB, check with them additionally by FB messenger whether they received your email. If they don’t respond in a week after that, try contacting them from another email address, in case the spam filter blocked your original one. After that, contact them by phone if you have it, texting “Hi [first name, last name], checking whether you got my email about the Pro-Truth Pledge,” and if they don’t respond, then calling and leaving a voicemail. At that stage, if you don’t get a response, let it go.
  • One of your roles as area organizer will be to manage the area Facebook group: please act as the group moderator (role described here). If there is no Facebook group for your area, get in touch with your PTP Area Organizers Coordinator to have one created. We usually make groups for states within the US and countries outside the US: once there are enough people in a country outside the US, we make regional-level groups. One of the things you’ll want to do eventually is delegate some moderator activities to others: you’ll still be accountable for making sure they’re done, so check up to make sure the person is doing them well. We find people tend to have an unfortunate tendency of forgetting to do the tasks described there. To see how a more established FB group works, join the Ohio PTP Advocates FB group – click on the link and request to join the group, and in the answer to question 3, say that you are an area organizer, and want to see how a more established group works. After the group is set up, then add all participants in your locale to it following the directions at this link.
  • After you have enough people in your area (over 100), we recommend that you use these directions to set up a Google Group, which is essentially a simplified email list, for your area dedicated to PTP-oriented activities. This is for when you have a few people actively involved, so that you don’t just keep emailing each other. Name it [area] Pro-Truth Pledge Advocates, which will help people standardize things well across the country. For the group description and welcome message, we advise something like “Thanks for helping fight lies and promote the truth through joining this email list, which is focused on the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP) and other Pro-Truth movement activities in [area]. You are welcome to send any emails relevant to PTP organizing in this list, but please avoid overwhelming folks with an overabundance of emails, so send no more than one every three days unless there’s an emergency or great opportunity. Thanks!” When adding people, use “direct add” rather than invitations, as sometimes invitations go to spam. For settings, allow everyone to send emails to the list at first, until you have too many people sending emails, and at that time, put in moderation so that people don’t become overwhelmed: a good benchmark is a maximum of 1 email every 2 days, but check with your email list members by having them fill out a poll occasionally on their experience with the list. Also, make it so users choose where to send replies, to the list as a whole or to the individual who sent the original email. Please also join the Ohio PTP Advocates Google Group – click on the link and request to join the group – to see how an established group works.
  • Also, we recommend that you create a Google Docs folder with various documents relevant to your group, such as lists of volunteers, various events where you want to gather signatures, various public figures in your local area you want to target, and so on – here is an example of one such Google Docs folder for the Central Ohio PTP group. This allows group members to collaborate together effectively.
  • One of the early tasks to do for your group is to get people to find local events to get PTP signatures. An easy way to do so is to create a Google Form like this one, provide it to your group members, and have them find events. Then, you can coordinate people in attending these events. Remember, try to do everything you can to lower barriers for them and make organizing as easy as possible
  • Once your group gets large enough to have a coordinating group of organizers, consider creating a FB message thread or separate Google Group specifically for the organizers in your locale.
  • Once your Facebook Group and Google Group is going, it’s time to create an Area Facebook Page (guidelines here) and Area Twitter Account (guidelines here). Doing so is important for providing you with credibility and public visibility. Do not feel obliged to take on doing this task yourself if you have more important priorities or lack time, instead find volunteers who are excited about doing these. Focus first on large areas, to encompass states or countries, and only later moving down to cities as support builds up.
  • For guidance on creating a Facebook Group, Google Group, Google Folder, Google Form, Facebook Page, Twitter Account, or anything like that, talk to your mentor or PTP CCC coordinator.

We strongly recommend that you offer to meet with people individually to help get them oriented, either in-person or online, and once you have more than a couple of people actively involved, set up a regular meeting once a month dedicated to advancing the PTP in your locale. While not all will become actively involved in meetings and signature-gathering, those who do will spread the PTP through their social networks, do research, lobby politicians, donate, and so on. It’s really important to try to do at least one face-to-face meeting – virtual or videoconference – to get them involved with this project. Also, don’t worry about being overwhelmed with meetings as a result of sending out emails. Our experience is that only about a third of the people you email will end up meeting with you, and it will take many weeks for some to do so, so you have plenty of time to space it out.

Conclusion

Being an area organizer of a local chapter is perhaps the most important thing you can do with your time to advance the fight against misinformation and post-truth politics. We will gladly support your efforts. Please let us know how we can help!

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