At the last DSA-LA Convention in July 2022, the membership approved 3 priority campaigns for the chapter to pursue. Limiting our yearly priorities to three main campaigns is one of our organization’s key agreements to help each other focus our efforts in the most strategic ways.

With the next convention coming up on April 22nd at Los Angeles Trade Tech College, we’re going to start sharing updates about the progress of each of the three current priority campaigns. They are:

  • Membership Engagement and Development
  • Green New Deal for Public Schools Los Angeles
  • Childcare for All Los Angeles


Let’s start with the least public of the three, “Membership Engagement and Development”. As an internally-focused campaign, very little has been announced, despite the fact that many chapter leaders have been hard at work on this resolution since last August. 

Members should be thrilled to know that a huge amount of progress has been made on developing stronger infrastructure for engaging our membership and developing their skills and engagement. The chapter has begun using a new tool, Action Builder, to enable and track personalized member organizing efforts. 46 members have been or are being onboarded as “Branch Organizers” to help build relationships with members. In February, for the first time in three years, the chapter organized simultaneous, in-person (mostly) Branch meetings for members across the entire county!

Despite challenges, which we’ll examine in the report, the results of this resolution are beginning to be felt, and the behind the scenes work promises to continue bearing fruit in the future.

Timeline and Milestones

  • August 2022 – Planning Begins. 
      • The resolution listed several big goals, but was not very prescriptive about how to achieve them. Early steps involved surveying the membership and bringing in key “stakeholders” (Branch leaders, Steering Members, and Political Education Committee) to gather feedback and plan a way forward.
  • September 2022 – Developing resources to support branches
      • Everyone involved agreed that it would be impossible to work on every goal at once, and they agreed that the biggest priority was developing the infrastructure for Branches to reach members systematically.
      • Action Builder, our new organizing tool, was researched and set up.
      • A wealth of documentation and resources for Branch Coordinators was developed.
      • A new role, “Branch Organizer”, was defined as a way for members to get involved with their Branch, helping their elected Coordinators to plan meetings and build relationships with members.
  • October-November 2022 – Establishing new Branch Organizing model
      • Elected Branch Coordinators were trained on the use of Action Builder
      • An initial recruitment campaign to identify Branch Organizers was launched, and the first wave of Branch Coordinators were trained.
  • December 2022 – Planning member development pipeline
      • After developing the system for initial outreach and relationship development, the focus shifted to planning subsequent steps for members (like trainings and regular orientation).
      • As called for by the resolution, a permanent, Steering-led “Growth and Development” working group was established to continue developing the pipeline. The working group included several members of DSA’s national Multi Racial Organizing Committee who share a commitment to incorporating Nationally-developed content addressing the challenges and necessity of multi racial organizing.
  • January-February 2022 – Ongoing Implementation
    • With the election of new Branch Coordinators in December, a big focus has been on onboarding the new leaders and setting them up for success in their work.
    • The new Growth and Dev working group has also just been starting up and developing a workplan for monthly trainings and a future leadership development retreat.
    • DSA 101 has resumed after a multiple-month hiatus, with Political Education committee offering “Train the Trainer” events so that Branches can offer the 101 themselves in the future.
    • Despite some challenges (see below), the work continues, and there is a far higher volume of regular member outreach efforts than there were before the resolution started!

Challenges and Shortcomings

  • Working through existing chapter bodies
      • In the past, some members have expressed a not-unreasonable preference for doing member engagement work through a discrete working group that can more easily focus on that single project. It has been a big challenge to try coordinating with existing Branches. There are huge benefits to investing in stronger regional branches and not siloing the work, but it is a challenge to get multiple leaders across the county on the same page, and to try establishing standards despite different levels of capacity.
  • Volunteer Capacity and Bottlenecks
      • Because this internal project was reliant on buy-in and participation from existing leaders – all of whom are volunteers, there have been lapses of communication and effectiveness throughout. This is largely unavoidable, and our plan had plenty of margins for this. Still, it has been and continues to be a challenge.
  • Timing with 2022 election cycle
      • The rollout of the new “Branch Organizer” program was planned to coincide with the November 8th general election. The idea was to fully onboard the first wave of organizers in late October, so they could be ready to connect with new incoming members invigorated by the end of the election cycle. In reality, onboarding efforts were stymied by the intense realities of constant canvasses in the final weeks. Following election day, our most engaged members were dealing with feelings of burnout that meant very little member outreach was actually organized. This was a totally predictable circumstance. Whether the plan should or could have been modified to account for it is a discussion worth having.
  • Timing with chapter election cycle
      • Compounding the election day intensity and burnout, November led us into a season of internal chapter elections that lasted into December. Outgoing leaders reasonably felt themselves to be in a lame duck season (especially with the backdrop of the holidays), and there was no time for a bounce back once post-election burnout subsided. Additionally, the realities of slowly onboarding new leaders made for an overall condition of minimal work being accomplished for nearly 2 months.
  • Scale of Commitments
      • The original resolution accurately identified several key areas of need for the chapter, and in writing it, effort was made to prioritize and even exclude other important potential projects. Still, it proved to be more than the chapter was able to accomplish in the time allotted. The first stated goal “Conduct a general membership assessment to develop a broad, chapter-wide power analysis specific to DSA-LA” has not been undertaken – though the expanded capacity of Branches puts it in reach in the near future. Similarly, while a plan exists to expand a member pipeline, we are still at least a few months away from this pipeline being a dependable fixture for members.
  • Lack of regular updates to membership
    • Because of the focus on internal coordination and planning, one shortcoming was a lack of regular campaign updates to the membership. While some milestones, like the launch of the “Branch Organizer” program, were publicized, there was not enough work done to keep members in the loop about the project as it progressed.

Key Accomplishments and Outcomes

  • Action Builder has been successfully introduced and is used regularly by Branches to coordinate new member outreach and phone banks.
  • Branch Coordinators are actively collaborating more than ever before and pursuing a shared member engagement program across the entire county.
  • The chapter has established the appointed “Branch Organizer” role as a new way that members can get involved with building their branches beyond just passively attending meetings.
  • There are currently 46 Branch Organizers who have been fully onboarded across the chapter or are in the process of being onboarded.
  • Branch-hosted DSA 101’s have begun to be calendared regularly.
  • Within the next couple months, the chapter will start to offer additional, regular trainings to sharpen and develop members.

Next Steps

  • Continue Refining Member Engagement
      • The plan to build stronger connections between members exists on paper, but it’s far from being perfectly executed. All Branches will keep at it, learning from their experience and improving their skills.
  • Launch Monthly Trainings
      • As mentioned, additional monthly trainings will launch soon, giving members additional opportunities to learn organizing skills and get grounded in DSA’s theory of change.
  • Conduct Chapterwide Assessment
      • So far an untouched resolution goal, Steering Committee should lead the Branches in conducting “an all-member assessment to gauge key metrics, such as participation, workplace density, demographics, and active geographies… with the goal of having at least 25% of members of each Branch completing the survey.”
  • Consider Potential for Ongoing Priority Commitment
    • With the next Convention rapidly approaching, members involved in this work may consider proposing a new convention resolution to continue this internal development work as a chapter priority. While a resolution is not necessary for Branches to continue their work, there has been a positive impact from having a sense of priority, the support of Steering Committee, and access to necessary chapter resources.

In summary, an incredible amount of work has happened behind the scenes to build a strong foundation for Branches to lead on building relationships with and between members. A strong group of organizers continues to work toward the goal of making DSA an engaging, accessible organization. There is still much to do, but for everyone involved in this project, it has been a great exercise in planning and coordination on a really big scale.

Members should be able to look forward to continuing to see the fruits of this internal priority campaign, but it may require more priority-level focus to make sure we don’t lose momentum in this crucial work.

If any members are interested in getting involved with their Branch, they should consider signing up to get more information about becoming Branch Organizers, which they can do here.