BISC’s 360 Ballot Measure Lifecycle

What is the 360 Ballot Measure Lifecycle?

The 360 lifecycle is a five part framework designed to build long-term, state-based capacity, bring people together around a common goal, center those most impacted, and shift the culture of how we do things, because it’s how we win that helps us to build power.

The 360 lifecycle consists of 5 phases: 

  1.  Incubation Phase: Policy solutions and narratives are born out of impacted  communities, an initiative begins with an exploration of the concept, some initial research, and the formation of a coalition of organizations to hold this work.
  2. Decision Phase: Determines the initiative’s viability in the current political landscape. At the end of this phase, the coalition will determine whether or not to move forward to the next phase.
  3. Qualification Phase: Where qualification signatures are gathered, earned media begins, and language for the initiative is developed and certified by the state.
  4.  Campaign Phase: The campaign reaches full maturity in an all-out effort to educate  and mobilize voters in an attempt to pass the initiative.
  5.  Implementation Phase: The work is done to ensure the will of the people is executed  by elected officials. Lessons learned inform the next 360 lifecycle. 

The 360 model highlights the importance of each phase. Each phase builds off one another, and no phase can be successful without the success of the others.  

This model epitomizes alignment by sequencing clear steps in the ballot initiative process, assigning lanes for each role and task, and elevating the funding needed to achieve these  steps. The concept transforms how we engage in states by focusing on the impact and what remains in state upon completion of the full lifecycle (initiative and implementation) with a goal of ensuring strong and sustainable organizations, engaged voters, and communities  benefiting from positive policy changes.  

This model is intended to build into the subsequent cycle such that funding for state-based  efforts becomes stable and continuous – necessary for our long-term success in the states. This model could become an industry standard where resourcing would be coordinated, clear program gaps would be filled, the impact would be explicit to funders, and every dollar  invested would generate a measurable impact towards our immediate and future success. 

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Why do we need a 360 Ballot Measure Lifecycle?

As polarization and ideological entrenchment define and often gridlock the landscape of partisan politics, ballot initiatives are a vehicle for states to drive otherwise unimaginable progressive policy victories. Even in Republican trifecta states, well-run and well-resourced ballot initiatives are creating life changing impacts for people across the nation. 

However, ballot initiatives are not just about winning single-cycle issues. Within a larger ecosystem of progressive infrastructure, ballot initiatives are power builders that can shift culture and narrative while activating sometimes latent portions of the electorate.  When they are run at the highest potential, investments in ballot initiatives pay off long after a win — with increased infrastructure capacity and shifts in voter preferences providing a foundation for future progressive victories.

Unfortunately, the boom and bust nature of philanthropy means too many ballot initiatives do not live up to their potential.  It is no surprise that underfunded campaigns are more likely to lose, but rarely do we consider the other opportunity costs of narrow, late investments in ballot initiative campaigns. Ballot initiative campaigns without funding for implementation are often stymied by opposition after election day, with the actual impact of policy never reaching its intended audience. Campaigns without early resources for organizing and incubation rarely include the leadership of directly impacted communities, which sometimes means policies don’t reflect the most strategic priorities and almost never include racial equity as a core value. While a late and minimally funded ballot initiative can win over 50% of the vote with traditional campaign infrastructure that collapses after election day, this model leaves so much potential for power on the table.

The good news is progressive leaders in some states are already leading the work of “360 ballot campaigns,” and we can amplify and invest in this model towards scale. The 360 Ballot Measure Lifecycle invites the progressive funding community to consider an alternative model of ballot initiative investment grounded in a deep commitment to policy impact and the opportunities of cumulative multi-cycle power building. 

It’s important to note that the 360 Lifecycle coincides with the principles and practices of the DoE (Declaration of Equity and Accountability). These tools must be integrated together in order for transformational campaign strategy to be operationalized.