From Chris’ Desk: Close your eyes and think back to 25 years ago…

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Close your eyes and think back to 25 years ago.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was released, Britney Spears topped the charts with “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” and “The Boy is Mine” was the song of the summer. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was THE hit show, Titanic swept the Oscars, and the Sex and the City series began. Furbies were a craze, you rented from Blockbuster, and you were jamming on your MP3 player. Apple debuted the iMac, Google was founded, and if you could afford a cell phone, it was probably a Nokia with a T9 keyboard. The Bulls won its final three-peat with Jordan, and France won the World Cup. President Clinton was impeached, the Euro was created, the Jonesboro school shooting happened, Matthew Shepherd and James Byrd Jr. were murdered, and the Good Friday Agreement was signed. 

It was a different time. There are parallels today, events made lasting impacts, and progress was made. 

25 years ago, two organizations were also created: the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center and BISC Foundation to support progressive leaders and organizations on ballot measures and the role they play with voter engagement. Back then, we were mostly on defense — facing efforts to undermine worker’s rights, environmental protections, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s health, and more. We were more tactical, transactional, and political. 

Just like the world has changed in the last 25 years, the BISC of today is different. The core of what BISC does remains the same – we train, we convene, we offer strategic assistance, we conduct research, we analyze the landscape, we help build plans, and more. 

Five years ago, we found ourselves in the midst of great generational change. HOW we did the work needed to shift. Alongside many of you, BISC reflected and reimagined our role in the progressive ecosystem. This is the journey we have been on for the last five years.  

In order to achieve our vision of building a world where all people are fully liberated, live with dignity, and thrive, we had to progress and evolve as an organization. Today, we consider ourselves a movement building organization rooted in building durable, independent, state-based power. We’ve set our strategies around shifting the culture of ballot measure efforts to lead to transformational, equitable wins that leave something behind. We can no longer focus on just the campaign, instead we focus on every aspect of the 360 Ballot Measure Lifecycle as a way to build power, bring people together, and break the systems that don’t serve equity and justice.

The WHO has also been incredibly important to us.

We prioritize and center historically excluded communities, especially Black, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latinx people,  young folx, and grassroots organizations. It is important for all of us to consider who is driving the change and whether it will have a transformative impact on the communities who have been excluded from our democracy for too long.

In a couple of weeks, we will gather to celebrate BISC’s 25th anniversary. In particular, BISC will focus on the last five years of impact and how together we are shifting the culture of the ballot measure ecosystem. 

And wow, there have been significant and important transformations. 

In the last five years, together, we created the Declaration of Equity and Accountability to disrupt race, power, and privilege dynamics in ballot measure efforts and lead equitable and winning campaigns. Out of the chaos and pain of COVID-19, our rapid response cohort has evolved into our Peer-to-Peer and Skills Building Cohorts to share best practices and develop new skills for ballot measure leaders. The BISC team has doubled in size to add internal capacity to better serve our partners. We have developed participatory research models that have won awards and inform our collective strategy. And so much more.

There has been so much progress by BISC that you, our partners, have helped us achieve. There isn’t a BISC success story that doesn’t include our community, because we believe strongly in collaboration. So, as we begin our 25th anniversary celebration, we are launching the Progress X BISC campaign.

The Progress X BISC 25th Anniversary Campaign is a digital communications effort that highlights and lifts up the progress and impacts made by BISC and our partners, funders, and allies with a focus on the last five years of impact. Importantly, the campaign is about community and centers leadership, celebration, and joy. We will be engaging our community and asking folks to answer the question: “Looking into the next 25 years, what does progress mean to you?”

If you’d like the opportunity to be featured in our campaign, just fill out this form, and follow our hashtag #ProgressXBISC!

We are proud of the progress we have made because of the strong and beautiful partnerships we have with our community. So as we move into our 25th year, honoring the journey we’ve taken together and celebrating our community, as well as BISC, feels vitally important. 

Regardless of our beginnings and the shifts we have made, this truth remains the same: For more than two decades, BISC and BISC Foundation have been at the forefront of making ballot measures a tool for change. We will continue to work in partnership so that we can all live in dignity and thrive.