Forging a Path for a Renaissance: Looking Back to Move Forward

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At the start of 2023, I wrote a post about my wish for all of us this year – a prosperous, joyful year filled with radical dreaming for our future. It doesn’t feel like I have been able to spend much time dreaming this year. And given the turmoil across the globe – the deep pain, suffering, and loss that many communities are experiencing – remembering the joy-filled moments or the progress we’ve made is hard. 

I am not going to pretend that the road ahead isn’t tumultuous. Or that leaders in institutions that are supposed to protect us are failing. But rather than fall into the spiral of despair which is so easy to do, I looked to the words of organizers and leaders who came before me to ground and guide me. 

I came across these words from Detroit human rights activist, Grace Lee Boggs, who reminded me that “evolution is not linear.” Progress, change, and evolution are not linear. They ebb and flow. Especially when we are challenging power. We push power and it pushes back.

In our journey towards equity, justice, and liberation for all, we will make giant leaps forward and inevitable steps back. Roads and paths may diverge or disappear but ultimately it is impossible to get there alone. We must hold each other with care, grace, and love through this journey. What is clear to me as we forge ahead into 2024 is that a renaissance is needed.

What is a renaissance? It is a rebirth, a revival, to come out of the darkness and into the light, and as I often say, requires reimagination – letting go of what no longer serves us to make way for something new to emerge. Grace Lee Boggs also said: “So many institutions in our society need reinventing. The time has come for a new dream.” This is not simple. Facism, white supremacy, and patriarchy (and much more) are embedded into the systems and institutions that need the most reimagination. We cannot snap our fingers and make them disappear.

While we defend democracy and ensure we do not cede any more ground on what we have already lost as our democracy and rights erode before us, it is imperative that we plant new seeds to allow for a revival and rebirth. Both are needed and necessary so the world we have never known but deeply deserve can root and spring forward. Reimagination is the hardest because it requires us to practice ways of being that are unknown, untested, and forgotten. 

What does this mean for BISC? We cannot take this on alone (nor should we) and the tool we use, direct democracy, is imperfect and faces its own challenges. But we are committed to dreaming with you and understanding the role direct democracy plays in the renaissance we need. Always together, never alone.

So, as we close 2023 and prepare ourselves for 2024, I want to take a moment to celebrate some of the incredible work that BISC has accomplished in partnership with all of you. Here are a few things I am proud of from 2023.

  • Road Ahead 2023! Our conference is always one of the highlights of the year. It has become such a special, brave, and inclusive space where we can come together to do the work and dream. Check out the highlight reel and recap. We can’t wait to see you in Vegas this April 9-11.
  • Celebrating BISC’s 25th anniversary! It has been a year of celebration that we kicked off at Road Ahead with an amazing party and awards ceremony and then continued with our anniversary impact video and ProgressXBISC campaign. It was also a big year personally for me, my 5th year at the helm of BISC.
  • Supporting the States! From defending direct democracy in increasingly hostile state legislatures and courts to big wins in states like Ohio, our work to support the field in  ballot measures is why BISC exists. The 3360 ballot measure lifecycle was in full swing this year as we directly supported 2023 campaigns while also incubating and helping efforts to qualify for 2024.
  • Ballot Measure Training Back In-Person! I unfortunately missed it this year because I was on sabbatical, but getting to bring brilliant leaders from across the US to learn, strategize, and collaborate together is always cause for celebration. Check out the photo of our 2023 class and ways to get capacity building support in the future.
  • Best BISCuits in the Business! Leading this team is an honor. I’ve said it many times before and will say it a million more times: The BISC team is talented, dedicated, and brave. We’ve grown a lot to support all of you and we hope to keep growing so we can continue to make ballot measures love letters to our people.

Speaking of the best team ever, check out what some of our BISCuits are proud of below and what they are looking forward to next year. I wish you peace, safe places to gather and feel belonging, relentless joy, and radical love as we close 2023 so we can open the door to a renaissance in 2024.

“I’m really proud of the graduates from our 2023 Ballot Measure Leader Training program. They worked hard and showed strong dedication to becoming leaders in issues like social justice, reproductive freedom, and economic reform, all in line with what their communities care about and with BISC supporting them every step of the way.” – Eliana Ramirez-Vaughn

“I’m proud of the way BISC really helped shape the media landscape narrative around the need to defend direct democracy and how critical ballot measures are to protect reproductive rights and as a tool to advance democracy.” – Caroline Sánchez Avakian

“I look forward to fighting back against attempts to restrict access to the ballot in 2024. I believe that voters of all stripes will continue to show that restrictions on citizen initiatives are unpopular.” – Gina Berne

“We are heading into 2024 with our best Road Ahead agenda yet! I am looking forward to building Road Ahead with my fellow BISCuits, creating a space that allows our attendees to feel seen and heard, and shaping a new democracy for the people, by the people!” – Jana Villaseñor

Next year ballot initiatives will face unprecedented attacks, and with each attack comes an opportunity. There will be a policy window of opportunity that is unprecedented and I am excited about working with the team to capitalize on this and turn the attacks into opportunities for mobilization and advancing policy.” – Sarah Walker

“I am excited about our work with other infrastructure organizations in 2024 to expand and deepen our partnerships and capacity. And I am excited to support our priority campaigns winning on the ballot in 2024!” – Dana Laurent

“I can’t wait to be in physical space with our partners at Road Ahead this year and plan for how we can come together to protect and expand our rights in 2024 and beyond!” – Devin Hiett

I am incredibly proud of the new talent we have recruited to BISC as well as the continued growth and contributions of existing BISCuits. We work just as hard and as intentionally with each other as we do with our external partners and that makes BISC a stand-out organization.” – Jane Norman

I look forward to continue supporting our internal systems so that our team can go into 2024 with all of the necessary resources and support they will need for this election year.” – Kalee Whitlock

I’m proud that we earned the support of some new funders and raised our budget!” – Liz Schilling

I take pride in witnessing how BISC continues to uphold and support direct democracy. It’s inspiring to see the ongoing commitment to empowering people in shaping the course of their community through active participation.” – Roberto Cordova

I look forward to welcoming and supporting the next generation of young activists ready to carry on our movement’s legacy of resilience and reimagining a democracy for all.” – Robin Rodolfo

I aim to play a pivotal role in forging new strategic partnerships that will contribute significantly to BISC’s overall success and reach.” – Adam Snipes