Road Ahead 2023 was such a tremendous success in so many different ways! After three days of learning and connecting, we are filled with gratitude to have such an engaged, brilliant, and powerful community.
Thank you so much to our speakers for sharing your wisdom and experiences with us – because of you, we are better, wiser, and more prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
To our sponsors and partners who continue to stand by our side. Not only do we see and feel your support – it lifts us up daily.
And to our amazing conference attendees and partners— filled with fierce changemakers, movement builders, and advocates – you inspire us to keep doing the work and fighting for the world we deserve every day.
Takeaways and Themes
The theme of Road Ahead ‘23 was “People. Power. Purpose.” This year is also BISC’s 25th anniversary year. Road Ahead gave us the opportunity to gather with our beloved community to celebrate the last five years of growth and dream into the next 25 years together.
We asked BISC staff about their top takeaways from Road Ahead ‘23 — here are some highlights from what they had to say!
- “The hunger and desire for more guidance and resources for policy, legal, legislative work. And, the need to have a goal/vision to direct progressive action in a cohesive manner.” — Sarah Walker, BISC’s Policy & Legal Advocacy Director
- “The relationships we have built with the field and funders to get to where we are — a place where we can do hard things together and also celebrate with each other.” — Liz Schilling, BISC’s Development Director
- “What we’re doing is working. The vast majority of our attendees are new to this work, and the diversity of attendees and the conversations from the stage demonstrate that our strategic framework is on the right path. We can and should keep going.” — Marsha Donat, BISC’s Capacity Building Director
Road Ahead Highlights
Registration excitement! This year, we had over 550 people register for Road Ahead — making this BISC’s largest conference to date! For the first time in Road Ahead history, all 50 states + DC were represented, and more than half of our attendees attended Road Ahead for the first time.
Keynote + Plenaries + Breakout Session Highlights: Road Ahead ‘23 sessions featured state-based advocates, ballot measure experts, inspiring movement leaders, funding partners, and changemakers from across the country — all focused on how ballot measures can build power and make change in our communities.
This year’s keynote speaker was the incredible Kelley Robinson! Kelley is the President of the Human Rights Campaign, and the first Black, queer woman to lead HRC — America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality and liberation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.
Day 1 Highlight
Spotlight on 2022 Reproductive Rights Ballot Measures: This session delved into what helped their reproductive freedom ballot measures succeed!
Pictured from left to right: Shanay Watson-Whitaker of Michigan Voices, Hillary-Anne Crosby of the Montana Sexual & Reproductive Health Collective, Lucy Leriche of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Rachel Sweet of Protect Kentucky Access and Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, and Erin Smith of Kentucky Health Justice Network.
Day 2 Highlight
Paving the Path to Victory: Maximizing the Power of Incubation Work: This powerful panel focused on the 360 Ballot Measure Lifecycle and explored the critical role that the incubation phase plays in winning elections.
Pictured from left to right: Molly Watson of the California Donor Table, Kwami Abdul-Bey of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, Brad Christian-Sallis of the Nebraska Civic Engagement Table, and Jay Hockley Sr. of Initiate Justice.
Day 3 Highlight
Leading with Purpose: A Vision for the Next 25 Years of People Power: This power house panel of Executive Directors of color included BISC’s Executive Director and focused on how to lead with purpose, and their vision for the next 25 years of people power!
Pictured from left to right: Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, Analilia Mejia from the Center for Popular Democracy, Anathea Chino from Advance Native Political Leadership, and Dakota Hall from the Alliance for Youth Action.
The Celebration Rainbow Chart: Gregory Allen Datu Cendana led us in an opening practice of joy and invited Road Ahead attendees to celebrate our successes by writing down personal, organizational, and cultural/political wins we have experienced over the past year!
The 25th Anniversary BISCuit Jam: It’s our conference reception, but really it’s one big party! This year’s 25th anniversary celebration was 90’s themed (BISC was founded in 1998), and we were once again joined by our friend DJ Carmen ‘Spindiego’ Berkley! Nobody can spin the best jams, rock the mic, and talk about building political power like Carmen.
Progress X BISC Campaign: BISC’s new Progress X BISC 25th Anniversary Campaign debuted at Road Ahead! This digital communications campaign voices and lifts up the progress made by BISC and our partners, funders, and allies with a focus on the last five years of impact. Importantly, the campaign celebrates community and envisions the future of what progress can and will look like into the next 25 years.
The Love Letters Project: In Chris’ closing remarks at last year’s Road Ahead, she created a metaphor that set off a beautiful chain of responses and a new framework. She said: “We must tear down EVERYTHING that is in opposition to LOVE. We have the agency to make ballot measures love letters to our people.” So for our last plenary of Road Ahead ‘23, BISC’s Director of Strategic Communications, Caroline Sánchez Avakian, invited us to write love letters to our people — to the communities we serve and fight for every single day.
The Progress X BISC Awards
As part of BISC’s 25th Anniversary Progress X BISC celebration, this year’s Road Ahead featured the first ever Progress X BISC Awards Ceremony!
Three awards were given to exceptional individuals and organizations who have been transformational in helping BISC achieve our vision of building a world where all people are fully liberated, live with dignity, and thrive. These awards were known as the Progress X People Award, the Progress X Power Award, and the Progress X Purpose Award!
The Progress X People Award celebrates an individual who has led a transformative campaign that directly impacted people and was voted on by Road Ahead attendees. This year’s Progress X People award went to Prentiss Haney for his work on Issue 1, Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities Campaign.
Issue 1 was a 2018 ballot measure aimed at addressing mass incarceration in Ohio by reducing the reliance on prisons to address certain non-violent offenses, including drug use and possession, reduced sentencing for those who participate in rehabilitation and education programs while in custody, and increased resources for substance abuse treatment, and support for crime survivors.
The Progress X Power Award was voted on by BISC staff and celebrates a coalition or organization that worked on a ballot measure to help increase the capacity to build and shift power.
This year’s Progress X Power Award went to the Montana Sexual & Reproductive Health Collective, which emerged from the No on LR-131 campaign in 2022. They utilized the principles of BISC’s Declaration of Equity and Accountability toolkit and through the DoE and the work of the coalition, state leaders built a new way of working together – one that moved away from traditional “win at all costs” mentality and into one where equity and sustainability were centered.
Not only did they defeat LR-131, state partners are continuing to work together through the state legislative session and engaging in long term planning for sexual and reproductive health in Montana!
The Progress X Purpose Award celebrates members of the funding community who helped BISC fulfill our purpose to change culture.
This year’s Progress X Purpose award went to Estevan Muñoz-Howard and Jesse Beason, two funders who have been co-creators and champions for the Declaration of Equity and Accountability — a tool BISC developed with the field and funders to disrupt race, power, and privilege dynamics in the ballot measure ecosystem. Thank you Estevan and Jesse for believing in BISC’s vision!
Hear from our Road Ahead ’23 Attendees!
At the end of each day of Road Ahead every year, we ask our community for feedback because it is so important to us to ensure that we improve our attendees experience year over year. Hear from a few Road Ahead ’23 attendees about their insights from this year’s conference:
- “The conference was great! Lots of energizing discussion, insightful panels, and values-aligned attendees eager to collaborate. The conversations over lunch were just as engaging as the formal sessions and I left feeling inspired for the year (or rather road) ahead. I’m definitely coming back next year!
- “I loved the Road Ahead! Above all else, it allowed me to be in community with other folks that are doing the hard work of ballot initiatives, and gave us a well needed, communal respite. This conference not only grew my network, it also allowed me to get more allies and investment into my state. It also let me experience joy and celebrate our wins, big and small, with folks who do what we do day-in and day-out. Being identified and seen is a special feeling and to be centered while doing so is just the cherry on top!
- “Kelley Robinson’s keynote was inspiring and factual. It was validating to see and hear a Black queer woman in power talking about centering these marginalized communities to build community so we can all go forward. This conference helped to underscore that amplifying and centering these marginalized communities is the way.”
Gratitude for our 2023 Road Ahead Sponsors
What’s Coming Next?
BISC is currently accepting applications for our 2023 Ballot Measure Leader Training Program — happening in person August 8-10th in St. Louis Missouri!
We encourage campaign leaders that are working or planning for a 2024 ballot measure campaign to apply. The application deadline is 6pm ET on June 12, 2023. Don’t miss this opportunity to enhance your leadership in the ballot measure space!
Find Road Ahead ’23 on Social Media!
Check out @BallotStrategy on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn + search the #RoadAhead23 hashtag for more conference and attendee pics!