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Road Ahead ’24

Agenda-at-a-Glance

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Welcome to Road Ahead ’24!

The Road Ahead 2024 conference – BISC’s signature, invitation-only, annual event – will feature state-based advocates, ballot measure experts, inspiring movement leaders, funding partners, and so much more — all focused on how ballot measures can build power and make change in our communities.

The theme for 2024 is “Dawning of a New Democracy,” a reflection of the critical moment we are in. Democracy dies in darkness but when there is hope, when we are able to dream together of what is possible and work together to achieve what we know is not beyond our reach, it will rise again in the light of dawn. As a community, we are making ballot measures love letters to our people, and we have the opportunity to reimagine and shape a new democracy that finally represents and includes all of us. BISC can only do this work alongside the people who make up our beloved community –  to build power together as we reflect, focus, and are guided by our shared purpose.

We’ve been told that Road Ahead is an inclusive, brave space, where our community can share their challenges and wins, a place where people feel seen and heard, where their experiences and viewpoints are prioritized, and where they can dream big together. This fuels us to keep evolving Road Ahead along with you – our inspiring community – that is the heart and soul of our conference each and every year.

If you would like to apply to attend Road Ahead ’24, please send us an email at [email protected].

If you are interested in sponsoring Road Ahead – please fill out our Sponsorship Interest Form. BISC is also showcasing its first Marketplace at Road Ahead 2024! The Road Ahead Marketplace will serve as a separate space in which companies, organizations, and partners within our industry will gather together to showcase their products, services, and campaigns. If you are interested in exhibiting at the Road Ahead Marketplace please fill out our Marketplace Interest Form.

Any other questions? Please check out our Road Ahead FAQ page or reach out to us at [email protected].

ROAD AHEAD ’24 FULL AGENDA

Tuesday, April 9th

8-10 AM: Breakfast and Marketplace Meet + Greet Activities

10-10:15 AM: Welcome to Road Ahead ’24!

10:15-11:15 AM: Election Connection 2024: Cede Nothing — As a result of our successes in winning progressive issues at the ballot, we face unprecedented attacks on our democracy and rights. We cannot cede any more ground. On day one, you will learn about the ballot measure landscape, trends that we’re watching on defending direct democracy, and the efforts to fight back the erosion of democracy and defend reproductive freedom, LGBTQ+ rights, education, workers, and more. This session will feature conventional style “BISCquicks” where leaders will share quickfire snippets of the campaigns happening in their states.

11:15 AM-12:15 PM: Defending Direct Democracy: Ohio’s Victory in Safeguarding the Citizen Initiative Process — Last year, Ohio was centerstage of ceding no ground on democracy and rights. In this session, we will focus on Ohio’s successful campaigns to defend direct democracy and reproductive freedom. We will explore strategies, challenges, and lessons learned along the way to protect our right to the people’s tool and lay the groundwork for future success.
Speakers: Desiree Tims – Innovation Ohio, President & CEO | Molly Shack – Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Executive Director | Misha Barnes – LEAD Ohio, Executive Director | Sarah Walker – BISC, Policy & Legal Advocacy Director

12:15-1:30 PM: Lunch and Marketplace Meet + Greet Activities

Breakout Sessions: 1:30-2:30 PM

  • Cede Nothing: Legal Approaches to Direct Democracy Across States — In this session, we’ll discuss the legal framework of direct democracy while we explore various processes across states. We will dig deeper into the nuances that shape citizen initiatives across the states, offering a comprehensive overview of legal strategies and challenges.
    Speakers: Emma Olson Sharkey – Elias Law Group LLP, Counsel | Allie Boldt
    – State Democracy Research Initiative at University of Wisconsin Law School, Legal Research Director
  • One Story Is Never Enough — If we are to stop efforts to erode our democracy and rights, then we must motivate people to take action toward justice. One way to engage voters is by weaving multiple stories together that reflects their experiences and values. Join us to engage with researchers and advocates who have built intersectional narratives through research, and hear how they have put those narratives into action.
    Speakers: Elaine Mejia – Think Big Narrative Project, Executive Director | Petee Talley – Ohio Unity Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Director | Michael Ramirez – America Votes Colorado, State Director | Eliana Ramirez-Vaughn – BISC, Capacity Building Manager
  • Navigating the Information Battlefield: Strategies for Countering Misinformation and Disinformation — Join us as we delve into the critical topic of countering misinformation and disinformation. Our experts will share valuable insights gained from their experiences over the past year, presenting compelling case studies that highlight effective strategies in the fight against misinformation and disinformation. In the face of increasing attacks on our rights, particularly reproductive rights, this session aims to equip attendees with the knowledge and tools to confront these challenges head-on.
    Speakers: Nicole Regalado – UltraViolet, Vice President of Campaigns | Britt Bischoff – Red Wine & Blue, Chief Growth Officer | Keira Stearns – Analyst Institute, Director of Strategic Partnerships
  • Ceding No Ground on LGBTQ+ Rights: Fighting Trans Attacks at the Ballot — Amid nationwide successful reproductive ballot measures that emphasize privacy and essential medical care, we are seeing attacks on the bodily autonomy of individuals who are transgender. Join a conversation about the interplay between the parallel campaigns for marriage equality on state ballots, while defending against anti-trans narratives on young people and adults amidst a surge in reproductive rights measures. You’ll also leave the session with an understanding of the legislative attacks on bodily autonomy, emerging trends, and potential proactive measures to protect and advance bodily autonomy.
    Speakers: Maria Ignacia Miranda Santis – One Colorado, Political & Organizing Director |
    Vivian Topping – Equality Federation, Director of Advocacy and Civic Engagement | Tony Hoang – Equality CA, Executive Director

2:45-3:45 PM: In Conversation: Abortion on the Ballot in 2024 — Since the US Supreme Court stripped federal protections for abortion in 2022, abortion advocates have successfully utilized ballot measures to send a clear message about where voters stand on the issue. 2024 will be no different. This session will feature leaders from some of the biggest abortion fights in 2024 discussing how they refuse to cede ground on reproductive rights while moving bold policies that push beyond the limitations of Roe.
Speakers: Lindsey Harmon – Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, Executive Director | Jessica Grennan – Coloradans for Protecting Reproductive Freedoms, Campaign Manager | Sasha Ahuja – New Yorkers for Equal Rights, Campaign Manager | Lauren Brenzel – Floridians Protecting Freedoms, Campaign Manager 

4-5 PM: Marketplace Meet + Greet Activities 

6-8 PM: BISC Reception!

Wednesday, April 10th

8-10 AM: Breakfast and Marketplace Meet + Greet Activities

10-11 AM: Election Connection: Seed Everything — To move our democracy and country forward we must seed our vision for the future that gives people hope. We’ll kick off day two with landscape trends on the efforts being made across the country to advance democracy, economic justice, criminal legal reform, and more.This session will feature conventional style BISCquicks where leaders will share snippets of the campaigns organizing in their states.

11 AM-12 PM: Seeding a Just + Democratic Economy — Join us to hear from leaders in Nebraska, Missouri, and Alaska about the paths they have taken to launch 2024 minimum wage and paid sick leave ballot measures, and the funders who have provided early support to seed more durable and equitable wins.
Speakers: Sarah Audelo – Open Society Foundations, Program Officer | Kait Madsen – Nebraska Appleseed, Field Director | Vanessa Rodriguez-Plimbott – Missouri Workers Center, Organizer | Ryan Schryver – Alaska Progressive Donor Table, Executive Director

12-1:30 PM: Lunch and Marketplace Meet + Greet Activities

Breakout Sessions: 1:30-2:30 PM

  • Seeding Powerful Storytelling in Campaigns — We know that a captivating story has the power to move people, tap into their deepest emotions, and move them to action. In this session, we’ll explore how these stories can be created and how campaign messages can be shaped strategically and from an inclusive and values-based approach. We’ll also explore how we can break through the news cycle and reach audiences during a noisy presidential election year. You’ll leave the session with an understanding of the pivotal and ever-increasing role that persuasive storytelling and outreach plays in campaigns and elections.
    Speakers: Hillary-Anne Crosby – BISC, Senior Manager of Public Policy Communications | Martín Diego Garcia – The Campaign Workshop, Partner | Caroline Sánchez Avakian – BISC, Director of Strategic Communications
  • Seeds of Innovation: Understanding Technology’s Role in Ballot Measure Campaigns — In this session, we’ll explore technology’s role in ballot measure campaigns. We’ll delve into the opportunities and challenges posed by recent tech developments, with a particular focus on the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Uncover the dual nature of AI’s influence on campaigns, discussing both its positive enhancements and potential drawbacks.
    Speakers: Jake Levy-Pollans – Trilogy, Partner | Henry Goss – MS Votes, Communications Director | Ari Trujillo John – OpenField.ai, CEO + Founder
  • Seeding Future Success Through Signature Gathering — How you set-up your signature collection effort is “make or break” for ballot measure campaigns. Learn directly from state leaders about the sustainable and innovative signature collection models they built for 2024 that will allow them to continue to succeed beyond this election cycle.
    Speakers: Danielle Atkinson – Mothering Justice, Executive Director | Kaelyn Seymour – MOVE Missouri, Data Director | Sarah Parker
    – Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, Executive Director
  • Seeding + Funding the Incubation Campaign Phase — Funders play a critical role in the success of our work by ensuring leaders and organizations have resources, supporting innovation, and collaborating on strategies to support the needs of the field. Hear from funder program officers on how they are approaching seeding direct democracy efforts and setting leaders and organizations up for success.
    Speakers: Beth Huang – Tides Advocacy, Civic Engagement & Democracy Program Officer | Krithika Harish – Schusterman, Senior Program Officer, Gender and Reproductive Equity Grantmaking | Lindsay Daniels – Democracy Fund, Senior Director, Elections & Voting | Elizabeth Schilling – BISC, Development Director

2:45-3:45 PM — Dawning of a New Democracy: Seeding the Future

4-5 PM: Marketplace Meet + Greet Activities 

Thursday, April 11th

8-10 AM: Breakfast and Marketplace Meet + Greet Activities

10 AM-11:30 AM: Brain Breakouts 1 – Regional Strategy Breakouts — These breakouts will provide an opportunity for state leaders to work with the BISC team and explore short and long-term ballot measure strategies. These regional breakouts will empower participants to advance their efforts to build durable power through ballot measures, within and across diverse states.

12:30 PM-2 PM: Brain Breakouts 2- Issue-Based Strategy Breakouts These issue-based breakouts on Democracy (including Defending Direct Democracy), Reproductive Rights + Justice, Economic Justice, and Criminal Legal Reform, offer a place for state leaders to come together to strategize with the BISC team and alongside peers working on similar issues. These sessions will help advocates strengthen their strategies and navigate the complexities of advocating for ballot measures on these critical issues.

2 PM: End of Road Ahead 2024!

ROAD AHEAD 2023 HIGHLIGHTS AND TAKEAWAYS!

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

Speakers: 

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 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.

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.

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 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.

Hear from our Road Ahead ’23 Attendees!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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  marginalized communities is the way.

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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!

Find Road Ahead ’24 on Social Media!

Check out @BallotStrategy on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn + search the #RoadAhead24 hashtag for more conference and attendee pics!