Member Spotlight: Paul Fitzgerald and Lena Smith


This month, we sat down with Lena Smith and Paul Fitzgerald, who teamed up to lead turnout efforts for February’s Citywide to the tune of 300 attendees.

They shared thoughts on:

  • Importance of Citywide turnout to Reclaim’s power in the May primaries

  • Value of relationships and building networks

  • Their complementary work styles

  • Tapping into universal self-interest to build accountability

  • How leaders held them accountable for reaching goals

Why take on a long, arduous three-month project, like this Citywide turnout push?

Lena: I felt like high turnout to the citywide was really important to our long-term vision. Citywide, along with the upcoming elections, is the next step toward the primary elections, when we’ll be able to demonstrate our own political power.

It was important to introduce a room full of our members to candidates who we feel really strongly about. We wanted to get people excited about the petition trainings in South Philly and West Philly on Feb. 24.

I’ve had personal conversations with friends in West Philly, who’ve said ‘I’m going to go out to Tonya Bah’s petition training this Sunday.’ So now people know who the candidates are and are getting plugged in.

What was your tactical approach to driving turnout?

Paul: The main theme of our effort was to rely on our relationships, leaders and networks that didn’t overlap necessarily with our own, and then to hold them accountable to turn out people within their own networks.

Lena: Paul and I were steering the effort, but it came from a lot more people that just he and I. A lot of our work was thinking how to engage our leaders in the turnout process.

What advice would you give folks engaged in this relationship and partnership building?

Paul: Continue working on the relationships you already have, and always prioritize building new relationships. When you have a network of people that you’ve already worked with or spoken to about their values & what they care about, if you foster that relationship you can then rely on those people when you need to turn them out to do things, like turnout.

The first partnership was really me and Lena being asked to work together.

What was it like for the two of you working together?

Paul: When me and Lena started working together, we started realizing how complementary we were. Lena is very strategy-oriented and organized. Lena is always two steps ahead of the game. I found this whole thing so overwhelming.

I was good at relying on those relationships and propositioning people into roles, like the Turnout Captains who led the phone banks. And proposition people into further roles, like recruiting for phone banks and hosting phone banks. The one thing we relied on when propositioning people into roles is this universal self-interest in turnout.

How did tapping into universal self-interest in turnout help you get accountability from a large team?

Lena: There was a key moment when I was asked by leaders to share my self-interest in turnout and build some tension around it at a leadership meeting.

Through that process of sharing why citywide turnout was important to my self-interest, and everybody elses, I felt like I was transferring my own tension to the larger group of leaders who we were partnering with. And I think we all felt a deeper sense of responsibility and commitment to generating turnout because it was in the self-interest of all of us.

Paul: This is important to all of us, no matter what we’re working on, whether we’re focusing on a particular candidate or a particular race, or just the future of our organization in general. It is critical to all of our self-interest that we get good turnout for the citywide meeting, especially one like this that’s just before municipal primaries, that’s gonna have such an impact on all of our lives.

How do you ensure that accountability?

Lena: We asked all the leaders in Reclaim to commit to a turnout goal weeks prior, so it was a lot of follow up. Have you met your goal? What can we do to help you meet your goal? Is there someone that can hold you accountable to meeting your goal?

We all come across stumbling blocks when we’re trying to organize, because it’s very deep, personal work. It was just ‘what’s your goal and what do you need to get there?” It wasn’t ‘what’s your goal and why haven’t you met it?’

What did you struggle with?

Lena: Something we struggled with was figuring out a way to count every individual RSVP. It wasn’t until two weeks before where I sat down and sit the numbers, people we were talking with sent their numbers and names of RSVPs, included the phone bank & online sign ups.

We really didn’t have that number until two weeks. Other people who were mentoring me really encouraged me to track that number, and we were at 270 about two weeks beforehand, which was really exciting.

What should Turnout Leads make sure to replicate next time?

Paul: Make the role of Turnout Lead at least two people because for one person it’s just way too overwhelming. It would be best to have three people, which each having a defined set of responsibilities, based on the way Lena and I complemented each other, and the way we relied so much on data lead Dave Slinger.

One lead could be in charge of recruiting and relational work, one who’s in charge of organizational strategy work the way that Lena was and one who focuses on data like Dave did.

Paul and Lena wanted to give a special shoutout to all the people involved in making the February 2019 Citywide meeting a success!

Jon Plotkin, Kristen Dater, Tammer Ibrahim, Keeru Montayu, Dave Slinger, Adams Rackes, Nikil Saval, Lea Sorrentino, Sarah Roberts, Rick Krajewski, Brynne Arment and many more!