tap, tap, Is this thing on?

Hellloooo Internet? Is there anybody out there? Feeling a little lonely here today.

Anyway, Jessica from Daydreams & Musings had a post on Tuesday about wacky hi-jinks going on at her condo board. Apparently, some humorless adults have decided to try to ban children from, well, acting like children, and she wants to do something about it. Check out her post, it’s a pretty amazing story. I emailed her some tips about organizing a petition drive in the building, and I liked them so much, I’m making a blog post about them. Well, I’m really just trying to guarantee that I have two posts in a row that no one comments on. Enjoy!

Okay, here’s my two (or perhaps two hundred) cents.

I wouldn’t try to create a competing rule to take to the board, but doing something along the lines of a simple petition along the lines of—“kids welcome here.” If you are already in contact with some of the other parents in the building, let them have input, but don’t spend a lot of time fretting over the wording. The point of a petition is not to convince the board through a long argument, but to convince them through large numbers of signers that there is opposition to limiting access for kids.

After you get your petition finalized & copied, make sure you know which parents are going to which apartments. It’s always better to have people talk to other people that they know, and then fill in the rest in a way where everyone knows where each other is going, and there isn’t duplication. You might want to also try to figure out how many petitions you want to get signed overall. Be realistic—you are not going to find every single person at home. Then, you’re all ready to go.

Here are some tips for door-knocking when you don’t know the person on the other side of the door:

1. I started knocking on the doors of complete strangers to talk to them about politics almost 16 years ago. I’ve knocked on thousands of doors. I still get nervous every single time I go out to do it. You know how people who do a lot of public speaking say that they’re always nervous, and they still get up and do it anyway? It’s like that. You will be nervous. Accept it and move on.

2. Even though you are going out to talk to people about an issue involving your kids, you need to think seriously about whether or not to take them with you. Will your kids run around screaming when you are trying to have a conversation with the person who lives in the apartment? Might not send the right message.

3. Before you go out to knock on doors, it’s a good idea to think about what it is you are actually trying to accomplish in the conversation. If all you want is to get folks to sign the petition, the conversation is different than if you want to start a tenants’ committee in the building, or something like that.

If you just want petitions signed, the best thing to do is a short rap that has a problem/solution/strategy structure. (ie—Problem: a few people want to restrict kids’ access to the common areas. Solution: we need to show the condo board that most people want kids to have access to the common areas. Strategy: please sign this petition to show that you support the right of kids to use the common areas.)If you want to do something more like building a committee, it’s better to start the conversation with more open-ended questions (‘some of us are getting together because we have concerns about things in the building. Are there any things that you’re concerned with?’). In this kind of conversation, you should try to do only 25% of the talking. Ask a lot of questions and let them talk. If the conversation is not moving in a direction that is helpful, excuse yourself politely and leave. (“I’ve got a lot of folks to talk to in the building—thanks so much for your time.”) It’s pretty common to feel guilty about cutting off the conversation—like, “well, I knocked on their door, it’s rude to leave without listening to their story about their grandchild.” It’s not rude—it’s productive.

    4. Make sure that you have an extra piece of paper with you, in case someone wants to get more involved (like going to the condo board meeting, or getting petitions signed)—you will want to be able to get back in touch with them later.


    November 10, 2005. politically motivated, work. 5 comments.