Apr 5, 2019

Grassroots Spotlight - Ilona Duverge, Movement School

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Grassroots Leader Spotlights highlight the work of activist leaders across the country who are doing meaningful and innovative work to strengthen their communities. To read more about other leaders, scroll to the bottom of this article to browse profiles from around the country.

Meet Ilona, Co-founder of Movement School (April 2019)

Can you tell us a bit about what Movement School is trying to do?
Movement School is training the next generation of organizers. We aim to win more elections with people powered campaigns to strengthen the progressive movement. Our organizers help the progressive movement empower the voiceless in creating a vision for the future, gaining the political power to achieve that vision, and becoming a unifying engine for positive change in the country. Trainings and technical boot camps, located in New York City and a few other key areas around the country will focus on practical skill-building. These trainings will be developed in partnership with community groups to help achieve local power.

How did Movement School come about?
Throughout my experience working on campaigns, I often found myself very underrepresented in these spaces. That bothered me. Campaigns have the power to transform communities and if we do not ensure that the community’s voice is at the forefront of these operations, we are failing. There needs to be more intersectionality at the table and that is exactly what movement school strives to do in order to help create a more inclusive democratic process. Therefore, my co-founder and I developed a series of webinars while working on the Ocasio campaign in order to train volunteers from the community on the skills that are needed to run campaigns. This series snowballed into a 10-week intensive online training program that is currently training 52 campaign fellows who upon graduation will be equipped with the skills to run their own campaigns.

That sounds like a very important need to be filling in the space. Can you tell us more about the programs you've created?
We’ve built a 10-week campaign simulation that will teach our fellows the in and outs of running grassroots campaigns. Our training defines what it means to run progressive grassroots campaigns that are representative, culturally competent, promote healthy work environments for all hands on deck, and most importantly are effective in engaging and mobilizing the communities they seek to represent. With this skill set our fellows will be equipped to become the next Campaign Manager, Field Director, Communications Director, Finance, or Technology Director of the next major political game changer.

What drove you to first get involved in the political space?
I've always been very civically engaged, being involved in different service projects back home in Scranton. When I moved to NYC for college (I'm currently a senior at John Jay College of Criminal Justice), I wanted to continue working in the field, specifically with marginalized communities. I quickly learned that a way for uplift these communities is by ensuring they have representation at all levels of government and community decision making processes. So, I got involved in political campaigns where I started out as a volunteer canvasser and eventual became a senior staff member for various campaigns including Alessandra Biaggi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Those are exciting campaigns to have been a part of. Can you tell us more about your experience there?
Yes, I first started out as a paid canvasser working on some campaigns that the WFP endorsed. On day one I was handed a package called “turf” and I immediately had questions. I asked the Field Director a million questions including “what is turf?” “what is a universe?” “how do you calculate these numbers?”. These questions helped me achieve super volunteer status as the next campaign I worked on did not have a Field Director at the time and I seemed to be saying all the right things. This role quickly turned into a full time position with the campaign as their Field Director at 19 years old. Although losing that first campaign, it motivated me to participate in various skills trainings and programs that helped sharpen my technical skills. I then went on to become the Field Director for Alessandra Biaggi and then the Deputy Organizing Director for Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

I know you're just starting out, but do you have any successes with Movement School that you can share?
We are so proud of our inaugural cohort of campaign fellows!

Accepted fellows...
Range from 18-57
Come from 28 different states
Are 82% POC
80% are from working class backgrounds
66% are women
5% identify as non-binary
And 20% live with disabilities

We are so excited for them to graduate and be at the forefront of changing the political landscape!

What's coming up next, and how can people get involved with Movement School?
We are currently planning a series of community engagement events, boot camp trainings, and launching our 2019 organizing project. For people that want to be involved, definitely keep up with our social media and sign up for our newsletter. Be part of the movement!

Anyone you're looking to get in touch with?
If you share the experience of feeling shut out of places due to the color of your skin, your sexual orientation, your disability, or your marginalized status, Movement School wants to help you achieve leadership positions in the progressive movement.

How can folks get in touch with you?
I can be reached at ilona@movementschool.us and my co-founder, Gabe can be reached at gabe@movementschool.us.
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Want to learn more? Read other profiles!
Meet Anna and Michelle from Red2Blue (March 2019)
Meet Shabd from Let NY Vote (March 2019)
Meet Sara from Downtown Women for Change (Feb 2019)