by Hillary Kane, Co-Chair
The Green Party of the United States held an Annual National Meeting on July 22-26, 2009, in Durham, North Carolina. Approximately 120 individuals attended the meeting. A survey was distributed to 100 participants following the meeting so the ANMC could learn more about their feelings about the quality of the meeting and thoughts about future meetings.
The ANMC took the attendee list provided by the national staff and looked up email addresses for anyone whose email address was not listed. This yielded a pool of 100 participants for whom an email address was identified. On August 8, 2009, ANMC Co- Chair Hillary Kane emailed participants to request that they complete the survey. Participants were sent a follow-up email on August 12, and the survey closed on August 13.
ANMC members created the survey in the weeks immediately following the July meeting. The survey was designed with SurveyMonkey and contained 17 questions, 8 of which were open-ended.
Profile of Respondents
A total of 41 participants responded.
51.4 percent of respondents identified themselves as a National Committee Delegate; 35.1 percent identified themselves a Green Party member who is not a delegate or alternate.
60.5 percent of respondents paid for their attendance at the meeting with their own personal funds; 18.5 percent relied on a combination of personal funds and state funds.
The majority of respondents are frequent participants in ANMs; 52.6% said they “almost always attend regardless of location, cost, or date.”
Expectations and Motivations
Most ANM participants talked about their expectations for the meeting in terms of networking and learning. Common responses to this open-ended question elicited responses such as meeting and networking with other Greens, meeting Steering Committee candidates, and meeting members of a particular subgroup within the Green Party. Other common responses focused on learning objectives either broadly (i.e. “better understanding of GPUS”) or specifically related to workshop offerings (i.e. “wanted to learn a lot more about organizing, running campaigns, recruiting candidates.”)
94.6 percent of respondents said that their expectations of the ANM were met. With specific regard to networking, 48.8% of respondents rated the meeting as “Excellent” in terms of providing them with networking opportunities.
These expectations were also substantiated by the reasons participants’ said they attend ANMs. 78 percent of respondents said they “attend ANMs to network with other Greens and learn about what’s happening in the Party.” This was the most common response. Other common responses were, “I enjoy ANMs and use them to renew myself for Green Party work,” (56.1%) and “I wanted to represent my state as a delegate” (39%). When asked about other reasons for attending in an open-response format, two people identified the Black Caucus as their reason for attending.
19 different workshops were offered over the course of the four days, the majority of which took place on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
Although the great majority of respondents selected “did not attend” for all of the workshops, only three respondents indicated that they attended no workshops and two respondents skipped the question. Being as most of the workshops ran concurrently with other workshops, it was not expected that most respondents would be able to assess all offerings.
Based on the responses, the most attended workshops were Constructive Critique of the Green Party (15), Candidate Recruitment (11), Building a GPUS Outside Annual Meetings and NC Email Lists (10), Biofuels (9), and Fundraising for Candidates (9). Overall, the “campaign school” track was the most attended.
Generally speaking, all workshops were rated highly with the majority of participants rating workshops as a 5 or 4 on a 1-5 scale with 5 being “excellent” and 1 being “poor.” The highest-rated workshops in terms of both quality and the number of participants were Candidate Recruitment (39% 5’s and 4’s), Fundraising for Candidates (32.2% 5’s and 4’s) and What Every Green Candidate Should Know (28.5% 5’s and 4’s).
Comments about workshops included:
“Workshops had good leaders & spirited discussions.
“It is hard between travel time and attending other workshops to be able to attend all that I would have liked to.”
“I did not find the critique very constructive. It was the opinion of a few Greens, and I didn’t think it was a balanced view. I just felt dumped on.”
Plenary Sessions and Other Activities
Generally speaking, most participants did attend the plenary sessions and other special activities that took place from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. The two most popular and well-liked events were the screening of the film Coal Country and the Saturday night fundraiser with the North Carolina Green Party, both of which received a rating of “5” from 61.1% of respondents. The Single-Payer Health Care Panel came in a close second with 59.5% of respondents listing it as a “5.”
Comments about the plenaries and special events included:
“I rated them all excellent because I felt for the first time that we truely (sic) worked as a Party. It was a wonderful thing.”
“I support the goals of the messaging workshops. However, we need to make a choice between “issues” eg single payer) and “themes” (eg human rights). Human rights is too broad to be an issue.”
“Being involved in the struggle against coal fired power plants in my community, I found Jesse Johnson’s presentation very powerful and useful.”
When asked about meeting logistics such a space, location, food, and registration process, feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The majority of respondents rated all aspects of meeting logistics as a “5” with the exception of Quality of Meeting Space, Quality of Dorms, and the ANM Website which were rated primarily as a “4.”
At the close of the survey, participants were asked about their thoughts on a possible 2010 ANM in Detroit connected to the United States Social Forum. Most expressed positive sentiments about this idea, although there were also a few dissenters.
“I think it would be great. It would be an excellent opportunity for reaching out to new
“I support a Detroit meeting, but would urge that it not conflict with the Social Forum, but follow it immediately.”
“I’d prefer it not connected to another event.”
Limitations of the Survey
Like with any informal survey, this survey has inherent limitations. The most important one is the possibility that only the most enthusiastic Green Party supporters took the time to respond, leading to an overly positive bias. Given the fact that 35% of the respondents were not NC delegates or alternates, we do believe that a sizeable number of respondents were not necessarily Green Party “regulars.” Nonetheless, all of the overwhelmingly positive responses should be taken with a grain of salt.
The survey committee believes that there are three important lessons to be learned from volunteers who responded to the survey, namely:
1. People attend Green Party meetings to learn about the Party and connect with fellow Greens.
2. Campaign School workshops are a valuable part of the meeting.
3. Special activities that tackle serious issues seriously are also very valuable. So, is entertainment!
Comments from the ANMC and SC
The ANMC shared a copy of this report with the Steering Committee prior to its release to the National Committee. Comments of ANMC and SC members are below.
Comments from Wayne Turner,
co-chair of the North Carolina Green Party,
NCGP liaison to the ANMC:
This meeting was important to the NCGP, and I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to GPUS and the ANMC for supporting the meeting location. The meeting was small enough that it could be managed by volunteers. However, managing meeting logistics often took precedence over other planning on the part of the NCGP that could have improved the quality of the meeting and addressed some of the concerns expressed in the comments. For example, we simply didn’t have the time and manpower to organize a local action for conference participants, such as a local issue petition drive or something similar. I strongly recommend that future meetings hire a meeting coordinator at least three months in advance of the meeting. I also recommend that the solicitation and deadline for meeting proposals be officially moved up by several months to allow both local planners and the ANMC more time to iron out the inevitable logistical issues that arise.
Another issue that could have benefited from more time was the determination of workshop scheduling. This was done with little time for discussion between workshop presenters and workshop schedulers, which led to charges of arbitrary decision-making and exclusion. Scheduling of workshops around plenary sessions is another issue that people commented on and which could have benefited from a longer planning period.
In summary, increasing the length of planning time and hiring a meeting coordinator are the two primary recommendations that I would propose.