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Obama campaign strategist to speak in Saskatoon

Joe Couture
January 28, 2014
This article originally appeared in the 
Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Mitch Stewart, the political strategist who oversaw Barack Obama's victories in battleground states in 2012, will speak this week at an event in Saskatoon about progressive change.

Stewart has been involved over the years in numerous organizations and campaigns, including several that were important to the success of the U.S. president. He was Battleground States Director for Obama's 2012 campaign, and his strategy led to wins in nine of 10 battleground states.

"It was a life-changing experience," Stewart said about working with the president. "It's been a fantastic professional experience for me, but more importantly, from a personal perspective, it will go down as one of the greatest accomplishments of my life."

The tactics Stewart used during the campaign will be part of his discussion at Saskatoon Change Makers, which takes place at the Roxy Theatre at 7 p.m. Friday.

"We want to share those lessons, share those strategies, with other like-minded organizations that are trying to bring positive social change to their communities," Stewart said.

A model of building and organizing relationships has been important to his success, he said.

"This team structure that we know works, this very intentional relationship building, is probably the biggest lesson that we've learned," Stewart said, noting 10,000 neighbourhood teams across the U.S. performed various roles for Obama's 2012 campaign.

Building relationships is "the best vehicle that progressives can have to enacting change," he said.

Part of what he wants to do with Friday's speech is explain "the long arc" of facilitating social change, he said, noting that while change is never easy, it is important to have a clear and concise theory of change that can be easily explained and related to people's personal lives.

His efforts in Canada - he is speaking elsewhere in the country, too - will focus on advocacy work and not Canadian partisan politics, he said.

The event in Saskatoon is co-organized by two leftleaning organizations, the Broadbent Institute and Upstream. The director for the latter is Ryan Meili, a Saskatoon doctor and two-time former candidate for the provincial NDP leadership.

Graham Mitchell, director of training and leadership at the Broadbent Institute, said the organizations are bringing Stewart to Saskatchewan to share the message that grassroots efforts can lead to change.

"What the Obama campaign managed to do in terms of mobilizing regular people in support of a broad, progressive agenda is really remarkable and amazing and we're hoping that people hear that message that there is something that you can do," Mitchell said.

"There is hope, and there's a good reason to get involved, and one of the most highprofile examples comes from the American presidential election in electing Barack Obama, but it can be done in your local community on smaller scales."

Other speakers at the event will include Meili, as well as Max FineDay, president of the U of S Students' Union, and Erica Lee, one of the founders of the Idle No More movement.

Learn more about Saskatoon Change Makers: