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President's Blog: Toward a Co-Governance Model

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Dear SCG Community, 

In September, I talked about the need to embrace complexities, support evolving paths toward systems change, prepare for long-term engagement, and cultivate partnerships with our communities. Since then, the complexities that we face have intensified during the election season. What gives me hope today is the tremendous work of organizers striving toward a co-governance model that will hold our elected officials accountable and ensure an equitable future for our communities. 


The 2020 elections were historic in many ways. 

We saw the highest voter turnout in over a hundred years, with a projected 161 million Americans casting a ballot. Our state saw a historic surge in turnout, with 88% of eligible Californians registering to vote. It is inspiring to see so many Americans participate in the democratic process, especially in the face of the ongoing pandemic challenges. 

These record numbers are indebted primarily to the efforts of organizers who have spent the last several years ensuring that countless Americans have the right to vote. In particular, we want to acknowledge the incredible work of community and civic leaders who worked tirelessly to ensure that communities of color — especially those impacted by long legacies of voter suppression — could participate safely in this election. In Georgia, Stacy Abrams’ tireless work to fight voter suppression is a transformative leadership story of grit and dedication.

For the first time in our country's history, a woman of color has become the Vice President-elect. In 2021, there will be a record number of 141 women serving in Congress, including 51 women of color. 


Let’s take this moment to celebrate these accomplishments, but let’s also commit to ensuring that our communities always have access to the democratic process. After all, democracy means that all voices are heard.

This election cycle has also exposed an America starkly divided and wrought with internal conflict. This increasing polarization poses a challenge to the hard work ahead of us as we refocus on our collective long-term recovery from the pandemic. The truth is, we need to work together to build a better future for our communities; we cannot adequately recover if only half the country is on board. But unity is more nuanced than just positive statements and promises of finding a middle ground. We need to be honest about what’s at stake and who will be most impacted by slow, incremental change. For many communities — especially BIPOC communities who have been disproportionately affected by this year’s crises — security and survival are at stake. We cannot ask our communities to come to the table and compromise while they hurt and carry the weight of our nation’s legacies of injustice. Yes, we need to come together, but we need to do it in the name of justice. 


Co-governance will hold our elected officials accountable and create paths for bold policy change.

Right after Kamala Harris became the first woman of color on a presidential ticket, the SCG team spoke with She The People’s founder Aimee Allison on how our definition of holding leaders accountable needs to evolve. Accountability isn’t a list of demands or empty promises. Accountability in a co-governance model becomes a reality when we elect courageous and justice-driven leaders who are deeply committed to the communities they are serving. Aimee and other organizers are working to close the gap between communities and politicians, abandon our traditional expectations around accountability, and adopt new co-governance models that forward policies and politics in concert with social movements. A co-governance model allows us to move our priorities and agendas that serve the people forward without being entirely dependent on leadership.


We still have a long way to go and a lengthy battle against systemic racism.

The road ahead requires healing. Mending our divided country together will be difficult and uncomfortable. But I believe we can come together through our work’s common purpose: to create an equitable world where every person and community can thrive. As we enter a new era of our country’s history, I urge us to hold this vision close as we reflect on rebuilding and recovery. 

Let us imagine new leadership models where we don’t ask Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and people of color communities to compromise their visions for success. Instead, let’s support them in forwarding the policies and agendas necessary to strengthen movements and catalyze real changes. Let’s take the time needed to heal, but let us not lose sight of the transformative potential of the work ahead. 


In Partnership, 

Chris Essel



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