WHAT DID THE CAMPAIGN DO AFTER THE PUBLIC HEARING?
Following the public hearing, there was an impression among many supporters that Minneapolis Energy Options had lost and that all we had worked for only resulted in a framework resolution.
Now out of the media spotlight and relieved from the task of campaigning for a ballot initiative, there was a lot of internal soul searching within the campaign. It took until October for the campaign to come back together on behalf of a long-term strategy. We put matters in perspective that this was a long game and there would be some setbacks along the way.
For comparison, Boulder Colorado was also in a long game. Boulder negotiated with Xcel for 5 years to collaborate on clean energy goals and get a smartgrid without making much headway before choosing to pursue to take the municipalization option.
In October 2013, Minneapolis Energy Options did an internal poll chose a new name for itself to fit in with the long-game strategy. The new name chosen was "Community Power" which would become an umbrella organization to house the work Minneapolis Energy Options had started. We would continue to use the project name "Minneapolis Energy Options" for our local efforts in Minneapolis. Because the name Minneapolis Energy Options implies being a Minneapolis only campaign, we needed the broader organizational identity of Community Power to enable us to start working with and supporting communities across the state undertaking similar efforts.
THE POWERFUL CONVERSATIONS TOUR
On November 21st, 2013 and on December 1st, 2013 Community Power held the first two deep community education events in what is called the Powerful Conversations Tour. The idea for the Powerful Conversations Tour originated as a way to do campaign fundraisers at house parties.
But following the demise of the ballot initiative campaign, the idea of the Powerful Conversations Tour still had a key purpose. It was adapted to address an overall pattern Minneapolis Energy Options and MPIRG noticed while talking with thousands of people about supporting the ballot initiative.
A great number of Minneapolis residents expressed excitement upon hearing that we have an opportunity to participate in shaping our energy future. However most people we talked to felt like they did not know enough about our energy utility system to make an informed decision on what actions to take. They felt they needed to better understand how our energy system works in order to articulate a vision on exactly they could do to address energy concerns.
We thus realized a need for greater community education on the basics of how our energy utility system works. The more people who lack understanding of how our energy utility system works, the more people who could be easily persuaded by the well-moneyed PR campaigns from Xcel and the utility powers that be. That lack of widespread public knowledge would have been a big stumbling block for the ballot initiative campaign if it had materialized.
Regardless of whether a ballot initiative is happening or not, knowledge is power as we shape our energy future. And so the Powerful Conversations Tour gave me something to organize for in the absence of an all hands-on-deck campaign.
Recruiting hosts and attendees to the series of energy education events replaced phone banking at MPIRG and canvassing with a clipboard as the main campaign tactic for Minneapolis Energy Options. Through the Powerful Conversations Tour series of energy education events, we commenced the work of building a base of informed community leaders we would need to grow the campaign in the months and years to come.
By the end of 2014, we had done close to 40 Powerful Conversations Events with hundreds of attendees.