Executive Summary: Arena set out in late 2018 to solve a pervasive problem: an anemic and homogeneous staff pipeline that stymied progressive campaigns. Our pipeline is critical because we need staffers that reflect the diversity of our communities to build winning progressive campaigns. We need diversity of race, gender, class, and experience. But the campaign staff we need find politics inaccessible and risky. There are many innate challenges in campaign work: It is seasonal, hierarchical, fast-paced, and low- paid. Staffers often lack the training, coaching, and connections to run and assist successful campaigns.
We built Arena Academy to address these issues. We recruit and invest in a diverse talent pool. We create an experiential learning environment that prepares graduates for life on campaigns. And we engage best-in-class trainers and connect graduates to opportunities and mentors.
In 2019 and 2020, we held seven Arena Academies. We trained in five cities and—most recently—in the homes of 262 virtual Arena Academy attendees. Over the course of five intensive days in each location, 1,102 Arena Academy graduates explored the challenges and intricacies of running excellent campaigns. Arena Academy is unique in being a low-cost, multi-disciplinary political training program.
Like a good graduate degree program, Arena Academy appeals to both experienced campaign staffers as well as neophytes looking to enter a new field and gain the skills and connections needed to advance. These graduates are a diverse cohort that changes the makeup of campaign staff at all levels: the majority are women and people of color; over two-thirds received some form of scholarship.
We’re actively placing Arena Academy graduates on progressive campaigns and organizations across the country. From recruitment to active mentorship and continued learning, this is how Arena is building an enduring progressive talent pipeline.