DNC 2020 host committee prioritizes volunteer recruitment, diversity and inclusion with new programs

Officials say diversity and inclusion remains at forefront of organizing efforts

Liz Gilbert leading a panel discussion with members of Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee leadership team.

Last updated on November 21st, 2019 at 11:15 am

The local host committee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention will hold a series of summits in the coming months in an effort to prepare Milwaukee for what organizers say could catalyze change across the region.

Liz Gilbert, president of the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee, announced the plans Monday during her keynote speech at the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s monthly member meeting. Gilbert provided an update on organizing efforts for the upcoming convention and led a panel discussion with members of the committee’s majority-female leadership team. 

Gilbert and her counterparts called upon GMC members to help ensure the DNC’s estimated $200 million in economic impact benefits the entire area, not just the immediate downtown, for years after July 2020.

“We want to put in place a model that will allow the growth to continue for years to come,” Gilbert said. “As we think about how to build this model, we know that we cannot do it alone. The best ideas are community-driven and they require the minds of many.”

Gilbert said planning is currently underway for three summits, which are intended to “gather insights and best practices from local and national experts to address community-identified focus areas.”

The first summit, set to take place next month, will be a discussion among local business leaders about hiring diverse-owned contractors.

“Our hope is that by stressing importance of diverse partners and intentionally engaging diverse communities, we will create more opportunities for businesses owned and operated by many different people to not just be subcontractors, but also be contract leads,” Gilbert said.

The host committee has partnered with Milwaukee- and Madison-based startup accelerator gener8tor to organize the second summit, taking place in February 2020. The two-day event will draw local, regional and national thought leaders to address strengths and challenges facing cities across the country– “everything from tech and venture capital to mass incarceration and segregation,” Gilbert said.

The third and final summit, scheduled for spring 2020, will focus on building a “culture of volunteerism” in Milwaukee, she said. The host committee is currently working to recruit 15,000 volunteers, but this event will instruct local civic leaders on engaging that volunteer base beyond the days of the convention.

Additional information about the summits will be announced next week.

Neisha Blandin, vice president of engagement and opportunity, encouraged GMC members to get involved with DNC volunteer opportunities, whether it’s individually or by recruiting employees.

“We need folks, organizations, corporations, groups to commit anywhere from 25 individuals to upwards of 500,” Blandin said. “And maybe there’s a really ambitious organization in this room that might want to commit 1,000 (volunteers).”

With volunteer recruitment as a top priority, the host committee also plans to launch a first-of-its-kind initiative aimed at involving those that may not otherwise have resources or access to volunteer and engagement opportunities.

The “Building Our Future Program” includes monthly training sessions for a select group of convention volunteers. The committee will offset the cost of participants’ unfulfilled wages, transportation, housing and training, which are all expenses that often prevent low-income populations and youth from volunteering or civic engagements.

“Every citizen should have an equal opportunity to engage in this convention, regardless of socio-economic status,” Gilbert said.

Twenty percent of the DNC’s $70 million budget will be devoted toward diversity and inclusion initiatives such as the Building our Future Program and staffing up the host committee’s Department of Inclusion, which is the first of its kind for any DNC host committee, said Maricruz Sanchez, director of vendor growth. 

The host committee is still working to raise that $70 million total.

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer started as an intern reporter at BizTimes in summer 2015. She currently covers entertainment, sports, tourism and restaurants. In May 2017, she graduated with a journalism degree from Marquette University where she worked as an in-depth projects reporter for the Marquette Wire and Marquette Tribune.