On March 18, 2017, WFAN’s Plate to Politics program facilitated a workshop for fifteen women in food and agriculture at Gravitate in Des Moines, Iowa. The workshop trained women how to lead and motivate people to action by sharing their unique stories, which is the first skill women running for office need to perfect. A well practiced stump speech is the number one tool candidates will use when announcing their candidacy, raising money for their campaign, and moving constituents to become supporters. Women who want to advocate on a particular issue or support other female candidates also benefit from storytelling skills. The workshop provided an opportunity for attendees to practice and perfect their storytelling techniques.
Empowering Women to Tell Their Stories
Liz Johnson, co-facilitator and board member at VoteRunLead led the Mining for Stories exercise. Attendees were asked to think of a story that represented who they were and what they stood for. They practiced telling their stories in small groups and used feedback from their group to perfect their story for the large group.
Stories shared ranged from experiences door knocking to lobbying on a particular issue to interactions women had with their families and in their communities. Participant Jan Kaiser said the stories were personally motivating to her. “I was happy to see so many young women at the training and deeply touched by the passion that the participants shared,” she said.
After the morning skills training the women heard from a panel about living a political life. Featured speakers were Jana Linderman, Iowa Farmers Union Vice President; Katie Rock, Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District commissioner; and Amy Luebbert, Urban Ambassadors Vice President and community organizer.
Anna Johnson, policy program associate at the Center for Rural Affairs and WFAN board member led a short presentation on policymaking, especially related to Iowa water quality.
Liz Bennett, Iowa House of Representatives, Linn County, ended the workshop by sharing her story running for and serving in the Iowa House. As the first openly LGBTQ woman to serve in the Iowa General Assembly she shared her experiences with privacy as a public official and encouraged attendees not to let fear of the limelight stop them from serving their communities. “I really hope you decide to run. Thank you all for the incredibly important work you do as women in food and agriculture,” she said before leaving the workshop.
Next Steps and Takeaways
Participants in the workshop came with a variety of motives. Jenetta Hargrove, FoodCorps service member and chef in Des Moines, primarily came to learn about policymaking and supporting women running for office.
“I came into the workshop as a hard no; I never thought I would run for office,” she said. “After today’s workshop I am no longer a hard no.”
“My biggest takeaway is that running for office isn’t as daunting as it seems,” said Patti Edwardson, Plate to Politics attendee and WFAN board member. “With good training, a support system, and a whole lot of enthusiasm, women can get elected!
Political leadership is just beginning for most participants in the Des Moines workshop. Through WFAN’s Plate to Politics program and VoteRunLead participants will continue learning through webinars, events, in-person mentorship connections made through WFAN and additional resources sent out through the Plate to Politics email list.