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IN BILL GIFFORD’S “SAVE the World, Six Bucks an Hour”(8/18), the canvass director of Greenpeace says it is not hard to succeed as a canvasser “if you’ve got normal intelligence and communications skills.” As Gifford makes clear in his six-page narrative, he does not have the skills, confidence, or motivation to succeed as a canvasser.
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The key to being successful as a canvasser is believing both in yourself and the importance of the work you are doing. In selecting a staff writer to write about his attempt to learn how to canvass, when he really wasn’t working to get the job, and didn’t think he could really do the job, you set up a view of canvassing through very skeptical eyes.
Only in the last paragraph does Gifford admit that Greenpeace’s grass-roots organizing works. At a time when the polluters have given thousands of dollars to rewrite the laws that protect our environment, grass-roots environmental organizing is one of the most effective tools to get the average person aware of the fight to protect our environment.
By projecting canvassing in the most negative light, “Eco-Wage Slave” Gifford attacked every group that hires people to honestly go out, tell people what the group is doing, and ask for support. Ignored was any research into the success record of canvass-based organizations. Absent was any political analysis about why special interests are able to rewrite laws directly against the interests of the voters. Missing were any interviews with people who have experience building canvass-based organizations. Gifford might have interviewed a few of the thousands of people who have joined Greenpeace as a result of a canvasser visiting their home. Or he could have compared the membership recruitment and development of canvass-based organizations with those that recruit through direct mail or phone canvassing, or those that depend on corporate support.
In a time of enormous social change, it is unfortunate that Washington City Paper did not include a broader perspective on canvassing. In showing canvassing only through Gifford’s experience, readers were cheated out of insights into what can be very rewarding work.
CLEC Canvass Network, Dupont Circle