To Celebrate Our 10th Anniversary, Here Are 10 of Our Favorite Success Stories

Jul 1, 2019
Hear from our staff, past and present, about 10 years of powering movements

ReThink is thrilled to be celebrating 10 full years of powering movements. To celebrate our anniversary, here are 10 of our favorite success stories from our staff, past and present (and stay tuned for our soon-to-be-published booklet of our favorite stories and lessons learned across 10 years of movement building):

Bringing Attention and Saving a Life

A partner organization asked us to help with media coverage of a client whose aging Iran-based mother needed cancer treatment only available in the US. The Muslim Ban was keeping her out of the country and her requests for a visa were going nowhere. Our team helped draft and pitch an op-ed in the local paper where the hospital that provides the treatment is located, but the paper instead opted to cover the story in a feature piece. Once it was published, we facilitated an aggressive campaign of pushing the story to the US Department of State’s social media accounts, particularly targeting public affairs, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Near East Affairs department. This targeted campaign attracted DC and national reporters who picked up the story and started calling their State Department contacts, asking for comment. Days later, the State Department relented in the face of growing media scrutiny and the client’s mother got her visa. Now, she has beat her lethal brain disease. – Corey Saylor, Rights & Inclusion Collaborative

Coordinating Coalitions to Pass Sweeping Legislation

The US House of Representatives passed the most sweeping package of political reforms in a generation. Beyond the historic bill passage, every member of the House and Senate Democratic caucus co-sponsored the bill when it was introduced. It showed the power of a well-coordinated, well-planned grassroots, policy and advocacy, and communications effort to bring democracy reform to the top of the federal legislative priority list. ReThink helped coordinate the communications efforts of the Declaration for American Democracy, a diverse coalition of more than 130 state and national groups, including civil rights, environment, labor, and government reform organizations. We facilitated weekly communications meetings, drove social media strategy and content, and developed a message guide and tool kit for the coalition, which enabled the advocates to push for the passage of this historic legislation. – Spencer Olson, Democracy Collaborative

Pitching Stories that Defend Diplomacy

After noticing that several Israeli national security experts were splitting from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supporting the Iran negotiations, we pitched reporters that resulted in an few articles. In the middle of a hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then-Secretary of State John Kerry used one of the articles we helped place as a key piece of evidence, reading the headline out loud and actually holding up his printout so it would be visible to the committee and the cameras. I was watching the hearing on C-SPAN live and yelled out loud and captured a screenshot, staring at the screen in disbelief that an email that I sent resulted in a story being used to defend the Iran nuclear deal to Congress. After that, the refrain of “Israel’s security experts actually believe the Iran deal would make us safer” was one of the most powerful messages advocates used. – Deepika Choudhary, Peace & Security Collaborative

Pressuring Office Holders to Listen to Their Constituents

Our work with New Florida Majority on their money-in-politics ballot measure was a roller-coaster of a ride from the submission of petition signatures to the end of Accountable Miami-Dade's journey in the courts. We had to fight from the beginning just to get the County to count the signatures—which we successfully pushed for with inside/outside pressure, media visibility and a social media campaign #StartCounting. While ultimately Miami-Dade voters did not get the chance to vote on the Accountable Miami-Dade ballot measure (though we fought that too with continued communications, organizing and social media to pressure the County to #LetMIAVote), the coalition hustled hard and to the bitter end to give Miami-Dade voters a voice in making their democracy work for their community. – Ginna Green, Democracy Collaborative

Finding Local Angles to Talk About National Stories

I remember not being sure if anyone would be interested in the Yemeni bodega strike in 2017, given all the rest of the news that was happening in the wake of the Muslim Ban. We pitched it ahead of time and reporters didn't seem interested, at least not at first. But then the bodega doors closed... New Yorkers couldn't get breakfast... and New York. Went. Nuts. Someone put the press release on the Facebook event site and it was a viral moment. Food reporters from all over the country had the perfect story in response to a national moment; news reporters had a new angle to the Muslim Ban; and local television stations were showing up all across town. Reporters complained that my phone line was busy - I didn't even know it was possible for my cell phone to give someone a busy signal, but I had so many reporters on call waiting that it was near-impossible to keep up. It was more viral than any other campaign I'd ever led and, most importantly, created a new face of the Muslim Ban that was one most New Yorkers had passed by daily without noticing.

Just two days ago, I was watching the Netflix documentary "Knock Down the House" and watched a representative from Yemeni American Merchants Association (YAMA) talking to now-Rep. Ocasio-Cortez about the importance of engaging the local Yemeni community in her campaign. Honestly, I'm not sure that moment would have happened without that news cycle win. I believe that story empowered a community and I know it inspired Yemeni bodega owners to organize and for Debbie Almontaser to launch YAMA. – Ashley Houghton, Rights & Inclusion Collaborative


Reframing Stories to Highlight the Underlying Issue

Two moments in particular stick out. The first involves the gyrocopter protest by Doug Hughes. After the headlining grabbing protest had been somewhat dismissed and framed as a national security story to the exclusion of any conversation about money in politics, we successfully reframed the debate with a Washington Post op-ed that ultimately led to numerous local and national print and television stories focused on money in politics solutions. The second involves successfully bringing national scorn on to the South Dakota legislature for undermining the will of their voters by repealing a law passed by ballot measure. We turned one viral tweet into extensive national print and television coverage. The legislature still repealed the law but not without some cost. – Tyler Creighton, Democracy Collaborative

Helping the Public Understand Their Rights in a Democracy

The long-term struggle in North Carolina against an out-of-control General Assembly that wanted to hack and pack the courts to preserve their gerrymandered districts and unconstitutional laws has resulted in a popular understanding in the state of the key role that the courts play in defending our rights and our democracy—so much so that reinstating a judicial public financing program in the state is now on the table, which would have been unthinkable two years ago. – Nick Lyell, Democracy Collaborative

Contextualizing Hot-Button Issues to Underscore Public Support

I claim very little responsibility for this, I'd name the Iran Deal as one of my favorite successes from my time at ReThink. My part was to provide regular public opinion analysis to the coalition working on the deal: how were Americans feeling about the deal? how much should we listen to this poll or that one? could we push back against a certain opposition narrative? Even though the deal is no longer what it was, the fact that it happened was and is a huge victory for peace. It demonstrated that there is still room for state diplomacy—and that, working together, we can create space for that diplomacy in the American political conversation. – Eva Galanes-Rosenbaum, Media and Opinion Analysis

Spotlighting Political Spending Around Cabinet Nominees

One very successful push we made as a collaborative was to keep money in politics at the forefront of media coverage of Donald Trump's cabinet nominees—many of whom were huge donors to his campaign, his inauguration, and the Republican party—and the Gorsuch nomination fight. Not only the impact of his jurisprudence on our country's broken campaign finance system, but also all the dark money spent on ads in favor of his nomination to the US Supreme Court. Hard exactly to frame it as a success given where we are now, but I believe that set the stage for the Midterms focus and ongoing priorities shifting toward combating big money in politics at the national level. – Grace Harvey, Democracy Collaborative

Connecting to Kitchen-Table Topics

Our money in politics op-eds connecting MIP to other issues was one of my favorite projects. It allowed me to work with many partners as well as other issue-aligned organizations we hadn't work with before to connect the problem of big money and donors to kitchen table topics. As result, I had the opportunity to write, pitch, and get published op-eds around LGBTQ equality, gun violence, the Iran Deal, disability rights, and poverty. – Jeff Raines, Democracy Collaborative


We thank the countless advocates, organizations, and change-makers we have worked with in the trenches over the past 10 years, as well as the funding partners who have made it happen. We could never fully put into words how grateful we are for the partnerships and policy successes over the past decade, but from our point of view, we're just getting started.