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Darren Speece Ph.D
Former Canvasser/Canvass Director
Interim Assistant Dean and History Teacher at Sidwell Friends Upper School

I first considered canvassing back in 1992, but it wasn’t until I graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in Geology that I finally tried it. Back in 1992 canvassing just seemed like a hell of a lot of work and I opted for a job with the Parks and Rec. department in my hometown of Minnetonka, MN instead. Four and a half years later, I worked as a student volunteer on Prop 212, a campaign to fight political corruption in California. We lost that effort, but I met some amazing people and got a sense that there was a lot more that I could learn about the nuts and bolts of making a difference.

I took a job as a canvass director in Chicago with the Fund for the Public Interest, one of the nonprofit groups that organizes canvassing around the country, that fall and when I first started canvassing I wasn't very good at it. Soon enough, though, I got the hang of it. I continued to work full time in this role until a few years ago when I decided to work towards my Ph.D. My dissertation analyzes the role of the wars over the California redwoods during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s in the development of American society, governance, and policy. I’ve canvassed and run canvass offices, and I’ve hired, trained and recruited canvass directors all over the country from Washington, Oregon and Utah to Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. I also spent 4 years working with some of the top progressive organizations in the country to help them use canvassing as a tool to build membership, raise money and win campaigns.

During my time as a canvasser I got a chance to work with some amazing groups and to take part in many critical and compelling battles to protect the environment and democracy in this country. Since canvassing, I’ve been able to consult with other terrific groups like MoveOn and the League of Conservation Voters and it’s all reinforced my belief that canvassing is a critical tool for political change.

One of the things that convinced me that canvassing is effective was when I saw the direct impact canvassing had on the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s efforts to organize public hearings and block bad wilderness bills, and how grateful the SUWA staff were for the work we were doing. I also saw the importance of canvassing when SUWA’s efforts were hurt when our canvass office wasn’t as large and didn’t recruit as many members and activists one year. That experience helped me realize how important canvassing is and that every single person out there doing it, and doing it well really makes a difference. Perhaps it goes without saying, but my experience canvassing and running canvass offices played a big role in just about everything I’ve done since then.

I’m pleased to be moderating and posting to this site on occasion, but will continue to spend most of my time teaching and writing about history.

Please feel free to send me questions or comments, and I’ll try to respond in some way or another. That includes any alum out there that feel like saying hello. Looking forward to hearing from you.