CCD: Tell us about your internship experience. What were your responsibilities?
Masha: My job was to knock on voters’ doors and convince them to vote for Tim Canova. To do this effectively required a multitude of persuasion and tactful skills. I gave pitches tailored to an individual based on their name and the few hints I could pick up from their house and demeanor. I altered my tone and pitch in specific ways known to be persuasive. I knew the platform and its social, economic, and political context extensively. I had to maximize my contact rate, which involved being tactful about which houses I knocked on in which order and how I knocked. For most of the summer, I was also responsible for driving 2-3 other people to and from their turf.
CCD: What are the top skills you’ve learned from this experience?
Masha: I learned how to talk to people in a highly personal way, in order to persuade them to make a decision on their own terms and based on their own values. I learned that persuasion isn’t about making someone do something, it’s about making them make themselves do something. A lot of times canvassing was a team activity, where a number of the doors were accessible by walking and the rest via car, so we had to coordinate and strategically make decisions with each other. The best part of canvassing is persuading someone to vote, who wasn’t planning to do it before. I encountered a lot of voter apathy and disengagement, and was able to change people’s minds about the power they have within our political system. When someone shows up at your door and forces you to have a conversation about a candidate, an issue, or a political idea, it activates you if you weren’t thinking about it before. Knowing I created voters is possibly the most fulfilling experience I’ve ever had. We lost and it sucked, because it would’ve been such a positive change had we won. But I learned how to be proud of our efforts and how to realize that there were many smaller victories, like getting new voters to the polls.
CCD: What’s next for you?
Masha: This campaign made me discover the potential for positive change through collective action and conversation. For this reason, I am actively working on BU’s Divestment campaign and part of a Boston-wide divestment fellowship with the Better Future Project, using a lot of the same skills I learned from Tim Canova’s campaign as well as new ones I am learning every day, in order to be effective. I want to work for another political or environmental-based campaign next summer. Eventually, I might go to law school, work for campaigns, or be a politician (or all three).