After the 2016 election, as many of us were trying to figure out next steps and modes of action, Scout Books press operator Ben Charbonneau started writing. He began diving into books and compiling notes on the rights and responsibilities of citizens. At the same time, our team was forming a new initiative, the Scout Books Equity Alliance, with a plan to use our format to create a project each quarter that works towards equity. Ben brought his idea of a guide to civic engagement to an early Alliance meeting, and we agreed it was a great fit for our first project. Says Ben:
The inspiration for this Equity Alliance project came from a lack of fundamental knowledge in how my city, state, and country politically operate. The goal of this project is to provide those details to a wide range of citizens in one book while making it easily accessible to the greater Portland area. We hope that with this book people will feel empowered and enabled to participate in their communities and city.
We knew right away for the information to be accessible and engaging, we’d need some visual elements to complement the text. After reaching out to illustrator friends in the community, we looped in Samantha Cohen, Sarah Day, Sarah Mirk, and Jillian Barthold to create spot illustrations, and team member Chloë Miller to add hand lettering. The Equity Alliance built on what Ben had started, working together to develop and edit the content. Topics covered in the book include understanding local, state, and federal levels of government, an introduction to grassroots organizing, and how to best focus your advocacy. It also contains contact information for Portland’s elected officials, and Oregon state representatives, along with House and Senate leaders. There’s a list of news sources we trust, and notes from the ACLU on what to do if stopped by the police. The cover design by Jillian Barthold is printed in navy ink, and the book is stitched with white staples for a pop of contrast.
It was decided early on that this book should be as accessible as possible, and shared free of charge via distribution spots around Portland. Early on in this process, the team at Business for a Better Portland contacted us about helping share the book with their members and the business community via a Call To Action from our CEO Laura Whipple. We are also selling We The People Are Powerful! via our shop, with all proceeds being donated to The Bus Project, an Oregon nonprofit working to make democracy more accessible and equitable. While the book includes information that’s specific to getting involved in Portland and Oregon, we think it can be handy for people far and wide, and could even inspire editions in other cities!
This project now lives on as a digital resource! Check it out at thepeoplearepowerful.org!