(Dec 6, 2017) Catherine Read interviews Stair Calhoun, founding member Network NoVA. Dedicated to involving women in politics, Network NoVA was founded by Stair Calhoun, Katherine White and other activists who had participated in the Women’s March of January 2017. These grassroots activists organized women in support of Democratic candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates election of 2017.
Following the 2016 Presidential election local women, including Stair Calhoun, sought to find ways that they could make their voices heard in politics. Seeking to make the biggest difference possible, they organized themselves into Network NoVA. Their organization has since gone from strength to strength organizing a Women’s Summit in June of 2017 and backing Democratic candidates in the 2017 election. Dedicated to keeping local people involved, their summit was organized by a group of 7 women in less than 70 days, but still had hundreds of attendees, including 30 state delegates or delegate candidates and a number of sponsorships.
Stair Calhoun attributes their success to both their willingness to innovate and the inability to take no as an answer. Network NoVA’s newness aided them in providing a place to try new ideas without the inertia of the old. They agreed to back any candidate whom they believed best represented the women of their district, regardless of their perceived chance of winning, and tried new techniques to encourage women to vote. They involved children in making personalized reminder cards, which encouraged women to make voting plans in advance to support of their motto “When we vote, we win.” Further, they produced more than 17 different short videos in support of various candidates.
Currently, Network NoVa is working on contacting newly elected delegates to find out how to best support them, as well as creating plans to keep constituent pressure on legislators in Richmond on a range of topics including gun reform, the ERA amendment, Medicaid expansion and redistricting reform. To do this Network NoVa is creating VAPLAN, the Virginia Progressive Legislative Alert Network, a centralized way to keep people informed about what the state legislature is doing. They seek to create a system where people can check on what their legislators are doing on the issues important to them in an easy manner without being inundated with other information.
Network NoVA has partnered with a number of other organizations, including Democratic Promise, in order to try and reach out to rural Virginians. Democratic Promise is an organization based around the idea of reverse constituent services. They contact people in rural Virginia and seek to learn about the issues and problems they currently face, then put them in contact with the services that could solve them. They seek to keep politicians focused on local issues even between elections.
Going into the future, Network NoVA is seeking to expand their membership. They’ve already begun preparations for their 2018 Women’s Summit, and signups are already available. Topics at their June 23rd summit are planned to include how to get out the rural vote, Democratic Promise and the involvement of new technologies in elections. Network NoVA has also begun their initial planning for the 2018 congressional elections, where they seek to back Democratic candidates in the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th congressional districts, and even hope to support candidates in every district. Overall, they seek to get people involved in politics, while also seeking out the ways they can use Network NoVA to serve the needs of all Virginians.