The Action Builder team with AFL-CIO staff and affiliates at a cooperative development meeting in January, 2019. The Action Builder team with AFL-CIO staff and affiliates at a cooperative development meeting in January, 2019.

Adrian Sauceda, an international representative in the Membership Development Department at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), has been a part of the cooperative development team building Action Builder from Day One.

“I remember Martha [Director of Cooperative Development at Action Squared] asked me in that first meeting, ‘If you had the opportunity to make anything you want, what you would want to see in this tool?’,” Adrian recalled in a recent interview. “Martha was vigorously taking notes, and I was just spitting out ideas on how I wanted to make it strictly for organizing.”

At Action Squared — the organization behind the Action Network and Action Builder toolsets — we pride ourselves on building tools for the progressive movement with the progressive movement. Our cooperative development process isn’t just collaborating with users. It’s creating a formal structure that guides the development process from start to finish, grounded in mutual respect and shared ownership. To formalize that cooperative structure, we convened a national partner table to guide the prioritization of what we would build. Adrian remembers how it felt to be in the room in that first committee meeting for Action Builder, in September 2017.

“It was a breath of fresh air,” Adrian said. “I was very excited because I saw all these organizers from other labor unions — and not just Building Trades, this was all labor unions — focused on one goal: organizing. Our focus was on growing the labor movement, improving on it, and how to be more productive, faster, more streamlined.”

An image of someone holding a mobile phone displaying the Action Builder toolset.
Just weeks after brainstorming new features, organizers get to see their ideas brought to life in the tool.

In regular meetings, first quarterly, then monthly, the committee raised and reviewed ideas for how an organizing tool would make the tough work of organizing a little bit easier. In the next meeting, they would see their ideas brought to life in the tool.

“The Action Builder team would put something together, and I’d be like, ‘That’s exactly what we talked about!’,” recalled Adrian. “A month or two later, what I talked about last time is in the tool, and I’m able to use it.”

In addition to brainstorming and discussing Action Builder features, the meetings also presented an opportunity for organizers from different unions to learn from each other and share their organizing best practices, something that organizers from different sectors rarely get the chance to do.

“I was excited to go to the committee meetings and meet with other people,” Adrian told me. “I’ve been organizing since 2003, so I’ve got quite a lot of organizing under my belt, but being around the affiliates and bouncing ideas off each other and then listening to them tell the team, ‘This is how we want it to work for us,’ I’m listening and thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve never even thought about doing that.’ It was good to be around other organizers and be able to take away lessons from how they do it.”

United in pursuit of a common goal — the development of a new organizing tool — organizers from different unions found a new way of relating to each other and sharing strategy and tactics.

“Our focus was on growing the labor movement, improving on it, and how to be more productive, faster, more streamlined.”

“Being a construction branch of the AFL-CIO, a lot of our meetings or collective campaigns are just with Building Trades,” said Adrian. “But to be in that room and see how others are organizing, I was thinking, ‘We can make that work for us over here!’ Getting everybody together, all the labor unions, that’s how it should be. No matter what branch or labor union you’re in, we’re all a labor union.”

After each committee meeting, Adrian took the tool back to IBEW to test it and give feedback to Martha and the Action Builder team. It’s a process that will continue indefinitely, resulting in constant improvements and additions to the tool.

“Everything can always be improved, so I want to be in that process from here on out to constantly make improvements,” said Adrian. “As people take it to their own labor union and use it in their own way for organizing, I want to hear those ideas and be on that committee to have that collective thought process. To say, ‘They’re using it for this, we can start using it for this also.’ As long as they have those committee meetings, I’m always going to be a part of it.”

As for the current Action Builder toolset, Adrian says it’s made his job a lot easier. The cooperative development process has resulted in a powerful and intuitive tool that works seamlessly for organizers.

“Action Builder kind of speaks for itself. Once somebody sees it, and I show them how it benefits them, I see the lightbulb go on. The rollout happens by itself — all I have to do is show what Action Builder can do, they love it, and they run with it.”

Thank you to Adrian Sauceda from IBEW for sharing your story about the Action Builder cooperative development process!

Want to see the toolset in action? Attend a guided walk-through and discover the 8 core features that make Action Builder the go-to tool set for organizers. Sign up here!