Social Movements and Governing Power

VOTE: New Frontiers in Integrated Voter Engagement

From 2008 to 2019, the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI) published reports under our previous name, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE). 

October 1, 2019

By May Lin, Jennifer Ito, Madeline Wander, and Manuel Pastor


What happens in California can offer possibilities and pathways forward for a nation experiencing unease. After all, the demographic change in California presaged the nation’s change while the economic shifts in the Golden State also signal, for better or worse, America’s economic future. Getting policies that secure a more prosperous and inclusive California is critical for the state, but it is also instructive for the nation.

The report, Vote, Organize, Transform, Engage (VOTE): New Frontiers in Integrated Voter Engagement, highlights lessons from a decade of building that civic capacity in California. There are four themes from the Golden State IVE story that we think are relevant for Californians and non-Californians alike—and that we hope are easy to remember given its appropriate acronym: vote, organize, transform, and engage (VOTE). Taken together, these themes capture why groups employ IVE as a power-building strategy, what they are able to accomplish by harnessing IVE as part of their broader movement building, and the nuts and bolts of how they implement IVE.

  • Vote—A focus on tipping points, turnout, and technology in order to have decisive influence on closely-contested electoral outcomes and to leverage that influence for bolder proposals that reach beyond what is winnable and towards the kind of change that is needed.
  • Organize—A stress on rooting the work in an ecosystem of local grassroots organizing groups committed to developing leaders to engage voters, recruiting voters to become members, and bridging local-state work.
  • Transform—A vision for governance by transforming who votes, the issues they vote on, and redefining notions of citizenship and civic participation among those who are or have been excluded from voting.
  • Engage—A commitment to engaging voters year-round and between election cycles, engaging the most impacted communities and constituencies, and not only addressing issues that they care about but also challenging beliefs and biases that divide communities.

Other Resources

  • Change Elemental’s Building Power for Justice: Shining the Light on Grassroots Efforts in California
    • Shining the Light on California Calls and InnerCity Struggle: Values-Based Networks Accelerate Transformative Political Change
    • Shining the Light on PICO California and Faith in the Valley: Weaving Together Communities Across the State to Create a More Equitable California
    • Shining the Light on Working Partnerships USA and Oakland Rising: Strengthening the Nexus of Voter and Civic Engagement and Economic Mobility

Read our other publications by research area

    Immigrant Integration & Racial Justice

    Our work on immigrant integration and racial justice brings together three emphases: scholarship that draws on academic theory and rigorous research, data that provides information structured to highlight the process of immigrant integration over time, and engagement that seeks to create new dialogues with government, community organizers, business and civic leaders, immigrants and the voting public to advance immigrant integration and racial equity.

    Economic Inclusion & Climate Equity

    In the area of economic inclusion, we at ERI advance academic theory and practical applications linking economic growth, environmental quality, and civic health with bridging of racial and other gaps; produce accessible and actionable data and analysis through the data tools; and establish research partnerships to deepen and advance the dialogue, planning, and actions around racial equity, environmental justice, and the built environment.

    Social Movements & Governing Power

    ERI’s work in the area of governing power includes: conducting cross-disciplinary studies of today’s social movements, supporting learning and strategizing efforts to advance dialogues among organizers, funders, intermediaries, evaluators, and academics, and developing research-based social change frameworks and tools to inform—and be informed by—real-world, real-time efforts towards a vision of deep change.

    Publications Directory

    In 2020, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) merged to form the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI).

    The full list of publications published under our previous and current names can be found in our publications directory.

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