Five Ways to Get the Most from Civic Hall


Erin Vilardi at work in the earliest days of Civic Hall.

Erin Vilardi at work in the earliest days of Civic Hall.

Civic Hall is a beautiful space, centrally located in Manhattan with a Fifth Avenue view to die for (office space you’d never be able to afford on your own in this real estate market!). But most impressive is the vibrant community of innovators—from the leadership to the regular guests—who care deeply about our democracy and are willing try new ways to improve, digitize, and date-drive it.

I’ve been a community member since Civic Hall opened a year ago, and as VoteRunLead “graduates” to our fellowship at BeeSpace, I want to offer some words of advice for people seeking to get the most out of their Civic Hall membership.

  1. Get to know the Civic Hall team

    Whether it’s a sit-down with Andrew Rasiej or Micah Sifry, Civic Hall’s co-founders, or a side table chat with community director Jenn Shaw, each member of the Civic Hall team contributed to VoteRunLead’s success in concrete ways. Andrew made introductions to new supporters, Micah nominated us for BeeSpace (which VoteRunLead won!) and Jenn helped me find my new Chief Product Officer. Of course, I can’t forget Kamila Karwel and Karima Belhachmi! You want to get in their good graces for the quiet heads up when there is food in the kitchen.

  1. Interrupt the community (within reason)

    Turn to your neighbor and bother them. Ask them what they do or if you can see their demo. Even if it doesn’t seem like a match today, you are setting yourself up to become a human hyperlink within the community. Say hello in the halls and hold the door before the bathroom. You will find strange bedfellows of the best kind. VoteRunLead partnered with Veracity Media for a fantastic event in August; I was introduced to and joined the FWD.US Innovation Council on Civic Hall’s blue couches, and we look forward to partnering with NYC Veterans Alliance, a member-scholarship recipient.

  1. Name-drop Civic Hall

    Use it in your grant proposals. Get in the weekly Civic Hall newsletter. Consider it an endorsement. Leverage it for your brand—it tells folks that you are a certain type of innovator. Seriously. Name drop “Civic Hall” at least once a week! If you’re new to this community (like I was), you are getting a kind of all-access pass to the dynamic network that Micah and Andrew have built over the last decade in New York City and across the nation. Don’t waste it!

  1. Go to #CivicWomen

    Started by Civic Hall’s founding COO Heidi Sieck (and VoteRunLead Advisory Board Member), #CivicWomen is where it’s at. Smart, interesting, diverse, #badass ladies who are as quick to talk about data-driven decisions for NASA as they are about mansplaining in the tech sector. There is wealth of knowledge in this community, a safety in sharing your insecurities, and a willingness to see one another for our full selves. It’s more than refreshing; it’s a model for women’s leadership. And yes, men are welcome!

  1. Read your daily updates!

    Whether it’s Civicist’s First Post morning digest or the members-only weekly newsletter, open up that email! Learn who the new members are, see what potential supporters and donors might be in the space that week, and RSVP for really great events in advance. When you can, ping the new members to congratulate them. Spend 10 minutes every day reading the morning news roundup (I read at least one full article on the spot). On more than one occasion, I’ve sent an article from Civicist to a donor or potential supporter. This is how you show and share your thought leadership, while supporting theirs.

Finally, the Kitchen. It’s not just fab Italian coffee and the occasional free food—though those are awesome—it’s also where the best networking happens. Lunch and linger when you can!

Erin Vilardi is the founder and CEO of VoteRunLead, a national nonpartisan organization using training and tech to increase the number of women in politics.