Culver City natives carve out their own Blue Future

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GREEN PAST, BLUE FUTURE — Blue Future co-founders Nick Guthman (left) and Sydney Hibbs (right) stand at Culver City High School with Dolores Huerta, who worked with Cesar Chavez to found the National Farmworkers Association. Photo courtesy of Sydney Hibbs

Sometimes, when the world doesn’t quite work the way that you want it to, it is easy to give up and simply make do. When the options are not there, you have to make the best of what you have.

For Nick Guthman and Sydney Hibbs, the founders of Blue Future, settling wasn’t going to cut it. They needed to make change.

“After Donald Trump was elected and so many groups have popped up, we saw that there was a gap in the youth organizing and youth engagement space,” Guthman explained.

“We started to talk with other groups and organizations like the Sunrise Movement and Planned Parenthood, which runs a big youth voter engagement program on campuses. We talked to the Alliance for Youth Action and Next Gen America, and we found what these organizations were doing to work with young people, and what we found was that there was a huge gap for students like [Blue Future co-founder Sydney Hibbs] and myself who wanted to work directly with Democratic candidates.”

Seeing this gap that desperately needed filling, Guthman and Hibbs — who are Culver City High School graduates — came together with other young people to found Blue Future in 2018.

“Our initial roots really lied in the gaps of the progressive ecosystem…the Democratic Party has a tiny budget of $50,000 annually for the entire country for college democrats, and none of that goes to youth organizing or training, so we thought we should do something about that,” Guthman said.

Blue Future’s primary mission is to help young people organize politically and effectively volunteer in Democratic campaigns by raising money and making grants for students so that this work would be accessible and equitable to help young people make a difference

This desire to help bring people together under a progressive flag comes from Guthman and Hibbs’ time in Culver City, 

“What was really interesting for me growing up in Culver City, which is a very liberal place, was starting to get older and realizing that not everything is like Culver City, and not everyone in the country gets to live in a diverse place and hear diverse voices,” Hibbs recalled. 

“Once I was getting older and realizing I love those parts of my community and wanted those built out in other places, it became really important to me.”

Hibbs and Guthman met at Culver City High School, where they began canvassing together in support of the Affordable Care Act, but once the two got to college, they realized they needed to do more.

“[Guthman] and I were always interested in engaging with the community and getting involved with politics, so when we went to college and saw there was a really big gap between what we wanted to do and what was actually out there, we created an organization that filled that gap.”

Blue Future has come a long way since their initial founding in 2018. Using a small dollar email program that has amassed over 300,000 people today, the organization has been able to raise money for a variety of causes. Most recently, Blue Future raised over $30,000 for bail funds across the country in response to the massive George Floyd protests that have spread across the country.

Guthman attributes the fundraising success to the infrastructure built by the mail program.

“Our list responded in an incredible way. It was the largest fundraising drive we’ve ever had in such a short period of time, and we’re grateful that the infrastructure that we have cultivated and that we have invested and that we have built over the last 14 months was in existence to support the groups that are leading the fight for racial justice,” Guthman recalled.

Another major issue on the agenda, as it is for everyone, is the effects of COVID-19 on our daily lives and operations. However, this also presented a unique opportunity for Blue Future.

“We realized two things: one is that young people are particularly poised to meet this moment and to play a role in it because we are sort of digital natives,” Guthman explained.

 “We feel comfortable texting or being on the phone and using social media and other things to get involved. 

“Second is that a lot of internship programs have been cancelled, whether it’s for security reasons or financial reasons, so a boatload of young people were looking for something to do.”

Seeing both of these things, Blue Future began to put together what would end up being  the ‘Summer of Progress and Change’ campaign, a 10-week campaigning bootcamp for people in states such as North Carolina, Minnesota, and Michigan that is focused on digital organizing tactics, such as phone banking campaign finance and fundraising, targeting, polling, general strategy, and grassroots organizing, among other things.

While the election of Donald Trump and the unrest that followed was the catalyst that sparked Blue Future’s founding, the Political Action Committee 527 organization is currently towards its attention towards a different election.

“Our focus right now is on the Senate,” Guthman admitted.

The states involved in the ‘Summer of Progress and Change reflects that, as many of the senate races in those states are poised to be significantly impacted by young people, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, which is out of Tufts University on the border of Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts.