Chris Melody Fields Figueredo
Executive Director, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center
In her current role as executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC), Chris Melody Fields Figueredo has brought with her a history of advocacy, coalition building and multi-tasking. She also brought an understanding of how diversity, equity and inclusion can improve campaigns and are critical to movements.
“When marginalized people are included in the political space, the conversation is different. It is less transactional,” said Figueredo. “People who are the most impacted must be included in decision-making and we are leading with our lived experiences.”
BISC currently has an all-female identifying staff and a majority are women of color. In the last several years, there has also been an increase in organizations being led by people of color in the progressive ecosystem. Figueredo says that has made a tangible impact.
“The BISC room [conference] feels different, the questions are different, and the strategies are more inclusive and more effective,” said Figueredo.
Her own experience has helped her to be the leader she is today.
Born in Venezuela, she moved to the United States with her family when she was just three years old. Her mom, a domestic worker, and dad, a maintenance manager at a printing company, were not particularly political but her dad was a voracious reader of history, including biographies.
She got involved with Student Assembly and local campus issues during college in Texas and then, toward the end of her college career, the Iraq war started. Like many at that time, she got more involved in protests and national/international politics. In some other businesses, this may seem odd, but she then landed in Iowa in 2003 working as a field organizer on a presidential campaign.
As the only woman and the only Latinx person in that office and a subsequent campaign, she was also tasked with Latinx outreach and translation. As is the case with so many campaigns, the extra work came without additional pay.
“When I went to DC after that campaign, I knew I didn’t want to work on a campaign or in government,” she said. “I wanted to work ‘politics adjacent’ and got my first job doing education advocacy after attending a Democratic GAIN job fair.”
Representation, Figueredo said, should look like us. While the ballot measure space has traditionally been dominated by white men, that is changing and that is because of people like her. For others looking at careers in campaigns, advocacy or policy work, she has this advice:
“You are worthy. Your lived experience should give you a seat at the table. Your experience is valuable at all levels of this work.”
Holly Armstrong is a political and communications strategist and lives in Denver, CO. She is originally from Iowa and was also there working on a presidential campaign in 2003. She can be found Twittering @hollyjarmstrong or by email at [email protected].