Conor Hand

2017 Cheng Fellow

Problem

A wave of citizen activism took place after the 2016 election. Millions of newly energized citizens marched, participated in town halls, called their representatives, joined grassroots groups, and or ran for office. But over the coming months, many people felt like they didn’t have the skills, knowledge, or confidence to sustain and to act effectively. This is because while many Americans take a civics class in high school, very few ever learn the basics on how to be civically engaged or how to organize effectively for social change. And while some advocacy organizations offer in-person trainings, these opportunities are often out of reach for the people who want them most because of geographic, financial, or membership considerations.

Pathway

Conor is determined to address the lack of civic engagement in American politics, specifically seen through low voter turnout in elections and low engagement in issue-based organizing. As a Cheng Fellow, Conor further developed and refined a project he co-founded: Resistance School. The goal of Resistance School is to provide online skill-based trainings for individuals and groups across the nation so they can make a positive and lasting difference in their communities. With Conor’s background in education, policy, and political organizing, he hopes to lead Resistance School in playing a leading role in deepening community-based organizing infrastructure in order to increase civic engagement for the long-term.

Person

Conor is originally from a rural county in southwest Virginia. He became civically engaged after he knocked on his first door for then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008. From there, he went to Virginia Tech where he got his bachelor degree in Political Science. During his time at Virginia Tech, Conor interned for local campaigns, two US Senators, and he took a semester off of college to work full-time as a Field Organizer for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. It was during these formative years that Conor came to understand the interconnectedness of public policy, electoral politics, and community organizing. Conor is dedicated to working in all three areas in order to help create a more just, equitable, and inclusive society. Conor is also a former Teach for America corps member and Bernie 2016 campaign staffer where he was the Deputy Field Director in New Hampshire and the statewide Field Director in Michigan and then in Pennsylvania. Conor just graduated from Harvard Kennedy School with his Master’s degree in Public Policy. He currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts where he works full time as the Executive Director for Resistance School.