My name is Megan Sweeney and I am the Founder and Executive Director of PowerUP!.
I grew up in the vibrancy, activism and power of the People, in Washington DC. Protests, Power struggles, Civic Engagement, History and a sense of something bigger than self left an indelible mark. Life took over and I lost connection to my passion: grassroots activism. I became complacent and fell into self survival. What didn’t affect me, didn’t matter. Change was for someone else to initiate. Fifty years later, and I had become Dr. King's 1963 "white moderate".
With the patience and wisdom of local activists, my passion reawakened, my privilege checked and my voice raised. This reckoning created an opportunity to become involved locally. Civic Engagement in Marblehead fed a quest for knowledge - to understand the structures, map the power, embrace the vision and get involved. All I had to do was check the website every day, search for the Public Meetings scheduled and attend the meetings of our 50 + Boards and Committees - before virtual platforms. Then I had to hunt down the Vision, Mission and Strategic Plans - only to find they do not exist. Finally, I would reach out to elected and appointed officials - to discover they do not typically respond.
After frustration, came an awareness. An awareness of our town’s connectedness - every action and every inaction have a direct and indirect impact on the community. Next came the scrutiny...power & influence, organizational structure, standard procedures, resource allocation (financial, human, natural) and levels of competencies needed to be effective in local government. Then the deeper analysis of "How Did We Get Here?": centralized power, unacknowledged trauma of hate crimes/bigotry, an absence of diversity in leadership and apathy. Our allegiance to operating based on "how it's always been done" came at the expense of stagnation, in leadership and in community expectations - we were no longer an innovative role model.
Being a small town made it simple to initiate connections. I reached out to the People - marginalized community members and/or dissenters who dared to speak up. Networks expanded and trust building steps allowed meaningful conversations to continue and introductions to be made. We listened to each other, and shared experiences:
the perception of Marblehead varies greatly from person to person depending on race, identity or real/perceived status.
the exclusive access to resources and influence promotes inequity and inequity is sustained through the absence of Standard Operating Procedures.
unbiased factual information is systematically smothered by a social media marketing campaign or targeted retaliation
we needed an injection of imagination, energy and undaunted persistence
Together with Founding Members, we decided there was a way to raise awareness and deepen engagement through a coalition of likeminded people. We decided to PowerUP! Our Calls to Action are twofold 1) GOTV efforts for both Town Meeting and Town Elections and 2) Serve as a platform to those interested in putting their passion for Marblehead into action that invests in and celebrates our Community .
Here at PowerUP, we are committed to reinventing the spirit of representative democracy through collective engagement, civic education, and cooperative enterprise. Since 2021, we’ve been supporting our community members in a variety of ways and measuring our success not by monetary size, but by more qualitative measurements such as the scale and impact of our efforts. Just imagine what we can achieve together!