Randori exercise during my Aikido black belt test

About me

Hey there, I’m Jeff Barrera. I’m a progressive communicator focused on shaping narratives and building grassroots power to advance campaigns for justice.

My dad was a community organizer, so I got started on political campaigns at age six — with the mission-critical job of cutting apart rolls of stickers. In high school, I debated careers as an action movie director, web developer, or policy wonk, then discovered advocacy communications combines most of my interests (sadly there are fewer explosions).

I’m currently the communications & data director for Working Partnerships USA, a grassroots organizing and policy advocacy nonprofit in Silicon Valley. When I started at WPUSA, I was the only communication staffer and our website was a relic from the early 2000s. Five years on, I lead a five-person communications team who (if you’ll forgive the bragging) do some damn good work.

Before joining WPUSA, I attended the Stanford Journalism Program, where I focused on computational journalism and multimedia storytelling. I studied computer science, machine learning, and data journalism, applying these skills to cover transportation issues for the Peninsula Press (with stories picked up by SFGate and KQED). For my master's thesis, I used machine learning techniques to analyze local government agendas.

I also completed my undergraduate degree at Stanford, receiving a BA with honors in Urban Studies. As an Urban Studies major, I explored key issues facing cities — poverty and inequality, housing and transportation, sustainability and energy — and the political forces that shape policymaking.

When I'm not geeking out about narrative strategy or housing policy, I can usually be found practicing martial arts. Since 2005, I've studied Aikido, a Japanese art that seeks to end a confrontation without unnecessarily injuring the assailant (the photo above is from my black belt exam). For the past few years, I've also been training in Eskrima, a Filipino art involving stick, double-stick, knife, and empty hand techniques.

My skills

Pixels, python, policy and prose

I run integrated communications campaigns — combining earned and social media, digital organizing, data science, and content creation — that explain issues, drive narratives, and build movements. Or as my grandmother put it, "I make propaganda."

There’s a concept in martial arts called the “law of requisite variety.” It holds that the person who can effectively use a wider variety of tactics and techniques will have the advantage during a fight: they’ll be harder to predict, have more options to counter their opponent’s strengths, and be better equipped to exploit opportunities.

I think the same principle applies in advocacy and campaigning. From making action movies and building websites as a kid, to taking computer science and data journalism classes in college, to learning media relations and messaging on the job, I’ve built a strong foundation in the skills of storytelling for social change.

Most importantly, I put those pieces together to break through the noise and advance economic, environmental, and racial justice. I can:

  • Craft a report and explainer video to frame a problem,
  • Use data and digital organizing to bring likely supporters into the campaign,
  • Tell compelling personal stories to make an issue resonate,
  • Harness that energy to drive turnout for an in-person action,
  • Pitch the action to reporters and garner helpful media coverage,
  • Flood policymakers and corporate targets with calls and emails from community members,
  • Use the win to build momentum for the next fight.