Democracy reformers lean in to collaborative initiatives
Coalition building is the bread and butter of the democracy reform movement. Working together helps organizations expand their reach and grow momentum for change.
A recent example of this collaborative nature is the merger, announced Tuesday, between Civic Nation, a civic engagement nonprofit, and We The Action, a community of more than 41,000 lawyers who offer pro bono services to address issues that include voting rights, racial justice and immigration.
Civic Nation houses several initiatives started during the Obama administration or by Barack and Michelle Obama themselves after they left the White House. We The Action will join the nonprofit as its seventh venture, alongside initiatives like It's On Us and When We All Vote.
"Civic Nation continues to grow and we are excited to welcome We The Action into the fold," said Civic Nation CEO Kyle Lierman. "We look forward to engaging their community of lawyers to continue to protect voting rights, advance gender equity, combat the Covid-19 pandemic and respond to crises wherever they arise."
Other recent mergers within the democracy reform community include End Citizens United and Let America Vote, Make America Dinner Again and Living Room Conversation, and the Bridge Alliance and The Fulcrum.
Collaboration has been integral to Pearce Godwin's work with the Listen First Project, which aims to bring people together across differences. When first starting the organization in 2013, Godwin said his "instinct was to see if we can have a greater impact by working together, by collaborating to reach farther and impact greater than any one of us could alone."
The Listen First Project has now grown its bridging divides coalition to more than 350 organizations across the country. Their collaborations consist of "all hands on deck" national efforts and smaller, more focused initiatives in local communities.
A newcomer to the Listen First Coalition is The Great Reset, a nonprofit that encourages civil conversations around divisive issues, such as health care, immigration and racial inequality. The Great Reset started two years ago with a simple gathering of people around Kalinda Fisher's dining table in Nashville, Tenn., and from there it has grown to establish community roundtables in 26 states and 10 countries.
Joining the Listen First Coalition has been beneficial for a small nonprofit like The Great Reset, Fisher said, because she can connect with other organizations and learn from them, rather than "reinventing the wheel" herself.
"I was simply thrilled to connect to other organizations that are working to empower others to have conversations and civil dialogue," Fisher said. "It's not about any one of us getting bigger and better and faster and further, it's about all of us doing well. And so that collaboration, to me, is imperative."
At a time when there are dire threats to American democracy and Congress is mired by partisan dysfunction, the only way to find real solutions is by "mobilizing we the people," said Carolyn Lukensmeyer, former executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse and founder of AmericaSpeaks.
A vast majority of Americans know about these issues and they want to do something about it, but they may not have the tools to do so or know how to get involved, Lukensmeyer said. As a result, over the last several years, there's been an explosion of groups dedicated to strengthening American democracy and building collaboration from the community level to a national scale.
"Now more than ever in the 30 years that I've been doing this work, it is a time where collaboration is both needed and more possible," Lukensmeyer said.
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