What Millennial changemakers can do to implement thoughtful, future-focused policy
September 8, 2021
What can Millennial changemakers do to implement thoughtful, future-focused policy? Young state legislators from across the United States came together to answer that question at the fifth annual Future Summit, hosted virtually by the Millennial Action Project (MAP) on July 29th and 30th, 2021. As lessons from MAP’s fifth Future Summit, here are five tips to build a post-partisan future:
5. Take Winning Off the Table
In an opening session workshop facilitated by Seth Henderson of the Aspen Institute’s Better Arguments Project, state legislators at the 2021 Future Summit discussed techniques to have more constructive conversations. By approaching interactions with curiosity and checking assumptions, legislators can gain information and identify opportunities to create win-win outcomes. This method of engagement benefits lawmakers’ policy agendas, allows them to advocate effectively for the constituents, and enables productive collaboration across the aisle. The workshop was cited frequently by legislators throughout the remainder of Future Summit, and several remarked that they would bring the principles into their legislative work in their districts.
4. Get Creative
Leaders who can identify effective ways to pass their policy priorities and engage their constituents will always find political allies, both within their own parties and across the political spectrum. Lunchtime breakout sessions at Future Summit encouraged legislators to try out new social media platforms, diversify their policy portfolios, and build relationships with colleagues after the session ends in the “off season.” And, of course, legislators reminded one another to take a breather and practice self care!
3. Identify Resources and Inspiration
One of the ways MAP supports state leaders is by connecting legislators with experts, visionaries, and policy resources; and Future Summit was no exception. In a keynote session, Snap Inc. CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel shared his insight on the importance of millennial leadership, and the unique power of the states in our country to craft innovative policies that can be scaled up to the national level. Another plenary session featured White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Chávez Rodriguez, who discussed the current Administration’s work with state legislators across the country and the ways in which her department can assist them. She said it best on the current cross-collaboration between the federal government and state legislators:
“There tends to be a lot of noise in terms of polarization and partisanship, but what we have found and what we are encouraged by is our state and local leaders who are focused on getting things done and delivering results. We have found tremendous partnership across the aisle and throughout the country.”
Legislators at Future Summit also heard from policy experts and their colleagues in concurrent breakout sessions on criminal justice reform, the future of work, energy and the environment, and strengthening democracy. These sessions made clear that, of everything MAP has to offer, our 1,600-strong legislator network is our most powerful resource. Legislators are encouraged to reach out to MAP for bill books and connections to their peers across the country working on similar issues.
2. Find Commonalities That Unite
In identifying colleagues to partner with on legislation, many policymakers find that party affiliation is far from their most important characteristic. When legislators come together over their commonalities without reinforcing partisan divides, legislative sessions are more productive and the resulting legislation often better represents lawmakers’ diverse constituencies. Young Americans are more aligned than the general population on policy ranging from energy and the environment to criminal justice reform. This pattern holds true for young elected officials across the country, positioning Millennial and Gen-Z lawmakers to build a culture of cooperation.
As one Midwestern state senator pointed out, legislators who share a common characteristic, such as representing rural communities, often have a great deal in common despite different party affiliations. Identifying these shared challenges and opportunities can lead to fruitful post-partisan collaboration.
1. Join a Future Caucus
In a political era of hyperpartisanship and polarization, Millennial legislators are leading the way toward more functional and effective governance. MAP has supported the launch of 31 Future Caucuses across the country, comprised of young legislators and led by bipartisan co-chairs who are committed to future-oriented policy. In the final session at Future Summit, legislators from some of the most effective Future Caucuses shared the secrets to their success. By leveraging shared concerns and priorities, Future Caucuses are building a new generational identity for America’s young adults. This new identity replaces the strictures of party doctrine with a sense of responsibility for our collective future, a genuine commitment to collaboration, and a belief in our capability to solve big problems.
If you are a state legislator interested in getting involved in a Future Caucus, reach out to Jennifer at [email protected].
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