On June 20th, we hosted our second polithon since our founding on the issue of student debt in Ohio. We brought together 17 participants or “Policy Disruptors” (PDs), split into teams of 5 or 6, to spend 12 hours debating, discussing, and ironing out potential solutions. They were given a briefing book about two weeks out to read up and get more acquainted with the issue and we had two experts on hand the day of the event to help guide the conversations and answer questions. In the end, three policy papers were developed with each team having the following week to clean them up before they were sent to judges. Our panel of judges then reviewed the papers and passed them back to the teams with feedback and scores based on a rubric they were provided.
At the end of Ohio Polithon, the PDs had asked if, instead of picking one of the papers to be the “winner,” which advocacy efforts would be focused on, we could allow them more time to collaborate and piece together a final platform. In theory, this was a great idea, and we loved the enthusiasm of the participants; however, in practice, with busy lives and commitments, this was probably not the best route forward. It was difficult to coordinate schedules for calls to gain consensus and ultimately, the drafting of the final paper landed on one participant with others chiming in and adding research, but it took away from the original process.
For this reason, we’ve decided to release the three raw policy papers from the Ohio Polithon and pull back on our advocacy in Ohio. This is by no means a perfect process and was really part of an A/B split test to further refine the model, with the major focus being on the length of a polithon, so ultimately, we are still very pleased with the outcomes. We learned a lot and were grateful for the honest feedback from PDs, experts, and judges, so we could improve upon the methodology and move forward. In fact, we’ve already implemented most of these changes with upcoming events in Florida with the Florida Student Association and Texas with Young Invincibles. (See our lessons learned below.)
All this being said, we do still want these great ideas circulated, especially since we’ve seen two that were put out there come to fruition already. One team had an idea similar to the Obama Administration’s new rating system for colleges. Locally, Ohio is taking steps to improve advising of students in public universities so they not only complete their degrees on time, but also have a better sense of how to build their resumes and find success after graduation, which was also something the teams outlined. That’s remarkable and proves that our generation has great ideas that deserve to be heard – because they’re already happening!
Next up for the Ohio papers is that they’re now posted on our website and will be circulated via partners and social media. We’re also in discussion with partners to see if they can work with various pieces of the papers and with two online platforms to see if it would make sense to post them up there for further distribution, discussion, and potential implementation. So fear not, this is all still going somewhere!
- A single day Polithon doesn’t cut it on larger, tougher issues, or when the end goal is a developed policy paper. We will now be primarily running day and a half to two day polithons depending on the goals of the event.
- We don’t have the capacity to handle the events and the advocacy. As a brand new organization, we have only a few staff and simply don’t have the capacity to do all we wish we could right now. That doesn’t mean that in the future we won’t have a policy team to direct advocacy, but for now, we realize our limitations.
- Along the same lines as #3, it’s critical for us to partner up with an “Anchor Partner” ahead of a polithon, who ideally is bringing us in to use our methodology to develop new policy solutions in the area in which they work. Thus, they can better guide the process, setting concrete goals, and take the reins of advocacy immediately after a polithon.
- That Briefing Book we send out to our PDs two weeks ahead for background information is critical. Not only do we need to make sure more is put into their development so our PDs are aware of existing policies as well as those that have been tried and failed, but we need our PDs to read them – in full – to be full prepared to tackle the issue at hand.
- Communication needs to be as clear as possible from Polithon and It’s really important that PDs are fully aware, upfront, of the time commitment and any other expectations. The same message should come from both Polithon and partners and is outlined in our brief Participant Guide, which PDs also need to read in full ahead of an event.
Check Out the Proposals
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