Ohio: The results are in….

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!

Lessons learned:

  • 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

Leave comments, feedback, ideas, etc., and continue the discussion. We’re eager to hear your thoughts!

Team 1

Team 2

Team 3

Springing Forward: Updated website, new video, + more!

We’ve been more radio silent than planned, but that’s because we’ve been head-down, working as hard as we can to bring Polithon fully to life and begin to change the way policy is made in this country. Thanks for your patience and continued support as we go through the growing pains of going from an idea to a full-fledged organization. We couldn’t do this without you!

Over the last month, we updated the website to be more user-friendly (with some graphics still on their way) and had an awesome communications advisor, Irene Moskowitz, help develop stronger materials to get our message out, including this fantastic introduction video to Polithon. Please check them out and share!

Upcoming Polithons: Due to a scheduling issue, our Ohio Polithon was postponed to June 20, but is now moving forward! California planning is well under way, and we’re excited to announce a partnership with UC Berkeley to run our event out there August 8th. The application is currently live on the website for ALL of our events, and we’ll add deadlines as we finalize dates.

There has also been one small, but significant, change to the model we’ll be moving ahead with. As part of our effort to learn lessons as we develop, we’ve decided to shift the focus of local Polithons to what can be done on the issue at the state level, while the national Polithon in January of 2016 will bring winning teams from each state together to hack the full national solution. Read more on our blog.

Nonprofit Status: Polithon, like any organization, can’t grow without proper funding. We have been lucky to have Cadwalader, Wickersham, and Taft’s pro-bono department take us on as clients and handle all of our 501(c)3 nonprofit filings – making our lives a lot easier! This is a process that can take up to a year, so we are currently in talks with two organizations about taking us on for fiscal sponsorship, allowing us to begin to receive tax-deductible donations.

Funding: As we await our nonprofit status, we’ve applied for the Knight Foundation’s NewsChallenge, which divides a $3M prize between winning applicants. The applications are public, so feel free to check out our entry! We’re also accepting donations via PayPal, which will be eligible for tax deduction as soon as we receive our status or finalize an agreement with a fiscal sponsor, so please considercontributing to help us run our events.

Exploring Partnerships: We have been constantly talking with other phenomenal organizations in the millennial/innovation/policy/advocacy space, and are excited by the prospect of working with these groups on various aspects of the Polithon process. Some notable folks that we’ll likely be working with this year and next on outreach or in other capacities include Young Invincibles, Common Sense Action,National Campus Leadership Council, Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, and YouthVoices USA. As a mission driven organization, we’re committed to working with a coalition of groups to ensure impact.


GETTING INVOLVED
As always, we love your help and are putting out some calls to action:

  • Partners: We are still seeking supporters and potential partners, for upcoming Polithons, especially in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Texas, so if you have any connections in those arenas locally, or at the national levels,shoot us a note!
  • Applications: Help spread the word about upcoming Polithons! We’re seeking dedicated Millennials between 20 and 40 who are passionate about changing policy to apply to participate as PolicyDisruptors and shape policy during our Polithons this year.
  • Interns: It’s that time of year again, and we’re seeking summer interns!
  • The Blog: We’ve already posted pieces from us, our interns, and other contributors on what we’re doing, lessons we’re learning, and why Polithon matters in the scheme of things, and will be adding much more. We love outside contributions, so email if you’re interested!

Julia + Evanna