Newsletter: We’ve got our sights on 2016 + we need your help

October is off to a solid start as a month of client building and 2016 planning for us here at Polithon. We closed out September with a great event in Florida and are working toward another event in Texas, while in talks with others for the end of this year/early next. As always, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest!

Florida Student Association: On September 26 and 27, our fearless leader, Julia Hurley, was down in Tallahassee, Florida, at Florida A&M University facilitating a polithon at the invitation of the Florida Student Association on student debt in the state. Over the course of a day and a half, 23 student government representatives from 8 public universities across Florida came together and crafted a detailed outline of policy prescriptions on student debt. They were assisted by experts from the Lumina FoundationFlorida College Access Network and Postsecondary Analytics, and focused mainly on reforming and increasing access to financial aid, increasing financial literacy, and ensuring timely degree completion. The first draft is off to experts for feedback before being developed into a full policy paper. Next, with the support of Young Invincibles, FSA will be advocating for the adoption of their solutions – and they’ve already gotten some interest….

Ohio results are in…: Did you catch our blog post on the results from our Ohio Polithon at Ohio State University in June? While it may not have been perfect, we were really happy with the outcome and the dedication of the participants. Check out what they came up with and what’s next for OH on the website!

Upcoming Polithons:

  • National Women’s Business Council, DC, December/Early 2016: After a few slight delays, we’re working to reschedule the NWBC Polithon for December or Early 2016 and should have lots more details after the first week of November.
  • Texas, November: Polithon + YI-South have teamed up to run a student debt focused polithon in Houston sometime in November. As soon as we firm up venue, we’ll have a concrete date and more info. Check out the website for more details and the application! 
Don’t just sit there, DO something!
As always, we appreciate your help and are putting out some calls to action:
  • Connections: We’re actively seeking out to clients to set up Polithon’s schedule for 2016 and we’d love your help! Do you have a connection to an existing advocacy organization, government agency, or company that is looking to better engage young people in policy? Or one that wants to bring more voices to the conversation on a specific issue? Put us in touch! Email Julia (julia@polithon.org) or Evanna (evanna@polithon.org) and make a connection to help expand our reach.
  • Donations: As you know, no organization can run without funding and while we’re focused on a sustainable, revenue generating model for Polithon, as we build that out, we still need your support. We’re seeking event specific funding in TX as well as general operating funds. Help us give our generation a voice in policymaking and invest in change!

Onward,
Julia + Evanna

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

More polithons on the horizon….get ready for an exciting couple of months!

There’s some serious wind in Polithon’s sails heading into August after establishing Polithon Labs, LLC (our for-profit arm), partnering with the National Women’s Business Council, and gearing up to run polithons in Texas, Florida, and Washington, DC, between now and October! There’s lots more on the horizon too, so be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up!

DSC_1017

Polithon Labs, LLC: Knowing how challenging fundraising can be and recognizing that we want a sustainable growth model, Polithon has established Polithon Labs, our for-profit arm. It will focus on consulting for clients using the polithon model to help them come up with innovative solutions to an issue they’ve identified; turning discussions and venting sessions into actionable solution development. Polithon Labs will remain mission driven. We’re not selling out, working primarily with clients that support our broader goal of increasing civic engagement among millennials while giving our generation a voice in policy making.

Upcoming Polithons:

  • Florida Student Association, September: Still ironing out details, but this will be a closed event for student government representatives in FL following an advocacy training with Young Invincibles.
  • National Women’s Business Council, DC, October: Our first polithon under Polithon Labs, the event will focus on student debt as a barrier to entrepreneurship.
  • Texas, October 24-25: Polithon + YI-South have teamed up to run a student debt focused polithon in Houston in late October. Check out the website for more details and the application!
  • California, POSTPONED: Sadly, due to scheduling challenges, we’ve had to postpone the California Polithon until later in 2015. We’ll send more info as soon as we have it, but in the meantime, let us know if you’d like to help organize.

Make Progress: It was a marathon of a Thursday at Generation Progress’ Make Progress Summit on July 16th. Polithon was proud to sponsor this great event where we were able to connect with millennial leaders excited about our model and wanting to support our work. We also got a chance to meet Analiese Eicher, Program + Development Director at One Wisconsin Now, an organization taking the lead on student debt in the state, and CT State Rep. Matt Lesser, a student debt warrior in a state seriously stricken by the issue. As a result of the Summit, we also connected with the offices of (millennial!) Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Seth Moulton (D-MA), both enthusiastic about our model for change.

ICYMI: Polithon was a featured guest on a #MillennialMon Twitter chat hosted byYoung Invincibles on #studentdebt alongside TICASGeneration Progress, and many more working in this space. MM-July-13


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

  • Donations: As you know, no organization can run without funding and while we’ve established our LLC to support a revenue generating option for Polithon, as we build that out, we still need your support. We’re seeking event specific funding in TX as well as general operating funds. Help us give our generation a voice in policymaking and invest in change!
  • 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 – TX application now up!
  • Run a polithon: If you’re interested in bringing Polithon to tackle a policy issue in your community, city, or state, let us know! We’d love to work with you!

Onward!

Julia + Evanna