OK, Here We Go

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

Photo: Cognitive Policy Works

[This is the sequel I promised to yesterday's post, "If They Can Do It, Why Can't We?" If you haven't read it, doing so will get you in the mood for what's to come.  Go check it out; we'll still be here when you get back.]

In this post I introduce you to The Progressive Strategy Handbook, a a 40-page tract that could be the game-changer we’ve been looking for. You can download it now and get to work, or you can read on and let me persuade you to download it after you’re finished.

The Handbook is the work of Joe Brewer, Eric Haas, and Sara Robinson, who comprise Cognitive Policy Works, which they describe as

both an educational center that provides professional training to people in politics and a research/consulting firm that analyzes the workings of the political mind for non-profits and social businesses.

They study how people think and act in the context of politics and work on helping organizations and grassroots activists to become more effective advocates of progressive change. Here’s the table of contents:

  1. Welcome
  2. The First Crowd-Based Strategy Project
  3. A New Moment for Progressives
  4. A Snapshot of the Movement Today
  5. How We’ll Build Progressive Strategies
  6. America Is At An Inflection Point
  7. Setting The Agenda For America’s Future
  8. Paving The Way To Engagement
  9. Change How Politics Is Done
  10. Launch Strategic Initiatives
  11. About the Authors
  12. Strategy Workgroups

One of the facts about progressive activists that renders us so ineffective, compared to right wingers, is that we spread our attention in many directions, often inadvertently competing with each other as we go. We work in what the authors call “a hundred issue silos” — single-issue organizations that address issues ranging from abortion rights to climate change, from education to human traficking, eliminating nuclear power to withdrawing from Afghanistan. We’re all over the place, competing out of necessity for people, energy, dollars, and attention.

The progressive movement has also shown little ability to set the terms of debate. The handbook addresses this. I’ve been hoping someone would pick up on the work of George Lakoff, whose book Don’t Think of an Elephant, is one I wish I’d written. Eric Haas worked with Lakoff.

For now, at least, discussion centers at the Cognitive Policy Works site. Go check out the strategy workgroup on branding the progressive movement. It’s time we stopped letting them tell us who and what we are.  Here’s our chance.

There are lots of ways to contribute (including financially, of course). A list of practical things you might do to help is here.  And, of course, there’s a blog.

You’ve read this far; you must be thinking about getting involved. Get the book, it’s free and it will take hardly any time to read.  The authors give you the right to  give the book to others, to revise and improve it (as long as you give credit to those whose work you’re building upon); and even to release a new version (as long as you give others the same permissions the authors have given you.)

I’ll close with the book’s opening words, and the hope that I’ve persuaded you to go see for yourself

We are currently in the midst of a battle for the soul of America. Will we become the weak
vestige of a former global empire serving the rich? Or will we transform ourselves into a
model for the 21st Century economy that expands our own peace and prosperity and
extends them to other regions of the world?
This handbook is for those who stand firmly in the second camp. It is meant to be used
by people seeking to undo the decades of harm caused by a powerful minority who have
taken control of our political system and dominate public opinion through the consolidation
of corporate-owned media. Our mission is to encourage the progressive community to
collaboratively build the infrastructure we’ll need to make our vision of America a reality.
The words written on this page are a testament to hope in uncertain times.

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One Response to “OK, Here We Go”

  1. Hi Miryam, with regard to your question about withdrawing support from multinational economic institujtions withot violence: (1) Don’t we have to sayh no to them by sahying, “We don’t want what you can give us cars, televisions, etc., and besides there are noindications you’ll be able to give jus th[ese tings a decade nhence, so we’re just going to wish hyou good-bye NOW, because the sooner you go, the more likely we are to save the Earth.”  That is, why are we so stuck on these things they give us? (2)  Remember Gandhi’s spinning?  It was simple but profound.  No violence needed, but a little personal fortitude.

    Thoreau said his Walden exercise was about seeing how little he needed so as to avoid the needs others were forcing on him and reduce the salary he needed to ask of society for doing what was important to him.  I am course paraphjrasing his beautiful prose.  He was after all the inventor of civil disobedience. When we say no to the accoutrements of a civilizatoj that is destroying us, our seriousness becomes unassailable.  nick

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