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Hope Amid Chaos, Civvys celebrate American partnerships

Posted by Bridge Alliance on October 13, 2017 at 3:34 PM

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More than ever before, America’s future depends on working together. We need to celebrate the people and initiatives that leverage collaboration and creativity to strengthen communities, heal partisan divides and invigorate American democracy. That’s why we created the American Civic Collaboration Awards - or Civvys.

The 2017 American Civic Collaboration Awards finalists all exemplify what it means to embrace diverse perspectives and make a difference. Selected by a panel of civic engagement experts from over 50 nominations, this year’s finalists have achieved on-the-ground impact at the youth, regional and national level. We are pleased to honor them, along with all our nominees, at an awards ceremony and reception on Friday, October 20 at the National Conference on Citizenship in Washington, D.C. The winners will be announced in a post following the awards ceremony.

"As we continue through the uncertain times ahead, we will choose to continue to demonize each other or we will choose to lean towards each other and learn to work together. These American Civic Collaboration Awards shine a light into the chaos to provide hope. We are working to increase collaboration and kindness in our civic lives.”  Debilyn Molineaux, Bridge Alliance Co-founder. 

We’d also like to extend our sincere congratulations to all Civvys nominees, each of whom is harnessing teamwork to help overcome polarization and foster civic renewal.

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CTCL Helps Edwards County, Kansas Build a New Election Website

Posted by Kurt Sampsel on October 04, 2017 at 2:24 PM

By Kurt Sampsel, Government Services Associate, Center for Technology and Civic Life

Residents of Edwards County, Kansas have a new online home for important civic information thanks to the efforts of the Edwards County Clerk’s office and the Center for Technology and Civic Life. 

Located in central Kansas, Edwards County has a population of about 3,000 people. The county seat, Kinsley, is known as Midway U.S.A. for its position exactly halfway between New York City and San Francisco on historic U.S. Route 50.

Before working with us, the Edwards County Clerk’s office didn’t provide any election information online, meaning that locals had to either visit the office in person or go to the Kansas Secretary of State’s website to get information. But County Clerk Gina Schuette and Deputy Clerk Stephanie Brake knew that creating an informative, user-friendly website could really benefit voters.

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The Civvys Nominations Are In

Posted by Brian Clancy on September 26, 2017 at 11:37 AM

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By Brian Clancy, Founder and CEO, Big Tent Nation

When we launched the Civvys to honor people working to overcome America’s divisions, we knew we’d get many worthy nominations. But we weren’t ready for the scale and scope of the nominations received, which have been both inspiring and somewhat overwhelming! Despite what the media may feature, the Civvys are evidence that Americans are doing amazing things to get beyond what divides us and strengthen communities at the local, state and national level.

Our Civvys nominees are as creative, tenacious, diverse and wonderful as our nation itself. They include elected officials with the courage to work across the aisle and technology gurus harnessing cutting edge tools to heal the country they love. They range from high school teachers to corporate CEOs, inside the beltway experts to youth volunteers – Republicans, Democrats and Independents.  The full list is below. Learning more about these remarkable people and organizations is the perfect way to rekindle civic faith and see what’s possible when we emphasize the values we share rather than just what divides us.

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Building Bridges Around Shared Principles of Democracy

Posted by Brian Miller on September 25, 2017 at 1:44 PM

By Brian Miller, Exec. Director, Nonprofit VOTE

Core to the work of Nonprofit VOTE is helping nonprofits around the country – including major brands like United Way, Independent Sector, National Council of Nonprofits, Volunteers of America, YWCA, and others – engage the communities they serve in voting and elections. What drives our work is a belief that democracy works best when all voices are heard, regardless of their views.

So when we were asked to take over management of National Voter Registration Day earlier this year, we saw an opportunity to take that commitment to a new level.  National Voter Registration Day was first started in 2012 to address rising concerns that citizens across the country were losing the ability to vote because they had problems with their registration or missed a crucial deadline.

Most states require voters to register or update their registration when they turn 18, move to a new address, change their name, naturalize, or just haven’t voted in a while. In many cases, that registration needs to take place as much as 30 days in advance of the election. Of course, many people don’t think about the election until it’s a few days away, in which case the registration deadline has already passed. But that’s only the beginning of the challenge.

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Leading with Civility

Posted by Bridge Alliance on September 06, 2017 at 3:36 PM

By Eric Allen, SLLF,  Curriculum Development and Research

Here’s a fun fact: almost one American in ten thinks that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. Only four in ten are pretty sure our Civil War was fought over slavery. Three-quarters (just) are confident that the earth revolves around the sun, or that the U.S. got its independence from Great Britain. But 95% of us believe that our country has a civility problem. And when asked where that problem is worst, more Americans name “government” than any other place. 

Clearly, Americans save their attention for what really matters.

Legislators think that citizens are right on this topic. When asked, legislators say that civility in their chamber is essential to producing good policy outcomes, and that bipartisan collaboration (a different thing, but related) improves the effectiveness of legislative sessions. Two-thirds of them feel that civility has decreased while they’ve been in their legislature. Lots of them (we’ve all seen the interviews) have left government service because they feel legislative gridlock makes their service a waste of valued time, or so unpleasant they don’t want to do it. How lawmakers treat each other, and how they interact, has become a crisis like broken bottles on a vacation beach. Our citizen government, in many cases, has ceased working.

Someone mentioned a beach. As it happens, the State Legislative Leaders Foundation has moved into a new campus, here on the long arm of Massachusetts that challenges the sea, and it’s big enough to host intimate conferences when a topic warrants special treatment. We decided to christen our new campus with an event on this very issue. Twenty four state legislators gathered here in early August, a Republican and a Democrat from each of twelve states. We wanted pairs that could speak knowledgeably about the state of civility and cooperation in their statehouse at home, and could make a difference when they returned there. 

Two other organizations partnered with us to do this. The National Foundation for Women Legislators works to support women legislators in a host of ways, and was particularly helpful in recruiting women attendees. The National Institute for Civil Discourse runs workshops all over the country, helping state legislators to appreciate civility issues. So far, they’ve worked with 500 legislators in 15 states. After our conference, that would be about 524 legislators.

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Aspen Ideas Festival

Posted by David Nevins on July 24, 2017 at 12:53 PM

This June I attended the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival where some of the great social, business and political leaders of America shared ideas on many subjects, including what’s broken in our system of governance and what specific actions can be taken to improve the political process so as to better serve a majority of American citizens.

As always the Aspen experience was thought-provoking and inspiring.  A prevailing theme expressed by many of speakers was that our elected officials are simply not representing the interests of our country and do not have the will or the mechanisms to solve the serious problems facing us; this despite the fact that the American public is yearning for leadership that puts country before party. 

While there was a degree of pessimism in Aspen about our country’s current political situation and concern expressed about the ability of elected representatives to deal with these problems in the short term, there was an overriding optimism about the spirit of the American people that in the past has made the United States a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.  Our entrepreneurial spirit, our ability to reflect upon our mistakes, in an honest fashion and to correct these mistakes, were all sentiments expressed and a source for hope.  Numerous speakers cited the great potential our nation has  in terms of the power of an indomitable spirit that leads to change and innovation.  And while there were many discussions as to what our government can and should be doing, I was struck by the fact that many inspiring leaders are not waiting for government to solve our problems; instead, they are taking their own actions to move our country forward.

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Civic growth: Learning about politics from a young age

Posted by Jacel Egan on July 13, 2017 at 11:21 AM

By Jacel Egan, Marketing Communications Manager, icitizen

Saying the pledge of allegiance, raising the flag at school each morning … there are plenty of ways civics can be introduced and embedded into our daily routine at a young age.

First learning about politics

After the Fourth of July holiday, our team released the results of our poll on American values, which asked when people first learned about voting and elections. According to the results, over half (51%) of Americans first learned about voting and elections from someone in their household, like a parent or guardian.

For millennials, a pivotal moment in learning about politics was the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. You remember the infamous hanging chads, right? It was all my parents discussed for a month, and hanging chads were popular Halloween costumes for years.

Additionally, slightly more than a third (36%) first recall learning from a K-12 teacher – perhaps diving into government and civics in social studies or U.S. history class. Just 2% said “a friend,” and 1% said “college faculty.”

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The Political Circus

Posted by David Nevins on July 03, 2017 at 11:45 AM

By David Nevins, Bridge Alliance

In 2012 before the previous presidential election I wrote an article entitled The Political Circus

At that time I said:

“The suffocating partisanship that most Americans abhor will surely be on display for all to witness in the coming election season. The accusations and innuendos, the misinformation and vilifying of one party by the other will be the typical tactics and game plan employed by those on the left and those on the right.”

Unfortunately things have gotten much worse in five years.  The vicious ‘winning-is-all’ climate, the ‘meant-to-mislead’ rhetoric, the extreme and polarizing factions along with the sheer lack of decency are tethering our nation to a new low.

As we watch the behaviors of so many of our leaders today posturing against each other with twisted facts and vitriolic disdain, solely to WIN the sacred trust of the electorate, we ought to be asking ourselves, “Is this particular behavior having the effect of raising or lowering the level of discourse and understanding between and among us as citizens?”

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Lessons From George Washington: It’s Time We Listened!

Posted by Brian Clancy on June 29, 2017 at 12:06 PM

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By Brian Clancy, Big Tent Nation

We all want America to flourish and prosper, but disagreements on “how” keep tripping us up. How is much more than picking between policy prescriptions – at its core it involves how we treat each other, and particularly those we disagree with.

The person most essential to realizing America in the first place thought about this issue a lot. It’s time to revisit his legacy.

George Washington was incredibly wealthy, physically imposing and a war hero of epic proportions. He probably could have gotten away with being a total jerk and still been revered! The fact is, many Americans wanted to give him almost limitless power. Some even wanted to make him a king.

His response? To a degree unprecedented in history (with all due respect to Cincinnatus), he put nation ahead of personal power and glory.  Was it because he wasn’t ambitious? Was it because he never felt like knocking Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s heads together and telling them to just behave? Absolutely not. He had the same desires and frustrations we all struggle with. 

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United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Posted by Carolyn Lukensmeyer on June 26, 2017 at 1:08 PM

By Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, National Institute for Civil Discourse 

Yesterday, the country was stunned by the violent attack on members of the US House of Representatives who were practicing for this week’s charity baseball game, a tradition dating back to the early 1900’s. It brought Washington up short, and there was more discussion of unity and family then we have heard in a long time.

Speaker Paul Ryan took to the House floor to remind us that we are “one family”, and President Trump noted that “everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country.” Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) put it best when he noted that “We have an R or a D by our name, but our title is United States representative.”

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