A JOURNEY FROM OUR ORIGIN
The Bridge Alliance is a growing and dynamic community of 100 + organizations working across traditional ideological, demographic and racial lines to perfect our union. We envision a thriving, just and healthy democracy by serving as a backbone organization to our members that impacts mainstream culture. We serve as a testing laboratory to address the burgeoning movement of social and political reform in our country. Our theory of change supports the five theories of change at work in the democracy field. We are at the intersection of media, civic engagement, electoral reform and policy making for healthy self-governance.
Creation and Planning
The Bridge Alliance emerged from a meeting in Boulder, Colorado in February of 2015 of leaders of what was then called the Transpartisan movement. The meeting was the brainchild of Mark Gerzon and John Steiner of Mediators Foundation who are two pioneers in the movement created to bring Americans together to find better ways to bridge the divides that separate us and to solve the serious problems facing our nation.
The invitation to that meeting stated that the following:
The meeting is about defining the actual vision and mapping out steps for implementation.. We will design an agenda that allows us to emerge from the meeting with a much clearer idea of the actual who, what, when, where and how of the National Convening that we envision.
At that time, we had a vision of a National Convening for the summer of 2016, a convening to shine the spotlight on the many organizations and millions of Americans who shared our vision, and who are already each in their own way were working to bring about a new paradigm in governance for our great Country.
And while it’s taken longer to realize, the vision of the convening and the discussions in that room was the start of the Bridge Alliance.
The vision of the Bridge Alliance as an umbrella group to harness the collective energy of the many social entrepreneurs working across the country for healthy self-governance emerged at the meeting.
The Stanford Social Innovation Review study, titled “Channeling Change - Making Collective Impact Work,” was discussed at length and became a significant component of the Bridge Alliance theory of change.
“The complex nature of most social problems belies the idea that any single program or organization, however well managed and funded, can single-handedly create lasting large-scale change.“
We all realized that it was essential that we come together as a movement and believed that it would not happen organically. We understood that the process needs nurturing and we designed our first strategic plan to create backbone infrastructure to bind us together. The vision of what the Bridge Alliance was created on the principles of the Collective Impact theory and remain an important part of our strategy today:
- A Common Agenda - All participants have a shared vision for change including a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions.
- Shared Measurement - Collecting data and measuring results consistently across all participants ensures efforts remain aligned and participants hold each other accountable.
- Mutually Reinforcing Activities Participant activities must be differentiated while still being coordinated through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.
- Have Continuous Communication Consistent and open communication is needed across the many players to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and create common motivation. This is advancing rapidly and we are ready for large scale investment.
Building Infrastructure & Member Services
From 25 to 50 organizational members
Member Education through Peer and Consultant Learning Sessions - through 2020
Approximately once per month, the Bridge Alliance Education Fund hosts one Peer Learning Session and one Consultant Learning Session via Zoom video conference. These sessions are meant to provide interactive, informational lessons to Bridge Alliance members to help them succeed in their missions. The sessions are all free to members and recordings of the sessions and copies of the presentations are available to members at all times.
Weekly Updates Spreading the Word - ongoing
The Weekly Update continues to provide members and supporters alike with the latest in the democracy movement and continues to bring increased attention to our members events
Updraft America - one time event
Partnered with Suzanne Firstenberg and her art exhibit. The event was MC’d by Cokie Roberts
Social Media Campaign Experimentation - various in 2016 only
- The Waking Democracy (ala The Walking Dead)
- Your Story Matters (following the 2016 election)
- The Lab - Social Media Network
- Millennial Outreach
- Days of Gratitude
- American Love Story
Grantmaking for Collaboration
From 50 to 70 organizational members
Bridge Action Grants - one time awards
In 2017 the Bridge Alliance awarded approximately $700,000 in Collective Impact grants to enable its member organizations to better collaborate on ways to fix political processes on the local, state and national levels. https://www.bridgealliance.us/bridgeactiongrants
Civvy’s - ongoing
Started in 2017, the American Civic Collaboration Awards, or “Civvys,” is the only national awards program dedicated to celebrating projects that emphasize working together across divides to strengthen communities and empower citizens. By leveraging collaboration as a core strength, Civvys finalists and winners put community and nation before party, ideology, and narrow interests, embodying a civic spirit that inspires other Americans to take action, and modeling processes, tools and best practices.
The Democracy Awards with Congressional Management Foundation - ongoing
The Democracy Awards are presented to congressional offices. They recognize the value of staff and honor the fact that Members of Congress achieve success -- The Congressional Management Foundation Democracy Awards is the first awards program to recognize congressional offices’ performance in the service to the nation and their constituents. Developed in consultation with current and former congressional staff, the Democracy Awards will be presented to congressional offices, allowing staff to share in the credit for the achievement and recognizing that a degree of success for Members of Congress is due to the employees they hire and manage. By creating an awards system, the Democracy Awards will accomplish the following goals: recognize and applaud legislators and staff who truly deserve acknowledgment for their best practices in the service of the Congress; provide examples for congressional colleagues to emulate, thereby enhancing the entire institution; enhance and improve public understanding and trust in Congress by demonstrating that Congress can work. Bridge Alliance is a founding partner of The Democracy Awards.
National Conversation Project / National Week of Conversation - ongoing
In October 2017, Bridge Alliance Executive Director, Debilyn Molineaux and her friend, Cheryl Hughes, founder of On the Table (Chicago), invited 25 people to meet about how to mainstream dialogue efforts by creating an annual event. At the end of the day, it was decided to launch the National Week of Conversation in April 2017. A small working team of Bridge Alliance members took on the challenge and have run the event annually since. The effort is currently led by Pearce Godwin of Listen First Project | National Conversation Project and their 2020 campaign has partnered with Weave: The Social Fabric Project of Aspen Institute. Cheryl has remained involved and Debilyn advises. National Week of Conversation was a highlighted project in the collaborative campaign in 2018.
National Convening #1 - Bridge Summit 2017
Sponsored by EarthX in Dallas, TX, Bridge Alliance convened about 80 people for a day-long discussion about democracy, cross-partisanship and solutions. Three working groups formed around the three sectors of work represented by Bridge Alliance. 1) Civic Engagement 2) Campaign and Election Reforms and 3) Governance and Policymaking. The Civic Engagement group developed a plan for scaling, titled “This is America.” This plan included a project in development that later became the Hidden Common Ground report.
Helping the Field See Itself
From 70 to 90 organizational members
Listen First-Charlottesville - Event sponsorship
Bridge Alliance sponsored and provided staff support for Listen First in Charlottesville to kick off the National Week of Conversation. This event promoted healing in the Charlottesville community and brought together a number of prominent speakers from both sides of the political divide for a full day of conversation.
The events were followed by an in-depth conversation between former RNC and DNC Chairs Michael Steele and Donna Brazille, hosted by Common Ground Committee.
Collaborative marketing campaigns
In 2018, Bridge Alliance sponsored three collaborative social marketing campaigns, highlighting the work on 18 members. Each of the three campaigns correlated to one Bridge Alliance “sector” of work. The three sectors of work within the Bridge Alliance are:
- Campaigns and elections reform
- Civic engagement and
- Governance and policy making
We collected about 13K email addresses over the three campaigns. Each of the members who participated received an email list for those who signed up. This early foray into collaborative communications laid the foundation for future, more successful efforts.
National Convening #2 - Democracy as a Field of Work - We Need a Fractal Framework!
Convened in Washington DC, the second Summit convened around the discussion of “the field” and featured nine presenters who could see beyond the work of individual organizations. As the day progressed, members and guests were invited to see their work as an important aspect of the overall “field.” The Democracy Field Overview was the document created post-Summit to best describe our industry of work. This summit was also our first awareness of our self-selection process and who was “missing” from our work.
Democracy Field Overview
The outline of current work for the democracy field was an extensive portion of the known work in the democracy field, growing out of the national summit held in October 2018. The distillation was offered for examination and discussion amongst interested participants in the cross-partisan movement. The co-created and community updated outline document combined civic engagement, electoral reform, policy and issue work of the many unique organizations and funders working within the political and civic reform sectors. It was also a useful tool in helping the democracy field “learn about” complementary work that contributes to their own efforts, thereby further connecting the movement. See the full overview here.
Diversity and Inclusion
From 90 to 97 organizational members
Bridge Alliance Education Fund made a significant investment in The Fulcrum, a digital news publication about the democracy movement. We believe providing media attention highlighting the work and accomplishments of our members is critical for the movement as a whole and to our members as well. Despite the many noteworthy achievements in the reformation and revitalization of our social and political process, too few Americans know there is a cohesive, organized movement in-progress. The Bridge Alliance Education Fund feels this must change; we must demonstrate that there is an alternative for those who’ve grown weary of the party-first, establishment quo paradigm. We are confident the Fulcrum will be a game changer in raising public awareness. View The Fulcrum here.
Bridge Alliance members consistently express their need and desire for focused, strategic convenings (conferences and working sessions). The convenings are focused, with specific outcomes and goals, featuring deliberately diverse participants and presenters. At these sector meetings, Bridge Alliance facilitates a four hour session to ask and brainstorm on sector-level questions. As each of our members are experts in their own right, we provide experiential opportunities to share ideas, deepen relationships and develop collaborative work in complementary ways.
Campaigns and Elections Sector members and guests met to think together about the “hot issues” of electoral reform and how the addition of relational skills building would impact the issues of the day. We brainstormed about the need for a “brand” that would attract mainstream attention. We talked about the need for electoral reform to connect with other divisive issues, to support the solutions people are working towards. Much of the work started this day has continued through the work of NANR, Unite America and Represent.US.
Civic Engagement Sector members met to discuss the challenges of “metrics” and providing accountability to funders for the effectiveness of relational skills building. Bridge Alliance had been in several funder meetings in early 2019 where this topic of accountability was recognized as less effective, and sometimes harmful, to the overall mission or purpose of the work. The resulting memo to funders was never approved by the group, but remains a touchstone for Bridge Alliance thinking. In a break-out session during the hosting conference, Bridge Alliance hosted a role-playing exercise that is applicable to and has influenced people working on racial justice issues in 2020.
National Convening #3 - Hamilton Meets Back to the Future
Inspired by Hamilton, the 2019 Annual Bridge Alliance Summit opened with live performers singing “My Shot” and “In The Room Where It Happened.” The day was spent imagining our success in 2039 and creating the narrative of our success from 2019 to 2039.
Adding Ideological Diversity
In 2019 the Bridge Alliance welcomed 7 new members, bringing our total to close to 100, including America Indivisible, Center for the Study of Liberty, Leadership Now Project, Stand Up Republic, Common Ground Solutions, Free The People, and Ballotpedia.
Diversity and Opportunity Task Force
When Bridge Alliance started the Diversity and Opportunity Project, we knew it was vital to speak to and include community organizers in the conversation about how to conduct such an initiative. Thus, we recruited 11 grassroots organizers and formed the D&O Task Force -- a group of diverse democracy reform leaders made to create an outline for Bridge Alliance's goals of an equitable and representative movement and country. The task force convened on three occasions and led to several Bridge Alliance equity initiatives.
Offering young men and women the opportunity to learn more about the healthy self-governance field and contribute to the operations of the Bridge Alliance. Each intern has made a substantive contribution to the organization, and several have been hired on as staff.
Members by State Map
Member locations were originally tracked internally with a simple spreadsheet of names and locations. An intern took the data and converted it into an attractive, interactive database on the Bridge Alliance website. The final product allowed members and supporters to find local member organizations working in their area of interest. The database has since undergone revision to make it more user friendly.
Member Support and Inclusive Community
Three months into 2020, the world was put on pause by the COVID-19 pandemic followed by a series of social justice movements that continue to reshape our society. In response to these circumstances, Bridge Alliance put together a collection of articles, videos, podcasts, petitions, and online events all related to surviving during the current crisis. The Bridge Alliance Education Fund Crisis Recovery Guide is a mass hub of resources open to the general public all provided by our member organizations. The Crisis Recovery Guide can be found here.
The Daily Resource
This e-newsletter replaced the Weekly Update to ensure that supporters had timely access to urgent resources during the COVID-19 pandemic and for the above mentioned crises thereafter. The resources featured in the Daily Resource are added to the Recovery Guide soon after publication.
Grants & Foundations Spreadsheet
As a hub of support for democracy reform non profit organizations, we understand first hand the importance of fundraising. As an effort to provide assistance in this area, we created the Bridge Alliance Grants and Foundations Page, a spreadsheet consisting of grants, foundations and organizations that fund and work with organizations like our members. The goal of this sheet is to be a one stop shop for funding recommendations for our member’s. For more information on the Grants and Foundations page, email [email protected].
Leadership in Crisis Calls
When Covid-19 shut the country down, Bridge Alliance recognized that the pause came with many struggles. Even as we experience the aftermath ourselves, we made it a priority to remain connected to the leaders within our network to share experiences, resources and check in personally. The Bridge Alliance Leadership in Crisis Calls commenced on March 20, 2020 and ended May 8, 2020.
Diversity and Opportunity Programs
The Diversity and Opportunity Project started from the premise that the democracy field is currently represented by mostly white, older and progressive-leaning people. Since our democratic republic is premised on equity, the democracy field should be genuinely representative of the nation. Those underrepresented in the democracy field are people of color, conservative thinkers, youth and those from rural America.The objective of the Bridge Alliance Diversity and Opportunity Project is to organically begin making the democracy field diverse and representative of the country with regard to race/ethnicity, ideology, geographic origin and age. We began by exploring what needs to occur at the individual, community and organizational levels and plan to create initiatives over the next few years that fulfill those needs. Read more about the BAEF D&O Project here.
The Justice, Diversity, Equity Fund
After our 2018 member summit, we realized that in order for our spaces to become more diverse, we must actively seek diversity and make it the operating system for our work instead of a goal amongst others. For our 2019 summit, we worked toward this by creating the Justice, Diversity, Equity Fund, made to sponsor grassroots and community leaders to come to the summit and share their work with leaders in our network. We saw a significant change in the number of diverse faces in our space, which had a major impact on the conversations that day. Bridge Alliance has pledged to make diversity a part of its operations and will continue to advance this fund for further collaboration with the grassroots movement.
In the midst of the current crisis, Bridge Alliance recognizes the many social and spiritual leaders who are working to improve conditions within their communities. In these times, many are doing so with limited resources and means. Bridge Alliance actively seeks committed engagement of leaders amongst peers to elevate their work and professional development and to strengthen their relationships. Mastermind is a cohort-based program providing an opportunity to develop social and spiritual entrepreneurs. The aim is to improve effectiveness for leaders and organizations; adding to sustainability and scaling through a mutual-aid strategy of cooperative learning and peer coaching. Bridge Alliance has hosted two cohorts to this date and is already preparing for the third. More information on the Mastermind cohort can be found here.
Everyone we have spoken to over time has generally agreed the democracy / cross-partisan / healthy self-governance field is lacking in diversity. However, up until this point, the evidence has been merely anecdotal. It seemed self-evident that the lack of diversity we observed with Bridge Alliance members and allied organizations was much more complex than just the lack of racial and ethnic diversity, and included ideological, geographic origin, age and other backgrounds.
Bridge Alliance needed to confirm these observations with specific data that we could then share with our allies, thus we created the BAEF Diversity Report. The results of this report confirm that the healthy self-governance movement -- as represented by Bridge Alliance members -- is led primarily by white people who lean progressive, and are over 45 years old. The purpose of this survey is to serve as a baseline for current and future diversity efforts within the emerging field around democratic values and civil society. This initial report measures the organizations’ board members and executive leaders (defined as CEOs, directors, etc.) across four areas of diversity: 1) race/ethnicity 2) ideology 3) hometown geography and 4) age. It should be noted that staff members are more visibly diverse — in race/ethnicity and age — than leadership.
Over the course of more than three months, the BAEF team surveyed nearly 1,300 leaders of Bridge Alliance members, including both staff executives and board members. For each one of these individuals, the BAEF team researched their race/ethnicity, age, hometown, and ideology -- using a variety of publicly accessible databases. Surveys were sent out to confirm and augment the digital research. See the full report here.
The Equity Hub (formerly the D&O Review)
After the launch of the Bridge Alliance Diversity and Opportunity Task Force and project, Bridge Alliance felt a need to keep their supporters updated on the regular developments of the initiative. Starting in January of 2020, Bridge Alliance published it's first D&O Review, a newsletter sent to those who previously received our weekly update letter. This monthly review keeps those that support and fund our cause updated on progress their contributions are creating. This newsletter is still being published and you can sign up for it by clicking here (sign up page).
Building Cohesion and Preparing to Scale
Field Building Organizations
2021 saw an increase in collaboration amongst Bridge Alliance members and their networks.
- The National Week of Conversation event led by the Listen First Coalition expanded the event to include America Talks, reaching over 90 million people in 2021. It was supported by a collective group of Bridge Alliance members who continue to organize to normalize “bridging behaviors” into society.
- As a founding member of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers (NANR), Bridge Alliance sits on their executive advisory committee to provide connections to the civic engagement community and others as needed. NANR itself provides coordination and support for state by state efforts on electoral reforms such as changing the primary voting systems, voting options beyond “first past the post” and redistricting.
- Bridge Alliance also supports other field building organizations, offering overviews about the democracy ecosystem itself, making introductions as appropriate.
MasterMind Cohort Alumni Network
The MasterMind Cohort has graduated over 60 people from the program, and continues to host alumni network with bi-monthly zoom meetings to keep the community informed about each others work.
Members of Bridge Alliance had been asking for a “portal” as a tool to assist marketing efforts, making it easier for everyday Americans to connect to our Healthy Self-Governance movement. In 2021, this portal was launched as Citizen Connect and has become the go-to database for our movement. Featuring over 500 organizations, their events and on-demand content, we offer the public a way to get connected with 1-2 clicks.
Media Consulting/Assistance for Our Members
In late 2020, we hired Nevins & Associates (no relation to our co-founder, David L. Nevins), to provide public relations support. This effort has helped to professionalize the outreach of members to the media.
The Fulcrum was conceived and founded in 2019 by Issue One as a niche publication covering democracy reform. In 2021, The Fulcrum became a project of Bridge Alliance Education Fund. The vision of journalism about democracy reform has remained, and coverage now includes videos, podcasts & essays about topical issues and pop-culture, as it connects to strengthening democracy. Bridge Alliance members provide much of the expanded content.
Coffee Party USA
Coffee Party USA and Bridge Alliance joined networks in 2021 to expand reach, impact and diversify content on all platforms. Coffee Party members joined Bridge Alliance supporters and have been receiving all the benefits of the healthy self-governance network.
To Build a Bridge
Bridge Alliance launched a podcast! Previously formatted as online learning sessions, Bridge Alliance transformed their webinar series into a podcast where members and pioneers in the democracy reform movement can discuss issues in democracy and what their organizations are doing to solve them.
Throughout 2021, Bridge Alliance increased the number of ways to be involved as a volunteer, partner, collaborator or funder.
AND UNDERLYING ALL OF THE ABOVE:
WE CONTINUE TO ADVANCE DIVERSITY AS THE MOVEMENT OPERATING SYSTEM.