Last weekend, I had the distinct honor of participating the "Money in Politics" Grant Summit hosted by Mobilize.org in partnership with the Sunlight Foundation, and Common Cause. According to their website, Mobilize.org:
Mobilize.org is an all-partisan network dedicated to educating, empowering, and energizing young people to increase our civic engagement and political participation. We work to show young people how public policy impacts our lives, and more importantly – how we can impact public policy.
The orgnization put its name on the map by taking over the 2100 Fund, an organization that raised funds for organzations promoting youth activism, and writing the Democracy 2.0 Declaration (watch it).
Admitidly, prior to the summit, I had heard of Mobilize.org but I was not very familiar w/ its work. I had planned to submit a proposal for the summit but missed the deadline because of the Silverman campaign and the presidential forum. As luck would have it, at the forum, I got the priviledge and opportunity to meet mobilize’s CEO, Maya Enista, and work with her in a breakout session. During that time, I told her about my interest in the forum and she invited me to attend.
A crucial piece of the summit was the ability for those attending to present ideas and plans that solve the issue of money in politics. From the mobilize.org website:
Competitors in the Democracy 2.0 Entrepreneur Grant Summit must advance a new solution or approach to the money in politics problem – that will change the pattern in the field of civic engagement. Winners will each receive a grant, between $3,000 and $5,000 and will receive the support of Mobilize.org and its partner network to champion their proposal, creating systemic and sustainable change in the way elections are administered.Competitors in the Democracy 2.0 Entrepreneur Grant Summit must advance a new solution or approach to the money in politics problem – that will change the pattern in the field of civic engagement. Winners will each receive a grant, between $3,000 and $5,000 and will receive the support of Mobilize.org and its partner network to champion their proposal, creating systemic and sustainable change in the way elections are administered.
On the first day, keynote speaker, former Representative John Buchanan, gave an inspiring address encouraging and challenging my generation, the Millenials, to become the greatest American generation. He pointed out that money has become an element in our democracy. Technology, along with other tools, makes it easier to promote transparency and hold elected officials more accountable.
The morning on the second day, Nancy Watzman, of the Sunlight Foundation, and Political Party Time, a blog dedicacated to tracking parties thrown at both party conventions as well as fundraising activities of lawmakers, spoke about her exprience trying to bring transparancy to government since the 1990s and all the Sunlight Foundation’s projects and resources. Nancy’s address was followed by a panel that included Josh Zaharoff of Common Cause and Matt Stempeck of Americans for Campaign Reform. In the afternoon, Sam Rasoul, candidate for U.S. Congress in VA-6, stopped by to talk to us about his campaigns, his goals, the change would try to enact in congress and what he has been able to accomplish so far in VA. Between the two speakers, competitors had a chance to meet with panels of experts who gave them feedback about their proposals.
On the last day, David Mark, Senior Editor at Politico and author of Going Dirty, shared his thoughts about the current Presidential campaign as well as some notes about his book. Competitors also got a chance to present their proposals in front of the entire conference. Four winners were later announced. The first prize went to Sam Oliker-Friedland of GoVoteAbsentee.org. I whole heartily agree with the decision, as his proposal was the most developed and most likely to be sustained over the course of time. Basically, his website takes any voter of any district in the US throught the process of getting an absentee ballot. Check it out (Facebook Page) if you get a chance, and please spread the word.
The summit was a great fun and learning experience. It was a eye-opener in the fact that it made me realize how many Millenials are invovled in the political process and are seeking to improve the process and make it more accessible to everyone. I feel as though we sometimes get a bad rap for being overconnected and lazy and the summit gives us as a gneration the chacne to fight that stereotype and put our best effort into improving our democracy.