Building Civic Power

01/28 Thursday | 5pm

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Join the Future of Democracy Working Group for a timely conversation with Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and a leader in the Movement for Black Lives, and Columbia Lecturer and New America Fellow Hollie Russon Gilman for this conversation about the future of democratic activism and engagement in a time of crisis.

The crisis of democracy is the result of a deep and chronic erosion of our civic infrastructure, leading to the concentration of political power. For too long, democratic reform efforts, however, have neglected to focus enough on democratic action, community engagement, citizen empowerment — civic power. The notion of civic power is made even more pertinent as the deeply foundational issues that afflict the United States government and its people, especially people of color, have been brought to light in the recent George Floyd protests against institutionalized racism and police brutality. At this moment of deepening challenge when we are facing an acute public health crisis and an economic depression compounded by the chronic and persistent challenges of climate change and inequality, we will talk about new strategies for bolstering civic power and democratic engagement in governance, showcasing on-the-ground examples of groups operating in cities and communities across America to co-create policy, services and solutions and make good on the promise to create a “more public” public sector—one that better serves its people in all respects. The star-studded panel will offer their expertise on the necessary steps towards effectively building and maintaining a community movement, and the importance of solidarity, activism, and civic empowerment and how to lay the groundwork for sustained democratic flourishing in this Election season. If we are serious about building civic power, they argue, then we have to approach politics, governance, and community building differently. This will be a lively, interactive event and we hope you will participate in this conversation about the future of democracy.

Hollie Russon Gilman is a Political Reform Fellow at New America; a Fellow at Columbia World Projects, and a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center. Her latest book Civic Power: Rebuilding American Democracy in an Era of Inequality (co-authored with Sabeel Rahman) is focused on revitalizing civic power.  Her first book is Democracy Reinvented: Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation and America as part of the Harvard Kennedy School’s series on governance innovation in the 21st century. She previously served in the Obama Administration as the White House Open Government and Innovation Advisor. She is a frequent commentator and adviser to non-profits, funders, and community based organizations on how to deepen democracy.Her popular writings have appeared in several news outlets including Axios, The Boston Globe, Foreign Affairs, Slate, Stanford Social Innovation Review, TechCrunch, Vox, and The Washington Post. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.  She tweets @hrgilman.

Maurice “Moe” Mitchell is the national director of the Working Families Party and a prominent leader in the Movement for Black Lives. He has a long history in community and political organizing, and, after the murder of Mike Brown in 2014,  used his talents to support the efforts of the Movement for Black Lives in Ferguson, MO, and beyond. Maurice co-founded and managed the organizational and strategic support arm for the Movement for Black Lives, Blackbird, and he also organized the 2015 M4BL convention in Cleveland.

In 2018, Maurice became the national director of the Working Families Party, a progressive, grassroots political party. The Working Families Party describes itself as a multiracial, populist, grassroots movement, and has worked for the past 20 years to promote progressive policies. As national director of WFP, Maurice is tasked with accelerating the growth of the party around a young diverse base. He is also working within the party to promote a more decentralized leadership structure that gives activists and organizers within the party the freedom to take the lead in their communities. 

Currently, the Working Families Party primarily focuses on state and local elections, and has chapters and branches in over 15 states. For the past 20 years, WFP has made its focus down-ballot elections from school boards to state legislatures, with the hope of instituting its policies quickly on a smaller scale and building support from the ground up. Over the next 10 years, Mitchell is primarily focused on inspiring, energizing, and mobilizing young voters to support the party and its progressive policies, and help its platform find a place on the national stage. He tweets @MauriceWFP.

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