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National Progressive Training Organization Launches Local Chapter Tonight

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega National Progressive Training Organization Launches Local Chapter TonightPhoto via NLC Columbus' Facebook page.
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A national organization will establish a local presence this evening. The New Leaders Council (NLC), a nonprofit focused on bringing fresh names and faces into progressive politics and other leadership positions, launches its Columbus chapter tonight during a happy hour at Strongwater in Franklinton.

“We want people who don’t look like or do the kinds of things that those kinds of people who are already in politics engage in,” said John Tannous, NLC Columbus Co-Director. “Right now if you want to get involved in politics in Central Ohio, you need to tread this really narrow path of certain kinds of jobs, volunteering for certain kinds of people. Ideally, it’d be great if you had a certain name, and if you don’t have connections in that space, there is no way for you to get involved.”

“I think what we want to do is create an onramp for people who are really passionate, but they don’t know the right people. They don’t know how to get involved,” he added.

It’s an effort that’s been in the works on the national level for over a decade. The NLC reaches out to those outside of the political realm and trains them on how to apply progressive politics in ways that are meaningful to the individual, creating a pathway for the unengaged to become informed and active in politics. This could mean running for office, becoming a campaign aid, learning effective advocacy tactics, or applying progressive ideas in entrepreneurship.

Training is offered through their six month Institute, which gathers progressives for one weekend each month and covers a range of topics, including entrepreneurship, fundraising, and communications, among others. Graduates then enter a community of alumni, some of whom end up becoming mentors, panelists at NLC events, or even lobbyists at their state capitals.

To start the change locally, NLC Columbus is inviting progressives of all backgrounds and levels of engagement to join their program. And while there is no litmus test for what exactly “progressive” means, Tannous said the typical member believes in “strong democracy, equal opportunity and social justice.”

Co-Director Colleen Lowry thinks of NLC as a “pushback” against heavily-funded conservative efforts to train and run right-leaning candidates. Organizations like the Heritage Foundation, a D.C.-based conservative think tank boasting an annual budget of $30 million, has graduated well known policy leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

No equivalent exists on the progressive side, and NLC itself keeps a budget of roughly $1 million. It’s self-sufficient, though, incorporating training on fundraising in its curriculum and applying that directly to raise the money needed for the next class.

While NLC has a fraction of the funding the Heritage Foundation receives, it’s managed to graduate more than 4,200 progressives from its 48 chapters, and 700 of them have run for office or are making plans to. Of the alumni, 53 percent are women, 57 percent are non-white, and 11 percent identify as LGBTQ, indicating a future of diversified candidate slates for local and state elections.

“There are obviously a few exceptions, but for the most part a lot of our elected officials are older, white, and male,” Lowry said, “and I really think that our generation has the ability to change that, to switch up that narrative.”

NLC leaders and potential fellows will have their launch party happy hour tonight, July 11, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Strongwater, 401 W. Town St.

For more information, visit newleaderscouncil.org.

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