By Ryan Adell, NGP Founder/Executive Director – Jan. 22, 2018
Next Generation Politics officially launched in January of 2017. We started with a basic Weebly website, a disorganized GroupMe chat, and a few high school chapters scattered around New York. Today, thanks to word-of-mouth, social media and lots of emails, NGP has over 1,000 members and 50 chapters across 15 states and 4 countries, with the majority of chapters taking the form of chartered school clubs in high schools.
We’ve made a footprint on social media, with 22K Facebook likes, 3K Twitter Followers and 1.8K Instagram followers, and our Blog, with over 25K subscribers, continues to grow, boasting contributors with views so varying that they definitely break the confines of the “political spectrum.”
But it all started when NGP hosted its first event one year ago: a debate—the electoral college vs. the popular vote—held at the South Huntington Public Library on Long Island, New York.
We quickly identified a major flaw in the debate’s structure: it was engineered to expose disagreement between two distinct viewpoints and offered no opportunity to reconcile those viewpoints. During the debate, it was deemed a sign of weakness to concede to another debater’s point of view in hopes of finding some level of common ground—you’d be ostracized by the people on your side. That’s not too far off from how our government operates today.
So we restructured our events to actually promote the values of our mission: bipartisanship and civic engagement. Our roundtable discussions, town halls, and Blog all function to create compromise and to uncover the common hopes for the future of government among Generation Z that transcend geography, religion, race, and partisanship.
With the help of our executive officers and state directors, NGP chapters have consistently hosted incredible town halls to express to elected officials Generation Z’s frustration with unproductive partisanship and its intent to be the generation that finally puts synergy ahead of strife. From town halls and meetings with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to California’s Milpitas Councilmember Barbadillo to Idaho State Senator Michelle Stennett to Arizona Rep. Kelli Butler to Missouri State Senator Ryan Silvey to Illinois Rep. Dan Brady to New York’s former Congressman Steve Israel to California’s Congressman Ro Khanna to the youngest elected official in New York’s history Josh Lafazan—and many more—NGP members have made their point clear, but they’re not done. And above all, the pointed questions asked and productive discussion had at these events show that—with a few emails and a little elbow grease—elected officials ARE accessible.
In addition, our chapters hosted roundtable discussions to discuss critical questions and find middle ground. From our Rio Grande chapter deliberating immigration policy to our North Babylon chapter examining education policy to our Wood River Valley chapter compromising on net neutrality to our Istanbul chapter contemplating refugee crises to our Chandigarh chapter debating judicial reform, these discussions are not your typical dinner table (or congressional floor) kicking and screaming repartee—these are discussions where all contributors make genuine efforts to understand every viewpoint at the table.
And, of course, sometimes viewpoints sharply differed, but food never ceased to serve as a conciliator—gun control was deliberated through “Pizza and Politics” in Westchester, New York and through “Donuts and Discussion” in Peoria, Arizona.
But our chapters didn’t stop there. They consistently pushed the boundaries and hosted new programs and events:
- Our Long Island chapters organized a trip to Albany to meet with their state representatives.
- We placed members in internships with local and state elected officials.
- We interviewed individuals ranging from Alan Dershowitz to David Petraeus to members of the European Parliament to teenagers running for office (check out our YouTube Channel!).
- Our Idaho chapters raised money for hurricane relief.
- And more you can read about on our website!
Most importantly, at our events, participants aren’t vying to win an award; NGP chapters aren’t competition-based clubs. Our movement seeks to, little by little, break down the barriers that inhibit productive political discussion and action—without any distractions. Events that prompt members to look beyond the viewpoints they’ve been exposed to through their schools, families, communities and the media are at the heart of Next Generation Politics.
We’ve made significant strides to ensure that everyone who expresses interest in our organization—whether their schools allows them to start a chapter or not—has the opportunity to engage in NGP. And we don’t host events with entry fees or require dues from our members. Socioeconomic standing or school policy will never be a barrier to joining the Next Generation Politics movement.
We have exciting plans for 2018 that we’ll regularly post about over the next few weeks, but for now, I want to thank everyone who’s joined the NGP movement. You should all be proud of how far we’ve come as an entirely Generation Z led organization. There’s a lot of work ahead, but with one successful year down, I know we’re ready to take it on—one event, member and conversation at a time. After all, as our Indiana Director aptly stated in an article covering one of her chapter’s events, “in the back of a small classroom, in a small high school, in a small town, a big conversation was starting.”