“Changing the Civic Conversation”, Seamus Kraft

“Changing the Civic Conversation”
A Civic Engagement Transcontinental Train Journey
August 1-7, 2016
The Toxic Problem to be Tackled on the Train
You do not need to be a pollster or a pundit to know our public discourse has become poisonous, and that growing distrust and disengagement by members of the Millennial Generation are fast becoming mortal threats to the future of our democracy, our economy and the American Dream itself.
  • Just 17% of 18-29 year olds believe the United States is heading in the right direction, according to the Harvard Institute of Politics.
  • And a mere 16% of Millennials believe that government can actually solve the problems facing our country.

If that doesn’t immediately change, Americans of all ages will be in deep trouble.

What We’re Doing About It: Sparking a Millennial Movement for Smart Civic Engagement
Our aim is to bring democracy back to young Americans, and bring young Americans back into our democracy. And based off the incredible success of Chicago’s recent Envision Chicago hands-on civics initiative, when you engage rising leaders on their terms, amazing things follow.
That is why we are leading an August 1-7 transcontinental journey called “Changing the Civic Conversation.” In partnership with theMillennial Trains ProjectThe OpenGov Foundation–represented by yours truly and our chief of staff Meag Doherty–will travel from Pittsburgh, PA, to Chicago, IL, Kansas City, MO and Albuquerque, NM before pulling to a stop in Los Angeles, CA.
Riding along with The OpenGov Foundation will be these tremendously talented, diverse and bold young thinkers, doers and leaders.  We will have the support of NBC-Universal, The U.S. State Department, McKinsey, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Norfolk Southern, City Year, National Geographic Magazine, Comcast, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in addition to a bevy of other generous sponsors.
*How You Can Help Change the Civic Conversation*
In each city, we plan to convene a lunchtime discussion with the best and brightest local elected officials, millennial leaders and entrepreneurs, academics, journalists and job creators. As outsiders, we need your help to design productive discussions on the most pressing topics with the rising stars in each location. Would you please considering helping us to identify and invite:
  • 3-5 rising stars in each city’s local government, and help connect us? Mayors, council members, management-level officials are perfect.
  • 10-15 Millennial entrepreneurs, community activists, educators and journalists who bring thoughtful, diverse and inclusive perspectives to the table?
  • 1 perfect spot that would host the discussion?  Ideally, the location would be a public building or local business in a setting that screams “Innovation, Improvement, progress!”
  • 2-3 potential sponsors who would jump at the chance to get in front of their city’s rockstar Millennials, while receiving the positive, can’t-miss press coverage the trip will generate in both their city and across America? Sponsors would help defray the costs associated with each visit, from food and drinks to renting event space and equipment. A trip-and-sponsor flyer is attached.
NOTE: As a 501(c)3, all donations, whether in-kind or direct, are fully tax deductible. Click here for The OpenGov Foundation’s IRS non-profit determination letter. 
Defining Success
“Changing the Civic Conversation” will be a smashing success if we can, through our community-based discussions, capture and share the following critical civic insights:
1. Uncover the real issues America’s next generation of leaders care about most, and what they think should be done about them;
2. Identify, quantify and understand the barriers they see preventing them from raising a family or building a business in their hometown;
3. Discover what role they see civic engagement playing in their lives and livelihoods;
4. Learn what shape government must take in order to earn back millennial trust and confidence in our elected officials and most important institutions; and finally
5. Build bridges between these seemingly disparate communities and young local leaders, empowering them with the most effective collaborative digital government tools, while inspiring them to become public-minded problem solvers dedicated to creating more informed, engaged and equitable cities.
Upon returning from the trip, we will produce two powerful and permanent records of the changing civic conversation:
1. A professionally-produced video telling each city’s untold stories of civic progress and positive change, while sharing the powerful perspectives of the emerging Millennial leaders we encounter; and
2. A singular body of research and set of recommendations to help today’s leaders better understand, better engage with, and better serve the Millennials who will soon take over the reins of each city.
You are a busy person, I know, and may not be able to help change the civic conversation with us.  But your support, advice and assistance will be critical to a killer cross-country journey, wonderful local events, and a long-overdue reengagement with young Americans who right now are not active members of our democracy’s Great Conversation.
Thank you, and I will follow up next week.  Have an excellent weekend.
– Seamus
Seamus Kraft
Executive Director & Co-Founder


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