Michigan Policy Summit re-cap

I agreed to guest-blog for Mark Maynard about the Michigan Policy Summit last weekend. And I figured, hey, if it’s worth posting once, it’s worth posting twice. So here are my thoughts on the Summit.

Number one thing that rocked: The best part of the summit was the way it brought the Michigan progressive community together.

When 800 people from all over Michigan and all areas of the progressive movement come together, you know that’s a good thing.

I had the chance to hear what ACCESS is doing about immigrant rights and what Transit Rider United is doing to promote rail transit Michigan. I also had the chance to tell the Unitarian Universalist Social Action Network about the Torture is Wrong banner campaign.

It was a great chance to build a stronger, more cohesive Progressive movement in Michigan.

Number one thing that sucked: For all this great group of people, they didn’t find a good way to get people connecting with each other. Most of the summit was based around the people listening: listening Amy Goodman, listening to the workshop leaders, listening to Jim Hightower.

There’s not a lot of chance to make connections there.

Next year when I go (and I am definitely going), I may just skip the workshops and use that time to talk to people.

Other things that rocked:

  • Amy Goodman was incredible! She was magnetic in the way she presented the need for progressive change.
  • Jim Hightower was also incredible. He was also funny, and we could use more funny in progressive politics.
  • The afterglow at the end of the conference was a highpoint for me. I really enjoyed the chance to re-connect with friends from across the state.
  • Some of the workshops were excellent. I attended the “Putting it all together” workshop on options for healthcare reform, which was an excellent primer on the different models of health care reform in the U.S. I learned a lot there. I also heard very good things about the communications workshop by Dan Farough of Progress Michigan.
  • I enjoyed visiting the information tables by various groups across the state. Since the agenda didn’t promote much conversation, this was my best chance to connect with partners and potential partners across the state.

Other things that sucked.

  • I’m glad that the regional breakouts tried to create a space for discussion, but the groups were so large and the structure so weak that we never got to real dialogue, only serial monologues.
  • Some of the issue workshops were painful. I don’t need you to read me PowerPoint slides that I could read myself telling me statistics I won’t remember trying to convince me of something I already agree with.
  • The organizers try hard to promote racial diversity, but as with the progressive movement as a whole, they still have some work to do.

The Policy Summit has a bold goal: to unite the progressive movement in Michigan across issue silos. That’s a tall order, especially for just an eight-hour summit.

So while I have my complaints, I think they are doing an excellent job, and I’ll definitely be back next year.

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