Crossing Party Lines (CPL) is a conversation/meetup based organization that focuses on bringing together individuals from the polarized sides of the Republican vs. Democrat divide in the United States. Being that the nature of this organization is so rooted in conversation, the “conversation towards action” motto that we have been following in ENVS 295 completely applies to all environmental engagement projects that could be started with CPL. Having attended one of CPL’s meetups it seems that their approach to engagement with individuals and conversation leading is quite effective, meaning that this area of the organization probably isn’t the part that needs an engagement project. After interviewing Lisa Swallow, Burgin and I found out that there was a moderator training happening with individuals that were interested in becoming CPL hosts as well as, understanding how to lead non-biased discussions.
Managing the discussion in a manner that nurtures perspective sharing.“Moderator Training Website, Crossing Party Lines
This moderator training is what sparked an idea for an engagement project with CPL. Burgin and I had been looking for a way to involve a broader community in our engagement project and make an impact on the Lewis & Clark campus, which I believe we could achieve through using the moderator training as a tool. The project would be an environmentally focused version of the moderator training pitched to college students and youth throughout the Portland – perhaps even Oregon – area. The training of youth in interpersonal conversation skills and current environmental issues would help to further CPL’s mission, as well as kickstart a conversation about how to effectively engage in environmental work using the discussion skills. This would hopefully bring a diversified group of youth to the CPL discussions, further broadening the sphere of CPL’s influence.
The project would take the general form of the CPL new moderator training, which is a 4-week online course, but it would include a novel component focusing on effective environmental engagement. The four original components of the moderator training are an introduction to moderator training; listening to politics – CPL style; talking politics – CPL style; and making meetups happen. This original setup of the training module has a large focus on CPL’s primary goal of solving the political polarization issue in the US. I am suggesting that the two middle components be slightly modified to something like listening to environmental issues through politics – CPL style, and talking environmental issues through politics – CPL style. The suggested project would acknowledge that it – in this day and age – it’s very difficult to discuss environmental issues without them becoming political. This slight moderation would honor CPL’s primary directive but also include a novel angle to inspire youth in Portland to join the existing national conversation.
There would be three main groups of stakeholders in this project. The first subsection would be the CPL moderator trainers. They would be the ones teaching the CPL model of conversation leading and could assist the youth being introduced to it in learning the ropes. The second subsection would, of course, be the youth participating in the program. The youth would be from all over Portland, stemming from Colleges, Universities, and anyone interested. The goal would be to have as many demographically diverse participants as possible. The last group of stakeholders would be the future meetup participants that will, hopefully, benefit from the effective environmental communication/discussion training from this project.
Steps Towards Success
Of course, as with any engagement project, there would be a multitude of steps toward a successful implementation of this idea. The first couple of steps, however, are already clear. One of the first things to do will be to run this project proposal by Lisa Swallow – the co-founder of CPL – and see what she thinks, as well as what input other senior members of CPL might have. It would also be necessary to revise the existing moderator training model and apply the proposed edits to add the environmentally-focused components. What this would specifically look like is finding resources to support the engagement “curriculum” and add them to the existing moderator training resource page. A last clear step that would be taken early on is devising a way to recruit youth to sign up for the moderator training. This could take the form of college-wide pitch emails, or CPL canvassers visiting and presenting at different venues and institutions.