The July monthly meeting of the Lake San Marcos Democratic Club was truly unique, interesting, and interactive! Peggi Chute, an experienced facilitator, designed exercises specifically for our meeting to help us identify which of the overwhelming number of issues confronting our country are most important to us individually. She formerly worked as Director of the Teaching Peace Project, a program she created for the Council of Churches and Synagogues in Stamford, CT, after the Columbine shootings and taught the program in three school districts; was a member of Mayor Dannel Malloy’s Council on Youth prior to his becoming Connecticut’s current Governor; and ran a workshop at the first United Nations NGO conference, held at UN Annex in NYC.
The workshop began with Issues Bingo – an exercise aimed at helping club members not only learn pertinent facts about various issues, but also to help us get to know each other better. We each took a “bingo card” and worked the room, looking for others who knew the answers, all trying to end up with enough answers to create a winning card! For example, did you know that Germany has the highest percentage of renewable energy of all developed countries? Or that 33.3% of all gun owners keep a loaded and ready to fire gun in their home? This exercise got the juices flowing so we could move easily into the heart of the session, identifying our top issues.
Next came the brainstorming session – everyone was free to yell out issues and as a result a list of more than twenty issues was created. To pare down the list, Peggi ran another extremely useful exercise. We privately wrote down our top three issues important to us and were then asked a series of questions. Based on how we answered each question (silently in our own minds) we gave points to each issue. We scored answers to such questions as “Have you ever written a letter to the editor about this issue?” or “Have you ever given any money towards action on this issue?” And “Would you be willing to demonstrate on behalf of this issue?” Our top-scoring issue then became our most passionate cause.
Once each of us understood what we were most passionate about we set out to find other members who shared the same top issue. The result? We have now formed nine working committees: Immigration Reform, Women’s Rights, the Environment, Money in Politics (Citizens United), Voter “Turnout” (to turn out of office the reactionary members of Congress), Gun Safety, Obamacare, Government Surveillance, and Voter Suppression.
We ended this most fruitful exercise by creating a small action plan, exchanging phone numbers and email addresses of members within a group and deciding next steps – for now mostly setting up the next time to meet or engage via email to start the planning process in earnest.
We now have a structure where we can engage more constructively on actions that club members can take on these issues beyond yelling at the TV! We hope that those who participated found it useful, and that those who were unable to attend will find one of the identified topics compelling and join in when a call to action is issued!
Thanks and kudos to Peggi Chute for a most excellent adventure and outcome! It’s amazing how much we accomplished in an hour and a half!