Together for Our Future
We hear a lot about the deep political divisions in our country today. But we hear less about people who are working to close those divisions. So today let’s fix that by talking about an organization I’m passionate about. Future Caucus helps young legislators see past partisan differences to what they have in common: being Millennials or members of Generation Z. This month, Future Caucus (formerly known as Millennial Action Project) is celebrating 10 years with a big party in Washington, D.C. (I’m very honored to be on the host committee for this event.) Ahead of the celebration, I caught up with Layla Zadaine, Future Caucus’ president and CEO, to talk about this milestone and what’s ahead for the groundbreaking conversation. I’m so happy to share our conversation (edited slightly for length and clarity) with you today.
Can you give readers a quick overview of what Future Caucus’ mission is?
Future Caucus exists to activate young elected officials to bridge the partisan divide and transform American politics. We help them build relationships across party lines and work on policy solutions together, so that political polarization is not an obstacle to solving big problems. What these folks have been able to do, and what we’ve tried to help them do, is to connect along their generational identity. They offer a fresh perspective that is more forward-looking, more future-focused and more potentially disruptive, rather than where we have gotten stuck in policy arguments in the past. We’ve served 1,800 young elected officials across the country, and many of them have gone on to run for Congress or higher office in their state.
How does Future Caucus achieve this mission?
There are four main ways that we help these amazing young legislators do their work. The first is helping them build relationships with one another. We have a Future Caucus in Congress, and 33 state legislatures now that have their own Future Caucus chapters. Second, we built a training curriculum and a leadership development program. That helps them build the skills to be effective lawmakers. The third thing just launched in October. The Innovation Lab is our policy accelerator, a hub for young lawmakers to learn about different issues and co-create solutions with their bipartisan peers. The last program is our storytelling and communication. As these groups of young people do the hard work of making change, we’re making sure people know about it and have a reason to feel a little bit more hopeful that our institutions and our democracy can solve problems.
How can we do bridge-building work in our own lives?
We self-sort a lot. Most of the people you talk to in a day are people that you’ve decided you’re like or that you already agree with. Pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones builds that muscle of engaging. The second thing that we all tend to do is to shut down or dismiss people whose perspectives or worldviews don’t fit with ours. If we could all learn to say “tell me more” instead of saying “no,” that would open up so many more interesting, rich conversations.
What would you tell a young person who is feeling soured on the political system in our country and does not see the point of participating?
Systems are made of people, and if there’s something about the system that you don’t like, nothing is impossible. Nothing is so intractable that it can’t be changed by people, because it was built by people. To young people who are disappointed by what they see in politics today, there are so many ways that we have the agency to change that and to improve that. Never in history has just one single group of people or even just one single generation created massive social or political change. It’s always been coalitions, and it’s always been a multigenerational effort. I hope that lessons from the civil rights movement, the LGBTQIA+ equality movement and women’s movement can be an inspiration for us about what we can do to build a better future and what we can do to spark the change that we believe is possible.
How is Future Caucus celebrating its 10th anniversary?
We are having a big party, obviously, because we’re Millennials and Gen Zers! We are combining it with our annual Rising Star Awards, which is one of my favorite events of the year. We give recognition to young Democrats, Republicans and entire Future Caucus chapters across the country who have demonstrated outstanding leadership. This year, we’ll be recognizing Congressman Maxwell Frost with the Generational Changemaker Award, Rep. Jasmine Clark from Georgia, Rep. Michael Smith from Delaware and the Vermont Future Caucus.
What’s up next for Future Caucus?
Starting in January, we’re traveling to a whole bunch of the different state Future Caucuses as a part of our On the Rise tour. We’re going to welcome all the newly elected young legislators and do community events with people who might not know that there’s a Future Caucus in their state but would be really well served to connect with them. We’re also going to release something we’ve been building for the past year: a digital learning library. It’s been built with the input of lawmakers so that even more legislators can access tools that can help them be effective problem solvers.
I don’t know about you, but Layla already has me feeling more optimistic about the future. If you’d like to be part of this work, follow Future Caucus on Facebook, Twitter (X), Instagram and YouTube. You can also support Future Caucus financially. Together, we can bridge divides and unite for change.
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