Program Director, Health, Nathan Cummings Foundation
Executive Director, Herndon Alliance
We were sitting around one night and talking about what happens if we move towards health reform in this country. What have we done wrong over the last 70 years?
It was probably late 2004, and the discussion came up that we really need to connect with American people differently (about health care issues) and along with that we were trying to figure out well how can we do that most effectively and I met with Lance (Lindbloom), the executive director of this foundation whom I’ve known from before.
He’s a bright guy and he had a lot of really good suggestions so we decided to put together a meeting bringing together about 50 groups and just ask the question - what do we need to do differently? We had a little bit of start up funding from an individual donor, but the early funding (from NCF) of that meeting actually is what got this thing off the ground and it was interesting, because that meeting was entirely different from what most people are used to and I think it accelerated our work easily by two years. It was a very catalytic meeting in the sense we really got launched in a very quick way.
What came out of that meeting was that we really needed to connect to the American people differently. We needed to hook up with their emotions, we tend in the progressive side to talk about plans, facts and things. In fact, when people make decisions they really make decisions on emotional bases with a few facts to make sure they support it. So that was the concept, at least, and that’s the reason we got the thing started.
But I think the thing that really struck me about it was the big issue was, in all this work was, really trying to define that we are a community and not individuals and I don't mean to get into the "love the content" piece, but it really, that was the underlying piece that was what’s the responsibility as a community as – versus individuals.
And I think it was a risk – we could’ve come out of that meeting with nothing, very honestly, and I think the ability to take that risk or take the chance of doing something that people weren't used to was huge, and I think when we wrapped it up at the end of it it was hugely beneficial, it was a huge step forward to getting people to work together.
What it did was, it gave everybody a voice that by the time we got to the end everybody was basically on the same page. It was wonderful to watch people who were just always fighting find common ground around communications and even though they had different policy tweaks, I mean they all wanted the general thing, they all wanted health reform, but with this, with that - maybe it’s abortion, maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that - they’re focused on Medicaid on Medicare, whatever it may be, they found common ground in the communications and it really - it was really phenomenal to watch, trying to remove the policy fights from the ability or the value of them working together for the greater good, that they could then fight the policy fights near the end as opposed to the beginning.
And if we don't speak up as advocates for the public for, I’ll say the people who aren't being spoken for, which are the ones without money right now, they will be left out.