In my recent visit to NYC, I spent some time talking to Taylor Jo Isenberg, my incredible teammate from the StartingBloc Case Challenge (Go team!)
Within the first few minutes of meeting Taylor you learn a few things:
1. She talks pretty fast.
2. She knows her stuff - Taylor is absolutely brilliant when it comes to understanding the world of policy and social enterprise, and has a unique perspective on the way these two fields are connected.
3. She ’s incredibly warm, has a huge smile, and is always happy to help in any way that she can.
4. She loves North Carolina.
As the newly appointed National Director for the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, Taylor works with students on “results-driven, creative problem solving” in the field of public policy. Sitting with Taylor in a small coffee shop in NYC, I had my first (somewhat-official) point of connection, as we discussed public policy and its place in the future of our generation.
Disclaimer: Personally, I do not feel connected to the world of public policy. In fact, like many of my peers, I feel disconnected, disenfranchised, and fairly apathetic when it comes to interacting with the public sector. Not once in my life have I ever seriously considered entering the world of public policy, and never have I felt inspired by anyone to connect to those working in government in partnership or otherwise. Until now. Listening to Taylor explain the role of government and public policy is like experiencing a tornado building momentum and energy, taking all of your preconceived notions and throwing them in the air, and then setting them back down in a way that makes far more sense. It has totally changed my personal perception of the role that politics play in my life.
Taylor looks to government as the foundation of society, and to politics as the collective efforts of people to achieve an optimal state of functioning for the government. When Taylor discusses public policy and her work at Roosevelt, she talks about inspiring engagement and critical thinking in ways that move society forward as a whole, that shape the entire systems in which we function.
Ideally, we should take ownership of that, we should feel empowered to create and define these systems in our generation, for our generation. And yet instead we feel apathetic, disconnected. We play victims of the system, ever-complaining, yet never committing to any action for change. I myself am a perfect example: I bemoan the capitalist greed that I believe controls so much of the decisions made in public policy, but I am often slow to offer any creative solutions in the field.
But of course the next question is: why? Why has our generation built a sense of hyper-criticism, with such little trust in the potential for change? One possible answer is that this sentiment is directly reflective of the degree of connection that many in our generation feel to the field of public policy as a whole. Perhaps this is because the public sector has lost its human component in the face of our generation. When we look towards policy makers and Capitol Hill, we see an untouchable web of complicated relations, rather than a mirror of who we are and what we desire to see in the world.
And while this might seem like a pretty dreary picture, it is being totally demolished and built anew by motivated people like Taylor. As she explained to me,
“Politics are about the PEOPLE.”
So simple, and yet so often missed in the definitions of politics that we find in common conversation. The cool thing is that people like Taylor working all over the country are building up organizations like Roosevelt Institute Campus Network and bringing the people component back into focus. Through progressive activism and collaboration with political actors and community members, they are opening up a channel for direct and rewarding connection with public policy. Moreover, they are connecting youth to the guidance and resources necessary to affect real change.
If you have even the smallest inkling of interest in public policy I strongly advise talking to this girl – she is inspiring not only in her belief in improving the current modes of participation in the system, but also in her rational and realistic perception of how individuals can relate to each other while working for policy and creating change.
I am definitely interested in learning more about how public policy can be redefined in younger generations through more genuine and accessible modes of connection, so please send any insights or connections my way via comments or email!
And a big thanks to Taylor, for being a perfect gateway into my exploration of connection!
Until next time,