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Bridges to Change

by Lawrence Wallack
Longview will build strong relationships with key constituencies

The Longview Institute will be a center of excellence combining research, training, and development of young intellectuals as a means for advancing progressive social change. The various components of the Longview Institute are interwoven with several themes - the need for a new language to articulate and advance progressive values, the need for public policies that reflect an ethic of caring and compassion, and the complex task of making a difference in the short term while creating a foundation for long-term change.

In order to be successful we understand that Longview will have to build strong relationships with key constituencies. Toward this end, we are developing three bidirectional bridges where research, policy, and strategy can travel freely back and forth among researchers, policymakers, advocates, activists, and potential progressive leaders of the next generation. These bridges will reach out to advocates and policy makers, the news media, and the future generation of progressive leadership. The flow of information in both directions will ensure that Longview's analyses will be fully informed not only by the best scholarship, but also by the best strategic insight from the field.

The first bridge links research with advocacy and policy. This is the purpose of our ActionLink that is described below. But it is also essential to work closely with a wide range of opinion leaders and policy makers who influence the kinds of social change that must take place.

The second bridge is between Longview and the news media. This is the primary purpose of our Fellowship Program for Public Intellectuals. In addition, Longview principals will produce op-ed pieces, participate in TV and radio interviews, and produce magazine pieces for agenda setting publications such as Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, and the New York Times Magazine.

The third bridge reaches across to the next generation. Longview has a commitment through our public intellectuals program that is focused on young people. In addition, we plan to recruit some of the outstanding students from the major universities in the Bay Area, and across the country, to work on Longview projects. Another means for attracting younger scholars will be through a range of workshops, conferences, and training sessions.

The degree to which these bridges are heavily traveled will be a key marker of Longview success. We anticipate extensive impact on both public discourse and public policy through media, conferences, public symposia, publications, and our program to train young public intellectuals. However, the quality, timeliness, clarity, and relevance of our work for the progressive community will ultimately be the primary determinants of our status in the field and our impact on the society.

Longview's ActionLink is designed to bridge the all-too-common gulf between academics and activists. We plan to invite movement activists and advocates working for social justice to be part of the Institute's network by serving as members of the Institute's ActionLink. Members of this group include people active in civil rights, women's issues, the environment, religious communities, labor, and human rights. Their job is to bring emerging issues to our attention, to make the Institute's findings available to those who can make good use of them, and to advise the Institute on research priorities. Our developing ActionLink puts us in continuous contact with activists working on a variety of issues who provide valuable feedback on our thinking and also alert us to new reframing challenges. In short, ActionLink is a means to overcome the distrust and poor communication that often exists between academics and those working on issues in the real world.

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