here for PDF format
for participants' responses to this summary
of Meeting with Marianne Curry and David Broden
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, June 6,
speakers: Marianne Curry
and David Broden, volunteer
consultants on the future of the Civic Caucus, both Civic Caucus
Johnson, chair; Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel (by phone), Paul Gilje, Jim
Hetland, Jim Olson (by phone), and Wayne Popham (by phone)
Context of the meeting--Today
the Civic Caucus is taking a break from its weekly sessions on public
affairs topics and concentrating instead on the future of the Civic Caucus
itself. During previous informal visits with Verne Johnson and Paul
Gilje, Marianne Curry and David Broden both made detailed suggestions for
the Civic Caucus.
Welcome and introductions--Verne
and Paul welcomed and introduced Curry and Broden.
resident, is a consultant to non-profits and a consultant in environmental
health. She is founder and co-chair of Metro Faith Community Nurse
Network and a founder of Partners for Women's Equality, Inc. At various
times she has served on the staffs of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce,
the Minnesota House of Representatives, the Metropolitan Council, and the
Community Action Council of Dakota County. She was a member of the
Lakeville City Council in the 1970s.
Orono resident, has 38 years experience in the
U.S. and international
defense business. Previously he was employed by Honeywell, Inc. and by
Alliant Techsystems. Currently he operates his own consulting business to
the defense industry. In 2007 he organized the first Minnesota Heartland
Defense Conference, linking the National Defense Industrial Association
with the Minnesota Defense Alliance. He has served in several volunteer
positions with the Republican Party. A detailed outline of Broden's
suggestions to the Civic Caucus is available on request at email@example.com
Comments and discussion--During
the comments by Curry and Broden and in discussion with the Civic Caucus
the following points were made.
1. Civic Caucus process can be a model for
others--Curry said the Civic Caucus offers great potential for
the future and could even be a prototype for the nation as a "virtual
organization" because it uses new technology to offer a new approach for
people to participate without having to leave home to attend meetings.
Beginning in the 1960s in the environmental movement, Curry said she
always has seen herself as a change agent.
2. Strategic plan needs more details and
timelines--Curry has looked over the Civic Caucus website,
http://civiccaucus.org , in detail, including the strategic plan. The
plan has wonderful ideas but lacks descriptions of specific tactical
steps, timelines, resources required, and examples of how the Civic Caucus
will carry out its ideas.
connection is needed between resources and what the Civic Caucus plans to
do, Curry said. She said the organization need to focus carefully based
on its capacity to deliver. She suggested it is better to focus on
public policy in
3. Fundraising is needed--Curry took
note that a few core participants have provided all the funding for the
organization to date. The absence of more substantial fundraising is an
obvious constraint on the future of the Civic Caucus, she said. She
suggested that a chairperson be enlisted to spearhead fundraising. She
believes considerable potential is present among the 850 persons on the
Civic Caucus email list.
4. A succession plan for Civic Caucus
leadership is essential--Many top leaders in the Civic Caucus
and its consultant are in their 70s and 80s, Curry noted. She said it is
essential that the organization have a plan for transferring leadership.
5. Improve the feedback loop--A
survey ought to be conducted to determine how more persons can be
encouraged to participate in the weekly opportunities now provided for
feedback on summaries of meetings and on possible recommendations, Curry
6. Identify how to measure success--The
Civic Caucus should have evaluation tools available that will reveal how
well the organization is fulfilling its goals, she said.
7. Urgent need to add women to core group--The
Civic Caucus core to date has only included men. The core group needs
balance, and that means adding women, Curry said. Many women are
available with distinguished records as veterans in public policy and in
appointive or elective office, Curry said.
8. Uncertainty about availability of funding
for civic education--A Civic Caucus member noted that it is
difficult to put a dollar value on gathering and distribution of public
affairs information, as is demonstrated today by the difficulty newspapers
have in surviving. Curry replied that several foundations are very much
interested in public issues. It is important, she said, that a
tax-exempt organization like the Civic Caucus make education its main
9. Distinction from other organizations in
public policy--Curry said that the Civic Caucus makes no effort
to give its participants the opportunity to socialize with other
participants, which is characteristic of several other organizations.
Instead the Civic Caucus concentrates exclusively on public policy
information and education.
the meeting Broden and Curry mentioned another difference from other
organizations is the excellent bipartisan dialogue on public policy that
is encouraged by the Civic Caucus.
10. An almost-virtual organization--It
was noted that a core group of four-to-eight individuals meets
face-to-face in the Civic Caucus each week. Theoretically, even that
group wouldn't need to meet face-to-face, a Civic Caucus member said.
However, the face-to-face core group offers the opportunity for a more
focused discussion with speakers.
11. Importance to "brand" the Civic Caucus--Broden
said the Civic Caucus needs to have a "brand" that identifies itself,
perhaps something like "The organization for public policy information and
education on critical topics".
12. Support for the core group approach--Broden
said he participates in several conference calls a week, and he likes the
approach taken by the Civic Caucus in bringing together a small group of
people face-to-face, with a few others connected by phone.
13. Avoiding partisan politics--The
Civic Caucus does a good job of avoiding bias and partisan politics and,
consequently, any form of we-versus-they in its approach to issues. He
likes its emphasis on good government.
14. Importance of elected public officials
leading on public policy, not just managing--Looking
back over the last 30-40 years, Broden senses that Minnesota needs its
elected public officials to return to leadership, which he said was
present more in the past than today.
15. Increase the number of participants--The
Civic Caucus needs to undertake specific steps to increase its
participants significantly beyond 850, Broden said.
16. Expand beyond the metropolitan area--Both
in focus of topics and with its participants the Civic Caucus needs to
move beyond the metro area to the entire state, Broden said. The
organization is set up well to serve people regardless of their geographic
17. Pay attention to how people are using the
information--For the Civic Caucus to be effective it must learn
how people are using, and can use, the information provided to meet their
needs, Broden said. Thus, the Civic Caucus should take steps to find out
what people now are doing with the information the Civic Caucus provides.
18. Hold an occasional meeting--More
visibility for the Civic Caucus would help, Broden said. Perhaps, he
suggested, the Civic Caucus could sponsor an occasional breakfast or
luncheon or explore ways to obtain TV coverage.
19. Widen opportunities for suggestion of
topics--Broden wondered whether only the core group selected
the topics for inquiry. If so, it should seek input from its broad group
20. Whether participants should have an
opportunity to converse directly with one another--It was noted
that currently the Civic Caucus doesn't share email addresses of
participants. Broden asked whether the Civic Caucus should give its
participants and chance to converse directly with one another or whether
they should be able to comment back-and-forth on the website, as in a blog.
21. Request endorsements from notable public
figures--The Civic Caucus website would benefit if the
organization could receive endorsements from public figures that could be
placed on the website, Broden suggested.
22. Ability of the Civic Caucus to expand--Verne
Johnson, the Civic Caucus chair, said we've received many good suggestions
today, but the question is whether the Civic Caucus can, or should,
undertake an ambitious expansion program. Curry suggested that the key
question isn't how ambitious the program happens to be, but what steps can
be taken, incrementally, toward an ultimate objective.
23. Uncertain attitude of top corporate
executives--In years past, a Civic Caucus member said,
corporate officers would be willing to be educated on public affairs
issues within the state and often would lend support for innovative
solutions. But that situation no longer is present. Top corporate
Minnesota today are "contract" leaders, Broden said. They are "floaters",
brought in by their corporations but with no roots in the community.
Broden suggested that involvement of other executives just below the CEO
level is needed. A Civic Caucus member said that we need to recognize
that corporations today are increasingly global and for a variety of
reasons concentrate on quarterly earnings. They need to do what they do
well. This member doesn't see them becoming involved civically. Curry
suggested that local CEO's might be receptive to suggestions for more
civic education of corporate leaders.
24. Whether polarization/paralysis is
decreasing in the Legislature--A
Civic Caucus member commented that it appears that the Governor and
Legislature in 2008 appeared to concentrate more on getting things done
and less on attacking one another. The member inquired whether such a
change is permanent or temporary. Broden and Curry said they think it's
temporary. Broden didn't see much evidence of a former sense of
25. Whether party designation should be
re-examined--Curry said that evidence of leadership seemed to
diminish after party designation for legislators was enacted for the 1973
Legislature. She asked whether the Legislature ought to re-visit that
decision. Curry said she is concerned about retirees leaving the state
as well as companies going global. A member observed that keeping
retirees involved in public issues is an objective of the Civic Caucus.
26. Thanks--On behalf of the Civic
Caucus, Verne thanked Curry and Broden for meeting with us today.