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Recap: National Convening 2018

Young elected officials from around the country came together in Seattle, WA for our 13th Annual National Convening.

In July 2018, the Young Elected Officials Network held its 13th annual National Convening in Seattle, Washington, focusing on the future of democracy and the progressive movement in the United States. Seattle was the ideal location for Convening 2018, as the city has been at the forefront of some of the country’s boldest policy ideas around increasing minimum wage, education, affordable housing, environmental justice, and technology, creating innovative solutions to some of the challenges facing our communities today.


In the spirit of Seattle’s can-do progressive vision, we spent the weekend working on interactive problem solving through networking, skills trainings, and leadership development. To make that possible, the YEO Network partnered with The Purple Aisle, a civic leadership accelerator whose mission is to advance new political theories and disrupt hyper-partisanship in government.

Day of Service

As a way to give back to our host communities, we hold a Day of Service each year prior to the official start of convening. This year, YEOs teamed up with the National Urban League’s Summer University Students on a service opportunity where we built, painted, and furnished homes in a tiny-house village which will be used to combat the city’s growing homelessness crisis. YEOs worked hand in hand with students on constructing porches, painting homes, and cleaning the grounds to create the most welcoming and safe environment possible for homeless Seattleites.

Opening Reception

We officially kicked off the 13th Annual National Convening with Washington’s Lieutenant Governor, Cyrus Habib, who spoke to our YEOs about the importance of being a young progressive leader in these times and the necessity of working together to push for bold policies that create real and long-lasting positive change in communities across the country. YEOs also heard from Seattle City Council Members Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant.

Barbara Jordan Leadership Award

During the opening reception, the YEO Network had the honor to present this year’s Barbara Jordan Leadership Award to one of our most engaged and impactful YEOs, Portsmouth, Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales. Morales is a fearless advocate for justice and equity who was able to secure the conviction of a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed young black man in 2015. She remains one of the few prosecutors in the country who has been able to achieve such a feat and obtain justice for the families of victims of police violence.


Throughout our conference, YEOs also had the opportunity to hear from Entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, Washington State Senator Manka Dhingra, Seattle City Council Member Lorena González, Virginia House Delegate Danica Roem, and Washington, DC Student Activist Lauryn Renford

Policy Simulation Labs

Over the course of convening, YEOs engaged in four policy simulation labs designed by The Purple Aisle team to integrate innovation and rapid-problem solving into political thought leadership.

The Purple Aisle team presented the YEOs with scenarios designed to force them to make the kind of real-time policy decisions that would impact their communities.

Our four labs were:

The Future of Education

This lab challenged elected officials to tackle a $1.5 trillion student loan debt crisis and figure out how to give the next generation the opportunity to receive high quality, affordable education, as well as the necessary tools to build a prosperous future.

The Future of Sustainability:

In order for future generations to have a sustainable future, policy makers must start investing in clean energy and environmentally sound solutions that benefit all of us. This lab was designed to give YEOs the chance to learn about cutting-edge policy solutions that they can implement in their towns, cities, and states today.

The Future Economic Justice:

This lab concentrated on state and local policies that can help uplift low-income families, protect the poor, and create an economy that would benefit all Americans, not just the wealthy.

The Future Social Justice:

This lab focused on highlighting some of the best practices and solutions to address the various challenging related to social justice in the United States, from racial inequality and religious prejudice to gender discrimination and attacks on immigrants.

Fighting for Working Families

Our partners at Local Progress led a panel discussion around fighting for economic justice and working class families across the United States with Austin Council Member Greg Casar, Seattle Council Member Lorena Gonzalez, and National Field Organizers from the Center for Popular Democracy Victoria Ruiz. YEOs learned how to move cross city policy and campaigns to move progressive policy in face of preemption, how to look closely at FWW policies to protect low-wage and hourly workers, and how to advance paid sick and family leave in their communities.

Skills Sessions

Throughout the conference, YEOs also participated in skills sessions focused on providing YEO members with professional leadership development and thought-provoking ideas to help improve their work in their elected capacities. Those skills sessions were:

  • How to Use Data to Govern , Communicate and Gain Trust

  • Using Narrative to Persuade, Motivate, and Advocate

  • Finding Your Authentic Voice

  • Coalition Building for Elected Officials

  • Racial Justice Deliberation

  • Staying Secure in an Era of Trolls, Phishing, and Data Dumps

Advancing Gender Equity

We wrapped up our convening with a plenary session titled “the Future is Feminist,” which was led by our partners at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) who were joined by Student Activist Gabrielle Battle-Bess from Alliance For Girls, Vice President of Strategy and Policy at NWLC, Program Director Livier Gutierrez from Alliance For Girls, NWLC Senior Council for State Policy Andrea Johnson, Associate Director of Policy and Government at the South Carolina Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network Ashley Lidow, and Executive Director of Make It Work Nevada Erika Washington. Our panelists discussed the greatest sociopolitical challenges facing women in the US today, and how to create solutions that can empower and protect women across the country.

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