Common Sense Action, a group founded by two Brown students that seeks to involve millennials in the U.S. political process, recently merged with Run For America, a group with similar goals, to create a joint organization called Run For America Action. Last week, RFAA launched the Week of Action, its first project, which aims to foster intergenerational dialogue on national politics.
The two organizations are “very complementary,” said Andrew Kaplan ’15, co-founder of CSA.
The merger happened very quickly and “joining forces was a no-brainer,” said Sam Gilman ’15, co-founder and CEO of CSA.
In the new setup, RFA and CSA will each bear responsibility for different initiatives. RFA will recruit and train young “solutions-first, future-focused” leaders for Congress, while CSA will run the nonprofit, grassroots advocacy arm of the movement, Gilman said.
“Too often in the nonprofit world, organizations tackling the same problems from different angles stay separate” because of institutional competition, but the two groups “make sense under one roof,” Gilman added.
CSA has chapters on 40 college campuses in 20 states across the country. The inspiration for CSA came to Gilman and Kaplan when they spent the summer in Washington, D.C. two years ago, they said. They hosted small events there such as happy hours to connect interns and young professionals interested in politics and leadership, Gilman said.
“We walked into all 435 offices of House representatives and asked for the interns, not the congressmen,” Gilman said. “There was a shared feeling all across the country that politics are not working for our generation,” he added. Many students in D.C. started campus chapters of CSA upon returning to their schools in the fall, he said.
Brown and Providence were great locations to start such a venture, Kaplan said, adding that Providence’s small geographic size made it easy to access the State House and state representatives. Gilman and Kaplan worked with the Swearer Center for Public Service’s Social Innovation Initiative and Rhode Island School of Design graphic designers to create a brand image, Kaplan said.
“On a personal level, it’s been pretty unbelievable,” Kaplan said. “It was just an idea and a conversation.”
Members of the Brown chapter of CSA are currently working on getting a bill about online voter registration passed in the General Assembly, Gilman said.
The Brown chapter is the first to transition to the new RFAA structure, said chapter president Joelle Nanula ’18.
The Brown chapter is orienting its energy on the transition and increasing voter registration in Rhode Island and will therefore postpone its participation in the Week of Action, she said. Other campus chapters, however, have spent the Week of Action sending high school students to senior centers in the hopes of fostering political discussion between members of different generations, Nanula said.