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Our Untapped Potential in 2017

Political Engagement

People have tremendous creative capabilities and resources. They spend thousands if not millions of hours posting to Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, criticizing movies and television shows in great detail and commenting on what has already been said and done and settled.

Imagine if that creative power was re-directed elsewhere. Imagine if that creative power had the ability to change something that had not yet been settled, where you could come in, curate and co-create with others, ideas that would have a real impact on your life.

This would not be about House of Cards, who the characters are and why they do what they do or Game of Thrones and how the main character in the story sometimes acted a certain way.

This would be about tackling some of the greatest problems we deal with globally on a day by day basis. Instead of attacking your opponent you would come up with real solutions and ideas that would remedy a problem. And you would do this all before the fact. You would do this when you still had a say. You would do this when there existed the possibility that your input would actually affect the eventual outcome in a meaningful way.


We’re talking about crowdsourced legislation at the pre-legislative stage.

Currently 535 people decide our fate on a daily basis and every day they propose new bills and ideas that they think will sell to the American people, that they think will solve one aspect of a particular problem. Usually the focus of these is quite narrow. I think people are put off and reluctant to participate because they think bills have to be written in a legislative bureau language, which is not true.

But the lawmakers don’t make it easy to participate nor do they encourage individual citizens to try these things out. The government is not innovative, particularly regarding their own processes and procedures. But that is beginning to change.

Laws as a Contest

In California from 2001 to 2012 there was a contest called There Oughta be a Law which was initiated by state Senator Joe Simitian. It provided a forum for citizens to come forward with ideas, in this case it was just their individual ideas for solving problems by suggesting laws. However other folks adopted it and some of those ideas and bills turned into actual laws. The initiative, Ballot measure and the referendum process in most states is another example of this but it is somewhat flawed. In California for a ballot measure to qualify it must garner more than 100,000 signatures. That’s a pretty tough thing to do. Think about it.

Imagine you write a novel, you put out a paragraph or two about its contents and you try to get 100,000 likes on Facebook. It’s almost impossible unless you pay people to “like” it ahead of time. You have the same issue here. So the originators often pay one dollar to five dollars to secure voter signatures. And that’s just to qualify for the ballot.

Other groups however are quite skilled at figuring out their issue, moving it forward, assisting with the writing of it, excluding anybody who does not believe in what they are doing and then going forward and working with lawmakers to get it done.

So what is the solution?

Instead of sitting in your basement and wondering what the government is going to do for you, you might want to think about what you can do for or with the government. Instead of staring at a problem and thinking someone else is going to take care of it, you could look at it and ask what special skills, knowledge or information do I have that I can contribute to making a positive change?

Imagine transforming from a passive individual who accepts whatever is thrown at you to an active, thoughtful, resource seeking individual who use uses your internal guidance, intellectual capabilities and your higher education to begin to propose solutions to wicked problems in your community, your state and your country?

So what would this look like?

A Public Policy Platform

You would need a platform that was independent, unbiased, bipartisan, issue agnostic, debate focused and open to everyone. But the platform would have to have real teeth. The platform would have to interface with the lawmakers. Just as Senator Simitian’s contest did. The platform would have to be in a form that politicians are willing to understand and accept and you would have to work with multiple groups of, in some cases stranger and people who oppose your idea.

I am proposing this idea because I am reading the comments that so many of us make to articles online. I am doing this because I am studying the observations so many of us make and the questions we ask in specific Q&A sites or about movie reviews or opinions about a particular business and we do this on a constant basis.

Clearly, we have ideas and we want to be heard. Clearly, we have an opinion and we want to share it and make an impact on our little corner of the world.

So if we have ideas about restaurants, movies, TV shows, fashion, products, celebrities and news articles how much of a stretch is it for us to have ideas about the singularly most important issues in our life that deal with our future and over which we have a high level of control? The world of politics and policy.

It only takes one or two or sometimes three or four people to get the ball rolling and then you find that people will locate like-minded people and begin to contribute one way or the other to the things they believe in. So if it’s books, movies, television, entertainment, fashion, jewelry, restaurants, groceries or experiences can we move this one more inch to include politics but specifically not identity politics but political issues, public policy, that will have a tremendous positive factor in our lives if we come together to help our political leaders solve some of the thorny problems they are constantly wrestling with?

I think we can. In 2017 I think we have a great opportunity before us.

John Thibault is the founder and CEO of iLobby and the author of #1 international bestseller “How to Change a Law.” Find out more at or you can download a free sample at

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