Challenge: The Obama administration had recently reinstated the White House Initiative for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This incredibly diverse (and sometimes divergent) demographic group includes Indonesians, Indians, Japanese, Samoans, Laotians, Pakistanis, Chinese and many more. But they do have one thing in common: they’re extremely underrepresented in politics and policy. The Obama administration’s intent was to grow the group’s political engagement so they’d have a more powerful voice in DC. But how?
Story: The White House Initiative for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders was an effort that had waxed and waned over several decades. But this time the White House brought 100 community leaders to the White House for a conversation, and invited us to help facilitate it.
Throughout the day, members of the administration—from the secretary of education to the secretary of transport to the secretary of commerce – gave presentations to the group followed by panel discussions.
But, rather than a Q&A session after each, we introduced Think Wrong drills to help the group create a shared vision of how they could apply what they were learning to their own communities within the public or private sector.
Our focus was on what we call “Moonshot” drills – defining and expanding shared goals. Very quickly the group saw the potential of uniting their voices and gaining political influence. They began to envision themselves not just as leaders, but leaders of change.
Result: By the end of just one day, the group had decided to form an ongoing Leaders Forum that would run independently of any White House commission and focus on issues that are mutually beneficial to the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. They also formed both a democratic and a republican PAC to advocate for more Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates at all levels, in all branches of government. Instead of simply coming together for one day, this disparate group thought wrong together and formed a lasting, powerful alliance.