Paul Lawrence and Joni Earl
Paul Lawrence and Joni Earl with their Lynn Allen Awards (Photo: Lincoln Potter/Samaya LLC for the Northwest Progressive Institute)

Last week, when NPI turned fif­teen, I said I’d soon be shar­ing some excit­ing news about NPI’s future as well as next steps for the devel­op­ment of pro­gres­sive polit­i­cal infra­struc­ture here in the Pacif­ic Northwest.

Today, I’m excit­ed to announce that after fif­teen years, NPI has gained a sib­ling: the North­west Pro­gres­sive Foun­da­tion.

Our objec­tive in form­ing the Foun­da­tion is to give sev­er­al of NPI’s exist­ing and planned projects their own orga­ni­za­tion­al home, so that NPI can embrace the phi­los­o­phy of less, but bet­ter. Research-dri­ven advo­ca­cy is what NPI has always been about, which is why NPI is orga­nized as a social wel­fare orga­ni­za­tion under Sec­tion 501(c)(4) of the Inter­nal Rev­enue Code.

If you’re at all famil­iar with fed­er­al tax law, then you know that social wel­fare orga­ni­za­tions are legal­ly allowed to engage in unlim­it­ed grass­roots lob­by­ing, which 501(c)39) char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tions can­not do.

A 501(c)(3) orga­ni­za­tion may, how­ev­er, be orga­nized for reli­gious, edu­ca­tion­al, sci­en­tif­ic, or lit­er­ary pur­pos­es (or in addi­tion to) char­i­ta­ble pur­pos­es, defined by the IRS to mean caus­es like the relief of the poor, the dis­tressed, or the under­priv­i­leged. A 501(c)(3) is also per­mit­ted to focus on fos­ter­ing nation­al or inter­na­tion­al ama­teur sports com­pe­ti­tion and and pre­vent­ing cru­el­ty to chil­dren or animals.

Accord­ing­ly, togeth­er with State Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra, NPI board­mem­ber Kei­tha Bryson, founding/retired NPI board­mem­ber Ralph Gorin, and NPI Com­mon­wealth Bond­hold­er Rich Erwin, I have formed the North­west Pro­gres­sive Foun­da­tion to under­take the edu­ca­tion­al projects that NPI has on its roadmap.

Our Arti­cles of Incor­po­ra­tion were filed last week on the very day NPI turned fif­teen. The Arti­cles have since been approved by the Sec­re­tary of State.

Here are the com­plete set of pur­pos­es for which the Foun­da­tion was formed, as stat­ed in the Arti­cles of Incorporation:

  • Pro­vide civics edu­ca­tion and activism train­ing to peo­ple who would like to become more engaged in the pol­i­tics of the Pacif­ic North­west and the U.S.;
  • Encour­age cit­i­zens to vote and take seri­ous­ly jury duty oblig­a­tions when called to serve;
  • Cre­ate tools that any­one can use to more effec­tive­ly research cur­rent events, pro­posed pub­lic pol­i­cy changes, and issues affect­ing our communities;
  • Pro­mote aware­ness, appre­ci­a­tion, and under­stand­ing of the found­ing doc­u­ments that under­pin our sys­tem of gov­ern­ment, includ­ing the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence, the Unit­ed States Con­sti­tu­tion, and the con­sti­tu­tions of states like Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, and Idaho;
  • Teach refram­ing skills and lan­guage arts to activists, can­di­dates, and elect­ed officials;
  • Equip the pub­lic with fac­tu­al, reli­able, and evi­dence-backed infor­ma­tion about the use­ful­ness and effec­tive­ness of local, state, and fed­er­al pub­lic services;
  • Orga­nize events and facil­i­tate oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn about inequities in our cur­rent sys­tem of laws, espe­cial­ly inequities in our tax codes and crim­i­nal codes;
  • Sup­port efforts to trans­late Eng­lish-only civics texts into oth­er com­mon­ly-spo­ken languages.

For prac­ti­cal rea­sons, the Foun­da­tion will ini­tial­ly focus on cre­at­ing and sus­tain­ing a sin­gle project from NPI’s roadmap… most like­ly Activism Mat­ters.

Our aim with Activism Mat­ters is to pro­vide a hub for the teach­ing of skills need­ed to be an effec­tive activist. If it were up to me, these skills would be taught in our pub­lic schools as part of a basic course in civics.

But as most read­ers of the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate prob­a­bly know, the civic cur­ricu­lum cur­rent­ly avail­able to our youth is sore­ly lacking.

We need to plug the gap as best we can.

Activism Mat­ters cours­es will pri­mar­i­ly be offered online through the very same learn­ing man­age­ment sys­tem (or LMS) used by Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, so that peo­ple with day jobs can par­tic­i­pate on their own sched­ule, but there may be in-per­son learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties offered from time to time as well.

If you are well versed in an essen­tial activism skill (like writ­ing let­ters to the edi­tor, grass­roots lob­by­ing, peti­tion­ing, or orga­niz­ing events) and would be inter­est­ed in teach­ing that skill as a vol­un­teer instruc­tor with Activism Mat­ters, then we would wel­come hear­ing from you.

I will have anoth­er update on the Foun­da­tion’s for­ma­tion in a few weeks once we are fur­ther along. In the mean­time, NPI’s essen­tial work will continue.

Thanks to every­one who came out for our Fif­teenth Anniver­sary Pic­nic last night… we so appre­ci­ate you! If you could­n’t make it but are able to make a dona­tion to NPI or become a mem­ber, we invite you to do so today.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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