NPI celebrates twenty years
NPI celebrates twenty years (Graphic by the Northwest Progressive Institute team)

Today, our team is hap­py and grate­ful to have reached a major mile­stone in our orga­ni­za­tion’s his­to­ry: two decades of rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing grass­roots politics!

Since August 22nd, 2003, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has been work­ing from Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, and Ida­ho to expand free­dom and increase pros­per­i­ty for every­one in our region and beyond. Our insight­ful research and imag­i­na­tive advo­ca­cy have been and con­tin­ue to be a engine of progress in a dif­fi­cult peri­od in our his­to­ry… an age of insur­rec­tion, to quote from our friend David Neiwert.

I found­ed NPI twen­ty sum­mers ago after sur­vey­ing the polit­i­cal land­scape and con­clud­ing our region need­ed a strat­e­gy cen­ter oper­at­ing across state lines and across dif­fer­ent issues to tack­le the tough con­cep­tu­al gaps fac­ing the pro­gres­sive move­ment. When I could­n’t find what I was look­ing for, I decid­ed to try to cre­ate it. The three word name I chose beau­ti­ful­ly reflects its scope and purpose:

  • North­west: The orga­ni­za­tion would focus pri­mar­i­ly on the states in the Unit­ed States that share the Cas­cade moun­tain range and Colum­bia Riv­er water­shed (Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, Ida­ho), com­ple­ment­ing the work already being done by a long list of orga­ni­za­tions at the nation­al level.
  • Pro­gres­sive: The orga­ni­za­tion would clear­ly con­vey what it stood for, as opposed to con­ceal­ing its ide­ol­o­gy behind a bland term like “pol­i­cy cen­ter.” Pro­gres­sive means “favor­ing or advo­cat­ing progress, change, improve­ment, or reform, as opposed to wish­ing to main­tain things as they are.” The word pro­gres­sive describes our val­ues sys­tem, root­ed in empa­thy and mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty. We are proud of our ideals, and proud to acknowl­edge them.
  • Insti­tute: The orga­ni­za­tion would be a strat­e­gy cen­ter com­mit­ted to advanc­ing pro­gres­sive caus­es through research and advo­ca­cy that val­ue the sci­en­tif­ic method, the arts, and the need for refram­ing, new media and cul­tur­al infra­struc­ture, and pub­lic education.

NPI began as an idea and was trans­formed into some­thing that peo­ple could see on this day twen­ty years ago: a web­site that explained the con­cept and the need. With­in two years, NPI had been estab­lished as a non­prof­it corporation.

Although it had no mail­ing list or angel investors or legal frame­work when it start­ed, it was nonethe­less able to take root and flour­ish. That’s because a lot of peo­ple believed in NPI and decid­ed to con­tribute their time, tal­ent, and trea­sure to grow­ing it and ensur­ing that it could real­ize its deep potential.

NPI’s Creed, writ­ten many years ago, elo­quent­ly sum­ma­rizes who we are and what we believe. Cre­at­ed by our staff and board, it reads as follows:

I will train myself to think long term and look at the big pic­ture. I will always keep an open mind and be will­ing to embrace new ideas and tech­niques. I will orga­nize for change offline as well as online. When­ev­er pos­si­ble, I will give young pro­gres­sive activists and new pro­gres­sive activists an oppor­tu­ni­ty to step up and make a dif­fer­ence. I will chal­lenge and con­front intol­er­ance with­out allow­ing myself to become intol­er­ant. I will speak out for those who have no voice, no lob­by­ist, and no advo­cate. As an activist with an audi­ence, I will help pre­serve the art of sto­ry­telling. I will nev­er pass up an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reframe and help teach oth­ers about the log­ic of America’s pro­gres­sive val­ues, espe­cial­ly empa­thy and respon­si­bil­i­ty. As a thought leader, I will help lead my fel­low cit­i­zens to new posi­tions, not fol­low polls, for that is what real lead­er­ship is. I will help main­tain a strong first line of defense against threats to our Con­sti­tu­tion, our com­mon wealth, and our vital pub­lic ser­vices. No mat­ter how depress­ing and hope­less cir­cum­stances may seem, I will keep putting one foot for­ward every day, work­ing cheer­ful­ly for a more peace­ful future for the Pacif­ic North­west, the Unit­ed States, and this diverse plan­et we call Earth.

In the past two decades, we have done our best to live up to our Creed.

And we’ve accom­plished a lot.

For exam­ple, we’ve worked with Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans alike to put Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry out of busi­ness, estab­lished NPI as a trust­ed leader in pub­lic opin­ion research, and led or par­tic­i­pat­ed in efforts to secure big pub­lic pol­i­cy wins, espe­cial­ly in the areas of elec­toral reform and tax reform.

Our pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate — which you’re read­ing right now! — pro­vide uplift­ing com­men­tary and analy­sis that our region needs.

(The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate will itself turn twen­ty next March. Aside from Per­ma­nent Defense — which actu­al­ly pre­dates NPI — it is NPI’s old­est project.)

NPI could not have reached this impor­tant mile­stone with­out the con­tri­bu­tions of a lot of peo­ple. I am hon­ored to be NPI’s founder and leader, but it’s an even greater hon­or to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work with peo­ple who are com­mit­ted to our shared vision for a freer, more pros­per­ous region, coun­try, and world.

I par­tic­u­lar­ly wish to thank and rec­og­nize the fol­low­ing people:

NPI’s cur­rent staff and reg­u­lar contributors
Ren­nie Sawade, Kathy Saka­hara, Kamil Zai­di, Seth Boun, David Kobrin, Joel Con­nel­ly, Caya Berndt

NPI is a very mul­ti­fac­eted orga­ni­za­tion, and it ben­e­fits tremen­dous­ly from hav­ing a pas­sion­ate staff and con­trib­u­tors who have a lot of dif­fer­ent tal­ents and skills, enabling us to be very ver­sa­tile and keep our projects and pub­li­ca­tions hum­ming. Thank you to Ren­nie, Kathy, Kamil, Seth, David, Joel, and Caya.

NPI’s cur­rent board of directors
Ann Parks, Jacob Thor­pe, Christy Ack­er­man, Diane Jones, Rob Sar­gent, Ger­maine Korne­gay, Mitch Eggers, Lynne Thom­son, Yanah G. Cook

NPI’s board pro­vides sound gov­er­nance and enthu­si­as­tic sup­port to the work of our staff. It’s an incred­i­bly thought­ful group of peo­ple hail­ing from a mix of urban, sub­ur­ban, and rur­al com­mu­ni­ties. We are par­tic­u­lar­ly proud to have strong rur­al pro­gres­sive rep­re­sen­ta­tion on our board of direc­tors. Ann is our cur­rent Pres­i­dent, Jacob our Vice Pres­i­dent-Sec­re­tary, and Christy our Treasurer.

NPI’s Advi­so­ry Council
Kim Vil­leneuve, Rob Dolin, Steve Zemke, Kath­leen Reynolds, Robert Cruick­shank, Marisa Pelo­quin, Ralph Gorin, Essie Hicks, Mar­tin Chaney, Jason Rit­tereis­er, Rick Heg­dahl, Gael Tarleton

Our Advi­so­ry Coun­cil has many mem­bers who are NPI leg­ends, hav­ing con­tributed years of ser­vice to the orga­ni­za­tion as staff, board, or both. They are a depend­able source of guid­ance and wis­dom for our staff and board. We deeply appre­ci­ate the coun­sel and ongo­ing finan­cial and mate­r­i­al sup­port they provide.

Ear­ly Com­mon­wealth Bond­hold­ers and oth­er retired boardmembers
Dave Ash­er, Kim Allen, Ken Albinger, Mario Brown, Michael Lof­st­edt, Matt Loschen, John DeGraaf, Peg­gy Maze John­son, Gar­rett Havens, Kei­tha Bryson

This group includes peo­ple who have either served on NPI’s board in the past or have been donat­ing to NPI every month for the last ten years — or both. Sev­er­al of these stal­wart sup­port­ers have been with us for a major­i­ty of our history.

NPI alum­ni — past staff and interns
David Perl­mut­ter, Samuel Ranel­luc­ci, Andrew Tsao, Alan Har­vey, Jon DeVore, Jason Black, Jen Deshaies, Aaron Cahen, Alexa Moormeier, Ali­son Wendler, Alon­so Con­rad, Rich Erwin, Bob­by Aiy­er, Brad Fen­ster­ma­ch­er, Caitlin Har­ring­ton, Chris­t­ian Cahua, Daniel War­wick, David A. John­son, Daniel War­wick, Patrick Stick­ney, Dominic Bar­rera, Emma Gools­by, Eve Franklin, Grace Hamil­ton, Greg Evans, Kaylinne Shaf­fer, Ken Camp, Med­hya Goel, Nick Pernisco, Ruairi Vaugh­an, San­jay Satish, Steve Breaux, Tam­mi Laster, There­sa Cur­ry Almu­ti, Vaib­hav Vijay, Wes Murry

These folks are peo­ple who have con­tributed to NPI’s work over the years as staff mem­bers or interns. Their con­tri­bu­tions could fill a book.

NPI’s leg­isla­tive champions
Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Kud­er­er, Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra, Sen­a­tor Javier Valdez, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Amy Walen, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mia Gregerson, Coun­cilmem­ber Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci, Coun­cilmem­ber Gir­may Zahilay

These elect­ed lead­ers have worked close­ly with our team at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute to shep­herd NPI pro­pos­als through the leg­isla­tive process.

NPI’s guest speakers
Chip Hanauer, Major Gen­er­al Paul Eaton (Ret.), Dar­cy Burn­er, King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, Jon Soltz, for­mer State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Hans Dun­shee, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, for­mer State Sen­a­tor Reuven Car­lyle, Scott Mack­lin, for­mer Port Com­mis­sion­er Peter Stein­brueck, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, Tim­o­thy Ford, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Smith, Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell, The Hon­or­able Ron Sims, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzan Del­Bene, Retired Sound Tran­sit CEO Joni Earl, Paul Lawrence, Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Den­ny Heck, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Derek Kilmer, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kim Schri­er, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lisa Callan, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bill Ramos, Sec­re­tary of State Steve Hobbs, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive David Hack­ney, Trea­sur­er Mike Pel­lic­ciot­ti, Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands Hilary Franz, Lind­say Church, Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion Chris Reyk­dal, for­mer State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Tina Pod­lodows­ki, State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Shasti Con­rad, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lil­lian Ortiz-Self, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kris­tine Reeves, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shel­ley Klo­ba, for­mer State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Joan McBride, Shan­non Had­er, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Van­dana Slat­ter, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive My-Linh Thai, Kent City Coun­cilmem­ber Satwinder Kaur, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jake Fey, State Sen­a­tor Rebec­ca Sal­daña, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Debra Lekanoff, Seat­tle City Coun­cilmem­ber Andrew Lewis, Seat­tle City Coun­cilmem­ber Tere­sa Mosque­da, SeaT­ac City Coun­cilmem­ber Iris Guz­man, Sam­mamish City Coun­cilmem­ber Kali Clark, Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Gar­lin Gilchrist II, for­mer Seat­tle City Attor­ney Pete Holmes, Belle­vue School Board­mem­ber Jane Aras

These are peo­ple not already named who have spo­ken at one of our sea­son­al events (our Spring Fundrais­ing Gala, Sum­mer Anniver­sary Pic­nic, FallFest, or Win­ter Hol­i­day Par­ty). Many have spo­ken at sev­er­al NPI events over the years, and many also gen­er­ous­ly spon­sor NPI’s work on an annu­al basis.

Board and staff we’ve lost
Kei­th Deshaies, Lynn Allen, Nan­cy Podschwit

We lost Kei­th in 2008, Lynn in 2011, and Nan­cy in 2022. We have nev­er for­got­ten them and nev­er will. They remain a source of inspi­ra­tion to our team.

Final­ly, thank you to the fam­i­lies of all of our board and staff. We are par­tic­u­lar­ly thank­ful that so many of you vol­un­teer to pro­vide hos­pi­tal­i­ty at NPI’s events to our sup­port­ers and con­sis­tent­ly show up to cel­e­brate our research and advo­ca­cy accom­plish­ments with us. We’re excit­ed to see you this Sat­ur­day for our Twen­ti­eth Anniver­sary Pic­nic. Read­ers, if you’d like to join us, please RSVP here!

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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