Nonprofit: Learning to be nonpartisan political leaders
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 2:11 pm
For 11 weekends this spring, Brad Young, 28, enrolled in another kind of adult education program through the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership.
Young, along with several others, participated in IOPL’s Fellows Program, which has a mission to educate future political and community leaders.
“It is an excellent crash course in the entire (political) process,” said Young, who has a degree in business from N.C. State and an MBA from Campbell University.
In 1987, William Friday, Walter DeVries, Smith Richardson and L. Richardson Preyer founded IOPL. As a nonpartisan nonprofit, the IOPL educates future community and political leaders on campaign strategy, ethical decision making and governance.
As the oldest nonpartisan political leadership training program in the state, IOPL offers a comprehensive curriculum in strategic nonpartisan political leadership development so participants have a sound grounding in ethical behavior, consensus building, and cooperative and collaborative leadership.
Past fellows come to the weekend training on a regular basis and discuss their experiences and help explore with current fellows the concepts that improve the function of government.
“By being nonpartisan, it allows you to explore these topics without the filter of the party system,” Young said.
The training programs prepare individuals from diverse backgrounds to enter the pipeline to be public servants — elected, appointed or through other community involvement. The nonprofit helps individuals develop practical skills as well as the confidence to run for office and become effective leaders.
Fellows exchange ideas in a politically, culturally and philosophically diverse climate, building relationships with current and future leaders.
Young, who is deputy communications manager for State Treasurer Janet Cowell (an IOPL alum), said he has learned from listening to others from different political points of view. During one session, participants answered the question, “Why am I a Republican/Democrat?”
“That was so interesting to all of us,” Young said.
Hailey Barringer, finance director for U.S. Rep. Alma Adams and an IOPL fellow this spring, noted that by taking a bipartisan approach, the IOPL programs encourage fellows to learn from their peers and work through challenges together, regardless of political leanings.
Barringer was impressed with “the holistic approach the program takes to leadership development and the message of compromise.”
The core programs that support IOPL’s mission are:
- The Fellows Program: An 11-weekend adult education program with practical training on television and radio, fundraising, governance, negotiations and public speaking.
- The Women on Board Program: One-day training program that prepares women to pursue public service through appointment to public boards.
- The Collegiate Political Leadership Program: A one-day introduction of public service to North Carolina college students with potential to be the state’s future political leaders. It includes practical training on leadership, governance and ethics.
- The Chamber Academy: Two-day training program for people interested in running for public office.
Participation in the programs rests on the basis of leadership potential and commitment, without regard to age, race, ideology or party affiliation. IOPL has more than 1,000 graduates representing 82 North Carolina counties. Training events are held in Greensboro and Raleigh.
The program is not solely for those who want to run for office. “You might also learn through the program that you never want to appear on a ballot of any form,” Young said.
IOPL seeks to help political aspirants understand the formal and informal requirements for conducting a campaign for a political office at the local, state or national level, said IOPL Board member Craven E. Williams, president emeritius of Greensboro College and ministerial associate at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greensboro.
“It also has as an objective of preparing candidates to conduct the business of the office to which they have been elected,” Williams said.
Barringer highly recommends the program for anyone considering running for public office or becoming a community leader.
“The coursework will teach you as much about yourself as it does about the political process in North Carolina, and it can provide you with a great springboard for your future endeavors,” Barringer said.
IOPL conducts a spring class from January to May and a fall class from August to December. Weekend sessions typically run from 4 to 9 p.m. Fridays and from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Applications are accepted year-round.