On the latest episode of Giving Ventures, host and DonorsTrust Vice President Peter Lipsett talks with three policy experts working to activate the grassroots. Those experts are Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks Foundation; Akash Chougule, vice president of Americans for Prosperity Foundation; and Tina Descovich, co-founder of Moms for Liberty Foundation.
Need to Reach Everyday Person Who ‘Wants to Get Involved’
Adam says he and his team, rather than generating the research and ideas, are committed to the tactical work of educating people on ways to get involved at the grassroots level, whether that means contacting their local lawmakers or running for their local school board, et al.
“Well, when I explain it just in general, you have think tanks that play an absolutely essential role in producing ideas. You’ve got people who work on movies, you’ve got people who work on a variety of different things but we want to make sure that we are talking to that average person back in America who’s watching TV and wants to get involved.”
FreedomWorks Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to educating and training the most effective free-market advocates in the country via its programming which includes centers on investor integrity, regulation and economic freedom among others.
In fact, many of the men and women who enrolled in the FreedomWorks’ school-board training program did so because they don’t like what they’re seeing in their local school system. What’s more, many of the same people have gone on to win their respective school-board races.
“What’s really great is we’ve actually had dozens of people who’ve ended up getting elected to local school boards after just being a concerned parent or grandparent, and we’re trying again to break down those barriers to get involved in the process,” says Adam.
AFPF ‘Open 365 Days a Year’ Educating Activists, Lawmakers
The team at Americans for Prosperity Foundation, likewise, train citizens to effect policy change at the local level. Their sheer size has made them a consistent force for change in local communities in 38 chapters across the country.
What sets Americans for Prosperity Foundation apart from similar grassroots organizations?
“The size and scale at which we’re able to operate,” says Akash. “[J]ust the quantity of people we’re able to talk to as well as the sustained model, right? That we don’t pack up shop. Our offices never close when it’s not election season or legislative season.”
“[Our offices] are open 365 days a year educating activists, educating lawmakers, talking to legislative staff. So, I think those are the two things that have really made us unique and helped us grow over the years.”
There are a number of organizations under the Americans for Prosperity umbrella, including the foundation, the c4 organization (which reaches more into legislative activism) and a political action committee. The ultimate goal of all these groups is to people flourish.
“The common thread is all of them have the goal of getting policy right. We want good public policy that can empower every American to achieve the American dream, right? And largely we do that by breaking down government-imposed barriers,” says Akash.
‘Parental Rights Are Under Attack in America’
While FreedomWorks Foundation and Americans for Prosperity Foundation work in various issue areas, Moms for Liberty Foundation is more narrowly focused on empowering moms to get involved in their local school system.
“We unify, educate and empower parents to defend their parental rights. We understand and we know that parental rights are under attack in America through government entities and their overreach and so we are working to defend that,” says Tina.
MFLF Co-Founders Fought to ‘Get Schools Opened’ During COVID
Tina along with Tiffany Justice, co-founder of Moms for Liberty Foundation, were both members of separate Florida school boards from 2016 to 2020. During that time, both women faced major crises, including the Parkland high-school shooting and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Each of us were separately fighting to get schools opened. We spent hours in those school-board meetings, sometimes 12 and 14 hours, going over the data of what was happening, and I know all of America was very scared at the time; there was a lot of fear,” Tina says.
Tina and her fellow school-board members pored over the numbers and data coming out of the CDC. They even sought out the opinions of subject-matter-experts as they analyzed the infection rates of COVID-19 in children throughout the first nine months of the pandemic.
“We had doctors and epidemiologists, and we were looking at the data in our state and in our districts and we were seeing that children were not being affected. There literally, when we opened schools, were no children hospitalized — zero — from the time COVID started and this was nine months in.
‘We Knew Children Could Safely Go Back to School With Some Parameters’
“And, so we knew children could safely go back to school with some parameters but the communities were still very scared. It was hard to stand up for what we knew was right in that environment of fear but we did it and we became friends through that.”
Through it all, Tina and Tiffany defended the rights of students and were proponents of reopening schools and not requiring that students wear masks at school. The pushback they received for standing up for students convinced them to start a group for like-minded parents.
“And, so, when we came off our terms at the end of 2020, we decided to start an organization to help parents around the country also stand up for the wrongs that they were seeing that were happening, either against their children or just in the failing public-education system in general.”