To bring purpose to politics, build a small, effective bridge
March 15, 2021
Purpose, Inc., episode 2.1: Bill Shireman and Trammell S. Crow
We’ve become so accustomed of talking about American politics as two sides racing away from one another that many of us have given up on unity. In this episode of “Purpose, Inc.,” podcast host Michael Young talks to two people who believe otherwise: 70% of America is in fundamental agreement on many issues, no matter what party they register with.
Bill Shireman is the founder and CEO of Future 500, a nonprofit consultancy that builds trust between companies, advocacy groups, and investors to advance business as a force for good. Trammell S. Crow is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded EarthX, the largest annual exposition showcasing research, innovations, and corporate practices serving the environment.
The two identify as Republicans and environmental activists, social conservatives and free-market enthusiasts. And in their 2019 book, In This Together, they lay out a strategy for turning the “moveable middle” into the middle that moves toward positive change.
Bill and Trammell blame “big data” in part for widening the political divide—all to profit advertising and political consultants. “Big Data and social media are getting so far ahead of human cognition that they are trapping us before we even realize it into these echo chambers that keep us at odds with one another,” Bill says.
A Bridge Built on Diversity of Thought
To motivate the 70% of Americans who straddle the Republican-Democrat divide, the two propose a simple objective: Building a bridge of about 5 million people.
As an example, they point to the bridge that so-called progressive environmental activists and self-proclaimed conservative hunters and fishers have constructed around conservation.
The bridge is built on finding commonalities—as well as seeing diversity of thought as a strength. Conservatives, Bill says, tend to think people (like nature itself) are selfish, and look at how they can protect what might attack us. Progressives, meanwhile, tend to think of people as selfless, and want to liberate that instinct from oppressors who are stopping people from doing what’s natural. “That’s a great combination,” he says.
Declaration of Interdependence
The two have posted a “Declaration of Interdependence” at InThisTogetherAmerica.org. “We need 5 million people to sign this because that’s 5% of the voting population, and that’s enough to win any battleground race in the country.” They can be starch progressives or conservatives—but they share a believe that science is the baseline for understanding and mitigating climate change.
“If 5 million people can use their buying power to motivate the top brands on the planet to bring new sustainability practices across their supply chain, we will single-handedly be able to protect our living ecosystems and nourish them,” Bill says. “If those same 5 million hold our politicians accountable, left and right, for solutions, we will change the balance of power in politics and be able to get the vital policy changes that we need.”
Listen to the full conversation with Bill and Trammell: