July 17 - How to politics in 10 steps

Last week Lucy Jones and John Bwarie taught me how to politics. In a week long 15 hours workshop (every day for 3 hours!), me and a dozen other Caltech folks learned that the secret to politics isโ€ฆ


:gift::balloon::confetti_ball::tada::birthday::popcorn::clinking_glasses::beers::champagne::clap::raising_hand_man::man_dancing::dancing_women::fireworks::sparkler::heart_eyes::heart_eyes_cat::exploding_head::rofl::grinning::poop::poop::poop::poop::rainbow::peace_symbol: :point_down: :couplekiss_man_woman::first_quarter_moon::tropical_drink::clock5::snake: :pizza::blossom::ear::inbox_tray::hospital::baby::rabbit2::arrow_up_small: :womans_hat::post_office::earth_asia::revolving_hearts::performing_arts::bridge_at_night:. :girl::heavy_dollar_sign::money_with_wings::rabbit::beginner::shaved_ice::boy: :purse::100::no_mobile_phones::city_sunset::wine_glass::new_moon: :seat::dvd::poodle::football::mobile_phone_off::bikini: :convenience_store::watermelon::video_camera::wedding::baby::bell: :telescope::notebook::mobile_phone_off::space_invader::tongue::milky_way: :yen::zzz::heartpulse::sunrise: :bear::ram::star2::bowling::green_apple::cinema: :evergreen_tree::envelope_with_arrow::hibiscus::money_with_wings: :cherries::full_moon_with_face::mag:๐Ÿ•ƒ :earth_asia::facepunch::herb::racehorse::sun_with_face: :small_orange_diamond::curry::large_orange_diamond::point_up_2::sake: :briefcase::trophy::vibration_mode::clock230::guardsman: :money_with_wings::paperclip::clock3::curry::corn::tropical_drink: :cake::lipstick::clock530::seedling::blowfish::strawberry: :tshirt::paw_prints::point_up_2::package::house_with_garden::100: :tropical_drink::boot::droplet::crocodile::cow::dolls::package: :ear::camel::cocktail::candy::palm_tree: :sun_with_face::sunrise_over_mountains::new_moon::cd: :orange_heart::revolving_hearts::love_letter::cricket_bat_and_ball::takeout_box::bento::monkey_face::speak_no_evil::mouse::open_file_folder::oden::ant::mailbox_closed::dizzy: :two_hearts::space_invader::night_with_stars::clock6::night_with_stars: :tongue::notebook::musical_keyboard::horse:. :high_heel::elephant::family_man_woman_boy::stew::mortar_board::pineapple: :lipstick::kimono::birthday::clock830::snowboarder: :house_with_garden::lemon::angel::clock630::convenience_store: :dash::loudspeaker::eggplant::family_man_woman_boy: :mouse::sake::sushi::frog::ant::waning_gibbous_moon::jack_o_lantern::credit_card: :nose::waxing_crescent_moon::watermelon: :calling::leopard::fallen_leaf::icecream::white_flower: :shell::radio::older_man:๐Ÿ’†:couple_with_heart_woman_man::evergreen_tree: :arrows_clockwise::frog::running_man::large_blue_diamond::sushi: :cookie::mobile_phone_off::musical_keyboard::mount_fuji: :pushpin::flags::ant::camera: :scroll::closed_book:

Yes, Iโ€™m not kidding, it really is worldemojiday.com.

Letโ€™s celebrate.

Now back to our normal programming.

โ€ฆsorry, I donโ€™t usually usually interrupt myself, but the broadcast system was automatically triggered. Anyway, we had this workshop where we learned how to talk to politicians (sorry, policy maker, we were told that politics and politician have negative connotation). Basically, in the politics worlds, 90% of everything happens in conversations between 2 and 20 minutes, nobody has attention spans, and most people donโ€™t know and are not interested in much of anything unrelated to their constituency (kinda like the NIH and cancer?). The name of the game is โ€œget the attention of your politicianโ€ and if you succeed, you have a shot at pushing forward with your legislation/initiative.

I believe that is called lobbying.

What typically happens is that you schmooze your way into getting a meeting with the office of the politician of your choice. You donโ€™t actually talk to the politician, at least not in the beginning, you talk to someone in their staff and try to get their interest, and get a follow up, and another meeting, and so on, for a long time over many meetings. Also, a meeting is ultra loosely defined, any opportunity at which you can utter words to the people of interest qualifies as a meeting in this context. Also their offices have like a ton of people working on them because in politics you do โ€œinternshipsโ€ (give away your time and money for free in hopes of future political gains) so thereโ€™s like a billion interns that churn like crazy and every meeting will have one or two random interns. This is what their offices look like.

So what you have to do is to be always prepared for a meeting, especially in the beginning when youโ€™re making an ask and need to make a first impression. And you need to follow the general strategy for negotiating (Solving for X, below). What is surprising is that this strategy holds constant across basically every scale of human interaction, from department politics to international politics. It might have to do with human nature or something.

Iโ€™m reading Kofi Annanโ€™s book Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, and last week after the workshop started I read the chapter on the 2007-2008 Kenya crisis, and it hit me in the face how really how the general negotiating strategy remains unchanged across all levels. It was movie stuff: they had a disputed election, parties canโ€™t agree on anything, tribal violence starts spiraling out of control, Kofi flies in and over two months successfully brokers a power sharing agreement between parties that wouldnโ€™t even be in the same room, averting another Rwanda genocide. Weโ€™ll talk more about Kofi sometime.

And now, ladies and gentlemans and Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, with no more delay, I present you How to politics, in 10 steps by John Bwarie

(I asked him for these bullet points from his slides verbatim, which hit the nail on the head)

Solving for X

  1. Have clear outcomes/purpose (know what a win is)

  2. Know your audience (understand egos)

  3. Create value for a win-win

  4. Start with simple successes (โ€œlittle winsโ€) to build momentum

  5. Assess and adjust (evaluation)

Pre-Meeting Considerations

  1. Determine & refine your purpose.

  2. Communicate your ideal outcome.

  3. Show you know and understand the person with whom youโ€™re meeting.

  4. Define your role in the meeting.

  5. Plan how will you handle questions without wasting time.

You should now be ready to out into the world and pursue all of your dreams and lofty aspirations about making the world a better place. Achieving them is a different story.

On Friday the workshop participants got to meet in groups of 2 or 3 with staffers of politicians (California senators and one US congressperson), including yours truly, who met with the chief of staff of the California Senate majority leader. He has done a ton of random bills, and one of my lessons learned is that a yuge part of having successful meetings is to just have a ton of background knowledge.

As part of my background research, I learned one of the bills he proposed and recently came into effect, requires internet chat bots to disclose they are bots. That is a VERY interesting one, not because I care about bots, but because the results will teach us a lot about how local regulation of the cyberspace can have global implications. Much like you and I are affected by the European cookie law with those annoying ass cookie banners, and now GDPR, despite not being in Europe or mostly not being Europeans. California is not a country, but it is responsible for 3.7% of the global GDP and much of the internet. Regulations that it enact on service providers are likely to have a larger impact on the cyberspace than almost every other country, and you donโ€™t even have to go through US congress. Wooo!

But if youโ€™re still not quite confident on your politics game, come by BBB B101 6pm today and Iโ€™ll tell you everything I learned!*



*Your mileage may vary