An important tactic for securing policy change is working through coalitions. A collection of groups and individuals agree: “The following goal is important to all of us. Let’s work together to get it done.”
This requires a willingness to be collaborative, an understanding of comparative advantage and humility. As Ronald Reagan said, “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
In one sense, collaboration is a necessity. Think tanks can produce sound research, help shape public opinion and move ideas to the 5-yard line, but other actors (legislators, agencies, governors, courts) need to enact a policy.
The Mackinac Center has long valued a strong ecosystem of organizations working toward common goals. For years, think tank executives from around the world have visited our office in Midland for training. We frequently advise other state-based think tanks on best practices. We tell our new employees that we seek to build and support our allies in the liberty movement.
This is why we recently opened the Freedom Embassy in Lansing, within walking distance of the Capitol. It houses our government affairs team and some of our close allies: AFPMichigan, Great Lakes Education Project, Michigan Freedom Fund, Michigan Rising Action and the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. The space is quickly becoming a hub where people discuss free-market policy priorities.
Some of the Mackinac Center’s most significant wins were secured through teamwork. Michigan’s 2012 right-to-work law was the ultimate coalition victory. Many, many individuals and groups helped secure the win, over several decades of work. So many, in fact, that the Mackinac Center published a visual timeline to mark major inflection points. The work engaged multiple capacities: rigorous research, communications, litigation, grassroots engagement and legislative leadership.
In 2017 Michigan secured historic pension reform for public schools, creating 401(k)-style plans for teachers and school employees. Many of the groups named above contributed essential help, as did business groups like the West Michigan Policy Forum, Michigan Chamber and NFIB of Michigan. The effort also required help from out-of-state groups: The Reason Foundation provided critical expertise to lawmakers.
Speaking of national organizations, we frequently host groups from Washington and around the country that are advancing important ideas in the states: the Institute for Justice, The Heritage Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform and State Policy Network affiliates.
Collaboration doesn’t require lockstep agreement on all issues. For example, on the issue of government transparency (access to public records and meetings), we find common ground with organizations across the ideological spectrum. We may differ on the ideal scope and aims of government, but we all agree government agencies and public servants should be accountable to the people.
Our work is stronger when we work together with like-minded organizations. As Frederick Douglass once said, “Let every man work for the abolition of slavery in his own way. I would help all and hinder none.”