Every March the city of Austin, Texas transforms into a spectacle of film, interactive media, comedy, and music festival and conference forums under the banner of South by Southwest, abbreviated to SXSW and lovingly referred to as “South By”. The 2023 event was the second year the conference took place in-person after the Covid-19 pandemic and included some 300,000 attendees, making it one of the largest festivals in the world. 

In the year leading up to the event, thousands of session proposals were submitted, hundreds were selected, and only eight were featured in the conference’s daily programming email, including the Rise panel titled “How to Write and Pass Your Own Law.”

In the panel discussion on Saturday, March 11, Rise team members and Rise Justice Labs alumni shared their formula for successfully passing more than 65 laws, collectively. Panelists included Rise Founder and CEO Amanda Nguyen, Rise Justice Labs pilot program participant Cameron Marsh, and 2020 Rise Justice Labs alum Caroline Cole who serves as an advisor to the International Coalition Against Restraint And Seclusion. The panel was moderated by Rise’s Chief Strategy Officer, Caitlin Cadet. 

When asked what she learned when she first peeled back the curtain and started passing her own laws, Amanda Nguyen said, “When we remember that we deserve to be in these spaces, that our voices really do matter. The people who have the solutions to the world’s most pressing problems are the people who live that problem every day.”

This belief bolsters the Rise Justice Labs accelerator program, an intensive experiential learning course designed to compress years of learning into just 12 weeks. The program teaches campaigners how to research and draft a bill, craft a compelling story to make the case for change, connect with lawmakers and other key stakeholders, and construct a community of supporters to ultimately pass legislation.

“Trying to find common ground to be able to make progress sometimes can be a challenge,” said Caroline Cole. “It is a lot of writing and a lot of research and a lot of reading, and then it’s a lot of scrapping everything and starting over and re-strategizing.”

The panelists shared their experiences and insights from the Rise Justice Labs program, highlighting the importance of connecting with lawmakers on a personal level, sharing personal stories, and making a human connection to create meaningful change. The speakers also discussed the challenges of passing legislation and the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity. 

“Trailblazing is really uncomfortable. It’s really lonely, it’s painful,” said Amanda Nguyen. “But just know that if you feel that, you’re pushing that moral arc of the universe forward.”

Cameron Marsh agreed, “We will keep pushing forward despite how many signs say no, how many people say no – that’s how change gets made.” 

When asked for her advice to other campaigners, Caroline Cole said, “Just start, just do it. If there is an issue that is on your heart to change, to be a part of, start that conversation…it really is about looking at those bite-sized pieces instead of that end goal.”


You can go here to listen to the full discussion: https://schedule.sxsw.com/2023/events/PP125787  

Photo credit: Tatiana Calderon
rise team

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