Center for Progressive Leadership (CPL)

Center for Progressive Leadership (CPL)


* Social justice organization dedicated to training future leftist political leaders

Established in 2003, the Center for Progressive Leadership (CPL) was a self-described “nonpartisan,” nonprofit “educational organization” dedicated to creating “a long-term infrastructure for developing tomorrow’s progressive leaders”—i.e., people of “diverse” backgrounds who could “effectively advance progressive political and policy change” that promotes “social justice.” All told, CPL trained at least 6,000 “promising political leaders from around the country,” providing them not only with instruction in the techniques of social activism, but also putting them in touch with willing donors and activist organizations in key voting areas.

CPL identified its five core values as follows:

(1) Investment in the Future: To ensure that “all Americans … have access to high-quality education and health care,” and to promote “innovative ways to conserve our natural environment,” CPL called for increased government spending on public education, socialized medicine, and the enactment of policies supported radical environmental goals.

(2) A Moral Economy: CPL advocated income redistribution and the introduction of “living-wage” requirements.

(3) Freedom: CPL claimed that many Americans were being denied “economic, social, and political” opportunities because of their “gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or economic status.” Among the most highly prized freedoms that “our government must uphold,” said the Center, was “a woman’s right to choose”—i.e., taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand.

(4) Security: Viewing the United States as a disruptive and destructive force in world affairs, CPL advised the U.S. to finally “join with other nations and international organizations to fight terrorism and promote peace.”

(5) Global Cooperation: “Internationally,” said CPL, “the United States must support security, peace, and development through trade, aid, negotiation, and political engagement.”

With these values in mind, CPL administered a number of training and outreach initiatives:

TheState Political Leaders Fellowship” was a nine-month program that annually recruited 40 to 60 aspiring political candidates in target states like Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, Arizona, and Michigan. The Center trained these individuals in skills such as public speaking, fundraising, and balancing personal affairs with the demands of a political career.

TheSpringboard Training Program” taught “first-time and up-and-coming community activists and political organizers” how to “solidif[y] their progressive values” and “communicate those values effectively to various audiences in various situations or through various media.”

TheNew Leaders Program” offered paid internships to minorities and women in Washington, DC, helping them to become “the next generation of successful progressive leaders.” Organizations involved in this program included the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, the Campaign for America’s Future, the Center for American Progress, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the People for the American Way Foundation, the United States Student Association, and the USAction Education Fund.

The “Partnership Training Program” was designed “to nurture, develop, build, and connect diverse communities of progressive leaders across the country who share common values and are equipped with the skills and support to run, organize, advocate, and win.” On this initiative, CPL collaborated with such organizations as the the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, the Midwest Academy, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club.

TheAction Network Program” aimed to connect “emerging and established leaders to create a community of progressive political leaders,” and to mobilize volunteers who could direct voter-outreach programs. In September 2006, the Action Network Program collaborated with a number of leftist groups to organize house-party training sessions in CPL members’ homes across the United States, in an effort to “buil[d] an infrastructure for long-term success.” Trainees watched instructional videos and then took part in interactive role-play activities where they practiced how to recruit new volunteers and communicate with potential voters. Organizations involved in this initiative included America VotesCampus Progress, Code Pink for PeaceMoveOn.orgProgressive Democrats of America, the Sierra Club, and TrueMajority Action.

In addition to the aforementioned groups, CPL also had close working relationships with the Center for Community Change and EMILY’s List.

Among CPL’s key board members were Raúl Grijalva, Mike Lux, and Robert Reich.

In addition to its national office in the District of Columbia, CPL had five permanent state offices in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Over the years, CPL received funding from such benefactors as the Arca Foundation, the Arcus Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Bohemian Foundation, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the Democracy Alliance, the Gill Foundation, the Hidden Leaf Foundation, the Joseph & Marie Field Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, George Soros‘s Open Society Institute, the Orange County Community Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund.

In 2012, CPL dissolved its operations and merged with an organization called Social Justice Leadership (SJL), to become CPL/SJP.

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