- Works to recruit and train young people to become “the progressive political entrepreneurs of tomorrow”
Established in 2005, the New Leaders Council (NLC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group that works to recruit and train young people to become “the progressive political entrepreneurs of tomorrow.” Its overarching objective is to strengthen the “progressive infrastructure” across the United States, so as to “ensure strong democracy, social justice, and equal opportunity” far into the foreseeable future.
As of January 2014, NLC had chapters in 31 communities nationwide. These included Atlanta, Augusta, Baltimore, Boston, Broward, the Capital District, Chicago, Cleveland, Des Moines, Jacksonville, Kentucky, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Madison, Miami, Montana, Nashville, New Jersey, New York City, North Carolina, Orange County, Orlando, Philadelphia, Rhode Island, Sacramento, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, St. Louis, Tallahassee, Tampa Bay, and Washington DC.
NILC’s three major programs include the following:
(1) NLC Institute: Every year, each NLC chapter sponsors a so-called “Institute” that admits 15 to 20 Fellows to take part in an intensive, five-month training program designed to create and expand a thriving “network of Progressive leaders.” Through a “highly-selective” admissions process, these Institutes strive to recruit and enroll young people who demonstrate a potential for becoming “successful risk-taker[s]” and bold “progressive advocate[s].” Between 2006 and the end of the Spring 2013 session, NLC Institutes trained more than 1,800 individuals.
(2) 40 Under 40: Each year since 2008, NLC has presented its 40 Under 40 Leadership Awards as a way to honor the work of young, professional leaders who have “exemplified our organization’s ideal of political entrepreneurship.” The awards recognize achievements in four categories:
- The Political Leadership Award “honors a leader who has advanced progressive politics in a particularly innovative way or in a challenging environment.”
- The Media Leadership Award “honors a leader who has utilized media in a particularly innovative or effective way.”
- The Advocacy Award “honors a leader who has run a particularly effective advocacy campaign or has implemented a new approach to advocacy.”
- The Entrepreneurship Award “honors a business, social enterprise or non-profit leader who has created, led, or reformed an organization significantly.”
3) Mentorship: NLC’s Mentorship Program pairs established community leaders with NLC Fellows and Alumni, helping members of the latter two groups “build relationships and increase their professional network within their community.”
NLC’s executive director, Mark Riddle, is the president of Wildcat Digital, a firm that specializes in brand marketing, advertising, crisis management, and political campaign strategy. Riddle first broke into politics in 1998 when he was hired as the political director and press secretary at NDN (formerly known as the New Democrat Network). In that post, which he held for four years, Riddle was responsible for recruiting, training, funding and promoting Democratic Party candidates for political office at all levels of government. In 2004 Riddle served as the Arizona state director of General Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign. He also has worked as a trainer with Democracy For America and Emerge Kentucky, and has been active in the Democratic Leadership Council.
NLC board chairman Chris Kelly is an attorney who served as a policy advisor for President Bill Clinton in the early 1990s. Other members of NLC’s board, meanwhile, have had both past and present affiliations with such entities as Air America Radio, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic GAIN, the John Kerry for President Campaign, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Netroots Nation, NDN, the New Politics Institute, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
NLC has received funding from a large number of activist organizations, labor unions, charitable foundations, and individual donors. Among these are the ACLU Foundation of San Diego, CAIR Chicago, the California Federation of Teachers, Nancy Pelosi For Congress, Planned Parenthood, and the Service Employees International Union. For a more comprehensive list of NLC funders, click here.
From 2011-13, NLC received more than $750,000 in total donations. At the start of 2014, the Council anticipated receipts of more than $1 million for that calendar year.