Big Think & Salon present a conversation with Joan Blades

Well, working to engage citizens actively in public dialogue is really the big thing I do. My background is in fact as an attorney mediator. It’s been a path that’s taken me many places I didn’t expect. And Move On was, in fact, something that was never anticipated to turn into a movement; but I’ve learned along the way many things about how valuable it is to have all those voices participating. And it’s very coherent with what is a natural inclination to bring people together to participate in making decisions about their lives. And I’ve come to believe that one of the greatest hopes for our country’s health – and in fact the world’s well-being – is real citizen participation, and informed citizen participation. Move On has created this fabulous community. Moms Rising is now putting together this different community of people that have the disconnect and are finding, you know, in person and online ways to really connect with each other, and also really make a difference in their communities. Move On is now 3.3 million members. And having a strong, progressive voice speaking on behalf of average citizens I think is hugely important. I believe it’s been a model where I hope that more and more groups will come together as with Moms Rising, Color Change . . . these groups that say, “These are issues that I want to do something.” And it’s a way to allow us to build a voice, and amplify each others’ voice, and really have a meaningful participation in the political process. And political process is not getting enough of that good common sense. There’s a book called “The Wisdom of Crowds”, and it basically says that a crowd is going to give you a better answer than an expert, absent certain negative dynamics. And it really is something I’ve come to see in action working with Move On, and now Moms Rising. People are brilliant. With Move On, it was like “caught a tiger by the tail”. All of a sudden we had hundreds of thousands of people saying, “Okay. What are we gonna do?” And we were fairly creative and thoughtful people, and was started saying, “Alright. Well let’s deliver the petitions in person to our . . .” And so we had Move On members in person delivering constituent petitions all around the country. And we spend, you know . . . It took a week to organize that. The sort of thing that would have taken months to organize prior to the connectivity of the Internet, we could let people know in an hour that tomorrow, there’s going to be a vote in the house on impeachment. Here’s your representative’s phone number. You might want to call and tell them how you feel. And so we made it really easy to participate. And people appreciated it. You know, there was this vacuum of leadership. I think that’s how Move On started. And people finally saying something sensible. And we come to it with an understanding that our job is to serve our members, and listen to them, and help them participate in the most meaningful way they can, and the most effective way they can. Most mothers need to work now. Now in most families you have two parents working, and it’s . . . it’s a need. The mommy war story is largely media created, because most of us that have kids are gonna be working . . . If we’re lucky enough to be able to take time out, we’re gonna be working again soon. And you know, if we’re fortunate enough to be able to be off on a long-term basis, how can you fault other women that need to support their children? It’s just not a . . . It’s not a common thing. What I’ve seen among most people is a pretty good understanding that as a country, that’s where we are now. Do you make the choice not to work and live in a neighborhood that’s very dangerous? Or do you decide to work because you feel like your kid’s gonna be safer or go to better schools? I can’t make judgments about other people about “this is right” and “that is wrong,” but these are parents’ decisions and we have to respect them. And I think that most people know that respecting other parents’ decisions is the best thing we can do.

A brief conversation with Joan Blades, Co-Founder of and Founder of

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