North Dakotans Launch New Independent Public Policy Organization
BISMARCK, April 26, 2016 — A bipartisan group of long-time North Dakota business, civic, and political leaders announced today the formation of ThinkND, a new independent and nonpartisan public policy organization that aims to foster fact-based dialogue, analysis, and solutions addressing issues vital to North Dakota. ThinkND will work collaboratively with North Dakotans from all walks of life to determine significant, common-sense solutions to critical issues and to help turn those solutions into reality in our state.
The individuals founding ThinkND have come together out of concern over increasing political partisanship and divisions in our country and the conviction that North Dakota can and must chart a different path. They believe that North Dakota remains a place where well-meaning citizens can still unite around common values and concerns, thanks to enduring community ties, our sense of place, and history of nontraditional thinking in politics and economics.
“We want to create a space where common ground can flourish,” said ThinkND board chair Karen Stoker, a Fargo entrepreneur and community leader. “Our public life and discourse in recent years has discouraged citizens and leaders from coming to together to think, learn, and discuss issues that matter deeply to North Dakotans and to advance genuine solutions to real challenges we face. The goal of ThinkND is to help fill that void,” Stoker said.
"The ideological views of 20 percent on each end of the spectrum may shout the loudest and drive agendas, but they do not represent the 60 percent of common sense North Dakotans who want civil discussion and government that welcomes healthy debate, and I believe ThinkND will help give that common sense majority a voice," said board member Dina Butcher, who was appointed by and worked in various capacities for former governors Ed Schafer and John Hoeven.
Over the past several months, ThinkND has considered a range of issues confronting the state. It conducted statewide polling and focus groups to understand values and perspectives that North Dakotans bring to those issues with the goal of identifying priorities that citizens across the political spectrum support and for which common ground appears achievable.
The three initial priorities that ThinkND has identified through this process are: college affordability and student loan debt, mental healthcare accessibility, and the state's nondiscrimination laws. ThinkND expects to add additional topics to its agenda over time.
In the weeks and months ahead, ThinkND will begin hosting constructive dialogue on these priorities by convening stakeholders representing different perspectives to explore key issues and identify potential common ground solutions. ThinkND will then take the results of these dialogues to citizens for further input in public forums. Finally, this approach will generate broadly-supported recommendations that can be championed by elected officials and private sector and community leaders, regardless of party affiliation.
Based in Bismarck, ThinkND will operate as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization supported by donations from individuals, charitable foundations and other institutions consistent with its independent, nonpartisan role.