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In these days of extreme political polarization, how do you get people from all political stripes working together and finding solutions?

You start with a story.

Such as the story of Horace Pritchard, whose family has lived in Pasquotank County for five generations.  On the family land he farms corn, wheat, soybeans and now, wind. (Watch video.)

Or the story of how an energy cooperative on Ocracoke Island is weathering hurricanes and keeping the power on through North Carolina first micro-grid of alternate energy sources. (Watch below.)

The North Carolina Leadership Forum (NCLF) -- launched last year by POLIS: The Duke Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Service -- brings together civic, business and political leaders to discuss the problems facing North Carolina and develop possible solutions acceptable to both liberal and conservative leaders.

Video stories of North Carolinians struggling with and sometimes solving problems are the starting point for discussions. Members also listen closely to how others respond to the stories and understand the challenges presented in the videos.  NCLF also staff provide background data and analytical tools, giving participants a shared base of knowledge for their work.

NCLF’s second cohort starts its work today. This year, the group will focus on how North Carolina can best meet the future energy needs of its citizens and businesses. Last year, NCLF examined how to ensure that more North Carolinians earn enough to support their families. (Read their report.)

Man Working
NC's Energy Stories
Participants in the North Carolina Leadership Forum consider stories from around the state including the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (right image) and solar technology (left image.)

In an op-ed in The Charlotte Observer, NCLF steering committee members John Hood and Leslie Winner wrote about the work of last year’s forum:

“We practiced listening to the experiences of others, their interpretations of facts, and the values they prioritize. We learned to express our opinions in ways that made it easier for those who disagreed to listen. The group discovered that no one in the room was evil. We removed the devil horns from our adversaries.”

NCLF is directed by Frederick “Fritz” Mayer, associate dean of the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy.

“At a time when we are bitterly divided, NCFL is a testament that civil discourse is still possible. I am heartened by the work of the forum so far and have high hopes for this year,” said Mayer.  

Key partners in this year’s forum are the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Duke University Energy Initiative, who are providing current research findings and critical expertise to inform forum participants about topics relating to fossil fuels and renewable energy, climate change, environmental impacts, regulations, economics and politics.

In addition to Mayer, members of this year’s steering committee are:  

  • Anita Brown-Graham, UNC School of Government
  • Maurice “Mo” Green, Executive Director, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
  • John Hood, President, John William Pope Foundation
  • Arthur E. Morehead IV, The Duke Endowment
  • Chuck Neely, Partner, Williams Mullen, former N.C. General Assembly member
  • Leslie Winner, Former Executive Director, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, former N.C. General Assembly member

The leadership forum is jointly funded by the Duke Endowment, the John William Pope Foundation and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Watch Horace Pritchard's story