The Rockridge Era Ends — Rockridge Nation

The Rockridge Era Ends

Created by rockridge_staff (Rockridge Institute staff member) on Monday, April 21, 2008 06:00 AM

An important announcement from the Rockridge Institute

First, a big Thank You!

The Rockridge Institute was founded with a mission: to teach Americans about the role of values and framing in political debate, and to help progressives equalize the framing advantages enjoyed by conservatives. With your help, Rockridge has done more than any small think tank could be expected to do. About 1,000 of you have donated to support our efforts. More than 8,000 have registered as members of Rockridge Nation to engage actively with us. And hundreds of thousands, both in the US and abroad, have bought our books and used our materials. If you are one of those hundreds of thousands, political discourse will now look different to you. As you read the newspapers and the blogs and watch TV, you can see the effects of our work everywhere. Your support has made that possible. For this and so much more, you have our complete admiration and gratitude.

Nonetheless, the Rockridge era will come to an end on April 30.

What we have written will remain as archives on our websites and

The end of any organization, even a small one, is a complex matter, and an emotional one for those who have invested themselves in its life. In important ways, Rockridge's triumphs and its limitations reflect the state of the progressive community and point to what the progressive future needs to be. Let's begin at the beginning.

The Rockridge Institute was formed to address a set of challenges: The right-wing think tanks, after spending 35 years and 4 billion dollars, had come to dominate public debate. They had done this by framing Big Ideas their way: the nature of government, the market, taxation, security, morality, responsibility, accountability, character, nature, even life. This allowed them to then frame lower-level issues, special cases like terrorism, Iraq, education, health care, retirement, stem-cell research, the death penalty, affirmative action, and on and on.

Our challenge was to figure out exactly how they had achieved such dominance over the minds of Americans and what progressives could do—not just how to respond case by special case, but how to do the Big Job: to reframe the Big Ideas governing our politics.

How could a tiny institute in Northern California hope to make any progress on such a large task? Our strategy was to use the tools of the cognitive and brain sciences, and to address not just one or two issues, but the full range.

In the last five years, and on a shoe-string budget, Rockridge has achieved more than we could have dreamed of:

  • Theoretical achievements: We worked out the theory of conceptual structure in politics, including how framing works; value-based modes of reasoning for conservatives and progressives; biconceptualism; top-to-bottom issue-based framing; neo-liberalism; contested concepts; elementary and complex cultural narratives as they apply in politics; and the idea of cognitive policy.
  • Applications: We have applied top-to-bottom issue framing and other theoretical results to many issue areas, most recently, health care, immigration, and climate change policy. And we have applied other of our theoretical results to such issues as the war on terror, tort reform, popular democracy, education, religion, and so on.
  • Popularizations: We popularized the understanding of framing and values in political discourse, and have produced a progressive handbook—Thinking Points—and other useful materials, all free online. As a result, political advocates all over America have become far more sophisticated about framing and values than they were five years ago.
  • Community Creation: We have created and maintained a busy, interactive and sophisticated on-line community, Rockridge Nation, with features like question-answering, a weekly workgroup, and a blog. And we have aligned with key influencers to turn our ideas into action on health care, climate policy, and more.
  • Trainings: We have done successful trainings and workshops on a small scale.
  • Political effectiveness: We have helped get progressive candidates elected across this country at all levels, and even in Spain. Various observers, upon reading Thinking Points, have seen in it many elements of the Obama campaign and a new politics.

Most important to us has been how our work has resonated with you. We are proud of what we have done together. In short, with your support and participation, we have had more of an effect than any tiny Northern California nonprofit think tank had any right to expect.

But... we have not done the Big Job, not even close. The conservatives' Big Ideas about government, taxes, security, the market, and the rest still dominate political discourse. Democrats in Congress still cringe at attacks based on these Big Ideas, and many have been intimidated into voting for conservative policies—on funding for Iraq, on government spying without a warrant, on taxes, on bankruptcy, and on and on. The Big Idea intimidation is still working. Changing that is the Big Job.

We at Rockridge have used the physical think tank form to get us this far. We've made important advances in understanding and articulating political cognition. We have done more in-depth studies than most people have the time to read, and we know what has to be done to tackle the Big Job. But we also realize that no small non-profit think tank can do significantly more of the Big Job than we have already done. That will take a large-scale, well-funded progressive cognitive infrastructure.

The progressive infrastructure built so far does not include a cognitive infrastructure. It has not tackled the Big Job—reversing the dominance of conservative Big Ideas in public life. Policy institutes do not address cognitive policy—the ideas and values that have to structure the public mind in order for nuts-and-bolts progressive policy to be accepted as just common sense.

When Rockridge started on its mission, we knew there were huge hurdles — not just from the Right, but within the progressive community itself.

  • The Progressive Funding Problem: The 1997 Covington Report [Sally Covington, Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations] observed that conservative foundations tend to give large, multi-year block grants to promote conservatism in general. By contrast, progressive foundations tend to give small grants for a short time over a short list of specific issue areas. This results in small nonprofits having to constantly spend a lot of time and effort raising money, and all too often failing to raise enough.
  • The Cognitive Science Problem: Few people are aware of the results in cognitive science and neuroscience and the techniques of analysis developed in cognitive linguistics. Progressives tend to view research in terms of polls, surveys, and focus groups, rather than the methods for understanding human cognition.
  • The Enlightenment Reason Problem: Progressives commonly believe in some version of Enlightenment Reason, which says that reason is conscious, dispassionate, logical, universal, literal (it directly fits the world), and interest-based. The cognitive and brain sciences have shown this is false in every respect. But if you aren't aware that we normally think unconsciously in terms of frames and metaphors, then framing would seem like deception, spin, or propaganda.
  • The Material Policy Problem: Unlike conservatives, progressives tend to think of policy as material policy alone—the nuts and bolts—and not cognitive policy: the ideas that must be in the brains of the public for policies to be seen as common sense. There is thus little or no understanding of the importance of cognitive policy.
  • The Framing-as-Messaging Problem: If you don't know that framing is the study of thought, then you would naturally but incorrectly think of framing as messaging. This is reinforced by the fact that understanding framing does, in fact, help with effective messaging.
  • The Training Problem: Framing research can't be done by just anyone. It takes training. And since staff members have lives and need financial security, it is hard to maintain a highly-trained staff without sufficient and stable funding.

In the end, we encountered all these problems. They are endemic to progressive advocacy and politics. We weathered them for years and accomplished a huge amount. Eventually—even with a thousand donors—the funding problem caught up with us.

Thank you for all your support.

Together, we will keep the Rockridge spirit alive and together we will continue to build a strong progressive movement with a sustainable infrastructure and a vital understanding of the cognitive dimension of politics, policy and governance.

—The Rockridge Staff
Joe Brewer
Bruce Budner
Evan Frisch
Eric Haas
George Lakoff
Sherry Reson
Glenn W. Smith

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Oh, no!!!

collapse Posted by bajonimi at Monday, April 21, 2008 06:09 AM

I am complicit in this ending. While I have faithfully read and contributed a small sum . . . oh, dear. Please find a way to be viable again. My friends and colleagues and I will go into withdrawal if I no longer invoke George Lakoff and Rockridge Institute.

More important still, this is not about me. Your work has been immensely important. Is important. Thank you beyond the telling of it for all you have done and attempted to do. It is a measure of how vast and deep the problems are that the likes of Rockridge cannot survive. This is immensely frightening.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sad news but we'll find ways to continue and thrive

collapse Posted by rikard at Monday, April 21, 2008 07:08 AM

This really hurts. Rockridge is by far the best community I've experienced. My learning curve went logarithmic when I entered your world. Thank you all for your empathy, energy, efforts and happiness.
I'm sure we'll find ways to spread these ideas and thrive as a global progressive community. A while ago I started this, as a notepad. Maybe some of us will use it.

I'll write a longer comment in this thread tomorrow, too much work today:-)


Thanks for everything

collapse Posted by AnnHW at Monday, April 21, 2008 07:32 AM

Please accept my enormous thanks for the excellent work you have all done in making Rockridge happen. Your work has at least sown the seeds of changing thought patterns, although, especially here in the South, progressives are seriously outgunned by conservatives. Thanks for leaving the website up. We will need to refer to it as we keep going.

Gratitude, indebted and detemined

collapse Posted by Jerry33 at Monday, April 21, 2008 07:40 AM

I am saddened to learn of this news and emphasize with your challenges as I struggle, still out of work and with others serving the underserved in burgeoning urban environments, trying to create sustainable practices and maintain the funding required to do so. The funding issues will become worse as the gap between the richest and poorest expands and leaves little left in the middle to boot but many of us will continue to work for free to achieve the goals our society must realize and yet many will not.

Which brings me to mention another rationale for lack of participation even among the so called enlightened that have long since realized that everything in our world is cognitive- the result of our intentions and thoughts. And that is this comfort with just getting by, with avoiding the big problems because my problems exist; this lack of motivation to become socially active using whatever excuse to stay close to home, however legit.

To unravel my own motivation to service as it's all I know, I start with gratitude and see this as essential to bring about a socially engaged response; any of us writing or reading this or other progressive sites despite our personal situations are still better off than at least 85% of the population. Not only are we educated but we are also fed and have a roof over our heads. I feel an obligation toward having freedom, that is a responsibility that stems I suppose from being grateful, it’s a call to serve, it’s a purpose; this also stems for me from a Christian upbringing that leaned heavy on Christ’s words and from there hears these words, this calling echoed in the essence of many faiths.

Then there is determination. That if Rockridge will not exist, I will still train myself in cognitive arts. That even as my tax dollars are used for war and we become more militarized, I will work for peace. That even as our political system is full of corruption, I will vote, maybe run for office and encourage others to do the same. We see this spirit among the comments here and your work which will go on in other forms, through other distribution channels, through you and through us.

What I amazed the most about progressives is their ability to complain about everything and then drop out yet our conservative counterparts seem to never give up! What I liked most about Rockridge site was that this was NOT a site of complainers but a team of people working and communicating methods and real life scenarios to step us toward and through solutions.

So, I will keep stepping, working in my virtual and tangible communities to create a better way. I can only speak for myself but I do feel we are all called in some way to serve especially if we take the time to listen and respond to the call. Thank you and God Speed!

Our commitment is strong...

collapse Posted by joe_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Monday, April 21, 2008 11:38 AM

Hi Jerry33,

Thank you for articulating so well the commitment we all feel. From the beginning this has been an uphill struggle for all of us. Yet, our devotion has remained strong throughout. One struggle that has remained hidden from view is the personal sacrifices we, the Rockridge staff, have made to pursue our institutional mission. As a personal anecdote, I can mention my circumstance. My wife and I have lived in the midst of financial insecurity with no stable path into the future so that I could do this work. Every project I'd start would include the whisper of concern in my mind that it wouldn't be completed for lack of funds to provide for me while I worked on it. Having come from below the poverty line (I grew up in rural Missouri) with no savings to speak of, the concern about paying rent loomed very real in our minds all the while.

And yet, I have remained steadfast. This is true of others "in house" at Rockridge as well. We care so deeply about this cause - and our part in it - that we are willing to continue the struggle for the sake of the well-being for those around us.

I hope it is clear that our devotion remains strong even now as we transition beyond the incarnation of this organization. The spirit of the institution is embodied by the fellowship of flesh-and-blood human beings who give it life. This community, which contains our staff (not the other way around), is the life-blood of our mission. That spirit will continue well beyond the duration of the legal entity called Rockridge.



3 bows

collapse Posted by Jerry33 at Monday, April 21, 2008 01:55 PM

Thanks for the reply back and yes it was and continues to be clear to me that you, your team is committed. I am also struggling with having to take work that may not be my first choice but have children to feed et al as well. So, I remind myself that any one who commits to serve the greater good can and will achieve this goal regardless of where they work; all work has honor when we bring it there and provides pathways to growth.

I’ve looked out my window at work or at home or the virtual window and see much that needs to be done and I do some of that; I think this is what is meant by building community- what is in front of you that needs to be done, what meal to prepare, what strengths or ingredients are available to serve up?! There are so many talents in this virtual community and in our own communities; let’s continue to apply them wherever we find ourselves, for our shared well being (and keep this contact list for future connections!) Peace.

Who and Where

collapse Posted by StaceyG at Monday, April 21, 2008 07:52 AM

This abrupt end is truly disappointing. Please let us know where you will all be going off to in your next jobs (and emails on the Google group).

And please tell us what organizations have most understood the work here, and could be a possible training ground or gathering place for those of us who have spent time learning these principles.

What we'll do next

collapse Posted by joe_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Monday, April 21, 2008 11:48 AM

Hi Stacey,

We are each looking to what is possible for our well-being. Evan and I have been thinking about starting a new venture to strategically address the scarcity problem (and possibly provide a pathway to empowerment for thousands along the way). Eric is torn between returning to academia and consulting. Others are considering their own paths.

You'll learn more about our particulars throughout the next week or so. No worries, we won't leave you in the dark about our plans.

As for other organizations who "get it" and might help carry the mission, this one is more difficult to assess. There are plenty of individuals within a large number of organizations who recognize what we are doing and want to incorporate it into their activities. But, largely due to financial constraints (and some structural mismatch between existing buerocracy and new approaches needed to implement framing insights), we have not been in a position to work with those organizations.

There are others out there, like the Longview Institute and Frameworks, who do something similar to what we do. But they are private consulting firms that work with clients. They are not working to change public discourse at large. We are the only shop in town that does this.

I think we will need to create new organizations over time. This is something that will require risks and new vision. As for me, I am looking for ways to do this. But the fact that I've lived paycheck to paycheck the whole time leaves me with considerable pressure to find a way to pay the bills in the near term.

On a personal note, I'd like to thank you directly for your involvement in Rockridge Nation. It has been a pleasure working and sharing with you in all we've done so far.




collapse Posted by DA12 at Monday, April 21, 2008 07:55 AM

This is sad. I had no idea funding for Rockridge was in such a dire situation. I've gained enormous confidence and much more insight into politics by reading Rockridge and Thinking Points. Progressives desperately need think-tanks like this and to see this one fold hurts. How come the funding needs were kept under wraps until the very end? I would have given more if I'd been told the situation.

We thought we were pretty explicit

collapse Posted by sherry_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Monday, April 21, 2008 12:19 PM

about our needs for funding. A request went out with nearly every "Dear Community" letter. Unfortunately, many folks don't open email, and of those who do, only a small proportion were moved to act.

Not that we couldn't have done more; there is always more to do. For that matter, the donate page is still live and there will be outstanding obligations. Feel free to send a good-bye gift.


collapse Posted by Moriji at Monday, April 21, 2008 12:43 PM

Actually, I think if you guys had said you were on the verge of closing down, it might have gotten more people to donate money.

You guys probably already thought about this, but you did ask Soros for money, right?

Where do we go now?

collapse Posted by eightballace at Monday, April 21, 2008 02:07 PM

Thank you for everything you have done, Rockridge. You have helped change the landscape and raise the country's political awareness. I will continue to teach my students about framing and to use Thinking Points.

What I wonder, though, is why George Soros, or some other wealthy progressive is not willing to keep Rockridge alive? The work you do is unparalleled and not replicated elsewhere.

How Soros could see Dr. Lakoff and Frank Luntz in the same forum and not be mortified into continuing his support is beyond me. Framing is SO much more than "words that work."

One last thing. Please refer your supporters to any organizations you think will carry on with the work you have done or will continue to discuss the issues in similar terms.

There's no one doing what you do, Rockridge, and the void will be hard to fill.
Let's hope progressives find a way to fill it.

-- Larry


collapse Posted by DA12 at Monday, April 21, 2008 05:24 PM

As someone who works in fundraising, I'd say it's SOP to continuously ask for donations, especially in the form of email. People expect it, and don't take it as a sign that there's financial trouble. When the doors are about to close, more explicit and urgent messages are needed. But now its a moot point. Again, very sorry to see RI go.

Build a bridge to the base

collapse Posted by Think4myself at Monday, April 21, 2008 08:10 AM

This is bad news for progressives everywhere. Please, I know everyone on staff already donates their "free time" to something (they're progressives right?) - please spend some of it bridging this community to another (or some other) lower maintenance one. I got a lot out of exchanges between readers and it would be a shame to have it go up in smoke. Another possibility is to help pair up volunteers - some that think they have a pretty good grasp on progressive framing, others that want to learn more.

Maybe you could still offer yourselves to be hired for progressive framing workshops and somehow authenticate or authoritize trainers to go out and blog the word (to have some credibility).

I still hold that this whole framing mindset is pretty simple. The big focus should be the paradigm shift of values, after that, the rest is detail. Granted you can get into fascinating discussions on the level of PhDs in psychology and linguistics, but I would be pleased if just the values got around more to regular folks.

The work done with this group has been terribly important, it's not a fad, it is THE CHANGE we've been waiting for - attempting a sort of critical mass mindset shift. Help us to carry it on if you can't.

Available for hire

collapse Posted by joe_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Monday, April 21, 2008 12:21 PM

Hi Think4yself,

Thank you for your ongoing contributions to this community. These questions are yet another example of the value you bring to the discussion. We, the staff, are very much interested in preserving the vitality of this community. Several ideas are floating around in our heads about what a new web forum might look like and whether we, as individuals, will be available to participate in them.

Rather than figuring that out and telling you all, I think it is more in the progressive spirit to "crowd source" this one and figure out the best solution together. What do you think we should do? How best can we preserve the sense of community here and transplant it to a forum that serves the community EVEN BETTER?

Also, in response to your question about training and workshops, we are very interested in doing this and would be delighted to speak with anyone here who would be interested in hiring us for help learning more about cognitive policy, framing, and politics. Eric, Evan and I in particular are available and interested in this sort of thing right off the bat.

Kindest regards,


Weekly Workgroup: What Next?

collapse Posted by etbnc at Monday, April 21, 2008 12:36 PM

I wasn't sure the staff would want to move to next steps this soon. But now that you mention it, Joe, would you like to conduct that as the (last?) Weekly Work Group?

Or would y'all prefer some other sort of wrap-up, capstone project?


collapse Posted by Moriji at Monday, April 21, 2008 12:41 PM

I'd be interested in attending workshops. I live in Los Angeles anyway, so I wouldn't mind making the trek up every now and then.

Small Business Development

collapse Posted by Jerry33 at Monday, April 21, 2008 02:25 PM

There are needs for workshops with groups like the Citizen Campaigns and many of our urban environments are crying out for citizen engagement. The community colleges around me add programming with some kind of shared fee structure. This state has an approved vendor list that in turn once you are on it you can bid for state and county work force development grants. For-profits can exist within a nonprofit. You must make sure you have a business model that can make money even if also continuing the pro-bono work.

There is help for entrepreneurs’ check your local SBDC that offers free services and online at which for example offers tools/techniques such as:
1. Feasibility Analysis, Who will buy, Why –What is your unique selling position (Don’t make it Price or you/your product becomes a commodity.)
a. Targeting your market
2. Breakeven analysis
3. Market Research

Maybe you know all this then this is for your readers but also know then that you have the main ingredients- critical thinking and intuition!!

Center for American Progress

collapse Posted by jtifft at Monday, April 21, 2008 08:17 AM

I have always wondered why this other progressive think tank, on the east coast (Washington DC) and the Rockridge Institute do not seem to know about, refer to, or even acknowledge, each other. The Center for American Progress seems to be absolutely rolling in money. I think it's Soros money, but don't quote me on that. They do excellent noontime and evening talks, panels, forums, and so on.

Why in Heaven's name haven't the two organizations linked up? You could contribute wonderfully to their program in return for some financial support.

True, the CAP leans more toward practical politics, since that's where its founder & chief, Podesta, come from, and you are more scholarly in approach. You probably see yourselves as having different missions.

Your challenge is to meld them into one juggernaut that can oppose the conservative choke hold on discourse and mow down the media's idiotic talking heads, starting with Russert and Stephanopoulos!

Lot of reasons

collapse Posted by deaniac83 at Monday, April 21, 2008 10:28 AM

The Center for American Progress isn't doesn't have a frame focus, it has an issues focus. Rockridge has been trying to get progressives to talk about values first. Also, the Center for American Progress, as a think tank, is heavily influenced by some very establishment Washington Democratic politicians, who, while good advocates, are often weary of the grassroots.

Thanks. Let's all keep working on the Big Job anyway.

collapse Posted by etbnc at Monday, April 21, 2008 08:25 AM

Well, heck. That's lousy news.

I add my thanks to Rockridge for their work so far. I hope everyone on the staff has a personal exit strategy and a path for financial security, at least to the extent that any of us can seek such security these days.

As Rikard noted, we have options to continue the online conversations started here. I confess I have some experience with such things. I can see that others do also. We can solve that problem.

As a small-amount donor, it would be nice to think that Rockridge's martyrdom might wake up some large-amount donors. It would be nice to think incipient loss would be enough to wake up some big donors before the doors actually close.

Although I'm confident that (perhaps soon to be) former Rockridge staff will continue to work on the Big Job, one way or another, shutting down the formal Rockridge project does look like a serious symbolic, metaphorical setback.

Apparently we do not yet have long-term commitment to the Big Job from enough of the people who have access to the resources it requires. To me, that's lousy news.

But I'll keep doing my small part to work on the Big Job. And I'm not going to say farewell for a few days yet. There's still time...

Where to go from here

collapse Posted by bobbiej at Monday, April 21, 2008 08:32 AM

I will be sad to see the end of this entity. I believe that the people involved with Rockridge might be interested in participating in Change Congress ( Change Congress's stated purpose is "a movement to build support for basic reform in how our government functions". It is an organization dedicated to changing campaign finance by getting politicians and the public to take a pledge ( change it.
Good luck to everyone at Rockridge! and Thank you for all of your hard work!

saddened by the news

collapse Posted by martina51 at Monday, April 21, 2008 01:15 PM

As I read my email today, I was taken back to when I initially joined Rockridge as a contributor. I questioned as to if this was a place for me to get insight into where I thought the US should go versus the tailspin that was starting, was this a think tank of Progressives (I was reassured that it was), or something spinning from the so-called Election of 2004.

I would read G. Lakoff's articles since he appeared to open many eyes as to what was being done and without some journalistic guidance and forethought, we could never realize of what was going on and what was lost on many.

I can not thank one and all at Rockridge enough for making me more skeptical about how issues get addressed and making me more curious to look deeper into the issues that face each and everyone of us daily.

May all staffers find jobs that make them feel accomplished/fulfilled as their time and effort at Rockridge has made us feel, more impowered!


Thank you for the work you have done

collapse Posted by robertpatricklevy at Monday, April 21, 2008 08:34 AM

Rockridge has truly made an important mark on the way the progressive movement understands itself. The progressive movement of movements has been very fortunate to have this unique and powerful contribution from the architects of the most compelling soup-to-nuts program of empirical and theoretical research in cognitive science, the only full-scale paradigm sufficiently addressing (and I think solving) the philosophical gridlock that large terrains of neuroscience and cognitive science suffer from. We can rest assured that within cognitive science, this major faction of research will continue to grow and advance, deepening our knowledge of the system of brain, behavior, ecology, and the group-level embodied interaction we know as culture.

Hopefully this is not the end, but the beginning of a new phase in the movement for better self-awareness and control of conceptual framing in politics. I hope that the legacy of Rockridge will inspire or empower like-minded individuals to apply the ongoing research in embodied cog sci/ conceptual metaphor and blending/ cognitive linguistics to develop concepts and strategies to further unite Progressives.

It is unfortunate that there will no longer be a dedicated and extremely qualified group of people doing this work (at least for now), but what that Rockridge has done will continue to shape many Progressive strategists' approaches. David Axelrod (the framing-by-any-other-name manager for the campaings of Barack Obama and Deval Patrick) is one example of the type of influence I'm referring to. Speaking of Obama, if Obama does become our next president, he may be uniquely poised to unite the country in a progressive frame once again. It could be that we will look back and see Obama as the major victory of the Rockridge movement, and his legacy as the fulfillment of the goals of the Rockrige Institute.

Thanks again for the work you've done, I hope this is just the beginning of Progressives valuing the need to be self-aware about our concepts in forming coalitions to get things done.

Let's keep in touch

collapse Posted by Moriji at Monday, April 21, 2008 08:38 AM

It is indeed sad that Rockridge is closing its doors. While it may take a lot of money to keep an organization going, you don't need a lot to build a web community. For example, I have a support site for abuse which I pay no more than $100 a year for. I have a simple web site, and use ProBoards as the forums because it's free. I think we should all consider setting up something like this to keep the dialogue going.

So whoever is interested, send me a message and let's take it from there...

Thanks, Moriji

collapse Posted by evan_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Monday, April 21, 2008 04:56 PM

A number of people have made suggestions about starting a web forum, Google Group, or other venue for those who are interested in remaining in contact with each other and continuing the dialogue. I agree with Joe's suggestion (above) that we use this thread in part to talk about what would make sense to create. If those who are interested in creating some type of online forum could speak up and identify what role they would like to play, it would be helpful. (It probably wouldn't make sense for several people to start competing sites that seek to serve the same purpose.) Perhaps those who are interested in creating such a community could find ways to collaborate with each other and make it happen soon.

While Rockridge's websites will be archived, it may be possible to include a link from the site to some new online forum that Rockridge Nation members build. For that to happen, people will need to work together to come up with a site that they agree on.



collapse Posted by Moriji at Monday, April 21, 2008 05:12 PM

I'm glad you guys encourage this and will even put a link to whatever new site is created. One question I have though is, can we use the name Rockridge as part of the new site? I'm thinking of branding here. People have gotten to associate the word Rockridge with framing in progressive politics and it would make the new site show up on Google when people do searches. Why work on trying to promote a new name if we can just piggy back on top of what you guys have done here? Anyway, let us know...


collapse Posted by ricb at Monday, April 21, 2008 08:50 AM

I never saw it coming. I should have donated more :(

I trust that you will continue your essential research and will find other avenues to publish your work. The forum aspect of Rockridge has been great, but works like Don't Think of an Elephant and Thinking Points stand on their own.

Considering the way the Democrats in Washington S***TED on their base, this is what is bound to happen. Also, DON'T THINK OF THE MONEY !!!

collapse Posted by dmax at Monday, April 21, 2008 09:06 AM

The Democrats never ever cooperate with their base. Instead they keep pandering to the rightwing hoping to score political points but they NEVER EVER learn ! The art of framing the debates has always been and continues to be ignored by the progressives and liberals. Those of us who do a better job of it get ridiculed.

As a matter of fact, I moved up north to Washington from North Carolina and I expected to find plenty of real liberals and progressives when I worked in Washington as a contractor. But what did I find? FAKE "liberals" and "progressives". Oh sure, they complain about Bush being bad and all that but when push comes to shove, they don't give a ST about rescinding tax cuts for the wealthy, getting us out of the Iraq war turned occupation for oil, restoring America's freedoms and civil liberties, cancelling those "free" trade scams, etc ... Sure, they'll complain about "abortion" restrictions and guns but when it comes to the real issues, they're willing to be nothing more than a bunch of goddamn-motherfing latte limousine "liberals" and say F*K YOU ! I'm a working class liberal, not a social-only liberal !

The biggest mistake Rockridge made was thinking about MONEY all too often. Yes, money can make a difference but even George Lakoff himself acknowledged in his book "Don't Think of an Elephant" that conservatives don't focus on money alone. The money comes on top of what they're doing.

Another mistake is not deciding to tackle the various double standards capitalism has against you and me. See, you have to understand that in a capitalistic society, there are boatloads of double standards on what actions are rewardable vs punishable for different classes. Case in point, Donald F**KING Trump and Halliburton use controversial methods to avoid paying taxes and they get rewarded. The average Joe and Jane on the other hand would be lucky to get 10 years if not longer for doing the same. If I were a progressive leader, I'd teach my followers to be economic vigilantes and probably apply the same to foreign policy, freedom, etc ...

I'm sorry to see this site go but until the progressives and liberals taking framing seriously and quit being too snobbish and arrogant like the conservatives, this is the kind of lose-lose progressive and liberal movements are bound to face, PERIOD.

Thank you; We must keep it going

collapse Posted by jimyanda at Monday, April 21, 2008 09:09 AM

My heartfelt thank you to everyone at Rockridge for your immeasurable contribution to improving and reinvigorating American democracy. We can all see the effects of your work across the entire political landscape. And I see it in my own life, for I now have ready answers to conservative framing that are both true and communicate my values.

We know the very big work is yet to be done, but you have laid a foundation that is strong enough to build progressive edifices upon.

We are saddened and shocked that there is not the funds to maintain an organization of such immense value. Does it really have to be this way? Is there anything we can do to save Rockridge?

If it must be so, some have mentioned above that we must keep the community together. For what its worth, I will donate the web hosting and the blog software for such a community. Interested community members, feel free to contact me.

All best and many thanks to the Rockridge staff, and to the Rockridge community.


Too Sad

collapse Posted by cwatts at Monday, April 21, 2008 09:32 AM

I am saddened by the end of Rockridge.

Thank you for all you've done.

Is the Longview Institute, your sister institute, the place to go?

Chuck Watts

Creative Commons

collapse Posted by rikard at Monday, April 21, 2008 09:54 AM

There's one thing you could do that would be really helpful. Please license the archives with a Creative Commons license so we can reuse the content, preferably a license that allows remixing. Something like this


Before you leave, can you help shape what will remain?

collapse Posted by LeftyMathProf at Monday, April 21, 2008 09:59 AM

Well, we're sad to see you go, but if you can't go on, then you can't go on.

Still, people who are associated to greater or lesser degrees with the Rockridge Institute will continue their efforts, separately or in groups, in their own fashion. Can you give us some guidance on that? Help us shape some of what we're going to become? Help us plan good use of the volunteer labor that will remain when you're gone?

For instance:

(1) Make a list of some of the other organizations that remain active, that are closest in direction to that of Rockridge? Give us links, telling us where to go?

(2) Help us organize a few online discussion groups and/or blogs? Some of these can be done on free (advertiser-supported) websites such as Yahoo groups and Google groups and Wordpress, which don't require any money, merely time. Even if you can't afford the time to keep such sites going, perhaps you can at least help us get them started so that some volunteers can maintain them.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.


Thank You and a Question

collapse Posted by dvdb at Monday, April 21, 2008 01:25 PM

My heart sank when I saw your e-mail this morning. So far as I know there is no one out there doing the work that your team is doing.

I learned so much in the year or so since I found your website. It's hard for me to believe that there aren't some wealthy progressive donors out there who would find your work worth funding. In my mind, investing in work such as this is far more important than giving to any political candidate.

I've learned so much in a short period of time about framing and have found myself better able to stand my ground with conservatives.

Is it too late to get the word out to ask for donations? Or has the final decision been made? Or, what else could we do to help?


p.s. If indeed it is the end, I second the notion to creative common license the material.

Preserve the community

collapse Posted by joe_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Monday, April 21, 2008 03:20 PM

Hi Dave,

I'm afraid it's too late to "save Rockridge" in its current form. We've realized this form to be less than ideal anyway. (wouldn't it be nice if we weren't so restricted by tax codes from talking about partisan issues?)

There are several things you can do:

1. First and foremost, help preserve this community! Several others here have already suggested the formation of a new blog site to continue the conversation. I think this is a great idea and will come participate as time allows, if only a few of you come up with a way to do it.

2. Look for the Rockridge fellows in the future! We'll continue in whatever ways we can. Look for us in places like Open Left and elsewhere across the blogosphere. Heck, you can even drop individuals among us a note to see what we're doing.

3. Reach out to other progressive organizations that you care about. Many among us struggle in similar ways.

4. Spread the wealth! Keep getting these ideas out there. Refer people to our articles. Build on our work with your own ideas. After spending time here yourself, you have insights that many in the world have yet to learn.

Kindest regards,


Oh, well, duh, I didn't scroll down...

collapse Posted by Arcadian at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 07:33 AM

so I didn't find the Comment after the end of this article. I did discover no new threads were being accepted, so out of desperation, I posted at the end of my last thread on Rockridge Nation. Now, reading through these comments, I find there's nothing I could add without repeating what many have posted.

But I'll repeat it, anyway. Thanks for a unique and inspiring educational forum. Rockridge cleared my head and opened my eyes on many political issues, and I greatly appreciate that.

What happened here is too important to simply dissipate into cyberspace. I believe two things very strongly:

l. The community that began on Rockridge Nation needs to continue.

2. Because this area is so technical, and ideas are evolving so rapidly, any continuing Forum needs access to one or more advanced writers in the field, like Eric or Joe. Without the expertise, any group is at risk of becoming the blind leading the blind.

Other blogs?

collapse Posted by DavidP at Monday, April 21, 2008 02:50 PM

Obviously I want to echo everything said above.

RN has been very important to me, and I have been a contributor and (small) donor.

All your work has created ripple effects which will continue. Remember that.

I think in off election years the Dems really nead to spot light the political infastructure.

Will any of you be starting your own blog where we can keep in touch with you? Even something like a wordpress or a blogspot would be nice.


We will keep writing, too

collapse Posted by sherry_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Monday, April 21, 2008 03:18 PM

Look for the Fellows on Open Left, where we will each have a presence and will be delighted if see each and everyone of you continues to think with us.

Reframe all this

collapse Posted by MimiK at Monday, April 21, 2008 03:42 PM

I am sad to see this iteration of the Big Job of opening and deepening the public dialogue on progressive values come to an end.

It is very hard in the United States, which has a long anti-intellectual tradition and anti-intellectual national identity, for intellectual initiatives such as Rockridge to take root, especially if they come with criticism directed toward Americans for not being intellectual enough. Being smart is taken as a class scourge on democracy, even without pointing out someone's intellectual limitations. And as Obama sadly proves, charges of elitism fly as eloquence is mistaken for class, as if being rich makes one speak more beautifully (something George W Bush proves beyond question is not so).

I hope that as you all individually search for ways to keep this important work going that you change the Rockridge message from "Progressives just don't think deeply enough, but we can help you" that I am afraid, true as it may be, alienates your base.
Please, since this work does matter so much, consider your own framing about framing. Progressives have a proud, long tradition of moving speeches, amazing poetry, and incredible songs that framed our values of bread and roses with some amazing verbal roses. Evoke them, invite them, align with them, and stop carping that Progressives can't speak as well as the right. It is, simply, not true.

Do unto yourselves as you would have progressives do, and reframe yourselves, and there will be new life for all of you after this.

Mimi Stokes-Katzenbach

Bring on the Phoenix

collapse Posted by BryanB at Monday, April 21, 2008 04:17 PM

When I saw the email today I had very mixed emotions. On a purely logical analysis I wasn't surprised. When the frequency of something drops off dramatically there is probably a reason. After 3/31/08 the frequency, or at least the inter-arrival time, changed greatly. On an emotional basis I was both saddened and enraged.

Saddened because I thoroughly enjoyed the essays, the discussions, and the opportunity to try out my ideas in a knowledgeable and interested group. I was also saddened because it meant the end of employment for a number of good and dedicated people; this is tough.

I was enraged (or at least more than a little irritated) because this was a resource that I had come to depend on in helping me develop my ideas. Also because not enough progressives cared about trying to better their country by putting some resources into this cause, this includes, I am sad to say, Me. I am also a little mad at the Rockridge Institute itself for failing to find a business model that would have guaranteed or at least prolonged its survival.

After waiting a number of hours for my emotions to calm down, my interest now is in the business model. In the email you reported 1,000 donors and 8,000 registered members. A 1 in 8 response rate in an email campaign is not bad – in fact it is very good. Obviously you either need more dollars per responder or a more concerted effort to expand the possible donor base. Other possibilities are selling stuff. Don’t be too quick to put your documents into the Creative Commons scheme. Books can sell and make money. I purchased Thinking Points and Don’t Think of an Elephant but I got the rest of Lakoff’s books via the library. How about consulting – if I were running for office I would certainly want at least one consultant who was well versed on framing, etc. as well as the work of Drew Westen and even Frank Luntz.

Even if there is no viable business model that will rescue Rockridge at the present time, how can this message get out there? Is it books by Lakoff and others, is it a blog, is it a web site that points us to new writings or comments on issues that would have fit into the Rockridge agenda? You have a product that is essential if we are to survive and prosper. There is definitely a need for people who know how to use this product.

I just refreshed the “The Rockridge Era Ends” web page. Sherry posted the last comment. It suggested, “Look for the Fellows on Open Left”, but Google didn’t find anything. I realize that you haven’t had much time but please provide specific URL’s for possible continuation as soon as possible. I am already going into withdrawal and I don’t like it

Bryan Bremner

Open Left website

collapse Posted by ScubaVal at Wednesday, April 23, 2008 10:21 AM


It's Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller's place. That was the impression I got from Sherry's comment. If I'm wrong, someone let me know.

I'm going to donate to help defray the debts you folks must have incurred. I had just recommended this site to a lot of people, so I am sorry to see this happen.

Thank you for all you've done, Rockridge.

Rockridge rocks!


Thank You!

collapse Posted by josippie at Monday, April 21, 2008 04:19 PM
Gosh, I hate to see you go.
Although I haven't participated as much as I could, I read everything you sent my way, and tried to share it with others. It's amazing how few Progressives "get it". I hadn't either
until you came along.

This is one time when I'm going to ask an organization to pass my email address to another... a well-funded think tank that can accomplish all you envision.


collapse Posted by progressiveampatriot at Monday, April 21, 2008 04:23 PM

Progressive non-profits face serious challenges. However, do often when faced with financial difficulties they fail to reach out to the broader progressive community and let people know that they are in trouble. I did not know you were struggling financially until you made this post saying you are closing shop. So, if you don't mind I have a few questions:

What is your yearly operating budget you need to stay afloat?
How much are you raising now?
How much more do you need to stay open for business?

I ask because I think Rockridge serves a purpose that no other progressive organization serves. Rockridge and Lakoff have fundamentally changed the way myself and many other progressives frame the debate. You are extremely important and we would like to keep you around. Presumably you do not want to close your doors. So, tell us: What are the numbers, what do you need to stay open?

Substantial Growth

collapse Posted by joe_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Monday, April 21, 2008 05:49 PM

Hi progressiveampatriot,

Our annual budget has been roughly $600k. But that has been a subsistence budget with most of the staff receiving minimal compensation, not nearly enough to attract established "superstars", and keeping us from hiring sufficient numbers of people to do the necessary work. All of our productivity in the last year has been done by 2 full time fellows, 2 part time fellows, and 3 support staff. This is a tiny staff, much smaller than what we'd need to really do the Big Job.

To answer the question of how much we'd need to stay open, there is much I could say (but will remain brief here) about the kind of organizational structure that is needed to accomplish our mission. It is something substantially larger than anything Rockridge has been in the past. Our conservative estimates for an operational budget that achieves what we've tried to do so far is easily three times our current budget. But to do the Big Job it would take a nationwide presence with offices on both coasts, a full marketing and PR staff, and a solid intellectual staff several times larger than what we've had up till now. That would require a budget that is qualitatively larger in scope.

We've decided that our current structure is inappropriate. We'd need a new business model to achieve the set of goals at this stage in the process. And we are not simply going to ask for more money to keep struggling along without enough security and stability, let alone growth potential, to make the impacts we know to be necessary.

Feel free to contact me individually and I'd be happy to speak with you more about all of this.



Please Don't Quit

collapse Posted by progressiveampatriot at Monday, April 21, 2008 06:44 PM

With all due respect, it sounds like you're quitting because it is too difficult. Now, that is easy for me to say in a single post and it is frustrating for you to hear, having presumably invested the last few years of your life in this endeavor. As unfair as that is, from outside the organization it seems as if you are quitting just as you are getting started.

The grassroots progressive movement is just starting to gain power. We are just starting to have the kind of influence that we had only dreamed of. At the same time we are frustrated with our inability to make change faster. Your organization has been highly influential in helping the movement frame the debate and advance our agenda for change. We need you.

One of the core values of the progressive movement is grassroots participation. Although I personally know many people who work in politics and who are party activists who have been influenced either by Lakoff or by the Rockridge Institute, I do not think this is reflected in your membership numbers.

8,000 people as members of this site is not an accurate measure of your influence. One thing that springs to mind is that I have never seen a Rockridge petition to ask a progressive politician to stop using a conservative frame. I am not an expert on the laws which keep your organization tax exempt, but if the ACLU is still tax-exempt, your organization could do this without losing its tax-exempt status as well. I know that if you picked the right issue and frame to focus on, a single petition like this posted on major progressive community based blogs, would at least double your membership overnight, if not increase it by a factor of 10. I have also never seen Rockridge make posts on other blogs. Maybe you have and I have missed it, but you certainly have not had a great netroots outreach program.

As you say, you have a small staff too small to take on the “Big Job.” Your staff is, however, about half the size of Now I recognize that your organization has a very different purpose from MoveOn. However, MoveOn has 3.2 million and you have 8,000. Your desire to expand is understandable, but you need to expand your base first.

Fundraising sucks. That is the first thing I learned when I started working in politics and with non-profits. That said, your frustrations and focus seem to be on big donors. As great as big donors are and as much as anyone who thinks small donors can do the job alone is drinking the Kool-Aid, a donor base of 1,000 for a national organization indicates that you have very little grassroots support. For what you want to do you need more members which will translate into more small contributions. I realize that this could come off as patronizing, but the lament of a lack of big ideas and an inability to do the big job is extremely frustrating as it is exactly the gap you are leaving.

I am, of course, a critic who lacks a large bank account (I will donate $25 if you stay open for business) or a serious personal investment in this institution. I ask you to please continue, to not quit even if it means a barebones organization, but I would like to thank you for all your work. You have worked tirelessly and have had an incredible impact on the progressive movement. Thank you for all your work, please keep on toiling. I beg you.

Believe me, we've tried

collapse Posted by joe_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Monday, April 21, 2008 07:11 PM

We have struggled to raise our numbers in dozens of ways. Our efforts to raise money have been broad and persistent - reaching out to grassroots and big donors alike. The challenges we face are systemic. So it is not simply a matter of choosing to quit.

The resources for progressive infrastructure just aren't there at this point in time. Foundations fund issue siloes instead of strategic iniatives. The cognitive infrastructure is invisible to most progressives (many think we already have it). And with $400 million spent on the two Democratic front-runners alone in the last year, a large number of organizations are struggling.

I am frustrated too, which is why it's so difficult to find the right words to communicate the nuances of the situation. The emotions are running high right now.

"Big Ideas" and the "Big Job"

collapse Posted by mmdeen at Monday, April 21, 2008 06:29 PM

I'm sorry to hear that Rockridge has decided to close up shop. You've shed important light on the rhetorical machinations that have duped us as a society and have undoubtedly made a tremendous difference.

While you will not exist as an organization, I'm wondering if Rockridge fellows have any insight on or investment in the progress to "what's next?" You've often noted the need for deeper framing; and in this farewell letter have lamented the lack of "Big Ideas" to accomplish the "Big Job." Leaving it at that is, well, frustrating. We can't stop here. Any chance of continued collegial collaboration in some form?

I hope so!

collapse Posted by joe_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Monday, April 21, 2008 07:16 PM

Hi mmdeen,

Our staff is dedicated to this cause. We'll keep our efforts going one way or the other. Right now it's hard to say what we'll do because we've been so strapped for cash all this time that many of us are struggling to figure out how we'll pay the bills. But the chaos won't last long. Soon we will be on stable footing and regroup again.

In the meantime, I'd like to assure you that there will be opportunities to get involved and help with this important work. This community is filled with great people. We'll find a way to make it happen.



We Need You . . . VERY MUCH

collapse Posted by hopkinsa at Monday, April 21, 2008 06:47 PM
I am in a bit of shock. I have referred so many people to you. I have read your work and learned from you. I thought you were growing and thriving and would continue on. I, perhaps like others, had NO IDEA how close to the end you (WE) were. As fine and good as you were (and are), I am in despair that you could not find the funding you needed. A major light in these dark times will be extinguished with your closing.

We Need You! PLEASE
TELL US -- what is next? What can we do??

Thank you for ALL you have given your us, loyal readers.

Late to the party...

collapse Posted by RWatson at Monday, April 21, 2008 07:36 PM

I just heard about Rock Ridge Nation today, and am sad to see it going away.

I've been interested in values, framing and messaging since just before the 2004 election.

I've been a part of some progressive messaging and framing communities, and am upset that I did not hear about RRN until today.

I'd like to make a couple of suggestions:

<b> </b>.

What a great video site. 1 stop distribution to a host of blogging platforms:
</li><li>Movable Type

and a host of others.

Upload, select your crossposts, and they automagically hit. It would be no problem to hit hundreds of progressive blogs and sites from one location - no copying and pasting, no manual embedding. Media Ubiquity could be very simple.

Bring some of the big boys in, a little creating coding on scoop and,"blammo!" you've got a media megaphone ready to go.

And a lateral thinking supposition for the future of this site and framing:

The Audience orchestrates the music.</blockquote>

I'm very sorry to have missed out on the opportunity to contribute to this extremely important task and to be a part of this creative group. I could have learned so much!

Joe, I'm also sorry I slammed RRI as blowing it, you guys just disappeared when you locked down the RRI site a few years ago.

I had no idea this existed.

I'd love to be a part of growing a progressive movement built upon coherent and cohesive values.

Thanks for all of your work, and sorry for not getting here earlier.

Ron Watson
aka k9disc

Better late than never

collapse Posted by joe_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 09:44 AM

Hi Ron,

Welcome to our community. Better late than never is still a proverb of wisdom. No sweat about the "blowing it" comment. We are all caught up in a slurry of activities. No one could possibly keep up with all of it.

In the meantime, scan around our site and see what we've done since last you visited.



In A State of Shock

collapse Posted by jeploss at Monday, April 21, 2008 07:56 PM

Dear All of You,

My heart is broken. Your contribution to our political discourse has meant so much.
I cannot believe you are dissolving. How could this be? How could the support not have been there? I, too, am racked with guilt because I screwed up on a year-end donation, which I never made. Our country needs so much what you do.

Does this have anything to do with the upcoming election? Do you feel your talents and skills are needed in the most important election of our lifetimes (I said that about 2004 also, and we lost that one)?

All I can say is THANK YOU for all that you have done. When I see Barack Obama putting into practice George Lakoff's teaching day in and day out, it pleases me so much. He does it masterfully. Many, many political leaders have learned from the Rockridge Institute's work. Your contribution to turning things around in this country is incalcuable. AND, your work is so intellectually satisfying! You take issues we all struggle with, and you get to their essense and make the progressive stand so compelling.

The entire progressive movement in this country is indebted to you! Isn't there going to be a going away party or some sort of celebration of your contribution? Someone should step up to the plate to fund that. Again, thank you!

Janet E. Ploss, MD
Seattle, WA

Shine the light

collapse Posted by dvoronoff at Monday, April 21, 2008 08:14 PM

Hi Rockridge staff,

This really is bad news. The service you've provided is unique and exemplary. Last night I listened to the google lecture by George Lakoff and this together with the other initiatives especially the workshops and conversations over the years have provided an invaluable learning experience.

You've begun something that can't stop. The human imagination is unstoppable. The word is out. We just need to keep speaking the word, keep lighting the imagination with progressive values.

I applaud your work, dedication and professionalism. I applaud the community. What an achievement! From an Australian progressive to fellow travellers in the U.S.: I look forward to being part of the next step forward.

Kindest regards and best wishes for the future,

Daniel Voronoff

End of an Era

collapse Posted by bobfrank11 at Monday, April 21, 2008 08:48 PM

Thank you for all of your excellent work. Lakoff's books are used often. They will have to be my source of the ideas I value besides the Rockridge web site even though no new work will be added. I hope you find a way to return. You all at Rockridge will be missed.

Sadness and gratitude

collapse Posted by glacier at Monday, April 21, 2008 10:16 PM

Dear Friends,

It was quite a shock to find out so abruptly about RN's transition. Only today I started realizing how large a part this community had come to play in my life, and how much hope it has given me. Above all, I realized how powerful it made me feel to be part of it. I am very happy to see that there are many who want to continue these conversations. As others say above, I also believe we have begun something that will, with time, be very influencial.

I would like to thank all of you for all I have learned here. Especially, I would like to thank and commend the Rockridge Nation staff for their initiative and their commitment. You all helped me open my eyes to something that I suspected was there but could not articulate until, one day, I unsuspectingly picked up "Don't think of an elephant" at a bookstore. Suddenly, there was a big "click". Big. Later, at Rockridge Nation I slowly learned how to detect and analyze the conservative frames that used to trouble me so much without my knowing exactly why. Then I learned how to counter them. First just with my thinking, and then in conversation and writing.

This has been a truly transformational experience, on many levels. Besides the intellectual work per se, I grew as an individual and discovered a new sense of participation. I discovered and became part of a community of like-minded people across the world. It still blows my mind when I think of it.

And now I find so suddenly we have come to a new, still-undefined stage. Besides the sadness and the gratitude, I also feel hope. I would like to - I will be proud to - continue to be part of this community, whatever the form it assumes in the future.

As always, regards, and please stay in touch (click on my screen name - "glacier" - above and then on "send feedback to user").


Maybe you could write your own ticket?

collapse Posted by Think4myself at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 05:12 AM

Perhaps there is a couple or few of you that are very dedicated and can visualize and plan then next incarnation of this type of work and make a bite sized plan for yourself. I mean that you take some of this outpouring of good intention and secure enough funding for a couple years of salary and materials to carry on some effective aspect of this dialogue. Maybe it's a podcast (there are some I'm committed to and might even subscribe too), video or tv show that teaches us how to talk to conservatives. Maybe you could focus more on the mass grassroots aspect of being online and focus on spreading the work already done. Maybe you could hop in an electric RV and hold tent revival meetings across the nation (can I get an AMEN!).

I am racking my brain to try and come up with great solutions to carry on. I do understand some of the problems you've run into and they are not simple.

You could certainly carry something on that referred to Rockridge. How 'bout "The Ridge" or "Built on a Rock", "Rock Values", "We Rock", "Rock Commons", "Rock Foundations" ... (see I know framing AND catchy slogans)

I think the most effective, bite-off-able piece is to offer assistance for talking to others about current issues. How to cut through today's BS hot off the press. And once again I will iterate how I believe in this country, it's so important to include a healthy dose of education on media ownership and its effect on our national discourse.

I would be happy to contribute time, words, research, and brainstorming to assist. I'm pretty cash poor (starting to sound familiar) but I would scrape a bit up to help. Honestly, I would love to be really hands-on involved in this world changing work, but I'm getting the middle class squeeze of trying to maintain normalcy too. However, if you swing by in an electric RV I would hop on board.

Also, for the next 9 days or so, you could ask this community to pressure some large donor, or large pool of donors, to get the next conversation jump started (assuming something more expensive than just web hosting).

So I vote that the audience participation conversation carry on somewhere with some of the similar structures in place (so it doesn't digress into petty FLAME WARS) and I hope that a few folks from Rockridge will take it to another level for the common good and focus on what can be done using your expertise.

One other thing

collapse Posted by Think4myself at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 05:17 AM

Isn't the outpouring of sadness and appreciation kind of nice? I am pleased to see so many people posting with regret that I don't recognize. Granted, it would have been nicer to do it earlier and accompanied with a check, but seriously...

Do really take a moment and realize the pebble in the pond that you have been. And our country really is changing.


collapse Posted by evan_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 10:11 AM

Thanks for taking note of this, Think4myself. I have been grateful for everyone who has found something useful in what we have been doing here, and the community's reaction to this announcement has also been moving. There is clearly a desire to keep going forward and put to use all we have learned. I know that many of us will find different ways to do this. There is also the possibility that some of us will work together to create a new venue for discussions and collaboration.


Too late

collapse Posted by thepainter1957 at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 06:32 AM

I came across Rockridge Institute two months ago while aimlessly wandering thru other internet sites. I know now I wandered in too late. As soon as I read your home page I got onto Amazon and bought George Lakoff's Thinking Points. I had just finished Naomi Klein's ''Shock Doctrine''. George's book is an eye opener! And now you are going to be gone, when I am just getting started. I've had you on my favorites and will continue to read through the archives. I hope someone, somewhere will be able to get Rockridge back on it's feet and running again. This nation needs Rockridge to live on.

Rockridge Era Ends

collapse Posted by janelewenthal at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 07:20 AM

I'm so sorry that this is the situation. It was announced so suddenly and we had no idea that Rockridge was in such dire straits. I wish that you had told us earlier. If there's any chance of our sustaining Rockridge, please let us know. If not, please let us know your thoughts on what's next. My heart, I'm sure just like yours, is heavy.

Thank you for your good work,
Jane Lewenthal

Thanks for the outpouring

collapse Posted by bruce_at_rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 10:52 AM

I want everyone to know how much I appreciate all the comments that have been posted here. The positive outpourings and the testimonials about our impact are very gratifying to me and I'm sure, to the rest of our staff.

To those of you who felt blindsided by this announcement, I offer a few comments. We have been mindful that we have asked you so many times for financial support in the couple of years. In fact, more than a few people have commented that at times our pleas sounded pretty desperate. We seriously considered and even drafted letters making a truly desperate plea for life-saving support. But when we took a sober look at our financial situation, we realized that increasing support from our community by 100% or even 200% would not be our salvation. What we needed were secure, long-term commitments from some wealthy angels. We feared that if we went public with our predicament, it would jeopardize our chances of finding that funding.

We only recently reached our final decision and then spent days circulating many drafts of the letter we sent you yesterday. We wanted to get it just right. We did not mean to mislead anybody or stir any sense of betrayal. Indeed, our conversations in the last few weeks have often been greatly influenced by our shared sense of loyalty to our community.

There have been a few comments here and on dailykos about what we did wrong. I'm sure we made mistakes and missed opportunities. I personally accept responsibility for any missteps. But please know that we gave it our all.

Bruce Budner
Executive Director

I am very sorry to see this.

collapse Posted by FreeDem at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 01:59 PM

There is something very wrong about going broke, limiting your activity, trying to be tax free when those working might qualify for food stamps, and most contributors don't have the income to have enough tax to not pay in the first place. I have just gotten disability approved after over a year and a half, so have not even been able to do that much to help either.

While it is very time consuming to do the work needed the very structure of what makes a Progressive vs what makes a Pirate means that the progressive will never have the cash sloshing about that any of the Gang Of Pirates can pump out as just another cost of doing business, and getting others to pay the bills by taking it out of taxes is just another Con game. Progressives will never be able to wield the methods of the Pirates but must find their own methods in both the rescue of Democracy and the plan for what to do when that is accomplished.

I agree that Rockridge (the name that implies the concept and good will) is a valuable commodity that must be kept in whatever morphs out of this, both because those looking would want to find it and because The Gang Of Pirates would be all too happy to steal that name also and make it into something nobody could support, and try and sell the world the jerked around version as the only definition. Just look what they did to Liberal and Socialist, and how much work it has been to steal those words back again.

Pacifica, Buzzflash, Ornicus, Truthout, all manage if not fantastically in their own niche, and your Big Job will (like all Progressive thinking)cannot be pushed, but fortunately succeeds at pull much better than the kind of stuff Pirates have to hard sell because nobody actually wants. Perhaps there can be a new morph that is better Freer and stronger that can come of It.

I look forward to doing all I can to help, please keep contact.

Absolutely Terrible News

collapse Posted by ArtSmart at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 04:43 PM
George Lakoff was a guest on Houston PBS's "Connection: Red, White & Blue" show a few weeks ago. That was truly the most enlightening half hour I have ever spent watching television
bar none. The loss of Rockridge is a terrible blow to the good guys. Everyone, please do your best to continue contributing in other ways. Thanks so very much.
  --- Art

A Sad Day for Progressives

collapse Posted by zeitgeist1979 at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 04:50 PM

I will repeat some of the laments I already posted on my blog ( at ):

It is sad and tragic to see this progressive think-tank go under, because their work had a TREMENDOUS impact on the promotion of progressive values onto the national dialogue in a time when right-wing propaganda has dominated our media so pervasively on many fronts, not the least of them being the inhuman and vicious anti-immigrant sentiment that the ultra conservatives have loved to promote everywhere in the U.S. In fact, The Rockridge Institute published THE paper that influenced the launching of my MySpace page: Project Economic Refugee. It was two years ago that the "Framing of Immigration" piece appeared at the Rockridge Institute's website, which proposed a revolutionary term that we could use when discussing the immigration "issue": Economic Refugee. It was then that I decided to launch Project Economic Refugee. If you haven't read that paper in full, please go to:[…]/immigration

One can only hope that there are some background plans to continue the Rockridge Institute's type of work in some other shape or form.

Campaign For America's Future

collapse Posted by zeitgeist1979 at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 05:23 PM

ALSO: I would like to ask "how come you guys are not working for organizations like Campaign For America's Future"? They do massive PR campaigns and organize the annual "Take Back America" Progressive Conference. I know that George Lakoff has talked before about how he's done consulting work for Democrats in office and for various advocay organizations. At the very least you guys should do the same.

A great moan

collapse Posted by majabr at Wednesday, April 23, 2008 06:46 AM

I for one have learned very much from your organization. It was my hope that some larger organization would step up and sponsor the Rockridge Institue on a perpetual basis as has been done for many conservative think tanks.

Today, I cannot listen to a politicians stump speech or a news sound bite without thinking about how the remarks relate to an idea or frame that is outlined in your great work "Thinking Points" that I consider a must read for everyone.

I am much better off for having been given the opportunity to participate and learn from the members of the Rockridge Institute.

Thank you.

The Phoenix organization

collapse Posted by fang2415 at Wednesday, April 23, 2008 08:44 AM

...With apologies to BryanB for the subject.

Like almost everybody here, I'm very sad to see Rockridge go. Like a few others here, however, my sadness is mitigated by two other things: first, the feeling that Rockridge's structure was never the best way to achieve its potential; and second, that the end of this structure might present new opportunities.

I believe that there are ways for Rockridge's core mission to continue. Furthermore, I believe that both the intellectual capital of the Institute and its personnel could continue to contribute to its mission within a single, sustainable organization.

I would propose a new organization that would continue Rockridge's mission by doing three things:

1) Maintain a community blog.
2) Continue research and publication on deep progressive frames.
3) Operate a for-profit progressive language and framing consultancy.

Each of these three activities would both expand Rockridge's "warehouse" of ideas and provide a way to increase public awareness of these ideas. They would also compliment each other: the ideas generated in any one of these areas could be expanded and put to use in any other. And, most relevant to the current crisis, a consultancy (and possibly a blog, supported by advertising) would provide a revenue stream to support the organization's other activities.

Such a structure would require some changes to the approach that the Institute has taken in the past. None of these changes conflict with its core values, and some might even improve its ability to do the Big Job.

First, a community blog would have to be less centralized than Joe mentioned the value of "crowdsourcing" during this week's discussion; I believe that a new community blog could definitely use this concept to grow. Some of's sections seemed like places to ask teachers for help. The area where users felt most like they were really contributing to a discussion in was the weekly workgroup. It's no coincidence that this was the most popular area of the board, and a new blog should definitely use more of that type of content.

Second, a new organization would have to make itself immediately valuable by expanding its focus to include issue-defining frames. Rockridge has always maintained that deep frames are "where the action is", and in the context of the history of the nation they are correct. But issue-defining frames are where the value is today. People can use them now. People can recognize their value. They can change the politics and the language of the issues of the present moment. Well-chosen issue-defining frames reinforce the strategic initiatives that Rockridge has championed for five years. The progressive deep frames that have been and could be researched need to grow, through application to specific issues.

People are looking for specific language to help them solve specific problems. Responding to this demand is a great way to expand Rockridge's ideas and help them gain traction. Providing this service, tailor-made for particular issues, could be valuable enough to sustain other activities including further deep frame research.

A consultancy that builds tailor-made issue-defining frames would provide a product that people would pay for. It could use an understanding of cognitive principles to help people who want to make compelling progressive arguments frame their debates.

Such a consultancy could help progressive politicians in electoral fights or help progressive advocacy groups manage policy debates.

It might also even be valuable within the business community. More and more companies are realizing the importance of progressive concepts like sustainability, renewable resources, and community action. A consultancy built on Rockridge's legacy could provide a unique service to companies who want to clarify and communicate their usage of these concepts.

Rockridge's dissolution changes the landscape for its personnel and its community. It changes the landscape for me personally; a possibility I had been seriously considering was to work to save enough money that I could apply for an unpaid internship at Rockridge at some point in the next few years.

I hope that the new landscape will be one of opportunity rather than defeat. I believe that a new organization structured in the way I've suggested could be both financially viable and valuable to the progressive community. The end of Rockridge could be a unique opportunity to build this type of an organization.

Looking forward to hearing the responses of the staff and the community.



Keeping things going: a stepping stone

collapse Posted by etbnc at Wednesday, April 23, 2008 08:46 AM

In a follow-up announcement here at Rockridge Nation,[…]/keeping-the-community-alive

Rockridge staff kindly pointed out a grassroots effort to keep our collaboration going.

As a kind of "stepping stone", a transition toward something else that we can create, there's a brainstorming session taking place within a Google (email) group:

As some folks have noted, a single Google group may not fit our needs and interests over the long term. It was just a quick and easy way to get some conversations started. Please visit the group web site to see what folks are considering.



What's Next
While the Rockridge Institute closed in April 2008, the Institute's staff remain committed to fulfilling the progressive vision it advocated and are available for consultations, trainings, and speaking engagements.

Find out more.
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