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Around The Grange
Chinese Leaders Visit Grange, Learn About Organization

By Grace Boatright, National Grange View From The Hill (8/10/11)

  AUGUST 28, 2011 --

In July, the National Grange was honored to host a Chinese delegation with the U.S. Department of State at the National Grange Building.

Seven Members of the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program focused on Rural Economic Development and Poverty Alleviation attended the briefing.

All seven participants were very well-versed in their areas of study, ranging from professors of agricultural economics, ethnic studies and religion, all the way to professional researchers for organizations like the Rural Development Institute and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The "Rural Economic Development and Poverty Alleviation" program examines American economic development and the alleviation of poverty, particularly in rural areas.

Participants were especially interested in the role of government and the non-profit sector in the development and implementation of policy. The program will take these seven individuals first to Washington D.C. and then onto New York, Illinois, Vermont and California.

National Grange Legislative Director Nicole Palya Wood gave a speech focusing on the Grange, its history and how it participates in today's political climate and contributes to rural policy.

Wood explained that the Grange is a fraternal organization, with deep roots in America's development, but is not formally aligned with any branch of government, government agency, or political party. 

"We do, however, form alliances with other organizations with similar goals and use those alliances to develop influence in Washington and advocate on behalf of our members." 

A past advocacy movement, she explained, came in 1896 when the Grange became influential in acquiring Rural Free Delivery, and eight years later saw it officially sanctioned as a service provided by the United States Postal Service.

Similarly, we are today engaged in alliances with AT&T and Verizon to bring broadband internet to rural America. This alliance empowers the Grange to better advocate on behalf of rural America and help them stay connected and competitive in today's technological society.

The concepts of advocacy and lobbying were quite fascinating to the participants, all of whom had grown up in Communist China.

Following her speech, Wood opened the meeting for questions, and several of the participants asked about the process of policy advocacy.

Participants were also curious about the structure of the Grange. Wood explained that issue advocacy in our organization begins in local communities, is vetted at the state level and if passed by our national body ends up as policy for her to implement.

The method by which we devise our own legislative policy was also of interest; particularly that our members gather from all over the country once a year to discuss, debate, and eventually construct policies on issues currently facing rural America.

The group also showed much interest about how a single non-profit organization could influence government on behalf of its members.

"The National Grange felt honored to speak and share ideas with such an astute group of Chinese rural development experts," Wood said after the meeting. "Meetings such as this help bring a global perspective to the Grange and remind us that we have been bestowed with the duty of leader-ship in today's society, particularly regarding rural communities and the vital purpose they serve.

"Although their visit was brief, the National Grange is very pleased with the interaction between the staff and our guests and we hope that they will return for future discussions."

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