By Thom Little, Ph.D., SLLF Director of Curriculum Development and Research

Some things just belong together. Peas and carrots. Peanut butter and jelly. Ben and Jerry. Bats and baseballs. SLLF and NICD. Okay, that last one may not be one that comes to mind as readily as the others, but maybe it should and hopefully it will in the future. We are pleased to announce the formation of a partnership between the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF). 

A glance at the mission statements of the two organizations makes it clear that the pairing of the two indeed does, to quote Forrest Gump, “go together like peas and carrots.”

According to their website, NICD believes that “engaging in conversations across the divide opens doors to finding common ground and moves our country toward a more perfect union,” and is committed to building the nation’s capacity to engage differences more constructively.  SLLF is committed “to educate and inspire our nation’s current and future state legislative leaders to excellence, without regard for party, politics, or ideology.” What makes these two organizations ideal partners is their obvious dedication to helping America and its leaders overcome the ideological, partisan and parochial divisions that seem so prevalent today.

So what does this partnership with NICD mean for SLLF? First, it means that whenever feasible, we will incorporate NICD’s strategies for improving civil discourse into our educational programs. In the short term, the partnership is evident in our first program of 2022, Engaging Differences, to be held April 21-23 in Washington DC. In this program, we will examine the historical significance of diverse voices in important decisions in America’s distant and recent past and provide strategies for program participants to engage people with different ideas in a way that leads to better decisions and better policy. NICD staff worked closely with us to develop the curriculum and will lead several of the sessions. We anticipate similar collaboration in future programs as well.

Second, SLLF will work with NICD on future programs to identify topics that are likely to be of interest to state legislators of all political and ideological stripes. One of NICD’s programs, CommonSense American, is comprised of more than 36,000 individuals including self-identified Republicans, Democrats and Independents in all fifty states. They regularly survey this group to identify solutions with potential to attract broad, bipartisan support. Such information will be of great value to SLLF as we plan programs that will appeal to all legislative leaders, regardless of party or ideology. 

Finally, with support of NICD, SLLF will offer a range of educational programs and trust-building workshops ranging from an hour to half a day dedicated to equipping legislative leaders with the inspiration and tools necessary to lead their members effectively and cooperatively. Sessions to be offered will include the historical significance of cooperative leadership, how to build trust through civil discourse, an interactive budget exercise on coalition building, strategies for using social media effectively, responsibilities and obligations of leadership, and ethical decision making. With this partnership, state legislative leaders from across the nation will be able to avail themselves and their members of these and other sessions that may improve the quality of discourse and public policy in their states. If you would like to know more about these sessions or would be interested in considering bringing some of them to your state, please reach out to me at or (336) 202-7043. Some of the sessions might be particularly useful if integrated into new member training at the beginning of the next legislative session.

And, by the way, this is not a one-way partnership. In partnering with SLLF, NICD and its component programs will have greater access to the elected and appointed legislative leaders who most often make things happen in state legislatures. SLLF’s fifty-year relationship with state legislative leaders will help NICD in promoting its programs in the states so that more legislators can benefit from them. Further, SLLF will be offering some of NICD’s programs to their leaders, and NICD will be offering several of SLLF’s educational sessions to their members. It is something that seems to be increasingly rare in American politics –  a win-win situation!

Peas and carrots. Ben and Jerry. Ham and eggs. SLLF and NICD. Yep, that sounds right!