Catherine Sorge (New Jersey Coach), Ruth Gormanns (LWV of Fair Lawn), Ilene Kahn (LWV of Fair Lawn), and Sara Sanders (LWVUS staff)

At our Membership and Leadership Development (MLD) Program trainings, where we partner with local and state Leagues to grow and strengthen the League nationwide, we always finish up with a quick discussion about change. In many ways, that is what the MLD program is all about: thinking about the League of Women Voters from a new perspective; focusing on our strengths, such as our dedicated, grassroots volunteers, our integrity, our long and successful history, our desire to fight for all citizens’ rights in our democracy; modernizing our processes; and welcoming the next generation of League leaders to our storied organization.

These are lofty goals that I’ve conceded will take some time to achieve.

Perhaps, though, it won’t take as long as I expected – at least not to start seeing some meaningful change. This past weekend, I had the honor of going back to my home state, New Jersey, to train five new coaches and five new local Leagues in organizational development best practices. With the help of League coaches, the training weekend was a success! Our new coaches and local League participants left with some concrete first steps to growing the League in their communities and were enthusiastic (even if timidly for some) to get started.

It was a real pleasure to hear about how effective the Leagues in New Jersey were over the past election season. They really stepped up to the plate to combat voter confusion over voter ID laws in a neighboring state. While New Jersey citizens did not need to show ID at the polls, the press from Pennsylvania’s voter ID battle led many to believe otherwise. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey was instrumental in ensuring voters had the correct information and were not afraid to go to the polls without ID by providing voters with a toll-free hotline and disseminating factual, unbiased information.

Leagues across New Jersey also came to the rescue for citizens’ right to vote in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many League members were affected themselves by the super storm, but they were not deterred in helping to ensure all could vote by informing voters of the changes to their polling places and methods to vote as the changes were made. I could tell that New Jersey League members were proud of this work and that they understood how organizational development will help ensure they can be even more effective in the future.

What really struck me over the course of the weekend was how deeply rooted the idea of prioritizing organizational development, the core of MLD, is in New Jersey.  This new approach to how we do League is such an important change for our future. While I enjoyed seeing the faces of those I had met during my original visit to the Garden State for training back in 2011, I especially enjoyed learning more about all the good changes emerging that have already begun making the Leagues in New Jersey more effective in safeguarding our democracy.