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Big Ideas speaker says change doesn’t require new laws

Nate Garvis wants people to ignore the “angertainment” industry, pay less attention to political brawling, and put less faith in the idea that laws are the best way to bring civic and social changes.

Mankato Free Press, Tim Krohn 2-17-2013

MANKATO — Nate Garvis wants people to ignore the “angertainment” industry, pay less attention to political brawling, and put less faith in the idea that laws are the best way to bring civic and social changes.

Garvis spent nearly two decades with one of the nation’s top companies doing lobbying and other public affairs work where he refined an idea he calls Civic Design and grew dis­illusioned with politics. “I became very fatigued by politics,” said Garvis, who a few years ago left his job as vice president of gov­ernment affairs for Target Corp. It was an amicable departure with Target one of Garvis’ clients at his new firm, Naked Civics (nakedcivics. com). Garvis, who will speak at Minnesota State University’s College of Business Big Ideas event Tuesday, now advocates for a holistic approach where government, businesses, nonprofits and organizations are all built to excel at certain goals and none of them is designed to do everything well.

It is not new, he says, but a return to what society has always done.

“We’ve so overemphasized the idea that it takes a law to change things. Our political bodies have become much more interested in politics than policy,” he said.

And, what he calls the “outrage industry” fuels the perception among the public.

“We’re doing a lot better on this planet than the angertainment industry would have us believe. But Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher don’t want you to think that way. And they are very good at it. It’s very profitable for them.

“We can argue about cap and trade all we want in Washington, D.C., but the more environmental stewardship we work into consumer products, the better off we all are, and the planet is, right away.”

Garvis argues major social and policy changes are rarely driven primarily by politics and laws. “Whatever you think of him, electing Barack Obama president five years ago was a big deal. But it wasn’t just because we had laws that allowed it. We created cultures that said it’s not a big deal anymore ( to elect an African American).”

Garvis said for people his age, cultural changes such as fair treatment toward gays and minorities started with things like TV shows — “All in the Family,” “Sesame Street,” “The Cosby Show.”

“Today, for people under 30, no matter their politics, they trend greatly toward equality for individuals. Laws didn’t do that, culture did.”

Garvis identifies eight things he says virtually every community believes are needed for a prosperous, fulfilling society: safety, good health, productivity, compensation, innovation, preserved and constructed infrastructure, passing on knowledge, and justice.

“If you look at it that way, that’s what we as a society want to regulate. It’s about accountability. Laws are one way to create accountability, but there are lots of ways — design, religious tradition, contracts,” he said.

“We still want to regulate our world. The best way, the way we’ve always done that, is to build cultures. We don’t think of that as public policy, but it is.”

The Big Ideas Speaker Series brings business people with transformative and alternative ideas to campus.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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