Escaping the Gridlock — Women’s Campaign Fund

What can escape rooms — team games where we solve fanciful mysteries together — teach us about the real world of politics, where our puzzles often seem unsolvable?

In case you haven’t adventured into an escape room, here’s how it works. You pay an entrance fee to be (voluntarily) locked inside a windowless room with a group of your choosing: your friends, family members, co-workers, or maybe even strangers.

Once you’re all inside, the door snaps shut behind you. Your group has a fixed amount of time, typically 45 to 60 minutes, to figure out how to get out of the room by uncovering clues, unraveling riddles, and unearthing the key that unlocks the escape-room door.

Each room has a whimsical theme yet a perilous mission. You may be heading into the eye of a storm on a sinking pirate ship. Returning Mayan artifacts to a lost tomb. Or escaping from the forest cabin of a killer clown. No matter the circumstance, the goal is the same: to find your way out before time runs out.

In a race against the clock, you must work together seamlessly. Collaboration is everything. Each clue, each discovery, and each team member contributes uniquely to cracking the code and winning the game.

So many rooms, so little time

With a short stretch of the imagination, the impasses we face as a nation seem like a series of locked escape rooms. Each has its own complex story, critical mission, and constrained timeframe for resolution.

In the Pandemic Room, we clamor to protect ourselves as a deadly virus spreads through the air. In the Climate Change Room, we race to save the planet for new generations. In the Gun Room, we grapple to agree on common-sense solutions — before another life is lost to escapable violence. In the Fake News Room, we struggle to stamp out the super spreaders of misinformation and its evil twin — before lies are repeated so often that they morph into truths.

Escape rooms teach us that our biggest problems are impossible to tackle when we work in silos. Each is best solved through teamwork. We need each other’s clues. And we’re not going to get out of there using the same decisions and perspectives that failed the first time we tried them. Different backgrounds and varied perspectives lead to more creative approaches — looking at problems from new angles, building quickly on shared information, triggering insights. Together, we reach the goal we all share: a safe escape from harm’s way.


“The urgency is real; there is no escaping that.”


Figuring it out

What if our elected officials in Congress and statehouses approached their missions like escape room players, being curious about, and trusting, what others bring to the table to figure out our collective puzzles? Consciously creating laser-focused, bipartisan teams that think unconventionally, look beyond the obvious, and build on shared solutions to solve partisan divides?

In the year to come, we believe accelerating our push for #5050x2028, roughly half women and half men in all elected offices by 2028, will deliver more insights, speed our way to effective teamwork, and chip away at gridlocked thinking. It will soon find us squinting in the light of a new day, free from struggling against each other, having found a way out — and forward.

The urgency is real; there is no escaping that. It’s time to leave this room.

©2021 Women’s Campaign Fund





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