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About The Interactivity Foundation

Our Mission

The Interactivity Foundation believes in the importance and power of civic discussion. More specifically, we believe that the capacity of our country’s citizens to engage collaboratively in meaningful civil conversations about public matters is a necessary and vital component of our democracy. The Interactivity Foundation’s mission is to strengthen our democracy through the use of a small-group discussion process to explore diverse perspectives and generate an expanding set of divergent possibilities. We often abbreviate the name of the Foundation as “IF” to convey our focus on possibilities and that we are always exploring “what if …?”


The Interactivity Foundation is an operating foundation that does not make grants but does engage in selected joint programmatic efforts with others. IF is a non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization that does not engage in political advocacy for itself, any other organization or group, or on behalf of any of the policy possibilities presented in our Discussion Guides or other publications.


The Interactivity Foundation is governed by a Board of Trustees, which oversees the Foundation’s financial matters and overall mission, and an Intellectual Development Committee (IDC) that functions as an executive committee overseeing all of our substantive program activities and day-to-day operations. IF’s administrative offices and office staff are located in Parkersburg, West Virginia. IF’s President, other members of the IDC, and each of the Fellows reside and work in other locations around the country.


The Foundation was first incorporated under Delaware law in 1965 as the “Upper Ohio Valley Self Help Foundation” by Jay Stern, a West Virginia businessman, whose significant contributions continue to fund the Foundation’s activities. In 1987, the name was changed to the current “Interactivity Foundation.” After several projects in the 1990s, the Foundation began in 2001 hiring Fellows to manage developmental discussion projects to produce “citizen discussion guides.” In 2005, we began developing course materials for using student-facilitated exploratory discussions in the classroom and later in online courses as well. In 2007, we began conducting–and supporting others in organizing–exploratory discussions in community conversations or other public discussion events that use our discussion guides and other topical materials as starting points for the discussion. Today we continue to experiment with the use of exploratory discussion and other methods and materials to improve the quality of our civic discourse.