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“Going Public” and Citizen Discussion of IF Reports—Part One

IF’s initial developmental plans for its policy possibility reports included the loosely described phase of “going public”. This left the door open to a number of potential approaches to getting the reports themselves and the underlying deliberative process before the public in general and before specialized democratic governance constituencies in particular.

Our early discussions left open the “going public” possibilities of writing journal articles, using reports in professional development or continuing education settings, organizing ongoing discussion clubs, and many other forms of “outreach”. Some of these outreach approaches have not always been easy to match with the areas of concern of our reports. Some do not match up easily with existing discussion programs or public interest. On the other hand our Summer Institute faculty and our contract facilitators have taken our reports into settings that would have been difficult to reach on our own.

In the course of three completed IF projects (and one underway) I have attempted to anticipate “going public” opportunities and look for venues that match up with the respective reports. I feel that I can offer the following observations about such efforts:

  • The more conceptual and “meta” the report the greater the difficulty in finding discussion opportunities (Rewarding Work). If it is difficult to explain the report or its possibilities the report is unlikely to generate buzz on its own.
  • The more technical the area of concern the narrower the base of interest, although that narrow base may be extremely interested (Future of Regulation).
  • “Timing” of a report can generate “going public” opportunities that could not have been foreseen when the project was first authorized (Helping Out: Humanitarian Policy for Global Security). The ability of alert individuals and organizations to sense some level of “relevance” of a recent report to unfolding events makes for some “seize the moment” opportunities that will come to us.
  • Some “going public” opportunities arise during the conduct of the project (Democratic Practice and Process). It can occur that our process becomes part of a “living laboratory” within a project in ways that suggest subsequent ways to engage the public.

These tentative insights do not answer more fundamental questions of what we are trying to do and how much in the way of resources we want to devote to getting our reports and our process “out there”. We may find our niche in crafting governance possibilities for high-level deliberative audiences that may only be used a time or two.  We may find that we have more opportunities for “going viral” if we unravel the knots of how to produce useful conceptual possibilities on very current and difficult governance subject matter. Adolf Gundersen and I have also been experimenting with the possibility of shorter time frame development of possibilities, attempting to find “on demand” approaches.

It will likely take more exploration of what we are capable of and what there is a demand for before we can answer the questions that face us. But I am of the opinion that it is worthwhile, at this stage, to try to anticipate what can be done to get our reports “out there” as we plan projects.

Part Two of this perspective will look at some modest “going public” efforts I have made or have in the works.