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“Going Public” with IF Reports: A Pre-Project Perspective

The Fellows’ recent discussion of “going public” issues again reminded us of the many ways in which we can get our “product” and process out into circulation in the broader governance conversation. We have something to offer and it makes little sense to “hide our light under a bushel”. Our discussion reports are, hopefully, useful starting points for democratic governance discussion, but are also learning opportunities for us in how to produce improved reports. That said, it seems likely that we stand to benefit from the wider dissemination that “going public” implies.

On the recent drive back to the Charleston airport I had one of those head-smacking moments when I realized I had failed to chime in about some “going public” thoughts that I had lost track of at the meeting. I neglected to raise the issue of timing and the “continuum of going public”. Similarly, I failed to suggest some sort of checklist for “going public” with projects.

I tend to see “going public” as a continuum that involves our “products”, our process, and our “branding”. This involves some sense of timing since in the order of things it is easier and more helpful to arrange or anticipate some opportunities at some junctures more than others. So I would like to make the case that we apply our anticipatory approach to the “going public” case as well.

Many of the possibilities for “going public” can be worked on during the pre-project phase. Extended networking for panel recruitment often yields contacts who cannot participate as panelists, but do remain interested in the outcome. Greater thought may be given to the “going public” opportunities an area of concern might yield and those considerations could well serve as factors in IF evaluation of the suitability of an area of concern.

This brings me to the second of my “lost ideas” missed at the last meeting: the “going public checklist”. Such a checklist would include actions to be considered at the project’s end when the report is in hand, but would be included in the original project proposal. It requires project managers to think about positioning themselves for these actions before the panels ever meet. Such a checklist might include the following:

  • Initial contacts made in the course of developing the area of concern that might prove useful in eliciting feedback on the report.
  • Assessment of likely opportunities for report discussion within other groups (professional, educational, etc).
  • Communication with IF-associated faculty to determine potential for report use in classrooms and campus discussions.
  • Pre-arrangement of presentations on projects and reports at conferences of other public conversation groups.
  • Collection of websites, list-serves, and social media points of contact where the reports could ultimately be announced and posted.
  • Planning for developmental discussion of draft reports with target audiences.

Other factors could certainly come into play. And it may not be a matter of doing all these things in advance of the project. Some possibilities for “going public” will accrue in the course of the project and after it. Just as we have tried to be more “seamless” in transitions between projects, we can be continuously mindful that our reports do not advance the cause of democratic governance conversation if they are simply filed away on shelves.