You know how you sometimes feel as though you’ve got just the answer to a question or the right description for something—only 10 minutes or a half hour too late? That happened to me last week, just after I’d finished up a presentation at my son’s middle school. I hadn’t had much time to describe I.F., our work, and how it might dovetail with the school’s emphasis on public speaking—much less leave time for discussion afterward. It’s at times like this when something even more compressed than an “elevator speech” comes in handy. Well, I settled on one during the ride home, a description of I.F. that I plan to try out the next time I have too much to say and too little time to say it. The description—category, really—I’m going to use is “discussion tank.”
I like the idea of describing I.F. as a discussion tank because people are already familiar with “think tanks” and even “think-and-do tanks.” It’ll quickly communicate the idea of organized professionals and the substantive focus of our work. What’s more it’s also likely to elicit questions, which is all to the good, since questions present and opportunity to explain that discussion isn’t just our mission, but how we go about fulfilling it.
The one thing I don’t like about the label is that it doesn’t do a particularly good job of evoking the extended network that I.F. relies on or the democratic character of I.F.’s mission. But, then, “democratic discussion tank” seems a bit unwieldy for a capsule description.