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Discussions & Our Democracy

The Interactivity Foundation believes in the importance and power of generous conversations. 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 by improving the quality of those discussions.

Exploratory Discussions

To improve our discussions and our public discourse overall, we practice and promote a small-group discussion process to help people collaboratively explore diverse perspectives and generate alternative possibilities. While our process for these Exploratory Discussions can be used in different formats, it has several common elements designed to nurture exploration and creativity and to reduce many of the common barriers to participation. These common elements include:

  • Complex topics with broad-based concerns and emerging societal implications
  • Small group size (typically 5-9 participants per group)
  • A strong but neutral facilitator to help focus but not direct the discussion, encourage participation, and elicit contrast
  • An embrace of divergence rather than consensus, a generosity of spirit, and a willingness to play with and develop ideas, including those beyond convention or personal preferences
  • A focus on the long term and the big picture rather than immediate problems or specific details
  • A general sense of confidentiality and a focus on the content rather than on the speaker.

Our work on Exploratory Discussions can be roughly divided into three interconnected formats.

Discussion Resources

The practice of Exploratory Discussions has helped us to develop a growing library of discussion resources. These resources include our Discussion Guides that can help to spur participants’ discussion and their consideration of multiple approaches or possibilities to a particular topic. For discussion facilitators and organizers, we also have other resources that provide practical “how-to” guidance.