- Is the Foundation affiliated or associated with any other organization or with any political or special interest group or cause?
No. The Foundation is not affiliated with any other organization, special interest group, or political movement or cause. Our only interest is in promoting and enhancing public discussion to more fully explore and better develop contrasting possibilities for public policy. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. We are not an advocacy organization and we do not engage in lobbying activities or other promotion of any of the public policy possibilities developed by our discussion projects or presented in our Discussion Reports.
- Does the term “sanctuary” and/or the anonymity of the discussion panelists mean that IF or its discussion processes have some religious, fraternal, or cult component?
No. We just use that term as a shorthand way to describe the sense of safety and freedom that our discussion process is meant to foster among the panelists. There is no indoctrination, induction ceremony, or secret handshake. Panelists and other discussion participants are not affiliated with the Foundation.
- Can you summarize what the Foundation does?
In short, IF works to strengthen our democracy by enhancing and expanding public discussion of public policy matters. To do this, IF engages in 3 interconnected activities as described more fully below and elsewhere on this website:
- Project or “sanctuary” Discussions. IF Fellows organize and facilitate small-group discussions on broad public policy topics (privacy, civil rights, genetic technology, for example) with two panels of 5-8 selected participants each for a year or more. The panelists work to develop several contrasting policy possibilities for the topic or area of concern, which the Fellow uses, together with other ideas from the discussions, to prepare a Discussion Report, a short booklet, which IF publishes and distributes free of charge.
- Public or “citizen” discussions. Our Fellows, summer institute faculty, and other trained facilitators organize and facilitate small group discussions of shorter duration (2-4 sessions) with participants who are recruited more broadly. Our Discussion Reports are used as a starting point for further exploration and development of the issues and ideas relating to the public policy area. There is no attempt to reach consensus, and the objective is simply to reinvigorate our sense of—and capacity for—meaningful public discussion about public policy matters.
- Classroom Discussion activities. IF hosts and sponsors interactive and collaborative training programs for selected college faculty and institutions. We collaborate with college educators to help them adapt some parts of our discussion process to the college classroom. We also sponsor and collaborate with some faculty on a limited number of other, discussion-related research and applied activities.
- Where is the Foundation located?
IF’s administrative offices are in Parkersburg, West Virginia, the hometown of Jay Stern, our founder. We meet there regularly, our office staff works from these offices, and our President, Jack Byrd, Jr., works from there at least one day each week. However, all of our Fellows reside and work in other locations around the country. See the Contact Us and IF People pages for specific contact and other information about IF staff and Fellows.