In my last entry I described some of the main differences among IF’s principal activity areas. I also pointed out that some of these differences were sources of important interactivities in IF’s work, which will be the subject of this post.
“Interactivity” is meant to be evocative rather than precise. For me, the interactivies between our three operational areas is one of the most tangible kinds of interactivity.
Perhaps the most profound interactivity in our work lies where all three areas overlap. There we find ongoing learning by doing in which effort and reflection in each area (sanctuary, public, and classroom discussions) inform those in the other two. All three areas are ultimately different practical expressions of the IF discussion process, so each can and does feed into the other.
Sanctuary and public discussions interact in numerous ways. Sanctuary discussion projects came first in the development of IF and, because they are more intense and deliberate, still serve as a model of the kind of exploratory discussion we seek to promote in public discussions. They are also the source of the discussion materials we use in public discussions. At the same time, feedback from public discussions is used to refine the sanctuary discussion process and the Reports that come out of it.
Public discussions and classroom discussions interact very directly in most cases. College courses using the IF approach almost always include a requirement that the instructor and/or students conduct public discussions.
The interactivities between classroom discussions and sanctuary discussions are more variable, though almost always quite important. IF college courses typically encourage students to engage in what amounts to a mini-sanctuary project, sometimes on a topic that they help select. Less often students will discuss an existing IF Report that’s been developed in a sanctuary project. In most cases, whichever path an instructor chooses, students will be exposed to past sanctuary project products as examples of the kind of work they are being encouraged to do.
Cutting across all of these categories, of course, and making them possible, is the interactivity between all of the people engaged in IF’s work: discussants, facilitators, students, teachers, trainers, and Fellows. Often we find people moving from one of these roles to another–and then to another–and then back again. And even when they don’t physically move, we work to make sure that they’re all part of one larger exploratory conversation–about public policy, and about how to discuss it effectively.