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Introducing Chinese Students to Facilitation and IF-style Public Policy Discussions

The Interactivity Foundation was a recent co-sponsor and presenter at the 2012 China Citizenship and Social Innovation SEED Camp held at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government during the week of August 19-26. This week-long intensive conference experience at Harvard for Chinese college and graduate level students—most of whom are now or soon will be attending American colleges or universities—was designed to introduce these future Chinese leaders to a number of leadership and community organizing skills necessary to an emerging civil society. The conference was organized by the Northshore Society, a group of Chinese graduate students in the Boston area, in collaboration with the Non Profits in China Program at Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Non-Profit Organizations. Other co-sponsors included the Ford Foundation, Narada Foundation in Bejing, and other non-profits and foundations in China.

In over 12 hours of program time spread over 3 days, the Interactivity Foundation introduced about 35 Chinese students and other conference attendees to the practice of facilitating small-group discussions of public policy issues. The objective for these types of discussions is not to identify a single or specific solution to a narrow policy problem, but rather to demonstrate for the conference attendees how they could facilitate similar group discussions to explore multiple and contrasting policy approaches and allow discussants to further develop their own ideas and thinking about the issues involved, a too often underdeveloped component of healthy civil society both in China and the U.S.