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The Value Added of IF’s Public Discussions

Normally I avoid metaphors and even language that might conjure up economic images where I don’t intend them, but I think everyone would admit that there are “values” that aren’t economic, so I’m going to risk it here.

What I want to do is provide another kind of description of the various things a “typical” IF public discussion adds to the sort of policy discussions that already take place in American society.

My own short list would include these items:

  • A focus on cooperative, exploratory discussion rather than either advocacy or consensus aimed at coming to a conclusion or decision
  • An organizer—someone who convenes the discussion, often bringing together people who wouldn’t ordinarily meet
  • Other discussants—people to explore ideas with, often from different backgrounds and points of view
  • A civil, even sociable setting
  • A facilitator trained in ensuring productive exploratory discussion
  • Discussion materials developed for use in just such discussions

Now take a quick second look at the list, and try to answer the following two questions:

1)    Which of these contributions matter(s) the most— to society? to you as a potential discussion participant?

2)    Which is hardest to find elsewhere?