Election time is probably the time when people hear and talk about policy the most. So you may feel that you have already heard way too much about policy debates in recent months. And you may feel—just like me—completely disgusted with all the negative campaign ads, and their denigration of their opponents’ policies. The worst thing for me about those adds is that I often do not know whether they speak the truth or slander, because I am not familiar enough with the details and the thinking behind the policies that each candidate supports. I find many of those policy discussions—they are more often debates than discussions—highly unsatisfactory. And I think that the problem is not so much the broadcasting costs that put restrictions on airtime and the sound bites that result from them, as the culture of discussion that surrounds them.
The Interactivity Foundation (IF) promotes a different culture in its public discussions. IF promotes public discussions among citizens all of the time — not just in the lead-up to an election or in the aftermath of a crisis. We encourage people to think broadly and in contrasting ways about policy possibilities, because we think that it is important for the health of a democracy that its citizens have an opportunity to think through the contrasting policy possibilities that might emanate from the diverse beliefs, values, goals, and interests of this nation.
The Interactivity Foundation also promotes non-advocacy discussions about policy. We do not push for consensus among our discussion participants, and we do not ask them to choose their preferred possibilities from our reports. The possibilities in our reports actually are neither policy recommendations, nor necessarily the best possibilities to adopt. They are, however, developed with an eye toward engendering thoughtful discussion about that area of concern.
Our policy possibilities are typically articulated in a sentence or two in our reports. But these sentences are not sound bites with which we ask you to agree or disagree. Right below it you find a description of the reasoning behind the policy possibility, which is well thought out and internally consistent and essential for understanding what the possibility is all about. We engage small size groups—preferably six to eight participants—in our public discussions, which give everyone in the group an opportunity to articulate and explore their own thinking about the policy possibilities that we present, as well as the thinking of the others in the group. So you do not get the feeling that you are one in a crowd of thousands listening to some candidate tell you what you should think or how you should vote—but a feeling that you are actually exploring what possibility means through a discussion with a small group of your neighbors.
IF policy discussions are also free of the negativity that permeates policy discussions during the political campaigns. We focus on the exploration and development of ideas, rather than the critique of current policies. We discuss what is possible, but we are not Pollyannas about it. Our reports present a wide variety of issues and concerns and policy possibilities. People may find some of our possibilities attractive, and others repulsive. But our discussions are not debates about which ones are right, wrong, or the best.
But the best way to understand our policy discussions, once again, is to actually participate in them. So please come and join us for one of our public policy discussions.