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Coming Together: Reaching Common Understanding Through National Issues Forum Style Deliberative Dialogues

Why Have Forums? Many believe that political discourse has become too partisan and harsh. I personally believe that often it is also reduced to “30 second sound bites” and dumbed down to the point that discussion is virtually useless in any reasonable attempt to find any common ground among discussants. We spend too much time talking at each other, rather than with each other.

A Potential Solution. There is a program that achieves more civil discourse about serious public policy issues. The National Issues Forum is a network of civic, educational, and other organizations, and individuals, whose common interest is to promote public deliberation in America.  NIF does not advocate specific solutions or points of view but provides citizens the opportunity to consider a broad range of choices, weigh the pros and cons of those choices, and meet with each other in a public dialogue to identify the concerns they hold in common.

Although all forum activity is locally organized, moderated, and financed, the materials they use in common are produced by the Kettering Foundation of Dayton, Ohio, among others, and promoted by the National Issues Forums Institute. Among the publications developed each year are issue books used in the forums. Each clearly written, nonpartisan issue book or “discussion guide” frames the issue by presenting the overall problem and then three or four broad approaches to the problem.

Forum participants work through the issue by considering each of three or more approaches; examining what appeals to them or concerns them, and also what the advantages, costs, consequences, and potential tradeoffs are for each approach. The forums provide a way for people of diverse views and experiences to seek a shared understanding of the problem and to search for common ground for action. The hope is that forum participants can find common ground, and "come together". For more about forums, click here.

Issue Topics Currently Available. The topics on which the issues books are available include, but are not limited to:

Issue Topics
Currently Available

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The Role of "Democratic" Discussions and "Public Voice"

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