Riddle me this. The process of making public policy is generally done in response to a problem by addressing something that needs to be fixed. Problems are certainly worth solving, but they can also stand in the way of opportunities: Instead of looking for chances to be creative and make things better (opportunities) people become focused on what is wrong with the system (problems).
Which leads to my next thought, so how should we be making policy? I am not going to pretend to have the answer, but I will propose an experiment, based on what seems to be a great opportunity. I suspect that an engaged, open and somewhat informed group of people can come up with a lot of great ideas. I also reckon that when people are in invited to participate in a comfortable, safe and relaxed environment, with nourishment (both caloric and alcoholic), they will be happy to express their thoughts and think critically. Once the ideas have been collected, they can also be shared – creating a foundation of discussion for other groups of people interested in the same topic. That ‘foundation’ can then be presented to a second group, who build (or destroy) the ideas that were put out by the first group. The original ideas take on an evolutionary process and continue being discussed, summarized and reshared UNTIL a full and final policy/program/initiative is formed.
This experiment is called the Civic Salon. The first trial was run Thursday, October 27th at 730pm EST in Toronto, Canada. The results are to be published in a just a few days, so stay tuned.