Reporting on All Narratives/ Hidden Common Ground in Unprecedented Times

The growing sense of division in our country has been felt  strongly this year in conjunction with the physical separation of pandemic life and elections right around the corner. This article published on USA Today, written by David Mathews, President of Kettering Foundation, explores a narrative that is rarely reported on. USA Today networks and America Amplified, a public media collaborative, equipped with research provided by organizations including Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation want to uncover the common ground. The main findings reported demonstrate more common ground exists than we realize, and sustains the possibility of collaboration as divergent narrative for Americans and journalists alike.

To read the op ed in detail read below and for the original posting on USA Today click here.


How Americans can learn once again to solve our nation’s problems together

To solve really difficult problems, people realize that they have to work with others who may be different.

The year 2020 will go down in history as extraordinary. Americans, by most accounts, are deeply divided. They can’t even talk to those they disagree with.

Many people appear traumatized by fear. Some insist that change is long overdue. Some see the country sliding into moral chaos and want to preserve what they value in the American way of life. But there is little agreement on what needs to change or what needs to be preserved.

That’s the dominant story. But it isn’t the only one.

In covering the 2020 election, some journalists are telling another story. The group includes the USA Today Network and America Amplified, a public media collaborative. They are drawing on nonpartisan research provided by organizations including Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation, where I work.

Kettering’s research draws on nearly 40 years of results from local deliberative forums held by a nationwide network known as the National Issues Forums. Here are the main findings from our research:

►There is more common ground on policy issues than is recognized. People favor such policies as increasing economic opportunities, providing for affordable childcare and keeping jobs in the U.S. But the thing Americans agree on most is that there is too much divisiveness — even if they contribute to it sometimes.

►Citizens and government officials often talk past one another, which makes the loss of public confidence in government grow even greater. For instance, on health policy, those in government are naturally concerned about the cost to their budgets. But NIF forums show that people are most concerned about a health care system so complex it is almost impossible to navigate.

►Despite the tendency to favor the likeminded, in some circumstances people will consider opinions they don’t like. There is a space between agreement and disagreement, an arena in which people decide, “I don’t particularly like what we are considering doing about this problem, but I can live it — for now.”

This is the arena of pragmatic problem-solving. Observers of National Issues Forums have seen people move into it even on explosive issues like immigration. Described as a pivot, it changes the tone of decision making. When it happens, problem solving can move forward, even without total agreement.

This pivot occurs when issues are described in terms of what people find deeply valuable — not “values” but age-old imperatives like safety and being treated fairly. When issues are described in this way and framed with several options for solutions, with both advantages and disadvantages clearly laid out, people will confront tensions between what they prefer and consequences they may not like.

Recognizing that everyone is motivated by the same basic imperatives removes barriers to listening to others who may not be like us or even like us. Even if people disagree, they become aware of greater complexity. They explore the tradeoffs inherent in difficult decisions. That opens the door to understanding the experiences and concerns of others.

Kettering and NIFI Release Publications on Developing Deliberation Materials


Kettering and NIFI: Developing Materials for Deliberation

The Kettering Foundation researches and develops issue guides, and the National Issues Forums Institute (NIF) shares the materials across the country along with the deliberative practices on which they are based.

How Kettering and NIFI think about developing materials that support public deliberation is freely available in two publications: Naming and Framing Difficult Issues to Make Sound Decisions, which outlines the conceptual foundations of this approach, and Developing Materials for Deliberative Forums, which is aimed at people in communities who might want to do this work themselves, in their own contexts on their own issues. When KF and NIFI work on national materials, we use the same approach. There are many ways to do this, and the more one does it the more readily it comes. In this way, this work is a “practice,” learned and improved upon by doing, yet accessible to all. It does not take experts. (Another resource, a little more schematic, is this two-page overview.)

This is not necessarily the best way to develop such materials, but it is the one that we have developed and used over decades. Other innovations are most welcome, and we are always interested to hear about them.

What we mean by “public deliberation” is simple: people deciding together about how they should address a shared problem by weighing options for action against the things they hold valuable. It is particularly useful, and some might even say it is needed, on certain kinds of problems, including when the cause of the problem is in dispute, people from all walks of life will need to act, there is no objectively correct solution, and any potential path forward brings with it drawbacks that affect things that are held deeply valuable. Some call such problems “wicked.” The main idea is that they don’t have a correct solution, but the problems are pressing, so we must still decide how to move forward in the absence of complete agreement. NIF issue guides are designed to be a support to deliberation by people in communities on a range of these kinds of issues. People deliberate all the time in their personal and professional lives. It is not a new skill that needs to be learned. The NIF issue guides are simply designed to prompt the process. (Some people use them for educational purposes, but their main intended use is to support direction-setting that leads to public decision-making.)

The challenge for anyone trying to develop a document that supports people deliberating on such a problem is to 1) describe the problem in such a way that it is universally recognized as a problem that merits discussion and 2) present options for action that lay bare the tensions between the things that we might do. The first item is called naming, and the second framing.

All of this work starts with research. It is not work suited to just one or two researchers who go off and write—it is collective work aimed to be useful to collectivities of people. In terms of “desk” research, the chief areas of inquiry are: What arguments are being made about this issue? By whom? How do they differ? What solutions are being proposed? The public research is the most important aspect of developing these materials.

This public research starts with gathering concerns of people. This is usually done in small groups, as people share their concerns about a topic. The name of the issue is not yet known—it will develop and emerge iteratively throughout the process. We are trying to learn two things: What is the question that people feel we must grapple with? How does this issue relate to the fundamental things that everyone holds valuable, but in differing degree? By talking about their concerns, people lay bare these things. We typically try to have broad-based concern gathering sessions, eliciting input from many groups, across difference. The broader the better.

Once there is a good, broad set of concerns (usually hundreds), we begin to “cluster” them according to things that are held deeply valuable that appear to be driving them. They typically will readily narrow down to a handful of main driving concerns such as collective safety, equity and being treated fairly, having freedom to act, having control over one’s future, and so forth. It is useful to get down to three or four main groupings. These clusters will become the options of the resulting issue framework, and three or four options is about as many as one can get through in one discussion.

What emerges from this clustering work is a name for the issue and the beginnings of a framework of options (each a major direction for addressing the problem). To give a sense of specificity to the options, it is useful to have examples of specific actions that each option suggests. The result of all this work is the “grid” format that you can see at the back of most NIF issue guides: a description of the problem, three options for action, each with a set of actions. Each of these options will have a trade off—the downside will be unpalatable, or it will pull against one of the other options, or both.

At this point, we develop a draft of such a framework and test it by holding deliberative forums with groups of people. We are looking for how well it sparks deliberation.

We have learned that a useful framework will:

  • Name the problem in such a way that people immediately respond
  • Include a range of options that are in tension with one another
  • Give voice to marginal and sometimes unwelcome views
  • Clearly and fairly show the downsides of any suggested course of action
  • Shake up the dominant left/right polarized discourse
  • Often leave people stewing as they consider ideas they may not have encountered

In my own experience in doing this work, this testing almost always results in improvements and sometimes major revisions. Sometimes an option needs a complete rework. Sometimes the name is clearly wrong. For instance, once we thought we were framing an issue related to “campaign finance,” and people in concern gathering sessions literally laughed at how narrowly that was drawn and insisted that the problem was almost the entire political system.

One of the challenges of doing this work is that it works best if one approaches it with openness and a willingness to alter course based on what is learned. It makes it difficult to create hard-and-fast timelines and to provide early specificity.

Once the overall framework is working, we develop a full-length issue guide. These are all reviewed anonymously by people who are familiar with the topic at hand before publication. At this point, we are looking for balance between major viewpoints and major gaps or errors.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Kettering Foundation site at www.kettering.org/blogs/kf-and-nifi-developing-materials-deliberation.

Common Ground for Action (CGA) available for online forums

NCDD partner National Issues Forums Institute sent out a message to contacts yesterday regarding the availability of their platform, Common Ground for Action, for online forums. This platform can be used to support your community or classroom work during the COVID-19 crisis. Read more below or at www.nifi.org/cga.


National Issues Forums’ (NIF) Common Ground for Action (CGA) online deliberative forums can be convened specifically for your campus or classroom, neighborhood or town, or community group. Participating in online forums is easy-many of you are already familiar with the Common Ground for Action platform.

Here is how a locally-organized online forum might work:

  • You set the date and time in coordination with our CGA coordinator, Kara Dillard, and invite your participants.
  • Participants will register online for your specific forum at a link available only to those in your community, campus/classroom, or organization.
  • Online forums deliberate in groups of 10-12, but we can organize multiple simultaneous “breakout” sessions to accommodate your forum plans. Online forums last about two hours but can be easily modified to fit a shorter or longer time window.
  • You and your team of moderators can moderate as usual. If you like, we’ll provide a co-moderator who’s very familiar with the CGA platform and can handle any technological tasks or issues (They’re actually very rare).
  • All of the NIF issue guides are available for you to use in CGA, including those recently updated for the Hidden Common Ground initiative. These include:
    • Health Care
    • Mass Shootings
    • Immigration
    • A House Divided
    • The Economy (starting in September)
    • National Security / Foreign Policy
    • Safety and Justice
    • Opioids

There is no software to download; Common Ground for Action runs in any browser. CGA forums are user-friendly, so participants of all ages and levels of tech-savviness can participate with ease. We have a lot of resources available for CGA moderators, including a tips sheet from CGA moderators, a basic moderator script, issue-guide specific moderator scripts that include sample deliberative questions, and moderator scripts specific for a classroom-length forum.  For more details about CGA go to: nifi.org/cga.

Contact Darla Minnich or Kara Dillard if you’d like to explore this online option. We’d be pleased to work with you on it.

Check out the February NCDD Confab on Hidden Common Ground!

It was our pleasure to host our February Confab Call featuring the Hidden Common Ground Initiative! For those who may have missed it, or those who want to refer back, this post has all the important information from the event.

Hidden Common Ground is a joint project of USA TODAY, Public Agenda, the Kettering Foundation, and National Issues Forums. At the heart of the initiative are National Issues Forums in communities and online across the country about compelling public issues: health care, immigration, the economy, and divisiveness.  USA TODAY will provide press coverage and commentary, Public Agenda will publish issue-based research, and Kettering Foundation will develop nonpartisan discussion guides.  Since there are too few opportunities for Americans to discover their “hidden common ground,” participating in the year-long initiative is vitally important.

The Confab was a wonderful overview of the initiative and opportunities to participate, and it can be found at this link. Our participants asked a whole lot of great questions – if you are curious to see those, you can check them out here. Additionally, the presentation materials can be accessed at this link.

Our sincere thanks to Betty Knighton, Darla Minnich, and Kara Dillard for presenting this session. NCDD hopes we’ll hear about our members participation in this initiative soon!

Confab bubble imageTo learn more about NCDD’s Confab Calls and hear recordings of others, visit www.ncdd.org/events/confabs. We love holding these events and we want to continue to elevate the work of our field with Confab Calls and Tech Tuesdays. It is through your generous contributions to NCDD that we can keep doing this work! That’s why we want to encourage you to support NCDD by making a donation or becoming an NCDD member today (you can also renew your membership by clicking here). Thank you!

“Democracy Rebellion” Documentary Highlights Civic Action

NCDD member organization National Issues Forums Institute shared on their blog an exciting new documentary, The Democracy Rebellion, produced by Pulitzer Prize winner Hedrick Smith. The documentary highlights several examples of grassroots democratic reform movements that have been happening across the US. You can read the article below and find the original version of it on the NIFI site here.

While we are on NIFI updates, we’d like to wish a huge congratulations to NCDD Board Member Betty Knighton who has become NIFI’s President! We are so grateful to have her on our Board and excited for her to also assume this new role!

In fact, Betty will be on our February Confab call in just a few hours, co-presenting with Kara Dillard and Darla Minnich on the Hidden Common Ground Initiative – a joint project of USA TODAY, Public Agenda, the Kettering Foundation, and NIFI. This free call will take place on Today, February 20th from 2-3 pm Eastern, 11 am-12 pm PacificRegister now so you don’t miss out on this event!


Watch the PBS Documentary “The Democracy Rebellion” Produced by Hedrick Smith

Journalist Hedrick Smith is the executive producer of the recently-released PBS documentary, The Democracy Rebellion. In the 56-minute film, Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and editor, documents a number of grassroots efforts around the country that have made a difference in creating real democratic reform.

The stories told in the documentary include: exposure of dark money funding in California; a push for public funding of campaigns in Connecticut; gerrymander reform in Florida; and other examples of citizens organizing, marching, and working together for positive change.

Clips, photos, and more information about the documentary can be found on the PBS page featuring The Democracy Rebellion for viewing.

Not Washington, but grassroots America. Not stale gridlock, but fresh reforms. Not negative ads and billionaire donors, but positive change and citizen activists pressing for gerrymander reform, voting rights for former felons, limits on lobbyists, and winning surprising victories to make elections fairer and more inclusive in states as varied as Florida, California, North Carolina, South Dakota, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, Missouri, Utah and more.

The documentary is also available to watch on YouTube.

Find more information about democracy reform efforts around the country, and about Hedrick Smith’s work, on the Let’s Reclaim the American Dream website.

You can find this article on the National Issues Forums Institute website at www.nifi.org/en/watch-pbs-documentary-democracy-rebellion-produced-hedrick-smith.

This Thursday: NCDD Confab on Hidden Common Ground!

Don’t miss this Thursday’s NCDD Confab Call, which features the Hidden Common Ground initiative. This free call takes place Thursday, February 20th from 2-3 pm Eastern/11 am-12 pm Pacific. Register today to secure your spot.

Hidden Common Ground is a joint project of USA TODAY, Public Agenda, the Kettering Foundation, and National Issues Forums. At the heart of the initiative are National Issues Forums in communities and online across the country about compelling public issues: health care, immigration, the economy, and divisiveness.  USA TODAY will provide press coverage and commentary, Public Agenda will publish issue-based research, and Kettering Foundation will develop nonpartisan discussion guides.  Since there are too few opportunities for Americans to discover their “hidden common ground,” participating in the year-long initiative is vitally important.

Please join us to learn more, to explore local partnerships and media connections, and to access free materials to use in your communities.

This free call will take place on Thursday, February 20th from 2-3 pm Eastern, 11 am-12 pm PacificRegister today so you don’t miss out on this event!

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About NCDD’s Confab Calls

Confab bubble imageNCDD’s Confab Calls are opportunities for members (and potential members) of NCDD to talk with and hear from innovators in our field about the work they’re doing and to connect with fellow members around shared interests. Membership in NCDD is encouraged but not required for participation. Confabs are free and open to all. Register today if you’d like to join us!

NIFI Holds Student-Focused CGA Forums Series in Nov.

We wanted to share these upcoming opportunities with NCDD member org, National Issues Forums Institute, for students to dive deeper into the Common Ground for Action online forums. The CGA forums will focus on the NIFI issue guide, A House Divided: What Do We Have To Give Up To Get The Political System We Want?, as part of a series of week-long student-focused forums. You can read about the series below and find the original version on NIFI’s site here.


Join In Cross-Campus Online Forums in November, 2019 – National Week of Conversation

Registration is now available for the student-focused November 2019 National Week of Conversation Common Ground for Action (CGA) forum series. This idea is the brainchild of faculty from the National Issues Forums (NIF) network who wanted their undergrads to have a chance to deliberate with students from other universities so they could hear different voices. We’ve done this the past two years and each year the pool of students and universities gets larger and more diverse. I’m hoping more faculty and students will join us. Since the forums will happen during local and state election week, we’ll be deliberating using the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) issue guide on A House Divided: What Do We Have To Give Up To Get The Political System We Want?

Here’s how it works:

There are five forums scheduled during the week – one per day at various times.

Monday November 4th at 1pm ET/10a PT
Tuesday November 5th at 7p ET/4p PT
Thursday November 7th at 9a ET/6a PT
Friday November 8th at 3p ET/12p PT
Saturday November 9th at 7p ET/4p PT

We will be organizing registered students into forums manually so we can try to have as much campus diversity as possible. Please encourage your students to register using their university emails so we can maximize diversity.

You can direct your students to participate in a forum date of your choice or you can have them participate in a forum that best fits their schedule. The day before the forum, registered students will receive an email with their forum Join ID and a copy of the issue guide. Please (please, please, please!) encourage them to read the guide before their forum.

I hope to host as many of your students in a CGA deliberative forum as possible. Please send as many as you think would benefit from deliberating to this event!

Want to participate? Email Kara Dillard at kdillard@nifi.org for registration details.

You can read the original version of this information on the National Issues Forums Institute blog at www.nifi.org/en/join-cross-campus-online-forums-november-2019-national-week-conversation.

National Issue Forums Institute Reports on Climate Forums

Over the last three years, deliberations have been occurring across the country on the 2016-released issue guide, Climate Choices, both at in-person forums in several states and online via Common Ground for Action deliberative forums. The guide was a collaborative effort between NCDD member organization, the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI), and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), and the article below reports on some of the takeaways from the forums. You can read the report below and find the original on NIFI’s site here.


Report on NIF Forum Activity: Climate Choices

When people gather with friends, neighbors, and fellow community members to deliberate on shared problems, they often report that they are exposed to ideas and perspectives they hadn’t previously entertained. They also often say that they leave the deliberative forums, not with completely changed minds, but “thinking differently” nonetheless.

Recent forums using the Climate Choices issue guide were no exception. In questionnaires returned after the forums, just under half of participants responded that they were “thinking differently about the issue.” For example, one participant from an Ohio forum said, “I now realize that everything we do to address climate change has other effects.” The questionnaires also show that slightly more than half of participants noted that they “talked about aspects of the issue they hadn’t considered before.” From a forum participant in Connecticut: “I hadn’t considered the possibility of rushing into poorly researched energy sources and possibly causing more harm than good.”

The Climate Choices issue guide was a joint effort of the National Issues Forums (NIF) and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). NAAEE’s interest in producing the issue guide relates to their Environmental Issues Forums (EIF) initiative, in which they hope to encourage a nationwide network to hold forums on issues that affect the environment. Since its publication in 2016, people have held forums using the Climate Choicesguide in ConnecticutFloridaKansasMissouriOhio, and New Mexico, among other locales. More than 25 climate choices forums have also taken place online using the Common Ground for Action platform.

Some of the more interesting forum reports we hear about occur when multiple organizations work to coconvene forums. This was the case for a late 2017 forum that took place in Wichita, Kansas. Representatives from three different organizations partnered to put on a forum to deliberate about the environmental challenges facing Kansas and the world at large: the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Engagement, the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, and Kansas State University’s Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy. Included in the group of 15 were representatives from county and municipal government and professionals from the energy and agriculture sectors, as well as local retirees and students. In this group we see people wrestling with trade-offs in a number of the options. According to the convenors, the group was enthusiastic about option 2 (Prepare and Protect Communities) but worried that possible actions would do little to address underlying environmental issues. In talking about Option 3 (Accelerate Innovation), the group was concerned about the number of unknowns and uncertain prospects for success associated with trying to innovate our way out of the problem.

Another interesting area of activity was Columbia, Missouri, where there were another six climate choices forums. Led by Christine Jie Li of the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources, three of these forums were at the Columbia Public Library, two at a local Episcopal church, and one with local students on the University of Missouri campus. The convenors of the Missouri forums report that participants felt anxious about environmental threats but were eager to take action. One participant said, “When I hear about climate change, I often feel overwhelmed and hopeless. It is such a huge overarching issue that it feels impossible to solve.” Another said, “I am curious to know my fellow citizens’ ideas and to work toward a community-supported decision.” Convenors from Missouri reported an increase in hope among participants after the forums with one participant saying, “I feel better and more optimistic that people are thinking about this.”

This article is based on analysis by Kettering Foundation staff of reports made available by the National Issues Forums Institute.

Participate in A Public Voice 2019 Livestream on May 9th

Next week, A Public Voice 2019, is being hosted by NCDD member organizations – the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) at the National Press Club in Washington DC on May 9th from 9:30-11:30 am Eastern, 6:30-8:30 am Pacific. This annual event will convene policymakers, Capitol Hill staffers, NIF forum moderators and analysts, and members from the dialogue and deliberation field for a panel discussion around this year’s theme of political division and the important role of public deliberation. Over the remainder of the year, National Issue Forums will convene around the issue guide, A House Divided: What Would We Have to Give Up to Get the Political System We Want?, after which the forum outcomes will be compiled and analyzed in a final report to be released in early 2020. APV2019 will also be a space to explore what issues should be focused on in the future. You can watch the event live stream on Facebook and viewers are encouraged to post their comments to the stream. Learn more about the announcement in the post below and find the original version of this information on the NIFI blog here.


Watch Livestream of A Public Voice 2019 on May 9 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time

On May 9, 2019, the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) will host A Public Voice 2019 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The 9:30-11:30 a.m. Eastern Time, panel discussion will be livestreamed on Facebook, where viewers will be welcome to post their comments.

At the event, National Issues Forums moderators, analysts of forum outcomes, and members of the policy community will talk about public deliberation; how that public thinking differs from the “public opinion” usually available to policymakers; and what public thinking has emerged to date from National Issues Forums (NIF) forums on political division, among other issues.

Additionally, panelists will exchange ideas about which issues warrant deep public deliberation and action in the next few years. They will share what some of those issues are, what concerns they have regarding these issues, how it affects them and their work, and why the issues require public deliberation.

Audience members at the event and watching on the livestream will have an opportunity to pose a question to the panel and/or comment on what they’ve heard during the program.

About the A Public Voice 2019 event:

For more than 30 years, the Kettering Foundation, in collaboration with the National Issues Forums Institute, has organized A Public Voice. This annual event brings together representatives from forum groups around the country and from national dialogue and deliberation organizations as well as elected officials and staff, to explore the contributions that a deliberative public makes to addressing some of the most challenging issues facing our communities and elected officeholders.

A Public Voice 2019 focuses on an issue important to all Americans: political division. After extensive research and testing with citizens around the country, the Kettering Foundation prepared an issue guide for the National Issues Forums (NIF): A House Divided: What Would We Have to Give Up to Get the Political System We Want? Citizen deliberations using the issue guide are taking place throughout 2019 in public forums around the country. In these public forums, citizens consider the options for dealing with a problem, share their views, and weigh the costs and benefits of possible actions. Forums are held both online and face-to-face, typically last 90 minutes, and attract participants of all ages from all walks of life.

This year, A Public Voice will use the issue of political division and a range of others to engage policymakers in conversation about public deliberation—what it is, how it differs from polls and focus groups, and why it has value for them. The session will also include an exchange among policymakers and deliberative democracy practitioners about issues the NIF network might tackle in the future. In early 2020, the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forums Institute will publish a final report on the 2019 NIF forums on political division, followed by briefings for individual elected officials, Capitol Hill staffers, and other policymakers.

You can find the original version of this information on the National Issues Forums Institute blog at www.nifi.org/en/watch-livestream-public-voice-2019-may-9-930-1130-am-eastern-time.

Check Out New Issue Guides Now Available from NIFI

This year, the National Issues Forums Institute – an NCDD member org, has published three issues guides to support conversations in deliberative forums on major issues facing this country. The three issue guides, House Divided, Keeping America Safe, and A Nation in Debt, each offer multiple talking points on both “sides” of the issue to give participants additional perspectives and help lead to a more robust deliberation. You can read the announcement below and find the original version on the NIFI blog here.


From Brad Rourke – About the Three New Issue Guides for 2019

The National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) has released three new issue guides for 2019. A House DividedKeeping America Safe, and A Nation in Debt are all available to purchase in digital and hard-copy formats on the NIFI website.

Brad RourkeKettering Foundation program officer and executive editor of issue guides, provided this note:

These new NIFI issue guides are highly salient and reflect some of the biggest concerns on the minds of Americans right now:

A House Divided: What Would We Have to Give Up to Get the Political System We Want?
“Division,” “polarization,” and “hyperpartisanship” are front and center throughout the current political discourse. This framework comes at the question not from a social perspective but from a political one. If we are so divided, how then shall we self-govern? This is not about “getting along” but rather about what we should do even as we don’t get along.

Keeping America Safe: What Is Our Greatest Threat? How Should We Respond?
The world is increasingly volatile, and the question of just what America’s role on the world stage should be lies at the root of many global conversations. This is not just a dry (yet important) question of geopolitical strategy; it also includes trade, our general stance toward other nations, and our relationships with traditionally stabilizing institutions.

A Nation in Debt: How Can We Pay the Bills?
The national debt has roared past the $21 trillion mark and appears on a course to keep increasing. The size of this debt, and the interest it takes simply to maintain it, is more and more a topic of concern as people think about how our economy can keep growing, what size government is right, and what direction tax rates should go. Should we take drastic action to shrink the debt, or would that upend the economy? (This guide was produced in partnership with Up to Us.)

These issue guides are nonpartisan supports for moderated, deliberative conversations among small groups. We try to portray the chief tensions that citizens need to work through to form sound judgments on difficult public problems. Kettering researches and develops them for publication by the National Issues Forums Institute, which makes them available to the NIF network of local convenors.

You can read the original version of this announcement on the NIFI blog at www.nifi.org/en/brad-rourke-about-three-new-issue-guides-2019.