Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Free Materials for Discussion of Important Community Issues

A healthy democracy is one where citizens take an active role in governing.

But to take an active role, citizens must be able to have civil discourse about issues important to the democracy.

Americans have forgotten how to discuss topics, and develop solutions, without thinking there is a winner and a loser. The format of public issue forums let participants address important topics and find common ground for a solution in a positive and peaceful manner.

I’ve done public issue forums for invitation only groups, for clubs and organizations, for city groups and for the public at-large. Forums can be productive in any of those settings if attendees are willing to prepare ahead of time and be able to deliberate and listen to each other during the two-hour process.

University of Missouri Extension has specialists involved in hosting and moderating public issue forums on a variety of local and national topics. MU Extension also provides training for persons wanting to moderate public issue forums on their own.

You don’t have to be an expert to be a moderator. Many moderator guides are available from your local Extension center for free and those booklets provide everything you need to host a forum or study circle in your neighbor, at your local library or even at church.

Some of the most popular issue forums with materials currently available online (or through your local MU Extension office) include: "Democracy's Challenge: Reclaiming the Public's Role," “The Social Security Struggle,” “Making Ends Meet,” “News Media and Society,” “Land Use Conflicts: When County and City Clash” and “Should We Ban Fireworks?”

A complete list of available guides for public issue forums, as well as the materials needed for various forums, is available HERE.
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