Getting Ready for "A Public Voice 2017"

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What is A Public Voice? A Public Voice is the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI)’s annual program where we communicate the public voice emerging out of National Issues Forums to policymakers in Washington DC. We’ve been experimenting with the most effective way to do that since 1983, and this year is no exception.

Each year we choose a tough, timely issue that policymakers need to know about—this year’s is Safety & Justice. NIFI and Kettering work together to collect the data coming out of forums, like transcripts, post-forum questionnaires, and moderator reflections, for analysis. Then, Kettering communicates insights from the forums— both about the issue itself and the effect forums have on citizens and communities— to policymakers, through two main efforts. One is an in-person event in Washington DC, and the other is a final report and briefings with members of Congress and other policymakers.

As always, this year’s A Public Voice is an experiment, and we’re trying a bunch of new things:

  • Intentionally working with diverse partners to convene diverse forums
  • Inviting government officials and/or their staffers to observe and participate in forums
  • Gathering post-forum reflection comments and videos from forum participants
  • Bringing forum conveners from across the country together with their Congressional staffers at our May 9 DC event for detailed tabletop conversations about how these conversations are unique and valuable
  • Streaming the DC event via Facebook Live so participants can see how we’re engaging policymakers
  • Creating a role for actual forum participants to play via social media during the DC event

There are already more than 40 Safety and Justice forums scheduled around the country for the next two months, and more coming in all the time— everyone in the network should be very proud.

In order to support the network in trying all these new things, we’ve also created a new website,, where, in addition to the basic Safety & Justice forum materials you can also find:

  • A toolkit for moderators and conveners with supporting resources for forums
  • An editable, localizable version of the issue guide
  • Ways forum participants can stay engaged after the forum
  • How to sign up for free issue guides and video
  • COMING SOON: Spanish-language materials

We’ll be posting about this a lot on social media, and even if you can’t convene a forum in your town or city, you can still be a part of the discussion by sharing the word. One really easy way to help is to sign up for notifications about online forums and then share those with your networks.

Check out the new website, make sure you’re following NIF on social media, and if you have any other questions or ideas, shoot us an email.