the Civic Caucus - The Need, the Purpose
The Civic Caucus is a prototype organization, demonstrating new ways to
stimulate and maintain involvement of people in public affairs.
The need for citizens to work together to learn, analyze and recommend
solutions to critical public issues always has been a key part of the USA
democratic process. It is even more important today, because of
widespread polarization and paralysis in legislative bodies.
However, it is increasingly difficult for people to come together
face-to-face. Among the obstacles: highly scheduled activities for
families and other competing demands on time, expense of transportation,
homes and jobs in widely dispersed locations, difficulty in finding good
meeting space, and even some antipathy toward attending meetings.
Aided by individuals with broad and deep experience in public
affairs--extending well beyond a half-century for some participants--the
non-partisan Civic Caucus has developed a new approach for more effective
dialogue on public issues and for surfacing creative proposals for change.
The low-budget approach of the Civic Caucus has made it possible for large
numbers of persons to study an issue, discuss different solutions, and
arrive at consensus. Some participants choose only to learn; others
respond to questionnaires and offer their thoughts; some decide to be
recorded in support--or opposition--to final recommendations.
The Civic Caucus is based in Minnesota, and most of its recommendations
are directed at decision-makers in Minnesota. But the Civic Caucus
process knows no boundaries. We want to be helpful to any group looking
for more effective ways to involve people. Thus the process could be
helpful to the Citizens League, League of Women Voters, chambers of
commerce, for example, in Minnesota, and to other groups elsewhere in the
Key elements of the Civic Caucus approach:
1. A core group of about 12 persons, some of whom do come together
face-to-face every week and some of whom participate via conference call.
2. A much larger group--now about 1,000 persons, but theoretically without
limit on size--that participates electronically.
3. A focused agenda, taking up one major issue at a time. Before issues
are selected, core participants and electronic participants are polled for
4. An intensive learning process, spread over three months or more,
during which thought leaders, individually, are invited to meet with the
core group. Detailed summaries are prepared and circulated via email to
all core and electronic participants. Participants are encouraged to
suggest new areas of inquiry and questions to be raised and are urged to
share their thoughts on what they have seen.
5. Following the learning process, the Civic Caucus prepares memos that
summarize the interview summaries, and outline options for change that
then are discussed. Ultimately a preferred option is selected.
6. Core and electronic participants are
invited to be listed as supporters.