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Introducing Big Tent Nation

September 10, 2015 by Cathleen Fracasse

Introducing Big Tent Nation!

The Problem

Americans are searching for a way to engage meaningfully in civic life and political policy formulation, particularly when it comes to areas directly impacting their own prosperity and that of the nation as a whole. Some pundits insist that large scale engagement across political boundaries isn’t possible; however, online technologies have become ever-more powerful, and can now support collaboration among large groups of people, allow for the management and delivery of personalized content, and facilitate engagement by millions towards affecting meaningful, sustained changes in the way citizens and government collaborate. As evidenced by events such as the Personal Democracy Forum (and its home base, Civic Hall), civic technologists are finding new ways for citizens to participate in local decision making, to help one another, and to improve access to services. Efforts such as No Labels and the Bipartisan Policy Council provide a measure of hope that federal legislators are waking up to the need for across-the-aisle collaboration and a focus on shared goals. And now ITNI is building Big Tent Nation, an online platform which will support engagement by citizens and experts, will create a venue for sustained collaboration, and will allow the community to develop and implement roadmaps for outreach in economic policy areas such as Innovation, K-12 Education, Workforce Development and Infrastructure.

The Mission

Currently, focused and disciplined coalitions largely drive policy development and implementation.  In the United States today these coalitions overwhelmingly represent narrow economic and ideological interests – leaving the interests of the nation as a whole chronically underrepresented.  This imbalance serves to undermine our economic competitiveness by directing too little attention to shared economic resources such as infrastructure and education and too much to protecting the status quo and the players who profit from it.  Big Tent Nation is committed to changing this equation.  How?  By radically simplifying and enriching the way mainstream citizens learn about and engage with American economic policy.  This will be accomplished by developing an online civic engagement platform that will facilitate citizens working together and partnering with a diverse, high integrity community of thought leaders.  The cornerstone of this effort will be giving mainstream citizens the opportunity to build a personalized civic homepage in less than two minutes.  This customized “Situation Room” will reflect their individual economic priorities and put a state-of-the-art toolkit for learning, collaboration and outreach at their fingertips.  It will also harness gamification insights to make the process rewarding, enriching and fun.

Take a look at this introductory video to get an idea of what we're up to:

The Status

The goal is to build a community - and a platform through which members may learn about the key Priority areas, share information with one another, collaborate on problem and solution identification, and act to bring about meaningful change. To reach that goal, we've begun work with development partners (Fresh Tilled Soil and Janeiro Digital, to name two) to prototype some key functions. We'll keep honing that prototype, but need community help to do that, and to begin the process of community development, content creation and overall outreach. We've developed the current site (you are here!) with Veracity Media (on the NationBuilder platform) to support our community and platform development. With your very active participation, we'll work towards launch of a fully functional "Minimum Viable Product". Here's a graphical representation of our process:

Big Tent Nation Development

Join Us!

We have built this site in the interim in order to share our vision and to begin to build a strong community to help implement this vision of a fully participatory democracy. We'll post examples of proposed capabilities, processes and member environments on the Features and Feedback page, and will ask for your ideas on how best to create a sustainable, effective platform. We'll facilitate discussion, even among those with very different viewpoints, and we'll welcome spirited, even heated, disagreement - as long as it's focused on the common goal of finding ways to solve the problems we all face. Please join us, keep in touch, and tell us what we're doing right - and, more importantly, where we've gone wrong. It will take time and sustained effort, but we believe that the vision of a more powerful citizenry can be realized.

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