The world is more interconnected than ever before. Issues are more complex than ever before. More information is coming at us than ever before. Yet our ability to make sense of things, to deal with issues, to stay ahead of change, has hardly kept pace. To make matters worse, the level of civil discourse in our society is perhaps at an all-time low. Polarization is the theme of the day in our political sphere, with any semblance of public conversation monopolized by a small number of people and interest groups. And in spite of the promise of richer connections through technology, in some sense the opposite has happened. The “public sphere” is barely hanging on as a reality.
It is arguably the most urgent need of our times that we find ways to restore and sustain a public sphere, so that people can make choices about the present and future lives of their community and their society, intentionally and consciously, and with the creativity and wisdom that comes from working together. Our communities, and our citizens, need new and meaningful opportunities to become engaged with each other and with the issues affecting their lives and future generations. The Commons is dedicated to meeting this need.
Tools, Process, and Culture
There is an abundance of new tools that some hope will foster civic interaction and participatory democracy. However, there is not enough work being done at the deeper levels–the levels of process and culture. The image below illustrates why. The Boise Commons is focused primarily at these deeper levels.
A Civil Institution for Civic Development
The Boise Commons is a new kind of institution: a civil institution for civic development. We believe that this kind of institution is critical and timely. We expect a great deal of learning and sharing in the years ahead, in the hope that many other communities will be inspired to create their own unique civic institutions for civic development that are tailored for the challenges and the possibilities of the 21st century.