A locally-based civil institution for civic development like The Boise Commons can take a variety of forms:
- A series of individual exhibits, centrally located or distributed in various locations, designed to provide citizens with new insights into their community, its trends, or specific issues.
- Private dialogues and public forums through which stakeholders can explore issues and policies in powerful ways, with an emphasis on gaining deep understanding, grappling with complexity, and/or moving toward consensus.
- A “Social Planetarium”, or permanent public space serving as a hub for the Commons. It can be set up like an interactive museum, designed to vividly portray issues, relationships, trends, and to allow citizens to access information and play with new tools for civic creativity.
- Websites and apps that serve to support the kinds of exploration and capacity-building described above.
Regardless of what form it takes, we believe that a civil institution for civic development requires the following characteristics if it is to meet the needs of society today:
- It fosters deep insights and powerful learning;
- It helps people grapple with complexity;
- It builds the capacity for collaboration and consensus;
- It empowers citizens through building knowledge and civic competence while providing opportunities for participation;
- It is interactive;
- It invites people to use it, and for purposes important to them rather than based on someone else’s agenda;
- It is accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds;
- It is sustainable;
- It changes patterns; and
- It has strong relationships with other public institutions and other community organizations.