National Issues Forum (NIF)
Overview of National Issues Forums
What is NIF?
National Issues Forums (NIF) is a non-partisan, nationwide network of locally sponsored forums for the consideration of public policy issues. They are rooted in the simple notion that people need to come together to reason and talk to deliberate about common problems. Indeed, democracy requires an on -going deliberative dialogue to be healthy.
How does it work?
Forums are sponsored by thousands of organization and institutions within many communities. In Solano County forums are sponsored by the county library, UC Cooperative Extension, local newspapers and other organizations interested in topic specific issues. They offer residents the opportunity to join together to deliberate, to make choices with others about ways to approach difficult issues, and to work towards creating public judgment.
What is public deliberation?
Public deliberation is simply people coming together to talk about community problems that are important to them. Participants deliberate with one another eye-to-eye, face-to-face, exploring options, weighing others’ views, considering the costs and consequences of public policy decisions.
Citizens have an opportunity to make choices about how to solve problems because government alone cannot solve them all. Citizens’ views often differ from officeholders’ views. Deliberation may reveal new possibilities for action that neither citizens nor officeholders saw before.
Forums enrich participants’ thinking on public issues. The process helps people to see issues from different point of view. At their best, forums help participants move toward shared, stable, well-informed public judgments, based on what is valuable to them about important issues. Through deliberation, participants move from making individual choices to finding common ground for action.
How Can I Learn More?
The California NIF Network sponsors workshops to train NIF moderators, recorders and conveners. They provide both NIF newcomers and veterans with background on the program. Participants receive training and practice in moderating forums, become acquainted with NIF materials, discuss how to organize NIF programs in their communities, and learn to appreciate the importance of deliberation in identifying the public perspective on public policy issues.