Today, this webpage offers a description of the project and several ways for you to get in the information loop. You’ll be able to sign up for information as a potential advocate/leader, a scholar/philosopher, or an interested citizen or potential issue expert.
As the project progresses over the next several months, you’ll see more details about the concepts, the selected issues, recruiting, and training.
When the pilot is finished, you can read our findings about the issues, and also our findings about the processes we used in the project. You’ll be able to post to a blog, to interact with us on the issues and findings, and on the project/process overall.
Then, in early fall, we’ll let you know what our future plans are for working with other issues in our community and in other venues.
Background[dropcap2]T[/dropcap2]his project has its roots in three convergent needs.
First, numerous complex public issues persist at all levels of community – local, state, and national – with few apparent or effective processes available for their resolution. Examples of such issues include traffic calming or fluoridation of drinking water at the local level; education at the state level, and health care or monetary policies at the national level.
Second, we have identified a diminishment of the characteristics of a Civil Society in the public arena. We are concerned about the substitution of opinion, rhetoric, fear-mongering, and even untruths, instead of truth, wherever issues are discussed publicly, such as in television interviews, news programs, or even public forums such as committee meetings and hearings.
Third, sociologists now recognize a new demographic of seniors who are retired but still healthy, active, and fully capable of continuing to contribute for perhaps two or more decades longer than in previous generations. Nothing in our personal backgrounds, our various cultures, or our society has prepared us for this time in our lives. It is our opinion that many people in this group may have special abilities of value to the community, and needs for enrichment and engagement, beyond the offerings for seniors.
We are calling this the Prime Time Project because it calls on people in the prime of their lives to help resolve critical issues using a timely process especially designed for these kinds of problems.
Our thought is that such a process could be of considerable value to a community, because it gives citizens a way to make a significant contribution to the community by participating in meaningful issue resolution.
Approach[dropcap2]W[/dropcap2]e recognize that a handful of even the best minds may not be able to resolve complex issues in a community volunteer context. But we should be able to contribute to their resolution by focusing on factual information, separating truth from opinion or even untruths.
“You are entitled to your own opinion, Sir, but not your own facts!”
For this project, we have developed a civil, truth-seeking process to research and prepare factual analyses of selected issues, using commonly available resources (e.g., libraries, Internet, professional publications), and with the guidance of experts from relevant fields.
Analysts’ findings will be published in at least two ways: 1) a new page on the LACF website, with a blog for discussion of each issue, and 2) submissions to print and electronic publications.
Analysts initially will be recruited from the Prime Time demographic, with the twin goals of enriching their lives while taking advantage of their professional skills and their mature wisdom.
It is our hope that analysts will take away from this project much more than just the answers to some research questions. Our intention is that the entire process will be interesting, challenging, engaging, and a lot of fun. There will be essential (professional, scholarly) ground-rules and professional guidance, but individual creativity and original thinking are also encouraged.
Experimental Process[dropcap2]T[/dropcap2]he Prime Time Project is a pilot project that will demonstrate and test specific methods for each of these components:
- issue selection
- research and analysis
It is our intention that the process will be assessed, modified, and used again for additional issues in Los Altos and perhaps other communities.
The Training Program
JOE FRIDAY 101[dropcap2]T[/dropcap2]he purpose of the JOE FRIDAY 101 training is to prepare Prime Time Project analysts to identify and frame an issue, select resources, analyze information, and present findings. Pre-, intermediate-, and post-training evaluation of analyst attitudes/capabilities is an integral part of the process.
While many approaches are possible, the coursework focuses narrowly on determining and sharing the “best” factual basis for considering the issue.
Analysts will first become grounded in the meta-concepts of the project (significance; impact; scope) and the principles of a Civil Society as a philosophical basis for their work. They will learn the value of a dispassionate commitment to the unvarnished truth, leaving aside partisan value judgments.
Analysts will learn to examine information resources critically, to distinguish fact from other forms of exposition such as opinion, rumor, hyperbole, rhetoric, fear-mongering, and untruths.
They will learn how to find and analyze scholarly resources such as professional journals and books to develop lines of factual reasoning
They will learn the powerful elements of statistical inference as a key research tool.
They will learn how to organize findings and present them in writing for discussion and publication.
They will participate in pre- and post-training attitude evaluation, to measure the effectiveness of the training as an orientation for functioning in a Civil Society.
Certificates of completion and/or other appropriate reward/recognition will be arranged.
NOTE: it is essential in this first, pilot, stage, that our recruiting process guarantees that every participant will succeed in adopting the necessary attitudes and acquiring the necessary skills for the issue work. The training will take place on two half-days, a week apart, to allow time for small-group projects.
Recruiting[dropcap2]T[/dropcap2]he analysts we need are smart, alert, energetic, and excited to be engaged in something new and different and potentially important.
Our analysts are:
- comfortable with taking responsibility for finding out information they need in other aspects of their lives
- open-minded and willing to put aside their value judgments and biases about an issue, in favor of learning the truth
- free of concerns about time and resources to do the necessary work
- regular Internet-users
- not intimidated by research methods such as evaluating written material and data for professional or personal purposes such as researching a house purchase
- eager to work with a partner who may be on the other side of an issue, and to share resources with others who are working on the same issue.
Phone: 650-949-5908 x 206
Los Altos Community Foundation
163 Hillview Avenue
Los Altos, CA 94022