How does a citizen’s bright idea get adopted and become actual policy?
In a constipated political system increasingly fenced off from ordinary people, this is one of the bigger problems facing us today. If you’re the head of a union or run a big corporation, you won’t have any trouble getting politicians to talk to you. If you’re a billionaire, ditto. But otherwise ‒ even if you’re a recognized expert ‒ it’s often tough to get the ear of someone in the halls of power.
That’s why the Center for Michigan is holding a series of “Solution Summits,” gatherings that bring together experts and political heavyweights along with regular citizens to consider the findings of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center’s recent “Getting to Work” public engagement campaign.
Slated for Livonia, Grand Rapids and Lansing, these are half-day sessions in October and November are designed to explore citizen ideas about careers, skills and opportunity, ideas that emerged from the 5,000 Michiganders who offered their perspectives in small group “community conversations” and public polling over the past few months.
The idea was to start with small group forums designed to provoke citizen views on important and timely topics – career navigation, upward mobility and college value and affordability – and then move to discussion with experts and policy-makers, but with some “ordinary” Michiganders always sitting at the table.
It’s designed to be a way of hopefully opening up policy-making to the people for whom policy is supposedly being designed.
The sessions are as follows:
Monday, October 5, in Livonia: Career Navigation. This event focuses on how to help young people navigate through the confusing morass of community college, university, job training programs and internships. A majority of participants in community conversations and polls ranked the career counseling system in Michigan high schools either “lousy” or “terrible,” with other educational institutions not far off. State Reps. Amanda Price (R-Ottawa County) and Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor), the governor’s Education Policy Advisor Karen McPhee and experts from the Michigan College Access Network and Michigan School Counselor Association will work together to develop concrete suggestions for consideration by policy-makers in Lansing. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Schoolcraft Community College’s Vista Tech Center. REGISTER HERE.
Tuesday, October 20, in Grand Rapids: Challenges to Upward Mobility. Many Michiganders are trapped in dead-end jobs or are looking for ways to get the skills that lead to better careers, economic prosperity and upward mobility. Expert panelists from the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Michigan’s Talent Investment Agenda will talk through the kinds of changes in the labor market that will improve upward mobility for thousands of Michiganders. Talent 2025, West Michigan’s leading skill improvement organization, will help bring the experience of business leaders to the conversation. The event runs from 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Grand Valley’s Eberhard Center. REGISTER HERE.
Monday, November 2, in Lansing: College Value and Affordability. These days, most everybody recognizes you’ve got to have some kind of college degree to get a good job. But sharply rising costs of college have led to an explosion of student debt, which in turn has raised questions about whether the economic gains from a college degree are really worth it. A big majority of community conversation participants called for improved college affordability, increased state support for colleges and more economical college operations. Speakers include Gov. Rick Snyder, university presidents Mark Schlissel (University of Michigan, Lou Anna Simon (Michigan State University) and Thomas Haas (Grand Valley State University) and other national and state educational leaders, including from Michigan’s community colleges. The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel Lansing. REGISTER HERE.
Got a bright idea, but just can’t get the policy makers to listen?
Participating in one or more of these sessions may just be the best way to make that happen.