Tell state leaders what you want at fall conferences

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.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Tue, 09/22/2015 - 7:39am
You can sit at the table with them but I doubt they are really interested in anything you say unless it lines up with what they already believe on the subject. I would expect a lot of "thank you for your concern" kind of responses with nothing happening beyond that. Its hard not to be cynical about the political process when you live in Michigan.
Tue, 09/22/2015 - 9:16am
"you’ve got to have some kind of college degree to get a good job." Phil, baby, did you read the Mlive thing last week on incomes earned by Michigan's public college enrollees ten years on, the president's thing, publishing the raw data from the various national colleges from which this report was abstracted? Not very encouraging, is it? Most of these kids could earn better by working their way up the management chain at McDs or flipping a stop/slow sign on a road construction crew. The fact that they all aspired to finish college introduces a selection bias into these numbers; these kids were the more ambitious than those who never tried college, and should have done better. The ones who graduated had better families, maybe were a lot smarter and ambitious to reach some sort of long term goal, useless though the goal might prove to be. The correlation of getting more schooling with better earnings does not prove causation, and as recent data shows, the increased earnings ploy is breaking down. You are choosing one side of a correlation of education/earnings. It is just as valid to hold that the kids who finish college would have done better without, or to point out that the employers just love to hire college grads; that way they won't have to hire many minorities (or does that put a racist, sexist spin on the "education" scam?) This stance, the old, now discredited paradigm, that everyone should go to college will convince many simple people who might go to your conferences, but is unravelling as new data arrives. I'm surprised that the current "education president" (I'm sure that he called himself that somewhere) would release these damning raw numbers. The Democrats in public schools and university faculties will not like this. As didisaythat showed, the organizers of your sessions will have to thank a lot of folks for their concerns- embarrassing for all. It would be more graceful if you and Bridgemi caught up with current events, stopped worrying about a constipated political system...... As the facts about education bleed into the public conversation, your conferences will become ever more awkward.
Tue, 09/22/2015 - 10:42am
Raise the gas tax while you can and dedicate 100% to road and infrastructure repairs. College for the most part will never be affordable again. More emphasis on comm. colleges and trades training. R.L.
Tue, 09/22/2015 - 9:57pm
By what is available about the sessions, it appears they are designed for the 'experts' to talk at the audiences and maybe some in the audiences will talk at the 'experts'. It is what I have learned to call a 'sea gull' conference. Each talker drops their point of view and flies away. What we could use are opportunities for people to have conversations, where people are listened to, what they say is hear [not simply acknowledged], where new/innovative ideas are encouraged and discussed. Time on Bridge is because I can hear many people's ideas, concerns, perspectives, I offer thoughts, ask questions, and have the chance that someone will listen and answer or challenge me. It is the closest I have found to a public conversation. I hope people attend the conference validating Mr. Power’s purpose for founding Bridge. I am concerned there will be no new ideas, the theme will be to spend more of other people's money, and we will hear nothing about the conferences. I hope Bridge has an online 'conference' that is about developing innovative ideas for addressing a problem, is about the future [not about a past we can't change], where the comments are about ideas that can be applied locally, about how to make ideas work, and where people are heard and listen. I like competition of ideas that come from diverse perspectives. I like ideas that are about people involvement, not based on spending other people's money. Good luck with the conferences, but if I knew what they cost it may be better to support Bridge accordingly.
Thu, 09/24/2015 - 7:07pm
I just saw the agenda for Career Navigation session. It appears there is no scheduled time for the public attendees to offer any ideas, ask any questions. I wonder how this fits into the idea of letting the politicians, the 'experts', government representives know what individual memebers of the public think. The price is $25, that would probably better spent donating it to Bridge so we can actually hear what other readers think.
AJ Jones
Fri, 09/25/2015 - 10:47am
There will be an opportunity for audience Q&A and participation with each panel.
Fri, 09/25/2015 - 2:05pm
Al, How much time do you think it would be fair to provide a speaker to present their ideas and some explanation, since they have interrupted their day and traveled to the venue? Is there somewhere on the agenda or is it wishful thinking or is something that has been whispered to you that there will be an ooportunity for the 'public' to offer ideas? There is a panel of three people alotted 30 minutes, let us estimate it will be 3 minutes for each introduction, that leaves 7 minutes for each without transition time. How much time will be available for a questions with an answer? The next is 45 minutes for 5 speakers, estimate 15 minutes for introduction, how much time does that leaved for a question and an answer? 2 more 45 minute session with 3 speakers each, how much time for a question and answer? Even over the lunch ther eare presentations of 3 speakers how much time is there for Q&A and time for the explaining of the steps forward? I have to admit my experiece at these sessions is limited, but with all the listing to CVs, clapping, and thank yous it seems this is about the 'experts' telling the audience. How much time do yout think it would take one layman to describe a new idea to an 'expert' that has an established position on an issue? Do you think there will be that much time available? You maybe confident in the speakers and the administering of the agenda, but the schedule doesn't even allow any time for the speakers to move off dias and the others to sitdown and organize there notes. If the session aren't all in the same room then there will have to be even longer times for the 'public' to move from session to session. I expect you will attend, I hope I am wrong because I think this could be an opportunity, so while you are at the session please put a stopwatch on the parts of the sessions where the audience is sharing their ideas with the panels. I will be interested to hear how much of each session is the audiences speaking and the panelist listening. I will openly acknowledge my errors and apologize if 5 minutes per session is the audience talking about more than simply thanking one or all of the panelists for speaking and for what they said. The best hope is the Lunch session.
Stephen Brown
Wed, 09/23/2015 - 1:04pm
I concur with R.L., somewhat, in that Trade Apprenticeships and Community Colleges provide better options than most 4 year college degrees for both employers and many High School graduates. This was done in the USA pre-WWII very successfully, and Germany continues to do so. The State should be encouraging these programs, rather than subsidizing the 4 year colleges, if they want to raise the incomes of working people.