TED meetings, Aspen Institutes, SXSW, and Sundance are all billed as “thought-leader gatherings” where “rock stars” emerge from their “silos” to learn about “disruptive” ideas that have been carefully “curated,” as New York magazine recently described. Yet in America's polarized culture, are these events as ideologically diverse and cross-cutting as they should be?
Convening experts from a diversity of political backgrounds at these types of forums is important on a number of grounds. The social bonding, positive emotions, and competitive collegiality that develop within ideologically cross-cutting forums can serve as the engines for innovative policy ideas on issues ranging from health care to energy, forging networks of trust. Universities in particular should view themselves as critically important sponsors and conveners of cross-cutting public dialogue.
One of the more inspiring and cross-cutting thought leader forums I have had the opportunity to participate in occurred last year at the Breakthrough Dialogues, convened by the liberal think tank The Breakthrough Institute. Below is a highlight reel on the weekend, organized around the theme of "Modernizing Liberalism." You can also watch a range of the speakers discuss their ideas and proposals via a multi-media hub based on the event. The next Breakthrough Dialogue is coming up at the end of June. I am looking forward to attending and will be blogging about the ideas discussed.