Is an Internet Forum for Public Policy Possible?

As most of you that know me are aware, I love political science and public policy. My whole career has been spent doing work in the public sector or involving myself with related organizations.

What I love doing is spending my free time reading about these topics. If you look at the books I read in 2017, I read 26 books on politics and social issues in 2017. Many of the people I follow on Twitter work in this space and I take time to read new papers published on the topic.

But I think what I find lacking on the internet is a central space where policy professionals can discuss the industry. Although people work on a variety of issues from governance, to finance, health, the environment, education etc., I still think a common space could be an amazing breeding ground to share ideas and voice opinions. Why can’t something like this exist?

Looking around the web, there’s a few possibilities that all come up short. You have Reddit, which does have a community /r/PublicPolicy but it is mostly dead. Other subs that come close are /r/IRStudies or the various economics subreddits, but these are mostly contained to one specific issue. On Twitter, the sphere is relatively fractured between networks of academics and professionals that follow/know each other. I am wholly underwhelmed by Political Science Rumors which serves mostly as a gossip board and filled with trolling graduate students. And most other places on the internet either don’t care about these discussions, or place more focus on recent news of high profile politicians.

But why isn’t there a place for articles about improving service delivery, policy design, quantitative and qualitative analysis, community engagement, advances in policy/civic tech, program evaluation? A place where everyone working in this industry or studying it academically can speak, discuss and share knowledge?

The problem I feel with most discussions about political science and public policy, is that many people get caught up in the hype of recent events or become too ideologically driven based on political affiliation. And although those are pertinent factors that can affect discussion, I would much prefer to have a neutral space to address ideas specifically, not hating or glorifying specific politicians/parties. Public policy professionals are supposed to be non-partisan and implement ideas based on their merit, I’ like to translate that into this digital space.

Someone on Twitter said I should be the change I want to see in the world and start one. I’m thinking about it, but I’m not sure I have a huge appetite for moderating the discussions that often come with politics.

I’m a fan of the Hacker News template, and there are many github projects out there that would make it easy to start a public policy focused clone. But maybe its not the best form for a forum of this type, I’m not sure.

I’ll park the idea for now, and maybe reserve the domain. I’ll come back to it in a little bit.

If you think its a great idea, or even if you think its a terrible idea, let me know your thoughts at @jtloong.

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