Forum Director John Burkhardt Joins Kettering Winter 2012 Retreat

Forum Director John Burkhardt was recently a guest of the Kettering Foundation for their 2012 Winter Retreat.

The event was recently written up in Kettering’s newsletter, The Commons:

Discussion at our Winter Retreat (Jan. 18-20) focused on higher education in democracy. To inform that discussion, a number of people joined us, including:

  • John Burkhardt, National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good
  • Elizabeth Hollander, Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
  • Chris Gates, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement
  • Rob Lehman, Fetzer Institute
  • John Saltmarsh, New England Resource Center for Higher Education

During a big-picture discussion, Chris Gates made an observation that sparked a lot of conversation. He said that social media has completely reframed the relationship between citizens and institutions, including higher education. Gates shared what he has learned from his experience, that the “DNA” of social media is transparency and democracy and that there is no longer any legitimate reason for a gap between citizens and experts in terms of data, decision making, etc. Gates noted that this technology also eliminates the need for intermediaries, such as institutions; citizens can speak for themselves. A challenge for institutions in aligning themselves with the work of citizens is that many people in government, nonprofit, and higher ed institutions still see themselves as intermediaries. Eventually, as executive editor of NIF issue books Brad Rourke noted, institutions and social media will have to learn to productively coexist.

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