When a woman makes a statement she discovers her voice and capacity for thought leadership.
When she puts what she thinks into her own words, she owns those thoughts in a new, more powerful and confident way.
When a woman finds her voice, it’s transformational.
So how can a woman find her voice on policy? What do you discuss at Policy Circle meetings? Who writes the Policy Briefs and how often are they updated? Read below for some frequently asked questions about the “Year of Conversation” curriculum and more …
Like the books at your book club meeting, Policy Briefs are the heart of every Circle meeting. Members read one of the 23 briefs available ahead of time and come prepared to discuss.
Policy Briefs are 10 -15 page fact-based overviews of major policy topics, written from the perspective that policy should create an economic environment where human creativity can flourish, thus providing the best path to prosperity for all. Policy Briefs are designed to enable you to learn about a policy area in an approachable and accessible manner. You can stay high-level by reading the complete brief or go deep by clicking through to read follow-up articles and watch recommended videos.
Each brief has an accompanying discussion guide; both are posted online and are available to print at your convenience.
Briefs are organized into a curricula collectively called “A Year of Conversation” which provides a path for learning about and discussing various policy topics with your Circle. For a Circle’s first year, there are several suggested briefs that create a strong foundation for your Circle’s discussions. For years two and beyond, Circles can select Policy Briefs from a list organized by monthly theme.
You can follow the curriculum as designed or cover the briefs in an order that fits your group’s interests – it’s up to your Circle.
The Policy Circle generally publishes and updates annually according the month they are featured.
Congratulations! Hopefully you are confident discussing policy in key areas and now are ready to take a deeper dive. Some Circles have chosen to focus on an area — one example is Poverty — which can be broken into multiple studies of minimum wage, education, prison reform and mediating structures.
If a Circle has a topic they would like to tackle but does not see an option in the library of Policy Briefs, please reach out to us for suggested resources or to place on the list for development.
We also encourage you to reach out to your state policy organization (see link below) for more in-depth information on policy areas and related legislative priorities.
Kristin Jackson and Beth Feeley edit the Policy Briefs, curating information from respected think tanks and policy writers to provide national-level information about the policy areas and issues.
The Policy Circle also works with state policy organizations for information relevant at the state level.
Women learn from one another based on what they read, know, experience and share through discussion; there are no outside speakers at Circle meetings. Read the designated Policy Brief prior to your Circle meeting and you’ll be prepared to participate in the discussion.
Each Policy Brief contains a short historical overview, key facts, role of government, suggested policy solutions, thought leaders and additional resources as well as a Discussion Guide for use at your Circle meeting.
Yes! If you find a resource that you find valuable and reflects the Policy Circle core principles, please use it. In fact, let us know at email@example.com so we can share across the Policy Circle network.
What To Discuss - Year One
In your Circle’s first year, the goal is create a strong foundational understanding civic responsibility, the principles of free market economics and fiscal responsibility and how free market solutions can address specific policy areas, starting with addressing poverty. The following briefs will help you do that.
Meeting 1: Getting to Know Each Other and Building a Circle Community
Who are my fellow Policy Circle members and why are we each here? What is a Policy Circle and how will it help me sharpen my views and strengthen my voice? These questions and more will be answered.
Meeting 2: Free Enterprise
The United States was built on the ideas of free enterprise, property rights and the rule of law. In this brief, learn about free-market principles, the historic significance of the free-market system and how it has allowed the U.S. to enjoy unprecedented individual freedom and economic growth and prosperity.
Meeting 3: Civic Engagement
Gain a deeper understanding of the importance of America participation in civic life in this brief on Civic Engagement. This once-cherished American value is in decline but The Policy Circle is helping to rebuild it at the grassroots level.
Meeting 4: Fiscal Responsibility
The growing federal deficit and national debt harms economic growth, which is what drives standards of living and prosperity for all. As entitlement programs are the main drivers of the deficit and the debt, government restraint and spending reform can bring the debt back down to sustainable levels and allow for greater economic growth.
Meeting 5: Poverty
America has always been considered the land of opportunity, but our welfare system has become one that can discourage those who want to make better lives for themselves and their families. Many current poverty programs encourage individuals to stay on welfare instead of joining the workforce, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and preventing them from reaching their full potential. This brief covers what human creativity can accomplish in a free-market economy regarding the issue of poverty.
What To Discuss: Year Two and Beyond
After you’ve built a foundation, your Circle can explore the following “Year of Conversation” monthly policy themes at your Circle meetings. Each theme features multiple briefs to choose from and can be revisited from time to time as they are updated every year. Most Circles meet every other month and take a break over in July and August.
For your meeting, select one brief from the list provided. You are also welcome to cover the briefs in an order that fits your Circle’s interests.
January/February: The US and the World
The U.S. has long served as a pillar of global security and stability — promoting democracy and prosperity and opposing human rights abuses and repressive rogue regimes. Some would argue that in the past few years it has somewhat withdrawn from that role.
What is the current threat landscape? How can we remain loyal to our allies, and protect our key national security interests? And how do we address issues such as Immigration?
The following briefs are available to support this discussion:
- Foreign Policy: Middle East
The United States, often referred to as the “indispensable nation” or the “world’s policeman,” has long been essential to global security and stability. Since World War II, America has promoted democracy and prosperity, and opposed dictatorships and human rights abuses across the globe. In this brief on Foreign Policy in the Middle East we examine the current threat landscape in the Middle East and how it impacts core U.S. security interests.
- Foreign Policy: Asia-Pacific
U.S. policy towards activities in the Asia Pacific region has vital national security, diplomatic, and economic implications for the U.S. With the rising belligerence of North Korea through its missile launches, the U.S.’s role on the world stage as a beacon of freedom and democracy is increasingly in the spotlight. Read on to learn more about our allies and security challenges, and the strategic goals and implications of U.S. foreign policy in Asia, in particular with respect to China and North Korea.LINK: https://www.thepolicycircle.org/brief/u-s-foreign-policy-asia-pacific-region/
“We are a nation of immigrants.” No doubt you have heard that well-known saying describing the rich tradition of people arriving from all over the world onto our shores to find opportunity and forge a new life of prosperity. Immigration has also become a highly charged topic with wide-ranging viewpoints on who should be allowed entry and what the right levels of immigration are for our country. In this brief on Immigration we provide an overview of this issue, define some key terminology, outline varying viewpoints and identify resources where you can learn more.
- Digital Landscape
From email and smartphones to Cyber Monday and Net Neutrality, technology has become an essential component of our lives. The following brief explores the digital landscape within the United States and across the world, as well as what governments and individuals can do to advance the social and economic benefits of technology. This brief will provide a basic understanding of the digital landscape, the government’s role in promoting digital infrastructure, and areas for reform including education, healthcare, data privacy, and security.
March/April: The Ins and Outs of Economics
Economic growth affects our living standards. We need innovation to make our lives better, keep our children healthier, and create opportunities for greater prosperity for all citizens.
What policies drive economic growth? How do government rules and regulations help or hinder our economy? How do taxes impact citizens’ lives and the government services we receive? How do we define fiscal responsibility and what can be done to reduce the rapidly rising debt levels?
The following briefs are available for discussion:
- Economic Growth
This brief on Economic Growth discusses the best means of achieving economic growth, the value of limited government, restrained government spending and taxes, and promoting free market solutions and competition to enable our economy to flourish.
Entitlements are programs that provide for the poor and elderly as well as those who are disabled. For some the term “entitlements” stirs controversy. Is one ‘entitled’ to benefits because they paid into the system that provides a program or service later in life? Are those living below the poverty line ‘entitled’ to receive help because as a society we have an obligation to help those in need? Regardless, entitlements are a political timebomb as they become more financially unsustainable over time and remain a perennial challenge to reform. The following Entitlements brief looks at federal entitlements and what can be done to preserve the programs that address the needs of our society.
- Fiscal Responsibility
The growing federal deficit and national debt threatens economic growth, primarily through growing entitlement programs. This brief on Fiscal Responsibility outlines the argument for government restraint and spending reform to bring national debt down to sustainable levels, allowing for the levels of economic growth needed to fund necessary public programs for those truly in need.
High tax rates inhibit economic growth and serve as a disincentive for individuals, families and businesses to work hard, save and invest in new enterprises. This brief on Taxes reviews the difference between average and marginal tax rates, explores the complexity of the current U.S. tax code and makes a case for the urgent need for reform, both to allow the economy and small businesses to thrive, and to make our tax system simple, efficient, equitable and predictable.
The Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law in 2010 following the 2008-2009 economic recession. What caused the housing and economic crisis of 2008? Was it greedy bankers? Was government policy to blame? Review this brief on Dodd-Frank to understand the role government policies played in incentivizing overrated subprime mortgage lending and the lessons that can be applied to Dodd-Frank reform.
- Government Regulation
Ideally, regulations are designed to protect individuals and/or the environment, yet regulations impact people’s ability to launch and grow innovative products or services to serve their communities and employ people. The number and nature of regulations that balance protection of people and/or resources remains an area of debate. This brief on Government Regulation outlines and explores regulation from a free-market perspective with the goal of creating an economic environment where human creativity can best flourish.
- Short Reads: Foundational Readings for the Free-Market WomanThis brief features condensed versions of works by great economists whose works every Policy Circle woman should know. If you’ve always wanted to better understand the writings of Milton Friedman, brush up on The Federalist Papers, or just get a better all-around grasp of free-market economic theory, take a moment to read through this concise and approachable guide. Background on each author, excerpts, and links to condensed versions of classic free-market texts are listed to help you get up to speed on classic thought leaders and their works in the field of free-market economics.LINK: https://www.thepolicycircle.org/brief/foundational-readings-free-market-woman/
This brief is a compilation of foundational work about the free-enterprise system and is helpful for reflecting upon, understanding and articulating the power of free markets and individual freedom to create opportunities for everyone, especially the most vulnerable.
- Energy and Environment
Americans desire energy sources that are reliable, affordable and clean, so we can fuel our economy while responsibly overseeing our natural resources. But can you really achieve all three simultaneously when it comes to energy policy and the environment? What is the current energy situation in the U.S. and how did we get here? And what energy policy best balances these goals in meeting our energy needs while being responsible stewards of the world’s resources?LINK: https://www.thepolicycircle.org/brief/energy-and-the-environment/
May/June: Creating Opportunity
Barriers to opportunity prevent people from finding their own paths to prosperity. Policies that enable people to live free from government dependency and to develop skills and experience leading to employment creates sustainable change in peoples’ lives and enables them to follow their dreams. Topics for discussion include K-12 Education Reform, Higher Education Reform and addressing Poverty.
The following briefs are available for discussion:
America has always been considered the land of opportunity. Unfortunately, our welfare system has become one that can discourage those who want to make better lives for themselves and their families. Many current poverty programs encourage individuals to stay on welfare instead of joining the workforce, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and preventing them from reaching their full potential. This brief on Poverty in America: Creating Opportunity covers what human creativity can accomplish in a free-market economy regarding the issue of poverty.
- Education: K-12
Education policy set at the national level impacts our state and our community. We are responsible for implementing, measuring and improving the level of education that our children receive. This brief includes background on the history of education, facts and research regarding the state of education today, with details on federal and state education budgets; public school system spending per pupil by state; administrative costs vs. classroom spending; and proposed solutions for education reform. The brief on K-12 Education Reform examines free-market solutions to promote reform at the local and state level, with more school choice, innovation, flexibility, transparency and accountability.
- Education: Higher Ed
This brief on Higher Education Reform covers the many difficulties that attaining higher education poses to young people and their families today. We examine the declining value of a high school diploma; the rising cost of a college degree and its lack of affordability for middle class families; student loan debt and policy; and innovative free-market solutions to these problems, including increasing funding for vocational training; reforming the college accreditation process; re-establishing loan limits; and developing creative college financing proposals, among others.
- Education Savings Account (ESAs)
What would you do if your child was not thriving in his or her school environment? What if you could use the money your state sets aside for him or her to tailor a better educational fit? That is what Education Savings Accounts are for. Education Savings Accounts, also known as “ESAs,” empower parents to find a better fit educational solution an offer are a promising development in education reform.
- Creating Career Pathways
What policies can best meet the labor needs of our currently growing economy? And how can this urgent need for qualified workers be leveraged to lift up those in distressed communities who are in particular need of improved opportunity? The Policy Circle has assembled a panel of speakers who are leading the charge in proven tactics, like apprenticeship programs and technical college scholarships, and emboldening women and those with disabilities in the workforce. This brief provides an overview of workforce readiness, why it matters and what your role can be, especially related to distressed communities.
September/October: Civics & Democracy
The purpose of this topic is to understand and discuss the pillars on which the United States was built such as free enterprise, property rights, the rule of law, as well as how our institutions work and how our government is structured.
The following briefs are available for discussion:
- Civic Engagement
This brief on Civic Engagement provides our Circle members with a deeper understanding of the importance of American participation in civic life, explains why this once-cherished American value is in decline and outlines how The Policy Circle is helping to rebuild civic engagement at the grassroots level.
This brief on Why Free Enterprise Matters is a compilation of foundational work about the free enterprise system and is helpful for reflecting upon, understanding and articulating the power of free markets and individual freedom to create opportunities for everyone, especially the most vulnerable.
- Free Speech
Freedom of expression – also referred to as freedom of speech for individuals and freedom of the press — is often noted as central to a vibrant democracy. In the United States, we enjoy free speech to an extent that is relatively rare compared to other countries. It is the most cherished of our freedoms because it underlies the exchange of ideas, self-determination and freedom itself.
This brief discusses freedom of speech as provided in the First Amendment of the Constitution, why it is important in a democracy, court decisions that have limited and/or expanded these freedoms over time, and the challenges of supporting freedom of speech while also promoting safety and security.
- The U.S. House of Representatives
It can be challenging to keep up with what’s going on in Washington — especially with the confusing and complicated legislative processes. This brief on the U.S. House of Representatives is designed to explain the legislative branch of our government, specifically the inner workings of the House of Representatives, and how you can participate in and even influence the legislative process.
- The U.S. Senate
This brief on the U.S. Senate explains the role of the Senate to provide advice and consent on presidential appointments and treaties and to temper enthusiasm with wisdom and experience. You’ll learn about the inner workings of the U.S. Senate, and how it works with the House in crafting and passing legislation.
- Election Integrity
Elections are the lifeblood of democracy and free society. But elections must be free and fair in order for the results to be respected and to rely on them to determine who governs our local communities, states, and country. How can you play a role in ensuring the integrity of the electoral process on Election Day? Read on for an overview of elections, types of fraud that threaten the integrity of elections, and the role you can have in ensuring fair and reliable election results.
- Elections: Assessing Candidates
When it comes time to vote, making an informed decision depends upon your understanding of the issues, knowing how to assess whom you are going to vote for, and how you can participate in the political process through your vote, your time and/or your money. Read on for resources to make your voice heard this election cycle and beyond.LINK: https://www.thepolicycircle.org/brief/election-integrity-role-election-day
- Elections: The Basics of Campaign Finance
The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees your right to free speech, and political donations are an extension of that right. The Constitution Center lists the First Amendment, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Read on to learn more about how campaign finance works and how your donations can make your voice heard.LINK: https://www.thepolicycircle.org/brief/elections-the-basics-of-campaign-finance/
November/December: Building Blocks of the American Dream.
The healthcare industry represents one-sixth of the US economy and affects every American.
New regulations put in place by the Affordable Care Act have caused individuals to lose insurance plans they wanted to keep and have compromised economic growth and prosperity, as businesses have been forced to reduce work hours for many workers to comply with these regulations. The expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act has also created state budget crises.
The following briefs are available for discussion:
- Healthcare: Overview
This brief on Healthcare Reform covers a brief history of healthcare and the complications arising from ACA as well as suggested proposals for reform. Your Circle may use this brief to discuss the overall picture, and then decide to dig deeper into aspects that touch your community directly.
- Healthcare: Obamacare
This brief the state of healthcare in 2016 provides an update on Obamacare as of 2016 and the changes needed to make healthcare available and affordable for all Americans.
- The Opioid Epidemic
Opioid addiction now has been declared a “public health emergency.” Drug overdose is the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, and the use of opioids killed more than 50,000 people last year alone. What are the roots of this scourge that has affected people at all levels of the socio-economic ladder? How do we help those hooked on these deadly drugs and prevent others from becoming addicted? The following brief explores the opioid crisis facing the country, facts you need to know and ideas about what government and individuals can do to address the situation.LINK: LINK: https://www.thepolicycircle.org/brief/the-opioid-epidemic/
Traditionally, owning a home has been equated with achieving the American Dream. As Housing America states it: “Without safe, decent and affordable housing, children won’t get the education they need; seniors will be unable to age in place; veterans and people with disabilities will not be surrounded and supported by community, and families will be unable to thrive.” So, is owning a home still a crucial part of the American Dream? And what about housing for those for whom it has been a perennial struggle? What roles do society and government play to meet the universal need for a safe place to call home?
Focusing on Your State
Each state faces unique challenges and legislative priorities will differ accordingly. Once Circles have foundational understanding of policy, many work with their state-based policy organizations to take a “deep dive” into issues affecting your state. By connecting with these experts, you can identify how to influence policy at the state level.
For a list of state-based policy organizations, click here.
For an introduction to a state-based policy organization, click here.
For a list of state-level civic and political engagement overviews, click here.