Who We Are
The Policy Circle is an educational, non-political organization. It is non-profit and non-partisan but has a point of view – that public policy should foster human creativity in a free-market economy and that government should spend our tax dollars responsibly. The Policy Circle brings together women in communities across the nation to learn about public policy, strengthen their voices through face-to-face discussion, and provide the facts and confidence to become influencers in their communities.
How It Started
Co-founders, Sylvie Légère, Angela Braly, and Kathy Hubbard were each engaged in public policy, but noted “there were very few women in the room” at policy discussions. Together, they created The Policy Circle as a simple and replicable model for providing a forum for women to pause, reflect, and move past the headlines.
“Women have a mind of their own,” explains Co-Founder Angela Braly. “They know their voices. They found their voice. They just need to practice their voice so that they can have the confidence to go out in the community and have their voice heard.”
What We Discuss
Discussions focus on issues that impact people’s lives. Members of each Policy Circle determine what issues they would like to discuss at their meetings. The Policy Circle provides the scholarly research on these issues in the form of Policy Briefs, which members use as a starting point for their discussions.
What is a Brief?
The Policy Circle Briefs are at the heart of Policy Circle discussions. Focusing the conversation around a brief curated with subject matter expertise helps to ground the discussion in facts.
How are Briefs Written?
The Policy Circle curates existing research to provide a roadmap for informed discussions. Each Policy Circle brief provides historical context, facts to know, an overview of the government’s role, challenges and potential reforms, and ideas for action on a given topic. In addition, each brief incorporates multimedia resources to learn more, recommends thought leaders to follow in order to stay up-to-date, and includes a discussion guide to dig deeper. Importantly, the content is gathered from credible, cited sources ranging from government data to investigative journalism and academic studies. We work with state-based policy organizations to also offer relevant state and local information. Citations are included so readers can access these in-depth sources for more information.
After presenting the historical basics of an issue, the brief often comes across a bump in the road where perspectives on an issue diverge. This is where The Policy Circle brief cites academic studies or government data alongside the public opinion to provide context and grant respect to the rooted arguments on both sides of the issue. Once the reader gains a full 360-degree understanding of all valid points of view, the journey continues.
By the end of the brief, the reader has data, definitions, and context for understanding a policy topic, be it education, poverty, immigration, or health care, as well as a better understanding of the sub-issues that make a policy debate so complicated.
Deeply understanding and debating various policy approaches is vital to a vibrant democracy, and is at the core of each Policy Circle brief. For a more detailed look at our brief-writing process, see our How We Build a Brief explainer.
What Perspective is Applied When Curating the Briefs?
The philosophers who inspired our Founding Fathers set the scene. As Bret Stephens explains, back then policy disagreements sharpened one’s thinking:
“Socrates quarrels with Homer. Aristotle quarrels with Plato. Locke quarrels with Hobbes and Rousseau quarrels with them both. Nietzsche quarrels with everyone. Wittgenstein quarrels with himself.
“These quarrels are never personal. Nor are they particularly political, at least in the ordinary sense of politics. Sometimes they take place over the distance of decades, even centuries.
“Most importantly, they are never based on a misunderstanding. On the contrary, the disagreements arise from perfect comprehension; from having chewed over the ideas of your intellectual opponent so thoroughly that you can properly spit them out.
“In other words, to disagree well you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely.
“You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say.”
Thankfully for us as a nation, our founding fathers also engaged in debate to sharpen their thinking. With Jefferson and Madison alongside Hamilton and Adams, this unique and lasting American experiment embodies robust differences of opinion.
Take the relationship between Jefferson and Adams. They were close friends who worked together to write the Declaration of Independence, respected each other and spent years (near and far) corresponding about their beliefs. They defended and explained their stances, while taking time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the counter position. Politics drove them apart for ten years at the height of their political careers when they served as back-to-back U.S. Presidents, alongside the daily fear that the American experiment could come crashing to a halt. Yet they maintained their esteem for each other and resumed their correspondence for 15 years prior to their death, both passing on July 4th, 1826.
Jefferson was never going to support a strong central government, and Adams was never going to believe that power was best delegated to all the individual states – but they truly respected each other enough to listen to, and learn from, the other’s perspectives.
For a more recent example, look no further than the late Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This NPR piece explains how the staunch liberal justice and staunch conservative justice were “best buddies” who made each other better. We are all better, stronger, and smarter when we have a “working colleague and treasured friend,” as Scalia and Ginsburg had in each other.
Every point-of-view deserves a fair representation of where it originated and why it remains. The Policy Circle briefs should inspire readers with a roadmap to understand well, read deeply, listen carefully, and watch closely.
How Meetings Are Structured
Once a Policy Circle chooses the brief they want to discuss, members decide on a time and place to hold a meeting. Meetings can be face-to-face in people’s homes or a shared community space, or they can be virtual.
The Policy Circle Roundtable Discussion format provides for an effective, balanced discussion so that everyone has a chance to share their views and no one is allowed to dominate.
Experts can participate, but they are part of the conversation, rather than drivers of the conversation. The Policy Circle is not a model based on listening to a speaker; instead, the goal is to allow members to form their own opinions based on their perspective and understanding of the facts.
Some members are asked to assume roles during the group discussion such as:
- A facilitator who uses the discussion guide to ask questions
- A timekeeper who keeps the conversation on track and on topic
- A scribe who takes notes and posts a summary on the website
What We Agree Upon
At our meetings, we agree to adhere to the following principles:
- The free-enterprise system works: We believe the core idea that free-market practices and policies provide greater opportunity and better lives, even for the most vulnerable in every community.
- Social issues are not discussed: Public policy discussions of certain social issues can be divisive and distracting, so we agree to a “truce” on those subjects while we focus on key issues affecting our communities.
- Fact-based dialogue: We learn through reliable, data-driven research from well-known and respected sources.
- Learn from each other: There is value in having face-to-face discussions in a safe forum that empowers women to share ideas, find their voice, learn from each other and be engaged in their communities.
- Each of us is an agent of change: We seek to increase the number and power of women who support these ideas. Talk about The Policy Circle!
- What is said in a Circle stays in a Circle: Circle discussions are “off the record,” meaning that what is said in a Circle is not intended to be attributed publicly to the person speaking publicly or recorded. If, however, a person writes on the website, in a blog, on social media, or speaks at a gathering or public forum, she cannot expect that those statements will be maintained as “off the record.”
- Privacy of Contact Information: Circle members do not use the contact information of other members for business or fundraising purposes.
- The Policy Circle is a 501(c)(3) charity. As such, it does not engage in lobbying or political activity. We respect your opinions and affirm your right to lobby or engage in political activity in your individual capacity. However, Circle Members are not permitted to lobby or engage in political activity on behalf of, or using the name of, The Policy Circle.
Suggestions for your Next Conversation
Explore the Series
This brief is part of a series of recommended conversations designed for circle's wishing to pursue a specific focus for the year. Each series recommends "5" briefs to provide a year of conversations.