Promoting Broad Prosperity: A Topos Strategy and Research Brief

Promoting Broad Prosperity: A Topos Strategy and Research Brief

October 29, 2009
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Since the Spring of 2007 and continuing into the Summer of 2009, Public Works: The Demos Center for the Public Sector and the Topos Partnership have collaborated on a Ford Foundation-funded effort to create a new public conversation on the role of government in the economy. This effort has included a wide range of qualitative and quantitative research efforts, spanned a period of dramatic change in the national economic landscape, and built on earlier research conducted by Topos principals concerning the public's view of government and public understandings of low wage work. The analysis that follows is a synthesis of the key findings and recommendations from a number of research reports by Topos.

The project was inspired by a perception among advocates that public discourse on economic policy is constrained by the American public's views and understandings of government's role. It was unclear to what extent the public appreciated the importance of policy choices in creating economic outcomes, for instance, or what kind of criteria the public tended to use in evaluating the economy. Previous work conducted for Public Works had made it clear that default perspectives about the nature of government make constructive dialog difficult on a number of important topics, and the same might well be true for thinking about the economy and economic policy. What kinds of communications approaches might effectively overcome problematic patterns in public understanding?