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An introduction to Oregon’s Kitchen Table

We wanted to share with the NCDD community a unique interactive experiment that the Policy Consensus Initiative, the National Policy Consensus Center and its partners have launched recently in Oregon – Oregon’s Kitchen Table.

The idea of bringing kitchen table wisdom to the public square has a long and storied history.  As PCI Board Co-Chair and former Wyoming Governor James Geringer, wrote in 2004: “My background reflects a time when folks would get together to resolve an issue or agree on something by dropping by the house, leaning on the hood of a pickup truck for a chat, or going inside for coffee and a visit around the kitchen table. Typically, when we agreed on a course of action, a handshake or a simple nod sealed the deal. Issues were resolved and commitments were made around the kitchen table.”

We’ve taken that concept and constructed a virtual kitchen table that’s large enough for all Oregonians to gather around and share their thoughts on critical policy and governance issues.  Over the past month, we’ve invited Oregonians to take a seat at this table, a space where everyone across the state has an equal voice, provides real-time feedback, and ensures that the results are promptly disseminated.

An advisory board of 22 respected educators, non-profit executives, business leaders and former elected officials representing rural and urban areas as well as diverse political viewpoints work closely with PCI staff and public opinion researchers to create in-depth consultations to connect with the values and opinions of Oregonians. The first online citizen consultation, occurring at the end of June, took on questions related to the state’s budget and its relationship to Oregon’s long-term future. The information that participants provide will be used to inform the Governor in developing long and short-term priorities.

As Oregon’s Kitchen Table extends its reach, it will become possible to pull representative random samples from the whole to verify the results. Until that time, we will conduct supplemental consultations to ensure valid scientific results during this experiment phase.

How it works:

  1. Decision makers propose key questions on policy and governance issues that call for citizen input.
  2. The Oregon’s Kitchen Table advisory board works closely with elected leaders and public opinion researchers to create in-depth and non-spun consultations that measure the public’s opinions, attitudes, ideas, beliefs, and values.
  3. The public is invited to the table to share their views on issues of importance on the Oregon’s Kitchen Table website, www.oregonskitchentable.org.
  4. Consultation results are made available to decision-makers, the media and the public through the site. This information can help lawmakers make tough public policy choices.

Oregon’s Kitchen Table is a project of the National Policy Consensus Center, part of the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University. Project partners include the American Leadership Forum Oregon; Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall Inc.; Healthy Democracy Fund; The Luke Center for Catalytic Leadership; The Policy Consensus Initiative; Program for Public Consultation; and Rural Development Initiatives.

As the project proceeds, we will combine in-person and online consultations and will work with folks around the state to increase public connection to important decisions. We’ll let you know how it all works out!


This post was submitted at Sandy’s request by NCDD member Sarah Giles, Program and Communications Coordinator at the National Policy Consensus Center.

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This post was submitted by a member of the NCDD community. NCDD members are leaders and future leaders in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution, and community problem solving. You, too, can post to the NCDD blog by completing the Add-to-Blog form at www.ncdd.org/submit.

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  1. Thank you for writing this up, Sarah! One thing I’ve been wondering is how you recruit participants? What are your strategies for getting people to the site, and getting them to engage once they’re on the site?

    • Sarah Giles says:

      Thanks, Sandy! We did minimal recruitment for the pilot – mostly word of mouth and through our networks. Many of the organizations in Oregon who we’ve worked with – through Oregon Solutions and Oregon Consensus – helped spread the word to their networks. And the Advisory Committee – leaders from around the state – shared it with their communities. Several newspapers and radio stations picked up on it and publicized it as well. We mainly use the blog to keep in contact with folks, and we send emails out to the Table when we’re running a consultation or sharing the results / comments. We’re in the midst of sharing the results and collecting comments on the results right now. As we do other consultations, we’ll figure out other methods for engagement, especially if the consultation is around a very specific issue or region.

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