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Obama’s Big Job: Harnessing The Energy Of The Crowd

Please note: This will be my last post for the year, as the holidays are approaching.  I'd like to thank everyone for taking the time to read this blog and I wish all of you a merry and bright holiday season and New Year! I'll see you all in January 2009.  


I’ve been watching with great interest as President-elect Barack Obama conductsfix_hc_change.png transition-related business while beginning to engage in two-way dialogue with the American people about the future of the country.  I’m been paying special attention to the transition team’s focus on health care and their efforts to encourage Americans to participate in the reform process.  
Earlier this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle said he read thousands of comments on health reform over a weekend and was impressed by what he found.  Now, Daschle is asking Americans to hold discussions in their homes over the holidays about the topics.  Daschle has also promised to attend a few in person.

I think this effort is admirable, but Obama’s staff is going to have to quickly figure out how to harness the energy of the crowd they are gathering to discuss health reform.  A couple of things concern me:

1. The Danger Of Unspoken Expectations: It is great that Daschle and his team are listening to the public.  However but to date I haven’t seen any information about what the administration will do with the data and information coming out of these discussions.  How will suggestions be collated and organized?  Which suggestions will rise to the top and become policy?  People participating in a conversation need to know the rules of the road, otherwise they may be disappointed about its outcomes.

2. The Danger Of Ignoring What Has Come Before:  In 2003, Congress created the Citizen’s Health Care Working Group.  The Group conducted numerous conversations with Americans (both online and offline) about what they would like the U.S. health system to look like.  The Group developed a detailed report, which has numerous suggestions about health reform.  How will Daschle’s effort incorporate the results of this initiative and improve and expand upon it?  

Hopefully, Obama’s team is thinking about these critical issues and will be addressing them soon. 


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