WAMU asks: What idea would you drop in America’s suggestion box?

Meg Martin
Associate editor
Public Insight Network

Every day now, there’s news of stalemates and impasse at the highest levels of our government. (“Fiscal cliff,” anyone?) Meanwhile, the rest of us hope desperately for detente, and some kind of viable solution amid the posturing.

But what if it wasn’t like that? What if — instead of shaking your fist at the television or throwing down the newspaper because you know you’ve got far more experience with this or that problem than the folks yammering on about it – what if you could share that insight, shape it into a potential solution, and talk it over with other people who’ve got potential solutions of their own?

Public radio station WAMU in Washington, D.C., wondered that, too. Realizing that “there are more than 300 million people in America, but only a sliver of them are paid to make and influence public policy,” station has convened The Big Fix.

It’s a suggestion box, of sorts, for America. Think: SeeClickFix for civil society.

Since fall, regular people have been submitting ideas: What if we had a win-win way to keep Medicare patients out of the ER? What if airlines charged extra for an expedited trip through the security line? What if you could tap into your 401(k) to pay off your credit card debt? What if…? What if…? What if…?

Each of these “What ifs” has been added to WAMU’s “Why Didn’t I Think of That?” website along with details about how how it might work in reality. Next, reporters at WAMU produce stories in which two guests react to some of the ideas while reaching beyond the ideologies they already embrace. The first of these stories will air on WAMU in the Washington area on Dec. 15 at 4 p.m.

The team behind “Why didn’t I think of that?” hopes to expand the project beyond D.C. and work with public radio stations around the country to air questions and solutions relevant to their audiences.

WAMU calls it post-partisan, which, in their words, means “setting the stage for when politicians stop posturing and decide to try actually solving problems.”

Stay tuned. And, in the meantime: It’s your turn. They’re still on the hunt for America’s next great policy ideas.




Meg Martin Associate editor
Public Insight Network
Meg Martin is PublicInsightNetwork.org's associate editor. She joined the PIN crew in St. Paul, Minn., after five years in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Roanoke, Va., where she led the online/multimedia team at the Roanoke Times newspaper. She spent two years before that in St. Petersburg, Fla., at The Poynter Institute - first as a summer writing fellow and later as a fellow and editor at Poynter Online - but she'll always be a Pittsburgher at heart.