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The Grafton Conference: A History of Advancing Policy Conversation in Vermont, 1984 - 2007

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In the 1980s, the Windham Foundation realized that there was no statewide vehicle to address public policy issues that affect all Vermonters. Lacking financial resources for consultants or think tanks, policy planners had no regular forum to debate issues in a way that might lead to unique Vermont solutions. It was from these observations that the Grafton Conference Project was born. Grafton Conferences are two-day informal sessions held at The Old Tavern (Grafton, Vt.). They are free flowing, self-directed discussions of topics at hand, led entirely by the participants. Conference participants are chosen for their knowledge and previous work on a particular topic. They are asked to question their own positions, challenge others, and leave preconceived solutions outside the meeting. Most work is done in a combination of small breakout groups and larger plenary meetings. This process develops ideas built by consensus that benefit all Vermonters. This discussion offers a look at the development, challenges, and successes of this deliberative process of policy investigation and the resulting proposals. Over the years the project has taken on most of the big issues in Vermont.

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