America's Longest-Standing Global Affairs Education Program

A Great Decisions Discussion Group is composed of interested individuals who want an opportunity to learn and participate in the foreign policy decision-making process. A Discussion Group forms when one of these individuals organizes other individuals in his or her community, job, school or community who are also interested in discussing international issues.

Meetings take place at homes, schools, community centers, churches and libraries. Participants consider discussion groups a "safe" environment because they provide everyone with the opportunity to speak. Each participant's point of view carries equal weight and everyone is encouraged to share opinions and ideas. Consensus is not a goal. Discussion Group participants do not attempt to "convert" participants, because there is a mutual respect for each member's experiences, value systems and beliefs. The true focus of the Discussion Group is the critical examination of all issues and opinions, each recognized as equally valid.

 

Who can participate in Great Decisions discussion groups?

Any individual with an interest in expanding his/her knowledge of international relations as well as engaging in active discussion of crucial global issues is welcome to join. Great Decisions is used by a wide range of people, from high school students to retirees, and participation is not limited to those with an expert knowledge of foreign affairs.

What materials are used in the discussion groups, and what guidelines must be followed?

Great Decisions discussion groups are centered around the Great Decisions briefing book. This well researched annual publication provides eight timely global topics to be read by group participants. Participants should read the briefing book articles prior to group meetings, in order to guarantee that all discussion group members come together from the same point of reference, with the same facts and basic understanding of the issues to be discussed. Everyone is encouraged to share his or her thoughts and each participant's point of view carries equal weight.

Each group has a group leader, who organizes meeting times and dates. The group leader leads a balanced discussion of Great Decisions topics. At the conclusion of each discussion, participants fill out opinion ballots, which are then collected by the group Leader, so they may be tabulated for the National Opinion Ballot Report.

 Why is involvement in a Great Decisions discussion group worthwhile? Foreign Policy Association strives to help Americans gain a better understanding and interest in significant world issues in the belief that in a democracy a concerned and informed public is the foundation for an effective foreign policy. Participation in Great Decisions allows citizens to directly influence policy makers in Washington. Through the National Opinion Ballot Report, participants' opinions on U.S. foreign policy issues are presented to the White House, the departments of State and Defense, members of Congress. The Great Decisions program not only facilitates greater citizen understanding of important global issues, but offers Americans an outlet in which they can influence decisions in the foreign policy process as well.