How We Choose Issues to Promote the Public Interest

Public Knowledge advocates for freedom of expression, an open internet, affordable communications tools and other policies that benefit the public. As with all policymaking, our work doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We begin our policy research by analyzing particular markets, learning how they function and determining whether there are impediments to effectively promoting our mission that require policy intervention.

We select issues and adjust our work based on an assessment of the greatest likelihood of reaching policy goals in a reasonable timeframe. We consider whether we have the expertise and staff resources to engage effectively on an issue. We also consider whether we have a unique voice or role to play that adds to the debate, surfaces particular ideas, or makes success more likely for the field.

Part of our assessment involves understanding how other stakeholders, including companies and trade associations acting in their own self-interest, as well as our colleagues in the public interest community, are likely to augment or detract from our policy efforts. We form alliances based on mutual shared goals, not ideology or political leanings. Nonprofits or companies that oppose us on one issue may be allies on another. Our work with or against any particular set of players in the policy arena is based on our best assessment of who, for whatever set of reasons, may help or hinder our ability to achieve our policy goals.

We make policy decisions based on the merits of the issues, and we make coalition participation choices based on whether we believe a coalition is the best way to promote the issues and values we seek to engage on. Allies in one policy battle may become opponents on other policy fronts. We take that into account as we select issues we think can have the greatest impact on advancing both short and long-term policy goals. However, we work with a set of nonprofits who share our overall policy vision, and we therefore bend over backwards to avoid diverging from those who share our overarching values.

Practically, this entire process involves communicating with various organizations and companies as we consider policy positions. The point of these discussions is to find areas we can agree on to benefit the public good, and in the case of companies, where their profit goal actually coincides with our policy goals. We think holistically about how best to promote our mission, consistently reassessing the consumer and public benefits we’re aiming for and the best or most innovative ways to achieve them. In all of our work, we endeavor to promote a creative and connected future for all Americans.

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