Future of Sharing: The President and CEO of New America Discusses a Better Way to Solving Civic Problems

Ann-Marie Slaughter heads the nearly 20 year old New America – a think tank that considers itself “a civic platform that connects a research institute, technology lab, solutions network, media hub and public forum.” Her wide-ranging and energizing conversation touched on many of the challenges and downsides of the new era of tech as as well as her optimism relating to how communities throughout the US are finding solutions.

As a student of history, she understands deeply the historic nature of the period of change that we’re in. It’s the early stages of this shift to a more fully digital world, and it’s going to be a “very, very bumpy ride” and she is worried because “change creates counter reaction and people are scared”. However, she also “thinks that this a period that we have gone through before, often driven by technology, a period where we are reinventing ourselves.”

Even though Slaughter is based on the East Coast, she is considering the problems across the US (and to some extent globally), and sees the good will coming from many in the tech world. She also sees the heartland as the site of much of the rejuvenation that is needed, saying, “I don’t think there’s any important problem in the country that someone somewhere in some city, in some state, in some town has not come up with a good solution to, and who’s doing that in real time, right. Who’s got a new idea about K through 12 education and is implementing it and iterating just like we do with any startup.”

To keep that kind of problem solving moving forward in the heartland, a key ingredient is access to technology. One of those bumps is addressing the inclusiveness of the technology. According to Slaughter “you have to start with universal high-quality fast broadband. This is the electricity of our era … it’s time to take on all the vested interest and say this is the equivalent to providing roads and telephone poles and water pipes. I don’t know whether we make ISP provision a utility. I don’t know if government provides it, but without that, we are leaving people further and further behind.”

While a former foreign policy expert, she now sees the need to focus on how America needs to renew itself. In her words, “I don’t mean pullback from the world, but engage the world in different ways and really work hard on our own country, including of course as an immigrant country, as a country that reflects the world. I would not say let’s forget the world, but I would say the best thing maybe we can do in the world is to figure out the way forward for all Americans.”