Connecting to Congress Hosts First Online Town Hall with Representative Mark Takano

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On Wednesday evening, Connecting to Congress hosted the first deliberative online town hall in its new series with Representative Mark Takano (D, CA-41). Using Broadnet’s online townhall technology, Rep. Takano joined more than 150 constituents who participated by either phone or livestream in a wide-ranging discussion about their views on workforce development and the future of work. Participating constituents represented a broad cross-section of Rep. Takano’s district and they engaged throughout the full length of the hour-long event. 

In the session, Representative Takano addressed questions and comments from his constituents about how best to prepare for the significant developments in technology and automation as well as trends in the global economy that are changing the landscape for American workers. The event offered both Representative Takano and his constituents a unique opportunity for an in-depth conversation about potential policies--questions touched on changes to all levels of the education system, training opportunities outside of college, tariffs, infrastructure, as well as how workforce development policy might also address broader problems such as homelessness. Because of the deliberative format, Representative Takano was able to provide longer, more in-depth answers to substantive, focused questions, and he was able to particularly highlight policies from his work on the Education and Labor committee as well as the Veterans Affairs committee, which he currently chairs.

This deliberative online town hall with Congressman Takano marks the first in a new series of online town halls that the Connecting to Congress initiative is coordinating with members of the House and Senate. These townhalls are based on earlier research performed by the team in collaboration with the Congressional Management Foundation, which conducted over 20 of these events. The research found that, in these deliberative online townhall events, members of Congress hear from more than just the “usual suspects” and the conversation moves past talking points and toward in-depth and informed discussion. Participation in these events was also shown to improve constituents’ trust in their members and in the government more broadly, and they were wildly popular with constituents as well: 97% of participants said they would do another.

In this new round of townhalls, Connecting to Congress is studying how to take the lessons from the previous research to make online townhalls available and accessible for congressional offices seeking more opportunities to connect with their constituents. Currently, Connecting to Congress is testing new platforms and technology, experimenting with new strategies to recruit constituents into these sessions, and learning how information from events like these is useful for congressional offices. The team currently working with both Democrats and Republicans in both chambers to participate in Connecting to Congress townhalls, with three more Representatives confirmed to participate in at least one event as part of the initiative. We are open to working with up to 5 more offices throughout the fall. 

Amy Lee