The democratic conversation only functions when we know what we're talking about. But when that part is in place, it only really becomes meaningful when we use conversation to inspire each other on how we can solve the problem we face. Room of Solutions does just that.

The red and green cars rise like a sizable coloured chessboard. All the chairs are filled with participants in the room of solutions at Folkemødet on Bornholm. The topic to be discussed is solutions on unemployment in the municipalities. The panel has several experts lined up side by side, prepared with possible solutions to be addressed. But on the rows of chairs is a crowd of those who live with the solutions in their everyday lives. Engaged Danes with attitudes, experiences, and wishes to contribute to reasonable solutions in the future. I have started the session in the Room of Solutions by asking if there are people in the room who have experience of volunteering, and it is quickly apparent that it is not just in the panel, both the experience and the good ideas are present.

Room of Solutions is a form of debate that involves everyone in the room in finding possible solutions to the problem that is on the agenda. The starting point of the debate is essential knowledge on the issue that is going to be discussed as well as a frame around the debate that makes it clear that the one-hour runtime of the debate is not about placing blame but about inspiring possible solutions.

Room of Solutions and the media

First and foremost, the role of the media is to inform the citizens. They are making sure that conversations in society are based on knowledge and not just on prejudice and outdated information. But the task does not end there. As knowledge becomes increasingly democratized by being available in far more ways than merely through the media, the role of the media changes. Today, the role of the media is mainly divided into three stages. Each one assumes each other. First, what is going on must be stated. What is status, what happens when, who is involved, etc. Only when this part of journalism is completed can one move on to the next. The next step is to investigate the reasons why we are in a given situation. Here the task is to shed light on the problems, give the smaller person a voice and to hold those with power accountable. The role of the media is to uncover who has lived up to their responsibilities and who has not. Traditionally a lot of people think this is where the role of the media stops. In my view, however, the task does not end here at all. Far from. But here the role of the journalist changes. Where in the first two steps, the journalist acquires facts and draws them to light, the purpose of the third step is instead to work constructively with the facts that are now on the table. From here, it is the role of the journalist to be a facilitator.

The three steps are clearly described in this model by Constructive Institute:

Source: Constructive Institute
The model above is developed by Constructive Institute at Aarhus University, which works purposefully to create and disseminate constructive journalism.

The inspiring conversation

It is in the third pillar that the Room of Solutions plays its part. When the facts are on the table, the problem is investigated and has been brought to light. It is then time to gather the relevant players to look for possible solutions to the problem curiously.

On Bornholm, 150 people are ready with a green and red card so that they can give their opinion continuously when various solutions are presented. The municipality must provide more lenient terms to the voluntary associations, suggests one from the panel, and as I ask if it is a good idea, plenty of green card rise. I can immediately pass that on to the representatives from the municipality - is there anything you can do about it? I ask. And with the massive backing of the participants, this is now a point at the next meeting at the relevant committee. But there are still no answers to how it can be done. Again, the resources in the room go in to play its part, and several among the audience suggest solutions that work in other places.

The Room of Solutions works by drawing on all resources inside the room. It is not just the experts in the panel that gets to say something. Everyone is given the opportunity to make their point known. Throughout the debate, the red and green cards are a vibrant, clear and very present democracy, creating the basis for a vivid democratic conversation where both experts and listeners can have their voices heard. Before a debate in the Room of Solutions starts, the framework is outlined: -It’s about inspiring each other to possible solutions. The aim of the debate is not to determine guilt or error. That part of the task must be solved elsewhere. Therefore, it is imperative that the moderator consistently interferes when the debate turns towards a focus on who made mistakes. It is not because it is not important to get clarified, but because that task does not belong in the Room of Solutions.

When the framework has been set in the beginning, it is easy to turn off the microphone or completely remove it if the comments nevertheless turn in that direction during the debate. In the Room of Solutions, time is running out for the debate and the many proposals that have emerged in the last hour have been written on “The wall of solutions”, where you can subsequently write down the suggestions that you did not manage to deliver before time had passed.

Last question of the day is: are you leaving the Room of Solutions with new inspiration? A dozen green cards rise from the crowd.