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As the U.S. Congress painfully reaches a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff through the slow and polarized process, one wonders, is this really the best way to get things done?

Solving the problems facing our governments requires a new way of thinking, with more focus on realistic ideas and open discussion. A good example of practical leadership is the creation of Iceland’s constitution. Following the collapse of Iceland’s banks in 2008, a coalition government was created in early 2009 under the leadership of newly elected Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. Almost immediately, the new governing parties recognized the need for a radical change. They decided to replace the constitution they inherited when Iceland gained independence from Denmark in 1944. The 25 person Icelandic Constitutional Assembly, comprised of everyone from farmers to professors, was convened in 2010.

In the Athena Doctrine study, we found that 72% of all adults agreed that solving today’s challenges required a more practical and less ideological approach. An overwhelming 85% of adults agreed that problems would be better solved by local communities than the government. Iceland’s approach to writing a new constitution reflects both of these statistics.

In creating the new constitution, the Assembly decided to try something that had never been done before. Using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, citizens contributed their ideas of what the constitution should include. This crowd-sourcing idea stemmed from a desire to have a more open government. As Assembly member Thorvaldur Gylfason told the UK’s Guardian, “The public sees the constitution come into being before their eyes” (http://bit.ly/jSyu8b). The result was a constitution that reflected what was important to the entire country, not just a small group. Although Iceland has a tiny population compared to the United States, Iceland’s practical, inclusive government can serve as an example of putting partisan ideologies behind for the good of a country.

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