The ethos of The Inkling

The Inkling exists to help nurture positive public conversations in Aotearoa New Zealand. We believe that discussion in a spirit of respect and generosity can generate ideas and options that bring us closer together and help us build the best possible future. But leading New Zealanders have told us that our public debates are a mixed bag; less polarised than elsewhere, but still too often superficial and strident with little ability to create adaptive and informed solutions. We can do better.

To bring this to life we’re setting out the ethos of The Inkling, founded on our values of respect, rigour, humility, and curiosity. Each value has associated commitments. Together, they make up the character of this initiative and embody our aspirations for it.  

We hold ourselves to these commitments and we invite participants in The Inkling to do the same. We trust that people who experience this ethos will take it back with them to their families, communities, and professions. In this way, we hope to serve this nation.


  1. Civility will characterise all our interactions. Disagreement is inevitable, discourtesy is not. In fact, constructive disagreement is essential to the kind of creative tension that does justice to complex issues. Civility makes this increased understanding possible.
  2. Every participant comes to The Inkling in good faith. People often want similar good outcomes but understand the associated challenges and issues quite differently. We assume that disagreement about what we value and how to achieve it is evidence of honest engagement, not bad motives.
  3. We honour the trust shown by sharing. It takes courage to tackle big issues, especially in our current climate. To support an environment of trust and open inquiry, what’s said at our events isn’t attributed outside them. From time to time, we’ll share publicly about the nature of these events and what we’ve learned, but we’ll honour this trust as we do so.


  1.  Important ideas deserve to be tested. Our beliefs, values and experiences can be powerful, influencing not only our lives but those around us. The more powerful something is, the more important it is to test it and scrutinise it appropriately.
  2. Evidence and exploration go hand-in-hand. No-one will know everything about the wide-ranging topics we address. The Inkling brings together multiple viewpoints, beliefs and experiences to explore the facts and values that shape us.
  3. Dialogue should be passionate but not polarised. We expect consequential issues to inspire vigorous dialogue. But if we retreat into separate camps we close our minds and we wall ourselves off from improving our understanding.


  1. We value diversity of viewpoints. We need each other to fill gaps in our own understanding and experience, to open our eyes to competing explanations and viewpoints, and to help us see what we are missing.
  2. We all have assumptions. All of us come to these conversations with prior commitments and beliefs which shape our views. We should all strive to acknowledge and examine our own assumptions and biases, what’s behind them, and invite others to identify and challenge them.
  3. Require of yourself what you hope for in others. We’d all like others to be open to our arguments and to give us a fair hearing, so we need to extend them the same courtesy and openness.


  1. Engage with the best possible opposing arguments. Caricaturing others’ arguments might work to win a debate, but it’s corrosive in the long term. If you put short-term point scoring first, you miss out on the possibility of enlarging your understanding and your horizons.
  2. The aim is to learn, not to win. As Joseph Joubert said, “The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” Look for new insights, common ground, and for ways to move forward together in dialogue that can inform solutions.  
  3. The Inkling is non-partisan. This initiative doesn’t have any position on what the right answers are. We think that part of what distorts current discourse “is the passion for categorical thinking or rather for categories as an alternative to thinking”.[1]

    [1] Rebecca Solnit, “Why Did We Stop Believing That People Can Change?” New York Times, 22 April 2022,