In 1995, three colleagues began an exchange of papers and correspondence bearing on the question: what is an appropriate role for the national government in social welfare? They began to extend to other colleagues an invitation to join in this informal exchange of ideas. As more people responded favorably to the idea of participating in a "circle of correspondents," Odyssey Forum was created. It remains an informal association of approximately eighty social welfare advocates, policy experts, and scholars.
The uniqueness of Odyssey Forum is that it offers participants the opportunity to present views and recommend actions about social welfare issues unconstrained by agency identification, academic affiliation, or other special interests. Through Odyssey Forum, participants can share their knowledge and experience, and in that process bear witness to the effects of the careless, even brutal, shrinking of the safety net that is taking place. It is unhealthy to be quiet in these times, and Odyssey Forum is one means of sharing as widely as possible the humane and constructive ideas, recommendations, and proposals of informed professionals.
Encouraged by the response to the ideas and papers being circulated by mail, a meeting was planned for January 26-27, 1996 in Washington, D.C. To focus the discussion and allow more time for deliberations about specific