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Don’t Miss the Confab Recording with Senator Unger!

Last week, we had a fantastic Confab call featuring Senator Unger who discussed how he engaged with his community during his recent campaign and how that ultimately lead to his re-election. If you weren’t able to join the call, never fear, we recorded the whole event and you can listen to it here!

On the call, Senator Unger shared how he focused on the community during his recent re-election campaign against a well-funded opponent who utilized negative attack tactics. Unger, instead of retaliating these attacks, stayed engaged with the community by asking them what they needed and explored with the community their solution recommendations. The senator emphasized the need to engage with community in a relational way, seeing peoples’ humanity and valuing their unique contributions, as opposed to a transactional, de-personalized way. Unger is part of the National Issues Forums Institute board and utilized the NIF discussion guides to explore community needs, perspectives, and values. He held various deliberative dialogue forums with the community, and even the debates were designed in a more deliberative manner.

It was incredibly inspiring to hear an elected official engage the community the way he did and bring in these D&D practices.  Here are some of our favorite quotes during the Confab:

  • During debates when my opponent would attack me on positions and issues…. and then the solutions the community had come up with, he wasn’t only attacking me, he was attacking the community because they had come up with these solutions deliberatively.
  • I used the NIF guides to guide the discussions, but mostly what I did was sit down and ask the basic questions – “what’s bothering you?”, “how does this problem affect you and your family?”, “what should we do about it?”.
  • Many assume that when you’re an elected official you have to have a five-point plan or plan of action (and many elected officials feel compelled to have one), but instead I asked [the community] “what do you think we should do about it?” and look at both the negative and the positives of a proposal.
  • I wanted to make it a campaign focused in on community empowerment. Where so often elected officials and political systems treat people like objects, they do things TO people. Or treat people like RECIPIENTS, like it’s transactional, “I get your vote, I do something for you”.
  • But what I wanted to do is to change the dynamic, to not treat people like objects or recipients, but instead treat people like resources, empower them, “What can we do together? What can I do WITH you?” This attitude shift was a game-changer.
  • If you look at why Americans are so angry, Americans feel like they don’t have control of their life anymore, they don’t have control over how to help their families or their communities, they feel the situation is out of their control… By working with people and doing things with people versus TO or FOR, you give people agency and you address that anger by giving people control over their life.
  • The moral of the story [of the Wizard of Oz] is the group had everything they needed, but they needed to come together to get it it was collectively when they came together and took this journey to demand these things that they discovered they already had these things in themselves.
  • As an elected official, if we look at people we serve as part of that journey, we all have different talents and roles, but collectively we come together, we discover those and we enhance and help each other – that’s the ultimate aspect of community capacity building and empowerment, and that’s where deliberative dialogue is an essential component, that will allow that to happen.

We recorded the whole presentation in case you weren’t able to join us, which you can access on the archives page by clicking here. Access to the archives is a benefit of being an NCDD member, so make sure your membership is up-to-date (or click here to join).

Confab bubble image

We want to thank Senator Unger and all the Confab participants for contributing to this informative conversation! To learn more about NCDD’s Confab Calls and hear recordings of others, visit www.ncdd.org/events/confabs.

Finally, we love holding these events and we want to continue to elevate the work of our field with Confab Calls and Tech Tuesdays. It is through your generous contributions to NCDD that we can keep doing this work! That’s why we want to encourage you to support NCDD by making a donation or becoming an NCDD member today (you can also renew your membership by clicking here). Thank you!

Keiva Hummel
Keiva Hummel serves as NCDD’s Communications Coordinator. She graduated cum laude from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Communication Studies, Minor in Global Peace, Human Rights and Justice Studies, and a Certificate in Conflict Resolution Studies.

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