Developing a national dialogue infrastructure
Please use the comment field to add your thoughts on civic entrepreneur John Spady‘s Idea Incubator post! NCDD has been talking to John about this idea, and we’re excited to engage NCDDers in these questions leading up to (and at) NCDD Seattle this fall.
Occasionally I’ll hear or read about someone, somewhere, who says, “We need a national dialogue about X…” — where X might be “race relations” or “immigration reform” or “the national debt” or (insert your own issue here) — a list of issues that is indeed long and important.
While the issues are important, what I personally think about is how can we even do it? How might we design an organizational infrastructure for a coordinated and practical national dialogue? This is a topic I want to cover during our NCDD conference in Seattle this October. But first, I’d like to invite my fellow NCDDers to help me think about this concept further.
Let me start with what I think our goal should be:
To create an adaptive and collaborative infrastructure that enables any participant to learn about, and respond to, selected national issues; and to form a confederation in support of a National Dialogue Network Infrastructure.
And the general values that I think such an infrastructure should possess, are:
- that it is Distributed – it engages as many grassroots participants and organizations as possible.
- that it is Collaborative – that in helping others it helps itself. Building trust and goodwill will bring increased participation overall.
- that it is Anonymous – Information gathered in a survey, is always reported in aggregate form and never used in a way that could identify individuals. The planning board would need access to monitor lists, content, and response data but would never share, sell, or rent personal data to anyone for any reason.
- that it involves a Coalition/Confederation – It can do more with others than it can do by itself. It supports and encourages diverse methodologies among participants.
- that it is Nonprofit and Cost Effective – Monies or services received go primarily to build out the infrastructure and cover related costs. Accounts are transparent and open.
I think it should have oversight and accountability from a trusted national scope nonprofit organization (so it can receive tax deductible donations) but that operational and day to day management would be a coalition or confederation of collaborating individuals from national scope organizations (a planning board) who understand the value of working together to achieve what is harder for any one of them to accomplish alone.
I am also thinking that while issues are determined and advanced by the planning board that it would also be critical to have a pathway for issues from outside the planning board to be received from the general public. If public and published criteria are met then it should be incumbent on the planning board to formally respond to an issue request and make a decision to adopt the issue or not.
And I want to talk about funding ideas… should funds come from only a single source (for example, one helpful foundation), from multiple donations contributed by the organizations making up the planning board, or from strictly public contributions (individuals and/or multiple foundations)?
The simplest mental image I can think of to describe all of this is that of a tree with twinkling lights. Each light represents a community scale organization talking about its own issues and so each light is different. But each light decorates the national tree, and occasionally (when the need calls for it), all the lights glow with the same color because all the organizations are asking their members to talk about the same important issue. Supporting community scale efforts creates an infrastructure for national scale issues. And I think it will require more cooperation and less competition.
I hope this is enough for now to give people an idea of what I’m trying to propose. I welcome any and all thoughts and comments. Are we ready (and willing) to collaborate?
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