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Latest ABA Dispute Resolution Magazine focused on civil discourse

Thanks to an invitation last June from Lisa Blomgren Bingham, I was involved in an American Bar Association workgroup called the Task Force on Civility that led to several activities I wanted to tell you about.  These activities all have their origins in ABA’s Resolution 108 which affirms, among other things:

The principle of civility as a foundation for democracy and the rule of law and urges lawyers to set a high standard for civil discourse as an example for others in resolving differences constructively and without disparagement of others.

1. Article on Public Engagement Approaches in the Winter 2012 Dispute Resolution Magazine

The Winter 2012 issue of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution’s quarterly Dispute Resolution Magazine focused on Civility in Public Discourse, and featured a number of articles by NCDD members –including an article by me on “Navigating the Range of Public Engagement Approaches.”  Dispute Resolution Magazine provides timely, insightful and resourceful information regarding the latest developments, news and trends in the growing field of dispute resolution throughout the world and features internationally-known scholars and practitioners as authors.

Nonmembers of the section can order issues for $8 per copy by emailing the ABA Service Center at service@americanbar.org.  I may be able to hook you up with a PDF of my article if you’re interested (email me with your request).

2. Civil Discourse Panel at ABA Section on Dispute Resolution Conference

At the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution’s spring conference, I was invited to join NCDD members Matt Leighninger (Deliberative Democracy Consortium) and Mary Jacksteit (Public Conversations Project) as well as Susan Podziba, Anne Gosline, Susan Carpenter, and our host Richard Reuben (University of Missouri School of Law) to participate in a panel on “Civil Discourse and Public Conflict: The Next Generation.”

Here’s the session description:

As governments at all levels become less responsive to citizen needs, and as people get further turned off by the increasing level of acrimony on political issues, community leaders are increasingly turning to more collaborative governance processes to address public issues. This innovative program introduces us to those processes, explains what they are and how they are both similar and different than traditional dispute resolution processes, and the role that dispute resolution practitioners and law can play in them.

3.  Civil Discourse Summit

In addition, NCDD Board chair Marla Crockett and I were invited to attend a “Civil Discourse Summit” lunch sponsored by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs Keller-Runden Endowment, the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium. This was held in the ABA conference hotel after the panel mentioned above.

This was a small lunch gathering of about 15 people held to form and strengthen connections among leadership of national organizations working for civility in political discourse.  Several people were in attendance from the ABA (including Bruce Meyerson and Richard Reuben), John Dedrick and Maxine Thomas were there from the Kettering Foundation, David Smith from the National Conference on Citizenship, Jane Prescott-Smith from the National Institute for Civil Discourse, Mike Huggins from the National Civic League, Peter Hardie from the Campaign for Stronger Democracy, Brad Fitch from the Congressional Management Foundation, Linda Nguyen from the Alliance for Children and Families, Larry Schooler from IAP2 USA, Matt from the DDC, Lisa Blomgren Bingham from Indiana University, Marla and I from NCDD, and Carolyn Lukensmeyer from AmericaSpeaks popped in for a few minutes (she was about to run a 21st Century Town Meeting for the ABA conference downstairs).

The goals for this luncheon (and a dinner that night that neither Marla or I could attend) were lofty:

  • Exchange information on how national organizations and dialogue and deliberation practitioners do civil discourse work in addressing public conflict;
  • Identify concrete, meaningful, and coordinated steps our organizations can take to make civil political discourse a reality; and
  • Develop an action plan and allocate responsibilities for moving it forward.

If you have questions about any of these activities, let me know or contact NCDD member Matt Leighninger, director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium.  He took a leading role in both the panel workshop and the civil discourse summit.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher is the Founding Director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). Sandy has an M.A. in International Management from SIT Graduate Institute, and also serves as a Research Deputy for the Kettering Foundation. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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