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Send Us Your D&D Stories!

We all know the power that stories hold to inspire people and help them understand complicated concepts (among other things). Many of us have talked about how we need to do a better job sharing our stories in this field, so that more people can understand why dialogue and deliberation are so important – and so desperately needed today.

Please think about what stories you can tell about your work in this field. I’m working with Matt Leighninger (Director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium) to collect stories for an exciting new project we’re involved in called the November 5th Coalition. I’m also collecting stories and case studies for the NCDD website and the DDC website, and I’d like to know what stories can be told in NCDD publications that are on the horizon.

The November 5th Coalition (www.novemberfifth.org) is a new collaborative initiative dedicated to using the 2008 presidential election as an opportunity to foster deliberation about how we can collectively mobilize the energies and talents of ordinary citizens to address our challenges. We believe the campaign can be a watershed, where citizens reclaim their standing as partners of a government that is truly “of, by, and for the people.” The Coalition is named for the day after the election, when we hope a new chapter in our civic work begins – a partnership between voters and elected officials.

Some heavy hitters are leading this initiative – Harry Boyte of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Peter Levine of CIRCLE of the University of Maryland, Cynthia Gibson and others affiliated with the Case Foundation, Will Friedman and others at Public Agenda, etc. – and all of you will have the opportunity to get involved in the near future.

For now, we’d like to share your “citizen-centered” stories on the November 5th website. If you’re not sure whether your stories or case studies are right for the initiative (perhaps they’re about a private conflict being resolved rather than a public problem) – send them anyway so we can share them on the NCDD website. You can look over the case studies and stories we’ve already collected (yours may be there already!) on this page or this other page on NCDD’s Learning Exchange.

If you have a story, report or case study already written up about a project you’re working on (preferably a success story with some clear outcomes, since these are meant to convince folks to support this work), please email it to me (sandy@thataway.org) with a brief description that can be used to encourage people to click on the story. If your story or case is already available online, feel free to just send me a description and link.

Please limit your description to 150 words, and include:

- how many people were involved
- how the project fostered dialogue, decision-making, and action by citizens
- how the effort welcomed a range of views and opinions
- what kinds of outcomes resulted from the process
- any other features you think were critical or unique

If you have a story to tell that isn’t yet written up, send me a quick email with the kind of details listed above so I can consider your story for upcoming NCDD publications (or let us know it’s coming for the November 5th Coalition website!).

In case it’s helpful, here are a couple of sample descriptions that Matt wrote for the National League of Cities (each will click into more in-depth case studies):

Community policing circles
Buffalo, New York

Just like in many other large cities, police-community relations in Buffalo have often been tense and unproductive. In 2000, the police department began working with the United Neighborhoods Center, an affiliate of the United Way that serves Buffalo’s system of block clubs, to help officers and residents work together. The result was a city-wide project that involved 600 residents, including over 250 young people, over a two-year period. In neighborhoods across the city, residents met with police officers and lieutenants, as well as other stakeholders, in multiple-session small-group discussions about the challenges to public safety and ways to surmount them. The effort led to security precautions taken by businesses, quicker response times to 911 calls, a renewed commitment to community policing, and stronger police community relations overall.

Kuna ACT
Kuna, Idaho

The population of Kuna, just west of Boise, has grown from 600 to 6,000 in the last decade. After repeated conflicts over issues of growth and school funding, an organization called the Kuna Alliance for a Cohesive Community Team (Kuna ACT) was formed to foster better communication. Whenever a major policy question arises, Kuna ACT organizes an informational forum followed by a series of small-group circle discussions. An average of six forum/circles have been held each year for the last five years. In this way, community input has been gathered on practically every major and minor policy decision facing Kuna.

Eugene Decisions
Eugene, Oregon

Several years ago, the Eugene City Council faced an $8 million budget shortfall. The city began working with the Deliberative Democracy Project at the University of Oregon to involve citizens in deciding how to balance the budget. The resulting project, Eugene Decisions, utilized a series of surveys and questionnaires, followed by two sets of community workshops where participants used a booklet and worksheet to generate their own recommendations. Through this process, the city engaged over 1,200 residents in face-to-face meetings, received thousands of survey responses, and balanced its budget for the first time in many years.

Let me know if you have any questions. I hope to see your stories coming in very soon!

Sandy Heierbacher is the director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). She co-founded NCDD in 2002 with her husband Andy Fluke. Sandy has an M.A. in International Management from SIT Graduate Institute. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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