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How should we tackle our field’s biggest barriers to success?

Ideas & Next Steps from NCDD 2014 Conference

The results of NCDD’s recent Codigital engagement project are quite interesting, and having a record of the ideas shared and how our community ranked those ideas is going to be incredibly useful — for NCDD and hopefully for others in our field.


As a reminder, on the second day of the 2014 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, we created the space for our 415 attendees to launch discussions about four barriers to the dialogue and deliberation community’s success:

  1. How might we overcome the lack of trust in our Democracy, our leaders, and in one another?
  2. How might we make our D&D work more equitable, inclusive and empowering?
  3. How might we more clearly delineate our field of practice for ourselves and those we seek to serve?
  4. How might we eliminate structural barriers in our democratic systems?

Click on any of the four list items to see the full report of the Codigital discussion in that area, including all ideas shared and their rankings.

These four barrier “areas” were identified by looking through the results of an earlier engagement project we ran on Codigital that was focused on the question “What do you want to see happen when our field comes together at NCDD 2014?” (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Should Higher Ed Engagement Be More Political?

We recently read a great interview on the Kettering Foundation’s blog with NCDD supporting member Timothy Shaffer. Tim contends that community engagement projects in higher education are an important civic infrastructure, but that to be more democratic, they need to be more political. We encourage you to read the interview below or find the original version here.

Real Impact: The Challenges of Community Engagement in Higher Education

kfMany communities lack the basic civic muscle necessary to form a strong community. Conflict management and decision-making skills seem far and few, and basic political knowledge about our communities and nation, many argue, seem scarce. There are many ways to talk about this problem: for example, Robert Putnam has talked about a decline in social capital, while John McKnight has problematized what he sees as an overly intense focus on individuals’ and communities’ deficits; a problem that undervalues the assets citizens bring to public life.

The Kettering Foundation has talked about these problems more broadly as “problems of democracy” that keep democracy from working as it should. For example, there are concerns over too few opportunities for young people to learn the skills required to help strengthen their communities. On this point, the Kettering Foundation has a large collection of publications (see The Civic Spectrum: How Students Become Engaged Citizens) and a strong group of scholars and practitioners concerned with just this problem (see Doing Democracy). Tim Shaffer has been actively working to address both of these areas in his professional career.

Shaffer recently left a position as director of the Center for Leadership and Engagement at Wagner College in Staten Island, New York, to pursue opportunities that are more explicitly connected to democratic and political engagement. He is (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Key Questions for Beginning Solid Collaborations

Many of us know from experience that the way in which collaborations begin can mean the difference between success and failure. That is why we appreciated this piece from the New Directions Collaborative, an NCDD organizational member, that offers a few questions to guide our thinking on building worthwhile collaborations. We encourage you to read the piece below or find the original here.

Art of the Start: Strategic Questions to Build Focus and Engagement

As I write this, I am on my way to a gathering of practitioners who work on networks approaches for large-scale social change, sponsored by the Garfield Foundation. We’ll be discussing the “art of the start” – how to navigate the early stages of an initiative. This is timely, as lately I have seen some of the common challenges in this stage, for example:

  • In a conversation with the Executive Director of a small non-profit, she shared her exasperation that funders are “pushing collaboration for collaboration’s sake and it’s not helpful.”
  • Some organizational leaders get enthused about the concept of “collective impact” and/or the idea of being a backbone support organization for collaboration, without a sense of where to start or how to coalesce around an issue, need, and or place.
  • In coaching a network coordinator on how to launch a new national network, a frequent theme of our conversations is how to (more…)


Creating Community Solutions Alliance Wins IAP2 USA Project of the Year

We wanted to share the great news that last month, the Creating Community Solutions Alliance received the International Association of Public Participation’s USA Project of the Year Core Value Award.

ccs-logoNCDD is one of six organizations that make up the core CCS alliance — including the National Institute for Civil Discourse (the lead partner), Everyday Democracy, the National Issues Forums Institute, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and AmericaSpeaks.

Creating Community Solutions won for its work in bringing people to the table for the national dialogue on mental health dialogue. To date, Creating Community Solutions has helped organize almost 200 community dialogues on mental health, and through our innovative Text, Talk, Act program, we have engaged thousands of young people in a conversation on mental health. Go to http://iap2usa.org/corevaluesawards2014 learn more about the award.

Congratulations also to NCDD members Doug Sarno and John Godec, who were recognized for their role in the St. Vrain Valley School District project “Leadership St Vrain – Empowering Parents through P2,” which won Research Project of the Year.

Creating Community Solutions has been an integral component of the National Dialogue on Mental Health, launched by President Obama and supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as well as other agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education.

CCS has organized or supported three main forms of participation around the question “How can we work together to strengthen mental health, particularly for young people?”: (more…)


Join a Live Video Chat on #TextTalkAct Tomorrow

Join organizers of the award-winning #TextTalkAct in a live video chat hosted by @DocForeman tomorrow (Tuesday, November 18th) at 6:30 pm Eastern / 3:30 pm Pacific. Hear what happened during our national Text Talk Act contest on October 6. We’ll connect you with:

  • Winning youth organizers;
  • Ideas texted in by participants across the country;
  • Resources for taking action.

To participate, simply click on this link on Tuesday, Nov 18 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. You’ll be connected to the live streaming video on YouTube that begins at that time, and you’ll be able to comment via Twitter or YouTube using the #TextTalkAct hashtag.

Dr. April Foreman is a Licensed Psychologist and innovator in using social media platforms like Twitter to connect with thought leaders in healthcare across the world. Currently, she works for the Southeast Louisiana Healthcare System, serving Veterans as a Suicide Prevention Coordinator in Baton Rouge.

Text Talk Act is a series of innovative experiments in texting-enabled dialogue. As part of our role in the National Dialogue on Mental Health project Creating Community Solutions, NCDD and our partners have been experimenting with how the fun and convenience of text messaging can be leveraged to scale up face-to-face dialogue — especially among young people.

In April, we featured Matt Leighninger and Michael Smith from the Text Talk Act core team on an NCDD Confab Call.  Audio from the call and an archive of the collaborative doc we created during the call for Q&A and networking can be accessed at www.ncdd.org/14741.

From the CommunityFrom the Community

PCP Offers Tips on Better Dialogue about Gender

We encourage you to read the piece below on ways we can all improve our capacity to have real dialogues about issues of gender from our friends at the Public Conversation Project. We also encourage you to consider attending PCP’s Power of Dialogue training this December on which NCDD members receive a discount. You can learn more below or by finding their original blog post here.

Public Conversations ProjectTalking About Gender and the Power of Dialogue

Gender issues have been making some serious waves these past few months. A woman from Columbia University joined college students around the country to make sexual assault on college campuses front-page news by carrying the mattress she was assaulted on around campus. Twitter conversations surrounding #yesallwomen and #notallmen, with over a million tweets, started a nationwide discussion in the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Santa Barbara. Most recently, these conversations have culminated in a video calling out the reality of catcalling.

The video, “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” has since garnered over 34 million views and sparked a national conversation with implications for race, violence against women, affirmative consent, and even gun issues.

Clearly, these subjects have hit a nerve across the United States and are starting discussions at every (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Public Agenda Partners with WNYC Public Radio

PublicAgenda-logoWe are very excited to share that our friends at Public Agenda, an NCDD member organization, recently announced that they have formed a new partnership with WNYC, the premier public radio broadcaster in New York. The partnership is the inaugural project for PA´s new Deborah Wadsworth Fund, and will be aimed at really understanding what issues New Yorkers are thinking about:

Through focus groups and a major survey, Public Agenda and WNYC will illuminate the concerns, priorities and aspirations of local residents when it comes to the public policy issues our region faces. The research will place a special emphasis on those issues that residents most want to have a voice in and where they feel their personal input and involvement is most needed.

Findings from the research will be released in the second half of 2015 in a public report, and will inform programming on The Brian Lehrer Show and other WNYC programs. As such, we view the research not as a set of conclusions, but rather a means to spark conversations that can help the public work together with civic leaders and public officials on solutions to our most pressing challenges.

There has long been a powerful potential for collaborations between D&D organizations like PA and public media – especially public radio – and we are so pleased to see this partnership taking shape. The focus groups and survey research will only be the beginning: (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Job Opening with DOJ’s Community Relations Service

As we hope you’ve heard by now, NCDD was honored to host Grande Lum, director of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS), as one of our featured speakers at the NCDD 2014 conference. During his address, Grande made the commitment to host meetings across the country between CRS staff and NCDD members to talk about how we might collaborate more closely. We encourage you to learn more about the meetings and give us your input on how we can make the best use of them by sharing your thoughts in the comments section at www.ncdd.org/16724.

As we continue to gear up for the meetings this winter, we are also pleased to announce that CRS has openings for a Conciliation Specialist in their Denver and Dallas regional offices. Grande Lum sent the job announcement to NCDD’s director, Sandy Heierbacher, because he sees NCDD as a great source for the kind of expertise they need in this position.

Be sure to check out the job announcements at www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/385601200 (Denver) or www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/383494100 (Dallas) if you think you’re a good fit for this position. The deadline to apply is December 1st, so don’t delay.

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Online Discussion on Recent NCDD Hot Topics, Friday 11/14

We want to invite NCDD members to join an online & phone conversation event this Friday that former NCDD Board member Lucas Cioffi has set up so we can explore some of the topics that have been making waves on our discussion listserv recently. You can read his invitation below. NCDD is driven by members, and we love to see them taking initiative, so thanks so much to Lucas for leading on this! 

Hello Everyone,

There have been some deep topics discussed on this discussion list over the past few weeks. I’d like to open up some space for people to continue the conversation by phone and/or video chat.

Register here: www.eventbrite.com/e/online-conversation-cafe-tickets-14285429103
When: Friday, November 14, 2014 from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM (EST)
Cost: Free

For you, this is a networking opportunity, chance to meet with some other NCDD members interested in the same topics. For me, this is a chance to test out a system I’m building for online conferences.

The format is similar to Conversation Cafe where you’ll join several small group discussions (2-4 people per virtual table). Similar to Open Space, participants will choose the topics, ranging from current events to changing the world.

This is an informal and fun event. Expect to join other participants by phone and/or webcam (if you have it). Final details will be emailed to all who register.

Lucas Cioffi
Charlottesville, VA

From the CommunityFrom the Community

6 Guiding Questions for Online Engagement from CM

On one of their recent capacity building calls, our friends at CommunityMatters – a partnership in which NCDD is a member – had a great discussion about online engagement. They distilled a list of key questions to help people think about and plan for online engagement that are incredibly useful. We encourage you to read more about them below or find the original CM blog post by clicking here.

CM_logo-200pxDigital engagement is the latest buzz when it comes to public participation. We hear about the great work of Code for America. We read articles claiming digital engagement is the “new normal.” Our brains spin trying to keep up with new tools and terms—Gov 2.0, civic technology, hackathons, digital citizenship. The list goes on.

Pete Peterson, executive director, Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership and Alissa Black, investment partner, Omidyar Network work with local governments to improve public engagement efforts. They know that despite the buzz, many cities and towns are hesitant to try more than a website or social media.

Pete and Alissa joined CommunityMatters to share ideas on getting started and going deeper with online public engagement. If your town is thinking about diving into the digital realm, consider these six questions.

Why engage the public? Nail down your goals for public participation before selecting a tool. Want to inform the public about a recent policy decision? A well-designed website will (more…)