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From the CommunityFrom the Community

Bridging Our Divides with NCL’s All-America Conversations

NCDD members might want to check out the All-America Conversations initiative being hosted by the National Civic League, an NCDD member organization. NCL is encouraging communities across the country to host short, public conversations focused on questions of how we can begin #BridgingOurDivides, showing that our country can still work together. They are providing a toolkit and webinar training series to help conversation hosts plan and convene these events, and we encourage practitioners in our network to consider hosting one yourself. You can learn more in the NCL announcement below or by learning more here.

All-American Conversations: Bridging Divides. Building Community.

National Civic League is launching All-America Conversations to demonstrate that locally, we are still able to work together across dividing lines to create stronger, more equitable communities.

Communities that host All-America Conversations will:

  • Better understand residents’ aspirations for the community
  • Learn how residents talk about and see community challenges and divisions
  • Gain clear insight into what small actions would give people confidence that we can work together across dividing lines
  • Help residents engage with one another in a productive conversation
  • Demonstrate a commitment to inclusive engagement

All-America Conversations are designed to help cities and other groups understand residents’ aspirations for the community, the divisions facing the community and, most importantly, the small, specific actions that give people a sense of confidence that we can work across dividing lines.

The format/template for All-America Conversations is (more…)


2016 NCDD Year In Review

Looking back, 2016 was an important year for NCDD and the dialogue & deliberation community. NCDD and the field saw a lot of important things happen and transitions take place, and as we look forward to the work ahead, we also wanted to look back at what we’ve accomplished and what’s changed.

NCDD 2016

Of course, the biggest effort on NCDD’s part was organizing the 2016 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation on “Bridging Our Divides,” a timely focus on the important work of bringing people together across differences of politics, race, socioeconomic status, and more. We had 350 public engagement practitioners, journalists, academics, public officials, funders, and students converge for this three-day gathering focused on sharing stories, exploring collaborations, and talking about what’s next for the dialogue and deliberation community following the divisive election season. You can view the schedule and speakers, watch panels, and more in the Events section of our site.

Following the conference and the presidential election, NCDD continued this conversation with our #BridgingOurDivides campaign, which sought to continue to collect and share stories, resources, and tools for bridging divides in our communities. We also hosted a special open Confab Call about what our community can do and is doing post-election. We invite you to check out the amazing compilation of the tools and resources we gathered and to watch the recorded Confab on the blog here. Many thanks to our community for sharing your great tools, resources, and stories!

New Projects, Programs, and Partnerships

In 2016, NCDD truly embraced our stewardship of Conversation Café with the launch of the new Conversation Café website and a Confab Call sharing the story of how Conversation Café was created and how it has been utilized in communities across the country. Conversation Café is an elegantly simple process for dialogue, and with its materials all open source and available for free (including a recording of our recent host training session), it’s a important resource for our field and communities in a time where dialogue is so critically needed.

NCDD was also proud to finally unveil our new Emerging Leaders Initiative, a program we’ve been working towards since our 2014 Conference. The Emerging Leaders Initiative, or ELI, will provide resources and support to rising leaders in our field and create more “on ramps” into the dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement field, especially for young people 35 and under. The ELI also seeks to provide support to newcomers to the field, no matter their age, in addition to helping facilitate collaborations and connections among D&D efforts that involve or focus on young people. Learn more about this exciting initiative at www.ncdd.org/youth, or contact our Youth Engagement Coordinator Roshan Bliss at roshan@ncdd.org.

Another outcome from NCDD 2016 was the launch of our new NCDD Podcast. The podcast brings together members of the D&D community to discuss ideas, opportunities, and challenges in our work, as well as share tools and resources. Our first three episodes, all recorded at NCDD 2016, are up on iTunes, SoundCloud and Google Play!

Last year, NCDD also solidified an agreement to embark upon an exciting new partnership with the American Library Association. NCDD is proud to partner with the ALA on the Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change initiative that will train librarians across the country in dialogue and deliberation methods for community engagement and connect them with NCDD members. We look forward to launching these online and in-person trainings very soon! For more information, see our blog post here.

And as always, our work with the Kettering Foundation continued – including a huge inventory survey we conducted in collaboration with KF and work engaging the dialogue and deliberation community in Kettering’s annual DC event, A Public Voice.

Changes in Leadership

So who was responsible for this fabulous work? Our amazing (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Introducing The Transpartisan Review

In case you missed it in all the commotion of the past month, I want to encourage you to check out an important project launched on Inauguration Day 2017 by a handful of members and friends of NCDD – The Transpartisan Review.  I had the pleasure to join the team behind this new publication a few months ago, lending my skills as designer and editor, and I’d like to share a bit more about it.

Originally introduced to the NCDD community last fall at our NCDD 2016 conferenceThe Transpartisan Review is a new digital journal dedicated to sharing thoughts and insights from the growing transpartisan community.

In its inaugural issue, The Transpartisan Review explores the “transpartisan moment” we find ourselves in after the latest presidential election. Executive editors Lawrence Chickering and James Turner posit that we have reached a turning point in the history of our democracy – a transitional phase – which is offering us an opportunity to replace the “partisanship” splitting our country with a new form of political engagement incorporating the best features of left and right.

Alongside this assessment of the current political climate, this first issue of The Transpartisan Review shares several articles on a variety of topics, including contributions from distinguished NCDD members Joan Blades, Mark Gerzon, and Michael Briand (who also served as managing editor). It examines perspectives from the political side of NCDD’s #BridgingOurDivides campaign with articles contemplating how to be a better neighbor, an alternative approach to foreign policy, and even a different way to look at terrorism – all from a perspective that seeks to go beyond the traditional left-right divide.

Not only are they effective conversation starters, but these features represent the beginning of a dialogue the editors of the journal hope to encourage with and between its readership as we all gather to discuss the impact the new administration will have on the United States and the rest of the world.

You can read the entire issue online or download it for free at the journal’s website, www.transpartisanreview.com, and while you’re there, you can also check out Chickering and Turner’s Transpartisan Notes, a series of short-form articles on current issues viewed through a transpartisan lens.

You can look forward to more critical contributions to the work of bridging our nation’s divides in future issues of The Transpartisan Review and from this great team of NCDDers and transpartisan leaders.

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Free NIFI Community-Police Relations Discussion Guides

We want to encourage our network to learn more about the new Safety & Justice discussion guide from the National Issues Forums Institute. As NIFI and the Kettering Foundation – both core NCDD member orgs – prepare for their yearly A Public Voice event in DC, they are collecting reports from deliberative forums on community-police relations and criminal justice reform to show policymakers that deliberation is more than “bumper sticker talk” and media representations.
NIFI is inviting all those hosting discussions on this critical issue to share their data and learnings with them so that they can be included in the conversation in DC, even if those conversations don’t use NIFI materials. You can learn more about how to participate and get free discussion guides in the NIFI blog post below or find the original here.

Special Spring ’17 Offer: Free Safety & Justice Materials to First 100 Moderators

Recently, the relationship between police and the communities they serve has become the focus of intense scrutiny, conversation, and even protest. The issue is difficult to talk about – and yet, we must, or this
issue could tear our communities apart.

A problem like this requires talk, but not just any talk. We need deliberative forums where  community members of all ages, races, ethnicities, religions, and professions can get beyond the talking points and bumper stickers. Forums where they can share not just what they think, but why. Places where we can consider tensions and tradeoffs and see where we may have common ground.

But in order for there to be forums, there have to be conveners and moderators.

And that’s why your community needs YOU. To get people started, NIFI is offering 20 FREE hard copies of the Safety and Justice issue guide + copy of the starter video to the first 100 moderators who can convene a forum between January 1, 2017 and March 15, 2017.

Sign up for your free materials HERE. (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

The Challenge of Populism to Deliberative Democracy

As populism sees a global resurgence, it is critical for our field to examine what this phenomenon means for our work. That’s why we encourage our network to give some thought to the insights offered in this piece from Lucy Parry of Participedia – an NCDD member organization. In it, Lucy examines the way citizens juries in Australia might violate core tenets of populism, and encourage us to consider how deliberative democracy – especially approaches using mini-publics – may need to evolve to avoid being delegitimized by populist challenges. You can read the piece below or find it on Participedia’s blog here.

When is a democratic innovation not a democratic innovation? The populist challenge in Australia

The following article by Participedia Research Assistant Lucy Parry was originally published by The Policy Space on October 11, 2016.

Democratic innovation is burgeoning worldwide. Over 50 examples from Australia alone are now detailed on Participedia, an online global project documenting democratic innovations. In some states, ‘mini-publics’ proliferate at local and state level. South Australia in particular has wholeheartedly embraced the notion of deliberative democracy and has embarked on an ambitious raft of citizen engagement processes including several Citizens’ Juries.

According to Graham Smith (2009) a democratic innovation must (a) engage citizens over organised interests and (b) be part of the wider political process. Mini-publics operationalise these aims through convening a group of citizens who are at least broadly representative of the wider population to deliberate on a given topic.

Despite fulfilling Smith’s criteria, democratic innovations in Australia run the risk of becoming neither democratic nor innovative. Scholarly debate over mini-publics peaked over a decade ago – isn’t it time to move on? Moving on necessitates moving with the times and dealing with contemporary challenges. One such challenge is the rise of populism. Australian democratic innovations typically rely on premises that are fundamentally opposed by populism: random selection and expert knowledge. This populist challenge cannot be ignored, and theorists and practitioners must (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Lessons on Long-Term Participation Efforts from PBNYC

We wanted to share an insightful article from NCDD member org the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation that shares lessons we can learn about avoiding pitfalls of long-term public participation projects from participatory budgeting in NYC. The piece focuses on PBNYC, but breaks down universal issues in engagement like waning interest from politicians and the ever-important problem of scaling up. We encourage you to read the piece below or find the original here.

How can PBNYC reduce the resource strain – without threatening its inclusive process?

To engage those often left out of democratic decision-making, Council Member district staffs and their volunteers rely on resource-intensive outreach work. They hand out flyers, knock on doors, staff booths at neighborhood events, and host information sessions at community centers.

Each district runs at least three events targeted to areas with less mobile populations or marginalized communities, such as NYCHA housing developments or senior centers. These face-to-face interactions have built trust – and proven crucial to engaging a rich cross-section of the city.

Behind the scenes, the City Council Speaker’s office offers centralized resources and guidance to help each participating district run its process. Meanwhile, nonprofit partners such as the Participatory Budgeting Project and Community Voices Heard spend hours building resources, running volunteer trainings, and evaluating the results of the process.

All of this work adds up to (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

ILG Releases Results of CA Public Engagement Survey

We encourage our members on the West Coast to take note of the results of a survey of local public engagement in California recently conducted by NCDD member organization the Institute for Local Government. The survey results show that local governments need more support in key areas that many of our members work in, which hopefully means more opportunities are on the horizon! We encourage you to read ILG’s post about the survey results below, or click here for more on their effort.

ILG Public Engagement Program Releases Findings from Self Evaluation Effort

“When citizens are actively involved in their civic and democratic institutions, their community and nation are stronger, more just, and more prosperous.”  — Alan Solomont, Dean, Tufts University

As public engagement is a foundation of our democracy, the Public Engagement Program has been a foundation of the Institute for Local Government (ILG).  A key component of our organization’s vision is to work toward a future where “all segments of the community are appropriately engaged in key public decisions.”

We’ve been working on this vision for more for a decade. But last year we decided to pause, assess our effectiveness and look at how we can best assist local governments. We retained outside consultants to help us undertake an ambitious, objective assessment of where we stand, what our local government partners need and how we can help them achieve their goals. The result was an in-depth evaluation resulting in informative infographics and accompanying narrative reports: (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Committing to Building Our Nation’s Capacity for Democracy

Today is Inauguration Day, and the scene in the nation’s capitol is one of stark differences. The country’s new administration is officially taking power amid both large protests and large celebrations, and the picture clearly reflects to us that, over the next four years, we in the field of dialogue and deliberation have our work cut out for us. A functioning democracy depends on people who disagree, often deeply, still having the capacity to listen and talk to one another and make decisions together. And today in DC, the need – and the opportunity – for the D&D field to work on building that capacity is on full display.

To help us reflect on the work ahead we wanted to share a piece penned by NCDD member Kyle Bozentko of the Jefferson Center that, though it was written shortly after the election, still holds much truth for today as well. We encourage you to read the piece below or find the original here.

The Future of Our Democracy

Regardless of your feelings about its outcome, this election has brought the divides in our country into sharp relief – divisions that threaten the health and vibrancy of our shared democracy.

Together, our country faces serious challenges. These challenges take different forms in different communities. We know, though, that communities have the capacity to address these issues and advocate for themselves.

That’s why our work envisions a different kind of democracy. A democracy where civic participation extends beyond the ballot box. A democracy that empowers citizens to solve problems, develop policy, meaningfully influence decision making, and inspire action. A democracy where all citizens, regardless of their differences, join together to create stronger communities and a thriving nation.

Today, we reaffirm our commitment to an inclusive democracy. We will continue to strive for accountability in our democratic institutions, for action and policy that responds to the ambitions of all Americans, for a unified expression of our power as citizens to shape the course of our lives…

Whether you’re feeling excited about the possibilities for change in America, or anger and despair at the uncertainty of our shared future, or both, there’s work to do today. Let’s get to it.

You can find the original version of this Jefferson Center blog piece at www.jefferson-center.org/the-future-of-our-democracy.

NCDD EventsNCDD Events

Join Confab Call with Not In Our Town on Responses to Hate

We are pleased to announce that NCDD is hosting our next Confab Call with Not In Our Town, an NCDD member organization that uses film and dialogue to help regular people respond to hate in their communities. This hour-long webinar will take place Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 from 1-2pm Eastern/10-11am Pacific, and we encourage everyone to register today for a inspiring call!

Not In Our Town is both an organization and a movement dedicated to stopping hate, addressing bullying, and building safe, inclusive communities for all. Not In Our Town (NIOT) was launched as an organization in 1995 with a landmark PBS film that documented the efforts of everyday people in Billings, Montana who stood up together after a series of hate crimes targeting their Native American, Black, and Jewish neighbors.

The story and the film went on to inspire many other communities in the US and around the world to form their own responses to hate crimes and hate groups cropping up in their locales, and the NIOT team continued to make inspirational short films documenting their stories as they unfolded. NIOT has since made over 100 of these films and created discussion guides that accompany them. The films and discussion guides cover dozens of subject areas and topics, and they are compiled into an online hub that is designed to support towns, schools, campuses, faith communities, or any other kind of group in launching dialogues on how they can address issues of hate and bullying that are impacting them.

This call is part of NCDD’s ongoing #BridgingOurDivides campaign that seeks to heal the damage done in the divisive 2016 election while also addressing the longer-standing divisions in our country. As many communities where NCDD members live and work in struggle with how to deal with the rise in hate crimes and assaults that we’ve seen since the election, and as we prepare for the possibility that this trend might not go away, NIOT’s dialogue resources and model for supporting action can be critical tools for the D&D community to tap into. Be sure to join us on this Confab to find out how!

This Confab Call will feature a discussion with NCDD supporting member Patrice O’Neill, who serves as the CEO and Executive Producer of Not In Our Town. Patrice will share (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Addressing Power in Dialogue Across Difference

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we thought we would share the piece below from Katie Hyten of NCDD member organization Essential Partners. In it, Katie reflects on the reality and impact of power differences in dialogue, pointing out that even if we don’t acknowledge it, power is there in our conversations. Especially if we’re to effectively bridge divides and cross lines of race, class, gender, and so on, we cannot ignore the fact that power dynamics will need to be managed. We encourage you to read the piece below or find the original here.

How Does Power Affect Our Conversations?

Essential PartnersIn a recent conversation with activists on a college campus, student leaders informed our practitioners that student protesters showed little interest in dialogue because they assumed that “dialogue” was an attempt to placate them by the administration. The power of the administration carried both weight and assumptions.

In another of our dialogues, a participant assumed he would have to begin speaking with an apology for his privilege before even participating in the conversation. In both of these instances (and in so many more), real and perceived power differences created profound barriers to meaningful conversation. Perhaps nowhere has that felt truer than following the results of the 2016 election.

When we create spaces for groups to communicate across differences, we run head first into questions of power. Indeed, it is impossible to have effective conversations around differences without first having often clumsy conversations about power – conversations where we step on toes and say the wrong thing because we want to do better. And because we know that having diverse, cohesive, engaged members of a community or institution is not only the right thing to do – it also increases innovation, profit, and community safety.

So here’s what we know (more…)