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Starbucks Organizing Dialogue on Climate Change

Starting in August, the coffee company Starbucks will bring the story of “Arctic Tale,” a new family-friendly wild life adventure movie, to its stores. The goal of this promotion is to help generate interest in the film as well as educate customers about the climate crisis and inspire them to be a part of the solution through simple, everyday decisions. On August 15, across multiple U.S. markets, Starbucks will host a “National Day of Discussion” featuring environmental leaders who will direct conversations with customers about solutions to address the vital issue of climate change. Organizations such as The Climate Group, Conservation International, Earth Watch and Global Green USA will participate in in-store events across Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Houston, Boston, Phoenix, and other U.S. markets.

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Columbia University Hosting Socratic Conversations

Socratic Dialogue is blooming everywhere. Recently I posted about the Socrates Cafe movement. Now another story about a Socratic dialogue initiative has come across the wire. Columbia University is sponsoring Socratic conversations. The conversations, which are sponsored by the Gottesman Libraries, 525 W. 120th St., range broadly and probe deeply into the basic challenges of life, as did Socrates’ encounters that launched Western philosophy. Students are engaging in spirited discussions of ideas and issues ranging from “The Pursuit of Happiness” and “Democratic Leadership,” to “Holidays Deconstructed” and “Bullshit” (impelled by a best-selling book by a professor of philosophy at Princeton).

Ronald Gross conducts the sessions, which are based on methods described in his book Socrates’ Way (www.SocratesWay.com). Gross co-chairs the University Seminar on Innovation in Education (www.columbiaseminar.org) and has launched groups to revive meaningful conversation and civic discourse throughout the U.S.and abroad. The conversations are informed by the latest literature which is at hand at each session for reference and follow-up. The conversations have already generated thinking and insights of keen interest to the whole campus community.

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Take a Survey on Facilitation and Collaborative Decision-Making

NCDD member Juli Fellows recently sent us this interesting resource on collaborative decision-making. The “Collaborative Decision Process” questionnaire was originally developed in the 1980s and 1990s and has been used extensively to assess the effectiveness of collaborative decision processes. Professor Sandor Schuman and colleagues would like to make the questionnaire available to group facilitators as a tool for helping groups improve their collaborative decision making processes.

Preliminary to making it available, they want to collect a broad baseline of data. If you would like to participate in this study, please respond to the survey below. You will be asked to think about a specific meeting (or series of meetings) in which you had a role as participant, facilitator, or observer and respond to the questions with that meeting in mind.


I’ll keep you posted about the dissemination of the Collaborative Decision Process tool for facilitators.

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OpenCongress Launches Online Tools

OpenCongress is a free, open-source, non-profit, and non-partisan web resource that aims to make Congress more transparent and to encourage civic engagement. They have just launched a new “Tools” section at www.opencongress.org/tools. Some of these tools use open-source code to make it easier to share info about Congress, and some are useful new resources for greater government transparency. Here’s what you’ll find there:

1. OpenCongress Syndication Panel: an easy way to display info from OpenCongress on your website.

Simply choose what you’d like to show: the most-viewed bills, the Members of Congress most written-about in the news and on blogs, top search terms, and much more. Then you can customize the appearance of the panel and just copy-and-paste some HTML into your site. It’s perfect for sidebars of political blogs — now your readers can have an at-a-glance, up-to-date way to follow what’s hot in Congress. For an example of how the Syndication Panel (sometimes called a “widget”) looks, take a glance at this sample : http://participatorypolitics.org/ (more…)

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Last Chance to Register for Effective Consultant Workshop

Leadership Strategies (www.leadstrat.com) is offering a two-day workshop called “The Effective Consultant” from August 20-22 in Atlanta, GA. The Effective Consultant course provides a structured framework for consulting, with techniques and client handling strategies for each stage of the consulting process. The course will teach participants to:

  • Listen to client requests and ask key questions to help clients discover their real needs
  • Communicate effectively with clients about status, issues and challenges
  • Uncover the common barriers to team success and prevention strategies
  • Set appropriate expectations with client and manage them throughout the project life cycle

The cost of the course is $1495. To register go to www.leadstrat.com/coursereg2.asp. For more information, visit Leadership Strategies’ website or call 1-800-824-2850.

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Museums of Conscience Seeking Director of Programs

Liz Sevcenko just sent us the following job opportunity: The International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience (www.sitesofconscience.org) is a network of historic sites dedicated to remembering past struggles for justice and addressing their contemporary legacies. They are seeking a Director of Programs in the Americas to develop and oversee the Coalition’s work in North and South America. The goal of the Director of Programs in the Americas is to coordinate productive exchange and learning among members and affiliates in the region that builds the capacity for historic sites to serve as centers for civic dialogue. S/he is responsible for developing, maintaining, and growing the Coalition network, and for developing and dissemination of Coalition training resources. S/he reports directly to the Director of the Coalition and is supported by a shared administrative assistant.

Specific responsibilities include to: (more…)

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NYT Reports on How Culture Affects Deliberation

[cross-posted from deliberative-democracy.net]

Today’s New York Times features the very interesting article “Japan Learns Dreaded Task of Jury Duty.” The article reports on a central tension facing the Japanese as they move towards using juries in their court system:

Japan is preparing to adopt a jury-style system in its courts in 2009, the most significant change in its criminal justice system since the postwar American occupation. But for it to work, the Japanese must first overcome some deep-rooted cultural obstacles: a reluctance to express opinions in public, to argue with one another and to question authority.

And it goes on to describe how participating in simulated jury deliberations is causing a great deal of embarrassment and moral confusion for Japanese citizens who have grown up in a culture that values that harmony, ambiguity and not speaking up.

Although it takes place in a context very different from the US, I thought this article was a great example of the role culture plays in shaping dialogue and deliberation, and raises questions for US theorists and practitioners to consider. Even within the US, cultural norms about public talk vary from region to region – in the Midwest, where I teach, it’s clear that people are not as comfortable publicly disagreeing with one another as they may be in other parts of the country. How can we researchers and practitioners be sensitive to different cultural values about public talk, and try to accommodate them? Or should we aim instead to develop a widespread national culture that normalizes forthright discussion, and that overrides cultural shyness about public disagreement?

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Youth Service America Offers Micro-Grants for Youth-Led Social Ventures

Here’s a grant for young people interested in starting their own community dialogue programs: The Youth Service America-Youth Venture Program, a joint partnership between Youth Service America ( www.ysa.org ) and Youth Venture, Inc. ( www.genv.net ), is now accepting applications from young people across the United States who are interested in starting their own sustainable social ventures. Examples of possible ventures include a youth center designed to keep youth out of trouble with music and art programs; an anti-peer pressure education campaign; a bike repair shop with a vocational training program; or an assembly program touring inner-city schools that combines music with an anti-drug/violence performances. Ventures must be youth-led and designed to be a lasting, sustainable asset to the community. YSA Youth Venture teams are required to plan a Global Youth Service Day ( http://YSA.org/NYSD/ ) project every year that their venture is operational.

The YSA Youth Venture Program provides a variety of resources, including a national network of like-minded young people, media opportunities, technical support, helpful toolkits and workshops, as well as grants of up to $1,000 each for start-up expenses. Visit the Youth Venture Web site for complete program information. The deadline for applications is August 13, 2007.

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Discussion Guide for World AIDS Day 2007

I’ve just finished a second round of changes to Peace Tiles’ World AIDS Day 2007 discussion guide, which is ready for download and review. I really, really appreciated the feedback of diligent readers of the first draft – I think it has helped to improve the overall structure as well as some important and specific details. So I wanted to introduce the guide to the NCDD community with an invitation to have a glance through it, give it a test run if you can, and please share with me any insights and recommendations you have to improve the guide.

The guide, titled A Triumph of the Spirit, builds off of the Amazing Grace of Texas companion guide, which introduced a series of “playing cards” as a way for book groups to discuss Texans’ experiences of faith. I adopted that format – with the permission of the original book’s publishers – as a way to put some of the remarkable Peace Tiles imagery created by young people to good use. In a nutshell, the guide encourages educators and artists to convene their own discussions around the HIV/AIDS epidemic and it local and global dimensions as part of a search for ways to take action….


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Virtual Surreality: State of Play in Singapore

State of Play V, one of the single most interesting gatherings of “games for good” developers in the world will take place in Singapore later this year. Perhaps it is apropos: somewhat more than slightly ahead of Myanmar on my list of decidedly not playful Asian governments, come August Singapore will welcome the creme de la creme of designers schooled in escapism.

“Building the Global Metaverse” is the theme of the fifth annual State of Play conference on the future of virtual worlds, especially the transnational dimensions of virtual worlds online and the impact of these environments throughout society. Virtual worlds – or, collectively, “the metaverse” – are “crucial building blocks of global civil society” according to conference organizers. A peak at online spaces like Second Life will give you a sense of whence the hype (hint: “…they harbor great potential for relationship building and cooperation across national borders” declares the conference website).