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From the CommunityFrom the Community

Amazing Faith of Texas: Beyond Dogma to Seek Out Common Ground

A fellow user of the Omidyar Network recently pointed me to the Amazing Faith of Texas website, which I find interesting – a collection of stories, oral histories of an identity in a way, and an accompanying discussion guide geared toward helping groups find common ground in the values and shared experiences that often underlay religious belief in a state like Texas.

Here is the invitation:

“Travel slowly along the roads and highways of Texas, and you are less likely to miss the turns that lead you into the heart of this great state — to the places of amazing faith. From tiny churches on dusty back roads to temples, mosques, synagogues and megachurches along the highways, The Amazing Faith of Texas is a stunning exploration in words and pictures of the strong, abiding beliefs that sustain faith-filled Texans. Beliefs that transcend the boundaries of religion. Transcend the dogma. Transcend the differences. We have heard all we need to hear about what divides us when it comes to faith. Now let’s talk about the common ground that unites us.”

The authors of the collection, creators of the (in)famous “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign and other state-level branding efforts explain their motivation:

“In the past years, it seemed that when it came to religion and faith, more was being reported about what divides Texans than what unites us. As a person who has spent most of my life trying in some small way to bring people together for the common good, that worried me. So I set out on a solitary road trip across Texas back in 2005 just to think about all that. I stopped at 123 churches along the way. What I experienced was not what I was hearing on the news. “

I haven’t had a chance to preview the book, so can’t really describe how many stories are included or really what they say. Nonetheless, it sounds like an interesting effort to bring people together across a challenging divide: the way we understand the influence (or lack thereof) of faith in our lives. The book is pretty slick from what I can tell, produced by the Austin-based marketing and ad agency GSD&M: lots of gorgeous images of beautiful and interesting people that we all want to relate to. Accompanied by a discussion kit that includes 14 “cards” representing fourteen stories contained in the volume along with related questions, its sure to be a useful discussion tool for faith-based and inter-faith discussions that seek out common ground.

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Cindy Sheehan's Farewell or, The Disappearing Act of the Left's Strongest Voices and Why It Matters (Part I)

The following article, which I first encountered at the humidbeings blog affected me too. As clear and as aching a voice as I’ve heard in a long time. I’ll get right to the point: what Cindy and John share here is a palpable, roiling anger. It is an anger I and many others feel. Its an anger a child soldier feels when they encounter the soothing voice of social workers for the first time, nurses and other civilians who seek them out in the first weeks of rehabilitation. It is an anger born in the collapse of myths around us, a pulverization of the stories and hopes that animate us – both as human beings and as a culture.

We don’t talk alot about anger in the dialogue and deliberation community – at least not directly. We talk about it “out there,” as if it affects other people but not ourselves. We talk about the other side, the healing. But not the churning journey itself. That is the stuff of story tellers, artists, vagabonds. At least that’s my impression. Is it a coincidence that much of what passes as the the “body politic” of the D&D community tends to talk about coming together, about common ground and the fusion of fates. While tending to vote a particular direction, tending to embrace particular secular and humanitarian values? The while perhaps while turning away from the time-tested tools of republic-building?

John Adams, Thomas Jefferson’s senior and equal by the pen if not the purse once spoke of the difficulty of getting 13 clocks to chime the hour in unison. When their energies unwind and inertia sets each piece more distant from the others, what mechanism exists to bind their chimes together again? Jeffersonians – in fact each and every member of the Continental Congress – were willing to risk their fortunes, their families and their lives for the American project. Today its seems more of us are willing to profit from the ailing enterprise and risk the lives of others for it than commit the sacrifices from which the our country was born.

A lot more after the break…


From the CommunityFrom the Community

Venezuelan Communal Councils

NCDD member, Jason Diceman, is working in Cumanà, Venezuela and has recently added an article to Wikipedia about Venezuelan Communal Councils (with special thanks to Josh Lerner for his research and contributions). Here’s an excerpt:

In April 2006 the Venezuelan government passed The Law of Communal Councils (consejo comunales) which empowers citizens to assemble, deliberate and vote on the creation of neighbourhood development plans and to elect local spokespersons to oversee their implementation. Meetings regularly include 50 to 150 citizens and are often convened on a weekly basis.

Read the full article.

From the CommunityFrom the Community

WJCF In the News!

Najeeba Sayeed-Miller sent us word that the Western Justice Center Foundation (www.westernjustice.org) has been in the news recently. The Pasadena Star-News reported on the WJCF’s work facilitating community-police dialogue around a recent wave of violence in Pasadena. We’ve included the text of the article below: (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Last Chance to Register for Transformative Dialogues Workshop

If you have been thinking about attending the Taos Institute’s first ever Summer Workshop Series on Transformative Dialogues, now is the time to register. The workshop will be held from June 24-29, 2007 on the beautiful campus of the University of New Hampshire. Registration includes five days of workshops, plenaries, guest speakers, breakfast and lunch as well as time to meet others who want to explore how dialogic practices transform lives, communities, organizations, and families. Regular Registration (until June 1st) is $800; Student and Senior registration (until June 1st) is $700. Lodging is available in the university dorm rooms for a reasonable rate of $30 per night – double, $35/person for a single. Visit www.taosinstitute.net/upcoming/c200706.html for details and registration information or contact info@taosinstitute.net. (more…)

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Register Now for Course on Effective Facilitation in California

Leadership Strategies will be offering its course “The Effective Facilitator” from June 18-20 in Irvine, CA. Participants will learn 10 Principles of Facilitation and 90+ Implementation Strategies! This course specifically trains to facilitate sessions where participants aren’t acting or reacting the way you’d like them to. The cost of the workshop is $1495. Register by June 8th and receive a 20% discount. Two registrations get 25% off and 3 registrations receive 30% off. The location of the Workshop is Inforte, 4 Park Plaza, Suite 700, Irvine, CA 92614. For more information, contact Olivia Cash at 800-824-2850 ext. 77, ocash@leadstrat.com or visit Leadership Strategies’ website: www.leadstrat.com.

From the CommunityFrom the Community

CLI Seeks Partners for 2007 Nigeria Democracy Summit

The just-concluded 2007 Nigerian general elections mark the first civilian transfer of power in Nigeria since its independence from Britain in 1960. Civic Life International (www.civiclifeint.org) has initiated talks with the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, to host a 2-day summit in Washington D.C , Fall 2007. The summit will consider the prospects for this aspiring democracy to become a strategic, democratic partner for the United States and a stabilizing influence in the region.

The proposed summit will be an opportunity to engage and interact with key Nigerian leaders (governors, bureaucrats, diplomats, media owners and policy researchers who have granted their consent). The conference organizers believe that democratic aspirations require a transparent, fertile and dynamic seed bed of peaceful dialogue and deliberation to grow and flourish. Together, the conference organizers hope to better understand and assist Nigeria to effect positive change, reducing chances for corruption, increasing profits and fairness from oil and other natural resources, and improving cooperation on concerns of terrorism, among other issues. Counterparts from the State Department, World Bank, and relevant Non-Government Organizations have been invited to participate in this mutually beneficial exchange. For more information on joining the summit as a partner, please contact Tokunbo Awoshakin at 937-259-9889 or Amy Jones at 937- 241-8213.

From the CommunityFrom the Community

CLI and Kettering Foundation kick off “Race & Violence” Study in Ohio

Civic Life International (www.civiclifeint.org) and the Charles F. Kettering Foundation (www.kettering.org) have entered into a learning agreement to focus on how citizens are engaging the in the Dayton area on the issue of race and violence. This work will consist of public engagement processes involving dialogue and deliberation; learning from reflective journals, facilitator reports, and participant interviews, including quotes describing participant’s experiences, so that other communities across the country can learn from their personal experiences as they attempt to improve race relations and reduce violence in their communities. Along with the online series, Civic Life International will observe, evaluate and report on:

  • How participants approach the issues at the forum
  • The challenges in connecting to the public
  • How did participants avoid simply talking to themselves and dimensions that emerged, outside of the original framing of issues
  • The usefulness of media tool and story telling techniques in creating space for deliberating

We’re very much looking forward to hearing about the results of this research!

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Al Gore’s New Book on Democratic Discourse

It’s been out for two days and it’s already #3 on Amazon.com. Al Gore’s new book “The Assault on Reason” focuses on the way we debate and decide on the critical issues of the day. This a major opportunity for our field…are we ready to respond? Here’s an excerpt from Gore’s note to Amazon readers:

Reasoned, focused discourse is vital to our democracy to ensure a well-informed citizenry. But this is difficult in an environment in which we are experiencing a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time–from the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trials to Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith.

Never has it been more vital for us to face the reality of our long-term challenges, from the climate crisis to the war in Iraq to the deficits and health and social welfare. Today, reason is under assault by forces using sophisticated techniques such as propaganda, psychology, and electronic mass media. Yet, democracy’s advocates are beginning to use their own sophisticated techniques: the Internet, online organizing, blogs, and wikis. Although the challenges we face are great, I am more confident than ever before that democracy will prevail and that the American people are rising to the challenge of reinvigorating self-government. It is my great hope that those who read my book will choose to become part of a new movement to rekindle the true spirit of America.

The book is $15.57 on Amazon.com.

From the CommunityFrom the Community

Putting the Coffee On, Settling In

Thanks for having me at NCDD! I’m pretty excited to be here and share ideas with all of you around the ways the arts can be used to improve and amplify the level of dialogue in our communities. I’ll also be sharing ideas and innovations from dialogue and deliberation on the ‘net. Finally, I’ll be very interested to explore how we can use tools like this blog and NCDD discussion boards to promote collaboration with the NCDD network.

I thought I’d use my first post to introduce a few things I’m pretty excited about these days – so here goes!

First is Netsquared’s upcoming conference May 29-30 in San Jose, California. The aim of this meeting is to bring together 21 awardees of this year’s Technology Innovation Fund and spur collaboration among these groups and their supporters. There are still some conference invitations available that can be requested online. If you are in the Bay area and interested in discovering ways the web can be used to advance the work of mission-driven organizations I recommend that you become a member of N2 and try and make this year’s meeting.

Something else that is new and on the horizon comes from Howard Rheingold, the visionary culture observer who brought us Smart Mobs. Howard is starting a new effort along with some of his colleagues from the Institute for the Future called “New Commons.” The idea Howard is working on, and I think it relates very closely to the D&D field (eg how we “govern” the commons) is to track and interpret emerging examples, practices, and principles of New Commons – resources identified as “commons” including the Internet, health care, urban space, the atmosphere, etc. For this exercise, Howard and his colleagues are viewing themselves as “naturalists” in the emerging landscape of new commons, collecting “specimens” and using them to understand this phenomenon from the bottom up. Check in at the ITF website or here for news when the project goes public.

Finally, this 9min video came in a copy of Wired Magazine this week. I liked the idea – that innovation can be found in the most unlikely places, and dialogue is at the center of exploration – and have been wondering how to scale it? Shell obviously has been pouring millions into scenarios and other methods for organizational learning, and some of this work has paid off. While its nice to see the rose-colored picture of humaneness and dedication reflected in this film, it also makes it a little too easy to forget about what is happening in terms of justice to our friends and family in places like Nigeria. What are your reactions to the video?