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Does Deliberation Work? A Summary of the Usefulness of Deliberation in Professional and Civic Organizations (NIF Report)

This report by Jeffrey D. Greene provides an overview of the findings revealed in two workshops conducted by the Kettering Foundation that involved professional and civic organizations (more details on the NIF website).  In short, the central question that this report addresses is: What do we know about the use of deliberation in these organizations with respect to the way they interact with the public?

From the report’s conclusion…

One problem that is evident from the discussion is that the working concept of “civic engagement” or “engaging the public” is not clearly defined for the groups that participated. Ambiguity existed about getting the public involved in community service and what it actually means to be civically engaged. Some organizations felt that to be truly civically engaged was something deeper than just performing community service. It is fair to conclude that organizations have different ideas about the meaning of this concept.

The problems cited by the organizations about holding forums were similar to the problems faced with using forums generally. Some of the main problems noted were that many people feel that the forums are talk without action. For some, endless dialogue solves nothing. Some cited the problem of bringing in experts who sometimes reject the general the idea of NIF; they may dominate the discussion. Others cited the idea that local issues are closer to citizens than the larger, national issues. That is, it is easier to get citizens to attend forums that are about community problems than national issues. Most organizations noted the problem with people being too busy to participate, which is reflected in the characteristics of mobile society and communities in which people do not know their neighbors.

More about National Issues Forums and their Reports on the Issues…

The National Issues Forums (NIF) network includes civic, educational, and other organizations, and individuals, whose common interest is to promote public deliberation in America. NIF issue guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. Look through all the NIF issue guides and their corresponding moderator guides, DVDs, and other resources at www.nifi.org/issue_books.

Reports are published periodically to communicate the outcomes of forums held across the nation about a particular issue. Making use of participants’ answers to forum questionnaires, reports from moderators, and in-depth studies of selected forums, these reports describe in some detail what happened as people deliberated about the issue at hand. View all NIF Reports on the Issues at www.nifi.org/reports/issues.aspx.

NIF issue books & associated tools can be accessed at www.nifi.org/discussion_guides/index.aspx.

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/reports/detail.aspx?catID=19&itemID=5388

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