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Repairing the Breach: The Power of Dialogue to Heal Relationships and Communities

The 7-page article, Repairing the Breach: The Power of Dialogue to Heal Relationships and Communities (2014), by Robert Stains Jr was published in Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. Dialogue has an incredible power to create a space for individuals to come together and work through difficult conversations that may have previously been felt by the participants as an insurmountable task. Public Conversations Project use of the Reflexive Structured Dialogue process creates an opportunity for a profound shift in conversations, as participants share their own personal stories, emotions and identities; to see and foster the humanity in each other and explore the common ground between both “sides”.

Find the PDF available for download from the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

Dialogue holds the promise of healing in all these contexts in which community is broken. The sense of community depends on the quality of relationships, and relationships grow from conversations. Therefore, the quality of conversation drives the quality of relationships and the possibility of community. At the Public Conversations Project (PCP), we have found that shifting the conversation through Reflective, Structured Dialogue invites and enables people to move from certainty to curiosity to caring; from mindless stereotyping to genuine interest by changing the nature and process of their conversations. Whether it’s a church divided over theology and human sexuality, a workplace split by gender issues or a region mired in religious and ethnic conflict, in dialogue mutual curiosity and exploration build on each other and relationships move closer to being restored. Much work has been done in our field to create and facilitate these kinds of healing conversations. Because they remain less visible than other kinds of dialogue, much more work needs to be done by practitioners, scholars and funders to evaluate, expand and sustain them.

Hope for relationship and community healing comes when dialogue focuses on personal stories, emotions and identities. It can counter the effects of the stories told of others that shred relational and communal bonds and the emotions that inflame or imprison. (Black, 2008; Freedman & Combs, 2009; Seikkula & Trimble, 2005). In face-to-face dialogue, participants have the opportunity to edit and add to the stories that are told about them, changing the ways that they are seen. As Black has observed, it is “…through telling and responding to personal stories, group members craft their identities and take on others’ perspectives” (Black, 2008, p. 93). This experience of being witnessed is powerful and connecting. It opens receptivity to others’ stories, dilutes stereotypes and invites the heart 1 Stains: The Power of Dialogue to Heal Relationships and Communities as much as the mind. And heart-focus can transform enemies to friends (Eilberg, 2014; Palmer, 2011).


The Compost of Disagreement: Creating Safe Spaces for Engagement and Action

The 6-page article, The Compost of Disagreement: Creating Safe Spaces for Engagement and Action (2014), by Michele Holt-Shannon and Bruce Mallory, was published in Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. The authors describe the experience coordinating the New Hampshire Listens campaign to address the growing concern around aggressive and combative many public events were becoming from mid-1990s and on. Over years of experience, they found that the more diverse and varied the participants and experiences, the richer the conversation that would emerge. And in order to do so, it is vital to create spaces that are safe for all parties involved, in order for transformative dialogue to take place.

Find the PDF available for download from the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

We understand that one of the most important contributions we can make to public life is to create safe spaces where diverse points of view can be expressed, deeply held differences can be explored, and the potential for discovering common ground amidst the cacophony can be nourished. The work runs counter to the natural tendency to want to “manage difference” or find “consensus” or help everyone to “just get along.” Paradoxically, we use the tools of deliberation to uncover those things that divide in order to find a shared path forward.

We could think about this uncovering and exploration as working the community compost. Taking the raw ingredients of values, beliefs, attitudes, cultural norms, local history, municipal policies and practices, traditional and social media, and the multifaceted personalities of local actors, we strive to create a space that allows for heat, conflict, and the transformation of old patterns and approaches to new kinds of rich, nuanced, adaptive solutions. Believing that knowledge and action are co-constructed in the milieu of community, it is logical that listening to and considering a range of perspectives can give rise to feasible, practical approaches.


Difference, Conflict & Love: How Family Can Lead Us Home

The article, Difference, Conflict & Love: How Family Can Lead Us Home by Kathy Eckles was published April 2016 on Public Conversations Project blog. In the article, Eckles shares some of her family’s history regarding dialogue and the desire growing up to have had other alternatives communication with her family, especially when it came to harder issues. She gives 3 steps for improving communication skills with family, even when differences and conflict arise.

Below is an excerpt from the article and you can find the original in full on Public Conversations Project blog here.

From Public Conversations Project…

3 Steps to Improved Communication Skills

Step 1: Build Emotional Sturdiness
Stretch your comfort zone. Break old patterns. Say ‘yes’ to opportunities. Learn new things. Build trust in yourself as you strengthen your emotional capacity to listen, speak, create, succeed, fail, give, receive, lead. There will be moments of awkwardness, but you’ll survive them and, with humility and good-heartedness, they can even be endearing. You’ll likely wish for a few ‘do-overs,’ too, but you will grow.Step one: live your life beyond what you already know.

Step 2: Understand Self & Others
Ask why do I do what I do? What motivates each of us to be so different in how we communicate, lead and interact in relationships? What are my gifts and challenges? How can I be more accepting of myself and others? How might acceptance, appreciation and knowing more about how to meet people where they are impact our relationships at home and at work? Would we be happier and more productive? One of my favorite resources is the Enneagram. It’s helped me be more compassionate, appreciate differences, and relate more effectively. Step two: know thyself. Appreciate. Diversify. Respond, not react. Communicate in ways that make sense to the receiver.

Step 3: Develop Communication Skills
…Expand your conversation toolkit beyond news, sports, weather and the 140 character comment to include how to: listen and ask genuine questions to have a conversation that’s rich with curiosity and connection; unlock stuck conversations through mutual understanding; feel more grounded in your own voice; communicate across different cultures, personalities and contexts, and develop everyday tools to resolve or transform conflict. Step three: expand your quality communication skills. Practice every day. (more…)

How to Develop Discussion Materials for Public Dialogue

The 28-page guide from Everyday Democracy, How to Develop Discussion Materials for Public Dialogue, was published November 2007. This guide describes in detail the process for developing materials for public dialogue, as have been used to develop the Everyday Democracy discussion guides. From how to get started, this guide provides tips for creating a team that represents though the guide is aimed toward and some best practices for when selecting team contributors. The guide continues with four templates for developing each step of the process when developing materials, some exercises for writing, and some addition optional elements to consider developing.

Below is an excerpt of the guide, which is available for download as PDF on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

ED_Develop_dialogue_materialsFrom Everyday Democracy…

Good discussion materials help people explore a complex, public issue from a wide range of views, and find solutions that they can agree to act on and support. Discussion materials don’t have to provide all the answers; instead, they provide a framework and a starting place for a deep, fair discussion where every voice can be heard.

Keep in mind that this is an art, not a science. As you write, think about your audience. Don’t overestimate what people know, but don’t underestimate their intelligence. Trust the public, and trust the process.

The step-by-step instructions provided here mirror the order that many discussion guides follow. They are designed to help the writing team move through a series of meetings and tasks to produce the discussion materials.

Guiding principles
Your discussion guide should… (more…)

15 Key Metrics for Evaluating Participatory Budgeting: A Toolkit for Evaluators and Implementers

The 29-page toolkit, 15 Key Metrics for Evaluating Participatory Budgeting: A Toolkit for Evaluators and Implementers, was created in collaboration with Public Agenda (PA), the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP), and the North American Research Board. The toolkit includes 15 metrics to capture major elements of a PB process, to support the evaluation of a specific PB site and use the data to inform the larger PB movement.

Below is an excerpt from the toolkit, which you can find in full PDF, both in English and in Spanish on Public Agenda’s site here.

From Public Agenda…

Evaluation is a critical component of any PB effort. Systematic and formal evaluation can help people who introduce, implement, participate in or otherwise have a stake in PB understand how participatory budgeting is growing, what its reach is, and how it’s impacting the community and beyond.

We developed the 15 Key Metrics for Evaluating Participatory Budgeting toolkit for people interested in evaluating PB efforts in their communities. It is meant to encourage and support some common research goals across PB sites and meaningfully inform local and national discussions about PB in the U.S. and Canada. It is the first iteration of such a toolkit and especially focused on providing practical and realistic guidance for the evaluation of new and relatively new PB processes.

Anyone involved in public engagement or participation efforts other than participatory budgeting may also be interested in reviewing the toolkit for research and evaluation ideas.

To develop the 15 PB metrics, the North American Research Board, Public Agenda (PA) and the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) drew on previous evaluations of PB in the U.S. and around the world, the academic literature on PB as a democratic innovation and the experience of local evaluators in the U.S. and Canada. To create the research instruments, Public Agenda and PBP adapted surveys originally developed and used by local evaluators in various PB sites across North America.

The toolkit includes:
-15 Key Metrics for Evaluating Participatory Budgeting: 15 indicators (“metrics”) that capture important elements of each community-based PB process and the PB movement in North America overall
-Key PB Metrics Research Instruments: A set of Research Instruments (all customizable) to support local evaluation and facilitate the collection of data that address the key PB metrics: Idea Collection Participant Survey Template, Voter Survey Template, and Questionnaire for Evaluators and Implementers
-Introduction to the Instruments and Evaluation Timeline: An introduction to the above instruments, which also includes a timeline for how evaluation can fit into PB roll-out

15 Key Metrics for Evaluating Participatory Budgeting (more…)

The Reunited States of America

The 192-page book by Mark Gerzon, The Reunited States of America: How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide, was published February 2016. This book is a manifesto on how to bridge the political divide in America, during a time when the political environment is deeply poisoned. Gerzon shares the experiences of 40 individuals and organizations that are already doing the work of finding common ground, and working together around challenging and divisive issues. Here you will find a toolkit to join the emerging movement towards a transpartisan political environment and help reunite the states of America.

You can find the book on Mark Gerzon’s site here and also, in physical copy or audio format from Amazon here.

Reunited_StatesFrom the book…

We Americans are solving problems and achieving positive results not despite but because of our differences. Many or our fellow citizens are living evidence of this third story. They are putting country before party. They are drawing the outlines of a new political map that connects us rather than divides us. They are forming networks and organizations that are building bridges rather than walls. They are bridging the partisan divide- in living rooms and in communities, in state legislatures and on Capitol Hill.

Story #3 does not mean agreeing on everything. Nor does it mean being “nice” or being “moderate” or “splitting the difference”. On the contrary, it may mean fighting for what one believes in- but respecting one’s adversary for doing the same. It means knowing the difference between an issue on which you are willing to listen and learn, and one where you believe you are not. Above all, it means disagreeing strongly without ever forgetting that “they” probably love America just as much as “we” do.  (more…)

Freshwater For The Future (IF Discussion Guide)

The 32-page discussion guide, Freshwater For The Future, was edited by Shannon Wheatley Hartman Ph.D. and Dennis Boyer, and published on Interactivity Foundation’s site in January 2016. This discussion guide explores multiple dimensions around water issues and the future of water needs.

You can view the discussion guide in full on IF’s site and it can also be downloaded as a PDF for free here.

IF_FreshwaterFrom Interactivity Foundation…

Water, water, not everywhere… and maybe soon not a drop fit to drink. Water issues present a convergence of issues relating to population, where and how we live, how we have modified our environment, and how we produce our food, fiber, energy, and material goods. Water has been one of our primary “commons” and here in the United States has often been treated as an inexhaustible resource. Environmental indicators suggest that era is coming to an end. Water is worth discussing now as an issue that promises to be ever more prominent in the coming years.

This project will explore the public policy possibilities surrounding the issue of freshwater. We will examine how regulation, supply, and access to water shape our lives, vitality of cities, international relationships, and sense of stewardship of the planet. The various dimensions of water will include, but are not limited to: access to water, water as a natural right, riparian water rights, regulation of water supply, water as habitat (inland fisheries, biological reserves), water as security (local, national, human, food), agriculture, health of aquifers, clean water as key to public health, and water as component of community and economic development. (more…)

Dialogue on Sexual Assault

The article, Dialogue on Sexual Assault, by Natasha Dobrott was published April 2016 on Public Conversations Project‘s blog. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Dobrott discusses how college campus are talking about sexual assault. Many universities and colleges have come under scrutiny for both their Title IX violations and prevalence of sexual assault. The article uplifts some of the different ways that the conversations are taking place around addressing sexual assault on college campuses and the opportunity for more conversation around “healthy relationships, masculinity, and social norms”.

Below is an excerpt from the article and you can find the original in full on Public Conversations Project blog here.

PCP_VigilFrom Public Conversations Project…

Engaging in Dialogue
The good news is that, at least in part due to the conversations that added scrutiny has inspired, students and administrators are talking about this issue on campus through formal and informal means more than ever. According to one Title IX administrator from the Boston area, sexual assault prevention is most successful when it is a “collaborative and iterative process” that involve the partnership of different stakeholders on campus. This includes raising awareness, teaching students how to keep themselves and their friends safe, and having adequate response teams in administration, law enforcement, and health services in the event that sexual assault does occur. One university embodied this idea of a collaborative and iterative process when it involved representatives from students, faculty, and administrative groups in revising its Title IX policies. This kind of opportunity allowed students to feel as though “they had agency and ownership in the process” and that their ideas were heard and taken into account. The schools that are most successful in sexual assault prevention have created multiple avenues such as this through which students, faculty, administrators, and law enforcement can discuss the issue, build trust, and maintain accountability. (more…)

Speed Meeting Activity for Community Addressing Racism

The three-page, Speed Meeting Activity for Community Addressing Racism, by Everyday Democracy was published October 2014 on ED’s site here. This activity is designed to address racial equity issues, and is especially helpful for those using the Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation discussion guide [by Everyday Democracy].

Participants are given a printout of a clock with four meeting times: at the 3:00, 6:00, 9:00, and 12:00. Each person finds a partner in the room to meet with during each of these times (4 meet ups total). Each time slot has a different question to explore with the partner “scheduled” at that time, and after all four meet ups, there is an overall group debrief at the end. Below is an excerpt from the activity and you can find the entire activity on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

ED_address racismFrom Everyday Democracy…

This activity can be used whenever people don’t know each other and need to connect at any phase of the work, and especially in the organizing phase.

Purpose of Activity:
– To get participants comfortable talking in pairs and about race/ethnicity
– To allow participants an opportunity to reflect on their past and present experiences
– To help participants feel more comfortable thinking about their experiences through a racial/ethnic/cultural lens. (more…)

Citizens at Work: An Interim Report [KF A Public Voice 2016]

The 24-page interim report, Citizens at Work, was released by Kettering Foundation at their annual event, A Public Voice 2016 in May 2016. The interim report describes Kettering’s two series of deliberative forums held between 2015-2016. The two series revolved around the issue guides, Health Care: How Can We Reduce Costs and Still Get the Care We Need? and Making Ends Meet: How Should We Spread Prosperity and Improve Opportunity?, which were prepared by Kettering and used for National Issues Forums. Below is more info from Kettering on the report and you can read the original on KF’s site here.

From Kettering…

At A Public Voice 2016, representatives of NIF and other deliberative democracy groups discussed the concerns that have emerged from forums on heath-care and economic security issues. A panel of elected officials and policymakers responded to that discussion.

The interim report is drawn from the work of NIF members and forum participants. To compile the report, researchers from Kettering and Public Agenda attended forums; talked with forum moderators; reviewed questionnaires filled out by forum participants, and analyzed transcripts of forums.

A Public Voice 2016: An Introduction

For more than 30 years, the Kettering Foundation has reported to policymakers and government officials about the characteristics of public thinking on key policy questions. In 2016, the foundation is reporting on citizen deliberations on two separate but important questions:

• How can we reduce costs and still get the health care we need?

• How should we spread prosperity and improve opportunity?

The 2016 citizen deliberations have taken place in public forums around the country, using two issue guides prepared by the Kettering Foundation for the National Issues Forums (NIF): Health Care: How Can We Reduce Costs and Still Get the Care We Need? and Making Ends Meet: How Should We Spread Prosperity and Improve Opportunity?

About 2,800 people from across the country have participated in more than 250 forums on either health care or making ends meet. About 210 of the forums have been in face-to-face meetings. The remainder have taken place online, using a platform called Common Ground for Action, which is designed to reflect what happens in in-person deliberative forums. This platform was developed by Kettering using the same principles used in preparing issue guides.

Download the interim report for free here.

About Kettering Foundation
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/blogs/apv-2016-interim-report