Tiny House
More About The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation • Join Now!
Community News

Listening for, and Finding, a Public Voice (Connections 2015)

The four-page article, Listening for, and Finding, a Public Voice by Bob Daley was published Fall 2015 in Kettering Foundation‘s annual newsletter, “Connections 2015 – Our History: Journeys in KF Research”.

The article describes how the design of deliberative democracy by David Mathews, president of Kettering Foundation, and Daniel Yankelovich, president of Public Agenda; sought to address what it meant to have “a public voice”. From this inquiry came a series of deliberative forums around some of the more important current issues, and the results were then shared with policymakers. Kettering Foundation created, A Public Voice, a nation-wide broadcast that would act as the annual report of these deliberative forums, which first aired April 1991 and continues to today. Below is an excerpt from the article. Connections 2015 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

KF_Connections 2015The question was: If the public doesn’t offer infallible wisdom for policymakers, what does it offer? The exchange between Henry and Cheney marked the beginning of the foundation’s inquiry into a public voice—not, mind you, the public voice, but a public voice—that continues today.

In his 2012 book, Voice and Judgment: The Practice of Public Politics, Kettering Foundation senior associate Bob Kingston said researchers wanted “to learn more clearly how the public might find and exert its will in shaping its communities and directing its nation (which sometimes seems, paradoxically, more oligarchy than democracy).”

The research plan included a series of deliberative forums held throughout the country on urgent national issues followed by reporting outcomes to policymakers…

In 1990, it was suggested, Kettering could build NIF’s influence in Washington, and its underlying vision of politics, through a widely distributed, annual report of the forums not much different from the National Town Meetings.

To envision the celebration’s annual national town meeting as a program televised from coast to coast was an incremental step forward. Kettering’s goal was to reach political and media leadership with a message about deliberative democracy and the public voice. To attract congressional attention, the reasoning went, NIF had to be of interest to a significant public audience in congressional districts.

The best way to ensure congressional attention to a public voice, it was felt, was to have congressional participation in the video. The second best way, it was further felt, was to ensure that the discussion was widely seen by elected officials’ constituents.

After reviewing several options, public television—considered to command a reasonable, national audience—was targeted. The foundation’s senior associate Bob Kingston was executive producer; Milton Hoffman, experienced in public affairs, public television programs, was the producer; and senior associate Diane Eisenberg handled distribution.

A Public Voice ’91, a one-hour public affairs television program was taped on April 15, 1991, at the National Press Club. It was the first time A Public Voice was used formally to describe forum outcomes. Bob Kingston was the moderator. Four members of Congress, four members of the press, and four members of the public joined him.

By September 5, 1991, 123 public television stations and 49 cable systems had broadcast the program and it was being distributed by community colleges to their local public access channels. The program continued to be produced in much the same format as the first one from 1991 through 2007. At its peak, A Public Voice was broadcast by nearly 300 public television stations across the country every year.

The program was seen as the central thrust in the foundation’s campaign to bring a new sense of politics to the consideration of the nation’s political and media leadership. The video had a single purpose: to show that there is something we can call “a public voice” on complex and troubling policy matters. And this public voice is significantly different from the debate on these issues as it is recorded in the media and significantly different from the debate “as we hear it through the mouths of political leaders.”

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
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.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2015 issue, edited by Kettering program officer Melinda Gilmore and director of communications David Holwerk, focuses on our yearlong review of Kettering’s research over time.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/sites/default/files/periodical-article/Daley_2015.pdf

Deliberative Publicity

Deliberative Publicity by Chris Karpowitz and Chad Raphael, was published on the Deliberative Democracy Consortium blog in April 2015. The article talks about the evolving role of publicity around deliberative forums, and how deliberative publicity has the power to amplify the public’s voice and create meaningful connections to the larger political structure.

Karpowitz and Raphael analyzed a wide variety of deliberative forum practices, and found that many had opportunities for improvement when publicizing a forum around transparency and accurately sharing participant’s viewpoints. They recognized the growing need for common standards around how to accurate share what happened inside a forum with those who did not attend the forum, which lead to the creation of the “Deliberative Publicity Checklist”, as a starting point for these standards. Read the article in full below or find the original posting here.

Read the full article

Why should anyone who does not attend a deliberative forum trust that it was run fairly and that its conclusions are sound? Sure, we know from ample research and our own experiences that practitioners of public deliberation are committed to discovering an authentic public voice and wise solutions to social problems. But even in a world with many more opportunities for deliberation, the vast majority of citizens will not attend any given forum. Those who do not attend cannot directly experience the benefits of deliberation, and they may not fully understand what such forums add to the political discourse or how much credence they should give to what happens there. How do practitioners communicate effectively and ethically to decision makers, stakeholders, journalists, and community members who do not participate in our forums? This is the challenge of publicity. (more…)

Public Education as Community Work (Connections 2015)

The four-page article, Public Education as Community Work, by Connie Crockett, Phillip D. Lurie, and Randall Nielsen was published Fall 2015 in Kettering Foundation‘s annual newsletter,“Connections 2015 – Our History: Journeys in KF Research”. The three authors describe the history of how Kettering has studied the politics of education and reveal some of the challenges faced in education today.

In the article, the authors discuss how the Foundation’s founder, Charles F. Kettering had been aware from the beginning how the education of youth and the way in which public education is shaped by its community, was vital for true democracy. The challenges that Kettering identified in the 20’s, that the community must actively take part in shaping education in order for democracy to continue, are still present today. Below is an excerpt from the article. You can find Connections 2015 available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here. (more…)

Guidebooks for Student-Facilitated Discussion in Online Courses

The Guidebooks for Student-Facilitated Discussion in Online Courses,  by Shannon Wheatley Hartman, Ph.D. and Jack Byrd Jr., Ph.D. were published January 2016 from Interactivity Foundation (IF). IF offers both a 64-page student guidebook edition and a 60-page instructor guidebook, which describes their discussion process in the 3-parts. Read more about the guidebook  and download the PDFs for free on Interactivity Foundation’s website here.

From IF…

Guidebook_for_Student_Fac_DiscussionThese guidebooks offer a practical guide for students and instructors in online courses. They offer a step-by-step guide to our 3-part online discussion process:

1. Pre-discussion collaboration between student-facilitator(s) and instructor

2. Student-facilitated discussion of exploratory, civil, and developmental student discussions

3. Post-discussion de-briefing between student facilitator(s) and/or discussion group and instructor (more…)

Kettering’s Evolving Understanding- and my Own (Connections 2015)

This three-page article, Kettering’s Evolving Understanding- and my Own: Reflections on Three Decades of Involvement with Democracy and the Foundation that Studies What It Takes to Make It Work as It Should, by Ray Minor, was published Fall 2015 in Kettering Foundation‘s annual newsletter,“Connections 2015 – Our History: Journeys in KF Research”. Minor shares his experience working with Kettering for the last thirty years and how KF’s research has helped to strengthen the democratic process.

He tells of the network of individuals who started the Birmingham National Issues Forums, which would later become the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI). Then goes on to tell of the effort to develop civic capacity in Alabama, which would lead to a series of forums that would shape the David Mathews Center for Civic Life. Below is an excerpt from the article. Connections 2015 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article… (more…)

How to Recruit Dialogue Participants

How to Recruit Dialogue Participants, published June 2015 by Everyday Democracy, includes five tips to for getting a well-rounded group of dialogue participants together. The one-page read has five recommendations for having a successful dialogue, including: reviewing dialogue recruitment goals, developing talking points, plan outreach strategies, give coalition members recruiting assignments, and take extra steps to recruit underrepresented groups. The article can be read below and found on Everyday Democracy’s website here.

From Everyday Democracy (more…)

From Public Policy Institutes to Centers for Public Life: Transforming People and Communities (Connections 2015)

The six-page article, From Public Policy Institutes to Centers for Public Life: Transforming People and Communities by Alice Diebel, was published Fall 2015 in Kettering Foundation‘s annual newsletter,“Connections 2015 – Our History: Journeys in KF Research”.

Diebel shares how Kettering’s research fueled the development of issues guides to be used in the National Issues Forums and ultimately, improve the ways that democracy works. She shares the beginning of the forums as Public Policy Institutes (PPIs) and how they transformed into a new approach, Centers for Public Life. Read more an excerpt from the article below or find it in full on Kettering’s site here. (more…)

Collaborative Communication Processes and Decision Making in Organizations

The 410-page text, Collaborative Communication Processes and Decision Making in Organizations, edited by Ephraim Nikoi (University of Wisconsin-Superior, USA) and Kwasi Boateng (University of Arkansas-Little Rock, USA), was published by IGI Global in August 2013.


Although organizational decision-making can be very complex, the understanding of technology applications is significant in not only determining the usefulness of virtual groups in organizations, but also in the designing of electronic collaborative activities.

In this work’s 16 chapters, international contributors present research and global case examples in organizational decision making and communication processes for enhancing the effectiveness of organizations and educational environments. Sections deal with themes concerning: e-collaboration tools, creating effective virtual teams, and collaboration and decision making in organizations. Some specific subjects addressed include: fostering social innovation through e-collaboration, promoting critical thinking in virtual teams, and mobile phone usage in organizational communication and decision making. (more…)

A Treasure Chest About to Open (Connection 2015)

This brief two-page article, A Treasure Chest About to Open by Nicholas A. Felts was published in Kettering Foundation‘s annual newsletter,“Connections 2015 – Our History: Journeys in KF Research” in the fall of 2015. Felts shares some of the history of National Issues Forums, one of the most valuable assets to come from the forums, and reveals an exciting project soon to be released from Kettering.

NIF has been running for 30 years, making it one of the longest running citizen-to-citizen public engagement experiences. Over the last three decades, Kettering has stored all the data collected from the forums, including one of the most valuable aspects- all of the questionnaire responses. After years of laboring,  Kettering will soon have a fully functional digital archive of all the data from the NIF forums! Below is an excerpt from the article. Connections 2015 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here. (more…)

The Greatest History Lessons Are Those We Have Yet to Learn

The article written by Jessica DeBruin, The Greatest History Lessons Are Those We Have Yet to Learn, was published August 2015 on Everyday Democracy‘s site. DeBruin shares some of her history, how it shaped her identity, and explores how our identities play out in our conversations and realities. She emphasizes the importance genuinely listening and participating in conversations where we explore the intersections of our own privilege and oppression. Below is an excerpt from the article and read it in full on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

From the article…  (more…)