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Finding a Seat for Social Justice at the Table of Dialogue and Deliberation

The 4-page article, Finding a Seat for Social Justice at the Table of Dialogue and Deliberation (2014)was written by David Schoem and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. In the article, Schoem discusses the relationships that many dialogue and deliberation organizations have toward social justice. Many D&D organizations have a tendency to shy away from social justice in an effort to maintain neutrality. Schoem puts forth three arguments that “the field needs to 1) work intentionally for social justice and serving the public good for a strong, diverse democracy, 2) confront the illusion of neutrality, and 3) address issues of privilege and power. ”

Read the article in full below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

First, most people, whatever language they choose to use, regardless of their political affiliation, perspective, or point of view, share a hope for a better society and believe in a more just world. To use the foundation of a just society or a better world as a common starting point allows for purposeful dialogue and is an invitation to a wide range of people, perspectives and viewpoints. Even the Pledge of Allegiance speaks of “liberty and justice for all,” so it’s surprising that those words are too often taken off the table in dialogue and deliberation organizations because they are seen as “too political.” To ignore social justice serves only to diminish the opportunity and promise that dialogue and deliberation have to offer.

Second, ignoring inequity and inequality predictably leads to the marginalization and exclusion of less privileged groups and those expressing unpopular opinions. Rather than opening the door to open discussion and dialogue by invoking a value of neutrality, when issues of social justice are left off the table it signals to people who are concerned with such issues that the conversation will support the status quo, that substantive change will not result, and that they are unwelcome at the table.

Third, declaring an approach of neutrality, without accounting for power and privilege, almost always privileges those in power. The invocation of unexamined neutrality ignores the power relations embedded in social issues, makes invisible the privilege and power of members of different social identities actually participating in any dialogue and deliberation, and serves to silence less privileged voices. To presume a priori an approach of neutrality mistakenly creates an unequal situation from the outset. (more…)

Ships Passing in the Night

The 20-page report, Ships Passing in the Night (2014)was written by David Mathews and supported by the Cousins Research Group of the Kettering Foundation. In the article, Mathews talks about the two major movements in civic engagement; one in higher education and the other found growing among communities able to work together. He uses the analogy of the wetlands, like how life thrives in the wetlands, it is in communities that can come together, where democracy thrives. Because it is these opportunities for people to discuss details and issues of their lives, that people will become more engaged in the issues that matter to them.

Mathews explores the question, “Why, though, are these two civic movements in danger of passing like the proverbial ships in the night? More important, how might these efforts become mutually supportive?”

Below is an excerpt of the report and it can be found in full at the bottom of this page or on Kettering Foundation’s site here.

From the guide…

kf_shipspassingThe Shaffers of academe are one of the forces driving a civic engagement movement on campuses across the country. Not so long ago, the civic education of college students was of little concern. Now, thanks to educators like Shaffer, that indifference is giving way. Leadership programs are common, and students are taught civic skills, including civil dialogue. There are also more opportunities to be of service these days, which is socially beneficial as well as personally rewarding. These opportunities are enriched by students’ exposure to the political problems behind the needs that volunteers try to meet. University partnerships with nearby communities offer technical assistance, professional advice, and access to institutional resources. Faculty, who were once “sages on the stage,” have learned to be more effective in communities by being “guides on the side.” All in all, there is much to admire in the civic engagement movement on campuses.

Another civic engagement movement is occurring off campus. At Kettering, we have seen it clearly in communities on the Gulf Coast that are recovering from Hurricane Katrina…

People wanted to restore their community—both its buildings and way of life—and felt that they had to come together as a community to do that. The community was both their objective and the means of reaching that objective. This has been the goal for many of the other civic engagement movements in communities that are trying to cope with natural disasters, economic change, and other problems that threaten everyone’s well-being. (more…)

Truth-telling, Reconciliation and Restorative Justice

Truth-telling, Reconciliation and Restorative Justice, is a course taught at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. The course is part of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, under Session IV,  and taught by Cal Stauffer and Fania Davis.

To learn more about the rest of the courses offered at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, click here.

From the description…

The call for “truth-telling” has become paramount in the quest for justice. This course critically explores the linkages between truth and justice and grapples with the form and function of truth-telling in the pursuit of justice. Multiple approaches to truth-telling both informal (indigenous practices) and formal (truth & reconciliation commissions) will be surveyed and analyzed. Class participants engage in truth-telling exercises in response to working with historical harms, transitional justice processes, and racial justice issues both on the domestic and international fronts. Of particular interest is the recent call for a truth-telling processes in dealing with police violence against young men of color in the US context.

Together, we will grapple with the following questions:

– What does truth-telling mean?
– How do we practice truth-telling?
– What does it mean to speak the truth to oppressive powers
– How do we “bear witness” against deep injustices in the public domain?
– What are the best containers and structures for holding truth-telling processes in public spaces? (more…)

Community Conversations About Mental Health

The 20-page discussion guide, Community Conversations About Mental Health (2013)was sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services. This guide was prepared for SAMHSA by Abt Associates and its subcontractors, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and Everyday Democracy. In the guide are instructions for hosting and facilitating community dialogues around mental health issues today and especially for young people; how to identify challenges and what ways to support youth mental health. The beginning of the toolkit includes an Informational Brief section with facts regarding mental health, then there is a Discussion Guide section and finally, a Planning Guide section with facilitator tips.

Below is an excerpt of the guide and it can be found in full for free download, in both English and Spanish at the bottom of the page. To view the original posting on SAMHSA’s site, click here.

From the guide…

us_mental-health_-logoOn January 16, 2013, President Barack Obama directed Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Arne Duncan of the U.S. Department of Education to launch a national conversation on mental health to reduce the shame and secrecy associated with mental illness, encourage people to seek help if they are struggling with mental health problems, and encourage individuals whose friends or family are struggling to connect them to help.

Mental health problems affect nearly every family. Yet as a nation, we have too often struggled to have an open and honest conversation about these issues. Misperceptions, fears of social consequences, discomfort associated with talking about these issues with others, and discrimination all tend to keep people silent. Meanwhile, if they get help, most people with mental illnesses can and do recover and lead happy, productive, and full lives.

This national conversation will give Americans a chance to learn more about mental health issues. People across the nation are planning community conversations to assess how mental health problems affect their communities and to discuss topics related to the mental health of young people. In so doing, they may also decide how they might take steps to improve mental health in their families, schools, and communities. This could include a range of possible steps to establish or improve prevention of mental illnesses, promotion of mental health, public education and awareness, early identification, treatment, crisis response, and recovery supports available in their communities. (more…)

The Next Generation of Our Work

The 6-page article, The Next Generation of Our Work (2014), by NCDD’s own Co-Founder, Sandy Heierbacher, was published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. In the article, Heierbacher shares her unique view of the rapidly growing dialogue and deliberation field and lifts up the shifts in the field that shape the next generation of D&D work. Changes are happening in regard to:

– collaboration with governmenthope_sidebar_photo
– openness to online tools for engagement
– consistently rapid growth
– increased energy devoted to collaborative efforts
– re-focus on the power of local
– funders are coming around
– attention to infrastructure

Read the article in full below ind the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

How does one comment on the state of a field that seems to be ever growing yet constantly in flux? As the director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), I have a bird’s eye view of this burgeoning, vibrant field. Yet I realize I see only a fraction of the great work that is being done to engage people in the decisions and issues that effect their lives.

Here are a few of the trends I have been noticing from my vantage point. (more…)

Developing Materials for Deliberative Forums

The 36-page guide, Developing Materials for Deliberative Forums, was written by Brad Rourke and published 2014 on the Kettering Foundation site. In the guide, Rourke shares all the elements needed to design an issue guide to better inform participants during deliberation. An issue guide lays out multiple sides of a subject/issue to give participants tools to engage in more informed deliberation, the guide then offers examples of the options, as well as, drawbacks to each one. There is no one perfect way to develop an issue guide; so Rourke provides details on ways to design a guide that is effective at giving participants the information they need to deliberate on the issues at-hand.

Below is an excerpt of the article; it can be downloaded in full at the link on the bottom of this page or find it on Kettering Foundation’s site here.

From the guide…

KF_Developing_MaterialsDeliberation does not require a certain kind of guide, or framework, or language, or facilitator. But, because it can be difficult to face such choices, supporting materials can make it easier. Many community groups, national organizations, and others, including the National Issues Forums (NIF), develop materials meant to help groups deliberate together over difficult public issues. Through its research, the Kettering Foundation has learned about the kinds of materials that can spark this public work. This document explores the important elements involved in going from an initial topic to having a complete issue guide suitable to use in the kinds of deliberative forums that are the hallmark of the NIF.

Deliberative forums are used in different ways, depending on the community and who is involved. Some communities use them to set direction on important local issues. People in other communities may hold forums in order to give citizens the opportunity to think through an important national issue and what they and others might do about it. The results of deliberating together in these ways are sometimes passed on to public officials. Other times public officials personally take part in deliberating with other citizens.

There are many ways to create materials that will support such public deliberation. As long as they are accessible to all kinds of people, allow them to carefully consider options and weigh drawbacks, no one way is necessarily better than another. (more…)

When Relationships Are Not Enough: Reconciling with Genocide

The article, When Relationships Are Not Enough: Reconciling with Genocide, by Dave Joseph was published September 21, 2015 on Public Conversations Project’s blog. In the article, Joseph reflects on his recent trip to Rwanda and the many intense and challenging emotions that arose when paying respects at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The memorial honors those murdered in the 1994 genocide committed against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Joseph explores how such an extreme atrocity can happen and how this affects people to dialogue- what is possible for reconciliation when such profound violence has occurred?

Below is an excerpt of the article and it can also be found on the Public Conversations Project blog here.

From Public Conversations Project…

What relationships make possible
As a dialogue practitioner and trainer, I have seen opponents recognize one another’s humanity, building an improbable bridge across differences in identities, core values and world views. I have witnessed participants listen to understand and for the first time, be able to see things from a new perspective. I have watched people move from a stance of certainty in their own “rightness” to entertaining the possibility that others might not be “wrong,” but might be approaching the issue from very different life experiences and values.

PCP_quoteDialogue holds the possibility of enemies transforming their relationships and finding ways to coexist, even as their differences remain. Dialogue makes possible the development and deepening of relationships, building of trust and mutual understanding that can lay the foundation for connection, coexistence, community, and collaboration. When people see each other as human beings, it becomes much harder to demonize, dehumanize, stereotype or do violence onto one another.

Where relationships were not enough
What I saw in the museum, however, challenged many of these beliefs. Hutus and Tutsis lived together, shared a common language, worshiped together, intermarried and watched their children attend the same schools. But from April through July, 1994, the “protective factor” of relationship did not prevent one of the most horrific genocides of the 20th century. The downing of the President’s plane triggered pre-planned attacks that quickly eliminated any potential opposition to the ethnic cleansing. Approximately 70% of the Tutsi population and 20% of the general population were slaughtered. Neighbor turned against neighbor; people were betrayed and killed by those whom they had previously trusted and with whom they had enjoyed long-standing relationships, friendships and fellowship. (more…)

Leading Organizational & Community Change

Leading Organizational & Community Change (LOCC) is an academic program available through Humboldt State University’s College of eLearning & Extended Education. Participants can take the courses individually to develop professional skills around collaborative decision-making processes; or may complete the five core courses to achieve a Leading Organizational & Community Change certificate.

To learn more about the courses and certificate program, check out the excerpt below or go directly to LOCC’s site here.

From the site…

The Program
Become a notably effective and engaging organizational leader, public official, facilitator, or consultant through practical, inspiring, and skill-based learning in the Certificate Program in Leading Community and Organizational Change.

Grounded in the behavioral and brain sciences, the curriculum is designed build your knowledge and develop your skills so you can work collaboratively and constructively with colleagues, constituents, neighbors, and clients to solve problems, resolve conflicts, build lasting agreements, develop public policy, and plan for the future.

Gain a solid understanding of the foundational and advanced skills of designing, convening, leading, and participating in collaborative planning and decision-making processes in order to strengthen organizations, boards, communities, and democratic institutions. (more…)

Organizing Study Circles with Young People

The 24-page guide, Organizing Study Circles with Young People, was developed by Everyday Democracy [who used to be known as Study Circles Resource Center] and published in 2003. Oftentimes younger people are excluded from participating in engagement efforts, even though youth have much to offer on making decisions and building community. Study Circles are a style of dialogue process, where a small, diverse group of participants can discuss different points of view; usually with the goal of moving from dialogue to action. The guide gives detailed steps for designing a Study Circles process for young people to come together and dialogue. This process encourages youth to be engaged with a variety of perspectives, to hear and be heard, and ultimately to become more active citizens.

Below is an excerpt from the guide and it can be found in full to download on Everyday Democracy’s site here or at the bottom of this page.

From the guide…

With the growth of study circles as a tool for community dialogue and problem solving, more and more organizers in communities and organizations are reaching out to include young people in study circle programs. This is critical, since young people have a stake in helping our communities work — and they bring unique energy, insights, and assets to public conversations and to solving public problems.

Young people get involved in study circles in many different ways: in schools; as part of community-based or neighborhood programs; in after-school programs or youth organizations; as part of large youth events and conferences, and in other settings where young people spend time. Sometimes young people and adults are together in study circles; sometimes the circles are for youth only. Through this process, young people learn about issues, gain new skills, have a chance to hear and be heard, and find ways to work with others on the issues that are important to them. In short, they have a chance to experience their own potential as active and involved citizens. (more…)

Where Have All the Voters Gone?

The 6-page discussion guide, Where Have All the Voters Gone?, was created by the Maricopa Community Colleges Center for Civic Participation and Arizona State University Pastor Center for Politics & Public Service. It was updated in July 2016 and was adapted from National Issues Forums Institute. This discussion guide provides four approaches to use in deliberation on why voter turnout is currently low and has dramatically gone down since the 1960s, especially among communities of color. With each approach, the guide offers examples and suggestions; and concerns, trade-offs, and consequences. The end of the guide offers closing reflections on how participants’ thinking changed during the discussion and what can be done to remedy the low voter turn out in current US politics.

Below is an abbreviated version of the guide, which can be downloaded in full at the bottom of this page or found on NIFI’s site here.

From the guide…

Many Americans express frustration and concern about poor and decreasing voter turnout rates in local and national elections. Discussion about why citizens aren’t voting tends to focus on voter attitudes toward politicians and politics, and on the implications of a disengaged voting populace for the future of our democracy.

Given these concerns:
What, if anything, should be done to increase voter participation?
What are the key elements of a “healthy democracy”?

The discussion guide gives four options for deliberation: (more…)