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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

Beyond Business as Usual: Leaders of California’s Civic Organizations Seek New Ways to Engage the Public in Local Governance

The 68-page report, Beyond Business as Usual: Leaders of California’s Civic Organizations Seek New Ways to Engage the Public in Local Governance, was published 2013. The report was in partnership with Institute for Local Government and the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University. Below is an excerpt from the report and you can read the original report (or download the PDF version) from ILG’s site here.

From ILG…ILG_Beyond

What opportunities do Californians have to engage with public issues and influence decisions that affect their lives? What stands in the way of productive dialogues between local officials and the residents they serve? What are the possible ways to strengthen relations between local government and the publics they serve?

The perspectives of civic leaders and their organizations

To provide some answers to these questions, we conducted a research study that sought the opinions of more than 900 local officials and 500 leaders of civic and community-based organizations in California. We asked these local officials and civic leaders about their efforts to engage the public in decision making, their experiences with traditional public hearings at council and commission meetings and their interests and attitudes toward newer forms of public engagement—especially methods that seek to give broad cross sections of the public the opportunity to deliberate over local issues and weigh the trade-offs of policy decisions that affect their lives.

This report—the second of two summarizing this research—presents what we learned from surveying and interviewing leaders from civic and community-based organizations across California.

This report is divided into two parts. We first present the findings from our statewide survey of 462 leaders of civic and community-based organizations. These findings complement those from our research on California’s local officials’ attitudes, experiences and concerns regarding the state of public participation in local government decision making, experiences and concerns of local city and county officials regarding the state of public participation in local government decision making. The second part of this report zeros in on the views of leaders from 20 community-based organizations that work predominantly with traditionally disenfranchised communities, including low-income, ethnic minority and immigrant populations. Finally, we discuss a number of important practical recommendations that emerge from this research and its companion study on local officials. (more…)

Change for the Audacious: a doer’s guide

The 240-page book, Change for the Audacious: a doers’ guide by Steve Waddell, was published in 2016. This book explores how we must, and can do much better at addressing issues such as: climate change, food security, health, education, environmental degradation, peace-building, water, equity, corruption, and wealth creation. This book is for people working on these types of issues, with the belief that we can create a future that is not just “sustainable”, but also flourishing. This perspective means that the challenge is not just one of simple change, but of transformation – radical change in the way we perceive our world, create relationships and organize our societies. This is the implication of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and other global efforts, and also innumerable efforts locally, nationally and regionally.

Audacious_ChangeThis book approaches these challenges as large systems change issues: issues requiring engagement of many, many people and organizations often globally; issues requiring deep innovation with shifts in mindsets and power structures; and issues that require capacity to work with complexity. Large systems change is presented as a new field of practice and knowledge; the book is not about a “method” or particular “approach”; rather it provides an overview of frameworks, methods and approaches to develop capacity to use the appropriate ones in particular contexts.

After introducing concepts of transformation and complexity, the book presents five case studies of large systems change. These cases and others are referenced throughout the remainder of the book to present large systems change strategy, organizing structures, steps in developing the necessary collective action, tools, and personal guidance for change practitioners. (more…)

It’s Your Money. Where’s Your Say?

The article, It’s Your Money. Where’s Your Say? written by Larry Schooler was published February 2016 on Huffpost Politics blog. Schooler discusses the juxtaposition of some governments relationship with the public- some increasing transparency and public engagement experiences, while others are quick to restrict public’s access to information and public control of the state’s budget. The article tips hat to the use of Balancing Act [from Engaged Public] in San Antonio (TX), and the steady increase in participatory budgeting processes around the US. Below is the article in full and you can find the original on Huffpost blog here.

From the article…Schooler_article

In our private lives, we have quite a bit of say over how we spend our money. Granted, an employer or client ultimately decides whether and what amount to pay us, but if we want to spend more on a house than on vacations, or more on our children’s education than on dining out, that’s our decision.

Seems strange, then, that when it comes to our tax money, our say often doesn’t amount to much. Often cities, counties, states, and the federal government take minimal input from the public on their budgets—ironic, given that a budget is widely viewed as the single most important policy a government approves. It’s almost like taking the decision about what house to buy away from the homebuyer.


Racial Dynamics to Watch For

The two-page tip sheet from Everyday DemocracyRacial Dynamics to Watch For, was published April 2010. The tip sheet gives pointers on how to keep racial dynamics in mind, in order to design better and more inclusive programs/events. The tip sheet gives advice for three categories: Planning and organizing, Dialogues and facilitation, and Working on Action. Below is an excerpt from the tip sheet and it’s available on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

From Everyday Democracy…

As you approach a large community-change initiative, pay attention to racial dynamics. Consider the following examples. Talk about how you might prevent or correct these situations.

Planning and organizing
– The organizing committee recruits one person of color to “represent” the African American / Latino / or Asian “community”.

-The chair of the group selects a large, prosperous, white church – or another venue frequented by whites – a a regular meeting site for the organizing team.

-The group decides to rotate meeting sites between a prosperous white church and a local black church. White attendance is very low when the meeting takes place as the black church.

Dialogues and facilitation
– The white facilitator seems to lead most of the times; the person of color who is co-facilitating tends to do more note-taking.

– The white organizer checks in with the white facilitator about how things are going.

– One or two people or color in a circle or 10 are asked to speak for their whole group.

Working on Action
– Action groups are often dominated by whites. While people of color may be invited to participate, they are more “for show”. Old habits and behaviors continue, and whites stay in the lead.

– As people form new partnerships to address problems in the community, they hesitate to include people from different racial groups.

– People who are most affected by new policies are shut out. They have no voice in the policy making.

This is a condensed version of Racial Dynamics to Watch For, the original can be found in full on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

About Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy (formerly called the Study Circles Resource Center) is a project of The Paul J. Aicher Foundation, a private operating foundation dedicated to strengthening deliberative democracy and improving the quality of public life in the United States. Since our founding in 1989, we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across the United States on issues such as: racial equity, poverty reduction and economic development, education reform, early childhood development and building strong neighborhoods. We work with national, regional and state organizations in order to leverage our resources and to expand the reach and impact of civic engagement processes and tools.

Follow on Twitter: @EvDem

Resource Link: http://everyday-democracy.org/resources/racial-dynamics-watch

Climate Choices: How Should We Meet the Challenges of a Warming Planet? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 25-page issue guide, Climate Choices: How Should We Meet the Challenges of a Warming Planet?, was published April 2016 from National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation, in collaboration with, North American Association for Environmental Education. Climate change is undeniable, this issue guide offers participants three options to use during deliberation on how to address our warming world. The issue guide is available to download for free on NIFI’s site here, where you can also find: the moderator’s guide, an options chart, and a post-forum questionnaire.

NIFI_Climate ChoicesFrom NIFI…

The Environment and Society Series is designed to promote meaningful, productive deliberation, convened locally and online, about difficult issues that affect the environment and communities.

All around is evidence that the climate is changing. Summers are starting earlier and lasting longer. Heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense. Dry regions are getting drier and wet regions are seeing heavier rains. Record cold and snowfalls blanket some parts of the country, while record fires ravage forests across the West.

The effects are being felt across many parts of the United States. Farmworkers in California’s Central Valley, snow-weary New England business owners, crab fishermen in Alaska, and cattle ranchers across the Great Plains have all seen uncommon and extreme weather. Occasional odd weather and weather cycles are nothing unusual.

But the more extreme and unpredictable weather being experienced around the world points to dramatic changes in climate— the conditions that take place over years, decades, and longer.

Climate disruptions have some people worried about their health, their children, their homes, their livelihoods, their communities, and even their personal safety. They wonder about the future of the natural areas they enjoy and the wild animals and plants that live there. In addition, there are growing concerns about our national security and how climate change might affect scarce resources around the planet and increase global tensions.

This issue guide presents three options for deliberation:

Option One: “Sharply Reduce Carbon Emissions”
We can no longer rely on piecemeal, voluntary efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The only way to protect ourselves and the planet is to tackle climate change at its source by taking coordinated, aggressive action to reduce the CO2 we put into the atmosphere—enforced by strict laws and regulations, and supported by significant investment. If we don’t make averting further climate change our top priority, warming of the land and oceans will accelerate, increasing the frequency of droughts, fires, floods, and other extreme weather events, and damaging the environment for generations to come.

Option Two: “Prepare and Protect Our Communities”
Preparing for and coping with changing conditions must be our top priority. We should work together now to secure our communities and strengthen our resilience in the face of climate-related impacts. That includes protecting our infrastructure—roads, bridges, and shorelines—and ensuring that the most vulnerable members of society have the support they need to adapt to the effects of a warming planet.

Option Three: “Accelerate Innovation”
Across the country and around the world, many private enterprises are already responding to climate change by seeing opportunity. Agricultural biotech companies Monsanto and Syngenta, for example, are poised to profit from newly patented drought-resistant crops. The water giant Veolia, which manages pipes and builds desalination plants, has expanded its operations to 74 countries on five continents. Lucid Energy, a startup in Portland, Oregon, generates electric power from the city’s domestic water pipes.

NIF-Logo2014About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s 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. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

Follow on Twitter: @NIForums

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/en/issue-guide/climate-choices