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Guide: How to Approach Digital-First Community Engagement

Shifting your thinking towards delivering a digital-first community engagement program requires an understanding of the obstacles you will face, the online tools and methodologies you will use and engagement techniques that will incite continuous engagement with your community.

This guide from Bang the Table walks you through the common challenges, opportunities and pitfalls you may face while providing practical strategies and advice to help you build a successful digital-first engagement practice for your organization. (more…)

Meeting Facilitation Tips

The following meeting facilitation tips were submitted by John Godec of The Participation Company. As public sector consultants, The Participation Company helps government agencies manage public issues to accomplish agency objectives. Their private sector business clients are able to maintain or improve their relationships with the public and gain support for their projects.

Facilitating meetings can be both an art and a science when the issues being discussed are comparably complex. Getting the right people involved in the discussion from the start can go a long way in your being able to facilitate successfully. Inviting those “right” people is key to reaching consensus. But how to craft an effective invitation is not always a skill everyone has. Here are some meeting facilitation tips to help when creating meeting invitations:

Build Excitement
You want your invitation to create anticipation in the recipient. Craft an announcement to your event in a way that will make it feel more like an invitation to a special event. Those invited will be excited to attend and will feel honored to have been included. (more…)

Organising stakeholder workshops in research and innovation – between theory and practice

The 26-page article, Organising stakeholder workshops in research and innovation – between theory and practice (2017), was written by Morten V. Nielsen, Nina Bryndum, and Bjørn Bedsted, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 2. From the abstract, “This article addresses the theory and practice of creating responsiveness among actors through deliberative dialogue processes with stakeholders from diverse institutional settings…The article concludes that while theoretical perspectives can provide general guidance, practical experience is essential when dealing with the trade-offs that are an intrinsic part of organising stakeholder workshops.”. Read an excerpt from the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Developments in research and innovation (R&I) are often created through collaboration between diverse actors, and the innovations created can affect actors far beyond the innovation process itself. Through deliberation, all affected actors can be brought together. Deliberation among actors of research and innovation is not something new, yet the current policy initiatives promoting deliberation in EU-led research has an interesting potential to mainstream deliberation in larger R&I projects in Europe. There has been a push within the EU to increase dialogue among all actors of research and innovation, including public administration, businesses, and civil society organizations. The dialogue is promoted as part of the objective to create responsible research and innovation (RRI1 ) in Europe. The promotion of RRI creates new opportunities for deliberation and at the same time defines a context and aim for such deliberation. One key aim is to achieve responsiveness among actors of research and innovation.

The article will examine how existing theory and practical experience with stakeholder workshops can inspire dialogue processes working toward the aim of responsiveness. Thus, both the theoretical literature based on practitioner experiences and the literature on democratic ideals will be applied to explore the complexity of deliberation processes in R&I. To highlight gaps between theoretical work and dialogue practices, the article will use a case, which illustrates the challenges of organizing stakeholder workshops. Through the illustration, the article aims to (more…)

“Nothing about politics”: The political scope in rural participatory governance, a case-study in the Basque Country, Spain.

The 29-page article, “Nothing about politics”: The political scope in rural participatory governance, a case-study in the Basque Country, Spain. (2017), was written by Patricia García-Espín, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 2. From the abstract, “Participatory mechanisms are understood as settings for citizens’ political engagement. However, participants frequently depict these institutions as nonpolitical. In this paper, the political scope of participatory institutions is examined through a case-study of town meetings (concejos abiertos) in the Basque Country (Spain)”. Read an excerpt from the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

“There is nothing, nothing, nothing about politics. … You don’t know who strips to each [political] side. We never talk about that” (M. R., participant in a concejo abierto).1 Maria Rosa is a farmer who was engaged in a town meeting in a rural community in Araba (Basque Country, Spain). Two years before, she started attending meetings and acquired such extensive knowledge of the rules and the daily procedures that she was elected to the administrative board by her neighbors. Like Maria Rosa, other participants in this participatory institution believe it to be strictly non-political. In other settings of community engagement such as participatory budgeting assemblies and neighborhood associations, participants also believe that they are not playing politics (Baiocchi, 2005; Ball, 2005; Talpin, 2012). At the core of this belief is the idea that broader political issues should not be addressed in settings dedicated to small deliberation on community problems (Ganuza & Francés, 2012).

The political scope of participation, like the range of issues which are addressed, is not something that can be deduced only from the institutional design and the list of powers formally attributed to (more…)

Authority and Deliberative Moments: Assessing Equality and Inequality in Deeply Divided Groups

The 35-page article, Authority and Deliberative Moments: Assessing Equality and Inequality in Deeply Divided Groups (2017), was written by Rousiley C. M. Maia, Danila Cal, Janine K. R. Bargas, Vanessa V. Oliveira, Patrícia G. C. Rossini, and Rafael C. Sampaio, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 2. From the abstract, “The notion of equality is central to public deliberation, but few researchers have examined how participants construct interactions in face-to-face group discussion involving unequal conditions of authority. This study analyses discussion between slum residents and police officers in Brazil, focusing on both reciprocal and hierarchical relationships in the flow of deliberation”. Read an excerpt from the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

The literature on informal talk, political discussion and deliberation is growing at a rapid pace (Conover & Searing, 2005; Maia, 2012, 2017; Marques & Maia, 2010; Moy & Gastil, 2006; Walsh, 2004, 2007; Wyatt, Katz, & Kim, 2000). Conscious of this tendency, researchers are now quite cautious about specifying the features of different group-affiliations and the social conditions and circumstances enabling argumentative discussion (Black, 2008; Grölund, Bächtiger, & Setälä, 2014; Steiner, 2012; Wojcieszak & Mutz, 2009). The topic of authority is central to political theory. However, it is rarely operationalized in empirical research. Although important studies have looked at the dynamics of face-to-face group discussions involving unequal conditions (Gerber, 2015; Karpowitz & Mendelberg, 2014; Mendelberg, Karpowitz, & Oliphant, 2014; Pedrini, Bächtiger, & Steenbergen, 2013; Steiner, 2012; Steiner, Jaramillo, Maia, & Mameli, 2017; Walsh, 2007), these studies have not yet examined moments when conversation is shaped by hierarchical relationships. How authority is enacted in the flow of conversation remains poorly understood; and our knowledge of the sources of authority that constrain or enable dialogue is limited.

This paper contributes to filling this gap. Contrary to scholars who assume that authentic deliberation cannot be established between members of highly uneven authority, we argue that “moments” of constructive dialogue are possible and productive for deliberation. By focusing on intergroup communication between slum-dwellers and police officers in Brazil, we examine what sources of authority are mobilized in both deliberative and non-deliberative moments and how participants unequal in power can (more…)

Focus Group Discussions as Sites for Public Deliberation and Sensemaking Following Shared Political Documentary Viewing

The 27-page article, Focus Group Discussions as Sites for Public Deliberation and Sensemaking Following Shared Political Documentary Viewing (2017), was written byMargaret Jane Pitts, Kate Kenski, Stephanie A. Smith, and Corey A. Pavlich, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 2. From the abstract, “This study examines the potential that shared political documentary viewing coupled with public deliberation via focus group discussion has for political sensemaking and civic engagement”. Read an excerpt from the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

While the field of political communication has paid attention to the importance of entertainment media in the last decade (e.g., Hmielowski, Holbert, & Lee, 2011; Young, 2004), little research has focused on political documentary as an influential medium and source for public deliberation and meaning-making (Nisbet & Aufderheide, 2009). A few studies have shown that political documentary has the potential to influence public perceptions and behaviors. For example, Howell (2011) found that UK viewers became more pro-environmental after being exposed to a film depicting the negative effects of climate change. Stroud (2007) found that the viewers of the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 were more likely to discuss politics with friends and family than were non-viewers. Related research has demonstrated that mass media generally, and political film and documentaries specifically, can enhance learning in the classroom (Krain, 2010; Sunderland, Rothermel, & Lusk, 2009) and influence the electorate (LaMarre & Landreville, 2009). Additional research has shown that combining media viewing with deliberative discursive engagement can further increase positive civic outcomes (Kern & Just, 1995; Rojas, Shah, Cho, Schmierbach, Keum, & Gil-De-Zuñiga, 2005). This may be in part due to the greater potential for collaborative sensemaking—the negotiated and discursive engagement in shared meaning making that happens during public deliberation (see Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005). However, opportunities for collaborative sensemaking and public deliberation centered on a popular text are rare. Thus, we were interested in exploring focus groups as a potentially rich context for discursive engagement following the shared viewing of a political documentary (i.e., 2016, Obama’s America). We argue that when placed within the context of viewing popular political documentary, focus group discussions offer a meaningful site for public deliberation and collaborative sensemaking and as such should be added to the toolbox of (more…)

The Influence of Communication- and Organization-Related Factors on Interest in Participation in Campus Dialogic Deliberation

The 31-page article, The Influence of Communication- and Organization-Related Factors on Interest in Participation in Campus Dialogic Deliberation (2017), was written by Gregory D. Paul, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 2. From the abstract, “This study explored how communication and campus factors influence students’ interest in and perceived helpfulness of dialogic deliberation participation”. Read an excerpt from the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

As higher education continues to evolve in response to stakeholder demands, individuals associated with colleges and universities, from employees to students to alumni, find themselves needing to make difficult decisions about pressing problems based on sometimes competing interests. Funding changes, calls for increased transparency and accountability, and increasing competition have made such decisions more difficult and intense, shaping the ways in which colleges and universities make decisions about their vision, goals, resources, and practices.

In both commercial and educational organizations, administrators tend to be the ones making these decisions. This top-down approach to decision-making comes with at least two problems in higher education. First, it can lead members to lose trust in administrators if they feel that decision-makers do not care for or ask for outside viewpoints. Members can begin to feel as if they have no voice, thereby undercutting their connection to or concern for their organization. Second, even if administrators ask for others’ viewpoints, communication during the decisionmaking process tends to reflect a zero-sum, competitive orientation in that people tend to argue for and cling to their existing thought patterns and meaning systems rather than learn or explore new ones (Hurtado, 2007). Additionally, when communicating with someone from a different group over tightly held views, goals, and beliefs (such as where funding should go), such communication typically breaks down into entrenched argument, with individuals turning toward their ingroups to reify their opinions, beliefs, and worldviews (Pearce & Littlejohn, 1997; Theiss-Morse & Hibbing, 2005). In colleges and universities with increasing diversity and decreasing resources, such monologic communication is (more…)

Explaining Political Efficacy in Deliberative Procedures – A Novel Methodological Approach

The 27-page article, Explaining Political Efficacy in Deliberative Procedures – A Novel Methodological Approach (2017), was written by Brigitte Geissel and Pamela Hess, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 2. From the abstract, “This article…identifies factors which lead to increased group-related political efficacy in deliberative procedures applying an almost novel method, i.e. a quantitative meta-synthesis combining and aggregating data from case studies”. Read an excerpt from the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

Effects on political efficacy, i.e. citizens’ perceptions that they have an influence on public issues, are of great interest in research on deliberative procedures (e.g. Delli Carpini, Cook & Jacobs, 2004; Fishkin & Luskin, 1999; Rosenberg, 2007). As a crucial predictor of political participation, efficacy is pivotal for striving democracies and thus a significant concept in respective theories (Conway, 2000; Pateman, 1970).

Theorists have claimed for a long time that participation in deliberative procedures would improve citizens’ political efficacy. Empirically, the results are mixed. Recent works have shown that deliberative procedures can affect political efficacy positively, negatively or not at all. Some studies detected an increase of political efficacy in deliberative procedures (Fishkin, 1995; Grönlund, Setälä, & Herne, 2010; Nabatchi, 2007), but Morrell (2005) and others noticed little or no impacts (e.g. Gastil, 1999; Morrell, 1998; Stromer-Galley & Muhlberger, 2009; Walsh, 2003). A few scholars even noticed decreased efficacy when people are confronted with disagreement (e.g. Mutz, 2008). Obviously, impacts of deliberative procedures on efficacy depend on specific factors.

Accordingly, scholars of deliberation have stressed the need to examine which factors influence the improvement of political efficacy (e.g. Geissel, 2009; Mutz, 2008; Thompson, 2008). Up to now research mainly focused on deliberative experiments or single events (Fishkin, 1995; Fung, 2004; Fung & Wright, 2003; Gastil et al., 2010; Grönlund, Setälä, & Herne, 2010; Gutmann & Thompson, 1996; Knobloch & Gastil, 2015; Nabatchi, 2007; Smith, 2009). Hardly any large-n studies have been conducted on variables influencing efficacy in real-life deliberative procedures, and generalizable results are missing altogether. This article will (more…)

Beyond Aggregation: “The Wisdom of Crowds” Meets Dialogue in the Case Study of Shaping America’s Youth

The 28-page article, Beyond Aggregation: “The Wisdom of Crowds” Meets Dialogue in the Case Study of Shaping America’s Youth (2017), was written by Renee G. Heath, Ninon Lewis, Brit Schneider, and Elisa Majors, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 2. From the abstract, “The present interpretive case study examined how an inter-organizational partnership facilitating five large-scale public dialogues on childhood obesity, held throughout the United States, carried out its commitment to engage nonexperts in solutions”. Read an excerpt from the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

A handful of leaders across for-profit, nonprofit, and government sectors, including a nationally recognized medical doctor and nutrition expert, and directors from Nike, Inc., and the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, coalesced in a collaborative partnership of decision-makers under the name Shaping America’s Youth (SAY). Given their view that the so-called experts had failed to influence change, they agreed that the solutions to childhood obesity must be found in collaboration with ordinary citizens—“nonexperts.” This assumption led to SAY’s partnership with the nonprofit, public deliberation pioneer, AmericaSpeaks, whose influential 21st Century Town Meeting® model facilitated engaging citizens in solutions. 1 In line with the growing trend of large-scale deliberation meetings, these partners brought together citizens from a crosssection of community stakeholder groups in a series of public dialogues that would ultimately influence changes related to childhood obesity. The mission of SAY was “to assure that the voices of families and communities are integrated into local and national policy to improve the nutrition, physical activity, and health of children and youth” (SAY meeting minutes). The present study commenced when SAY was in its fifth year of organizing, which was devoted to engaging communities toward this mission through a series of town meetings. As scholars and practitioners, we were interested in the organizing question, how would SAY carry out its commitment to engage nonexperts in solutions? What we found was an instructive case study that a) provides a heuristic for eliciting the voices of nonexperts, b) documents perceived outcomes linking dialogic process and product, and c) challenges theoretical assumptions about the wisdom of crowds as (more…)

Prompting Deliberation about Nanotechnology: Information, Instruction, and Discussion Effects on Individual Engagement and Knowledge

The 33-page article, Prompting Deliberation about Nanotechnology: Information, Instruction, and Discussion Effects on Individual Engagement and Knowledge (2017), was written by Lisa M. PytlikZillig, Myiah J. Hutchens, Peter Muhlberger, and Alan J. Tomkins, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 2. From the abstract, “Deliberative (and educational) theories typically predict knowledge gains will be enhanced by information structure and discussion. In two studies, we experimentally manipulated key features of deliberative public engagement (information, instructions, and discussion) and measured impacts on cognitive-affective engagement and knowledge about nanotechnology”. Read an excerpt from the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the introduction…

There are many desirable potential outcomes of participating in public engagements. Learning outcomes are especially important because knowledge is a prerequisite to offering informed policy input, which may make the input more useful and influential (Guston, 2014; Muhlberger & Weber, 2006). Prior research suggests deliberative public engagements, in particular, may improve public understanding of science and technology by providing participants with opportunities to study relevant information as they form their preferences (e.g., Farrar et al., 2010). However, not all studies find positive effects of deliberation (Delli Carpini, Cook, & Jacobs, 2004; Ryfe, 2005), and even when effects are found, it is difficult for researchers to identify the mechanisms responsible (e.g., Sanders, 2012).

Experiments investigating the effects of specific features of public engagement are especially important for advancing theoretical understanding of what features of public engagements work for what purposes and why, and to guide the design of effective engagements (PytlikZillig & Tomkins, 2011). In addition, because of concerns relating to issues of equality and engagement (Benhabib, 2002), it is important to examine potential moderators. Not all publics have equal information or influence relating to political or policy issues, and little research has (more…)

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