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More Than a Seat at the Table: A Resource for Authentic and Equitable Youth Engagement

The article, More Than a Seat at the Table: A Resource for Authentic and Equitable Youth Engagement (2016), was written by Rebecca Reyes and Malana Rogers-Bursen, and published on Everyday Democracy.  This article explores several challenges when it comes to youth engagement and offers solutions to more effectively engage young people. It is important to engage young people in meaningful ways and for them to be a part of the key decision-making processes. Use this article as a way to gauge if your processes are inclusive of young people and how to improve those processes to better engage youth. Below is an excerpt of the article from Everyday Democracy, and can find the full article with all the examples of the specific challenges and solutions here.

From Everyday Democracy…

If you’re working on creating change in your community, it’s important to include all kinds of people in decision-making, including young people. The insight and talents of young people can bring value to any community change effort, yet community groups led by older adults sometimes find it hard to involve younger people, or keep them engaged.

We’ve led workshops on youth engagement to help people explore challenges they may face and think about possible solutions. People of all ages and from many sectors contributed their ideas for successfully engaging young people in their efforts. We’ve compiled a number of challenges that you may have encountered in your work or that may come up in the future, along with ways to address these challenges in your group.

There are many barriers young people can face that prevent them from getting involved. The barrier may be logistical, such as a meeting time or location. Even when we get young people to the table, they might not feel like they have an equal voice or decision making power.

Whenever we bring young people onto a planning team or steering committee, we need to make sure they’re making a meaningful contribution. Think back to how you were involved as a young person. Would you have been satisfied if you were asked to join a sports team, but were never allowed to play? What about if you volunteered with a group, but weren’t given any specific task to do? Or if you didn’t see the impact you were making at your workplace, however small?

Ultimately, the goal is to create intergenerational work with equitable relationships. This means that young people not only have a seat at the table and contribute in a meaningful way, but they are also a key part of decision-making. Engagement is just the first step. (more…)

Affinity Groups, Enclave Deliberation, and Equity

The 42-page article, Affinity Groups, Enclave Deliberation, and Equity (2016), was written by Carolyne Abdullah, Christopher Karpowitz, and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. The article provides evidence for the practice of holding enclaves for marginalized groups within dialogue and deliberation processes, as part of a larger conversation. They have found that by creating space within affinity groups for enclaves to dialogue; processes are more inclusive, participatory, and democratic. The authors show several ways in which enclave groups can be used in democratic processes and implemented within government practice.

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

From the article…

Organizers of dialogue and deliberation employ several common strategies aimed at achieving equal inclusion, participation, and influence in civic forums. In forums that are open to all who want to join, each participant typically has an equal opportunity to attend, speak, and, if applicable, an equal vote. Forums that restrict participation to a sample of the public take further steps to practice equality. To achieve proportional representation of members of marginalized groups, organizers often recruit random samples or quasi-representative microcosms of the public, or recruit participants in part through networks of social service or civil society organizations (Leighninger, 2012). Some forums subsidize the costs of participation – including information acquisition, time, and money – by providing background materials about the issues, translation services, paying stipends to participants, and the like (Lee, 2011). To create conditions for equal participation and influence, facilitators set ground rules that encourage sharing of speaking time, respect for participants regardless of status or identity, and openness to a broad range of communication styles (Gastil & Levine, 2005). Each of these strategies seeks inclusion of the disempowered on more equal discursive terms than are often found in traditional public meetings, which can be dominated by more privileged citizens, or by officials or policy experts, and which are not designed to engender cooperative talk between community members as equals (Gastil, 2008).

While these are important strategies, they can be insufficient. Even forums that most aim to create representative microcosms of a community are hard pressed to include proportional numbers of community members who are disadvantaged by their education, income, race, gender, age, and political interest (Jacobs, Cook, & Delli Carpini 2009; Ryfe & Stalsburg 2012). Research often finds that despite organizers’ best efforts, more privileged participants – white, male, highly educated, and professional – speak and influence decisions more than other participants (for summaries, see Black, 2012; Karpowitz & Mendelberg, 2014; Karpowitz & Raphael, 2014). Information, issues, and choices are often framed from the perspective of the powerful, even when presented as neutral or in terms of the “common good” (Young, 2000; Christiano, 2012). (more…)

The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter

The 300-page book, The World Cafe, was written by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs and published April 2005. In the first comprehensive book on the World Café, co-founders Brown and Isaacs introduce readers to this simple yet powerful conversational process for thinking together, evoking collective intelligence, and creating actionable results.

Beautifully illustrated with stories contributed by World Café practitioners, this is still the most definitive compendium of Café Know-How available.

Available in Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Japanese, Simple Chinese, Complex Chinese, German, Korean, and Thai. Below is an excerpt from the foreword of the book, which can be purchased on the World Café site here.

From the foreword…

We Can Be Wise Only Together
By Margaret J Wheatley

The World Café process reawakens our deep species memory of two fundamental beliefs about human life. First, we humans want to talk together about things that matter to us. In fact, this is what gives satisfaction and meaning to life. Second, as we talk together, we are able to access a greater wisdom that is found only in the collective.

The World Café in Action
As you read the stories and counsel in this book, you will see these two beliefs brought to life in the Café process. In order to provoke your exploration of them, I’d like to underline some of the dimensions of the Café process that bring these beliefs into vibrant, healthy reality. (more…)

The Wise Democracy Project

The Wise Democracy Project was initiated by Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute with impetus and tremendous help from Martin Rausch in Switzerland, between July 2016 and March 2017.

The Wise Democracy Project has been created to inspire the formation of a community of practice around approaches and innovations that can further the development of a democratic system capable of generating wise public policy and collective activities. “Wise” in this context means taking into account what needs to be taken into account for long-term broad benefit. D&D – and conversation and generative interaction generally – are central to this worldview and are contextualized for their gifts among many other dimensions of a wise democracy.

The project includes both broad theory and, in particular, an initial “pattern language” of 70 design guidelines, each of which can be applied through many different modes and approaches, using different tools and resources. The pattern language site (and its accompanying set of freely downloadable modular cards) provides a space for the gathering of additional examples and resources in each design category – and the analysis of any given case of democratic practice or vision, clarifying its specific gifts and improvable shortcomings.

The Wise Democracy Pattern Language was inspired by – and is a large-system companion to – the GroupWorksDeck.org pattern language for group process, which is familiar to many NCDD members. In fact, there is a parallel project underway linking the two pattern languages into a more coherent whole.

The relevance of the Wise Democracy Project to NCDD is that it adds a larger dimension to the work of D&D professionals, a vision of a civilization capable of generating actual collective wisdom. D&D practitioners can, if they choose, view their work as part of that larger civilizational mission and, using the models, patterns and networks associated with the Wise Democracy Project, focus their efforts in ways that empower that larger undertaking.

About The Co-Intelligence Institute
The nonprofit Co-Intelligence Institute (CII) promotes awareness of co-intelligence and of the many existing tools and ideas that can be used to increase it. The CII embraces all such ideas and methods, and explores and catalyzes their integrated application to democratic renewal, community problems, organizational transformation, national and global crises and the creation of just, vibrant, sustainable cultures. The goal of the CII is the conscious evolution of culture in harmony with nature and with the highest human potentials.We research, network, advocate, and help organize leading-edge experiments and conversations in order to weave what is possible into new, wiser forms of civilization.

Resource Link: www.wd-pl.com/

This resource was submitted by Tom Atlee, co-founder of The Co-Intelligence Institute via the Add-a-Resource form.

How Should We Reduce Obesity in America? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The issue guide, How Should We Reduce Obesity in America?, was published on National Issues Forums Institute site in Spring 2017. This issue guide gives three options for participants to deliberate around the issue of obesity in the US. In addition to the issue guide, there is a moderator’s guide and a post-forum questionnaire, all available to download on NIFI’s site here.

From the guide…

Obesity is a health problem that is growing rapidly in the United States and other parts of the world. In this country, it is epidemic. About one in three Americans is obese.

It may be natural for people to gain at least a little weight later in life. But that is no longer the issue. The problem today is that by the time American children reach their teens, nearly one in five is already obese, a condition all too likely to continue into adulthood.

This issue guide asks: How should we reduce obesity in America? It presents three different options for deliberation, each rooted in something held widely valuable and representing a different way of looking at the problem. No one option is the “correct” one, and each option includes drawbacks and trade-offs that we will have to face if we are to make progress on this issue. The options are presented as a starting point for deliberation. (more…)

Practicing Civic Courage in Our Time

The article, Practicing Civic Courage in Our Time, was written Martha McCoy and published February 2017 on Everyday Democracy’s site. In the article, McCoy shares different ways in which to have more civic courage by reaching in, reaching out, and creating spaces for democratic participation.  You can find the full article below, as well as, on directly from Everyday Democracy’s site here.

From Everyday Democracy…

The day after the election, we shared a piece by our board member Peter Levine, in which he called for civic courage. As division, uncertainty, and anxiety continue to grow, I find myself coming back to this important idea. When messages of fear become louder and more frequent, what does civic courage look like? How can we practice it?

At difficult times throughout our history, many people have exercised civic courage. What kind of courage do we need to practice today? What will it take to advance a democracy that values the voice and participation of people of all racial and ethnic groups, economic means, creeds, ages, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, and walks of life?

Since Everyday Democracy is a national civic organization that focuses on providing ways to lift every voice, we have opportunities to work with and learn from civic practitioners and visionary leaders across the country. Here are a few lessons about civic courage we have drawn from their experiences:        (more…)

Equity in School Forums: An Interview with John Landesman

The 14-page article, Equity in School Forums: An Interview with John Landesman (2016)was written by Carolyne Abdullah, Christopher Karpowitz, and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, the authors interview Landesman of Everyday Democracy to share his experience working to address the barriers within the Montgomery County Study Circles Program, which he helped to coordinate. Landesman clarifies the importance between equality and equity; and how these play out when designing a process to effective address the power dynamics that arise within school spaces between admin, faculty, parents, and students.

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

From the article…

For adults and youth, American public schools are a major entryway to public engagement. Not only are public schools charged with preparing students for civic life, but they are the custodians of parents’ educational and economic aspirations for their children, often the largest recipients of taxpayer funding in a community, neighborhood hubs that host public meetings and events, and institutions that are formally accountable to the community through school boards, parent teacher associations, and other public forums. Schools need active support from their communities to approve school bonds, attract donations, enlist mentors and volunteers, approve (or at least accept) curriculum reforms, engage parents in supporting their children’s learning, and address social problems such as academic achievement gaps among students of different racial and income backgrounds, bullying, and gangs. Yet, like other institutions of democracy, public school governance is often dominated by the voices of politicians and policy makers, professionals (administrators and teachers), and privileged citizens (parents of higher socio-economic status) (Nabatchi & Leighninger, 2015).

In Maryland, the Montgomery County Public School system offers a hopeful example of how public dialogue can improve school governance. John Landesman, a Senior Associate at Everyday Democracy, coordinates the Montgomery County Public Schools Study Circles Program. The program engages parents, students, staff, and administrators in dialogue to address racial and ethnic barriers to parent involvement and student achievement in this multilingual, multi-ethnic school district. These dialogues have helped to build trust and collaboration, and increased involvement by parents of color, as well diminishing differences in achievement among students from more and less advantaged backgrounds (Childress, Doyle, and Thomas, 2009; Orland, 2007; Fagotto & Fung, 2009). (more…)

Red Blue Dictionary

The Red Blue Dictionary, in partnership with Allsides, is a collaborative effort with dozens of dialogue experts from the NCDD network, to create a site that gives definitions for a wide variety of words to help those all across the political spectrum better understand each other.

The idea for the website stemmed from the “Red Blue Dialogue brainstorming session” at the 2012 NCDD conference in Seattle, where Joan Blades, Amanda Roman and Jacob Hess decided to further develop the idea. Living Room Conversations, in early 2016, continued to support the effort by funding Jacob Hess to develop the site. Since then, all contributions to flesh out the Red Blue dictionary have been on a volunteer basis. You can peruse some of the highlight of the Red Blue dictionary below and find the full site here.

From the site…

This guide to America’s contested vocabulary has been written by a politically diverse team of 30 contributors from the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation. Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals, our editorial and contributor teams draw together dialogue experts from maximally diverse backgrounds: religious & atheist, liberal & conservative, Marxist & capitalist, anarchist & libertarian, independent & partisan, hippie & traditionalist, Neil Diamond fans & the rest of us.

Are Americans losing the capacity to disagree in healthy ways? If so, how can we restore (and preserve) our civic ecosystem?

What would it mean to get curious about our differences? (and maybe even smile a little..)

Welcome to a Less-Painful, More Enjoyable Conversation (more…)

How are WE Doing? A Public Engagement Evaluation Platform

In June 2016, the Davenport Institute released, How are WE Doing? A Public Engagement Evaluation Platform, which was designed for public leaders to evaluate their public engagement processes and/or apply to be recognized as a “publicly engaged city” on a silver, gold, or platinum level. The Davenport Institute offers support to officials looking to engage their public better; and offer training and resources to help improve this process. Below describes how the platform works, the way it was designed, and the support provided by the Davenport Institute. You can find the link to the eval platform, access resources, and apply to be recognized for your public engagement processes here.

From the Davenport Institute

For almost a decade, the Davenport Institute has been researching, training, and consulting with public officials to improve the ways in which governments involve their residents in making tough policy decisions. This work has taken us throughout California and across the country, learning about and teaching the latest techniques in effective participatory governance.

We continue to hear from public leaders seeking to capture a “30,000-foot view” of their government’s practices in this area. That is why we are launching “How are WE Doing?” to be that lens through which you can evaluate your municipality’s public engagement processes.

There are two ways to use this tool:

  1. Self-Evaluation: These questions are designed to help you think through your own engagement efforts. We hope they will help you identify areas of strength and weakness, and guide you to appropriate resources for making your relationship with residents even stronger.
  2. Recognition: If your municipality is already doing a great job of legitimate public engagement, we want to know! This platform allows you to submit an application to be recognized as a “publicly engaged city” at one of three levels. Answer the questions, and share some of your story to encourage other local governments to keep engaging!

For more information, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions below. You can also email the Davenport Institute or give us a call at 310-506-4494 for more information. (more…)

End of Life: What Should We Do for Those Who Are Dying? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 23-page issue guide, End of Life: What Should We Do for Those Who Are Dying?, written by National Issues Forums Institute and published on their site on November 2016. This issue guide provides three options for deliberation for participants to explore end-of-life decisions, as people are able to live longer and options for “right to die” become possibilities; what is best for those who are dying? In addition to the issue guide, there is a moderator’s guide and a post-forum questionnaire, all available to download on NIFI’s site here.

From NIFI…

What ought to be done at the end of life is both a personal and public decision. As our population ages, it is becoming a matter of great concern for the entire nation. Diseases that would have been death sentences a few decades ago are now often treatable.

This guide explores end-of-life decisions and examines options and trade-offs inherent in this sensitive and universal issue. Medical advances make it more likely that we will care for relatives in their final days, facing decisions regarding their illnesses or death—as well as our own. Even those who never face such choices will pay for them through tax dollars and the cost of insurance premiums. And as more states consider passing “right-to-die” laws similar to the one that took effect in Oregon in 1997, this debate may become a local one.

Under most circumstances, end-of-life decisions remain difficult and uncomfortable. A Consumer Reports survey found that 86 percent of those polled wanted to die at home. But fewer than half of the respondents over age 65 had living wills detailing their dying wishes, leaving them at the mercy of hospitals and stressed-out families forced to decide on their behalf. In 1990, the US Supreme Court affirmed an individual’s “right to die.” Later, in 1997, the court upheld New York and Washington state laws banning physician-assisted death, leaving it for individual states to decide their legality. These rulings established legal precedence for a national conversation.

This issue guide asks: What should society allow, and support, at the end of life? It presents three different ways of looking at the problem and suggests possible actions appropriate to each. (more…)

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