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Meeting the Challenges of a World Divided: Engaging Whole Bodies Politic (Connections 2016)

The six-page article, “Meeting the Challenges of a World Divided: Engaging Whole Bodies Politic” by Harold H. Saunders was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. For this tenth article of the newsletter, Kettering drew from Saunders book, Politics is about Relationships: A Worldview for the Citizens’ Century, on the five challenges to citizens for more effectively participating in our global political world. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

Our country and our world are deeply divided. Too many people have lost the capacity to listen thoughtfully, to talk respectfully, and to relate constructively. A culture of dialogue generated and sustained over time by citizens outside government is critical to peace and to equitable and sustainable economic, political, and social development.

The challenges of our troubled world require political—not just technical—responses. There are some things only governments can do—negotiate binding agreements, make and enforce laws, provide for the common defense, fund public projects and programs. But some things only citizens outside government can do—transform conflictual human relationships, modify human behavior, and change political culture. Only governments can negotiate peace treaties, but only people can make peace.

As John Gaventa wrote, “When aware of their rights and agency, and when organized with others, citizens have the power and capacity to bring about fundamental and lasting change. . . . While the idea of citizen driven change has been around for a long time, it still stands in sharp contrast to many other paradigms which dominate public affairs.”

The conceptual lenses we use to understand events determine how we act. Achieving a fresh way of understanding the world around us requires new conceptual lenses to bring a (more…)

The International Residents Network: A Self-Sustaining Instrument for Learning and Sharing (Connections 2016)

The six-page article, “The International Residents Network: A Self-Sustaining Instrument for Learning and Sharing” by Ruby Quantson was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the ninth article of the newsletter, Quantson talks about her efforts to re-connect with members of Kettering’s International Residents Network. She and Leonardo Correa, a previous member of the network reached out to fellow members to see in what ways the network had been self-sustained and what to do moving forward. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

Responding to growing international interest in democracy research, in 1991, the Kettering Foundation established international residencies. These residencies, initially called “fellowships,” include the international residents, the Katherine W. Fanning Residents in Journalism and Democracy, and staff exchanges with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Peking University. Residents usually spend several months at the foundation’s headquarters in Dayton, Ohio, exploring questions central to Kettering’s research program. Thus far, about 130 people have participated from around the world.

In the spring of 2014, I embarked, along with Leonardo Correa from Brazil, on a new research project to locate as many former international residents as we could. Both of us are former international residents, which put us in a unique position to interview others and analyze what we heard. This article focuses on the insights gathered from the research, expressed through the thoughts and voices of those we interviewed. It particularly highlights existing foundations and structures for building a formidable international network and how this platform could be sustained for learning across the world through self-responsibility as a principle of democratic practice.

A key interest in this research was whether former residents (at least a critical number) were self-motivated enough to be responsible for sustaining the network. This interest was particularly driven by two questions posed in the research interviews: how might you work with the international network, and how can the network be managed and sustained? (more…)

The Kettering Foundation and China-US Relations (Connections 2016)

The six-page article, “The Kettering Foundation and China-US Relations” by Wang Jisi was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the eight article of the newsletter, Jisi shares his experience with Kettering’s consistent engagement with China for over three decades, by bringing together people from both the US and China to learn from each other and maintain relations. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

Since 1986, the Kettering Foundation has maintained a close and fruitful relationship with China, especially with China’s scholarly community. As a participant in this relationship from the beginning, I am both humbled at Kettering’s brave and strenuous efforts to strengthen US-China ties and proud of being a small part of them.

In 1986, when I was a junior lecturer in Peking University’s Department of International Politics, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) cosponsored with the Kettering Foundation a group visit to the United States. The Chinese delegation was headed by Li Shenzhi, vice president of CASS, and consisted of several senior Chinese individuals and four “young observers,” including Yuan Ming of Peking University and myself. We toured Racine, Wisconsin, where we joined the US delegation headed by Kettering president David Mathews and attended a conference together, which covered world politics in general and China-US relations in particular. We were also entertained by local officials and celebrities in Racine. In fact, what impressed me most was not anything related to China-US relations, but a special session conducted by David Mathews, in which he vividly introduced Kettering’s political philosophy and approach to conducting its projects.

It was the first time I had ever heard a representative of an American NGO explain to us how it worked. During the Racine conference, we had interesting conversations with (more…)

A Comparative Study of Coastal Communities in Cuba and the United States (Connections 2016)

The nine-page article, “A Comparative Study of Coastal Communities in Cuba and the United States” by Paloma Dallas, Penny Dendy, Terry Jack, Esther Velis, Virginia York, was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the seventh article of the newsletter, the authors talk about the collaboration between Kettering and the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation, on how each organization worked with communities in the US and Cuba, respectively, on addressing important issues that impact both areas. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

This article tells the story of two organizations—one in Cuba and the other in the United States—and the community-based networks they collaborate with to learn how to make a difference on issues that affect both nations.

Nearly two decades ago, the Kettering Foundation began a series of ongoing exchanges with the Havana-based Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity, a nongovernmental environmental organization founded by Antonio Núñez Jiménez, a renowned Cuban geographer, archeologist, and speleologist.

As part of these exchanges, the Núñez Foundation was interested in exploring ways citizens can play an active role in responding to the challenges their communities face. Kettering has long studied how people come together to make progress on difficult problems and do the work of creating resilient communities. Both foundations saw potential in comparing the experiences of communities facing related problems in different contexts.

An obvious opportunity for such an exchange seemed to be their shared geography: the Gulf of Mexico. Communities along the Gulf in both countries face some of the very same challenges, namely a vulnerability to hurricanes, as well as other human-made disasters. These dangers are not going away, so the challenge was (more…)

Learning with the Citizens’ Accord Forum: Building a Shared Society in a Sustainable Democracy in Israel (Connections 2016)

The six-page article, “Learning with the Citizens’ Accord Forum: Building a Shared Society in a Sustainable Democracy in Israel” by Phillip D. Lurie was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the sixth article of the newsletter, Lurie shares the work of the Citizens’ Accord Forum in Israel which works on bridging divides between Jews and Arabs in order to address issues in daily life through dialogue and deliberation. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

The Citizens’ Accord Forum (CAF) has a daunting mission: to build a shared society in a sustainable democracy in Israel by working to mend rifts between groups in conflict by building bridges, encouraging constructive engagement, and promoting and empowering civic leadership. The Kettering Foundation has been working with this organization for more than three years as they’ve been naming and framing issues for public deliberation among Israeli citizens, both Jews and Arabs. Kettering has experimented with a number of organizations attempting to create pathways for citizens to engage with one another over the problems they face in daily life. In these experiments, one aim is for citizens to see themselves implicated in the work of public life, and thus, take responsibility for it. This project is particularly interesting because it’s rooted in a longstanding conflict among societies characterized, in part, by different cultural traditions. Moreover, CAF is interested in addressing problems that Arabs and Jews face in daily life, in the context of that conflict.

Kettering’s research with CAF is rooted in our concept of joint learning, which focuses on developing shared research questions, exploring these questions through ongoing face-to-face exchanges, and learning. Building on his participation at the Deliberative Democracy Institute, Udi Cohen, co-director of CAF, received a grant from the European Union to convene a series of dialogues among Arab and Israeli citizens to build capacity and trust. CAF has a self-interest in experimenting with innovations in affecting the civic discourse among deeply divided people, and Kettering has an opportunity to learn from those experiences. Together, we want to learn more about:

1. How issue guides can affect the civic discourse among people with different cultures of discussion;
2. How a focus on everyday problems can affect the deliberations and address the underlying issues of conflict;
3. What outcomes emerge from the deliberations;
4. How to convey the outcomes of deliberative forums to policymakers; and
5. How to affect policy decisions. We’ve learned some interesting things from their various reports and from meeting together, including: (more…)

The Library as a Community Center (Connections 2016)

The seven-page article, “The Library as a Community Center” by Svetlana Gorokhova was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In this fifth article of the newsletter, Gorokhova discusses the shift that has been happening in Russia for the last twenty years of utilizing the library system as hubs for deliberative engagement and the way this has affected the Russian people. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

My first experience with deliberating was in 1996 at the Kettering Foundation, and it felt like magic. I, like many Russian people, was skeptical about all forms of civic engagement because in the Soviet state you knew that public forums or meetings were always “pro forma” events. I was disillusioned and doubtful about whether people’s opinions would be taken seriously and be heard. When I got to the forum, I thought it would only be talk, talk, talk and not about doing. I did not think about talking as if it was something that is valuable.

I came to this forum about the environment, and thought, “How does this relate to my life? I’m living through a very difficult time in my country and am worried about what to eat and how to earn some money to maintain my family. Why should I think about environmental problems?” Then I realized that the issue is not something abstract. People were listening to me and trying to understand my point of view, and I was trying to understand their points of view. After that forum, my perspective changed. It wasn’t a drastic change, but I had a new perspective about the problem and saw the value of talking together. I had a feeling of elation and hope for the future. The magic came with the realization that you can do something and that you are being heard.

Deliberating takes effort. You are working on yourself with other people, and they’re working on themselves. There is a problem that gives us something in common. So my definition of deliberation is hard work that results in a joyful union of different points of view—a shared commitment to solving the problem for everybody. It sounds altruistic because in life, typically, you rarely find (more…)

The Mediated Town Halls of the Eastern Cape (Connections 2016)

The eight-page article, “The Mediated Town Halls of the Eastern Cape” by Rod Amner was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the fourth article of the newsletter, Amner discusses the ways in which public engagement has been transforming in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, focusing on the ways in which journalism outlets have facilitated engagement spaces with the community to better amplify the voices of the people. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

The town hall meeting is a simple, old-fashioned idea: an informal public space in which community members come together to discuss issues, to voice opinions, or to engage with public figures.

But, despite 22 years of democracy, it is a relative rarity in South Africa.

So, it is significant that in recent years, a number of “legacy” and “emerging” community news organizations in the Eastern Cape province of the country have hosted scores of town hall meetings in a range of formats, all ostensibly aimed at re-engineering in some way relationships with and between the people they formerly knew as their audiences.

It is also surprising because the Eastern Cape does not immediately suggest itself as a promising incubator of journalistic, civic, or any other kind of innovation. It is South Africa’s poorest province—beset with stagnating industries in the urban areas and the frustrating persistence of sub-subsistence agriculture in most of the countryside. Just 26 percent of its citizens have jobs, and its schools produce the worst educational outcomes in the country— and by most benchmarks, the entire world.

On the other hand, despite its apparent marginality, this province has always been an important fulcrum of South African politics. It is a traditional stronghold of the (more…)

From Skepticism to Engagement: Building Deliberative Faith among Israeli College Students (Connections 2016)

The seven-page article, “From Skepticism to Engagement: Building Deliberative Faith among Israeli College Students” by Idit Manosevitch was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the third article of the newsletter, Manosevitch shares the story of when he initiated the first student-led deliberation conference in Israel and the profound effect it had on the students, staff, and school community. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

One of the spaces that seems appropriate for educating people for citizenship is academia. As an educational arena with a public mission and young citizens as key players, it may—and some would argue ought—to be a hub of civic education for deliberative public skills and values. This captures the essence of deliberative pedagogy, an area of ongoing research at the Kettering Foundation.

In what follows, I tell the story of what inspired me to get involved in deliberative pedagogy and share some insights from experimentation with Israeli students in recent years.

On January 16, 2013, six days prior to the Israeli general elections, I initiated the first student-led deliberative issue conference at the School of Communication in Netanya Academic College in Israel. The event was tagged “Students say NO to the horse race: Elections Conference 2013.”

The conference was a peak event in an intensive three-month process with my undergraduate seminar students, which combined theory and practice. Theoretical readings and discussions served as a baseline for understanding the essence of deliberative theory and the role of public deliberation in democratic societies. The hands-on process of preparing for and facilitating a deliberative, student-led issue conference complemented the theory and helped students internalize the idea of public deliberation, the norms and values associated with it, and the challenges of pursuing such ideals in practice.

Faculty had cautioned me not to expect more than 50 participants because students—as I should well know—are uninterested, unengaged, and unwilling to make extra efforts beyond the mandatory degree requirements. My students were also wary, and rightly so. A week prior (more…)

Deliberation: Touching Lives across National Boundaries (Connections 2016)

The six-page article, “Deliberation: Touching Lives across National Boundaries” by Maura Casey was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the second article of the newsletter, Casey discusses the 2016 convening of the Multinational Symposium, held by Kettering, in which participants shared the various approaches occurring in their countries to better engage youth in democratic processes. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

In March, people from around the world gathered at the Kettering Foundation to explore the approaches that groups from Tajikistan, Germany, India, Brazil, Russia, and the United States are taking to civic education and learning—approaches that range from rap music to deliberative forums. The Multinational Symposium is an annual series of meetings organized by Kettering. Each year, the symposium has a different focus. In 2016, the symposium explored, how do young people learn to engage in the practices of citizenship in a democracy? What can be learned from experiments in using deliberative practices in the civic education of young people?

The approaches are all different. Germany is using music and meetings with public officials to engage youth; in Russia, libraries are the neutral ground for young people to flock to forums; in Brazil, the Steve Biko Institute helps people raise their voices and take pride in their racial backgrounds. But the goals are the same: to develop young people into citizens.

Citizens all have at least one thing in common: no matter what nation they come from, sooner or later they gather to ask one another, “What should we do?” The Kettering Foundation has long researched what comes after that question: how people overcome differences to deliberate together and make good decisions.

Inevitably, sometimes are more turbulent and challenging than others. That’s the situation those from Brazil say they face.

Widespread protests over economic and political upheaval pose a special challenge to teachers in Brazil. “Democracy seems shaken due to recent events,” said Telma Gimenez, who also stated that even wearing certain colors of clothing can be interpreted as a political act, revealing allegiances for or against the government. “People are fighting. The question is, (more…)

Citizens in a Global Society (Connections 2016)

The eight-page article, “Citizens in a Global Society” by David Mathews was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. This is the initial article in the newsletter that introduces the theme for the whole publication which centers around Kettering’s multi-national work.  Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

The foundation’s multinational research falls into two broad categories or groups. In the first category, the foundation collaborates with nongovernmental organizations outside the United States that are interested in what Kettering is studying about how people do or don’t become engaged as citizens who exercise sound judgment, the work citizens do in communities to solve problems and educate the young, and productive ways that people can engage large institutions, both governmental and nongovernmental, as those institutions try to engage them. This research is the way the foundation organizes its study of democracy.

At the heart of the word democracy is the demos, or “citizenry,” and Kettering refers to the ways citizens go about their work as “democratic practices.” (Kratos, or “power,” is the other root of democracy.) The democratic practices that Kettering studies require self-responsibility, which can’t be exported or imported. So the focus of our research is on the United States, not other countries. Yet our studies have been greatly enriched by what the foundation has learned from nongovernmental organizations in some 100 other countries spread across the globe.

Organizations in other countries interested in this research come to summer learning exchanges called the Deliberative Democracy Institutes (DDIs) to share their experiences with one another and the foundation. Some of the participants (more…)

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