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Not in Our Town Quick Start Guide

The Not in Our Town Quick Start Guide: Working together for safe, inclusive communities, was created by Not in Our Town (NIOT) and updated March 2013. The guide gives five steps to begin a campaign in your town or school to stop hate, address bullying, and build safer communities together

Below is an excerpt from the guide, which can be downloaded from NIOT’s site here or at the link at the bottom of the page.

From the guide…

You may be someone who is concerned about divisions in your neighborhood or school, or you may live in a community that has experienced hate-based threats or violence. Even just one individual or a small group can start a movement to stand up to hate.

Not In Our Town is a program for people and communities working together to stop hate, address school bullying and build safe, inclusive environments for all.

This quick guide provides steps for starting a Not In Our Town campaign that fits your local needs.

The ideas in this guide came from people in communities like yours who wanted to do something about hate and intolerance. Their successful efforts have been a shining light for the Not In Our Town movement.

Guiding Principles:
The steps that follow align with these core ideas…

– Silence is acceptance.
– Visible inclusion sends a positive message.
– Change happens when we work together.

Steps for Starting a Not in Our Town Campaign: (more…)

Talking about . . . what’s next after the election?

The article, Talking about . . . what’s next after the election? was posted on the Living Room Conversations site just before the US Election in Fall 2016. Living Room Conversations are a structured format of dialogue designed to hold space for participants across the ideological spectrum to come together and explore each other’s point of view. The original article can be found in full below and on Living Room Conversations’ site here.

From the site…

The presidential election brought attention to our political system… and our differences. Now we need to restore relationships around our shared hopes and dreams and get our country focused on the work of governing. But how exactly will we do this?  This conversation allows us to start exploring ‘what’s next?’. Whether we feel elated or defeated, whatever our differences – let’s insist on finding the deeper unities we can rest upon and defend. Generosity. Goodness. Kindness. Freedom. Respect.

Click here if you would like a pdf of the following topic material to share with your cohost and friends.

Background reading (optional)
While you don’t need to be an expert on this topic, sometimes people want background information. Our partner, AllSides, has prepared a variety of articles reflecting multiple sides of this topic.

Want to listen to an actual Living Room Conversation?
Check out LRC Radio.

Now that you are all together, here we go!

This Living Room Conversation flows through five rounds of questions and a closing. Some rounds ask you to answer each question. Others feature multiple questions that serve as conversation starters — you need only respond to the one or two you find most interesting.

Before you begin your conversation, please go over the Conversation Ground Rules with your participants. (more…)

Naming and Framing Difficult Issues to Make Sound Decisions

The 28-page report, Naming and Framing Difficult Issues to Make Sound Decisions (2016)was written by David Mathews and supported by the Cousins Research Group of the Kettering Foundation.

In the report, Mathews shares some core realizations Kettering has come to learn over the last 30 years of research about how people make decisions and take action. Kettering has found that there are two moments in the decision-making process that are especially important: naming and framing. The way a problem is defined and the how the different options are framed; significantly impacts how effective the process and response will be.

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.

kf_nameframe

From the guide…

People are much more likely to work together if they have participated in the decision making about what to do. And in making the decision, they may come to a more complete understanding of the nature of the problem they are facing, which could open their eyes to untapped resources that they can bring to bear.

The obvious question is, what would motivate citizens to invest their limited time and other resources in grappling with problems brimming with emotionally charged disagreements? Generally speaking, people avoid conflict, and they don’t usually invest their energy unless they see that something deeply important to them, their families, and their neighbors is at stake. And they won’t get involved unless they believe there is something they, themselves, must do.

Therefore, in order for citizens to make sound decisions and take effective collective action, they have to:
• Connect with the things that are deeply important to them,
• Deal with normative disagreements that can lead to immobilizing polarization, and
• Identify those things that they can do through their collective efforts to help solve problems. (more…)

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…)

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