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CommunityMatters Partnership holds joint workshop in Newport, Vermont

We’re excited to report that on February 4th, NCDD and the 6 other organizations in the CommunityMatters Partnership (a collective impact initiative launched by the Orton Family Foundation in June of last year), collaborated to run a workshop for 40 community leaders in Newport, Vermont. We wanted to pool our resources to offer tools and techniques to encourage broad citizen participation and improve local decision-making in a town that’s on the cusp of a lot of exciting developments that will greatly effect every resident.

CM_logo-200pxThe one-day workshop on the 4th was designed to serve as a critical step in building local “civic infrastructure” in Newport.

Civic infrastructure is the underlying structure and capacity communities need to deal with critical public issues effectively. Civic infrastructure consists of the opportunities, activities, and arenas that allow people to connect with each other, solve problems, make decisions, and celebrate community.

Though we approach this work in different ways, the CommunityMatters partners agree that by strengthening their civic infrastructure, communities can become more powerful, less divided, more prosperous, and more vibrant places to live.

In addition to a strong introductory piece presented by Matt Leighninger, a dynamic closing session focused on next steps, and fantastic MC’ing by NCDD board member Diane Miller, CM Partners presented six breakout sessions…


  • The Power of Ten: Why Great Places are More than the Sum of their Parts (Project for Public Spaces)
  • Building Community Through Engagement and Dialogue (National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation)
  • What Matters Most: Using Community Values in Decision Making (Orton Family Foundation)


  • A Curbside Chat: Why We’re Broke and How to Incrementally Change That (Strong Towns)
  • Grassroots Grantmaking and the Power of Collective Action (Grassroots Grantmakers)
  • Engaging Citizens in Public Decision-making and Problem-solving (Deliberative Democracy Consortium & New America Foundation)

Newport-logoDownload our presentations from CommunityMatters’ slideshare account here.

Each of the partner organizations contributed significant time, energy, and resources to developing and running the workshop in just a couple of short months (and showed up without complaint in freezing northern Vermont in February!). We are also grateful for the amazing level of local support and commitment provided by the Newport City Renaissance Corporation and, in particular, Trish Sears.

NCDD is particularly grateful to the skilled and generous contributions of our Board member Diane Miller of Civic Collaboration, who went way beyond the call of duty to do NCDD proud in Newport and in the planning process with the CM partnership.

Putting on this joint workshop in Newport allowed the CM partner organizations to consider a model of working together that will allow us to help citizens effectively address their communities’ problems while simultaneously advancing the work of our organizations.  The partner representatives present met in Burlington for another day and a half following day-long Newport workshop to continue exploring and planning our work together as a collective (more on those outcomes later!).

More about CommunityMatters…

CommunityMatters is a commons for individuals and organizations working to steer change, engage citizens and build strong, vibrant communities from the ground up. The CommunityMatters Partnership is a group of seven national organizations brought together by the Orton Family Foundation with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to explore how we might collectively make a larger impact on community resiliency and civic infrastructure by working together and dedicating a portion of our time to developing and advancing a common goal.

CM-Partners-minilogosThe partners include:

  • The Orton Family Foundation
  • The Deliberative Democracy Consortium
  • Grassroots Grantmakers
  • National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)
  • New America Foundation
  • Project for Public Spaces
  • Strong Towns

CommunityMatters — and the CommunityMatters partners — work to enable people to solve their communities’ problems and shape their future through facilitating connections, providing education and infusing inspiration at the local level.

You can follow CommunityMatters on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re interested in digging into civic infrastructure more, we strongly recommend you check out the NLC report “Planning for Stronger Local Democracy” by Matt Leighninger and Bonnie C. Mann.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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  1. Thanks for the great post, Sandy! We’re so lucky to have you and NCDD as part of the CommunityMatters Partnership!

  2. John Backman says:

    A major step forward for a truly dynamic partnership. The level of commitment and enthusiasm among the partners is very high indeed. Well done all, especially Sandy and Diane!

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