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Sad news to share from AmericaSpeaks

AmericaSpeaks’ executive director, Steve Brigham, added a heartbreaking announcement to the organization’s website this afternoon.

AMERICASPEAKS – IN HONOR OF OUR 19 YEAR LEGACY

AmericaSpeaks has an unparalleled record of organizing more than 100 major citizen deliberations in all 50 states.  Because of this remarkable history that we’ve had, it makes me very sad to share today that after 19 years of working as an independent, national, nonprofit organization–sustained exclusively by grants and contracts–AmericaSpeaks will close its doors today.

AmericaSpeaks has operated without an endowment or a large institutional home and has always been able to raise funds, conduct projects, and sustain our infrastructure, even during some challenging times.  Unfortunately, we have experienced a series of annual deficits due to a dramatic contraction in grant and contract revenue during the Great Recession. These circumstances ultimately forced us to make a very difficult decision to close our doors and cease operations.

Notably, one of AmericaSpeaks’ final projects as a 501(c)3 has been its contribution to a national deliberation on mental health this year that has been a collaboration with the National Institute for Civil Discourse, the National Issues Forums, Everyday Democracy, the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This has been a watershed moment of cooperation and growth for the field of public deliberation….

Read the rest of the post at http://americaspeaks.org/blog/americaspeaks-%E2%80%93-in-honor-of-our-19-year-legacy/ — and definitely take some time to look over the legacy document they’ve created at https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/6405436/AmericaSpeaks_Legacy.pdf

I spoke to Carolyn Lukensmeyer yesterday (founder of AmericaSpeaks), and she emphasized that though the 501c3 business model is dissolving, a core group of AmericaSpeaks senior associates plan to keep the brand, the 21st Century Town Meeting model, and the network alive and accessible.  The associates (along with the AmericaSpeaks facilitator network) do have the capacity to deliver 21st Century Town Meetings when needed, and are working on developing the structures and securing an institutional home needed to make that work.

Those of you who have worked with AmericaSpeaks or served as table facilitators (many of us – including me!) are encouraged to email your written memories or photos to americaspeakslegacy@gmail.com . Your email’s body and attachments will be directly posted without edits to http://americaspeakslegacy.tumblr.com — where there’s already quite the collection of remembrances being shared.

AmericaSpeaks has been a key trailblazer in public engagement for the past two decades.  They’ve provided valuable leadership in deliberative democracy in many ways, serving as a thought leader in the field, a facilitator of many collaborative efforts over the years, a leader in the use of technology to enable participatory methods to scale up, and so much more.

They were one of NCDD’s 50 founding organizational members, helped us plan the first National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation in 2002, and have sponsored our conferences and contributed to our work in many, many ways over the years.  I want to thank Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Steve Brigham, Daniel Clark, and all of the AmericaSpeaks associates, facilitators, and former staff members we’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with over the years.  I know we’ll continue to work together despite this transition.

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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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