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NICD Helps Build a “Caucus of the Whole” in VT Legislature

NCDD members are doing vital work to improve the political climate in our country every day, and we recently heard about a special example of that kind of work being done by the good people at NCDD member organization the National Institute for Civic Discourse.

NICD_logo3Earlier this year, NICD’s Ted Celeste – an NCDD supporting member and one of our 2014 conference mentors – convened one of NICD’s Next Generation workshops aimed at helping legislators in Vermont develop better communication and more collaborative relationships. It was met with rave reviews and yielded some exciting results!

Here’s what a local Vermont news outlet had to say about this innovative dialogue effort:

When it comes to rancor between the two major parties at the Statehouse, Vermont has it pretty good compared to other parts of the country. But there is always room for improvement. That’s why 20 lawmakers – Republican, Democrats, and Progressives –  sat down Wednesday to clear the air and learn to communicate better. It’s part of a national effort aimed at improving civil discourse in politics.

“There’s a real spirit and enthusiasm for trying to find the common ground,” said Ted Celeste, facilitator.

Celeste, a Democrat and former member of the Ohio Legislature, is on a mission. Working with the University of Arizona’s Institute For Civil Discourse, he crisscrosses the country to help lawmakers get along. Many, he says, have similar issues.

“There’s not enough time to get to know each other. The partisan politics gets in the way of finding common ground, so we cover a lot of the same issues,” said Celeste.

Members at the workshop say that unlike the old days when lawmakers would live and socialize in Montpelier during the session, many now commute every day and that collegiality has suffered. For others it’s pressure to toe the party line that’s a problem.

The article continued with thoughts from legislators who participated in the workshop. But what we found most interesting was the development of a “caucus of the whole”:

Vermont is still a long way from Washington, D.C. where members of the opposite parties won’t applaud during a presidential speech or talk past each other in sound bites, but Ted Celeste says it’s a good place to start… It’s a new effort at the Statehouse to rise above partisan politics.

Efforts to improve civil discourse at the Statehouse have resulted in a new “caucus of the whole.” While party members will continue to meet or caucus separately with their individual parties, the caucus of the whole is an opportunity to work together.

We salute NICD’s continued efforts to improve dialogue and collaboration among our nation’s political leaders, and we hope that, as with the emergence of Vermont’s “caucus of the whole,” their work continues to be successful.

We encourage you to check out the video of the news piece done on NICD’s workshop by clicking here, or you can read the full version of this WCAX.com story by visiting www.wcax.com/story/27964801/vt-lawmakers-learn-to-communicate-better-at-statehouse.

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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