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Host a Story Circle During 2016 “People’s State of the Union”

As a start to the new year, the US Department of Arts & Culture (USDAC) – one of our presenters during NCDD 2014 – is inviting communities across the US to come together from Jan. 23-31 to share stories that define the state of our nation in their People’s State of the Union project. The USDAC is looking for folks to host a story circle where they live, and we thought our members might be interested. Learn more about the PSOTU in the USDAC announcement below or find the original here.

People’s State of the Union: An Annual Civic Ritual & Participatory Art Project

Every January, the President delivers a State of the Union address highlighting important issues from the past year and suggesting priorities for the coming year. It’s a broadcast from one to many. But democracy is a conversation, not a monologue. Understanding the state of our union takes We the People reflecting in our own communities on our challenges and opportunities locally, nationally, and globally.

The People’s State of the Union is an invitation to supplement the President’s stories with our own, together hosting a national conversation in our own homes, schools, houses of worship, and community organizations. To change the world, we have to change the story!

Story Circles Nationwide & the Poetic Address

The People’s State of the Union has two main parts: story circles across the nation, and a collaboratively composed Poetic Address to the Nation. (Yes, our State of the Union address is a poem!)

Between January 23-31, 2016, individuals and organizations across the U.S. will host story circles. (Last year, more than 150 communities signed up.) Participants are invited to share their own take on the state of our union, either by reflecting on the following prompts or by creating their own prompts around a specific theme such as education, environment, or racial justice (e.g., “Share a story about something you have experienced that gave you insight into the state of education in this country”):

  • Share a story you think the next President absolutely needs to hear.
  • Share a story about something you have experienced that gave you insight into the state of our union.
  • Share a story about a moment you felt true belonging – or the opposite – in this country.

When you sign up to host a story circle – whether it’s a few folks in your own kitchen or a dozen simultaneous circles in a high school gym – you’ll get a free Toolkit that explains absolutely everything you need to know to organize, promote, and pull off your event, plus online training and technical assistance. Sign up below.

When PSOTU 2016 launches on January 23rd, the story portal will go live. Scribes from each event (and individuals anywhere) will be able to easily upload stories to a website where they can be browsed and shared. (You’ll find more than 500 stories at the PSOTU 2015 story portal.) Members of the USDAC National Cabinet will once again offer their own commentary too.

As the culminating event, a diverse group of poets will be invited to collaboratively create the 2016 Poetic Address to the Nation, which will be performed and livecast in February. (Watch and read the 2015 Poetic Address to the Nation.)

Sign Up to Host a Story Circle

Any individual or organization can sign up to host a People’s State of the Union event by following these three simple steps.


The free PSOTU Toolkit offers you everything you need to organize, promote, and pull off your #PSOTU2016 event. Once you sign up for the toolkit, we’ll email more information about online story circle trainings.


Join the community of story circle hosts. We’ll use CTZN to upload stories and images to the PSOTU website. Just click the button, select Join, and create your account.  All information is available in the toolkit.


Once you know the time/date/place of your event, be sure to add it to the National Action map! You can also use this feature to invite people to your event and to collect RSVPs. Be sure to use the same email address for STEP 2 and STEP 3 so that stories shared at your event can be tagged to your location on the map!

Do you work with a larger organization, coalition, or network that might be interested in inviting your constituents to host their own People’s State of the Union events, reflecting on the state of our union through a particular lens? We can support you! Drop us a line to explore partnership: hello@usdac.us.

You can find the original version of this announcement from the US Department of Arts & Culture at www.usdac.us/psotu.

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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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