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An Experiment in Blending Dialogue Media

Picture of the US flag on a political button.What’s working in our political system? What isn’t? Our company is OnlineTownhalls and we are passionate about improving the quality of our national dialogue. We recently joined the Open Model for Citizen Engagement Working Group here in Washington, DC which inspired us to give this a shot.

From June 23-27, 2010 we are conducting an experiment called the American Townhall on National Politics. Our mission is to find deeper ways to discuss critical issues facing our democracy combining tools for discussion online, in-person, and over the phone.  The target audience is not the general public; we’re testing these tools on our own communities: opengov, NCDD, e-democracy, transparency, etc.  When we learn what works and what doesn’t, then we’ll repeat the experiment with the general public and publicize the method for others to replicate.

Image of a hand-held camera.Join Us In-Person:

We’ve kick-started the townhall by conducting video interviews on the National Mall in Washington, DC. We’ll be asking visitors to our nation’s capital what they think is broken and what they think is working well in our national politic system. All the videos are available here and are included in the OnlineTownhall mentioned below where others participants can build on these ideas.

Image of a phone receiver.Join Us on the Phone:

The central question for the three-day show is, “What is working in our national political system, and what isn’t?” We’ll be joined by Wayne Burke of the Open Forum Foundation and the lead organizer of the Open Model for Citizen Engagement, key staff in the Sunlight Foundation, and members of the National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation (if you’d like to be interviewed about your dialogue work, 6:30pm EST is open on Thursday and Friday; email lucas@onlinetownhalls.com if you’re interested).

We have three live call-in radio shows:

  • Wednesday, June 23 from 5pm-7pm EST. Click HERE to listen.
  • Thursday, June 24 from 5pm-7pm EST. Click HERE to listen.
  • Friday, June 25 from 5pm-7pm EST. Click HERE to listen.
  • From June 23-27, join this OnlineTownhall to discuss the ideas raised in the radio shows.

Want to call into the radio show? Dial (917) 889-2510 to join the discussion during the times listed above. You can also add your thoughts via email to info@americantownhalls.org or through Twitter using the tag #ATHNP (for American Townhall on National Politics). We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

A quill and paper.Join Us Online:

Using this conversation at OnlineTownhalls, participants will be able to take the conversation started on the videos and the radio show deeper from June 23-27.

OnlineTownhalls is different than standard commenting software; it helps participants visualize all the branches in a conversation and see which issues are controversial and which are common ground.

For those that would like a brief orientation to the software, we will be available over the phone. The dial-in number for the live walk-through is 605-715-4920 with an access code of 616033 from 7pm-9pm EST on June 23-25. The online discussion will be open through June 27.

If you’re comfortable with online tools, you’ll probably be able to figure out the townhall technology after watching this three minute intro video.

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Lucas Cioffi
Lucas Cioffi graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Having served one year in Baghdad as an infantry officer, he realizes the need for effective dialogue and deliberation in preventing conflict. He is passionate about advanced online deliberative platforms and is co-founder of AthenaBridge.com.

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