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Opportunity for NCDDers to help shape No Labels’ activities

An appeal to NCDD colleagues, from leadership at NCDD and the Public Conversations Project:

As some of you will have noticed, No Labels has been the subject of lively discussion on the NCDD listserv in recent weeks.  This month-old effort has Democratic, Republican and Independent leadership and aims to counter what it calls ‘hyper-partisanship” in national, particularly Congressional, politics. The founders’ consistent message has been that they are not about issues but about shifting the “attitudes and behaviors” of elected leaders towards civility and cooperative problem-solving.

No Labels has started rolling out a media strategy and is encouraging concerned citizens of all political stripes to come together to organize in every Congressional district and act together to hold their leaders accountable for civil conduct and for working across labels to find solutions to critical issues.

Beyond using the meet-up technology, there was not much up-front thinking about what kind of local grass roots organizing would best model the initiative’s values. This is not surprising. The No Labels folks are political professionals. Observing this weakness/ gap, some NCDD members have been exploring how members of our field might bring our expertise to bear to enhance the community mobilization piece of this rapidly developing and potentially constructive political movement.

Laura Chasin and Mary Jacksteit of the Public Conversations Project (PCP) have been in regular contact with No Labels about how to enhance the public involvement resources being made available to citizen organizers. They have met with receptiveness – for example, to the meet-up site ground rules and other tips were quickly added due to their recommendations (see http://nolabels.org/get-involved/meetup-copy/).

There are various worthwhile, parallel efforts that have been shared within the NCDD community. NoLabels is one with a national reach that may provide the chance to introduce group process principles that make a constructive difference. Especially after the shootings in Arizona, more Americans may be looking for places to go to talk about their distress with the political culture and because of its media outreach, NoLabels groups may provide one important place. Our field has something powerful to contribute.

PCP is prepared to maintain contact with the No Labels leadership and to serve as a conduit for feedback and suggestions from NCDD members who organize or participate in no Labels events. Below is information about how to find out what these events are (this week the first local meet-ups are taking place), and ideas for bipartisan viewing parties for the President’s State of the Union speech on January 25. These “unity watch parties” are NoLabels’ most recent push.

TO: Colleagues Considering Participating in a Local No Labels Event
FROM: Mary Jacksteit and Laura Chasin, Public Conversations Project

On Thursday, January 13, initial meet ups are being held in a number of areas across the U.S. You can find out where and how to attend one by going to the No Labels website at www.nolabels.org. [Instructions: On the opening page click “skip the sign up” (if you wish) and on the next page go to the bottom right where it says “Meetups.” Click “Find out More” which will take you to the meetup site. Click “find out more” again and then, on the national map. You will have a box where you can enter your zip code and see information about meetings near you.] There is also a way to sign up for weekly citizen leader calls if you want to do that.

An opportunity with a longer lead time was announced last week. No Labels put out a call for people to organize bi(multi) partisan “unity watch parties” for the upcoming State of the Union Address (January 25.) There is a very rudimentary site that was just put up about this. http://stateoftheunity.com/. Some of us could decide to hold watch events, trying out a simple process to encourage respectful cross-partisan viewing and discussion and joint monitoring of how much civility and commitment to problem-solving is on view; then pool our experience and offer what we learned along with recommendations for other similar efforts.

If this interests you and you decide to participate in some way (a No Labels local meet-up or January 25 watch party), we encourage you to send the highlights of your experience to PCP at feedback@publicconversations.org. It would be helpful to learn what the meeting was, and how it went; a bare bones description of time, place, numbers, degree of political diversity if known, frame and focus, etc.; what you contributed; what went well/not well; suggestions for the NL leadership for the next meetings, etc.  PCP plans to collate/compile your feedback and suggestions and share that information in future consultations with No Labels staff and participating NCDDers at least through the start up period.

If you’d like to see our working ideas about what to do at State of the Union watch parties, check out this PCP blog post.

A note from Sandy:

To clarify, here are the “asks”…

  1. Sign up to attend or even host a meet-up this Thursday (those in/near urban areas are likely to find that others have signed up near them already).
  2. If you do attend a meet-up on Thursday, write up your reflections on what happened and what could be improved and send them to the Public Conversations Project at feedback@publicconversations.org.  We also encourage you to share these reflections on the NCDD listserv, facebook group, linkedin group, and blog.
  3. Consider also (or instead) signing up to host or attend a State of the Union watch party (January 25) organized through the No Labels website.  You can sign up informally at this point at www.stateoftheunity.com.
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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. Mike McGrath says:

    I would like to see the No Labels people consider structural political reforms that would encourage consensus building and public engagement.

    I think the polarization is driven in part by the rules of the game, the voting system and legislative procedures, that reinforce the binary process of our politics. But you rarely see any discussion of this by the pundits who call for civility.

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