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What’s Next, California?!

Pete Peterson just posted about this project in NCDD’s LinkedIn group. What’s Next California is the state’s first-ever Deliberative Poll, seeking in-depth public opinion on the most pressing governance issues: state-local reform, taxation and fiscal policy, initiative process and representation.

Here’s an intro from the What’s Next California website:

We face historic challenges at a time when our state is increasingly thought to be ungovernable. Our outmoded system of government is crippling our ability to deliver basic services to the Californians who create our extraordinary productivity and prosperity – and undercutting our ability to plan and invest for the future. There are plenty of proposals for reform, but the public is often distrustful of those who offer them. It’s time to change the process.

Lasting change can only come from sustained, informed involvement by significant numbers of ordinary Californians, bringing their personal experience and insight to bear on political priorities and solutions that matter to them.

What’s Next California is an unprecedented attempt to bring the people into the process in a new way—one that is representative and thoughtful. A scientific random sample of the entire state will be transported to a single place for a weekend of face-to-face discussions, in small groups and in dialogue with competing experts. In California’s first statewide “Deliberative Poll,” the people will be supported by factual information and will consider the critical arguments on both sides of issues, then will articulate their priorities for fixing the state.

A number of Deliberative Polls have been conducted at the national and local levels in sixteen countries around the world, including Britain, Australia, Denmark, and the United States. The deliberations will take place in Torrance on the weekend of June 25th. More than 300 citizens representing every region of the state will spend the weekend working in small groups and posing questions to public officials and policy experts. These in-depth discussions will likely range over legislative representation, taxation, whether local governments should have more autonomy and control over public services, and the initiative process.

This is a unique way for citizens who are scientifically selected to join the conversation about issues that might be included in future statewide ballot initiatives. The weekend will be moderated by Judy Woodruff of the PBS Newshour and videotaped for a documentary to be broadcast on PBS stations in California and elsewhere. The What’s Next California project will include digital participation at nextca.org, on Facebook and on Twitter (#NextCA).

This effort is being organized by California Forward, the New America Foundation in California, the Public Policy Institute of California, the Nicolas Berggruen Institute, California Common Cause, the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University and the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University.  It is being coordinated by the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions’ By the People Project.

An advisory committee representing diverse California viewpoints has reviewed the initial drafting of the Deliberative Poll survey and will continue to inform What’s Next California as the project moves forward as will a group of academic experts.  The Deliberative  Poll is being organized as part of a larger effort to consult the public and identify the best research on possible reforms.

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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. I have been invited to attend the event as an observer. If you have any ideas or recommendations for what I should be monitoring, please leave a comment.

    I will share a summary of my impressions after the event has concluded.

  2. I’m happy to post your summary on the NCDD blog, Tim (as a post of its own). I look forward to reading your observations!

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