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Consensus presents at Dole Institute on The Civility Project

In August of 2009, the Consensus team watched in dismay as public hearings about health-care reform just drove people further apart. Many saw the yelling and rancor as a people problem, but the team disagreed. And, as the nonprofit that puts the public in public policy, they decided to do something about it. On September 27, at 7:30 p.m., Consensus will present the findings from The Civility Project at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence.

The goal of The Civility Project is to make durable improvements in the methods that governments use to engage the public, so that communities are consistently able to address difficult public issues in a civil manner. Towards that end, Consensus has conducted 20 focus groups with citizens in metro Kansas City and Lawrence to find out the experience of citizens when they go to public meetings or get involved in public issues.

“What bothers people most is that they feel elected officials have made up their minds before they invite the public to weigh in,” said Dan Blom, a partner in Consensus Consulting, the social enterprise arm of the nonprofit Consensus. “They don’t like the public hearing model for a variety of reasons and want changes, such as the opportunity to work in small groups, instead.”

Based on focus group findings, research, and their own experience, the Consensus team has produced a one-day class on how to build civility into public engagement. “It takes effort to change these habits of engagement,” Mary Jo Draper said. Draper is a partner in Consensus Consulting. The class helps elected and government officials, and neighborhood and other leaders, understand how and why to break old habits, and shows them new ways to approach engagement.

The mission of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics is to promote political and civic participation as well as civil discourse in a bi-partisan, balanced manner. “It’s an honor to be selected to present at the Dole Institute,” Jennifer Wilding said. Wilding is director of Consensus and a partner in Consensus Consulting. “Their support shines a spotlight on how improving the methods we use to engage the public can improve the tone of public discourse.”

For more information on The Civility Project, go to www.consensusconsultants.com or www.consensuskc.org, or call 816.531.5078.

Submitted via NCDD’s Add-to-Blog form by Jennifer Wilding, director of Consensus and a partner in Consensus Consulting. Follow Consensus on Facebook and Twitter, or contact Jennifer at jenwilding [at] consensuskc [dot] org or 816.531.5078.

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