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Featured Speakers at the 2012 NCDD Conference

At NCDD Seattle, we’re privileged to be featuring the innovators on this page during our plenary sessions.  Eric Liu and Martha McCoy are our featured speakers during our plenary session on the first day, along with NCDD’s director Sandy Heierbacher. Carolyn Lukensmeyer and Pete Peterson will be speaking during our plenary on Day 2 of the conference. John Gastil and Fran Korten will be sharing their reflections on the event during the closing session, and John will also be serving as our Emcee throughout the conference.


John Gastil is Professor and Head of the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. He received his Ph.D. in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994 and has worked at the University of New Mexico and the University of Washington. He specializes in political deliberation and group decision making, and his books include The Jury and Democracy (2010), The Group in Society (2010), Political Communication and Deliberation (2008), By Popular Demand (2000), Democracy in Small Groups (1993), and the co-edited volumes The Deliberative Democracy Handbook (2005) and Democracy in Motion (Oxford/Kettering, 2012). He has served as principal investigator of three large-scale research projects supported by The National Science Foundation—including the Jury and Democracy Project, which rediscovered the jury system as a valuable civic educational institution. His research on juries is available online at www.jurydemocracy.org.


Eric Liu is an author, educator, and civic entrepreneur. Eric is founder of the Guiding Lights Network, which promotes and teaches the art of creative citizenship. His books include the national bestsellers The Gardens of Democracy and The True Patriot, both co-authored with Nick Hanauer; The Accidental Asian, a New York Times Notable Book; Guiding Lights, the Official Book of National Mentoring Month; and Imagination First, co-authored with Scott Noppe-Brandon of the Lincoln Center Institute. Eric served as a White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and later as the President’s deputy domestic policy adviser. After the White House, he was an executive at the digital media company RealNetworks. He is currently a Fellow at the Center For Social Cohesion at Arizona State University. A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, he lives in Seattle where he teaches at the University of Washington and serves on numerous nonprofit and civic boards. A regular columnist for TIME.com, Eric can be found on Twitter @ericpliu.


Fran Korten is the publisher of YES! Magazine, which is thriving even in the midst of the recession and the turmoil in the media world. She works to make the office culture at YES! “walk the talk” of the magazine’s passion for justice, sustainability and compassion. She is devoted to helping people feel themselves to be agents of change in the unfolding drama of our time. Before joining YES! Magazine, Fran served as a grantmaker for 20 years in the Ford Foundation’s offices in Manila, Jakarta, and New York, where she supported community-based approaches to the sustainable use of land, trees, and water. She has a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Stanford University and taught at the national university of Ethiopia and at Harvard University. She has edited several books including “Transforming a Bureaucracy,” and has authored numerous articles on peoples’ participation, community management of water and forests, and organizational change.


The founder and former president of AmericaSpeaks, Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer is currently the Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona. Under her leadership, AmericaSpeaks earned a national reputation as a leader in the field of deliberative democracy and democratic renewal, winning two awards from the International Association for Public Participation (2001 and 2003), as well as the Organization Development Network’s Sharing the Wealth Award (2006) and a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) award for best practices. Prior to founding AmericaSpeaks, Carolyn served as Consultant to the White House Chief of Staff, working on internal management issues and government-wide reform. She was also the Deputy Project Director for Management of the National Performance Review (NPR), Vice President Al Gore’s reinventing government task force.


For more than 20 years, Martha McCoy has made landmark contributions to the fields of deliberative democracy, community problem solving, and racial justice. Under her leadership, Everyday Democracy—a national organization that excels at helping local communities build capacity for dialogue—has become a distinguished leader in all three fields. McCoy began at Everyday Democracy in 1991 (then the Study Circles Resource Center), becoming its director in 1995. She helped take it from a small, start-up organization to its current strength, with 13 full-time staff members, associates across the country, and a network of hundreds of communities. Under her direction, Everyday Democracy is at the leading edge of connecting public dialogue to collective action and democratic governance, and of keeping race and inclusion at the forefront of practices to strengthen democracy. A nationally recognized speaker and author, Martha has presented on such topics as civic engagement, leadership, diversity, democracy, racism, and education reform, and she has written extensively about community problem solving for books and national trade publications.


Pete Peterson was the first Executive Director of Common Sense California (now the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University), an organization that promotes and supports citizen engagement as a way of producing more creative policy decisions and better citizens. His annual Citizen Engagement Grant Program provided more than $200,000 in two years to municipalities and school districts across California, several of which invited him to consult on their participatory planning and budgeting projects. He co-created and currently co-facilitates the training seminar “Leadership Through Civic Engagement,” which has reached more than 350 California leaders and public officials. Pete has written extensively on public engagement for an array of print and online journals. He was a public affairs fellow at The Hoover Institution in 2006.