OpenCongress is a free, open-source, non-profit, and non-partisan web resource that aims to make Congress more transparent and to encourage civic engagement. They have just launched a new “Tools” section at www.opencongress.org/tools. Some of these tools use open-source code to make it easier to share info about Congress, and some are useful new resources for greater government transparency. Here’s what you’ll find there:
1. OpenCongress Syndication Panel: an easy way to display info from OpenCongress on your website.
Simply choose what you’d like to show: the most-viewed bills, the Members of Congress most written-about in the news and on blogs, top search terms, and much more. Then you can customize the appearance of the panel and just copy-and-paste some HTML into your site. It’s perfect for sidebars of political blogs — now your readers can have an at-a-glance, up-to-date way to follow what’s hot in Congress. For an example of how the Syndication Panel (sometimes called a “widget”) looks, take a glance at this sample : http://participatorypolitics.org/ (more…)
Leadership Strategies (www.leadstrat.com) is offering a two-day workshop called “The Effective Consultant” from August 20-22 in Atlanta, GA. The Effective Consultant course provides a structured framework for consulting, with techniques and client handling strategies for each stage of the consulting process. The course will teach participants to:
- Listen to client requests and ask key questions to help clients discover their real needs
- Communicate effectively with clients about status, issues and challenges
- Uncover the common barriers to team success and prevention strategies
- Set appropriate expectations with client and manage them throughout the project life cycle
The cost of the course is $1495. To register go to www.leadstrat.com/coursereg2.asp. For more information, visit Leadership Strategies’ website or call 1-800-824-2850.
Liz Sevcenko just sent us the following job opportunity: The International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience (www.sitesofconscience.org) is a network of historic sites dedicated to remembering past struggles for justice and addressing their contemporary legacies. They are seeking a Director of Programs in the Americas to develop and oversee the Coalition’s work in North and South America. The goal of the Director of Programs in the Americas is to coordinate productive exchange and learning among members and affiliates in the region that builds the capacity for historic sites to serve as centers for civic dialogue. S/he is responsible for developing, maintaining, and growing the Coalition network, and for developing and dissemination of Coalition training resources. S/he reports directly to the Director of the Coalition and is supported by a shared administrative assistant.
Specific responsibilities include to: (more…)
[cross-posted at deliberative-democracy.net]
Today’s New York Times features the very interesting article “Japan Learns Dreaded Task of Jury Duty.” The article reports on a central tension facing the Japanese as they move towards using juries in their court system:
Japan is preparing to adopt a jury-style system in its courts in 2009, the most significant change in its criminal justice system since the postwar American occupation. But for it to work, the Japanese must first overcome some deep-rooted cultural obstacles: a reluctance to express opinions in public, to argue with one another and to question authority.
And it goes on to describe how participating in simulated jury deliberations is causing a great deal of embarrassment and moral confusion for Japanese citizens who have grown up in a culture that values that harmony, ambiguity and not speaking up.
Although it takes place in a context very different from the US, I thought this article was a great example of the role culture plays in shaping dialogue and deliberation, and raises questions for US theorists and practitioners to consider. Even within the US, cultural norms about public talk vary from region to region - in the Midwest, where I teach, it’s clear that people are not as comfortable publicly disagreeing with one another as they may be in other parts of the country. How can we researchers and practitioners be sensitive to different cultural values about public talk, and try to accommodate them? Or should we aim instead to develop a widespread national culture that normalizes forthright discussion, and that overrides cultural shyness about public disagreement?
Here’s a grant for young people interested in starting their own community dialogue programs: The Youth Service America-Youth Venture Program, a joint partnership between Youth Service America ( www.ysa.org ) and Youth Venture, Inc. ( www.genv.net ), is now accepting applications from young people across the United States who are interested in starting their own sustainable social ventures. Examples of possible ventures include a youth center designed to keep youth out of trouble with music and art programs; an anti-peer pressure education campaign; a bike repair shop with a vocational training program; or an assembly program touring inner-city schools that combines music with an anti-drug/violence performances. Ventures must be youth-led and designed to be a lasting, sustainable asset to the community. YSA Youth Venture teams are required to plan a Global Youth Service Day ( http://YSA.org/NYSD/ ) project every year that their venture is operational.
The YSA Youth Venture Program provides a variety of resources, including a national network of like-minded young people, media opportunities, technical support, helpful toolkits and workshops, as well as grants of up to $1,000 each for start-up expenses. Visit the Youth Venture Web site for complete program information. The deadline for applications is August 13, 2007.
I’ve just finished a second round of changes to Peace Tiles’ World AIDS Day 2007 discussion guide, which is ready for download and review. I really, really appreciated the feedback of diligent readers of the first draft - I think it has helped to improve the overall structure as well as some important and specific details. So I wanted to introduce the guide to the NCDD community with an invitation to have a glance through it, give it a test run if you can, and please share with me any insights and recommendations you have to improve the guide.
The guide, titled A Triumph of the Spirit, builds off of the Amazing Grace of Texas companion guide, which introduced a series of “playing cards” as a way for book groups to discuss Texans’ experiences of faith. I adopted that format - with the permission of the original book’s publishers - as a way to put some of the remarkable Peace Tiles imagery created by young people to good use. In a nutshell, the guide encourages educators and artists to convene their own discussions around the HIV/AIDS epidemic and it local and global dimensions as part of a search for ways to take action….
State of Play V, one of the single most interesting gatherings of “games for good” developers in the world will take place in Singapore later this year. Perhaps it is apropos: somewhat more than slightly ahead of Myanmar on my list of decidedly not playful Asian governments, come August Singapore will welcome the creme de la creme of designers schooled in escapism.
“Building the Global Metaverse” is the theme of the fifth annual State of Play conference on the future of virtual worlds, especially the transnational dimensions of virtual worlds online and the impact of these environments throughout society. Virtual worlds - or, collectively, “the metaverse” - are “crucial building blocks of global civil society” according to conference organizers. A peak at online spaces like Second Life will give you a sense of whence the hype (hint: “…they harbor great potential for relationship building and cooperation across national borders” declares the conference website).
The Society for Organziational Learning (SoL) is gearing up for its “Academy on Wheels:” a week of capacity-building workshops showcasing the applications of organizational learning. The workshops will take place September 17 - 21, 2007 at the DTE Energy Southfield Campus in Southfield (Detroit), Michigan. Workshops topics include “Introduction to Organizational Learning,” “Managing your Time as a Leader,” and “Fundamentals of Insight.”
Participants can sign up for as little as a half-day module and up to 4 days worth of workshops. For a full listing of workshops visit: www.solonline.org/academyonwheels. Space is limited to 25 participants per workshop. To register, call Tatiana Lewis at 1-617-300-9528. If you have any questions regarding this event, contact Judy Hodge at 1-617-365-3461 or email for more information.
The Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation (ISCT) has just announced the creation of an Affiliate program. The program provides a connection between Affiliates and ISCT Fellows and Associates who are very knowledgeable about transformative mediation and closely connected to the Institute. The Affiliate status is open to anyone interested in or supportive of transformative practice, requests to become an Affiliate of the Institute, and pays the annual fee. Benefits of being an Affiliate include:
• 15 % discount on Institute material
• Discount on symposia and conference attendance
• Participate in a Practice Partnership – have regular conversations with other transformative mediators to support your practice – lead by ISCT Fellows & Associates
• Opportunities to get involved with ISCT activities
• Access to a web-site that connects transformative mediators
• Electronic Newsletter
The cost is $150 annually which will help support transformative practice ($85 if you join after July 1). Contact them if you have any questions by email: , or by phone: 701.777.2022. You can also visit www.transformativemediation.org to view ISCT’s upcoming trainings and events.
Tools for Change is an exciting opportunity to learn from other community change agents and to hone your skills. Set in the Initiatives of Change international conference Center in Caux, Switzerland, from August 4-11, 2007, Tools for Change draws on the accumulated wisdom of the 60+ year history of the IofC network and the cutting edge of training in the fields of conflict transformation and leadership development. Tools for Change provides participants with tools to help them make change—in the world, in their relationships, and in themselves. Guided by an experienced, multicultural group of trainers and presenters, conference participants gain exposure to the core values and practices of the work of IofC and the key skills needed to be an agent of change. The international faculty is drawn from Australia, Taiwan, UK, France, USA, Nagaland (India), Burundi.
Participants choose from five learning tracks:
1. Peacebuilding: conflict, trauma and history
2. Honest conversation and dialogue facilitation
3. Mobilizing and maintaining networks for action
4. Communicating a vision, telling the story
5. Inner resources for change
To see the 10 minute video of last year’s program go to www.iofc.org/en/training/tfc/conference. For more information on the 2007 program and how to register go to www.iofc.org/en/training/tfc/upcomingconf/.
This year’s major By the People initiative is “Dialogues in Democracy: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Conducted in partnership with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, it will involve a range of events, designed to remind citizens that the American experience is built on their shared ownership of the democratic values of the founders.
In late October, By the People—through its local public television and community organization partners– will host Citizen Deliberations in 11 communities around the country focused on the rights and responsibilities of citizens, as they relate to issues of local importance. Participating communities and local issues featured in 2007 By the People project are: Albuquerque, NM: Healthcare; Baton Rouge, LA: Healthcare; Bowling Green, OH: Higher Education; Cleveland, OH: Higher Education; Denver, CO: Education; Houston, TX: Environment; Kansas City, MO: Regionalism (Transportation and Taxes); New Haven, CT: Immigration; Omaha, NE: Immigration; Rochester, NY: Healthcare; Seattle, WA: Housing. (more…)
How’s this for initiative? Jacquelyn Pogue, a member of the D&D community based in Richmond, Virginia, noticed that her local PBS channel was about to air a nationwide series called “America at a Crossroads” for 6 consecutive evenings at 2 hours each and thought “What a great theme for a Conversation Cafe group!” She then called her local PBS station (she was already friendly with several staff there) and requested a meeting to propose that a community conversation about this series. They really loved the idea and decided that since they would need quite a few facilitators, Jacquelyn would do a Conversation Cafe training with some of their staff and others in the community. They also scheduled a second training as some could not make it the first time.
The station agreed to host the event on the Sunday afternoon following the series and invite selected members of the community since the series related to America’s role in the middle east. Participants were asked to watch at least one of the programs. This was viewed as an experiment so no publicity was given to the event, yet they had 3 groups of 8 people with 2 co-hosts for each group. After the groups met, they had a large group feedback session and people shared how surprised they were that everyone was so open and accepting of hearing very diverse views among those who were Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians and not religious….