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Our regional NCDD events brought together over 700 people total this October and November. A huge shout-out to all the members of our local planning teams!

Archives for December 2009

Open Govt Workshop at D.O.T. on Jan 11    

I wanted to make sure you all knew about the Open Government Directive Workshop Series — a unique series of innovative events run by several NCDD members. The next workshop, which will be partly an Open Space event, will take place on January 11th at the Department of Transportation in D.C. Over 200 people are expected at this point, and over 30 federal agencies will be represented!

NCDD is a partner, as is NAPA (National Academy of Public Administration). Although the workshop on the 11th is almost full, Lucas Cioffi has offered to make sure that any NCDD member that wants to attend is let in.

This is an inter-agency conference in collaboration with the US Department of Transportation to speed successful implementation of the Open Government Directive. This event will reoccur every six weeks to continue to build momentum at the federal, state, and local levels.

If you’re interested in attending, let me know () rather than RSVPing via the link below. I’ll be keeping track of NCDD members who are planning to attend, and sharing our list with Lucas.

I’ll be helping NCDDers who are attending to coordinate in advance of the workshop to offer a couple of high-quality, resource-rich Open Space sessions on participation (i.e. one on online engagement and one on face-to-face engagement). So if you’re already registered and want to help plan/run these sessions, let me know. I think working together to offer a couple of introductory sessions on participation is a good strategy given the Directive’s emphasis on transparency.

Here are the details…

The Open Government Directive Workshop Series (Jan 11th @ DOT)

What: The Open Government Directive Workshop Series, an inter-agency collaborative event hosted by the Department of Transportation.

When: Monday, January 11, 2010 from 9:00am-4:45pm. There will likely be a wait at the security checkpoint. Security will begin processing attendees at 7:00am. We highly recommend you allow plenty of time for security.

Where: US Department of Transportation Headquarters, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC and streamed live online.

Why: Successful implementation of the Open Government Directive requires a sustained effort by the open government community. This series of workshops builds upon previous conferences sustaining knowledge and sharing innovative ideas among pioneers of the “Open Gov” community.

RSVP by January 7, 2010 here:

*Develop momentum among those already implementing open government practices and those now charged with implementing openness practices because of the Directive.
*Dialogue and share knowledge that will help federal agencies implement and private industry benefit from the Open Government Directive.
*Document and make available existing and effective open government practices in the form of the OpenGov Playbook.

Background Information:
Previously, on November 16th, the first half-day workshop provided a platform for thirteen open government project presentation from agencies such as the EPA, DOT, TSA, DOD, CDC, DISA, NIH, GSA, PlainLanguage.Gov, Department of State, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. (Archived video and slides are available here.)

This workshop (hosted by DOT) will be a full day and include 10 presentations by federal employees engaged in open gov, and three hours of small-group conversations on key aspects of the Open Government Directive.

The agenda will be created by the attendees to maximize the value of everyone’s participation. During the event registration process you will be asked to identify what topics you want to learn about and discuss with peers.

The organizers of this event are Giovanni Carnaroli (Associate CIO for IT Policy Oversight at DOT), Tim Schmidt (CTO for DOT), Lucas Cioffi (OnlineTownhalls), Stephen Buckley (U.S. Transparency), Kaliya Hamlin (, Sandy Heierbacher (National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation), Keith Moore (Open Government TV), and Jenn Gustetic (Phase One).

Please feel free to contact us at . We look forward to your participation and continuing commitment.

2 More Great Bay Area Job Openings…    

Job postings beget more job postings, apparently. Here are two more job openings in the Bay Area that Anna West told us about, this time with NCDD member Kearns & West, a highly respected environmental collaboration and strategic communications consulting firm… (And if you’re based in Northern California and would like to receive more announcements like this one, email me at to be added to our Northern CA listserv.) (more…)

Two Berkeley job openings at Center for Transformative Change    

Job openings in this economy are nothing to sneeze at, so I thought I’d share the following announcement from the Center for Transformative Change. Both positions, Communications & Events Steward (Director) and Bookkeeper/Office Administrator are part-time, and both are based in Berkeley.


IJP2 Article Part 8: Establish your own definition of success    

In many ways, the Systems Challenge overlaps with the Evaluation Challenge and the Action & Change Challenge (these are three of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference). Embedding dialogue and deliberation in our government and other systems is next to impossible if we are not able to assess the effectiveness of these processes, and to show how they lead to concrete outcomes. Since there are many types of outcomes of this work and much of what is being done today is still experimental, practitioners can and should identify and clearly communicate what “success” means to them.

In the online dialogue we held at before the conference, planning team member Joseph McIntyre wrote about his experiences with the Ag Futures Alliance project, which focuses heavily on dialogue to drive change in food systems. He emphasized how important it is for local Alliances to identify their own concepts of success, as numerous impacts and outcomes can usually be demonstrated. McIntyre listed a number of outcomes the Alliances have produced, from creating farm worker housing to new laws being enacted.

McIntyre pointed out that although the project can boast numerous outcomes, if someone asked him if they were closer to a sustainable food system, “I’d have to say no.” He continues, “D&D is simply plowing the field and planting the seeds that will result in the changes needed. In my case, D&D is part of an evolutionary change.”

DD Goals GraphicIn a new occasional paper published by Public Agenda (2009) titled “Beginning With the End in Mind: A Call for Goal-Driven Deliberative Practice” (Summer 2009), workshop presenter Martin Carcasson outlines three broad categories of goals for deliberation. Carcasson points out that although the “first-order goals” like issue learning and improved democratic attitudes are often discounted as we focus on our primary goals related to concrete action and impact on policy, those first-order goals still impact the big-picture goal of increasing a community’s civic capacity and ability to solve problems.

Note: The text in the graphic pictured here is a slightly adapted version of the paper’s “Goals of Deliberation” figure. Click on the image to see a larger version, or click here for more detail on why I created the graphic and why I feel practitioners should familiarize themselves with Carcasson’s framework.

In his 2008 book Democracy as Problem Solving (MIT Press), Xavier de Souza Briggs shows how civic capacity—the capacity to create and sustain smart collective action—is crucial for strengthening governance and changing the state of the world in the process. Valuing shorter-term goals (first-order outcomes) and the overall development of civic capacity may be more practical—and satisfying—than solely emphasizing second-order goals like collaborative action and policy change, since such goals usually depend on many decisions and factors outside the scope of any one project. Practitioners should consider all three types of goals when determining measurements of success.

Even funders at the 2008 NCDD conference emphasized the need for practitioners to (1) own the definition of success and then (2) demonstrate their success. At a breakfast John Esterle and Chris Gates hosted for a cross-section of NCDD leaders to discuss funding challenges and opportunities for this work, Esterle, Executive Director of The Whitman Institute and board chair of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), implored those present to empower themselves regarding impact. “Let funders know, ‘this is how we measure our success.’” Be proactive and able to articulate your impact in a compelling way.

Next section (coming soon): Cultivate and support public engagement practitioners

Note from Sandy:

SandyProfilePic80pxThis is my eighth blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community. The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin: the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?) and the The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in more accessible ways?). You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

Open Gov’t Initiative seeks your ideas about assessment    

Below is the latest on the Open Gov’t Directive (received this via email tonight from Chelsea Kammerer of the White House Office of Public Engagement). Chelsea, Beth Noveck, etc. are asking specifically for input on the OSTP blog about what quantitative and qualitative measures they should track on the forthcoming Open Government Dashboard to assess federal agencies’ progress on implementing their open government plans per the Directive. I see this as an opportunity for our community to share what we know about public engagement progress, plans and principles, and to help ensure that agencies’ plans include the incorporation of meaningful public participation in their decision-making process as well as a focus on transparency and open data.

On Tuesday, December 8, the Open Government Initiative published the new Open Government Directive. The Directive is the latest in a long timeline of open government milestones during the course of the last year.  Since the President signed the executive memorandum on Transparency and Open Government as his first executive action, innovators across the government have been working to create a more accountable and effective government. The Progress Report on Open Government for the American People explains what’s been done to date and where we go from here.

Now we need to enlist your continued participation and collaboration with this process to help us continue to succeed in changing the way that Washington works.

Next Steps: The White House Open Government Initiative Dashboard and

  1. Open Government Dashboard: The Open Government Directive calls for the creation of an Open Government Dashboard to measure progress and impact. Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Beth Noveck is looking for your input, including as to the metrics by which we measure success.  Click here to participate.
  2. Future of The Open Government Directive instructs all federal agencies to make available high-value data that promote national priorities and improve the lives of everyday Americans through  Yet the current version of is just the beginning. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra asks for your help in shaping the future of this key open government platform. As part of the Dialogue, you can download the draft plans, submit a new idea, or comment on someone else’s.  We look forward to evolving with you.

Please share these two opportunities with your networks, and stay tuned for upcoming additional opportunities to participate and collaborate in the implementation of the Open Government Directive.

Thank you.

Chelsea Kammerer
The White House
Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Office of Public Engagement

IJP2 Article Part 7: Build on and learn from what’s already in place    

In order to build the “joint ownership” described in the previous section posted about the “Systems Challenge,” a necessary step in many communities is to convene and connect the various groups and leaders who are already mobilizing people locally around issues and problems. Our challenge leaders suggest that community foundations and others who tend to play convening roles should bring these local leaders together to talk about what’s currently being done and by whom, and to start thinking and talking about a) how they can work together better and b) what barriers to collaboration need to be overcome.

hands200pxDuring our “Reflective Panel” plenary session, a conversation among four leaders in the dialogue and deliberation community, panelist Carolyn Lukensmeyer (President of AmericaSpeaks) emphasized the need for practitioners to understand and work within the existing political structures in their communities. She advised practitioners to:

  • Develop relationships with the people in the agencies and government sectors you want to influence to do this work regularly, such as city managers, key leaders in agencies that have some resources, and elected officials.
  • Coordinate your efforts with the predictable cycles of decision making, such as with budget cycles.
  • Know where there is a felt need to link public will to political will, and seek to understand the issues related to this felt need.

Some workshop presenters focused on the importance of learning from and building on processes that have been embedded in government for decades or centuries. Woodbury College faculty member Susan Clark’s workshop, Direct Democracy in the Mountains, explored what can be learned from Vermont and Switzerland’s long-running town meetings. “For centuries,” Clark says, “town meetings have involved citizens from all income and education levels and political perspectives in the ‘public talk’ at the heart of this decision-making institution.”

Another example of long-standing embedded processes that are certainly worth learning from is neighborhood assemblies and neighborhood council systems. According to Matt Leighninger (2009), “the history of these neighborhood governance structures offers a rich legacy of successes, mistakes, strengths, and weaknesses that can inspire and inform democracy reform at every level of government.”

HalSaunders200pxSeveral workshops focused on creating or capitalizing on what Archon Fung and Elana Fagotto (2009) call deliberative catalysts – “centers that promote deliberation and assist organizations that seek public input or want to increase civic engagement.” One workshop focused on establishing university and college centers as platforms for deliberative democracy. Across the country, a diverse network of university-based public deliberation programs focused on practical scholarship and hands-on deliberative activities has been forming in recent years.

Another workshop, led by Taylor Willingham (LBJ Presidential Library) and four of her colleagues at various libraries across the country, urged public engagement practitioners not to overlook libraries and university extensions programs, since they are “the people’s university, the public’s forum for dealing with contentious public issues.” Extensions educators provide problem-solving expertise in every county in the U.S., and libraries are ideal venues for public forums. As the co-presenters pointed out, there are more libraries in the U.S. than there are McDonald’s restaurants.

Other workshops recognized individuals and government agencies championing the systematic use of public engagement processes in our institutions. One workshop highlighted the innovative Citizen Councilor Network of King County (Seattle area), which has gotten local government to actively promote and support the formation of numerous small dialogue groups that meet to discuss on an ongoing basis important regional and societal issue.

Newer efforts that build on existing structures were highlighted at the conference as well, e.g., Vets4Vets, a program which trains Iraq-era veterans to facilitate dialogue among new veterans. Working closely with the Veterans Administration (VA), Vets4Vets’ goal is to build an international peer support community using local groups, phone and internet connections among the growing number of vets who have served in the global “War On Terror.”

Next section (coming soon):  Establish your own definition of success

Note from Sandy:

SandyProfilePic80pxThis is my seventh blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community. The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin: the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?) and the The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in more accessible ways?). You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

New Book on Online Deliberation (Free Download!)    

ODBook-site-logoTodd Davies sent an announcement to the main NCDD listserv tonight about the new book he and Seeta Peña Gangadharan edited, titled Online Deliberation: Design, Research, and Practice. This looks like a great resource for the field, and I’m so glad they’re allowing people to download the full book at no charge! You can also order the book from the University of Chicago Press for $25 or download individual chapters here.

Here’s the book description:

Can new technology enhance local, national, and global democracy? Online Deliberation is the first book that attempts to sample the full range of work on online deliberation, forging new connections between academic research, web designers, and practitioners. Since the most exciting innovations in deliberation have occurred outside of traditional institutions, and those involved have often worked in relative isolation from each other, research conducted on this growing field has to this point neglected the full perspective of online participation. This volume, an essential read for those working at the crossroads of computer and social science, illuminates the collaborative world of deliberation by examining diverse clusters of Internet communities.

Today’s White House Press Release on the Open Gov’t Directive    

Chelsea Kammerer (White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Office of Public Engagement) sent me the following press release today along with the suggestion to visit to view the Open Government Directive in its entirety along with other useful information such as the Open Government Progress Report to the American People, new agency projects, and our open government platforms such as and

Office of the Press Secretary

December 8, 2009

Administration Launches Comprehensive Open Government Plan
Public Provides Thousands of Ideas to Spark New Administration Initiatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of the Obama Administration’s work to change how Washington does business, the White House Tuesday issued the Open Government Directive requiring federal agencies to take immediate, specific steps to open their operations up to the public.  The Administration also released an Open Government Progress Report to the American People and previewed a number of other openness commitments that are poised to be released during the next two days.

The directive, released by the Office of Management and Budget, sets an unprecedented standard for government agencies, insisting that they achieve key milestones in transparency, collaboration, and participation. (more…)

Audio of this morning’s Open Government Directive webinar    

Here is the audio from today’s announcement about the Open Government Directive in case you missed the webinar or wanted to revisit what was said:

Open Government Announcement 12-08-09

(You can also download a zip archive.)

Open Government Directive to be announced tomorrow at 11am    

Hi, all!  Looks like the White House Open Government Directive will be announced online tomorrow at 11am Eastern. This is the Directive outlining how government agencies and offices can become more transparent, collaborative, and engage the public more effectively.  NCDD members were very active in the Open Government dialogue/consultation process this past May and June. (See this blog post for a summary of activities NCDD and our peers have been active in related to the OGD.)

In an appropriate first for the White House, they’ll be announcing the White House’s Open Government Plan in a live online chat with Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra.  You can watch the announcement, then ask your questions and make your suggestions live.

See for more details on tomorrow’s announcement and chat.

IJP2 Article Part 6: Share ownership of programs and structures widely    

Now that I’ve finished posting about the “Framing Challenge,” it’s time to move on to the “Systems Challenge.”

Most recent experiments in dialogue and deliberation have been temporary and somewhat isolated programs that lead to few long-term changes in the way people and institutions interact. For the “Systems Challenge,” we explored how we can make public engagement values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems, so our methods of involving people, solving problems, and making decisions happen more naturally and efficiently.

At the conference, we focused most on institutionalizing public engagement in governance—an area often referred to by scholars (perhaps a bit awkwardly) as “embeddedness.” According to Fung and Fagotto (2009),

Embeddedness is a habit of deliberation among citizens. When that habit is embedded in a community’s political institutions and social practices, people frequently make public decisions and take collective actions though processes that involve discussion, reasoning, and citizen participation rather than through the exercise of authority, expertise, status, political weight, or other such forms of power. (p. 3)

MattLeighninger200pxFive themes emerged in discussions about this challenge area…

1. Share ownership of programs and structures widely

Public problems cannot be solved by government alone. Community assets like volunteers, businesses, churches, schools and nonprofit organizations must be tapped to address most complex problems. According to Systems Challenge co-leader Matt Leighninger (pictured), one problem with some of the existing systems for public involvement is that they were established purely as government entities, like the neighborhood council systems created during the “War on Poverty” in the 1960s and 70s.

“Starting in the early 1970s, local governments in places like Portland, Oregon, Dayton, Ohio, and Saint Paul, Minnesota created neighborhood council systems as a way of engaging residents in public decision-making and problem-solving” (Leighninger, The Promise and Challenge of Neighborhood Democracy: Lessons from the intersection of government and community,2009). Because they were designed as miniature versions of city councils, they have had to deal with many of the same dysfunctions and problems as government—but with less resources and authority with which to work.

Leighninger asserts that our focus should not be on making government bigger, but on creating structures and processes that are jointly owned by whole communities. In his draft report on a Democratic Governance at the Neighborhood Level meeting held in November 2008, one of four main conclusions drawn from the meeting is that “this work has to be jointly ‘owned’ and directed.” Meeting participants seemed to agree that in communities where public engagement is embedded in governance, “a broad array of neighborhood and community organizations and leaders, along with public officials and employees” all have some significant degree of ownership and authority within the system.

That said, the importance of involvement and buy-in of political leaders cannot be overemphasized. In their paper Sustaining Public Engagement, Fung and Fagotto (2009) identify “political authority” as one of three conditions necessary for public engagement principles and processes to become embedded in government systems. Although nonprofits and civic entrepreneurs often initiate public engagement efforts, they are more likely to impact policy and endure over time if local politicians and decision-makers also support them. Hawaii State Senator Les Ihara (an NCDD 2008 attendee) is an example of a public official who has tirelessly promoted National Issues Forums and other deliberative initiatives with legislators for years.

2. Build on and learn from what’s already in place

Coming soon…

Note from Sandy:

SandyProfilePic80pxThis is my sixth blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community. The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin: the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?) and the The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in more accessible ways?). You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

IJP2 Article Part 5: Cultivate the ability to adapt framings for different audiences    

woman200pxAt the October 2008 NCDD conference in Austin, Texas, one thing people seemed to agree on related to the “Framing Challenge” was that dialogue and deliberation practitioners need to cultivate the ability to adapt framings for different audiences.

How practitioners should emphasize potential action outcomes depends, in part, on whom they are trying to reach. It may not be necessary to attract people from every group to every program. Talking in terms of social justice, social change and racial equity may work well when recruiting people of diverse ethnic backgrounds to a dialogue on racism, while focusing on learning about an issue may welcome conservatives into a conversation about the separation of church and state.

Once we understand how various framings play out with different groups, we can adapt our language to different audiences. On our Reflective Panel, David Campt emphasized the need for practitioners to be able to tailor both their language and their practice to distinct groups.

How the topic of discussion is framed is potentially more important than how the program or process is framed. On the “Conservatives Panel,” Joseph McCormick mentioned framing a discussion on global warming as a dialogue on “energy security and climate change” to draw more conservatives. Theo Brown spoke of a similar multi-partisan initiative that abandoned a “gun control” framing for one centered on “reducing violence.”

The point here is not to encourage practitioners to become masters of “spin,” but to use language that people from potentially underrepresented groups can relate to, while remaining open and honest about the purpose of the program. Whether a program is designed to inform the mayor’s policy decisions, encourage citizen action on race issues, or build understanding among conflicting groups, it is important to be clear about the program’s aims from the start.

It should also be said that although collectively and individually, we seem to be developing more sensitivity to the impact language has on different groups, we try to encourage NCDD attendees not to shame or lecture each other, or worry overly about offending. As Jacob Hess said in his report on the Framing Challenge, “I came to NCDD San Francisco (2006) a ‘closet conservative’ – with most people ignorant of my background. I experienced so much warmth, optimism, and spirit there, that I had no chance of feeling unwelcome.” One of Hess’ personal conditions of good dialogue is the old Biblical emphasis on “being not easily provoked” (1 Corinthians 13) and we should all be a bit forgiving in our use of language.

Note from Sandy:

This is my fifth blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community. The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin: The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?) and the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?). You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

This is the last segment from the section on the Framing Challenge.  Here’s a quick overview of all 5 segments:

1. Develop a common language of practice with more universal appeal
Can we identify common yet compelling language that represents the work we do in dialogue and deliberation? Can we get clear on our theories of change?

2. Consider how different framings affect different groups
Some terms we use in this field turn people away because they are too “new-agey” sounding; others because they are too academic or jargony, or because they have negative connotations or implications for certain audiences. Practitioners are acquiring and cultivating greater sensitivity to the ways that distinct language ‘plays out’ for different groups.

3. Understand the specific concerns of conservatives
Progressives seem to be more drawn to public engagement work than conservatives. Understanding and acknowledging conservatives’ concerns about this work is key.

4. Frame in terms of general goals and desired outcomes
While no single framing works for all audiences, practitioners are finding success in focusing on the purpose or potential outcomes (in general) of engagement rather than focusing on process.

5. Cultivate the ability to adapt framings for different audiences
How practitioners should emphasize potential action outcomes depends, in part, on who they are trying to reach. We must use language to which people from potentially underrepresented groups can relate, while remaining open and honest about the purpose of the program.

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