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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 2010

Five Most Interesting Public Deliberations in 2010    

Thought I’d cross-post this great end-of-the-year blog post by Joe Goldman for AmericaSpeaks’ blog at

What were the most interesting public deliberations to take place this year?

This certainly isn’t a definitive list. But as I think about the past year, here are the five efforts that stand out for me as being noteworthy and important.

1. Citizen Initiative Review

The Oregon Citizen Initiative Review is a process organized by Healthy Democracy Oregon that is designed to allow the citizens of Oregon to evaluate statewide ballot measures. Through the CIR process, a random sample of Oregon citizens come together to hear testimony about the pros and cons of initiatives, deliberate on the measure, and then relay that information to the voters of Oregon via a one-page citizen statement summarizing their findings and positions. This statement is added to the voter’s pamphlet, designed to give voters facts and perspectives that they may not have gotten on their own.

This year, the Oregon legislature mandated that a pilot of the CIR would be held on two initiatives that were on the ballot this November. This is what makes this process so interesting – it was called for officially by the legislature and is clearly integrated into the governance process through the voter pamphlet.

An evaluation from University of Washington professor John Gastil will be coming out soon!

2. Our Budget, Our Economy

I may be a bit partial to this one since I was the project director, but it would be pretty hard to ignore our national discussion on the federal budget. This summer, AmericaSpeaks convened 3,500 Americans across 57 sites to deliberate about the fiscal challenges facing the nation.

A new evaluation was just released by professors from Harvard and the University of California. The evaluators found that liberals and conservatives moderated their views based on the deliberation, among other things. Check out the evaluation and a highlights video on the project website

3. National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposure

This project organized by Resolv for the CDC is still going on, but it has already accomplished a great deal. More than 1,000 people joined 52 community conversations around the country and a first round of web dialogues have been completed for this national discussion to ensure that chemicals are used in safe and healthy ways. Stakeholders are being engaged in the process through a leadership council and six working groups.

This is about as extensive a public process convened by a federal agency on a national topic as I’ve seen. It will be great to see the final results next year.

4. Participatory Budgeting in Chicago

This one may be most interesting because it is taking place in Chicago – not traditionally the home of participatory/deliberative politics. In the 49th ward of Chicago, an interesting participatory budgeting process was launched that is letting residents of the ward make decisions about the use of local funds.

Over 100 volunteers worked to develop 36 projects. Of these, 14 were selected in a vote by over 1600 members of the community to receive a total of $1.3 million in funding – the entire capital infrastructure budget from the wards’ Menu Fund.

Check out the Ward blog for an update on the projects.

5. 24 Dialogues on Agency Open Government Plans

This March, nearly every single federal agency launched an online brainstorm using Ideascale to gather input on their open government plans. While the level of participation varied, this effort was important because it represented a government-wide initiative to solicit public input.  (I should note that Joe Peters of Ascentum and I ran a moderator training for the agency staff running each of these crowdsourcing platforms.)

Many of the open government plans developed by federal agencies refer to comments from the open government dialogues and declare that the agency will continue to use the platform for public input in the future.

Recently, the GSA launched another online dialogue to gather input for a new tool to solicit public input. Check it out.

I’d be curious to know what I missed. What would you add to this list? (add your comments at invites you to dialogue on race (a new member of NCDD) has launched two online dialogues on race, and you are invited to join the conversation:

The National Collegiate Dialogue on Race Relations at (download the 3-page overview doc for more details on how this dialogue works and who’s involved)

Race Relations in Your City at

The website has a monthly online magazine with several departments, covering a variety of topics and interests designed to help us celebrate our commonalities, better understand our differences and create a comfortable space to address those things that divide us. Their writers represent the ethnic groups that make up America; and their visitors come from all 50 states and many countries. welcome their fellow NCDD members and others in the dialogue & deliberation community to participate, or to share ideas with them on how to make the dialogues the best that they can be.

Hope for the Next Generations    

Our young people need some public engagement tools for the really tough decisions that face them. Today I was completing a survey about the future challenges of our children and youth…completing a colleague’s deliberative survey, because she’d already completed mine. My wife and I are very blessed to have six amazing grandchildren — and as I completed the survey about their future, I was picturing them 20 years from now, having to face some hugely complex and troubling public problems. How will they be able to meet those challenges with more wisdom than we seem to be able to find today? How will they commit the time needed for important community conversations when we’re unwilling to do so today? I have hope for our next generations of citizens…because I have confidence that our children and grandchildren will learn to be like us in some ways…and not like us in other ways.

We have an awesome opportunity — and responsibility. Those of us who have developed our skills in dialogue and deliberation have some very powerful tools in public engagement. And, these skills can be developed even further through a greater willingness to learn with and from each other as colleagues in a ‘Deliberative Practice.’ How do we effectively pass them along to the next generations? How do we involve them in the refinement of these tools…so they can translate these tools into the next generations’ culture? We have two critically important tasks in the early 21st century…to develop and to apply our skills in public engagement to the best of our abilities in our nation and in our local communities…AND, to gently mentor younger generations into this lifestyle of public participation. (more…)

IAP2 seeks Professional Development Manager for 2011    

I just heard about this new contract position from Moira Deslandes, executive director of IAP2.  It is anticipated that this role will be equivalent to three days a week for 2011.  Full details can be downloaded here, but here are the basics…

IAP2 is a professional association for individuals, groups and businesses working in the field of public participation.  Members exist in over 20 countries and the Association is currently expanding its reach as public participation grows in value through the democratization of decision-making.

For the past ten years the Association has offered a program of professional development to its members and to others interested in learning more about the practice.  The foundation of this program has been a five day Certificate in Public Participation.  In 2009 a further two-day course was developed in Emotion, Outrage and Public Participation. These courses have been held throughout North America, Australasia, UK and Africa.  There are plans to extend these offerings in Europe, Asia, and South America in line with the growth of membership.

IAP2 is poised to grow the practice of public participation and is now seeking to hire a Professional Development Manager for the training program.

Expressions of Interest are being sought from interested individuals and must be received by January 7th  20115:00pm Australian Central Summer Time (ACST) to marked Professional Development Manager CONFIDENTIAL.

Responsibilities of the Professional Development Manager will include:

  • Convene the training committee which is an elected body of trainers licensed to IAP2 and led by a Board member who provides advice to the Board.
  • Maintain and manage invoices, database records and all data related to course participants and the trainers who deliver the training.
  • Provide support, advice and resources for professional development to IAP2 Licensed Trainers.
  • Coordinate initiatives as determined by the Association for new professional development products and services for members of the Association that have the capacity to generate income for the Association.
  • Manage the program for training new trainers. Provide leadership for assessment panels and all other necessary supports to conduct the T3s and meet budget expectations.

New Haven, Conn., residents work to create a “culture of dialogue”    

Thought I’d reblog this November 12th post from the blog of Everyday Democracy, an NCDD organizational member, given its relevance to our recent discussions on the NCDD listserv on racism and on building a culture of dialogue…

Community Mediation, Inc., took the lead on a city-wide effort aimed to create a “culture of dialogue,” neighborhood by neighborhood in New Haven, Conn. They hoped to generate a sense of shared ownership and accountability among New Haven residents. Action teams from these dialogues focus on a variety of issues including building relations between neighborhoods, improving literacy of immigrant populations, and listening to the concerns of youth.

New Haven was one of eight communities that took part in “Communities Creating Racial Equity,” an initiative by Everyday Democracy to help communities deepen and sustain community change on issues around racial equity.

View the associated video on YouTube here.

Dialogue with the Taliban: No? Yes? Maybe?    

An NCDD member, the Network of Peace Through Dialogue, invites NCDDers to participate in its blog by adding your comments to the newest entry:  Dialogue with the Taliban: No?  Yes?  Maybe?

Three different views are presented from board and staff members of the Network for Peace through Dialogue.

Visit the blog at Register using the very simple registration form so you can access the blog anytime.

Observations on No Labels launch event from Debilyn Molineaux    

I asked Debilyn Molineaux if I could share her write-up about Monday’s No Labels Launch Event with NCDDers.  Debilyn attended NCDD’s regional gathering in Portland this fall, and is co-founder of Changing the Game.

Download her 5-page pdf report here. You can also download the packet of materials from the event here.

Those of you in Portland may want to note that Debilyn is hosting a meet-up on January 13th in Portland and has been contacted by Sue Castner, who is the Oregon organizer for No Labels. Castner is politically connected in Oregon with U.S. Senator Wyden and Governor-elect Kitzhaber.

Here’s some text from Debilyn’s conclusion:

I believe the No Label founders are sincere in their efforts to move our country forward, past hyper-partisanship towards solutions. There were many references to the not-so-distant past when politicians would debate and fight during the day, yet dine together or be collegial after work. When the focus was on serving the American people instead of the party agenda and winning meant doing the right thing instead of blocking the other side.

Without slipping into nostalgia, the speakers of the day tapped into the frustration and hope of the people who traveled to New York and told their stories. They asked for help and assistance. Everyone admitted they don’t have the answers by themselves.

The No Labels main solution was simple. Mobilize everyone who would prefer solutions to stonewalling.  Ask them/us to support elected officials who collaborate, find common ground and act with civility with votes, phone calls, meetings and money. Be visible. Meet-up with each other so no one feels alone. The challenge is that those in attendance did not hear this solution or call to action. I suspect most everyone in the room is already politically active and meeting with people, so there was a sense of “I’m already doing my part” and “this isn’t the solution or silver bullet we want.” (more…)

Deliberative Hospitality    

Let’s face it…the public is not comfortable with the idea of public engagement. Thanks to numerous, ugly media video clips of angry, out-of-control people at town hall meetings, it’s no wonder that most citizens would rather have a root canal than attend any public gathering to discuss a potentially divisive community issue. This is a troublesome reality for those of us who want to coax our neighbors into community conversations that could actually solve some of our problems. How do we get people to show up to discuss the actions and weigh the options in public choices? When people feel like strangers in their own communities, it’s obvious that we need to reconnect with each other.

Through the years, I’ve come to see more and more the need for pro-active hospitality in our deliberative work…showing respect to one’s neighbors, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals. Hospitality isn’t about serving coffee and cookies at an event…it’s about honoring your neighbor’s uniqueness, and appreciating their contribution to community problem-solving as an equal partner. It’s about being hungry to hear their voices on an important issue. It’s about doing whatever it takes to get the full flavor and richness of the community involved in deliberative conversations that can contribute to inclusive and sustainable, public decisions. It’s about people! (more…)

Higher ed’s role in civic engagement – do you have a suggestion for U.S. Dept of Ed?    

I’m heading down to DC for a small meeting of civic leaders at the Department of Education run by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).  We’ll be helping advice the U.S. Department of Education on how to increase higher education’s leadership in promoting civic learning and democratic engagement.  Very exciting!

If this topic interests you, be sure to look over the articles in the recent Journal for Public Deliberation issue on deliberative democracy and higher ed posted at — especially Nancy Thomas’ article Why It Is Imperative To Strengthen American Democracy Through Study, Dialogue and Change In Higher Education.

If you’re doing some exciting work in the higher ed realm that you don’t think the leaders of organizations like AAC&U, National Council for the Social Studies, Campus Compact, Everyday Democracy, etc. are aware of, feel free to send me an email () or facebook message about what you’re doing and why you think it’s relevant for an action plan for federal policy for a stronger role in democratic engagement for colleges and universities.

Two articles on dialogue and civic involvement in USA Today    

Thanks to Bill Potapchuk for alerting the NCDD listserv about this tonight!

Community involvement important across demographic lines

By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY, December 8, 2010

This article (and video) in USA Today features our friends at the National League of Cities, Connecting with the Community in Longmont, CO, and Portsmouth Listens in Portsmouth, N.H.

Citizen involvement helps build sense of community

By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY, December 8, 2010

This article mentions Portsmouth Listens as well, talks about participatory budgeting and mentions the Knight Foundation’s “Soul of the Community” study.  Here’s an excerpt:

In Portsmouth, N.H., the 12-year-old Portsmouth Listens program involves citizens in key decisions  relocating or renovating a historic middle school  by forming “study circles” that have attracted hundreds of residents in the city of about 20,000.

“In a public hearing, people get up and they speak for three minutes, they have their say, but there’s not a lot of interaction between them and City Council,” says Jim Noucas, 58, a lawyer and co-chair of Portsmouth Listens. “Here, they work together three to four weeks at a time and then give recommendations. It’s important for citizens to share responsibility not only for what they want but what’s good for everybody.”

Does the White House need a democracy strategy?    

Will the Obama Administration develop a democracy reform strategy that employs the democratic principles evident in the 2008 campaign? “We were so focused on getting things done that we forgot to change how we get things done,” said the president after the 2010 midterms. “A Vital Moment,” my white paper for the Bertelsmann Foundation, describes the muddled state of the Administration’s thinking about citizenship, and suggests some potential directions for the democracy reform movement.

GSA looking for input on ExpertNet platform draft concept    

Tim Bonnemann shared this important announcement on the main NCDD listserv today…

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) requests input, comment, and ideas from the public on a draft concept for next-generation citizen consultation, namely a government-wide software tool and process to elicit expert public participation (working title “ExpertNet”). ExpertNet would tap the expertise of the public in a manageable and structured format. The goal of ExpertNet is to enable government officials to search for and communicate with citizens who have expertise on a topic, giving them the opportunity to participate in a public consultation relevant to their areas of interest and know-how, and pose questions to and interact with the public to receive useful, relevant, and manageable feedback.”

See the full announcement at Comments must be posted at or received via e-mail by January 7, 2011.

Happy Birthday, Open Government Directive    

Today was a big day in the world of Open Government.  I was out of the office today, but here’s a note from Amy Bennett of…

“As many of you know, today marks the one year anniversary of the release of the Open Government Directive (OGD). Patrice McDermott, Director of, and Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Founder and President of AmericaSpeaks, penned a piece cross-posted on Government Executive ( and here on NextGov highlighting the successes of the OGD to date and recommending “next steps” for the Administration to take to make government more open and participatory. This afternoon, Dr. McDermott and David Stern, Director of Online Engagement at AmericaSpeaks, discussed the OGD with Chris Dorobek on Federal News Radio; you can listen to the interview at”

Caught up in Kumbayah: Are There Limits to Collaboration?    

NCDD member Cynthia Gibson published a post yesterday in The Philanthropic Initiative’s blog that is definitely worth a read.  It certainly strikes a chord or two with me!  It begins…

I love to collaborate.  The more, the merrier, I say.  I’m excited by the “crowdsourcing” taking place in our politics, commerce, education, and social spheres.  But, recently, I’ve started to wonder about whether all this collaboration is “all good.”

Behind this curiosity is my participation (in various capacities) with several organizations that happen to pride themselves on having a “collaborative culture.”  That includes ensuring that there is adequate input and discussion from everyone on a range of matters; valuing and trying to find consensus; and being respectful and collegial to others engaged in these conversations and gatherings.

So far, so good, right?  After all, the more ideas on the table, the better.  Not to mention that it’s a great opportunity to build relationships and trust, I say.

What I—and others—are starting to see, however, is that there can be a tendency for organizations to see collaboration as an end unto itself, rather than a process, management style or approach that’s a means to an end:  clear and informed actual decisions.  As a friend who consults with many large nonprofit organizations said to me recently, “I sat in an eight-hour meeting with a group that prides itself on its collaborative culture…But they couldn’t see that there’s a difference between valuing collaboration as a process and making decisions about outcomes.”

Read the rest of Cindy’s post at

‘Build a Great Community…Together’…But How?    

It’s not enough to just survive! That’s why this simple mission statement for communities is so powerful…and why it can become a pervasive public engagement effort in many places across the country: ‘Build a great community…together’ (BAGCT). It’s a bold statement…open-ended enough to be meaningful in many unique settings, yet action-oriented and totally inclusive. BAGCT can be the focus of projects by city and county governments, non-profit coalitions, dialogue and deliberation practitioners, community organizers, religious organizations, foundations and ad hoc neighborhood organizations. Let’s decide first that we will actively shape our circumstances…rather than passively let our circumstances shape us.

Click on the “more” link to read this full post by new NCDD blogger Craig Paterson. (more…)

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