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AmericaSpeaks' 21st Century Town Meeting method creates engaging, meaningful opportunities for citizens to participate in public decision making. This unique process updates the traditional New England town meeting to address the needs of today's citizens, decision makers and democracy.
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives "life" to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system's capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential.
The late quantum physicist David Bohm observed that both quantum mechanics and mystical traditions suggest that our beliefs shape the realities we evoke. He further postulated that thought is largely a collective phenomenon, made possible only through culture and communication. Human conversations arise out of and influence an ocean of cultural and transpersonal meanings in which we live our lives, and this process he called dialogue.
Charrettes are typically a potent combination of modern design studio and town meeting, with a dash of the teamwork from an old-fashioned barnraising mixed in. Most start with a hands-on session for citizens and continue in an around-the-clock, energetic push until a plan is finished about a week later. A charrette can be a breakthrough event that helps overcome inertia and creates a meaningful master plan. Properly executed, this technique can produce a master plan that is more useful, better understood, and more quickly produced than one formed by other methods.
Citizen Choicework offers a powerful, proven approach to civic dialogue and action. Too often, "community forums" are merely panels of experts telling people what's good for them. Or they are public free-for-alls, where only the loudest voices prevail. In contrast, Citizen Choicework is based on a deep respect for the public's capacity to address issues when circumstances support, rather than thwart, dialogue and deliberation. Given the right conditions, the public's ability to learn, to get involved and to make decisions is far greater than most realize.
Citizen Deliberative Councils (CDCs) are temporary, face-to-face councils of a dozen or more citizens whose diversity reflects the diversity of their community, state or country. Usually council members are selected at random, often with additional criteria to ensure gender, racial, socioeconomic and other diversity.
Citizen juries use a representative sample of citizens (usually selected in a random or stratified manner), who are briefed in detail on the background and current thinking relating to a particular issue, and asked to discuss possible approaches, sometimes in a televised group.
The Citizens Jury process is a method for gathering a microcosm of the public, having them attend five days of hearings, deliberate among themselves and then issue findings and recommendations on the issue they have discussed. No deliberative method has been more carefully designed or thoroughly tested than this method.
Civic reflection is the practice of bringing together a group of people who are engaged in common civic work to read and talk about fundamental questions of civic life. This form of dialogue draws upon the rich resources of the humanities--using readings of literature, philosophy, and history, and the age-old practice of text-based discussion--to help civic leaders think more carefully and talk more comfortably about their values and choices.
Community juries consist of individuals impaneled to hear testimony related to a specific issue. Jurors, chosen for their impartiality, hear reviews of an issue by neutral experts. The jury discusses and deliberates and subsequently issues its findings. Always non-binding and with no legal standing, the findings of such juries can pinpoint "fatal flaws" or gauge public reaction. The Minnesota DOT assembled a community jury to determine public attitudes toward congestion pricing as a traffic-reduction measure. The jury met for five days of hearings with more than 20 witnesses and voted in favor of reducing traffic but against congestion pricing. The jury then voted for increases in the gas tax and for allowing its use in funding transit improvements.
Compassionate Listening is a process of "listening our way to wholeness." We believe that peace comes through the hard work of meeting one's enemy - the human being behind the stereotype, and acknowledging one another's suffering. Compassionate Listening as a tool for reconciliation is based on a simple yet profound formula for the resolution of conflict: adversaries giving the gift of listening. To help reconcile conflicting parties, we must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides.
Consensus Conferences, developed in Denmark, are used in a variety of settings and typically involve a group of citizens with varied backgrounds who meet to discuss issues of a scientific or technical nature. The conference has two stages: the first involves small group meetings with experts to discuss the issues and work towards consensus. The second stage assembles experts, media and the public where the conferences main observations and conclusions are presented.
Consensus Forums involve large numbers of community, industry and government representatives in a 1-3 day Forum, with the goal of reaching common ground on broad and complex issues. The Consensus Forum provides a way for lay people to deliberate on technologically complex issues, with the support of those who are ?expert? in the area. It is a way of exploring the issues using the best available knowledge, the widest possible views, and a focus on understanding different viewpoints. Where consensus (common ground) is achieved, these views become integral to the decision making process. The goal of the Consensus Forum is strategic partnership between the community, industry and government, in order to jointly make decisions and then implement the key recommendations.
A Conversation Café is a 90-minute hosted conversation which is held in a public setting like a coffee shop or bookstore, where anyone is welcome to join. A simple format helps people feel at ease and gives everyone who wants to a chance to speak.
The concept of the "Conversation Dinner" seems to have come from Theodore Zeldin. For this simple process, people are split into pairs and given a "conversation menu" from which they can choose their conversation topics. The menu could have a subject area theme such as "intergroup dialogue" or it could be a generic menu listing personal questions designed to help people to get to know each other. Conversation Meetings may or may not happen over meals; sometimes partners are encouraged to take walks together. Whatever the situation, privacy is key.
Cooperative inquiry is a research method that provides a framework for participants to use their own experience to generate insights around an issue that is of mutual concern. Participants form a group, usually of about 7-8 people, define a pressing question and agree to meet on several occasions over a period of time. During meetings, members reflect together on their work as it relates to the question. Between meetings, members inquire into their own practice, observe their experiences and implement new actions that might help them learn something new about the question.
The Genuine Contact program's "Cross Cultural Conflict Resolution" meeting format was designed to create the conditions for the people involved in a conflict to really solve the conflict. In developing this approach to conflict resolution, they followed the philosophy that deep within all persons are some things that are universally the same - although the individuals involved are usually fixed in one perspective and rarely ask each other genuine questions. They also tend to lose contact with their whole selves, rendering a part of themselves voiceless. From this position, they are unable to participate fully and effectively in efforts to resolve the conflict....
Deliberative Polling® is an attempt to use television and public opinion research in a new and constructive way. A random, representative sample is first polled on the issues. After this baseline poll, members of the sample are invited to gather at a single place to discuss the issues. Carefully balanced briefing materials are sent to the participants and are also made publicly available.
Democs (deliberative meeting of citizens) is part card game, part policy-making tool that enables small groups of people to engage with complex public policy issues. It helps people find out about a topic, express their views, seek common ground with the other participants, and state their preferred policy position from a given choice of four. Participants can also add their own policy positions.
A charrette is an intensive, multi-disciplinary design workshop designed to facilitate open discussion between major stakeholders of a development project. A team of design experts meets with community groups, developers and neighbors over a period from three or four days to two weeks long, gathering information on the issues a community is facing.
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