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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.
Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. Active listening is a structured form of listening and responding that focuses the attention on the speaker. The listener must take care to attend to the speaker fully, and then repeats, in the listener's own words, what he or she thinks the speaker has said.
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.
Instead of focusing on a community's needs, deficiencies and problems, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) helps communities become stronger and more self-reliant by discovering, mapping and mobilizing all their local assets.
Backcasting is a method of analysing alternative futures, often energy futures. Its major distinguishing characteristic is a concern with how desirable futures can be attained. It involves working backward from a desired future end point or set of goals to the present to determine the physical feasibility of that particular future and the policy measures that would be required to reach that end point. End points are usually chosen for a time 25 to 50 years in the future.
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.
Brainstorming is a method for developing creative solutions to problems. It works by focusing on a problem, and then having participants come up with as many deliberately unusual solutions as possible and by pushing the ideas as far as possible.
Breakout groups are subdivisions of a larger meeting to deal with specific issues. Small groups meet in separate areas -- corners of a large room or several smaller rooms. Each group appoints or elects a discussion leader, and each participant has a chance to express an opinion. Afterwards, groups report back to the large meeting. In neighborhood meet ings to discuss transit service issues, the Boston Transportation Department asked break out groups to identify priority issues. After each group reported, the larger meeting set priorities to report to the regional transit authority.
Briefings are often a way of providing information on a specific issue or initiative to a special audience. The presentation may be delivered by an industry, government or organisation's representative, and is typically followed by detailed discussions in a question and answer format.
Citizen Evaluation Panels are citizen deliberative councils that evaluates candidates for public office, making inclusive "We the People" recommendations available to voters through Voter Information Booklets, websites, news reports, etc.
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.
This modification of open conversation in a small group (2-30 people) has some of the benefits of a formal Talking Circle without the constraints. It is best done with the group sitting in a circle.
Choice work is the work of making choices in Deliberation. It is work because we have conflicting values and motives - both within ourselves and with each other - about how to deal with any difficult issue.
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.
Sometimes referred to as Public Advisory Committee or Public Liaison Committee, a Citizen Committee is a group of representatives from a physical or interest-based community, appointed to provide comments and advice on an issue.
A citizen consensus council is a microcosm of a larger population where citizens dialogue to deep agreement about issues of common concern. It is usually a group of 12-24 diverse citizens selected at random from (or to be demographically representative of) their organization, community, country, etc.
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.
The Citizen Initiative Review (CIR) is a political process through which an official Citizen Deliberative Council reviews proposed ballot initiatives and summarizes their findings and recommendations in voter information booklets.
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 concept "citizen reflective councils" is emerging through our deeper study of the concept Citizen Deliberative Council. In most materials at www.co-intelligence.org - and in the book The Tao of Democracy - we've used the term "Citizen Deliberative Council to embrace a set of democratic innovations that we now believe may need to be reconceptualized.
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