Three Great OpenGov/Participation Events in DC    

As federal agencies near the April 7th deadline to release their implementation plans, there’s no shortage of energy surrounding the Open Government Directive.

There are two great events in DC that you won’t want to miss if you’re within driving distance: ParticipationCamp on April 17th and 18, and the half-day April Open Government Directive Workshop on April 28th.  Both events are using the Open Space method.  You’ll also see information below about a significant discount to the Politics Online Conference on April 19-20th.


Inviting Dialogue: Renewing the Deep Purposes of Higher Education (a report from Courtney Breese)    

Here’s a report to the NCDD community from Courtney Breese, an NCDD member who is an up-and-coming leader in our field.  I asked Courtney to represent NCDD at a conference at Clark University on dialogue in higher ed a couple of weeks ago.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a conference titled Inviting Dialogue: Renewing the Deep Purposes of Higher Education.  Organized by Sarah Buie, Director of the Difficult Dialogues Initiative at Clark University, and Dave Joseph, Vice-President of Programs at the Public Conversations Project, this small conference was attended by approximately 50 individuals from colleges and universities and professional dialogue practitioners from the Northeast Region.

I was invited to attend as a representative of NCDD (thanks, Sandy!) to provide people with information on the coalition and also to report back about my experience at this conference. From a quick browse through NCDD’s members, I think it’s a safe estimate that about 25 percent of conference attendees were members of the Coalition. However, in introducing myself and NCDD in conversations and workshops, it appears that many more of the people present were familiar with and supportive of  NCDD. Some pointed out that most of the people in the room were probably familiar with NCDD (or should have been). For those who weren’t familiar, I found a great deal of interest in the access to resources and other practitioners, researchers, and organizations that can be found through NCDD. Hopefully we will be adding some new members to our ranks in the days to come!

As a practitioner in the dialogue/deliberation and conflict resolution field with the Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution and Public Collaboration, an institute of the University of Massachusetts Boston, I was excited and curious to see what kind of dialogue work is being done on other college and university campuses, as our office continues to work to incorporate dialogue into the university curriculum. From integrating dialogue into curriculum, engaging faculty and staff in dialogue, to addressing larger issues of diversity, there is a lot going on in this region! Below is a brief recap of just some of the content of this conference. (more…)

Forums on America’s role in the world    

2010 is a “jubilee” year for the Dartmouth Conference—the 50th year of the longest continuous bilateral dialogue between American and Soviet, now Russian, citizens. It was founded in 1960 by citizens outside government, but with the approval of leaders on both sides, as a high-level, informal channel between the two superpowers.

The fall 2010 Dartmouth meeting will provide the setting for an exciting experiment. We will bring together members of the Task Force with a group of Russians and Americans who have been conducting public forums with citizens about their respective country’s role in a globalizing world. The results of these forums will provide vital insights into the limits and opportunities for Russian-US collaboration.

NCDD member Brad Rourke wrote the new issue guide on the U.S. Role In The World, with team members John Doble, Phil Stewart, and Debi Witte.

To learn how you can be a part of these public forums on America’s Role in the World, visit www.nifi.org.

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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.

NCDD Discount for Upcoming Facilitation Courses    

Dues-paying NCDD members are eligible for 20% discounts for the upcoming courses offered by our friends at the Center for Strategic Facilitation. CSF is a partnership of consultants in the San Francisco Bay Area experienced in training, facilitation and organizational development. The CSF Senior Partners are Marti Roach and Jane Stallman.  CSF is affiliated with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), a leader over the past four decades in promoting lasting change in communities, nonprofits and businesses, which utilizes a distinct and proven approach called the Technology of Participation.

These are just a few of the many great discounts we’ve negotiated for dues-paying NCDD members. (more…)

Discount for NCDD Members on Sustainable Development (Un)Conference    

On September 25th, a symposium is being held at Pepperdine School of Law’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution in Malibu, California, called Taking It Upstream: Collaboration, Consensus Building & Sustainable Development A Green Leadership (Un)Conference. NCDD members are being offered a special affiliate rate of $125.  This rate includes breakfast, lunch and an afternoon reception.

This groundbreaking symposium will provide a highly participatory forum to explore opportunities for using collaboration, consensus building, and other engagement techniques to create more sustainable communities and manage potential land use and environmental disputes.

Who Should Attend?
Green-minded elected officials, agencies, community leaders, planners, architects, developers, engineers, attorneys, mediators, facilitators and other  dialogue & deliberation professionals.


  • A Mayors’ Panel
  • Morning Framing Sessions: “The Big Picture,” “Local Perspective,” and “Cutting-Edge Collaborative Techniques”
  • Interactive “Sustainability Roundtables” focusing on: Communities, Transportation, Zoning and Development Controls, Construction & Design, Infrastructure, and Resources
  • Networking Lunch and Afternoon Reception

Learn more at http://law.pepperdine.edu/news-events/events/upstream/

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New Book on Peacebuilding in Colombia    

buildingpeaceMeaghan Pierannunzi from the U.S. Institute of Peace asked us to let you know about their new publication Colombia: Building Peace in a Time of War (Virginia M. Bouvier, editor), a great new resource on building peace in Colombia. This comprehensive analysis of Colombia’s current conflict moves beyond the drug trafficking and guerilla warfare found in the headlines to encompass Colombia’s diverse array of often overlooked peace initiatives.

These initiatives involve national actors, local and regional initiatives, institutional and sectoral initiatives, the role of gender and ethnicity in peacebuilding, local and regional initiatives, and the multiple contributions and roles of the international community in Colombia’s search for peace. The framework set forth in the volume seeks to rectify some of the misperceptions created by the neglect of nonviolent conflict actors, to consider how peace initiatives and their proponents might contribute further to a resolution of the Colombian conflict, and to assess the implications of this adjusted vision for international community and policymakers.

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Free eDemocracy Gathering This Weekend in D.C.    

This Sunday, April 19, there will be a one-day eDemocracyCamp with a particular focus on e-participation (using the internet to support public participation) at George Washington University, The Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet (IPDI) and The Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM), Media and Public Affairs Building, 805 21st Street, NW / Washington, DC 20052 (USA). The goal of the gathering is to connect government officials, researchers, developers, practitioners, and regular citizens for a day of intense collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Co-sponsored by NCDD, this event is free to attend, but the organizers request an RSVP prior to the event (which you can do at the event’s wiki page at http://barcamp.org/eDemocracyCamp2). Sandy and I will be attending, and we hope to see a lot of NCDD members there!

Here are a few of the topics that may be addressed at eDemocracyCamp2

  • Use of online tools for public involvement, citizen participation or citizen engagement in government planning and decision making (e-participation)
  • E-participation (using technology — especially the Internet — to broaden and deepen political participation by helping citizens to connect with one another and with their elected representatives and governments)
  • Collaborative problem solving, consensus building and decision making
  • Online voting or e-voting
  • Online dialogue, deliberation and debate
  • etc…

Sign up or learn more…

Sign up on the wiki: http://barcamp.org/eDemocracyCamp2
Spread the word on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=58034912834
Join the mailing list: http://groups.google.com/group/edemocracycamp/
Follow eDemocracyCamp on Twitter: http://twitter.com/edemocracycamp

Youth Innovators at the University of Pennsylvania    

In their latest email offering, NCDD members Len and Libby Traubman share the story of University of Pennsylvania sophomore Sam Adelsberg and his work at his school to bring Jewish and Muslim students together…

My freshman year at Penn was marred by controversy between the Jewish and Muslim and Arab communities. Distrust and animosity stood in the way of a provocative dialogue as numerous incidents further exacerbated the already existant isolation between the communities. I could only speak for my own feelings, but I saw many who have since become dear friends as “the other.” A year later, it is not uncommon to see Muslims eating at Hillel or Jews attending MSA events.  What happened? An initiative sparked by some student leaders on both sides attempted to “bridge the gap” that we all saw. Are all barriers broken down? Hardly. Through joint musical performances, joint panels, cultural events and a trip together to help rebuild New Orleans together, student leaders from both communities began to see each other as friends and not as others. Though there were times when it got tense, many beautiful friendships formed. While there is a long way to go, this is an exciting first step as many of these students who participated have tremendous potential to take this even further in the coming years.

Along with Sam’s story, they highlight other examples through articles from UPenn’s student newspaper.

Breaking the Ice via Stereotypes by Alex Melamed
Interfaith organization PRISM debunks common religious slurs in first fall meeting.

Mending Their Ties Through Music by Nandanie Khilall
Jews, Arabs and Muslims seek fresh cultural dialogue.

Religion and Rebuilding down South by Lara Seligman
Jewish and Muslim students come together for spring break trip.

Two Unlikely Groups Join Forces To Host An Event by Lara Seligman
“We are not on the West Bank; we are in West Philadelphia.”

Does Our Brain Impair Our Political Perspective?    

I received Donna Zajonc’s Politics of Hope e-newsletter this morning, and was captivated by Donna’s main article, which is about which parts of the brain are used (and most tellingly, NOT used) when partisans hear negative or contradictory information about the candidates they support. Definite implications for D&D practitioners. Here’s the article…

New brain research is giving us insight in to our political positions and may explain why we have become so politically polarized. Dr. Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University, and his colleagues used a MRI brain scan to study a sample of Democrats and Republicans who were strongly committed to their individual candidate.

Democrats and Republicans were asked to evaluate negative information that had been published about their favorite candidate. During the evaluation, participants underwent MRI scans to see what parts of their brains were active. The purpose of the study was to research people who said they strongly identify with their political party (called “partisans”) and evaluate how they respond to contradictory information about their candidate. (more…)

The Visual National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation    

Generated from our “About Us” text using the “word clouds” tool at Wordle (wordle.net)…


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World Open Space on Open Space 2008    


As we reported back in March, the 2008 World Open Space on Open Space is being held in San Francisco, California, USA, July 21 through July 28, 2008 and NCDD member and WOSonOS 2008 Host Team contact Lisa Heft ([email protected]) just emailed us to let us know that the event’s schedule — or as much of a schedule as you can have at an Open Space event — is now available on the event’s website, as well as information about the OpenSpace-Online® event to be held in September. Developed by Gabriela Ender, OpenSpace-Online® is described as an internet-based meeting methodology that gives a real Open Space experience in a virtual environment.

2008 Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award    

Nominations for the 2008 Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award are now being accepted and the public is invited to advise the Gleitsman Program in Leadership for Social Change of those individuals whose efforts you feel should be recognized. Every other year (alternating with The International Activist Award) $100,000 is awarded to an honoree, or honorees, for their activist efforts in the United States to confront, challenge and correct social injustice. These individuals, because of their courage and persistence, have become leaders in efforts to change the way we live. Complete information, including a nomination form, can be found on the website of the Center for Public Leadership, JFK School of Government, Harvard University.

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2008 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation    

NCDD’s high-energy, highly participatory conferences bring together practitioners, scholars, public leaders, trainers, artists, activists, teachers, and students from all of the various streams of practice that exist in this critically important field. Join us in Austin, Texas for our fourth National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation: Creating Cultures of Collaboration. NCDD Austin will take place October 3rd through 5th, 2008 (with pre-conference trainings on the 2nd)!

Here’s a few links to help you learn all about NCDD 2008:

We hope to see you there!

Dialogue Project Documentary    

After three years in production, the documentary based on the Dialogue Public Art Project will premier in San Francisco on March 9th at 7:30pm in San Francisco at the fun & funky Opera Plaza Theatre with other showings planned throughout the year. The DVD is also available.  In addition to the feature documentary, they’ve included nine bonus features:  deleted scenes, background interviews, World Cafe short movie and more.

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