higher ed

No Better Time 2010 report released    

In July 2009, more than 250 campus and community leaders (including myself and many members of NCDD) came together at the University of New Hampshire to talk about the “deliberative democracy” field, the tide of civic change on campuses and in communities, and what those changes mean for the practice and teaching of democracy. “No Better Time: Promising Opportunities in Deliberative Democracy for Educators and Practitioners” was hosted by two NCDD organizational members, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium (DDC) and The Democracy Imperative (TDI).

TDI and the DDC work to promote best practices, research, and teaching for a strong democracy. “No Better Time: A 2010 Report on Opportunities and Challenges for Deliberative Democracy” not only summarizes what happened during the conference, but brings you up to date on projects and activities that began there, as well as other related developments in the field. It is now available at www.unh.edu/democracy/pdf/NBTReport_1.pdf.  NCDD member Tim Bonnemann of Intellitics has reviewed it at www.intellitics.com/blog/2010/02/08/no-better-time-conference-report-available/.

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…)

Connect the Dots Conference Only Three Weeks Away    

The latest newsletter from the David Mathews Center for Civic Life arrived in inboxes over the weekend featuring their upcoming Connect the Dots Conference.  Here’s an excerpt from the email:

From March 3-6, 2010 in Point Clear, Alabama, the David Mathews Center for Civic Life’s Community-Based Research Internship Program in New College at the University of Alabama will host CONNECT THE DOTS, a national student conference that will focus on the democratic practices of public dialogue, deliberation, and community problem solving and action.

During the conference, students, faculty, program administrators, practitioners, and community members from across the nation will have the opportunity to share their ideas about democratic practices with one another. Examples of workshops that will be held during the conference include: “Models and Approaches to Deliberative Democracy,” “Issue Naming and Framing,” Introduction to Facilitation,” “Sustained Dialogue,” and many more.

We’ll Be There!

NCDD will be well represented at this event. Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD’s director, will be running two workshops on approaches to deliberative democracy.  NCDD Board member and director of Everyday Democracy, Martha McCoy, will speak and be joined by several other NCDD members leading workshops or learning exchanges, including Najeeba Syeed-Miller, Nancy Thomas and Matt Leighninger.

If you’re an NCDD member and will be at the event, please let us know.  Or, if you live anywhere near Point Clear and are interested in meeting up with Sandy and other NCDDers, send her an email or connect with her on Facebook.

Join me at a nat’l student conference on deliberative democracy    

3youngwomen_ncdd08_200I’m going to be in Point Clear, Alabama from March 3rd through 6th for a conference called “Connecting the Dots.” It’s a national student conference on embedding the democratic practices of public dialogue, deliberation, community problem solving and action sponsored by the University of Alabama’s David Mathews Center for Civic Life.

I’m being brought in to present a couple of workshops on distinguishing between and deciding on various approaches to dialogue and deliberation, and I’m really looking forward to spending time with college students (and others) who are passionate about democracy and engagement!

The conference goal is to provide a forum for students learning about how to embed democratic practices in their everyday work and lives. The conference director, Lane McClelland, told me that the event was inspired by the students who attended the No Better Time conference many of us attended in New Hampshire last July.

Students, faculty members, program administrators, practitioners, and community members are encouraged to attend. Registration is $150 for students and $300 for others. The $300 registration fee is waived for any faculty or staff who register 4 or more students at the $150 rate. Although there’s not a whole lot of lead time on this, I hope those of you who work with students will consider bringing a few of them to Alabama in March!

Steering committee members for the conference include representatives from Everyday Democracy, The Kettering Foundation, and The Democracy Imperative.

More information on the skill-building workshops conducted by leading practitioners in the field, as well as a Call for Proposals, is available at http://mathewscenter.org/2010_student_conference/.

Amy Lazarus Named SDSN’s First Executive Director    

AmyLazarusThe Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN) recently announced that Amy Lazarus has been selected from a strong pool of candidates to serve as their first Executive Director. SDCN trains, mentors, & connects student leaders using dialogue to ease social tensions on campuses nationwide. SDCN is a project of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (an NCDD organizational member), headquartered in Washington DC and founded by Dr. Harold Saunders in 2002. IISD seeks to promote the process of sustained dialogue for transforming racial, ethnic, and other deep-rooted conflicts in the United States and abroad, and has programs on 15 campuses across the country.

As the first SDCN Executive Director, Amy will lead SDCN as it pursues new partnerships and growth. She will work with SDCN’s team, which includes Deputy Executive Directors Christina Kelleher and Chris Wagner and Program Directors Rhonda Fitzgerald and LaTia Walker.  See the full announcement at www.sdcampusnetwork.org/ht/display/ArticleDetails/i/963.

SFU’s Centre for Dialogue Launches Certificate in Dialogue and Civic Engagement    

Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver, BC (Canada) just launched a new program.  The Certificate in Dialogue and Civic Engagement is aimed at those interested in the design and implementation of community and/or civic engagement methods and practices.  The certificate includes courses on the principles and practice of civic engagement, citizens engaging citizens, and civic engagement around public issues. Courses start in September. More at www.sfu.ca/dialog/study+practice/certificate.html.

Sustained Dialogue Campus Network Seeks Executive Director    

The Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN) trains, mentors, and connects students on 15 campuses across the country seeking to build more cohesive, diverse, engaged communities through dialogue. An initiative of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, SDCN seeks an Executive Director to lead its expansion nationally and to deepen its work in leveraging the efforts of student leaders to improve campus climates and build social capital nationwide.

The Executive Director will exercise leadership in defining SDCN strategic directions, broaden SDCN’s funding base, and build and strengthen relationships with partner organizations. The ED will support a 4-person staff and work to build SDCN’s recently formed Advisory Board. At this time of remarkable national energy around civic engagement and citizen-led community building work, we are incredibly excited about our potential to recruit a fantastic leader, to help take SDCN to the next level.

For full job description, visit www.sdcampusnetwork.org/ht/display/AlertDetails/i/615.

Early Bird Rate for No Better Time Conference Ends on 30th    

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you in New Hampshire this July for the No Better Time conference!  I wanted to make sure people know that the registration rate increases from $250 to $300 on April 30th.  The student rate is only $200 until April 30th.

Co-hosted by NCDD members The Democracy Imperative and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the national conference, “No Better Time: Promising Opportunities in Deliberative Democracy for Educators and Practitioners” will take place this July 8-11 at the University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH).

The conference will be centered around “Learning Exchanges” – thoughtful discussions about key challenges in deliberative democracy hosted by leading scholars and practitioners (it’s a VERY exciting list, both of topics and presenters; take a look). I’ll be co-hosting a Learning Exchange with Martin Carcasson and Jim Fishkin on choosing, mixing, and adapting deliberation models and methods. 

Here’s how the conference is described on the website:

Deliberative democracy has reached a critical point in its development. Over the last fifteen years, shifts in citizen capacities and attitudes have led to a dramatic proliferation of citizen participation and deliberative practices, and in 2008 they helped to produce an historic presidential election. On the heels of these changes, new opportunities for educators and practitioners are emerging in communities, in government, and on campuses. The primary goal of No Better Time is to take stock of these developments and to consider future directions for educators and practitioners in teaching, research, and in citizen-centered initiatives.

Job Opening: Director of Academic Initiatives at Campus Compact    

Received an email this morning from Juliet Feibel at Campus Compact, announcing a great position opening.  Campus Compact-a national coalition of over 1,100 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education-is looking for a Director of Academic Initiatives. (more…)

Conversative Voices Silenced by Students at UMass-Amherst    

Here’s a great op-ed by Robert Shibley that can also be found here on the Boston Globe website. Thanks, John Cavanaugh, for letting us know about this article, which has a number of implications for our field.

Why no one should be silenced on campus

By Robert L. Shibley  |  April 9, 2009

WHEN CONSERVATIVE columnist Don Feder spoke at UMass-Amherst last month, his speech was cut short by a large group of students whose noisy and disruptive antics drove Feder off the lectern midway through his speech. As one UMass student wrote after the event, “I am embarrassed of the way my fellow classmates have chosen to express their discontent.” She should be – but she should also know that she is not the only one who is due for some embarrassment.

America’s campuses are seeing a growing movement by students to shut off debate by organized groups and silence speakers with whom they disagree. Rather than engage in the give-and-take that should be characteristic of the university as a “marketplace of ideas,” these students have decided that opposing views don’t even bear hearing. And all too often they are aided by administrators whose policies reward hecklers rather than students who wish to engage in civil debate and dialogue. (more…)

Save the Date: Deliberative Democracy in Higher Ed Conference this July    

Co-hosted by NCDD members The Democracy Imperative and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, an event called “No Better Time: Promising Opportunities in Deliberative Democracy for Educators and Practitioners” will take place this July 8-11 at the University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH).

Details have not been officially released, but I wanted you to think about saving these dates. The conference will be centered around “Learning Exchanges” – thoughtful discussions about key challenges in deliberative democracy hosted by leading scholars and practitioners. It looks like I’ll be co-hosting a Learning Exchange with Martin Carcasson and Jim Fishkin on choosing, mixing, and adapting deliberation models and methods. (more…)

Penn State-Abington Students Learn the Power of Dialogue    

Here’s a nice article from Penn State Live at http://live.psu.edu/story/34749/nw7, describing Steve Pyser’s work at Penn State-Abington. Steve is an active NCDD member; he just coordinated (with Janet Fiero) and moderated the Reflective Panel at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin.

Abington students learn the power of dialogue

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lecturer Steve Pyser enlightened many students to the power of dialogue this summer during his Political Science 001 course: “Introduction to American National Government.” Not only did he teach the students about the founding principles and documents of our democratic government, but he also taught them the fundamentals and importance of the dialogue approach of communication in our politically polarized country.

The dialogue approach, in brief, requires participants to suspend their assumptions and judgment and to begin to listen to others. This is different from “debate” where the goal is to voice one’s opinion, period. Pyser taught the students how to work through the process of dialoguing: how to communicate their viewpoints, frame the issues, and finally, to be confident in their beliefs. Students said they felt respected and that their viewpoints were honored.

The students reveled in the freedom and flow of ideas and opinions. All shared their political thoughts and opinions in conversations facilitated by Pyser. Many had never experienced this before; to share who they are, to be able to explain it and not have their ideas dismissed. One student noted that it was the first time that he felt it wasn’t necessary to conform his comments to the beliefs of the faculty member, that he could actually speak from his heart.

Pyser made sure he didn’t reveal his viewpoints throughout the class and prided himself in knowing that no one knew his politics by the end of the course. “My job is to be a facilitator of conversation,” said Pyser, “not to talk about my political viewpoints.”

During the last week of class, as the capstone achievement of the course, the students participated in an actual dialogue titled, “Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role.” Pyser has moderated many public dialogues including: redeveloping Ground Zero after 9/11, determining the future of the San Diego Airport, and citizen voices on the future of Philadelphia and its waterfront development. Pyser has submitted a report on the students’ dialogue to the National Issues Forums (NIF), a nonpartisan, nationwide network of locally sponsored public forums for the consideration of public policy issues. The results of the dialogue should appear on the NIF Web site later this year.

The benefits of the class were enormous. Since many students didn’t know each other before the class, new ideas and insights were had by all. “The class was all about possibilities…the ‘what if’ factor,” Pyser said. “The full value of dialoguing is a community commitment … respect for others’ opinions, an appreciation for difference, and to be responsible for what you say and how you say it. They came away with a lifelong learning experience.”

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.”

More on Mobilize.org’s Democracy 2.0 Entrepreneur Grant Summit    


from the latest Mobilize.org press release on the event…

Mobilize.org has announced the application launch for its Democracy 2.0 Entrepreneur Grant Summit, Money in Politics, to be held July 18-21, 2008, in Denver, Colorado. In partnership with The Sunlight Foundation and Common Cause, Mobilize.org is seeking innovative projects focused towards clean election practices at the local, state, and national level.

Mobilize.org is focusing efforts on empowering members of the Millennial Generation to develop innovative clean elections practices, emphasizing the creation of public finance reforms at the local and state level. These types of reforms are intended to give voters more control over the government by making politicians accountable to voters rather than wealthy campaign contributors. Their Money in Politics Grant Summit presents members of the Millennial Generation with the opportunity to identify a need for clean elections practices, and through the use of interactive key pad voting technology and peer to peer dialogue, develop an idea or solution that would address that need, and present a proposal for funding at the summit in Denver in July 2008.

Their grant summit winners will each receive a grant, between $3,000 and $5,000 and more importantly, will receive the support of Mobilize.org and its extensive partner network to champion their proposal and create systemic and long lasting change in the way elections are run.

Please see the Democracy 2.0 Issues Brief “Money in Politics” and the Grant Summit Rules and Application form (deadline is June 15th) for more information (both pdf files).

You’ll find all relevant information related to the Summit on the Mobilize.org website.

Mobilize.org Reaches Out to Millennial Generation Entrepreneurs    


from a recent Mobilize.org press release…

National youth civic engagement organization Mobilize.org released the first report in its series of Democracy 2.0 Entrepreneur Issue Briefs, Money in Politics. The organization, dedicated to Millennial-generated ideas and projects to tackle critical national issues, has adopted a unique strategy to getting Millennial plans into action: give them the information and the financial support necessary to make their ideas a reality.

Mobilize.org is focusing its efforts on empowering members of the Millennial Generation to develop innovative clean election practices, emphasizing the exploration of public finance reforms at the local and state level. While clean election reform benefits our democracy and society as a whole, the Millennial Generation in particular stands to gain considerably from such reform. By changing the system, not only does society have a better ability to reengage young people in politics, but also stands to find solutions to many issues affecting the Millennial Generation that are being inhibited by the current system.

The brief serves as a precursor to the Democracy 2.0 Entrepreneur Money in Politics Grant Summit, which will take place July 18-21, 2008, in Denver, Colorado, focusing upon the impact of special interest-funded campaigns on citizen-centered democracy. Emphasizing the problem at the national level, Mobilize.org, Sunlight Foundation, and Common Cause will challenge Millennials from across the nation to compete for grant monies to support projects working to promote clean elections practices. The call for projects will address campaign finance reform, focusing particular on clean election practices like the public financing of elections, targeting the eighteen states that Common Cause is currently working on public financing within.

Ellen Miller, Executive Director and co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation, commented on the change potential of the Democracy 2.0 Entrepreneur Initiative:

“Mobilize.org is involved with the most Internet-savvy, network generation of our time. We cannot wait to learn how these young entrepreneurs use the new technologies, the trillions of bytes of information about lobbying, political contributions, and the spending of our tax dollars, and social networks to confront the power of big money in our democracy.”

Application materials for the Money in Politics Summit were also released today and are available on the Mobilize.org website.

For questions or to request copies of the issue brief, please contact Christina Gagnier, Mobilize.org’s Senior Vice President of Policy & Strategic Communications, via phone at (510) 717-3022 or via email at [email protected].

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