resources & tools

Re-Post: “Open Policy Making 101″ Checklist    

The following was originally published on November 13, 2009 on Tim Bonnemann’s Intellitics blog. With Tim’s permission, I’m re-posting his great post rather than composing something new (thanks, Tim!).

Over on the recently re-launched Ascentum blog, Joseph Peters (Partner at Ascentum) and Joe Goldman (Vice President of Citizen Engagement at AmericaSpeaks) just published a neat list of ten key questions to consider before launching an online public consultation: Open Policy Making 101: 10 Questions To Ask Before Launching Your Online Public Consultation:

  1. What do you want to know?
  2. What is your commitment to participants?
  3. Who needs to participate?
  4. How hot is the issue?
  5. What type of contribution are you looking for?
  6. What type of data will you collect and analyze?
  7. What are your timelines?
  8. What resources are available to support the process?
  9. How can participants stay involved?
  10. Which online tools should you use?

The document (PDF, 916 KB) lays out these principles in good details. Once again, the recommendations are concerned about good process first and tools second.

Their take on timelines is fairly specific, and I would like to hear if others in this field can either confirm or add to it:

Generally speaking, a process that is open to the general public should be live for four to six weeks to ensure adequate participation.

Finally, here’s their item number ten:

10. Which online tools should you use?

This question is intentionally left until last in this list. Many organizations choose a shiny new tool and decide to use it before carefully considering their overall approach. This ends up having the software drive the process and not the objectives. There are many tools and solutions to choose from, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. The options are endless, but you need to match the tool to your strategy based on the questions you have already answered from the list above.

Exactly. And supporting that mapping process of finding the right tools for the job is something we’d like to see ParticipateDB grow into over time.

Free bulk issues of Yes Mag’s Purple America issue    

Here is a great offer from my friend Susan Gleason at Yes! magazine.  These free issues are great for distributing at conferences, trainings events, at exhibit booths, etc.

YES! Magazine has a long commitment to the innovations of the dialogue and deliberation movement.  Many of you saw copies of the Fall 2008 issue, Purple America, at last year’s NCDD conference, featuring a set of stories about “Conversations Across the Divide.”  These inspiring stories illustrate how Americans can engage each other in what are often viewed as difficult or highly polarized conversations: an urban environmental activist finds common ground with her rural farmer father; LGBT youth activists initiate conversations on a roadtrip to conservative college campuses; neighbors hold living room conversations about immigration on the Night of 1,000 Conversations, and Evangelicals share their passion for the environment and social justice.

Through a donor-supported program, YES! is making copies of the Purple America issue, containing these stories and more, available to NCDD members in bulk quantities, completely free of charge (international shipping excepted). To request bulk copies (packaged 50 to a box) of the Purple America issue, please contact Susan Gleason, Media & Outreach Manager, at [email protected].  Yes! takes care of the shipping charges as well.

The full issue is online at if you’d like to check it out before deciding.

An Online National Issues Forum on Healthcare    

As a past Board member of the National Issues Forums Institute (yes – I’m very important!), I’ve been asked to help spread the word about an important new NIFI project. To foster public dialogue on the rising costs of health care, NIFI has developed a website based on their issue book titled Coping with the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need? This is NIFI’s first online issue book and online deliberation, and you are all welcome to get involved.

Here’s how: Go to the health care workbook website at and complete the quick and simple registration. Then you’ll be ready to log in and give your responses, and share your own stories in the online workbook. Completing the workbook takes about 30 minutes, but you can spend some time on it, log out, and come back later to complete your workbook or to add your own stories.

By completing the workbook and sharing your stories and ideas, you can contribute to a national dialogue on health-care affordability. After you complete the workbook, you will also be asked if you would like to register for the chance to be part of a series of online deliberations this fall.

You can also watch a new online documentary produced by the Kettering Foundation and ThinkTV about the choices now confronting the public. The documentary, Coping with the High Cost of Care: Where is the Public Voice? can be viewed in three parts (each approximately 10 minutes long):

  • View Part I of Coping with the High Cost of Care: Where is the Public Voice?
  • View Part II of Coping with the High Cost of Care: Where is the Public Voice?
  • View Part III of Coping with the High Cost of Care: Where is the Public Voice?

20% Discount on Jim Fishkin’s New Book    

NCDD member Jim Fishkin (creator of Deliberative Polling and director of Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy) wanted to extend a 20% discount to all of you on his new book, When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation. The book includes the impressive Europe in One Room DVD, which some of you viewed at the 2008 NCDD conference.

Go to and enter 28333 into the promo code box at the top right to purchase the book at the discounted rate.


Holding Better Town Hall Meetings on Healthcare: 3 Articles You Are Welcome to Use    

NCDD members have been sharing insights and tips-on our listservs and in various op-eds, blog posts, and more-on how legislators can engage citizens in ways that are more participatory and more productive than what we’ve seen in the news lately.

In addition to a colorful one-page handout we created for you to print and share with public officials and other leaders in your community, here are three articles we hope you’ll share widely:

1.  My full article (about 2.5 pages long in Word), titled “Upgrading the Way We Do Politics”
This version mentions a number of NCDD members, links to various op-eds, blog posts, etc. that our members have been writing in the past 2 weeks, and includes many ideas that have been shared on our main listserv.  Please consider sharing or linking to this article on your websites, blogs, facebook pages and groups, etc.

A similar version of this article has been posted to the Yes! Magazine website at so feel free to link to that page as well.

2.  An abbreviated article (1 page in Word) that lists tips for legislators
This text can be used in letters or hand-outs to your Congresspeople and local public officials.  It’s also a more appropriate length than the full article for letters to the editor.

This article is also available as a great-looking color PDF flyer that’s ready for you to print and share (thanks, Andy!).

3.  An abbreviated article (1 page in Word) that focuses on WHY we’re in the situation we’re in
This text can also be used for letters to the editor.

Please use this text and these ideas freely. We need to get these ideas out there. I’m not concerned about my name being attached to the two shorter articles, but I would prefer you don’t remove the text about NCDD unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Each version lists the following resources as well, which I recommend to anyone interested in engaging the public in healthcare in more meaningful and substantive ways… (more…)

Retooling Democracy (re-posted from John Kamensky’s blog)    

With the blessing of both the author and the blog owner, I am re-posting this excellent piece by my friend Matt Leighninger, director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium. This was originally posted on July 30th, 2009 on The Presidential Transition, a worth-knowing-about blog run by John Kamensky of the IBM Center for the Business of Government. Matt’s post provides an overview of the state of play (and somewhat of a list of must-read materials) in the field of deliberative democracy.

The Obama Administration will soon release the Open Government Directive (OGD), the president’s plan for making the federal government more responsive, participatory, and effective. The directive will be the first significant federal attempt in decades to answer a very interesting question: How should we improve American democracy?

The OGD should be an important step forward, but this is not a challenge the administration can meet by itself (a fact that federal officials, following the style of their boss, are happy to acknowledge: they need and expect our help).  Luckily, there are a number of documents, from academic studies on governance to how-to civic engagement guides, which provide essential, practical advice on this question: they are must-reads for any democracy reformer.

Learning from the Locals.  One reason we have so much information is that this question of how to improve democracy is already a hot topic at the local level. For the last fifteen years, local leaders have been dealing with a dramatic shift in citizen attitudes and capacities. This transformation has caused new tensions between residents and elected officials, produced new public actors and problem-solvers, and inspired a new generation of civic experiments. The limitations of the traditional, ‘child-parent’ relationship between citizens and government are becoming more obvious, and we are struggling to establish more productive ‘adult-adult’ forms of governance. (For a brief, humorous video describing this transition, click here). (more…)

New Framework for Understanding the Goals of Public Engagement    

In a new occasional paper published by Public Agenda’s Center for Advances in Public Engagement (CAPE), NCDD member Martin Carcasson of Colorado State University’s Center for Public Deliberation outlines three broad categories of goals for deliberation. The essay explores how a clearer understanding of the goals and purposes we are trying to achieve through public engagement can sharpen our methods and increase our impacts. It offers a practical framework to help practitioners systematically consider both their short-term and long-term goals and the strategies that will set them up for success.

Carcasson’s paper is titled Beginning with the End in Mind: A Call for Goal-Driven Deliberative Practice (Summer 2009), and can be downloaded for free from I was deeply impressed by the paper and Carcasson’s brilliantly simple “Goals of Deliberation” framework. Carcasson points out that although “first-order goals” like issue learning and improved democratic attitudes are often discounted as we focus on our primary goals related to concrete action and impact on policy, those first-order goals still impact the big-picture goal of increasing a community’s civic capacity and ability to solve problems.

DD Goals GraphicAt the No Better Time conference in July 2009, I spoke to Carcasson about expanding his “Goals of Deliberation” framework slightly so public dialogue for purposes of conflict resolution or conflict management are also emphasized in the framework (he was very interested). In the paper, Carcasson writes about “improved relationships” between individuals and groups as a first-order goal, and mentions that conflict management is another second-level goal… yet his framework figure did not feature those goals.

In close communication with Carcasson as well as Will Friedman and Alison Kadlec of Public Agenda, I expanded on the framework to create the Goals of Dialogue & Deliberation graphic pictured here. Click on the graphic to view a larger image.

Both the original and the adapted frameworks emphasize improved community problem solving and increased civic capacity as longer-term goals of public engagement work. As we work from project to project, we can lose sight of the fact that our work is contributing to the bigger picture goal of more democratic, effective communities and cultures. In the online dialogue we held at on the “Action & Change” challenge before the 2008 NCDD conference, Joseph McIntyre of the Ag Futures Alliance noted that although public engagement work can lead to numerous types of action outcomes and products, often “D&D is simply plowing the field and planting the seeds that will result in the changes needed. In my case, D&D is part of an evolutionary change.” (more…)

4 Great New Papers from Public Agenda    

The team at Public Agenda’s Center for Advances in Public Engagement (CAPE) — an organizational member of NCDD, we’re proud to say — has recently released four great new papers, all examining the latest developments for professionals in deliberative democracy, and all worth reading and freely downloadable from!

Here are the papers: (more…)

Using Social Media in the D&D Community    

Nonprofits and consultants in our field are still learning how best to harness increasingly popular social media outlets like FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  The growth rates for such platforms is staggering, and since building a presence on such sites is free, we would be remiss not to get into the action.

Of course NCDD’s on FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  But did you know we also have over 1,000 pictures posted at Flickr?  And that we’ve created public playlists organizing dozens and dozens of D&D videos on YouTube? (more…)

5 Tips from Julia Young on Running Engaging Webinars    

There’s a great post by Julia Young on the Facilitate Proceedings blog on tips for running effective, engaging webinars. Click here to see the post, but I’m including it below partly so I don’t lose track of it. Many of us can benefit from these tips! (more…)

New PACE Report on How Local Gov’t is Reinventing Civic Engagement    

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) just released a great new report called “The New Laboratories of Democracy:  How Local Government is Reinventing Civic Engagement.”  Mike McGrath from the National Civic League authored the report, which can be downloaded from the PACE website at

The PACE report details the innovative methods local governments around the country are using to increase civic engagement by the public. “Local governments are at the cutting edge of finding new tools and methods to increase civic engagement in this country. We hope this report will stimulate new thinking within the philanthropic community, as well as in local governments around the country, and help spread the word about these new and successful approaches,” said Chris Gates, Executive Director of PACE.

Featuring a foreword by National League of Cities Executive Director Donald Borut, the report combines original research with an overview of the literature and history of civic engagement and local government reform while highlighting fresh insights from foundation leaders, civic experts, scholars, local officials and public engagement advocates.

“The New Laboratories of Democracy: How Local Government is Reinventing Civic Engagement” traces the quest for deeper and more authentic forms of public engagement from the anti-poverty programs over the last 45 years through the 1990s when a variety of trends came together to foster a “second wave” of civic innovation. Those trends included a growing skepticism about government’s role in society, increasing concern for the need to re-knit the fabric of struggling communities and a desire for more authentic, civil and “deliberative” forms of public discourse and decision-making. (more…)

D&D Video Playlists on YouTube    

A few weeks ago, I created 7 public playlists on YouTube, featuring some great videos that show and/or introduce people to dialogue and deliberation. The playlists can be found at

I created the playlists after someone on the main NCDD discussion list asked for links to YouTube videos (read:  short and easily accessible) on dialogue and deliberation, and received a whole variety of replies. I wondered how NCDD could make these videos easy for people to find longer-term (searching for “dialogue” or “deliberation” on YouTube yields too many weird results), and discovered that I could create public playlists.

I organized well over 100 YouTube videos (most of which I had no idea were even available!) into these playlists:

  • About dialogue & deliberation (people talking about D&D)
  • Dialogue & deliberation in practice (includes clips of actual D&D)
  • Dialogue & deliberation events (specific projects and events)
  • NCDD Videos (from all our events)
  • NCDD Austin (a bunch of great little videos were taken at our 2008 conference; plus Tim Thomas’ amazing photo journal shown during the closing session can be found here)
  • Sandy’s favorite D&D videos (to help people quickly find what I consider the best of the best)
  • Graphic recording (these cool videos deserved their own category)

New Book and Media Clearinghouse for Peacebuilders    

Dr. Craig Zelizer asked us to share these two announcements with the network. Zelizer is Associate Director of the Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution program at Georgetown University.

1) THE PEACE MEDIA CLEARINGHOUSE – A NEW Resource for Peacemakers at

– Find documentaries, films, shows, podcasts, songs, video games, and other multimedia about peace and conflict management.
– Use them in your work as educators, trainers, practitioners, policymakers, or students.
– Explore a wide range of topics, such as conflict prevention, nonviolence, post-conflict reconstruction, refugees, child soldiers, rule of law, religion, climate change, terrorism, and much more.
– Search for multimedia by region, country, media type, and issue area.

Send an email to avarghese1(at) if you have any questions, feedback, or comments about the Peace Media Clearinghouse.


Edited by Craig Zelizer and Robert A. Rubinstein

Even though international peacebuilding has rapidly expanded in the last two decades to respond to more multi-faceted and complex conflicts, the field has lagged behind in documenting the impact and success of projects. To help address this gap, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, one of the leading networks in the field, has brought together 13 stories of innovative peacebuilding practices from around the world in Building Peace.

While the projects covered are diverse in nature, together they demonstrate the significant impact of peacebuilding work. Contributors created new institutions to prevent and manage conflicts at the local or national levels, helped restore relationships in conflict-affected communities, and empowered citizens to work for positive change in their societies across ethnic, religious, and political divides.

It’s clear that there is no quick fix for violence but this volume will go a long way in providing inspiration and practical tools for policymakers, academics and practitioners who seek to make significant and valuable contributions towards achieving peace.

Visit for more details about the book.

New ILG Publication on Civic Participation in California    

I organized an NCDD networking dinner in San Francisco earlier this month, and one of the attendees, Terry Amsler (Director of the League of California Cities’ Institute for Local Governance) gave me a copy of a wonderful new publication called “Civic Participation in California: How Local Agencies are Involving the Public, Building Trust and Making Better Decisions.”

It’s a compendium of articles originally published last year as a series in Western City, the monthly magazine of the League of California Cities. The League is an association of California’s city officials who work together to enhance their knowledge and skills, exchange information and combine resources so they may positively influence policy decisions that affect cities.

The staff of Terry’s Collaborative Governance Initiative coordinated the Civic Participation series, contributing articles and working with local officials and experts to develop content. The series is designed to provide information, stimulate discussion and build on existing efforts to connect with residents and increase public trust in local government.

Download the full PDF document at, or visit the Institute for Local Government website.

Join the Presencing Institute’s new social network    

Otto Scharmer’s Presencing Institute has a new social network, too! Check it out at if you’re interested in the U Process and the concept of presencing. It’s pretty active.

Also check out the great web tool they’ve created to illustrate “U Tools” at

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