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Our regional NCDD events brought together over 700 people total this October and November. A huge shout-out to all the members of our local planning teams!

Archives for April 2010

What D&D; programs are addressing the red/blue divide?    

I got an email the other day from Tamra Pearson d’Estrée from the University of Denver’s Conflict Resolution Institute. Tamra is interested in knowing about programs that address the partisan divide in the U.S. through dialogue, deliberation, and conflict resolution.

I sent her info on a couple of great programs, but I’m curious about what others in the NCDD community know about that I may not be aware of. I’d like to compile a list of programs addressing the red/blue divide (past, present, and developing) so we can easily share it with people like Tamra. If you are involved in such a program or are aware of one, please use the comment field to let us know about it. If you can, please include the project name, a contact person (name and email, at a minimum), a URL for more detail, and a short description.

Conversations that matter…make us feel better?    

This blog post is by David J. Weinstein, Education and Communications Maven for Idealogue, Inc.

In the post “Talk Deeply, Be Happy?” in The New York Times “Well” blog (3/17/10), Roni Caryn Rabin reports on a study of college students suggesting that people who have deeper conversations more often are happier than those who do not.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but people who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier, said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona who published a study on the subject.

“We found this so interesting, because it could have gone the other way — it could have been, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ — as long as you surf on the shallow level of life you’re happy, and if you go into the existential depths you’ll be unhappy,” Dr. Mehl said.

There are important caveats to bear in mind, including the standard reminder that “correlation does not imply causation.” (For a more humorous exploration of that point)

And the definition of a “deeper conversation” might vary.

But the idea is powerful. One might assume that people who “keep it light” and thus do not engage with challenging or distressing topics, and who do not engage in conflicts when in conversation, would be happier. No one gets hurt. No one has to think about sad or depressing things.

Yet maybe there is something hardwired into us as humans – a craving for meaningful connection, perhaps – a need that must be fulfilled for us to be…fulfilled.

For many of us striving to promote and improve dialogues on challenging issues in challenging contexts, our intuitive sense is that this work is important. And there are situations that arise among people, among nations, within businesses, in schools and elsewhere in which we believe smoothing over or ignoring challenging topics and decisions is not an option.

It is interesting to consider that beyond the practical needs to address problems and resolve dilemmas, there is a deep human need to get real and go deep, and ensuing benefit to our well-being. So this study may be another helpful reference when working with individuals and groups that are reluctant to engage in dialogue. Substantive conversations – even, we might extrapolate, on difficult matters – bring happiness!

Might this perspective encourage people to engage in conversations they would otherwise have avoided because they feared discomfort and unhappiness?

Crossing Arizona documenary on immigration worth checking out    

Here’s an interesting resource from Lindsay Dedo, Director of Educational Programming at The Cinema Guild. Sounds like a good film to lead into a timely dialogue on immigration – in the classroom, in libraries, and elsewhere…

This past weekend, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the “nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration,” (NY Times, April 23, 2010), which aims to identify and deport illegal immigrants from the state.  Highly controversial, the immigration issue has been a hotly-debated topic in Arizona politics in particular over the past few decades.  Rarely is this debate more thoroughly examined than in the award-winning film, CROSSING ARIZONA, a critical tool in educating students to all sides of this debate.

CROSSING ARIZONA, Directed by Joseph Mathew & Daniel DeVivo A Sundance festival favorite, Crossing Arizona offers a far-reaching and up-to-the-moment look at the hotly debated issue of illegal immigration as captured at America’s current flashpoint – the Arizona border. (more…)

Nominations sought for Bertelsmann Prize in “Vitalizing Democracy”    

I heard about this through NCDD member Hans Peter-Meister the other day, and then was reminded of it in the DDC’s newsletter…

The search for next Bertelsmann Prize has begun! As one of Europe’s largest charitable foundations, the German Bertelsmann Foundation awards a significant monetary prize every year.  In 2011, the prize will celebrate and recognize governmental institutions (departments, administrations, towns, etc.) that have shown innovative democratic leadership by making a strong and lasting contribution to “Vitalizing Democracy through Participation.”

Any participation project begun in the last five years is eligible for the prize. The strongest candidates will be projects that have made a demonstrable impact on a public problem, influenced policy-makers, and succeeded in engaging previously marginalized and disadvantaged members of the community.

Please take this opportunity to nominate a project, and help the Bertelsmann Foundation highlight the responsibility and capacity of governments to support democratic innovation. The nomination form is brief; contact Christina Hanley () for nomination information.

Welcoming March’s new NCDD members    

13 fabulous new members joined NCDD last month (4 organizational members and 9 individual members), and 11 of our dues-paying members renewed their memberships (2 orgs and 9 individuals).

We post these monthly summaries not only to welcome our new members and to thank those who re-upped, but also to help members connect with one another. Click on anyone’s name below to learn more about them and connect with them.

Our 4 new organizational members are:

  1. E-Democracy.org (Contact: Steven Clift)
  2. Harrison Associates (Roger Harrison)
  3. University of Wisconsin Colleges and University of Wisconsin-Extension (Stephan Gilchrist)
  4. California State University at Chico (Michael Briand)

Our 6 new dues-paying individual members are:

  1. Paul LeVasseur, Professor at the SIT Graduate Institute
  2. Steven Kull, Director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland
  3. Anne Dosher, Board Chair at The World Cafe Community Foundation
  4. Bonnie Beard, Founder and Executive Trustee of BRAC
 (Building Relationships Across Cultures)
  5. Amanda Roman, Executive Director of the Citizens in Charge Foundation
  6. Vanessa Stevens of Massachusetts

Our 3 new individual NCDD members (non-dues) are:

  1. John Cavanaugh at the Cross Cultural Communications, LLC
  2. Ben Simon at the University of Maryland
  3. Susan Schmidt of the Dallas Peace Center and The Global Peace Project

Last month, 9 NCDDers renewed their memberships – two organizations and 9 individuals.

The 2 organizational members who renewed are:

  1. Amherst College Center for Community Engagement (Molly Mead)
  2. Center for Voter Deliberation of Northern Virginia (Bill Corbett, Beth Offenbacker and Cindy Brookshire)

And 9 people renewed as dues-paying individual members:

  1. Philip Thomas at the Generative Change Community
  2. Noam Shore at Idealogue, Inc.
  3. Gilda Povolo at Grand Valley State University
  4. Julianna Padgett at Southern University’s New Orleans School of Social Work
  5. Douglas Crocker of California
  6. James Dubinsky at Virginia Tech
  7. Wendy Foxmyn, Consultant
  8. Linda Mather at Beacon Consulting Associates
9
  9. Phil Neisser at the SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Politics

To learn about other NCDD members (there are over 1,240 of us now!), find members in your state or city, etc., visit the NCDD members network at www.thataway.org/ncddnet/.

And to see if your membership is in good standing, search for yourself in the members network and look at what’s in the Member Type field in your profile. If it says “lapsed” or “non-dues-paying,” please consider becoming a current dues-paying member (see payment details here). You can also email office manager Joy Garman at if you have questions about your status, need payment instructions, or want to change the info on your profile page.

Bridging Cultures: An NEH grant opportunity    

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recently launched a new grant initiative called Bridging Cultures.  The initiative encourages projects that explore the ways in which cultures from around the globe, as well as the myriad subcultures within America’s borders, have influenced American society. With the aim of revitalizing intellectual and civic life through the humanities, NEH welcomes projects that expand both scholarly and public discussion of diverse countries, peoples, and cultural and intellectual traditions worldwide.

As part of its Bridging Cultures initiative, NEH welcomes proposals to plan and implement a program consisting of a forum and a workshop on one of two humanities themes: “Civility and Democracy” or “The Muslim World and the Humanities.”

Proposals are due June 1, 2010, and projects begin in August 2010. Each successful applicant for a Bridging Cultures Forum and Workshop program will be awarded a grant ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 in outright or matching funds, depending on the applicant’s preference and the availability of NEH funds. The grant period may last as long as eighteen months.

Following completion of the forums and workshops, NEH plans to offer implementation grants, through a subsequent competition, to produce regional or nationwide public programs on Bridging Cultures themes.  NEH anticipates funding one or more of these implementation grants for sums commensurate with the needs of a regional or national project.  Awardees in the current competition, as well as other 501(c)(3) organizations or state and local governmental agencies will be eligible to enter the subsequent competition for implementation support.

More details can be found at www.neh.gov/grants/guidelines/BridgingCultures.html.

NCDD’s 2010 Events…    

As many of you know, since 2002 NCDD has been holding biennial national conferences on the even years. We wanted to formally announce that in 2010, rather than holding a single National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, we are in the process of mobilizing our members to organize a number of smaller one-day NCDD events.

We are looking into holding events in fall 2010 in the locations we feel best equipped to mobilize our members: Austin, San Francisco, Washington DC and Denver, where we’ve held past NCDD conferences, as well as cities like Boston and Portland where dialogue and deliberation are thriving.

We feel that holding regional, largely self-organized events in 2010 has the potential to move NCDD and the field forward in vital ways.  We hope the events will position members of the D&D; community to successfully navigate new opportunities that are emerging in open government and online engagement so they can make a greater impact in their communities. (Learn more about our concept for the 2010 events.)

At this point, we are looking for dedicated people to help move things forward in most of the locations mentioned above. Our first priorities are (1) to find and secure affordable venues so we can set the dates and (2) to start identifying partners and co-sponsors who share our goals.  Please contact me (Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD’s Director) at if you are interested in getting involved.

Identifying experts in keypad technology    

On Friday, I emailed NCDD’s main listserv to see who in the community has expertise in keypad technology.  Keypads are audience response devices that look like little calculators (learn more here), and once in a while I get requests from people looking for keypad facilitators or trainers.  David Campt and Chris Bui are two skilled keypad experts I know personally, but I wanted to have a longer list at the ready.

I received a variety of great responses and recommendations for experts in keypad technology – and in using cell phones as an alternative to keypads.  I thought I’d share the responses here so we all have access to this list for future reference. (more…)

New Blog by Miki Kashtan    

As Einstein famously asserted, today’s toughest issues cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.  Since 1996, NCDD member Miki Kashtan has dedicated her formidable experience, skill, insight and passion into honing and sharing the use of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) as a guiding compass to be able to fully live and look at life through a different lens than the one which created our world as it is. A different thinking, consciousness, paradigm to think about and reflect on our inner life, relationships, and the larger issues of our society and the world at large.

Now you can have access to Miki’s unique wisdom on her new blog, The Fearless Heart. On the blog, Miki is already sharing her inspiring thinking, astute self-inquiry, and real life examples of applying a consciousness of collaboration and dialogue based on compassion for our shared humanity. Miki hopes that reading it will richly contribute to a sense of meaning, purpose, and power in your own lives, and provide inspiration for bringing this consciousness to projects for social change. Visit Miki’s blog at http://baynvc.blogspot.com/. (more…)

Federal Agencies and Depts Release Open Gov Plans    

I wanted to share an important press release I received today from Chelsea Kammerer of the White House Office of Public Engagement.  Many U.S. departments and agencies released their Open Government Plans today.  Here’s how Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, describes this milestone on the White House blog:

For too many years, Washington has resisted the oversight of the American public, resulting in difficulties in finding information, taxpayer dollars disappearing without a trace, and lobbyists wielding undue influence.  For Americans, business as usual in Washington has reinforced the belief that the government benefits the special interests and the well connected at the expense of the American people.

No more. Since coming to office, the President has launched a series of initiatives to let the sunshine in, including posting White House visitor records, disclosing lobbyist contacts regarding stimulus funds, and launching data.gov and recovery.gov. That’s why independent groups recently gave the Administration an A grade for transparency.

Please help spread the word about this development on your blogs, websites, facebook groups, etc. This is big news for our country, but since this story doesn’t “bleed” it may not get the press coverage it deserves!

Here is the press release… (more…)

Developing a Pattern Language of Group Process    

I asked NCDD member Tree Bressen to write a post for the blog about an exciting project you may want to know about: the Pattern Language of Group Process project….

“For more than a year now a small group of folks have been hard at work developing a Pattern Language of Group Process.  The people involved come from a variety of backgrounds including theory and practice, the academy and the street, and bring experiences from diverse sectors including technology, political activism, education, communal living, financial services and other private corporations, nonprofits, and more.

A Pattern Language is an attempt to express the deeper wisdom of what brings aliveness within a particular field of human endeavor, through a set of interconnected expressions arising from that wisdom.  Aliveness is one placeholder term for “the quality that has no name”: a sense of wholeness, spirit, or grace, that while of varying form, is precise and empirically verifiable.  The term was originally coined by architect Christopher Alexander, who, together with five colleagues, published A Pattern Language for building in 1977. Others have since applied the term to economics, software design, liberatory communication, and other fields. (more…)

Four job openings at Kearns & West firm (Portland and D.C.)    

NCDD organizational member Kearns & West, a strategic collaboration and communications firm specializing in water, energy, natural resources and environmental facilitation/mediation, collaboration and public involvement, seeks additional facilitators, mediators, and public involvement specialists in their Portland, Oregon and Washington, DC offices. They may also be looking to hire in their San Francisco office in the near term. Resumes from interested senior mediators and public involvement specialists should be submitted to (no faxes or phone calls please). Resumes will be accepted until the positions are filled.

The four positions are:

  1. Project Coordinator Opportunity in Washington DC
  2. Public Involvement Specialist Opportunity in Portland, Oregon
  3. Senior Associate/Facilitator Opportunity in Washington DC
  4. Senior Mediator/Facilitator Opportunity in Portland, Oregon

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Kellogg Foundation job opening for Program Officer for Civic Engagement    

The Kellogg Foundation has a great job opening right now, for Program Officer for its Civic Engagement team (download the full job description here), and I was asked to share the job announcement with the dialogue & deliberation community…

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations, is seeking a Program Officer for its Civic Engagement (CE) team, based in Battle Creek, Michigan. This is an opportunity to join the W.K. Kellogg Foundation at a time of renewed strength and recommitment to its core mission: improving the lives of vulnerable children. To fulfill this critical mission, a focus on Civic Engagement is essential, and this approach, along with Racial Equity, lies at the heart of Foundation’s historical value system and defines its unique contribution to the future of vulnerable children in American communities. The Program Officer for Civic Engagement will report directly to the Vice President for Programs and will participate fully in the team’s objective to use CE to strengthen and create conditions that propel children to achieve success.

The Program Officer will provide leadership and oversight for on-the-ground execution of programmatic efforts that build public will; invest in new pipelines of leadership; foster public philanthropy and new models; and leverage new collaborations and partnerships for increased impact. S/he will screen and recommend grants for funding; conduct site visits; and manage and monitor a portfolio of grant programs aligned with the Foundation’s new Strategic framework, and collaborate with the other Foundation programs to develop a more interdisciplinary approach to grant-making. The Program Officer will maintain strong, authentic relationships with grant seekers and grantees, and act as a spokesperson for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, effectively communicating the Foundation’s goal of working with communities to improve the lives of their children.

The ideal candidate for this position will possess a master’s degree in a field relevant to the Civic Engagement approach and will have significant work experience in related fields, with strong networks and contacts, as well as a broad, generalist background with a deep and comprehensive understanding of program design and development, systems, networking, model development, and community change. S/he will have experience in public engagement dialogue and leadership development background, across all sectors, and a deep understanding of the community engagement field, organizations and systems. The ideal candidate needs to be an analytical thinker and possess an ability to assume leadership and management of a large body of work. In addition, s/he must excel in building teams internally and externally and motivating diverse players and partners.

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