LA Days of Dialogue addresses Trayvon Martin verdict

Days of Dialogue — a long-time NCDD organizational member based on Los Angeles — got some great TV coverage of their recent event in a series of dialogues designed to help the L.A. community process their emotions and opinions about the Trayvon Martin verdict.


They’re in the midst of running a series of three events titled Days of Dialogue:  The Death of Trayvon Martin… Unfinished Business.  The first event, which received the coverage on NBC News in Southern California, took place on  Saturday (July 27).

The Days of Dialogue events are hosted by The Empowerment Congress, Price Chapel A.M.E., Holman Methodist Church, The Violence Prevention Coalition of Los Angeles, Community Partners, Urban League, Holman Methodist Church, and others.

Last Friday, Avis Ridley-Thomas asked me to share a flyer with the network on these events, but I was traveling at the time. In the flyer, people interested in attending, facilitating, or offering other assistance are asked to contact Maria Garcia at or (213) 485-8324.

Upcoming dialogues are scheduled for:

  • Saturday, August 3, 2013, 9:00 a.m., Empowerment Congress, 700 State Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90007
  • Sunday, August 11, 2013, 6:00 p.m., Community for Racial Justice, The Church in Ocean Park, 235 Hill Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405
  • Saturday, August 17, 2013 10:00 a.m. Holman United Methodist Church, 3320 West Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90018

By the way — one great way to learn more about Days of Dialogue is to watch the great video interview Jeffrey Abelson filmed at the 2012 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation in Seattle.

doggerel by a dad

“O aid me ere I err!” bade he.
“Nay, nay, I’ll not,” said she.
“I’ll aid ye not–you’re overwrought,” she sputtered in her tea.
“Avail me, please, I’m on my knees,”
Beseeched the lad, awailing.
“Peace,” said she, “your tears they’ll be completely unavailing.”
“I am,” said he, “a wretched me, with only this petition …”
“Your prayer,” said she, “moves not me, nor will I grant permission
To drip upon my tattered shoe your salty drops o’ woe.”
“I’d only note,” the laddie quote, a-pointing to his toe,
“That you have ta’en seat upon a steamin’ pot ‘o stew.
Underneath that very pot is set a hot fondue
And as you settle in, you see, the one flows in t’other
And both begin to drip upon my only little brother.
As he shakes, our boat it quakes, and o’er the gunnels flow
The last of the drips off the honeyed lips o’ the Bonghi-Donghi-Do.”
“Cease!” cried she. “Prattle not. I care not what you say.
I’ll sit right here and pull yer ear and watch the driplets flow.
I care not a wit for the Bonghi-Do; let him do what ere he may!”

The post doggerel by a dad appeared first on Peter Levine.

Lisbon Revisited: Notes on Participation

A couple of weeks ago I attended a series of conferences in Portugal, where I had the chance to meet some of the best people working in the field of participation. It was also an opportunity to talk with a number of Brazilian observers who provided me with more of an insider’s view of how the recent wave of protests in Brazil relates to the state of participatory governance in the country.

Below is a rather chaotic list of takeaways from these days:

  • The Latin community of researchers and practitioners (mainly Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian, and French) are some of the best when it comes to participatory design. I was particularly struck by the level of work presented at the Centre for Social Studies of Lisbon, where researchers and scholars focused on the scaling up of participatory governance initiatives—that is, from local to higher levels of government (e.g. state, national). This is a tricky endeavor, as experience shows over and over again that you cannot just replicate local level participatory innovations at other levels. At the risk of stating the obvious, the formula for successful scaling up is far from being discovered. But some people are closer than others.
  • On a totally different note, mobile phones are definitely making their way into participatory budgeting. The coastal city of Cascais deployed an SMS voting system to let citizens decide on the allocation of 1.5 million Euros. The numbers suggest some success: with mobile participation the number of participants jumped from 6,000 (2012 PB) to 24,000 (2013 PB). The municipal administration has also launched a new smart phone app (FixCascais) to enable citizen reporting on problems in the municipality.

  • During the Conference of the International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (IODP), the latest book organized by Nelson Dias was launched. Entitled “Democratic Hope: 25 Years of Participatory Budgeting”, the book brings together texts by more than 40 authors from all the continents, providing an encompassing view of 25 years of PB around the world. I was happy to co-author one of the pieces with Rafael Sampaio. The subject of our article? Technology and participation, of course. The book is currently only available in Portuguese, but hopefully it will soon be translated into English.
  • Nelson Dias has also been doing some interesting research, looking at the development of Portuguese PBs over time and examining what makes some more sustainable than others. The actual impact of citizens’ input on the decision-making process emerges as the determining factor. When it comes to PB, it seems that merely consultative processes are like cigarettes: they stink and lead to early death.

New book organized by Nelson Dias, “Democratic Hope”.

On Brazil: 

  • If you take a closer look at the recent demonstrations in Brazil you will realize that some of the strongest demands refer to increased citizen participation. In Rio de Janeiro for instance, one of the demands is precisely the implementation of participatory budgeting. The Brazilian Federal Government seems to be willing to boost its support for PB.

Rio de Janeiro campaign for Participatory Budgeting.

  • Brazilian politicians start to recognize this demand for participation. And they are quickly realizing that, while they have remained analogue, society has moved on. This reflects well on an op ed by former President Lula in the NYT who argues that

(….) people do not simply wish to vote every four years. They want daily interaction with governments both local and national, and to take part in defining public policies, offering opinions on the decisions that affect them each day. In short, they want to be heard. This creates a tremendous challenge for political leaders. It requires better ways of engagement, via social media, in the workplace and on campuses, reinforcing interaction with workers groups and community leaders, but also with the so-called disorganized sectors, whose desires and needs should be no less respected for lack of organization.

  • Another article by the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro in the Huffington Post makes a similar point, highlighting some interesting numbers about the protests in Brazil:

During the recent demonstrations in Brazil, approximately 62 percent of the people were informed of the event via Facebook, a much higher rate than TV, which was first source of information to 14 percent of attendees, according to Ibope Institute. Three out of four agitators used social networks to round up support.

  • Even if most governments lag behind, there are some promising experiences. For instance, at the height of the demonstrations, Tarso Genro, the Governor of Rio Grande do Sul held a Google Hangout with citizens to listen to their demands. The number of participants: half a million.

Google hangout with 500,000 citizens.

  • Governor Genro then launched an online ideation/ranking process on political reforms.  182,000 votes were cast on over 200 proposals. Among the 10 proposals receiving the most votes? Increased citizen participation in decision-making processes.

Pair-wise voting system used on political reform consultation.

  • The Brazilian Institute of Applied Economics in Brazil (IPEA) is doing some interesting research looking at participation in some of the major federal programs in the country. One of the findings debunks the assumption that participatory processes may delay execution. Participatory and non-participatory processes perform equally when it comes to execution. The difference? Participatory processes are more innovative. More on that later.
  • The vitality of the use of social media to foster collective action in Brazil is contrasted by the demands of some segments of society to put an end to the proportional system of representation in the country. This seems, to a certain extent, rather contradictory. And here’s why.
  • Ronaldo Lemos is now officially representing the MIT Media-Lab in Brazil. This is great news. With an amazing track record, Ronaldo is also one of the people behind the Brazilian Internet “Bill of Rights”, the Marco Civil. Fruit of a truly collaborative exercise, the legislation aims to guarantee the civil rights of Internet users in Brazil.
  • While in the US some transparency advocates fear that Snowden’s leaks might have a chilling effect on the transparency agenda, in Brazil the results are somewhat different. The revelation of the NSA’s electronic surveillance of Brazilian officials has led President Dilma Roussef to consider the approval of the Marco Civil by Congress as a top priority for her Government. If approved, the legislation will be a milestone for those in the country working with technology and open government.


Social Banking Discovers the Commons

The idea of “social banking” is a bit of a mind-bender for most Americans accustomed to the cutthroat ways of Wall Street and the alarmingly concentrated banking/finance sector. In the US context, with a handful of exceptions, “social banking” can only be understood as an oxymoron or cynical PR gambit.

But in Europe, the Institute for Social Banking is dedicated to helping banks that want to develop more ethical, socially minded approaches to monetary policy, banking and insurance.  The Institute provides training and research, hosts educational seminars for banking practitioners, and strives to promote ecologically positive industry practices. Despite these ambitions, the Institute concedes that there is no widely accepted definition of social banking; it remains a somewhat “off to the side” of mainstream industry practices -- a sincere but still-evolving ethic and portfolio. 

As an American, I find it remarkable that the Institute for Social Banking even exists. Even more impressive is the Institute's recent week-long seminar in Switzerland exploring how social banking could begin to understand and support the commons.  Here is a description of the course.  Besides introducing the commons more generally, the seminar included sessions on indigenous commons; organizing and financing common businesses; community-connected farming; alternative currencies; and imagining a common world / society.

My colleague Silke Helfrich attended, and reports back that there was keen interest in the commons – enough so that at the conclusion of the week, participants issued the following statement: 

read more

Time to register for the 2013-2014 DDPE Certificate Program

It’s time to sign up for the next cycle of the award winning Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement Certificate Program. Kansas State University’s DDPE program is a transformative professional development program focused on making wise choices for engagement.

DDPE-logoNCDD is a ‘Collaborator’ of the program, and NCDD supporting members enjoy a 10% discount on program fees. Please note that information calls on the program are scheduled for today at 6pm Central, August 8 at 10am Central, August 22 at 6pm Central, September 4 at 10am Central and September 12 at 5pm Central.

This year’s cycle begins September 23rd. Learn more about the course offerings and costs here. NCDD strongly encourages our members to enroll.  It’s a great way to deepen your practice and gain some credentials in this work. The program’s faculty is an amazing group of leaders: Keith Melville, Hal Saunders, John Dedrick, Phil Stewart, Linda Blong, Jan Elliot, and Lyn Carson. Making connections with this group of superstars is worth the cost of enrollment!

This distinctive program focuses on developing mastery in making wise choices for bringing dialogue, deliberation, and engagement into situations where they are most effective. Through DDPE, we invite you to:

  • Work with proven frameworks for selecting and adapting effective processes.
  • Develop new skills for designing and facilitating meetings and whole initiatives.
  • Ground your work in the foundational underpinnings of dialogue and deliberation.
  • Deepen and broaden your knowledge of the diverse ways of working in this field.
  • Learn through collaborative reflective practice that impacts your work in the world.
  • Focus on effective action and the questions that are most pressing for your work.

The 20-week DDPE certificate program is composed of four component courses: Two involve learning at a distance (online and on the phone), and the other two are face-to-face workshops.

Designed and delivered in collaboration with the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, the Kettering Foundation, and the Public Dialogue Consortium, the DDPE program is led by an outstanding faculty of scholar-practitioners who have played key roles in developing this field. It also features widely recognized guest scholar-practitioners who join us on the phone, and we are proud to partner with the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation and other organizations that lead the field.

To learn more, go to

A couple of recent comments from DDPE alums:

“DDPE was one of the most valuable professional development programs I have experienced, and it was pivotal in grounding my work as I launched my own business as an engagement practitioner.”

Diane Miller President, Civic Collaboration and Board Member, National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

“Out in real world, my DDPE certificate is one of the most valuable tools I have.”

Dr. Kathy Armijo Etre Vice President of Community Health, St. Vincent Regional Medical Center

Tuition and Registration Information

Costs and package discounts:

Register Online:

a useful definition of civility

(Logan airport, trying to get to Chicago) Because I study civic engagement and civil society, people often expect me to favor civility. My actual view is more complicated; not only civil dialogue but also contentious speech is important in a democracy. Citizens should be able to express righteous anger; parties and candidates should face zero-sum competitions that necessitate sharp debate. Yet there is a reason to care about civility: it helps us to learn from other people. That is why I like the norm that the Civic Commons expects of its online participants: “We’re as interested in each other’s opinions as we are in our own. And we act like it.” That works for me as a definition of civility. For more on the context, see Dan Moulthrop’s remarks at Frontiers of Democracy.

The post a useful definition of civility appeared first on Peter Levine.



The original version of this case study first appeared on Vitalizing Democracy in 2010 and was a contestant for the 2011 Reinhard Mohn Prize. It was originally submitted by Francesco Molinari.

e-People is a multilingual online portal that integrates e-petitioning, citizen driven proposals, and electronic discussions on policy items of relevance to 303 governmental organizations of South Korea, including central administrative organizations, local autonomous bodies and other public institutions.

Harrow Open Budget


The Harrow Open Budget initiative was initiated by key officials in the London Borough of Harrow to open up the process of developing the 2006/7 Council budget.The local authority used a form of Participatory Budgeting whereby elements of the budget were opened up to public debate around local priorities. The mechanisms used to engage the public were a day long Open Assembly of local residents, together with an on going Panel of residents to monitor the process.