Direct Representation (Minimal Coleman)

Devised independently, but now nesting within Coleman’s political philosophy, this method offers elected representatives and aspirant activists a minimal set of activities which informally fuse aspects of direct and representative democracy, offer constituents a more authentic political conversation, and need not await wider political reforms.

Party like its 1999…


If you want to relive your 90s prom, or if you were unfortunate to have your prom in another decade, join Somerville Local First for Right Here! Right Now! A local extravaganza held in fashionable 90s style.

Get your tickets here:

The party will go down on June 27 at Cuisine en Locale (or, as I like to call it, the former Anthony’s space)

All proceeds benefit the fine work of Somerville Local First (where I serve on the board). SLF nurtures an environment where the independent, local economy thrives and encourages a diverse economy in Somerville, MA, that is local, sustainable, and fair.

So, join the local party and have some fun!


Constitutional Amendment for Campaign Finance Reform?

We are happy to share the announcement below from NCDD organizational member and NCDD Catalyst Award winner John Spady of the National Dialogue Network. John’s announcement came via our great Submit-to-Blog Form. Do you have news you want to share with the NCDD network? Just click here to submit your news post for the NCDD Blog!

Until June 14, 2014, the National Dialogue Network (NDN) is crowdsourcing ideas from as many people as possible about whether or not a constitutional amendment is necessary to either limit or protect current practices of election campaign spending. Please share this announcement and encourage participation using this link:

The Codigital process is the same one recently used by NCDD. Our own experience with Codigital can be reviewed at

The purpose of the NDN project is to solicit statements from all sides, edit and rank them using Codigital, and create a summary of the results for delivery to the Senate Judiciary Committee that meets in June to debate the value of a constitutional amendment to limit (or not) election campaign spending.

After June 14 a follow on phase will repackage these results and create materials for local consideration, public engagement, and national feedback using the tools that the National Dialogue Network gives freely to collaborating individuals and organizations to roll up results from numerous local communities. NDN wants our political representatives to understand the opinions and values of those who care deeply about this issue — from all sides.

John Spady is a long time and sustaining member of NCDD. His vision for a National Dialogue Network received the 2012 Catalyst Award for Civic Infrastructure from NCDD voting members. Details about that award are available at: The website of the NDN is:

If you have any thoughts or encouragements, please add your comments below.

Open Government Needs Public Trust

The piece below comes from the Gov. 2.0 Watch blog, a project of our organizational partners at the Davenport Institute. The reflections shared on building trust in government as a critical component of public engagement and open government initiatives are good food for thought, and we encourage you to read more below or find the original post here.

DavenportInst-logoIn the wake of recent scandals involving California lawmakers, this CA Fwd interview with Leon Panetta is a needed reminder of the importance of integrity in public service. Ed Coghlan comments:

Three months into 2014 and three California State Senators have had brushes with the law. Needless to say, public confidence in elected officials is shaken.

It’s understandable, but like any setback in life, it’s also an opportunity to reflect and change for the better.

Now is the time for our elected officials to enact immediate and meaningful reform in response to alleged state-level corruption that has gotten national media attention. Only then will public trust in government be on the road to recovery.

CA Fwd is attempting to “catalyze a conversation on rebuilding public confidence in government,” and released a roadmap called The Path Toward Trust in April. More information is available here.

The Huffington Post published a related article last month by Gavin Newsom and Zachary Bookman, highlighting successes in the “Open Government movement” in Palo Alto, Bell, San Francisco, and the California State Lands Commission, that they argue have helped to increase public trust and civic engagement:

As a sector, government typically embraces technology well-behind the consumer curve. This leads to disheartening stories, like veterans waiting months or years for disability claims due to outdated technology or the troubled rollout of the website. This is changing.

Cities and states are now the driving force in a national movement to harness technology to share a wealth of government information and data. Many forward thinking local governments now provide effective tools to the public to make sense of all this data.

New platforms can transform data from legacy systems into meaningful visualizations. Instant, web-based access to this information not only saves time and money, but also helps government make faster and better decisions. This allows them to serve their communities and builds trust with citizens.

You can find the original version of this post at

Nominate Youth for GenUp Leadership Opportunity

We recently heard about an interesting leadership and development opportunity for young people that we think might suit some of our NCDD members or their connections well. The Thrive Fellows program, coordinated by Generation Waking Up, is accepting nominations for young people until June 10th and applications until June 15th, so we encourage you to learn more and nominate young leaders as soon as possible. You can read about the program below or find more information here

Thrive Fellows: A Year-Long Leadership Program in Social Innovation

July 2014 to June 2015
Apply or Nominate today!

We are living at a critical moment in history, facing complex challenges like no generation before and holding a profound opportunity to remake our world. It is a time that is calling for system-thinkers, bridge-builders, and creative innovators with bold new approaches to social change.

The Thrive Fellows program is a transformative “leadership-in-action” journey that supports a diverse cohort of young leaders in designing and implementing social innovation projects toward a thriving, just, and sustainable world. Social innovation is the process of generating novel and creative solutions to complex challenges. As Buckminster Fuller aptly stated, “You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Each Thrive Fellow will embark upon a yearlong journey that includes personal development, team building, community engagement, collective learning, and collaborative action, by applying the most promising tools and capacities of our time to generate creative solutions to complex challenges.


  • Join a network of dynamic young leaders, changemakers, and innovators
  • Develop leadership skills for creating personal, interpersonal, and social change
  • Deepen your understanding of the interconnection of issue areas and how to create systemic change
  • Learn how to turn your ideas into action and create collective impact
  • Co-lead a social innovation project to address complex challenges
  • Receive mentoring from leading experts across multiple sectors of society
  • Connect your local efforts with wider movements of social change
  • Establish a Thrive chapter on your campus or in your community


Young people ages 16 to 29 based in North America who are committed to growing as a leader and bringing social innovation to your campus and/or community. We strongly recommend finding one other person from your campus or community to apply too in order to strengthen the success and impact of your fellowship. If you are interested in applying as an international participant, please contact us at

Additional criteria for becoming a Thrive Fellows include:

  • Passion for growing personally and creating social change
  • Representing a campus, community, or place-based context for implementing an ongoing social innovation project
  • An ability to commit an average of 6 – 10 hours a week
  • Demonstrated leadership skills and potential, ideally with a track record in community service, social activism, or social entrepreneurship
  • A willingness to cover and/or help raise the funds needed for your tuition cost
  • A commitment to diversity & team collaboration


Application deadline is June 15th. Fill out an online training application here. Our team will contact you to confirm your participation.


Nomination deadline is June 10th. If you know an ideal candidate, please fill out an online nomination form here. Our team will contact you to confirm your nomination.

If you have questions or want to know more, please visit or contact Joshua Gorman at


I like to play a game. Well, many games, in fact, but one that I’ll talk about today.

I call it Crazy/Thoughtful. The game is to decided whether an action – either planned or accomplished – is crazy or thoughtful.

I have, for example, told strangers they are wearing name tags or informed them that they likely will get a ticket if they choose to park illegally in Somerville. I tend to do these things without thinking – its an automatic reaction, like calling after someone who’s neglected their wallet or umbrella.

But after the moment has passed and the interaction is over, I find myself taking pause, wondering, Wait, was that weird? Or was that nice? Was that the socially appropriate thing to do?


But maybe I’m the only one who needs games to manage social interaction.

And this isn’t just a game for strangers. Buying flowers, sending a card, or really any sort of gift giving not connected to an officially sanctioned gifting holiday. Is that weird? Or is that thoughtful?

I don’t know. I usually just do it anyway, because, you know – whatever. But it’s interesting that there’s such a fine line between these states. Crazy and thoughtful.

Upon receiving flowers, a friend was once annoyed. What crazy person was sending her flowers? But, upon discovering who the flowers were from, she declared the gesture acceptable. “Well…he’s Southern,” she explained.

What would have been crazy for a Californian was acceptable for a Southerner. “They do things like that,” I’m told.

And before you argue that it’s never crazy to send flowers – it really can be. The guy who sent Valentines’ Day flowers to a group of (female) friends he’d hung out with a few times at bars. Crazy. Definitely Crazy.

So these random acts of kindness can be crazy or thoughtful. Or maybe both crazy and thoughtful.

And I think that holds us back. Nobody but a creeper wants to be a creeper, but sometimes it takes little creepy to be kind.

It’s too easy to get caught up in the game, debating is this crazy or is this thoughtful? Shying away from doing something thoughtful because…well, it really is a kind of crazy thing to do. Crazy and thoughtful.

But, you know what I say – embrace the crazy.


A Tragic Tale of Enclosure, Poetically Told

What does enclosure feel like from the inside, as a lived experience, as a community is forced to abandon its “old ways” and adopt the new worldview of Progress and Profit?  British author Jim Crace’s novel, Harvest, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2013, provides a beautiful, dark and tragic story of the first steps of the “modernization” of a preindustrial English village.

The story focuses on a hamlet that is suddenly upended when the kindly lord of the settlement, Master Kent, discovers that his benign feudal control of a remote patch of farmland and forest has been lost to his scheming, cold-hearted cousin, Edmund Jordan.  Jordan is a proto-capitalist who has a secret plan to evict everyone and turn their fields into pastures for sheep.  He plans to become rich producing wool for the flourishing export market.  But Jordan can’t simply announce his planned dispossession of land lest it provoke resistance.  He realizes that he must act with stealth and subterfuge to take possession of the land and eradicate the community, its values and its traditions.

The story is essentially a tale of what happens when a capitalist order seeks to supplant a stable and coherent community.  But this states the narrative too crudely because the book is a gorgeously written, richly imagined account of the village, without even a hint of the ideological.  Told through the eyes of a character who came to the village twelve years earlier, the story doesn’t once mention the words “enclosure,” “capital” or “Marx.”  (Indeed, the Wall Street Journal’s reviewer praises the book for “brilliantly suggest[ing] the loamy, lyric glories of rustic English language and life.”)

Harvest depicts the sensuous experiences of a village community wresting its food from nature, but with relative peace and happiness.  "Our great task each and every year is to defend ourselves against hunger and defeat with implements and tools. The clamour deafens us. But that is how we have to live our lives," the narrator tells us.  The book also shows how easily this world is shattered by a brutal outsider who uses fear and social manipulation to rip apart a community in order to install a new regime of efficiency, progress and personal gain.

read more

Seeking Collaborators for Sustainability Workshop at NCDD ’14 in Reston

We are happy to share the announcement below from NCDD supporting member Adolf Gundersen of the Interactivity Foundation, which came via our great Submit-to-Blog Form. Do you have news you want to share with the NCDD network? Just click here to submit your news post for the NCDD Blog!

IF-logo-onyellowMy Interactivity Foundation (IF) colleague Dennis Boyer and I are looking for collaborators to develop a proposal for a workshop on connecting exploratory discussion (our mission) with decisional deliberation at NCDD’s ’14 Conference in Reston. We’d like to focus on sustainability as a substantive theme, as IF also has discussion materials on related themes of climate change, energy, and city planning.

If you are interested in collaborating, please contact Adolf Gundersen at or at (608) 467-6224.

On Being a Badass

Someone asked me recently what it means to be a badass.

I’d scrawled that phrase in the cold and dark of January, declaring it to be my 2014 goal. Be totally badass, to be precise.

But what does that mean? Can a 40-something-year-old woman, no longer hip to the kids, but with a child of her own be a badass? Is it all James Dean and Jimmy Cagney, leather jackets, sun glasses, and the lingering smoke twisting from a cigarette?

It’s more than Marlon Brando and Sylvester Stallone.

As a quick response to the question, I’d written this definition: Being tough enough/confident enough to do the things I want to do and be the things I want to be regardless of what society says I should do or be. That’s what makes you a badass.

That was my gut reaction, but I find it somewhat lacking. What does it mean to be tough? To be confident? What if the things you want to do are the things society wants you to do? Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

I’ve described select academics as badass. Seriously, there are some real badass researchers out there. How do they fit in?

I don’t know.

As it turns out, I don’t have a tight definition in my pocket ready to go. I don’t know what makes a badass, but I do know this: it’s not about being popular, or being cool. It’s not a rebel without a cause or a public enemy. It’s not all tough guy talk and bad boy walk.

Sometimes its a miracle I can face the day -

We are all of us battered and all of us broken. We each bear our scars from the whips and chains of outrageous fortune. We have each seen dark places and glanced upon our own private hells. We have each our own intimate relation with despair.

Being a badass is going on when you can’t bring yourself to go on. It is standing resolute when all you want to do is crumble. It’s gathering the pieces when all you see is destruction.

There’s nothing that says a badass can’t find themselves sobbing uncontrollably on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night. But a badass stands back up. A badass goes on.

Badass is a state of mind. It’s not a permanent achievement you unlock with a greaser jacket and slicked back hair. It’s a way of living – a way of fighting – for every moment, every breath, every accomplishment.

Sometimes it is social norms that make you feel like you can’t succeed. Sometimes it’s a colicy baby and years of sleep deprivation. Sometimes its a series of missteps, or a terrible tragedy, or something else in your life that opens the wound of despair. Sometimes, you don’t even know -

But being a badass is fighting through those moments. It is taking a deep breath and gathering the will to carry on. And it’s reminding yourself that whatever happens, you can get through this. There may not be exploding buildings or bloody combat or sultry romance, but you can get through this.

Of course you can. You’re a total badass.