Tour of NCDD’s Field Mapping Project

In the months leading up to the 2014 NCDD conference, NCDD conducted a unique field mapping project as part of our collaboration with the Kettering Foundation. The project capitalized on the fact that the conference would bring together more than 400 leaders and emerging leaders in the dialogue & deliberation community, many of whom are interested in finding new ways to collaborate across organizations and sectors to have a greater impact.

NCDD2014-GR-Team-PhotoWe had conference planning team member Kathryn Thomson (of LeaderMind Consulting and Ethelo Decisions) conduct interviews of 10 highly collaborative organizations/networks involved in NCDD. Graphic recorders participated in the calls, and then mapped out what they heard on large mural-size paper so conference attendees could learn about each organization’s ecosystem of work and partnerships, and aspirations for the future. (This phase of the project is described here.)

At the conference, our 10-person graphic recording team (led by the amazing Stephanie Brown) created a gorgeous “Field Map” during the conference. The field map was informed by:

  1. The 10 network maps described above, which visually mapped out the work and networks of 10 highly collaborative organizations in the NCDD community
  2. A table mapping activity we conducted on the first day of the conference that asked people the same three questions we asked for the organizational maps, about their work, their partners, and who they’d like to work with in the future. We called the activity a “Mapping Cafe,” as it was inspired by the World Cafe process.
  3. Input from NCDD 2014 attendees and staff while the map was being created at the conference.

Check out the album I’ve added to our Facebook page about the mapping project. It walks you through all the gorgeous artwork, describes each element of the project, and links to the artists and organizations involved. Click on the photos in the album to see the additional info.

Omega Institute Hosts First Major North American Conference of Commons Activists

It’s always been frustrating to me that Europeans and people in the global South appreciate the potential of the commons far more than most Americans, even among political progressives and activists. Happily, this past weekend saw a big shift.  In Rhinebeck, New York, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) – part of the noted Omega Institute retreat center – unleashed a torrent of creative energy and political action by hosting the first major conference of commons activists in North America.

There have, of course, been many smaller gatherings of US and Canadian commoners focused on specific issues such as water, local food, software code and online resources.  Commons scholars have a long history of getting together.  But this conference was different.  It brought together more than 500 participants to catalyze and instigate creative action around the commons. The paradigm clearly has some resonance for this region which is now faced with some serious market enclosures – the dangerous railway transport of oil supplies, the proposed construction of massive electrical transmission towers that will defile the beautiful landscape, and the proposed use of Cooper Lake for bottled water -- along with the usual assaults of neoliberal capitalism. 

“Where We Go From Here” focused directly on the great promise of the commons in re-imagining how we pursue social, political, economic and ecological transformations.  The keynote speakers were fantastic: the tireless environmentalist and eco-feminist activist Vandana Shiva; climate change activist Bill McKibben, still on a high from the successful climate march in NYC; author and futurist Jeremy Rifkin who foresees the rise of the “collaborative commons”; the deeply knowledgeable and witty ecological scholar David Orr of Oberlin College; the flinty, resourceful environmentalist and Native American activist Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth; the sustainable design architect Bob Berkebile; green jobs advocate and CNN commentator Van Jones; among many others.  I opened the day with an overview of the commons.

The deeply engaged conference participants consisted of environmental, food and social justice activists, the directors of many community projects, academics and students, indigenous peoples activists, a state legislator, permaculturists, Fablab hacktivists, Occupy veterans, and others too diverse to mention.  Most seem to have come from the Hudson River Valley, but quite a few came from the greater New York City region, New England and beyond. 

read more

Public Conversations Project Searches for New Exec. Director

We want to make sure NCDDers see a letter that we received from our partners at the Public Conversations Project asking for our help with their search for a new executive director. PCP is a long time NCDD organizational member that does important work across the country and the world, and we encourage you to read their request and pass along the information about their opening to those in your network you think would be qualified. If that may be  you, then learn more below and don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

Public Conversations ProjectDear NCDD friends.

It was good to see many of you at the 2014 conference! I’m writing to let you know that Public Conversations Project has just launched a search for an Executive Director. This initiative follows a very productive year with an excellent interim director who has led us through a strategic planning process and prepared us to move forward with focus and impact.

I hope you can find the time to read the job description and pass it on to suitable candidates and/or to colleagues and friends who are well placed to circulate it further. We need to move speedily before the holidays distract potential candidates—and us! The deadline is November 17th.

Read the Executive Director job description here or download a PDF of the Executive Director job description here.

With appreciation for whatever you can do to help us find a good match,

Maggie Herzig​
​Senior Associate
Search Committee member
Public Conversations Project
Watertown, MA

job openings in civic renewal (8)

This is the eighth in a series of occasional posts with lists of open positions.

Executive Director, Engaged Cornell. A groundbreaking, $150 million, 10-year initiative to establish community engagement and real-world learning experiences as the hallmark of the Cornell undergraduate experience, Engaged Cornell was launched on October 6. A goal of the initiative is to empower Cornell students to become active citizens and to tackle critical challenges by participating in hands-on, practical learning experiences in communities at home and around the world. Engaged Cornell will create a new model and direction for higher education – one in which public engagement is deeply ingrained, fully institutionalized and effectively taught and implemented. (Job description.)

Director of the Swearer Center for Public Service and Associate Dean for Engaged Scholarship, Brown University. The University seeks an experienced administrator to provide leadership, strategic direction, and management of one of the oldest public service centers housed in a university. The Swearer Center leads Brown University initiatives that integrate teaching, learning, and practice in order to advance scholarship and to produce a public benefit. (Job description.)

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Chair on Community Foundations, IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) The chair is expected to teach and mentor students at the doctoral, masters and undergraduate levels for 50% of their time.  The LFSoP offers an inter-disciplinary degree in philanthropic studies that attracts diverse students interested in broad issues related to philanthropy, including nonprofit organizations, social movements, grassroots associations, foundations, giving and volunteering. For the other 50% of their time the chair is expected to conduct research, publish in the field, and provide service to the School, campus, and the field.  (Job description.)

Associate Director and Research Associate, the Center for Public and Nonprofit Management at the School of Public Administration at the University of Central Florida  (Job descriptions.)

Assistant Director of UCARE – the Ursinus Center for Advocacy, Responsibility, and Engagement – at Ursinus College. Responsibilities include managing relations with community partners, guiding a team of students to arrange and coordinate service opportunities, and recruiting students to participate in UCARE initiatives. The Assistant Director will also assist in managing the Ursinus Bonner Leader Program as its program coordinator. In general, this individual will help to promote a greater campus culture of civic engagement and will work closely with students to develop their civic leadership skills. (Job description.)

Executive Director, Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation (FCCP). The FCCP exists to promote civic participation as a key  to making our democracy work. We serve leaders in the philanthropic community working to  further this vision with heightened attention to issues of equity and historically disenfranchised and underrepresented communities. Our members support non-partisan efforts to engage voters, eliminate structural barriers to voting, advance reforms to improve government and electoral systems, and inspire public involvement in civic life. (Job description)

Assistant Professor (tenure track) in The Department of Public and Community Service Studies at Providence College. The first interdisciplinary major of its kind in the United States, since 1994 the Public and Community Service Department has partnered with nearby communities and organizations in the City of Providence. We seek applicants from any related discipline whose teaching, scholarship and community engagement speak to pressing issues of our partnerships, and our guidelines for tenure and promotion fully incorporate public scholarship and engagement. Examples of desired issue focus are: development of social capital in urban communities; schools, poverty, and mass incarceration; violence, trauma and resilience; urban entrepreneurship; and urban social movements. Providence College is institutionally committed to the nearby Smith Hill neighborhood. Recent initiatives include a large grant to the Smith Hill Community Development Corporation to create affordable housing, the opening of the Smith Hill/Providence College Annex, and a campus-community collaborative café, Common Grounds. (job description)

The post job openings in civic renewal (8) appeared first on Peter Levine.

Restoring the Ethic of Pragmatism

My main thesis in these Rebooting Democracy blogs is that an unintended consequence of recent cultural change has encouraged many of our institutions’ leaders to subordinate the mission of their institution to their own personal interests. Our culture’s overemphasis on individual rights has been so sweeping and pervasive that it has inadvertently weakened our commitment to individual responsibility.

This is not a deep or universal form of corruption. All big companies aren’t evolving into Enron. All executives aren’t morphing into Andy Mozillo, whose company, Countrywide Insurance, flooded the nation with egregious “liar loans” destined to fail.

Similarly, all government agencies haven’t fallen into the Veterans Administration trap of putting their hospitals’ scheduling convenience ahead of veterans’ health and then lying about it. Our criminal justice system, our health care system, our schools and colleges still manage to get many things right.

Yet, it is as if the cult of the self and its rights has grown so deeply embedded in the culture that otherwise honest and responsible people don’t think twice about exploiting others as long as their actions are not blatantly illegal. I can’t think of a more ethically blind rationalization than the familiar lament: “I didn’t do anything wrong; I didn’t break the law.”

The frustrating aspect of this diagnosis is that it identifies a problem that is awesomely difficult to fix. Our society is skillful in addressing economic, technical or administrative problems. It is less skilled at addressing cultural and ethical problems.

Fortunately, we have a firmly grounded ethical tradition that we can call upon to come to our rescue. It is an authentically American philosophy that contains all the elements we need to construct a countervailing ethic to the cult of the self.

Fortunately, we have a firmly grounded ethical tradition that we can call upon to come to our rescue.

I am referring to the philosophy of pragmatism that dominated American culture throughout a large part of the 20th century. William James introduced the philosophy of pragmatism in 1907. Philosophy had not yet become a professionalized academic subject and James was eager to capture the practical-minded, problem-solving genius of America. He wanted to identify a philosophy of life that Americans could use in their daily lives – one that examined action from the perspective of the value it added to our lives rather than relying on abstract and irrelevant concepts of truth.

The philosophy of pragmatism constitutes an authentically and uniquely American tradition, one that has exercised great influence on European philosophy as well as on American thought.

Over the past century, the popularity of pragmatic philosophy has bounced around a great deal. It gained immediate popularity when first introduced by William James. As elaborated by John Dewey in subsequent decades, it dominated American thought from the pre-WWI decade through the 1920s and 1930s up to WWII.

During this same era, however, pragmatism got shoved aside in the philosophy departments of our nation’s most prestigious universities in favor of more technical and analytic philosophies coming from England and Germany. Richard Rorty, a brilliant and provocative American philosopher, resuscitated and revived pragmatic philosophy in the 1980s.

Two cogent criticisms have been leveled at pragmatism that contributed to its being sidelined. One is that its theory of truth is crass and unsophisticated. The other is that it lacks fundamental values and speaks only to methods.

European critics have been quick to issue these criticisms. For example, Bertrand Russell jumped all over William James’ metaphor of the “cash value” of ideas as the core of their truth claim. Russell pointed to this turn of phrase as evidence of America’s crass materialism.

New York Times columnist, David Brooks, recently wrote a scathing criticism of pragmatism, based largely on a 1940 magazine article by writer Lewis Mumford. Brooks quotes Mumford as saying that the pragmatic mindset is characteristic of “people who try to govern without philosophic or literary depth.”

His purpose in reaching back to an article written more than 70 years ago, Brooks states, is to critique our current leadership who, because of their own pragmatic mindset, also overlook the deep moral dimension of thought.

I have great respect for Brooks as an independent thinker – a conservative who doesn’t hesitate to criticize other conservatives when he believes they are wrong or to accept liberal perspectives when he feels they are correct.

But here we are, with Brooks damning pragmatism for its lack of a moral direction while I deliberately turn to pragmatism because of its moral dimension.

I don’t think there is any genuine confusion involved. Pragmatic philosophy harbors many conflicting elements. Its sprawling theories extend over more than a century of American thought, and include a wide diversity of thinkers. Brooks’ main source, Lewis Mumford, was probably reflecting the prejudices of the philosophy departments of leading universities of his time three quarters of a century ago.

My own main source of pragmatic philosophy, John Dewey, is one of America’s most morally conscious philosophers. Dewey acknowledged that many criticisms of pragmatic thought have merit. But I believe that Dewey took them into full account and transcended them.

John Dewey lived a long life and was incredibly prolific. Some of his thinking is no longer timely. But much of what he thought and wrote is responsive to our current need for a countervailing ethic to unrestrained individualism.

Content Challenges

Content creation and curation are major challenges of communication in a modern world. There are so many stories to tell, and so few resources to capture them.

And there is such a cacophony of content. So many cat videos and random chatter. So much to learn and so much opportunity to learn it. There is high demand for content, but a simultaneous exhaustion from content – there is no time to go to another website, no energy for another news source.

Lackluster content doesn’t go far in a fast paced world.

It takes time and talent, resources and reflection to generate great content. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

But there’s no time for that.

And maybe that’s okay – modern communication is teaching brands to let go of some control. Social media will never work for a company that needs six levels of approval.

Communication needs to be fast and not furious, on message but without oversight. It needs to have a personality and a character that anyone can jump into. A voice that your audience can relate to.

Crowd sourcing is really the only viable content strategy in this communications landscape. Produce some work of your own, sure, but your brand has to be part of the conversation – not the elevator music playing in the background.

But with crowd sourced content how can you curate successfully?

You can’t just take content, shove it in a branded box, and call it a day. Content needs to be reviewed, considered, and shared as part of the conversation.

Importantly, the content needs to be diverse. The voice needs to be diverse.

It’s not about having a team of twenty people who can grab as much content as possible and put it through the machine process of industry, where all messages come out crisp and clean and perfectly on message.

Some content can be corporate like that, but a strong content strategy supports of diversity of voices, promotes a diversity of voices.

A brand, perhaps, shouldn’t just be part of the conversation – it should host the conversation. And a good host stands back and makes sure everyone’s having a good time. You don’t have to announce your arrival at the party.

After all, a brand exists in the mind of a consumer – your content only has meaning insofar as it has value to your audience.


Hawaii Senator Pursues “Collaborative Legislators Network”

Our partners with the Kettering Foundation recently published a great interview with Hawaii Senator Les Ihara Jr. – who we are proud to have as an NCDD supporting member – about some exciting work he’s doing to get legislators doing more and better public engagement work. Sen. Ihara’s ideas have great potential, and we encourage you to read more about them below or find the original here.


Developing Our Civic Culture: State Legislators and Public Engagement

Hawaii state senator Les Ihara Jr. has found many state legislators interested in engaging, deliberating, and collaborating with citizens and stakeholders on public policy issues. Former Kettering Foundation research assistant Jack Becker recently sat down with Senator Ihara to talk about his work in supporting legislators’ citizen engagement interests.

Senator Ihara has served as majority policy leader with the Hawaii State Legislature since 2006. He entered the Hawaii State House in 1986 and the Hawaii State Senate in 1994. Senator Ihara is helping to organize a National Collaborative Legislators Network to support the state legislators citizen engagement research project of the National Conference of State Legislatures in partnership with the Kettering Foundation. In addition, he cochaired NCSL’s Legislative Effectiveness Committee from 2011 to 2014 and currently serves on the Kettering Foundation’s board of directors.

Jack Becker: When were you first exposed to public engagement?

Senator Ihara: In the late 1990s I attended a public forum using the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) framework. Since then I’ve organized a number of NIFI forums in Hawaii on legislative issues, such as gambling, death and dying, and campaign finance. During those forums I experienced public deliberation. A group of citizens were speaking together as a group about their problems rather than advocating a single solution. They were thinking through issues and problems and examining pros and cons. It was more of a learning community than I had experienced before.

At the Kettering Foundation’s 2014 Deliberative Democracy Exchange (DDEx), you said, “To me, citizen engagement is a reflection of the culture.” Could you talk about what you meant by this?

Having been involved with the Kettering Foundation, one of the things we’ve learned is that public engagement practices do not become ongoing until they become part of the culture of a community. If an organization simply does an event, a practice, it often stops. What it takes is a culture that values and has practical use of engagement in the community.

What exists now in society is a reflection of our culture. We’ve lost some of the habits that used to foster engagement. Kettering has learned this working with schools and connecting communities with schools. We’re interested in learning how a community’s culture can evolve to include public engagement practices as part of what it means to be a community.

Photo taken at the National Conference of State Legislatures & Kettering Foundation Citizen Engagement Workshop • Dayton, Ohio • July 9-10, 2014

How have you approached supporting a culture of engagement in Hawaii?

The civic culture in Hawaii doesn’t quite have the capacity to support ongoing engagement practices. Like other cities and states, it is not well developed. I’ve worked with many citizens groups as a member of the legislature, and I provide as much support as I can to them. I’ve created a number of citizen networks and supported others, but community support, funding, and energy for them has not been sustained.

Rather than promoting public engagement because of my interest, I’ve started to focus on the needs and interests of particular communities and demonstrate that engagement can help address their needs. For example, the monthly meetings of Hawaii Legislature’s Kupuna Caucus bring together senior citizen leaders, public and private agencies, and legislators to share information and develop legislation and other actions to address common concerns among our senior citizen community. We’ve been doing this for nine years, and there’s a sense of community among participants. Engaging together feels natural and essential for the well-being of this community.

What issues are ripe for more engagement?

An example would be a zoning issue, a development issue or something that negatively impacts a neighborhood. On these types of issues, engagement is often more reactive, rather than proactive. The opportunity and challenge is to mature the initial negative energy into ongoing efforts to promote the future we want as a community.

It’s unfortunate that it often takes a negative reaction to get people to do something. The reactions we see are a reflection of the culture that exists today. Our civic culture is very critical of government and doesn’t react as a partner with government and institutions, but more so in opposition to them. It would be helpful to have a government that emulates public collaboration in its management of our common resources and spaces. Neighborhoods would then have an important partner to join with in addressing the larger public issues and problems.

Is there some particular role for legislators during these forums?

I did a project in the early 2000s with Kettering examining this question. We were trying to encourage state legislators to conduct public deliberation-type activities and act as conveners for NIF forums. We didn’t yield many results then. Our thought now is to start where legislators are. We first identify the public engagement interests legislators have, and then support those interests. The earlier project focused on encouraging legislators to become interested in what we wanted, which may have been seen as competition for their limited time and resources.

State legislators are focused on state-level public policy issues and legislation. In the NCSL-Kettering project, I’m finding more legislators who have an interest in turning the policymaking process into a collaborative venture. One of my major efforts is to find and identify these types of legislators who have an interest in collaboration and figure out how to support their interests. I do this through a variety of organizations, including the Kettering Foundation, National Conference of State Legislatures, and others.

What are the biggest challenges you face identifying these people and supporting them in this work?

One of the challenges is that it takes time to identify legislators, get to know them, and then support them along the way. It’s a long process, and legislators are busy. But it’s encouraging that the legislators we work with suggest other legislators to contact. So I see promise in building this network.

During legislative sessions, it’s especially hard to get away from legislative work. And so one of the biggest challenges is to find time when legislators are available to meet. Face-to-face meetings are critical to building understanding and support. It is during these meetings that we identify the type of support that legislators want. This is critical.

The other challenge we face is in building capacity within non-legislator networks, such as the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, so that practitioners can engage legislators as partners and support them with what they need. Since legislative bodies have little capacity for public deliberation type work, the opportunity is to build capacity amongst external partners to provide group facilitation and deliberative experience to legislatures. Another opportunity is to facilitate connections and ongoing relationships between external facilitators and interested legislators.

At DDEx you went on to propose what you called a “collaborative legislators network.” What kind of space or association would this be?

I want to establish a group or network for state legislators from around the county—legislators who have a more collaborative approach to policymaking or want to learn more about being collaborative with citizens and stakeholder groups. What I’ve learned in the last several years is that there is a distinct leadership model that some legislators emulate that is more collaborative. These people use principles of facilitation and a partnership approach with the public when developing policy.

This leadership model is notable because collaborative legislators do this as opposed to wielding power and pushing through legislation with little engagement. The prevailing leadership culture in politics tends to be more about pushing for certain goals and outcomes. I believe there are many politicians who want to embody a more collaborative model. I am very hopeful after our meeting at DDEx that we met some of these people in Dayton, Ohio.

So far, I’ve been in contact with more than 100 legislators who could become part of a national network of legislators interested in public engagement and collaboration. My vision is for this network to become a national community of state legislators that serve as a model for collaborative, problem-solving leadership, as an alternative to traditional power-based leadership.

One of my upcoming projects is to help connect practitioners of public deliberation with legislators. For example, I’ve heard from members of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation who want legislators to do more public deliberation. My advice is that instead of pursuing this as an item on their agenda, they should start where legislators are and what their interests are. Legislators each have their own story on why and how they ran for office. For many, that includes an interest in an engaged citizenry and healthy democracy, which is a good starting place for practitioners and activists to build a supportive relationship with a legislator.

Jack Becker is a former Kettering Foundation research assistant. He currently works for Denver Public Schools Office of Family and Community Engagement. He can be reached at Follow him on twitter: @jackabecker

You can find the original version of this Kettering Foundation blog post at

what the Facebook mood experiment says about current research ethics

(Washington, DC) Our ethical rules and procedures now badly fit the actual practices of research–burdening some inquiries that should be treated as free while allowing other studies to do real damage without any oversight at all. The Facebook “mood experiment” exemplifies these problems.

The case is well known, but I will summarize: Advised by a small group of academic researchers, including Cornell professor Jeffrey Hancock, Facebook experimented by changing the algorithms that select posts for users’ newsfeeds so that some users saw more happy material, and others saw more sad material, than they would have seen otherwise. It turned out that seeing happy stories led people to post more happy content of their own (contrary to some previous findings that happy news makes us feel resentful). The Cornell University Institutional Review Board (IRB), which is charged with pre-reviewing “research,” did not review this study because the professors were deemed to be insufficiently involved, e.g., they would not see the users’ data. Hancock et al. published the results, prompting an international outcry. Both the scholars and Facebook were denounced (and the former even threatened) for manipulating emotions without consent or disclosure.

I believe that the scholars were involved in “research” and so should have been reviewed by Cornell’s IRB. Given current principles of research ethics (as I understand them), the IRB should have required more disclosure and consent than Facebook actually provided. (But see a contrary argument here.) The key point is that users were influenced by the experimental manipulation—to a very small degree, but the magnitude of the impact could not be known in advance and was not actually zero. People were affected without being asked to participate or even told afterward what had been done to them. The scholars should have made sure that research subjects gave consent. Otherwise, they should have dropped their association with Facebook.

But I also believe that current IRB rules and procedures now poorly fit the realities of research.

On one hand, I am concerned about some over-regulation by IRBs. I start with the presumption that when we ask adults questions or observe them and publish our thoughts, that is an exercise of free speech protected by the First Amendment. IRB review of a research study that involves asking questions seems akin to prior censorship of a newspaper. In both cases, the writer could violate rights or laws, but then the affected parties should seek legal remedies. The IRB should not pre-review research that merely involves talking to or watching adults and writing what one observes.*

I realize that academic research based on mere conversation or observation can be harmful. Consider the “super-predator” theory of violent crime, which led to terrible social policies. But the problem with that research was its conclusion, not its method. An IRB has no purview over conclusions (or premises, or ideologies). We must respond to bad ideas with counter-arguments, not with prior censorship.

By the way, I have no complaint about the actual oversight of our own very capable and efficient IRB, which approves about a dozen studies of my team each year. My point is rather an abstract, principled one about the right to ask questions and write whatever one concludes.

On the other hand, manipulating people without their consent is problematic, and that is happening constantly and pervasively in the age of Big Social Science, microtargeting, and “nudges.” When academics experiment on people, they are generally subject to prior review and tough rules. But most social experiments are not done by academics nowadays. If Hancock et al. had chosen to stay clear of the Facebook study, Facebook might well have gone ahead anyway—with no review or scrutiny whatsoever.

One might argue that professors should be regulated more than companies are, because the former receive federal support and may have tenure, which protects them even if they act badly. But I am more worried about companies than about professors, because: 1) companies also frequently receive government support; 2) they may conduct highly invasive experiments without even disclosing the results, whereas professors like to publish what they find; and 3) some companies have enormous power over customers. For example, quitting Facebook over an ethical issue would impose a steep cost in terms of missed opportunities to communicate. Networks have value proportional to the square of their users, which implies that you cannot just decline to use an incumbent network that has more than a billion users. Agreeing to its “terms and conditions” is not exactly voluntary.

Philosophically, I’d be in favor of removing IRB review of research unless the research involves tangible impact on subjects, while regulating corporate research that involves experimental manipulation so that disclosure and consent are always required. I am not sure if the latter could be done effectively, fairly, and efficiently–and I am not holding my breath for anyone even to try.

*Notes: 1) I am not arguing the IRB review is literally unconstitutional. The IRB’s legally legitimate authority flows from contracts between the university and the government and between the university and its employees. My point is that First Amendment values ought to be honored. 2) When academics pay research subjects, that creates a financial relationship that the university should probably oversee on ethical grounds. 3) I am not sure about minors. The First Amendment argument still applies when subjects are minors, yet there seems to be a case for the university’s protecting human subjects who are under 18.

The post what the Facebook mood experiment says about current research ethics appeared first on Peter Levine.

Check out the photos from NCDD 2014!

We posted some of our favorite photos from the 2014 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation on Facebook yesterday. About 415 amazing people came together in Reston, VA for networking, learning and field-building. So much fun! Thank you to John Daly of DalyPhotography for taking almost all of these gorgeous photos.

Communication and Understanding

Can one person ever truly understand another?

Certainly communication among people who speak the same language is generally good enough for every day purposes. And, even with language barriers, some non-verbal communication can transcend such trivialities.

But just because two people can communicate relatively effectively, doesn’t necessarily mean that they truly understand each other on a deeper level.

Someone told me recently that speech and writing are the most inefficient means of data transfer.

They’re not wrong – I can’t transfer an idea the way I might give you a physical object. I have to describe it, and you have to recreate it.

I describe it using my language, knowledge, and experience, drawing on my understanding of the world to express myself. Then you take those little pieces and try to use your own knowledge and experience to recreate what I have described.

If we come from similar backgrounds this might be relatively easy – we probably speak the same language, and might share similar knowledge and experience to draw from. If we come from very different background this will be more difficult.

Functional communication can be achieved under either scenario, but the possibilities for deeper communication are unclear. I like to think it is possible in the more difficult situation, but I wonder if it is truly possible even in the easier situation.