NCDD Members to Lead Deliberative Democracy Consortium

We are so pleased to share that three of our great NCDD members – Wendy Willis (who is also an incoming NCDD Board member), Bruce Mallory, and Kyle Bozentko – have been named as the new leadership of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium starting in 2017. The DDC has been a key organization in the D&D field for years, and we are excited for these three heavyweights to revitalize it. You can read more about the change in DDC’s announcement below or on their Facebook page here (while their website revamp is in the works).

The Deliberative Democracy Consortium’s New Leadership

DDC logoDear Friends of the DDC:

We are pleased and proud to announce that DDC has new leadership! Starting January 1, Wendy Willis will become DDC’s Executive Director, while Bruce Mallory and Kyle Bozenkto will begin their terms as co-chairs of the Executive Committee.

Wendy succeeds long-time director Matt Leighninger, who will continue to serve on the Executive Committee and assist Wendy with the transition. Wendy will attend to immediate tasks such as restoring the DDC web presence, communicating with Committee members and institutional partners, and reaching out to potential sponsors interested in advancing our mission. Her appointment comes at a critical moment for deliberative, participatory democracy in the US and around the world. DDC is honored to have Wendy help us set our course in these rough seas.

Wendy Willis joins DDC from Kitchen Table Democracy, where she has served as Executive Director for the past five years. Wendy will also continue as Director of Oregon’s Kitchen Table in the National Policy Consensus Center at Portland State University. Prior to joining Kitchen Table Democracy and the National Policy Consensus Center, Wendy served as Executive Director of City Club of Portland, as a Federal Public Defender in the District of Oregon, and as a law clerk to Chief Justice Wallace P. Carson, Jr., of the Oregon Supreme Court. She is also a widely published poet and essayist. Her first book of poems, Blood Sisters of the Republic, was published in 2012, and she has had poems and essays published in Utne Reader, Poetry Northwest, New England Review, Oregon Humanities, ZYZZYVA, and numerous other places. Wendy holds a J.D. from Georgetown Law Center, an M.F.A. in poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University, and a B.A. from Willamette University.  Wendy is an incoming board member for the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation and is the incoming chair of the board for Tavern Books.

Bruce Mallory is a professor of education at the University of New Hampshire. He was appointed Provost and Executive Vice President at the University of New Hampshire in July 2003 and served until July 2009. Previously, he served on the faculty and as Dean of the Graduate School at UNH. From 2011 to 2014, he was director of the Carsey Institute. He teaches in the areas of higher education, education and poverty, and social change.  He is co-founder of New Hampshire Listens and The Democracy Imperative, and serves on the Paul J. Aicher Foundation (Everyday Democracy) Board of Directors. Dr. Mallory received the Ph.D. in Special Education and Community Psychology from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.

Kyle Bozentko is the Executive Director of the Jefferson Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work on citizen participation, democratic reform, and civic engagement has been published in GOVERNING Magazine, MinnPost, and InDaily (Adelaide, South Australia) and on the Independent Sector blog. He received his BA in Political Science and Religious Studies from Hamline University in Saint Paul and his Masters of Theological Studies from the Boston University School of Theology with an emphasis on sociology of religion and politics. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of International Association of Public Participation USA (IAP2 USA) and on the Advisory Board of Forum dos Cidadaos (Portugal).

Please join us in welcoming Wendy and Bruce and Kyle!

Leaders or Leaderfulness? Lessons from High-achieving Communities

The 21-page report, Leaders or Leaderfulness? Lessons from High-Achieving Communities (2016), was written by David Mathews and supported by the Cousins Research Group of the Kettering Foundation.

The report discusses how communities become stronger and more resilient through more “leaderfulness” of its community members, as opposed to having just a few of active leaders. What Mathews means by “leaderfulness”, is that people are engaged within a community and show leaderfulness by taking initiative to participate. Through years of research, Kettering has found that the serious problems that face a community require active participation from the people within it. There is a largely untapped civic energy in this country, this report shares information on how community members can be more leaderful and what that can look like.

Below is an excerpt of the report and it can be found in full at the bottom of this page or on Kettering Foundation’s site here.

From the guide…kf_leaders_cover

There is a widely held belief that change only occurs when a few courageous leaders step forward to take charge and overcome entrenched power. History is full of examples of great leaders who have been agents of change: Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, George Washington. You can complete the list. Could “just citizens” working with just citizens ever change anything?

Kettering began to think about this question as a result of a study of two communities that, although similar, were quite different in what they achieved.3 However, the more dysfunctional of the two actually had the best leaders, as leadership is traditionally understood. They were well educated, well connected, professionally successful, and civically responsible. Yet what stood out in the higher-achieving community was not so much the characteristics of the leaders as their number, their location and, most of all, the way they interacted with other citizens. The higher-achieving community had 10 times more people providing initiative than communities of comparable size. The community was “leaderful.” And its leaders functioned not as gatekeepers but as door openers, bent on widening participation.

Beginning Where We Live
Because we are facing an array of daunting domestic problems and a morass of international uncertainties, many Americans think we need to make basic changes in the way the country operates. We believe that the chances for change are best beginning at the local level, in communities where we can get our hands on problems. Change has to start there before it can take place nationwide. At the same time, we are deeply worried about what is happening to our sense of community, to our ability to live and work together. As Benjamin Barber put it, we worry that “beneath the corruptions associated with alcohol and drugs, complacency and indifference, discrimination and bigotry, and violence and fractiousness—is a sickness of community: its corruption, its rupturing, its fragmentation, its breakdown; finally, its vanishing and its absence.”

Calls for reform come from every quarter and touch every facet of American life—ranging from the way we organize our businesses to the way we raise our children. People say they want more than a few improvements; they want to change the “systems” that seem to control their lives—the criminal justice system, the welfare system, and, most of all, the political system. Some also want to change their community in fundamental ways—in the ways people work, or often don’t work, together.

When I say “community,” I don’t mean just a place or a collection of individuals; I mean a group of diverse people joined in a variety of ways to improve their common well being. And by change, I mean the process by which people redirect their talents and energies or reorder their relationships so as to realize their vision of the best community. So community change means a change in a community itself, and only a community can do that. For me to change myself—my weight or habits or ways of relating to others—I have to do something. The change has to come from within. So when a community wants to change itself—to be more of what it would like to be—the same principle holds. For there to be fundamental change, the citizens in a community have to act. Large groups of people can’t sit on the sidelines.

How Communities Can Become Leaderful
Leaderful communities are necessary because change is a journey of the many steps it takes to move a community from one place to another. Anyone who takes any one of those steps has provided leadership. This kind of leadership isn’t the prerogative of a few; it’s the responsibility of the many. When citizens talk about the quality of leadership in their community, they are talking about themselves! If we are talking about change by and not simply in a community, then leadership consists of all the activities needed to bring about change. And there are many of them. Think about all of the things that have to be done to change something relatively simple— like remodeling an old house. Someone has to file a building permit, someone has to design the remodeled structure, someone has to tear out the old walls, someone has to order new materials, someone has to do the carpentry, someone has to add electricity and water, someone has to repaint—and so on. The interaction of the workers is as crucial as what each one of them does individually. The walls have to be in place before the painters can do their job. Remodeling is a dynamic process of interaction. The same is true in communities. They aren’t static but rather dynamic, and their patterns of interaction are critical. For a community to change, even more people have to be involved in even more tasks than in remodeling a house.

What I have just described is a functional concept of leadership, which is quite different from the theory of leadership that is built around what one person—the leader—does. From the perspective I am talking about, leadership is provided by anyone who carries out any of the tasks in the work of change. This kind of leadership passes to different people at different times. There are many leaders.

This leaderfulness can develop around the ways a community goes about doing its routine business; that is, around the various tasks that make up the work of a community, these are the equivalents of the tasks for remodeling a house. Here are some of them…

This is an excerpt of the report, download the full guide at the bottom of this page to learn more.

About Kettering Foundation
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link:

Join Conversation Café Host Training Call, Jan. 3rd

Last week, NCDD hosted another one of our Confab Call events featuring the co-founders of Conversation Café (CC), Susan Partnow and Vicki Robin. The call featured a history of the CC process, reflections from the experiences of CC hosts, and a brief tour of the new CC website at

If you missed this engaging discussion, don’t worry. You can still listen in on what the Conf Call was like by finding the recording at this link.

There is also a great next step that came out of this call that we want to make sure our members hear about. We had so much interest from folks wanting to learn to use the CC process that co-founder Susan Partnow offered to host a free Conversation Café Host Training to start the new year!

So NCDD and Susan will be hosting 90-minute CC training webinar on Tuesday, January 3rd at 12pm Eastern/9am Pacific with much appreciation to Susan for making this training available before she takes her sabbatical. We encourage everyone who would like to host Conversation Cafés or just wants to learn more about the process to register today take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to host Conversation Cafés!


This upcoming training call will be the perfect opportunity to get personalized support in hosting Conversation Cafés. Whether you’re considering using the process for the first time or want to brush up on it before hosting a new conversation, we encourage all of our NCDD members with an interest in the CC process to register now to participate in this CC host training!

The CC process is an accessible tool for hosting needed conversations on difficult issues in our communities, and we are excited to see more people getting trained to use it. We look forward to having many of you join us on January 3rd for the event!

Reasons for the Season


It was basically an argument between two points of view that mixed abstractions and interests (as always), but (also as always) with variations and fluctuations, mind-changes and occasional betrayals. To simplify somewhat, one side, those who later (in Hasmonean times, see below) became known as Saducees, were religious conservatives but pro-Hellenist cultural liberals; the proto-Pharisees were religious innovators but anti-Hellenist cultural conservatives. Before the events that Hanukah is all about happened, the tendency that later became identified as Pharisaic held the High Priesthood and the upper hand in the debate; but a revolt displaced them before they regained control. Amid that revolt, and largely because of it, Hanukah happened.

Why Christmas Matters:

While Jesus is growing inside Mary, she becomes suddenly inspired and belts out a remarkable song — a radical declaration of protest against the wealthy. She sings, “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;” and “God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”

The Moral World of Dreidel:

You can, if you want, always push things to your advantage: Always contribute the smallest coins you can, always withdraw the biggest coins you can, insist on using what seems to be the “best” dreidel, always argue for rule-interpretations in your favor, eat your big coins and use that as a further excuse to only contribute little ones, etc. You could do all this without ever once breaking the rules, and you’d probably end up with the most chocolate as a result.

But here’s the brilliant part: The chocolate isn’t very good. […]

Dreidel is a practical lesson in discovering the value of fairness both to oneself and others, in a context where proper interpretation of the rules is unclear, and where there are norm violations that aren’t rule violations, and where both norms and rules are negotiable, varying from occasion to occasion — just like life itself, but with only mediocre chocolate at stake.

Fooey to the World: Festivus is Come:

Festivus, with classic rituals like familial gatherings, totemic-but-mysterious objects and respect for ancestors, slouched forth from this milieu. “In the background was Durkheim’s ‘Elementary Forms of Religious Life,’ ” Mr. O’Keefe recalled, “saying that religion is the unconscious projection of the group. And then the American philosopher Josiah Royce: religion is the worship of the beloved community.”

The hygge conspiracy:

To Danes, nothing could be less political than hygge – since talking about controversial subjects is by definition not hygge – and yet it is clear that the concept lends itself to political use. Davidsen-Nielsen and Jensen told me that the prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, was hyggelig – the kind of guy you could imagine having a beer with. “He’s folksy and informal. He’s one of the guys. And he gets away with murder – almost,” said Davidsen-Nielsen. “Hygge is a useful strategy for disguising power. Politically, you can cloak quite aggressive or radical acts with an impression of hygge. Hygge says, let’s forget about everything. Let’s block out the world and have some candy.”

Open Data Initiative (Alameda County, USA)

Problems and Purpose In recent years, governments have sought to harness the power of ‘big data’ to improve performance and increase transparency. This has frequently been accomplished through ‘open data’ projects in which leaders make available a range of data sets generated and used by public agencies. With the launch...


Case: E-Qual

Problems and Purpose The Arizona E-Qual system is an online platform that seeks to modernize Arizona’s election process by allowing citizens to sign nominating petitions for candidates seeking to appear on the ballot for a given office. Previously, candidates in Arizona had to receive a specified number of signatures on...

Open New York

A statewide collection of over 200 government agency data sets made available to the public, the Open New York platform is part of a larger movement towards open data among public agencies. Since its launch, in 2013, Open New York has been accessed by users in all 50 states and...

Help NCDD Rise to the D&D Challenges of 2017

As 2016 comes to a close, our NCDD team has been looking back proudly at what we’ve accomplished this year, but also reflecting soberly on the challenges that 2017 will bring for the nation and the dialogue & deliberation field. And as we reflect on our next year, we know one thing is for sure: we will need your help.

NCDD is here to support our members and the broader network of people and organizations working to help people come together across divides and make better decisions for our communities. All of the work we do is for the benefit of the field – connecting members to one another at our gatherings, introducing new technology and spotlighting key projects, engaging in conversations about the challenges we face and exploring new opportunities, collaborating with members on resources and research, sharing the latest news on our blog, and curating tools and resources in the Resource Center.

But many people aren’t aware that NCDD is an organization of just 5 core staff, and that though we work passionately to support the vital work of the D&D field, our financial situation dictates that all of us only work part time. Many people also don’t realize that a major source of NCDD’s funding comes in the form of the dues paid by our incredible members. We’ve been able to secure some grant money in the past, but part of next year’s challenge is that some of the grants we’ve relied on will run out. At the same time, the work of our field will be more important than ever in 2017.

That’s why we are inviting our network to renew your commitment to strengthening the field in the coming year by renewing or upgrading your membership, joining NCDD as a member, or making a donation today! NCDD is only as strong as our members’ and our community’s support, and in these lean times for small non-profits like us, your contributions are what will keep our critical work afloat. Member dues and donations go directly to supporting NCDD’s programming and staff, and we invite you to make us part of your end-of-the-year giving today!

But more than just keeping our work afloat, NCDD will be taking on several new initiatives in 2017 to further support the network and advance the field:

  • We will be continuing to steward the Conversation Café process and support its network of practitioners
  • We will be scaling up our Emerging Leaders Initiative to cultivate and grow the capacity of our field’s next generation of leadership
  • We will be partnering with libraries all over the country to strengthen their ability to be spaces for convening dialogue and deliberation that serves their communities
  • We will continue to lift up resources and initiatives that are helping the country in Bridging Our Divides and finding ways to move forward together

Adding these exciting initiatives to NCDD’s regular work in the new year will be a challenge for our team, but we are committed to rising to those challenges, and we know we can do it if our members are behind us. So as 2016 winds down, please commit to supporting us as we support you and the important work that our field is doing by becoming a member, renewing/upgrading your membership, or making a donation today!

staffWe know that 2017 will be a year where dialogue & deliberation are more essential than ever and that it can make a key difference in the direction of our communities and our country. We are so honored and grateful to serve such an amazing network, and NCDD is determined to expand the reach and impact of our individual and collective work in 2017. We ask that you support us in our continued efforts to do so.

Looking ahead with hope,

The NCDD Team

2016 Best List

Let those with enough time to consume all the media in a field decide on the objective bests-of-2016. What follows is a completely subjective list of bests, idiosyncratically limited by what I’ve actually had time to watch, read, or listen to:

Best New Book in Philosophy:

We don’t think hard enough about the metaphysics that underwrites the social sciences. Epstein is more reductionist than he lets on, but this was the book that had me thinking hardest this year.

Runner-up: Nussbaum’s Anger and ForgivenessIt’s pretty great, but I think it loses steam in the speculative last section.

Best New Book in Political Science:

What if democratic theory is a bit too idealistic? The next issue of The Good Society will have a review by Celia Paris.

Runner-up: Katherine Cramer’s The Politics of Resentment.

Best Article:

The Unnecessariat,” by anonymous blogger More Crows Than Eagles helped me formulate some things I’ve been trying to say about superfluousness for a while. I think it was the first time a lot of urban liberals in my circles sat down to think hard about non-college-educated whites.

Runners-up: “The Strange Case of Anna Stubblefield” and “My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard.”

Best Post (here at

“Arendt’s Metaphysical Deflation” hit the front page of the philosophy subreddit briefly, which was weird.

Ironically, large parts of that article are drawn from my dissertation, so I guess I do deserve this Ph.D.!

Runner-up: “Imperialism as a Response to Surpluses and Superfluousness,” where I start to work out the Arendtian critique of finance capitalism.

Best television series:

Fully-realized far-future worlds, with fascinating characters and an interesting set of mysteries.

Runners-up include The Good Place, Luke Cageand The Magicians.

Best Movie:

I didn’t watch many movies, and I certainly didn’t watch many good movies. But this was the best movie I saw.

No Award Given:

I didn’t read a single science fiction novel written in 2016, but I’m going to crack open this list ASAP. 2016 was the year we realized how bad it was going to be to have lost Annalee Newitz at io9. The best novel I read this year was Naomi Novik’s Uprooted.

So what did I miss?