spring courses on civic engagement

Tufts University offers many courses relevant to civic engagement. The Tisch College of Civic Life makes some of these courses possible each semester, thus contributing to the available opportunities for Tufts students. Here is the list of our supported courses for spring 2018. The topics also indicate some of our research interests. More details are here.

Public Amnesias and Their Discontents
Instructor: Diane O’Donoghue, Tisch College Senior Fellow for the Humanities

Organizing for Social Change
Instructor: Danny LeBlanc, CEO, Somerville Community Corporation
Co-Instructor: Kenneth Galdston, Director, InterValley Project

Massachusetts State Government – Learning While Doing
Instructor: Ben Downing, Former Massachusetts State Senator

New Media, New Politics
Instructor: Robin Liss, Lecturer

The People, Revolution, and Popular Constitution-Making
Instructor: Joshua Braver, Postdoctoral Fellow

Creating Children’s Media
Instructor: Julie Dobrow, Tisch College Senior Fellow for Media and Civic Engagement

Children and Mass Media
Instructor: Julie Dobrow, Tisch College Senior Fellow for Media and Civic Engagement

Social Entrepreneurship, Policy, and Systems Change
Instructor: Scott Warren, CEO, Generation Citizen

Innovative Social Enterprises
Instructor: Julianne Zimmerman, Lecturer, Gordon Institute

Special Topics: Science & the Human Experience
Instructor: Jonathan Garlick, Tisch College Senior Fellow for Civic Science

Dialogue, Identity & Civic Action
Instructor: Jonathan Garlick, Tisch College Senior Fellow for Civic Science

Community Development, Planning, and Politics
Instructor: Lorlene Hoyt, Associate Research Professor, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning

Technology, Media, and the City
Instructor: Aditi Mehta, PhD Candidate, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Mass Incarceration & The Literature of Confinement
Instructor: Hilary Binda, Senior Lecturer in Visual and Critical Studies and Director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program (an Inside-Out™ class composed of Tufts students and incarcerated students in equal numbers)

Highlights from the Kettering Newsletter – November 2017

In case you missed it, NCDD organizational member the Kettering Foundation sent out their November news and we wanted to share with some of the exciting updates! There’s a lot going on over at Kettering and below are some of the highlights, like the 2017 Kettering Review think piece, how the Connections 2017 publication is almost ready to be released, the impact of the new book Deliberative Pedagogy has had in the higher ed community, and the recent Kettering Research Exchange. There’s more to the newsletter that we didn’t share so make sure you sign up for their monthly updates by clicking here to stay up-to-date on all that Kettering is working on.

Kettering Foundation News & Notes – November 2017

This month, we’re feeling particularly grateful for a productive year collaborating with all of you–the fruits of which you can read more about below! 

2017 Kettering Review: This Is Not Another “The Problem with Democracy Is Voters” Think Piece
By Nick Felts, Coeditor, Kettering Review

Thanks to public opinion polls, social media, and pundits, we hear quite a bit about what people think. We hear a lot about what people support, what they oppose, what makes them mad, and what makes them cheer. We hear significantly less about the hows and whys of public thinking. How do people arrive at the thoughts they hold and express? Why do they feel the way that they do? How do the places they live and the people they care about influence their thinking? Why is sound judgment so seemingly hard to reach nowadays? These are important questions to ask, especially in times like these, when the public’s capacity for sound decision making—so essential to democracy–is coming under question.

This year’s Kettering Review argues that understanding how and why citizens can and do think together offers hope for those who worry democracy is in peril.


Connections 2017

KF director of strategic initiatives Melinda Gilmore and KF program officer Randall Nielsen are the coeditors of Connections this year, which focuses on experiments in democratic citizenship. The final touches are being put on the issue now, so look for an announcement of the latest release of Kettering’s flagship publication in the coming weeks.

Deliberative Pedagogy Strikes a Chord with Higher Education as it Looks to Spark Agency, Civic Skills in Students

Deliberative Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning for Democratic Engagement (Michigan State University Press, 2017), which combines the theory and practice compiled and refined throughout a multiyear Kettering research exchange, has received a startling amount of interest from a wide variety of academic conferences. Contributors to the book have already presented at nearly a dozen sessions at conferences this fall, with more scheduled 2018. It’s a testament to the salience that the idea of a more democratic-minded approach to teaching and student learning has in the current landscape of higher education.

November Research Exchange Week

From November 6-10, the foundation welcomed more than 170 participants from around the country for a fruitful week of research exchanges. The 13 research exchanges brought together researchers and civic practitioners with foundation program staff and associates for face-to-face exploration and analysis of research questions at the heart of Kettering’s work: how do people become engaged as citizens and make sound decisions? How can citizens work together to solve problems and educate their children, beginning in their communities? How can a productive citizenry engage governmental and civic institutions as those institutions try to engage citizens?

As always, if you have news you would like to share, please get in touch. We’re especially interested in stories of how you apply ideas and insights shared with you at Kettering.

past scholarship on government shutdowns

The probability seems fairly high that the federal government will shut down in December or January when Congress fails to pass appropriations bills or a continuing resolution. Previous research suggests:

GDP growth might lose .1 percentage point per week, up to about .6 points in a quarter. Of course, that prediction is very uncertain and leaves aside the possibility of shocks. (Labonte, Marc. “The FY2014 Government Shutdown: Economic Effects.” Library of Congress, CRS, 2013)

Certain communities that are dependent on relevant discretionary behavior (e.g., tourism in national parks) may see substantial economic losses. Gabe, Todd. “Effects of the October 2013 US Federal government shutdown on National Park gateway communities: the case of Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine.” Applied Economics Letters 23.5 (2016): 313-317.

In most state and federal shutdown examples, both parties lose popularity. However, popularity is usually more valuable to the incumbent party than to the minority party, and that gives the minority an incentive to force the shutdown. Also, in the 2013 shutdown, Republicans lost much more popularity than President Obama did, although he did see some decline. Gamage, David, and David Scott Louk. “Preventing Government Shutdowns: Designing Default Rules for Budgets.” 86 Colorado Law Review 181 (2015) (2015).

In general, a budget impasse is best modeled as a Chicken game (Gamage & Louk). In “Chicken,” the best strategy is to pre-commit: to take a position that you can’t back off of. The Democratic leaders may have been signalling a pre-commitment when they canceled yesterday’s meeting with Donald Trump. From a PR perspective, I’m skeptical that canceling was a smart statement, but as a move in a Chicken game, it may have been very smart.

During the 1996 shutdown, reporters chose among the following “frames” for describing the unfolding events: “talk,” “fight,” “impasse” and “crisis.” They also increased the amount of attention that they devoted to the budget negotiations. The amount of coverage plus the predominant frame affected public opinion. Jasperson, A. E., Shah, D. V., Watts, M., Faber, R. J., & Fan, D. P. (1998). Framing and the public agenda: Media effects on the importance of the federal budget deficit. Political Communication, 15(2), 205-224.

State budget shutdowns were traditionally rare but have become quite frequent. Rubin, Irene S. The politics of public budgeting: Getting and spending, borrowing and balancing. CQ Press, 2016. I suppose this context may affect the public’s response to a federal shutdown.

Observers tend to interpret a government shutdown in identity terms: as our side versus their side. Observers’ tolerance for compromise depends on whether they perceive the other side as respecting their identity. Thus allowing the other side to “save face” can promote compromise. Bendersky, Corinne. “Resolving ideological conflicts by affirming opponents’ status: The Tea Party, Obamacare and the 2013 government shutdown.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 53 (2014): 163-168. Implication: the Democrats should hold fast to important policy goals but look to give symbolic victories to GOP base voters if they want to win on the policy. On the other hand, if their goal is for Republicans to lose face, they may need to sacrifice on policy to extract more symbolic concessions. This is not as simple a choice as it may seem, because costing Trump a lot of face could help the Democrats win the Congress in 2018, giving them more policy leverage.

NCDD Confab on Community-Police Relations 12/19

NCDD is excited to announce our next Confab Call will take place December 19, 2017 1:00-2:30pm Eastern/10:00-11:30am Pacific. Register today to join us for this exciting call with the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, an NCDD Organizational Member who will share with us their experience with community-police relations work in San Mateo County, California.

We will be joined by PCRC Executive Director Michelle Vilchez and Engaging Communities Initiative Director Malissa Netane on the call, who will share the story of their work, and the lessons they have learned. Be sure to register for this call to learn more!

From PCRC:

Silicon Valley is one of the most unique, diverse, exciting, and enlivening regions on earth, with seemingly abundant opportunities for achieving a high quality of life. Despite these unique characteristics, there are stark social and economic divides among us that sometimes lead to interpersonal misunderstandings and feelings of disconnectedness and disenfranchisement.

Many recent events across our nation involving racial tensions between communities of color and law enforcement (Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, and others) and the associated uncivil manner of discourse appear to be amplifying ideological and political differences, making this an uneasy time in our community and nation. In this region, we are extremely fortunate that we have not experienced such extreme incidents, yet we should never consider ourselves immune. Such tragedies, no matter how geographically distant, affect us all at some level, and our thoughts, reactions and emotions come with us when we go to school, or work, or out in the community.

For the past 20 plus years, PCRC has drawn from their foundation of mediation, training, facilitation and conflict coaching to bridge the divides between many different communities and law enforcement agencies. The success of this work depends on building and sustaining respectful and mutually beneficial working relationships among all of the participating partners, which is PCRC’s area of expertise. The vision of PCRC is a future where all members of society engage and collaborate to create a strong, vibrant community. Our mission is to partner with individuals, groups and institutions to empower people, build relationships, and reduce violence through collaborative and innovative processes.

PCRC has over 30 years of providing conflict resolution, mediation, violence prevention and community building services. By engaging in authentic dialogue, building capacity through leadership development, and focusing on action that lends itself to personal and collective transformation, the targeted five communities will have stronger relations inside the community and with other groups and institutions.

Don’t miss out – register today to learn more about this important work!

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

Confab bubble imageNCDD’s Confab Calls are opportunities for members (and potential members) of NCDD to talk with and hear from innovators in our field about the work they’re doing and to connect with fellow members around shared interests. Membership in NCDD is encouraged but not required for participation. Confabs are free and open to all. Register today if you’d like to join us!

Consider Supporting the Civics Work of the Lou Frey Institute on #GivingTuesday!

Thanks for clicking! Well, if you are reading this post, you are interested in the work of the Lou Frey Institute and wondering how you might be able to help. On this #GivingTuesday, please consider donating to the Lou Frey Institute so that we can continue our work in civic education. So who are we, and why should you consider donating to our efforts?

LFI Graphic1

The Lou Frey Institute is housed at the University of Central Florida. As you can probably surmise from the infographic above, the Institute serves as the umbrella organization for a number of civics-oriented projects with both state and national reach.

Florida Joint Center for Citizenship

The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship (FJCC) is a partnership between the Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government at the University of Central Florida and the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. The FJCC provides FREE online resources for students and teachers in the following areas:

Professional Development: focus on classroom teachers at all experience levels covering virtually any content area or pedagogy relevant to K-12 civics.

Elementary School: 15-20 Minute Lesson plans for all K-5 NGSSS civics benchmarks, aligned with relevant ELA Florida Standards

Middle School: 7th Grade Civics instructional support materials focused on Florida Standards and Florida EoC preparation including online assessment practice

High School: Video lessons that engages former members of Congress to help high school students understand Congress

To access FJCC materials please visit http://floridacitizen.org/.

Civics 360

Civics360 is an interactive civics review tool to help Florida students improve their understanding of civics. This resource was create in partnership with Escambia County School District, and targets the civic knowledge and skills necessary to succeed not only on Florida’s Civics End of Course Assessment, but as knowledgeable and engaged citizens.

Resources available on Civics360 include student friendly animated videos around specific content areas, related readings (in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole) written at a 7th grade level, assessment practice, and vocabulary tools, among others.

To access Civics360 materials please visit http://civics360.org/.

The Partnership for Civic Learning

The Partnership is composed of school district curriculum specialists selected by the Florida Association of Social Studies Supervisors, assessment and curriculum specialists from the Florida Department of Education, and educational research faculty from the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida and Tufts University. The Partnership is open to others in interest and expertise in civic education.

The Partnership’s mission is to conduct research, development and program evaluations to support data-driven continuous improvement process in civic education.

The PCL’s research and development priorities are developed and approved on an annual basis by the membership. The scope of the Partnership’s work may include, but is not limited to, monitoring and studying outcomes of statewide civics testing, the development and testing the effectiveness of K-12 civics curricular materials, testing instructional pedagogies and understanding the effectiveness of professional development. The PCL provides a continuing assessment of factors affecting the implementation of Florida’s Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Education Act and may provide technical assistance to districts upon request to support successful implementation of the Act.

You can learn more about the partnership by visiting http://loufreyinstitute.org/pages/partnership-for-civic-learning.

Florida’s Civic Health Index

Participation in civic life is at the heart of democratic governance and vibrant, healthy communities. This site is your tool to monitor civic participation in not just Florida and its communities, but other states as well. To help you better understand civic health, the site allows you to compare across states and cities across the nation. Our goal is to support your efforts to improve both Florida’s civic health and that of the nation.

Data provided on this site are from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of about 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The CPS annually administers three supplement surveys related to civic engagement and civic health; the Voting Supplement, Volunteering Supplement, and Civic Engagement Supplement. The supplements gather data on the civic activities of individuals age 18 and over and on the volunteering activities of individuals age 16 and older.

Civic activities reported here include membership in civic organizations, donating to charitable organizations, boycotting or buying a product for social/political reasons, attending public meetings, contacting public officials, working with neighbors to fix a community problem and volunteering. Data from the Voting Supplement shows the percentage of individuals who voted in the last election and the percentage of individuals who did not vote, but were registered to vote.

To take a look at the civic health of your state and community, visit the site at http://floridacivichealth.org/.

So that is just a taste of what we do. We hope to be able to continue our work both in Florida and nationally, and your tax-deductible donation can help us in our efforts. Thank you for considering us as a possibility on this #GivingTuesday, and for being an engaged and active citizen!


Great Lakes Commons Issues “Currency of Care”

The Great Lakes Commons project has embarked upon an ingenious campaign to reimagine money, value and water protection by issuing its own time-limited “Currency of Care.” The bills are not likely to be used for commercial transactions.  In a way, that is the point – to spark a new conversation about money, value, community and the Great Lakes. 

The Great Lakes Commons is inviting people to give a Currency of Care note as a thank-you to people who have done something to protect the Great Lakes in big or small ways.  Or you can give notes to people as a request that they do something to protect the lakes in the future.  Paul Baines, an organizer of the project, notes:

“Each note represents the act of giving gratitude or requesting action. Each note carries the most precious value: acts of thanks and care for the Great Lakes. Rather than based on dollars, the value of these notes is our collective agreement and intention to reward people for their water protection through past actions (saying ‘thanks’) or future actions (saying ‘please’).  Because our current money systems only acknowledge economic utility and gain, our Great Lakes Commons currency needs a wildly different theory of value -- such as past/future actions for water care.”

More than 5,000 individually numbered bills have been distributed, all of them due to expire at end of year.  Why the expiration date?  Because “this currency is for sharing not saving,” the currency webpage explains.  “The value of this currency comes through its use -- its current.  The rules of today’s dollar system rationalize hoarding and controlling money to make more money.  The needs of healthy people and living water are denied not because there isn’t enough money in the world, but because it makes ‘sense’ to accumulate/hoard more and to spend it otherwise.”

The issuers of the Currency of Care make the point that “money is not just a medium of exchange, but a disciplinary force on what we value, the story of a meaningful life, and our position within this story.”  The point of the currency project is to promote a new vision of money and value:

“We need a new story for money and a new currency can help us tell it.  Right now our money commodifies time, ideas, muscle, relationships, and all of creation in order to create more money.  But what if the value of money was based on caring for water?....

“There is no money to be made protecting water as the source of life.  Financing Great Lakes care today comes through either altruistic charity or legislated compensation.  Water restoration costs are a fractional expense for a pollution-based economic system.  Advocating for a friendlier version of the current system denies its core impulses and interests.  Let’s be honest -- degrading the living earth makes obscene amounts of money and defines our current story about ‘progress.’”

Inaugurating an actual, tradeable currency that asserts its own type of value and creates new circuits of value is, of course, a very complicated enterprise.  Just ask the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, which has successfully developed the BerkShares currency in western Massachusetts.

The Currency of Care should not be mistaken for such a project.  It is more of a performance art project and public-education campaign that asks us to think about reconnecting money’s value with our values.  It asks us base the value of currency on things that really matter, such as the integrity of the Great Lakes as an ecosystem. 

To promote new stories of value, the project invites people who receive or give the notes to share their stories on the Great Lakes Commons online map. People are asked to share:  “What was it like getting and sharing the notes? What kinds of conversations did it spark?  What types of past/future actions did people reward?  Where did their note go or where did it come from?”

One supporter of the Great Lakes Charter Declaration, Steve Edgier, gave his notes to activists who are protecting the Great Lakes from stormwater runoff and monitoring for sewage discharges.  Another person gave a Currency of Care to the Marquette Poets Circle for their work in “tending poetry and community along the wild shore of Lake Superior.” 

Since its inception several years ago, Great Lakes Commons has done great work in helping people to express and imagine relationships of care to those much-abused bodies of water. Here's hoping that the Currency of Care widens the circle of engagement.


NCDD Launches an End-of-Year Fund Drive!

Since 2002, the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation has served as a hub, a resource clearinghouse, and a facilitative leader for the dialogue and deliberation community.  Together, we have achieved extraordinary connection and progress across our field, in particularly polarizing times in our world. We are turning to our community to help ensure that NCDD remains strong to continue to serve in these valuable roles and to help keep this network connected.

We are asking you to contribute to the organization’s end of year fund drive. It begins today and will run through the end of the year.  Our goal is $15,000 and will greatly help NCDD start 2018 off on the right foot.

We hope you’ll consider NCDD’s accomplishments and potential and then follow this link, www.ncdd.org/2017-funddrive, to support the work we’re all committed to…

  • NCDD supports and connects the growing dialogue and deliberation community — our conferences, listservs, blogs, forums and resources offer a unique and valuable way to expand and enhance the work of practitioners as they engage and mobilize people across partisan, ethnic, and other divides. 2018 is a conference year! Stay tuned for more information soon. 
  • Our Blog, where we keep you updated on some of the most important happenings and opportunities in our field, and our Resource Center, which boasts over 3,100 discussion guides, videos, evaluation tools, reports, books, and other tools.
  • The site also provides access to the wider public through our Beginner’s Guide, our Engagement Streams Framework, the 2010 Resource Guide on Public Engagement, and other essential resources.
  • Our launching of the Emerging Leaders Initiative, to help cultivate the next generation of leaders in dialogue & deliberation.
  • Our recent partnership with the American Library Association to bring trainings to librarians and connect them to dialogue & deliberation models and practitioners.
  • And more!

If you believe in NCDD’s mission and find value in the resources, connections and opportunities we provide, we urge you to show your support by making a donation during our fund drive. All contributions are welcome, whether they are $15 or $1,000. And your contributions are tax deductible!

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday!

Giving Tuesday is a day created to celebrate and support giving and philanthropy. Please consider making your donation to NCDD on Giving Tuesday! Please check out the NCDD Facebook Page tomorrow and click our fundraiser link to donate!

If you are not a Facebook user, you can use our Donation Page to make your Giving Tuesday contribution!

Outside of tomorrow’s opportunity on Facebook, please visit www.ncdd.org/2017-funddrive to make your donation!  Help us reach our $15,000 goal, and thank you so much, in advance, for supporting NCDD.

effects of school climate on civic engagement

Sarah K. Bruch (Iowa) and Joe Soss (Minnesota) are conducting important research on the relationships between school climate and young people’s civic engagement. They have more research in the pipeline, but their working paper entitled “Learning where we stand: How school experiences matter for civic marginalization and political inequality” is already available.

Bruch and Soss challenge the idea that schools prepare students for democracy by transmitting a set of skills and knowledge that make people better citizens. If that were the whole picture, then more–and more equal–civic education would yield a better and more equal democracy. But Bruch and Soss note that schools are also institutions and communities that can encourage–or discourage–participation by demonstrating how the larger society works. Bruch and Soss did not invent this framework–it has a scholarly heritage, which they summarize, and it is being forcefully advocated by young people today–but they contribute important empirical findings.

Bruch and Soss use nationally representative surveys of students and administrators to measure the strictness of the school’s disciplinary policies, the perceived negativity of the school’s culture, individual students’ reported personal experiences with punishments, perceptions of unfair treatment by the school, rates of membership in school groups, and reports of feeling included or marginal in the school community. Some of these factors are about perceptions of the whole school, and others about perceived personal experiences. Some are about treatment by adults, while others involve treatment by fellow students. Some come from student data; others, from administrators.

To a large extent, these factors are related to race, class, and gender. To illustrate with a strong example, African American boys whose parents have little education are more than ten times more likely to be punished by a school than White girls with well-educated parents.

In a multivariate model that includes many other factors, most of these school climate variables are related to civic engagement, with harsher and less inclusive climates depressing graduates’ community engagement, voter turnout, and trust in government. But there are important differences among these relationships.

Perceptions of unfair treatment are related directly to lower civic and political engagement and trust in government. Not being involved in school activities is a strong predictor of being disengaged from community after graduation, but half of that relationship is indirect: students who miss out on school activities go on to have adult experiences with criminal justice, welfare, etc., that are related to disengagement from civic life.

Authoritative disciplinary climates are related directly to more civic engagement, more voting, and higher trust in government, but such climates also predict adult roles that tend to depress these outcomes. The net impact is insignificant for voting and civic engagement and comes out as positive for trust in government. This finding begins to suggest that the problem is not school discipline per se: in fact, a well-ordered school may be a good place to learn to be a citizen. The main problem is unfairness. In political philosophers’ terms, a school can restrict freedom (defined as individual choice) by establishing and enforcing rules, but it should avoid “domination” in the sense of arbitrary power.

See also: school discipline in a democracyavoiding arbitrary command.

Energy Transition North Rhine-Westphalia (2015-2017)

The project "Energy Transition North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) - Citizens shape the conversion of the energy system” belongs to the research cluster “Governance & Participation” and is part of the Virtual Institute (VI) “Transformation – Energy Transition NRW”. The project idea is based on a participation-oriented implementation of the energy transition...

Helpful Tips to Navigating the Holiday Conversations

As we face the holiday season, we wanted to share this article written by NCDD member Parisa Parsa, Executive Director of Essential Partners, with some tips on dealing with those tricky conversations that may come up. The holidays can be an exciting and also stressful time, uniting people who you may not see eye-to-eye with. While many of these conversations can be challenging, these helpful guidelines may hold the opportunity to connect deeper with those around you on important issues this holiday season. We encourage you to read the article below or find the original on Essential Partner’s blog here.

Facing the Holidays – And Each Other

My kids and I just flew across the country, making that annual sojourn home for the holidays. The airports were packed, and nerves were frayed. Between flights we sat down to a quick meal of expensive and unsatisfying food. Wedged in the only empty seats in the dining area, it was impossible not to overhear the intent discussion of the family next to us.

“Do not engage Uncle Matt in any topic related to the election,” the father told his college-aged son. “I know you have strong feelings. I am just telling you that if you bring it up, the whole house is in for a two hour tirade. Please don’t do that to us.”

“If I can’t talk about what I believe in, especially now, what’s the point of even being in the same room with Uncle Matt? If he won’t change his mind, he at least needs to know how wrong he is,” replied son. My own teen son raised his eyebrows and his younger brother looked alarmed. A little later, he snuggled up to me on the plane and asked if there would be fights at our Thanksgiving.

That family is in good company. As many of us leave our comfortable bubbles of politically like-minded friends and neighbors and venture into the mixing and mingling that the holidays bring, we’re faced with similar choices. We can make nice, talk about the weather, the kids and their activities, or the glories of Aunt Dot’s pumpkin pie. If the other option is civil war, making nice is indeed the route of mercy. Especially this year, I can’t help but imagine that everyone is so desperate to just get through it, to just get along.

The dread is real. So, too, are the opportunities. During the holidays, we spend hours with people we don’t see very often either by choice or physical distance, and situate ourselves in a different story than the one we craft in our daily lives. We encounter more parts of ourselves, welcome and unwelcome, as we are reunited with the folks who made us who we are (or who made our spouses who they are). In a time when the nation appears torn asunder, holiday sojourns give us a critical moment to see if we can stitch together a better understanding of just what in the world is going on. A chance to risk seeing and understanding our kin in greater dimensions, and sharing more of ourselves than we normally would.

If you are game to try this exploration, to lean in with the courage it takes to craft deeper connection, there are three things I would have you consider:

  • Is this a relationship where it is important for me to be known in this way? We don’t need to have these conversations with everyone in our lives. If political beliefs are not a strong and important part of your connections, bringing the election to the forefront may not be necessary. With some family members, though, we feel the need to be understood and to try to understand where they come from. If these are folks in the second category, proceed to:
  • What do I hope for? If your desire is to change their mind, your conversation is likely to be unsatisfying. If your desire is to have deeper understanding and to be more deeply understood, what are you going to communicate about your own values? Share your experiences, not the bullet points of your favorite pundit, and encourage your family members to do the same. Then you might proceed to:
  • Can we work together to understand each other? It is not enough for one person to have made the commitment and reflected on their wishes: it takes willing participants to be successful. If you are willing, then take turns, ask real questions, and listen to understand.

If you want more guidance – we have a handy guide and a list of potential questions for conversation. However you choose to engage this Thanksgiving, may you find some space to digest not just a great meal but also the many possibilities for action, for connection and for a future worthy of the generations to come. We owe it to each other and to the future to set aside momentary discomfort for the future of our planet. Let’s give thanks for each and every moment we have, to be alive, to learn, to connect.

You can find the original version of this on  Essential Partner’s blog at www.whatisessential.org/blog/facing-holidays-and-each-other.