NOSSAS as the New Civil Society: Online, Offline, and as a Platform


The other day, a friend of mine who was going to speak at a conference asked me for good cases of civic tech “that works”. I didn’t hesitate, and advised him to get in touch with the people at NOSSAS, a Brazilian organization that combines online and offline collective action to promote social change (full disclosure, I am a member of their board). Until now, however, it has been a challenge to convey to unfamiliar audiences what the organization does, and how. This is why I am particularly glad to see that they have produced a short documentary (16 mins) “NOSSAS: a Laboratory of Other Futures”, which provides a glimpse into the organisation’s thinking and work. So, adding to the video, here are some of the reasons why I think this is a great example of a civic tech organization:

  • Blending online and offline: “oneline” activism


To my knowledge, no other organization combines online and offline action better than NOSSAS, with online mobilization often used as a gateway to more intensive (and offline) types of participation.


NOSSAS’ successful campaign in the State of Sao Paulo for the creation of the first Police Station dedicated to combating violence against women.

Along with their digital campaigns, they will often mobilize citizens to take offline action. This includes, for instance, attending legislative votes and exerting pressure on elected officials, or taking part in more performative interventions that draw attention from the mainstream media and the population as a whole.

  • Beyond the obvious target

Understanding that policy change often requires more than a simple stroke of a pen, NOSSAS’ engagement with public officials goes beyond the decision-makers who are formally entitled to make the policy change (e.g. mayor, governor). Their initiatives consistently target the ensemble of actors (e.g. legislators, public prosecutors) who may have an influence over a policy decision or implementation (either directly or indirectly).

NOSSAS’ rich combination of online and offline tactics of popular mobilization, together with this well-calculated engagement of state actors, creates multiple pressure points for governments to respond.

  • Civil Society as a Platform

A common denominator among the majority of traditional civil society organizations (CSOs) is the self-appointed representation of a specific constituency. In other words, these CSOs will often represent a fixed set of interests of a given constituency by which the CSOs have neither been elected nor authorized. However, one could argue that – for better or for worse – in a period in which citizens increasingly engage directly in political action through a variety of means, the importance of these traditional CSOs may be reduced at worse, and redefined at best.

In this respect, NOSSAS is a great example of emerging CSOs that are more adapted to their time. As such, these new CSOs do not claim to represent the interests of a certain constituency. Instead, they play the role of a platform that amplifies the voices of individuals, facilitating their engagement in collective (connective?) action on a multiplicity of issues they care about.

  • Structured knowledge

NOSSAS does have great knowledge of two key ingredients for civic tech: 1) how to mobilize citizens, and 2) how to get governments to respond. But what I find particularly interesting is that they translated this knowledge into a structured methodology to provide online and offline support to users of NOSSAS’ platforms to further their causes.

Does it work? Some evidence suggests that it does. For instance, Pressure Pan is a platform that allows any citizen to initiate collective action to exert pressure on the government regarding a particular agenda (e.g. public safety, mobility rights). And as we documented in Civic Tech in the Global South, while not all of the hundreds of campaigns on Pressure Pan can benefit from specific support from NOSSAS, when they do they are three times more likely to succeed.

  • A/B testing

A/B testing is similar to an online version of a randomized controlled trial. One of the main differences however is that A/B testing is low-cost, easily deployed (when you have the expertise), and real-time. Yet very few civic tech organizations take advantage of that opportunity. This not the case for NOSSAS: at any given point they are running a number of A/B tests, which help them to refine their mobilization tactics on an ongoing basis. If this sounds like a simple detail, it is not. Beyond generating precious knowledge for the organization’s core functions, the capacity to run A/B tests is often a good litmus test for whether organizations know how to leverage technology beyond the most obvious uses.

  • Results

And finally, unlike many civic tech initiatives, NOSSAS does have a solid track record of results, a few of which are featured in the video, which you can watch below:


Before joining the board of Nossas, I was already a fan of the work they do: online, offline, and as a platform. I look forward to their work in 2018.


For more about Nossas, also read this excellent post by Felipe Estefan from the Omidyar Network.

Last Chance to Have Your Contributions to NCDD Matched!

Dear NCDD Supporters, 

We are just four days away from the end of 2017, and that means there are just a few days remaining for your to make a tax-deductible contribution to NCDD.

NCDD is a small organization with a huge reach. Our staff of four work hard to keep our members and contacts (all 30,000 of you!) up to speed on the latest news and information in the field of dialogue & deliberation. And we look forward to continuing to connect you and provide opportunities for you all to learn and collaborate together in 2018 – especially with our next national conference! Take a look at this letter from our Board of Directors for more information on our aims for 2018 and beyond.

Your support, whether membership dues or donation, goes directly to helping our staff make it all happen. We run on a small budget, so every little bit counts! Plus, right now your contributions will continue to be matched, up to $1,500! There is no time like the present to make a contribution, whether $5 or $50. 

So as you reflect on 2017, and celebrate the coming of the new year, consider NCDD in your giving. We appreciate all the support we receive from this wonderful community, and we look forward to continuing this important work together in 2018. 

Thank you,

Courtney, Sandy, Joy & Keiva

Register for 2018 IAF N. America & Caribbean Conference

The International Association for Facilitators announced their upcoming 2018 North America & Caribbean Conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada this Spring. The conference will take place Friday, May 4 & Saturday, May 5th; with a pre-conference Executive program on Wednesday, May 2nd & Thursday, May 3rd. This is a great opportunity to network with folks in the field and build your facilitation capacity. The super early bird non-member rates are available until December 31st, so make sure you register this week to secure this great deal! You can read more in the announcement below or find the original on IAF’s site here.

IAF North America & Caribbean Conference 2018: Expanding our Facilitation Horizons

We’re very excited to announce the IAFNAC Conference 2018 will be hosted in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario! This conference is uniquely crafted by facilitators for facilitators to increase our personal and professional understanding of facilitation. Our delegates will connect, learn, share and apply new ideas in the realm of facilitation. We will use facilitative practice and events throughout the program. Our conference promises to be an invigorating and exciting delegate experience.

Conference Dates:
Pre-Conference Executive Program, Wednesday, May 2nd & Thursday, May 3rd
Conference, Friday, May 4th & Saturday, May 5th

Conference Location: Ottawa Marriott Hotel, 100 Kent Street Ottawa

What will you learn, share, and take a deep dive into at IAFNAC 2018?

  • The Philosophy of Facilitation | What are the philosophical roots of facilitation, and how do they influence our work? The past influences our work in the present and future! When we take time to look at the philosophies that are the foundation of facilitation, and ask why we do what we do, we can renew our purpose and bring clarity and focus to our practice. We want to provide opportunities to reflect on the philosophies that influence our work in the present.
  • Facilitation for the World | How can facilitators positively contribute to organizations, communities, and the world in transition? The world is in transition from what was, to what is, to what will be. The roles that people play and the rules that govern groups, organizations, and communities are changing. Currently, our world appears to face many polarized and divisive views. We want to provide opportunities to explore how facilitation can positively impact global needs, can foster dialogue and thinking together, and can help people live successfully and harmoniously within the contemporary transitional world.
  • Facilitation in the Digital Era | How can we enrich our facilitation horizons in the digital era? Shifts in digital communication, and how we interact with and disseminate information, mean that groups of people can come together without being physically present in the same location. We want to provide opportunities to discuss the impacts of changes in digital communication on theunderstanding and practice of facilitation.
  • Facilitation with and for other professions | How does facilitation aid and support other professions, and how are other professions influencing the practice of facilitation? Shifts in digital communication, and how we interact with and disseminate information, mean that groups of people can come together without being physically present in the same location. We want to provide opportunities to discuss the impacts of changes in digital communication on the understanding and practice of facilitation.

For more information on the IAFNAC 2018 conference, visit

Highlights from the December 2017 Kettering Newsletter

The holidays are in full swing and we wanted to boost the newsletter updates released this week from NCDD org member, the Kettering Foundation. They recently published two of their annual periodicals – Connections 2017 and Higher Education Exchange 2017, which we encourage you to check out. Over the last two years, Kettering has been working together with libraries, museums, and historical associations, on how these bodies can enrich their work by deeper engagement with their communities. Finally, we’d like to congratulate Sherry Magill on becoming Kettering’s newest addition to their board. 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 – December 2017

We mark the end of 2017 with the publication of two of our annual periodicals–take a look and learn more about ongoing research. We wish everyone warm holidays, a rejuvenating break, and a happy and productive New Year.

Connections 2017: Letter from the Editors

The 2017 issue of Connections, edited by KF director of strategic initiatives Melinda Gilmore and KF program officer Randall Nielsen, focuses on key opportunities in democratic citizenship today. There are signs of renewed civic vitality in our communities, and this year’s issue of Connections highlights such stories. A note on Connections 2017 is now available on the Kettering blog. Read it here.

Exchanging Research with Libraries and Museums

Libraries and museums are, unsurprisingly, some of Kettering’s best partners in learning. Over the past two years, program officer Joni Doherty has led a number of related research exchanges bringing together museums, historical associations, and libraries to explore how they can enrich their work by building in fuller, more sophisticated ideas about citizenship and democratic practice. In 2017, several experiments within these exchanges culminated in exciting new initiatives.

Higher Education Exchange 2017

This year’s Higher Education Exchange takes on the divisive political moment we find ourselves in and argues that civic work that tries to be apolitical, or that stays within the comfort zone of higher education, will not help us bridge the divides that threaten our democracy. This year’s volume includes contributions from Jane Mansbridge, Ronald Beiner, Dan Yankelovich, Noëlle McAfee, David McIvor, Lori Britt, Maura Casey, Harry Boyte, and, of course, both Kettering president David Mathews and HEX editor and program officer Derek Barker. Download a copy.

Sherry Magill Elected to Kettering Board

Sherry Magill, a national leader in philanthropy and higher education, has been elected a member of the board of directors of the Kettering Foundation. Magill serves as president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, a private grantmaking foundation located in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Sherry Magill’s distinguished career in philanthropy and higher education connects with the foundation’s research into the link between the work of citizens and these important institutions,” said Kettering president David Mathews. “Her experience, expertise, and deep understanding of the role of higher education and philanthropy will be an invaluable resource that will inform many areas of the foundation’s work.”

Prior to joining the fund’s staff in 1991 as a program officer for education, Magill served as vice president and deputy to the president of Washington College, where she taught courses in American studies and on the American South.

She holds a BA and an MA from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in American studies from Syracuse University. She has served as a senior moderator for the Aspen Institute and is the founding executive director of the Wye Faculty Seminar, a nationally recognized enrichment program for professors teaching in the nation’s small colleges.

Magill has served as chair of the Council on Foundations board, State of Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, and the P.A.C.E. Center for Women board and is past president of the Jacksonville Women’s Network board. She is a founding member and past chair of the Florida Philanthropic Network and is a member of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation-Jacksonville (LISC) advisory committee.

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.

Connecting Outside of our Filter Bubbles

Have you seen the recent Ted talk featuring two prominent folks from the NCDD network? NCDD member Joan Blades of Living Room Conversations and John Gable of AllSides, recently did the Ted talk at the TEDWomen 2017 conference in November. The two talk about the power of breaking outside of your filter bubbles by holding authentic conversations with people that are different than yourself and that by building relationships with people we tend to “listen differently to people we care about”. They share how their friendship has formed despite coming from very different ideological backgrounds and experiences, and how that has transformed the work they do. You can listen to their Ted talk below or find the original here.

Free Yourself from your Filter Bubbles

Joan Blades and John Gable want you to make friends with people who vote differently than you do. A pair of political opposites, the two longtime pals know the value of engaging in honest conversations with people you don’t immediately agree with. Join them as they explain how to bridge the gaps in understanding between people on opposite sides of the political spectrum — and create opportunities for mutual listening and consideration (and, maybe, lasting friendships).

You can find this Ted talk at

The Democracy Project: Youth Participation and Democratic Education (Burnaby, British Columbia)

The Democracy Project, a youth-led program at Byrne Creek High School in Burnaby, Canada, used participatory education to empower students to make student representation more inclusive through district-wide policy change.