Making Tech Accessible to Low-Literacy Communities

As our technology continues to flourish and many use it as a major tool for engaging communities, how do we make sure that engagement processes and practices are accessible to those who have limited literacy skills? NCDDer Bang the Table recently shared an article on best practices for engaging with communities online that have low-literacy that we encourage you to read. You can read the article below and find the original on Bang the Table’s site here.


4 key ways to engage with low-literacy communities online

Most online engagement involves text and interactive tools that require, or assume, an ability to write and express opinions. But where does that leave community members who have low levels of literacy?

People with limited literacy levels represent a significant percentage of the community. In Australia, while around 14 per cent of adults – just over 1 in 7 – have limited literacy skills, 1 in 5, or around44 percent of people, lack literary skills required for everyday life.  Alternately, 42 percent of Canadian adults have low literacy skills while, in the USA, some 36 million adults cannot read, write or perform basic maths, which has remained largely unchanged in over ten years. In the UK, 1 in 7 adults in England lack basic literacy skills, while nearly 30 per cent of the workforce in Ireland hold the equivalent of a junior certificate, with 10 per cent only primary level or no formal qualifications at all. Indeed, The Programme for International Assessment for Adult Compentencies (PIACC) Survey of Adult Skills reveals that a considerable number of adults in 40 OECD countries possess only limited literacy and numeracy skills.

Most adults with literacy difficulties can read something but find it hard to understand complex, detailed forms or deal with digital technology. As a result, some are hesitant, or less likely to use technology. For some, barriers may exist around using verbal and non-verbal communications. TheUK’s literacy trust write: “People with low literacy skills may not be able to read a book or newspaper, understand road signs or price labels, make sense of a bus or train timetable, fill out a form, read instructions on medicines or use the internet.”

Difficulties reading, writing, working with numbers and self-expression not only contributes to societal exclusion but is an all-pervasive issue when working in the space of community engagement. Core to the values of community engagement is the ability to ensure that everyone has a say on issues that impact their everyday lives. But, on the flipside, low literacy is often hidden or masked.

Low literacy levels are frequently well camouflaged, making it not only hard to identify, but also hard to reach. This can include: linguistically diverse groups (migrant communities, for instance, have complex literacy profiles); people not wanting to identify as “disabled”; and people with psychological and cognitive disabilities, such as dyslexia – itself referred to as an “invisible disability” (it is estimated to affect 10 to 15 per cent of the population).

These are added to by the “intergenerational cycle”, or family literacy where people who grow up in a family with low literacy, themselves often develop have limited literacy skills. According the UK’s Literacy Trust, this “makes social mobility and a fairer society more difficult”. These “invisible” measures not only make figures of low literacy potentially much higher, but, more importantly, limiting the capacity for civic participation, make engaging with low literacy communities essential.

Without systematic consideration of low literacy communities, it would seem that in efforts to engage people in decisions that affect their everyday lives – to provide equal access for all to ensure everyone has their say – a context for failure and exclusion will be created. Indeed, community members with lower general verbal ability and difficulty with phonetic processing would struggle with most traditional methods of engagement. How would they respond to a survey for instance, or qualitatively rate issues without means to express themselves? How, then, should accessibility in engagement with low-literacy communities work?

While face-to-face engagement can involve advocacy groups, engage people of trust to those with low literacy skills and provide opportunities for support (for example, using signing or braille), there appears little analysis of pragmatic and practical ways to engage low literacy communities online – particularly, in an increasingly digitally-focussed world. How can we translate this inclusive engagement online?

On the other hand, holding online engagement up to the same prism can overlook its unique potential. Online accessibility can suggest real optimism: it emphasises beneficial ways technology and design potentially transform the lives of people with diverse physical, cognitive and sensory abilities and needs. Perhaps the question is, then, what are the opportunities open to online engagement with low literacy communities?

Here are 4 key ways to engage low-literacy communities online:

1. PLAIN TEXT: USE WRITTEN INFORMATION ACCESSIBLY

  • Use everyday language and, where possible, images to assist with meaning.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Be mindful of the nuances of language.

This is particularly salient with “invisible” low literacy communities as not all people use the same terminology – some may not self-identify as experiencing low levels literacy. In addition, diverse groups have differing needs, for example, people with autism would commonly have difficult understanding figures of speech, “raining cats and dogs”.

  • Use inclusive language: avoid labels, generic terms and emotive language.

Inappropriate language can result in feeling excluded, for instance, describing that people “suffer” or are “afflicted with” low literacy. Equally, in the search for equality, it is important not to use language that can be perceived as condescending, for instance, describing low literacy communities as “inspirational” or “brave” etc.

  • Consider written materials in engagement methods and feedback.

Will there be newsletters? How will you publish survey results? How will provide feedback? True inclusivity means that everyone’s views help inform decision-making.

  • Create a checklist.

Is the information as clear, simple and concise as possible?

  • Use consistent style.

Use standard capital and lowercase sentences, especially in headings; use bold for emphasis rather than italics, which are harder to read, and underscore hyperlinks. Many PDF files are incompatible with screen reader software packages, so consider publishing word or HTML versions alongside PDFs.

  • Create easy read versions/translations of all text documents.

NB: In order to access information and engage on the same basis as other people, low level literacy communities may require differing formats. For example, Microsoft Word document’s can be read aloud using a screen reader.

2. VIDEO AND AUDIO

  • Use short engaging videos.

Video imaging can convey key messages on issues or create imaginative calls to action to get involved in an engagement process.

  • Use conversational audio and video

Consider audience literacy, perhaps through conducting conversations/audio, such as podcasts, at a slightly slower pace.

  • Use audible versions of all video and audio files.

3. INFOGRAPHICS AND IMAGES

  • Use images, diagrams and graphs to make information more accessible.
  • Use brief written descriptions to accompany images.
  • Use data visualisation instead of tables.

Tables are notoriously incompatible with screen reader software used by blind people or those with vision impairments. They are also difficult to reproduce in large print.

  • Don’t use text over graphics, patterns or blocks of colour or dark shading
  • Use colour to visually communicate qualitative aspects of issues – ie viewers can form colour analogies to indicate emotive expression (i.e. danger = red).

4. DIGITAL STORYTELLING

Anecdotally, low literacy people rely on their friends and family (with higher literacy levels) to share information with them, often via conversation and talking. Digital storytelling is a simple, creative way where people with little to no online experience can tell a personal story. It provides a means of self-expression and opens up a self-identified way to become involved in engagement issues, provides a respect for the diversity of participants and ensures their voices are heard.

  • Provide a capacity for low literacy people to narrate stories online.

This provides access to self-identifying and an agency for their engagement. While participant testimonials are often essential at feedback stage, they exclude participation by people with low literacy skills. Storytelling provides a great way of capturing the voice of your participants and facilitates a way to demonstrate their views inform decision-making.

  • Draw on different digital formats.

Through the use of photos, online drawings and digital media, a personal or strong emotional connection can be built into the engagement process and centres the experience on the participant. Ensuring a personal connection, this recognises low literacy participants as experts in their own lives and experiences.

You can find the original version of this article on Bang the Table’s site at www.bangthetable.com/4-key-ways-engage-low-literacy-communities-online/.

ENGAGING IDEAS – 07/20/2018


Democracy

Complicating the Narratives (The Whole Story)
What if journalists covered controversial issues differently - based on how humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious? Continue Reading

FBI Director Says Russia Still Seeking To Interfere In U.S. Democracy (NPR)
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Wednesday that he stands by the U.S. intelligence agencies' assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and he warned that the Kremlin has not stopped trying to undermine American democracy. Continue Reading

America's Factory Towns, Once Solidly Blue, Are Now a GOP Haven (Washington Post)
A generation ago, Democrats represented much of the country's manufacturing base. Now, it's in GOP hands, a swing remaking both parties. Continue Reading


Opportunity/Inequality

Income Inequality in the U.S. Is Rising Most Rapidly Among Asians (Pew)
Asians displace blacks as the most economically divided group in the U.S. Continue Reading

The U.S. Does Poorly On Yet Another Metric of Economic Mobility (Forbes)
A new report from the World Bank tracks 148 countries, with 96 percent of the world's population, to answer the age-old question of how much economic opportunity and upward economic mobility a country really offers its citizens. Continue Reading


Engagement

Inside the Creation of New York City's New Affordable Housing Design Guidelines (Pacific Standard)
A public design commission has created a guide that instructs developers in how to create more coherent design for housing projects across the city. Continue Reading

National Day of Civic Hacking (Code for America)
On August 11th, 2018, join the Code for America Brigades for a nationwide day of action that brings together civic leaders, local governments, and community organizations to tackle some of our toughest challenges. Continue Reading

Houston's Third Ward Residents Want More Say over Development (Next City)
"Because we don't have zoning and we don't have many regulatory processes, the community land trust means that we at least have an opportunity to determine who benefits from development in our community." Continue Reading


K-12

How food deliveries could change lunchtime at school (Christian Science Monitor)
Across the country, more food catering programs are making it easier for students to enjoy healthy lunches at school and easing the stress of packing lunches on parents by providing alternatives to what is offered at the cafeteria. Continue Reading

The Private-School Persuasion of the Supreme Court (The Atlantic)
Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's latest nominee for the bench, graduated from a Catholic high school. So did four of the current Justices. Continue Reading

Indiana spends $3M on scholarships for future teachers, but few students of color win them (Chalkbeat)
For the second year in a row, very few students of color received a prestigious Indiana scholarship designed to attract new teachers. Out of 200 high school seniors and current college students who received the Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship this year, only five come from under-represented minority groups, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education said. Continue Reading


Higher Ed/Workforce

To Recruit Students, Colleges Turn to Corporate-Marketing Playbook (Wall Street Journal)
Schools borrow retailers' approach in analyzing consumer databases; triggering online ads. Continue Reading

Perpetuating Inequity Despite Higher Education Expansion (Inside Higher Ed)
Responding to the complex realities behind equity challenges is not especially easy in the context of a young, rapidly 'massifying', and under-resourced system. Continue Reading

Some Colleges Cautiously Embrace Wikipedia (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Academics have traditionally distrusted Wikipedia, citing the inaccuracies that arise from its communally edited design and lamenting students' tendency to sometimes plagiarize assignments from it. Now, Davis said, higher education and Wikipedia don't seem like such strange bedfellows. At conferences these days, "everyone's like, 'Oh, Wikipedia, of course you guys are here.'" Continue Reading


Health Care

Maryland health regulator expands hospital price transparency efforts (Fierce Healthcare)
The Maryland Health Care Commission is expanding its price transparency initiative with tools aimed at getting consumers pushing for information about cost and quality directly from hospitals and doctors. Continue Reading

The Astonishingly High Administrative Costs of U.S. Health Care (The Upshot)
Hidden from view: The complexity of the system comes with costs that aren't obvious but that we all pay. Continue Reading

Poll: Half of Americans find health care harder to afford this year (The Hill)
Nearly half of respondents in a new poll said they are now finding it more difficult to afford health care than they were a year ago, according to a poll released Thursday. Continue Reading

a range of federalism options for Israel-Palestine

In the Washington Post today, Daniel Hollander notes that there is another possible option for Israel/Palestine beyond one state or two states: “a federalist, multistate solution.” I think this direction should be considered, if for no reason than “inventing options” is generally a good idea when parties are at loggerheads. Expanding the menu of choices is sometimes a way to “get to yes.”

In that spirit, I would note that a federal entity is not one idea but can take many forms. Americans may immediately think of our federal republic, which has certain basic similarities to those of Germany, India, and Brazil, among other examples. But those familiar characteristics can be altered to fit the circumstances.

In our federal system:

  1. The polity that really matters to people is the national one. Yes, some people may care more about Texas than the USA (or more about Bavaria than Germany) but theirs is a marginal view. Most people experience their political citizenship fundamentally in the federal republic, with other social identities (such as race) coming into play in various ways. Membership in a state-level entity is secondary.
  2. All the states are very similar. Nebraska has a unicameral legislature. Bavaria has the Christian Social Union party instead of the Christian Democrats, much as Minnesota has the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party instead of the Democrats. Mississippi has made different social policy choices from Hawaii’s. But the states’ constitutional designs and even policies are much more similar than different. That is not only because of top-down directives from the national capital. It is also a result of having one national debate and one set of national interest groups and movements that produce congruence (or isomorphism) across the states.
  3. Fundamental questions of a constitutional nature are mostly settled at the national level. That includes most of the basic civil and political rights and matters like the relationship between religion and politics.
  4. The states are territorial. Individuals are legally permitted to move across state borders, and many actually do. Citizenship at the state level results automatically from residency, as long as you have national citizenship. Thus a citizen of New York is simply an American who resides in the State of New York.
  5. Goods and investments also move rapidly and frequently across state lines. There is one market.

None of these features is definitive of a “multistate federal system.” I can envision a multi-state arrangement in the Israel/Palestine area with features like these:

  1. Membership in the smaller state is much more important to most people than their relationship with the federal umbrella entity. In fact, many people on all sides may demonstrate–at most–a grudging acceptance of the umbrella entity, while still identifying strongly as Israelis, Palestinians, or in other ways.
  2. The various states may be quite dissimilar. One state might, for example, “establish” Judaism while another might establish Sunni Islam or favor Islam and Christianity. One state might be governed by the Knesset with its current system of proportional voting while another state adopts a presidential system. I write “might” because I don’t know which specific choices would emerge, but the states would be permitted to form different kinds of regimes, within broad limits.
  3. State citizenship might not be territorial. Perhaps anyone who identifies as Jewish remains a citizen of Israel, and whether that person is allowed to live in certain zones within Israel/Palestine is a matter of negotiated policy. You don’t become Israeli by moving to Tel Aviv, or Palestinian by moving to Ramallah, but you retain your state citizenship wherever you live. There is a precedent in the Ottoman millet system, but this version can be more democratic.
  4. The federal umbrella guarantees certain rights, but they are much more limited than the rights enumerated by the US Constitution or even the EU. The separate states retain a lot of flexibility about freedom of religion, economic rights, etc.

Certainly, these options leave extremely difficult issues to be resolved. How many states? With what jurisdictions? How are conflicts among the states, between the states and the federal entity, or among citizens of different states resolved? Can some of the states be non-democratic? What does the federal entity do, and how is it governed? What rights are guaranteed to all, and can they be changed? Who can live where? Is there any redistribution among the states? What is the umbrella entity even called (in Arabic, in Hebrew, in English)?

I could offer my own opinions on these matters, but that’s irrelevant. The question is whether any reasonably decent compromise could attract sufficient breadth of support to fly. The odds are no doubt against that, but then the status quo seems not only unjust but also unsustainable. (I wrote most of this before today’s vote in the Knesset, which just underlines the previous sentence.)

a range of federalism options for Israel-Palestine

In the Washington Post today, Daniel Hollander notes that there is another possible option for Israel/Palestine beyond one state or two states: “a federalist, multistate solution.” I think this direction should be considered, if for no reason than “inventing options” is generally a good idea when parties are at loggerheads. Expanding the menu of choices is sometimes a way to “get to yes.”

In that spirit, I would note that a federal entity is not one idea but can take many forms. Americans may immediately think of our federal republic, which has certain basic similarities to those of Germany, India, and Brazil, among other examples. But those familiar characteristics can be altered to fit the circumstances.

In our federal system:

  1. The polity that really matters to people is the national one. Yes, some people may care more about Texas than the USA (or more about Bavaria than Germany) but theirs is a marginal view. Most people experience their political citizenship fundamentally in the federal republic, with other social identities (such as race) coming into play in various ways. Membership in a state-level entity is secondary.
  2. All the states are very similar. Nebraska has a unicameral legislature. Bavaria has the Christian Social Union party instead of the Christian Democrats, much as Minnesota has the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party instead of the Democrats. Mississippi has made different social policy choices from Hawaii’s. But the states’ constitutional designs and even policies are much more similar than different. That is not only because of top-down directives from the national capital. It is also a result of having one national debate and one set of national interest groups and movements that produce congruence (or isomorphism) across the states.
  3. Fundamental questions of a constitutional nature are mostly settled at the national level. That includes most of the basic civil and political rights and matters like the relationship between religion and politics.
  4. The states are territorial. Individuals are legally permitted to move across state borders, and many actually do. Citizenship at the state level results automatically from residency, as long as you have national citizenship. Thus a citizen of New York is simply an American who resides in the State of New York.
  5. Goods and investments also move rapidly and frequently across state lines. There is one market.

None of these features is definitive of a “multistate federal system.” I can envision a multi-state arrangement in the Israel/Palestine area with features like these:

  1. Membership in the smaller state is much more important to most people than their relationship with the federal umbrella entity. In fact, many people on all sides may demonstrate–at most–a grudging acceptance of the umbrella entity, while still identifying strongly as Israelis, Palestinians, or in other ways.
  2. The various states may be quite dissimilar. One state might, for example, “establish” Judaism while another might establish Sunni Islam or favor Islam and Christianity. One state might be governed by the Knesset with its current system of proportional voting while another state adopts a presidential system. I write “might” because I don’t know which specific choices would emerge, but the states would be permitted to form different kinds of regimes, within broad limits.
  3. State citizenship might not be territorial. Perhaps anyone who identifies as Jewish remains a citizen of Israel, and whether that person is allowed to live in certain zones within Israel/Palestine is a matter of negotiated policy. You don’t become Israeli by moving to Tel Aviv, or Palestinian by moving to Ramallah, but you retain your state citizenship wherever you live. There is a precedent in the Ottoman millet system, but this version can be more democratic.
  4. The federal umbrella guarantees certain rights, but they are much more limited than the rights enumerated by the US Constitution or even the EU. The separate states retain a lot of flexibility about freedom of religion, economic rights, etc.

Certainly, these options leave extremely difficult issues to be resolved. How many states? With what jurisdictions? How are conflicts among the states, between the states and the federal entity, or among citizens of different states resolved? Can some of the states be non-democratic? What does the federal entity do, and how is it governed? What rights are guaranteed to all, and can they be changed? Who can live where? Is there any redistribution among the states? What is the umbrella entity even called (in Arabic, in Hebrew, in English)?

I could offer my own opinions on these matters, but that’s irrelevant. The question is whether any reasonably decent compromise could attract sufficient breadth of support to fly. The odds are no doubt against that, but then the status quo seems not only unjust but also unsustainable. (I wrote most of this before today’s vote in the Knesset, which just underlines the previous sentence.)

Local Civic Challenge #2: Explore Local Leadership Roles

Democracy is all about community members being engaged in their government, and learning more ways on how to deeper connect with your local politics. A great way to do this is to join the Local Civic Challenge started by NCDD member,The Jefferson Center, where during the month of June they offer a mini-challenge every week for folks to learn more about and engage with, their local government. This second installment of the Challenge offers ways to explore local leadership roles (you can read the first installment about getting familiar with your local government here.) We encourage you to learn more about how you can become a more engaged citizen in the post below and you can find the original on the JC site here,


Local Civic Challenge #2: Joining Local Offices, Committees, and Boards

This post is part of our Local Civic Challenge, a chance to complete a few easy tasks each week that will help you become a more engaged citizen! To get the series delivered directly to your inbox, sign up here.

Learning more about the day-to-day work of your local gov, and how community members are thinking about issues, can often segue into taking on a leadership position yourself. We’ve seen this happen a few times throughout our work at the Jefferson Center. Just last week, Erin Buss, a participant in the Minnesota Community Assemblyfiled to run for City Council in Red Wing, Minnesota.

She told the local paper:

“As a participant in the Red Wing Citizens Assembly, I learned a lot about residents’ concerns and the importance of doing the work to keep this city on the right track. People want their government to be responsive, accountable and accessible. I’m excited to bring a fresh viewpoint to City Council — it’s time for Red Wing to move forward.”

Here’s a few ways you can start exploring local leadership roles:

1. See what’s open

It’s an election year, and it’s likely you’ll have some seats in your community up for grabs. Find out which seats these are, and who else is running. While the deadline to file for congressional seats has passed in most states, there may be time to file for city, township, and school district offices.

2. Learn who holds local office

Even if you won’t run yourself, it’s key to know who is. These aren’t always the elections we pay close attention to, especially when the national and state elections take over our newsfeeds. Resources like Common Cause and Ballotpedia make it easy to find your local representatives.

3. Listen to your neighbors

If running for an official title isn’t your thing, check out when your local neighborhood council or community development association meets. This is a great way to find out what issues are important to your neighbors, and where the current gaps are. You could start by listening in at meetings, and eventually move up to a volunteer leadership position.

4. Tune in

Find out when your city council meets, and see if they are streamed online if you can’t attend the meeting in-person. If they aren’t, that might be something to suggest to your city to make the meetings more accessible for everyone.

5. Search

It seems simple, but just googling “get involved in [insert your city] government” will likely bring up a page full of volunteer opportunities! For instance, you might be needed to teach local community ed classes, clean up parks and trails, help out in community gardens, participate in invasive species education, or assist library staff. If your city doesn’t have a dedicated volunteer page, try contacting the department you’d want to work with directly.

Do you hold a leadership position in your community? How did you end up there? If not, what’s holding you back? Let us know in the comments.

Next week, we’ll explore how you can get ready for election season.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at www.jefferson-center.org/local-civic-challenge-2-joining-local-offices-committees-and-boards/.

Free Issue Guide for Addressing Controversial Memorials

For the last few years, many communities have struggled with what to do with the controversial Confederate monuments and memorials that still stand in public areas in cities around the country. NCDD member org, the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) shared on their blog a post about how the city of Jacksonville, Florida, is trying to figure out what to do with these statues by engaging people in the community. Veteran NIFI organizer, Gregg Kaufman developed a 15-page issue guide for the city, to help facilitate community conversations around what to do – you can download the free guide here. Read more about the effort around addressing these controversial memorials and the issue guide below, as well as, you can find the original post on NIFI’s site here.


In Jacksonville, Florida, Public Deliberations Help Inform Plans to Deal with Monuments and Memorials

Last month, veteran National Issues Forums (NIF) convener and moderator, Gregg Kaufman reported on a 16-forum public engagement project in the Jacksonville, Florida area, during February and March, 2018. The project was intended to help people in the community talk about Jacksonville’s history, and to deliberate about the best way to deal with controversial statues and monuments in the area.

In the forums, participants used an issue discussion guide that was authored by Kaufman and sponsored by the Jesse Ball duPont Fund  . The 15-page issue guide, titled How Should We Convey the History of Jacksonville? Monuments, Parks, and People, is available as a free download.

Kaufman has recently followed up with information about the genesis of the forums project, and subsequent, issue-related media coverage, announcements, and activities on the part of public officials.

Kaufman wrote:

In the autumn of 2017, Anna Brosche, City Council President called for public discourse and enlisted the help of the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund. Along with Leadership Jacksonville and other organizations, we hosted 16 forums in February and March 2018 with over 200 participants.

A June 20, 2018 local news report included:

“The city council president, who will conclude her leadership of the council at the end of this month, initially took a strong stand for ‘respectfully removing’ and ‘relocating’ the city’s Confederate memorials to places like museums. She has since come to the conclusion that just isn’t feasible in Jacksonville.”

And the same report quotes Brosche:

“There’s a desire to make our parks more welcoming to everyone in the city. At the same time, movement or relocation doesn’t seem to be an option that the entire community supports,” she said.”

When invited to comment about whether, or in what ways getting feedback from public deliberation on this community issue was helpful to her work as a public official, City Council President Broshe responded: It is an honor and privilege to have been elected by the people to serve the people. Public deliberation and public discourse are important contributors to our policy-making responsibilities. I appreciate Gregg Kaufman’s work to help us gain understanding from the citizens we serve on a very important issue for the Jacksonville community, and for the support of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and Leadership Jacksonville in working to meaningfully engage citizens in the work. Public engagement could serve to improve public trust in government and produce ideas and solutions for elected officials and we could stand to be more effective in educating and engaging the public in our work.

It is also important to note that my position of requesting an inventory for the purpose of respectfully relocating the confederate monument from our public park in the center of our city was informed by public input during meetings, comments in our local papers, as well as the report (from the 16-forum series). This process of public dialogue also yielded conversations and efforts that produced my proposal to erect a memorial to victims of terror lynchings based on the work of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice that opened in April 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama

You can find the full version of this article on NIFI’s site at www.nifi.org/en/jacksonville-florida-public-deliberations-help-inform-plans-deal-monuments-and-memorials.

NCDD2018 Early Bird Extended Until Tomorrow, July 18th!

In case you missed the opportunity to get your tickets for NCDD2018 at the Early Bird rate, we’ve decided to give folks some extra time to take advantage of this great deal for one of the premier events in the dialogue, deliberation, and engagement field. Which is why we have extended the Early Bird rate to still be active until tomorrow, Wednesday, July 18th!

The National Conference for Dialogue & Deliberation will be from November 2 – 4 in Denver at the downtown Sheraton. It is already shaping up to be an immensely engaging event, where over 450 leaders, practitioners, and enthusiasts in the D&D field will come together to dive deep into this work, collaborate, learn from each other, network, and build relationships that carry on long past the closing plenary. The conference team has been deep in planning over the last many months – developing interactive plenaries, coordinating a jam-packed workshop session line-up, and building networking opportunities in-between it all – you don’t want to miss this exciting opportunity! (Pssst, while not part of this early bird rate… insider tip: we also have several full-day pre-conference sessions that are being developed for Thursday, November 1st – stay tuned to the NCDD blog for more info!)

The early bird rate is $385 until tomorrow, then it goes to our regular registration rate of $450 on Thursday. So we encourage you to get your tickets for #NCDD2018 ASAP while this rate lasts!

You can learn much more about this year’s national conference at www.ncdd.org/ncdd2018, and register today at www.ncdd2018.eventbrite.com to take advantage of the Early Bird rate.

Want to get a better sense of what our conferences are like? Watch the video of NCDD2016 and NCDD2014 and learn even more about our past conferences by clicking here.

NCDD Update: ALA Conf, Frontiers, NCL, and CO Workshop

The NCDD staff has been up to some exciting ventures this last month that we wanted to fill you in on! June 22nd, in particular, was a busy day for the NCDD team as we each trekked to several exciting events that were happening in our network; Co-Founder Sandy Heierbacher was at ALA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans, Managing Director Courtney Breese was at the Frontiers of Democracy conference at Tufts University, and I attended NCL’s National Conference on Local Governance in Denver where NCDD Board Chair Martín Carcasson presented.

As part of our partnership with the American Library Association (ALA), Sandy ran a workshop on Host Training in Conversation Café with NCDD member Susan Partnow. They gave this fantastic day-long session to a packed room of participants from public libraries serving small, mid-sized and/or rural communities; where attendees learned how to organize and host Conversation Cafés. In many communities, particularly smaller and more rural areas, libraries hold vital space as epicenters of community engagement and social change. The workshop prepared participants to run Cafés in their local libraries and how to use this great tool for holding exploratory dialogues with the community.

At the Frontiers conference, Courtney did a session on Partnering to Strengthen Participatory Democracy: How Might We Connect and Collaborate?, in which participants learned examples about efforts to connect engagement practitioners with librarians and journalists, and then explored ways to deepen network connections, particularly across fields. The conference was hosted by the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University and a primary focus this year was around how engagement work can better connect to activism. For example, there was a panel of students from Boston public high schools and Ph.D.s from UMASS, who spoke about the walkout they self-organized over budget issues, what their roles were and the ways they organized. Another one of the speakers was someone who had been previously incarcerated and they spoke about challenges of re-entering into society, the roadblocks they experienced, and how this impacted their ability to fully participate in a democratic society.

NCDD member org – the National Civic League, hosted the National Conference on Local Governance which was a jam-packed, one-day opportunity to dive into some of the cutting-edge practices and processes that improve equity within communities. Martín presented a session about Resident Engagement: How to Change Negatives in which he spoke about the neuroscience behind why traditional public engagement efforts often fall flat and how by designing better engagement processes, communities can be more effective in addressing challenging issues. It was a fantastic session with a perfect blend of information, while being engaging and entertaining! If you haven’t attended a session by Martín, I highly recommend you check one out the next opportunity you get! (Secret insider tip: He’s going to be running an exciting pre-conference session the day before NCDD2018 on Nov 1st that we encourage you to check out – Stay tuned to the blog for details to follow…)

Last week, I spoke at the monthly meeting for the Arvadans for Progressive Action about cultivating constructive conversations, in which I shared more about the NCDD network and several helpful tips and resources for making conversations more effective. Despite being a hot Colorado day, it was a great turnout of folks dedicated to working hard to engage the community and create a more equitable world. Huge thank you to all those who attended the event and asked really dynamic questions; and many thanks to the Arvadans for Progressive Action for inviting me to come share conversational tips and wisdom from the NCDD network.

On a related note, NCDD staff would love to come hold a workshop with your group, organization, or event!  We are happy to tailor the workshop to your needs for navigating challenging conversations. I am located in Denver, Managing Director Courtney Breese is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Co-Founder Sandy Heierbacher is in Boston; all of us can travel to our respective surrounding areas to hold workshops. For folks that are located outside of these places, contact us and let’s see if we can coordinate logistics with travel or technology to make a workshop happen for you! Please contact me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]orgfor workshop inquiries. 

Inspiring Our Best Selves Through Franklin’s Virtues

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles (BFC), we have been connecting the stories coming from the Circles here on the blog. The most recent article, written by Sarah Goodwin Thiel of the Harwood Institute – also an NCDD member org – makes note of how Franklin’s 13 virtues can inspire us to live closer to our higher selves. You can read the article below and find the original on BFC’s site here.


Calling Our Best Selves

When one lives in the DC Metro area, the founding fathers are never far away. You see them everywhere – universities and institutes are named after them; books by and about them grace shop windows; they are memorialized at every turn – their likenesses found in statues, their words engraved on walls and plaques. And now, as in the case of Ben Franklin, groups of people are gathering monthly to discuss their ideas. Ben Franklin Circles are not unique to Washington DC but I was unaware of them before arriving here. Following the book club format, with good food and lively conversation, these circles bring people together to discuss BF’s 13 Virtues, considered and documented by Franklin when he was just 20 years old. At this writing, I have engaged with only four of Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues. My friend and I joined another friend’s neighborhood Ben Franklin Circle on month #5 where we had a rousing discussion of frugality and were left looking at the concept in new and different ways.

Since then, in our monthly discussions of the virtues, we have each shared and discussed our varied views of the concepts and we have done our best to make sense of BF’s definitions. Our conversations cover a lot of ground, we move between confidence and vulnerability as BF calls us to live purposefully and responsibly. His focus is not on doing the “right” thing but on doing all things thoughtfully and with intention. He asks us to be mindful of our own gifts, our own privilege and to make sound decisions that do no harm to others – or to ourselves. Each month, Ben Franklin slips into our lives to remind us
to be our best selves.

Imagine if we were all to do that. It stands to reason that together our efforts would be strengthened and our impact far greater. But that kind of intentionality begs for brutal honesty, discipline, self-awareness and a sincere belief in personal responsibility. And that’s the catch, right? How many of us have all these things? Or the wherewithal to practice them, if we do? Ben Franklin surely knew this. He knew from his own experience that living a “virtuous” life, as he defined it, would not come as second nature but would require practice. Franklin’s virtues must be repeated, they need to be considered regularly and practiced daily.

I have to say that in just four months, I find myself looking at things very differently. I am determined, with BF’s virtues in mind, and with lots of practice, to put my best self forward. To use my resources and my privilege to benefit others as well as myself. I will soon be leaving the Metro area and will no longer see the founding fathers every day but I go with a new aspiration to live thoughtfully and with intention – and I have Ben Franklin to thank for that.

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness. Drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e., Waste nothing.
  6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Sarah Goodwin Thiel is a Studio Associate at the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in DC, where she is a member of a Ben Franklin Circle. Post originally published by the Harwood Institute https://theharwoodinstitute.org/news/2018/7/5/calling-our-best-selves

You can find this version of the article on the Ben Franklin Circles’ blog at www.benfranklincircles.org/virtues/calling-our-best-selves.