the First Ibero-American Meeting of Civic Studies

This week is the 11th annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tufts’ Tisch College, and we are discussing such topics as identities versus interests and opinions and Gandhi versus Jinnah on means and ends. (The links are to my personal ruminations, but in the seminar, we discuss original texts.)

Coming up soon is the First Ibero-American Meeting of Civic Studies, which two of my friends explain in the video:

According to my translation from the website:

Improving a society requires the commitment of its citizens. Based on this conviction, the Camilo José Cela University Foundation presents the First Ibero-American Conference on Civic Studies, following the trail of the pioneering institution of this academic discipline, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life of Tufts University (USA).

The objective is to create a theoretical and methodological framework to promote active citizenship. Civic Studies tries to answer the question “what should we do?” Combining ethical reflection (what is good and right?), analysis of the facts (“what is happening”?) and strategies (” What could work? “). Based on this eminently practical call, Civic Studies tries to make civic education in colleges and universities have a transformational purpose.

The First Ibero-American Meeting of Civic Studies is an initiative of the Camilo José Cela University Foundation. It aims to promote this understanding of civic education in the Ibero-American context. Despite the social and cultural diversity of the countries convened [Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Spain], the UCJC Foundation believes that the development of this academic discipline can serve to cultivate active citizenship that contributes to the creation of more stable and just societies.

In this first edition, the theme of the meeting will be “The university as generator of citizenship.” We believe in a conception of the university in which both learning and research in any discipline is marked by the civic commitment of its environment. The meeting will involve a week of work between academics and experts with experience in citizenship training: through discussion and deliberation formats, attendees will work from a daily challenge posed by a guest expert, and exchange their own experiences when implementing civic education.”

Online D&D Events Coming Up Ft Tamarack, IAP2, & More!

This week’s roundup features events from NCDD member orgs Living Room Conversations and National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI), as well as, from the Tamarack Institute and International Associate for Public Participation (IAP2).

NCDD’s online D&D event roundup is a weekly compilation of the upcoming events happening in the digital world related to dialogue, deliberation, civic tech, engagement work, and more! Do you have a webinar or other digital event coming up that you’d like to share with the NCDD network? Please let us know in the comments section below or by emailing me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org, because we’d love to add it to the list!

Upcoming Online D&D Events: Living Room Conversations, NIFI, IAP2, Tamarack Institute

Living Room Conversations Training (free): The Nuts & Bolts of Living Room Conversations

Thursday, June 27th
2 pm Pacific, 5 pm Eastern

Join us for 60 minutes online to learn about Living Room Conversations. We’ll cover what a Living Room Conversation is, why we have them, and everything you need to know to get started hosting and/or participating in Living Room Conversations. This training is not required for participating in our conversations – we simply offer it for people who want to learn more about the Living Room Conversations practice.

Space is limited to 12 people so that we can offer a more interactive experience. Please only RSVP if you are 100% certain that you can attend. This training will take place using Zoom videoconferencing. A link to join the conversation will be sent to participants by the Wednesday before this training.


Online Living Room Conversation: Tribalism 101 – 90-Minute Conversation w/ Optional 30-Minute Bonus Round!

Thursday, June 27th
4 pm Pacific, 7 pm Eastern

Inspired by the podcast Next Door Strangers, this Living Room Conversation begins with a 15-minute podcast: We invite you to listen and then begin your Living Room Conversation. Tribalism: the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group. People on the left and right may disagree on many things, but they generally agree that “tribalism” is bad for our politics and our country. Although most people want communities where all people have dignity and respect, respectful interactions are often not what we see modeled in the media and in politics. How do we build strong and unified communities in a divisive time? Here is the conversation guide.


Online Living Room Conversation: Forgiveness – 90-Minute Conversation w/ Optional 30-Minute Bonus Round!

Sunday, June 30th
12:30 pm Pacific, 3:30 pm Eastern

For many of us, forgiveness can be very challenging. There are so many ways that we are hurt by others and that we hurt others in our lives. How we manage those hurts is a key part of shaping our lives internally and externally. How can forgiveness help us to become the person we want to be? Here is the conversation guide.


Online Living Room Conversation: The America We Want to Be – 90-Minute Conversation w/ Optional 30-Minute Bonus Round!

Wednesday, July 3rd
4 pm Pacific, 7 pm Eastern

When the Declaration of Independence was written, not everyone was included in the famous statement about “pursuit of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” And while the aspirations expressed in our founding documents resonate for some more than others, there are many views regarding the degree to which we have advanced these aspirations for everyone. Some focus more on the great strides we have made; others point to how far we still need to go. Some believe that focusing on the past prevents forward progress; others think we still need to come to terms with our shadow side. Here is the conversation guide.


July CGA Forum Series: Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome? What Should We Do?

Friday, July 6th
3 pm Pacific, 6 pm Eastern

Please join us for a Common Ground for Action (CGA) online deliberative forum on Saturday July 6th at 6pm ET/3p PT on the issue of “Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome? What Should We Do?” If you haven’t had a chance to review the issue guide, you can find a downloadable PDF copy at the NIF website:


IAP2 Monthly Webinar: Victoria Encore – “Not Just Dragons”: A Model For Inclusive Engagement With Communities Of Colour

Tuesday, July 9th
11 am Pacific, 2 pm Eastern

Once again, we’re excited to present one of the session presentations at the 2018 IAP2 North American Conference, that attendees told us would make a good Learning Webinar. In this, Miranda Eng, senior consultant at Context Research, will share recent collaborative work with community members from Vancouver’s Chinatown to co-create a model to guide culturally respectful planning and design of engagement processes. Engaging cultural communities is crucial yet complex. When public processes have failed to be inclusive, we’ve seen civic distrust and a loss of community support for projects and plans. So what can inclusive engagement in cultural communities look like? How might we go beyond platitudes of ‘diversity and inclusion’? How might some tactics that we typically rely on be considered disrespectful?


Tamarack Webinar – Hosting Great Virtual Meetings

Tuesday, July 9th
9 am Pacific, 12 pm Eastern

Can online meetings be as engaging and productive as face-to-face meetings? Maggie Chumbley believes the answer is absolutely yes! Maggie’s experience is that, in fact, online meetings can actually be better than meeting in person if they are designed and hosted skillfully. In this webinar, Maggie will highlight helpful tools and online platforms that she relies on to ensure the virtual meetings she facilitates foster connection, create shared learning and generate results. Participants will learn tactics, tips and advice for overcoming common challenges of engaging everyone; sharing visuals; perceiving subtle social cues and getting real work done together.


Online Living Room Conversation: Digital Dialogue – 90-Minute Conversation w/ Optional 30-Minute Bonus Round!

Thursday, July 11th
4 pm Pacific, 7 pm Eastern

We are in an age of wonder and amazement with technology. It can go anywhere with us and we can be reachable at any time. We use technology to order our groceries, navigate our cities, keep up with breaking news, family members living away and in some cases remain connected to our politicians and faith-based communities. So many of us are reachable and can respond immediately to beeping, buzzing, and ringing of texts, emails and phone calls. We like what we feel when our phones ring or ping us with a new message and that makes us want more. Some experts have suggested that technology is controlling us, that we have lost control of it…like an addiction. Is technology our friend, the life-saving tool of the 21st Century or a manipulator of our minds and master of our time? Who is in charge? Here is the conversation guide.


what the student debt proposals convey

Elizabeth Warren proposes to pay off $50,000 of college debt for everyone with household income under $100,000. Bernie Sanders proposes to pay off all $1.5 trillion of today’s student debt. They also offer proposals for making college more affordable later.

I am worried that both of these proposals–especially Sanders’–convey the message that Democrats and liberals represent high-status people who hold and value formal education. The reality is close to that: Democratic voters in 2018 were a coalition of whites with lots of education plus people of color from across the educational spectrum.

2018 national exit poll results

Directing financial support to higher education–and specifically retiring the debt of people who have already accumulated college debt–is an indication of the candidates’ priorities. I fear they will alienate people who don’t have or necessarily want advanced formal education. One of the major political cleavages of our age (also seen in Europe) divides knowledge-workers from people who work with their hands. The risk here is placing liberals and Democrats firmly on the knowledge-workers’ side. Or, as Antonio Gramsci would say, the “organic ideology” of a governing class dominated by the intelligentsia will favor spending money on education above almost anything else.

I do understand the following arguments. Education should be understood as a public good, not just an investment in the income prospects of the individual student. We already treat k-12 education as a public good and an entitlement. Since college now confers the same advantage that high school did half a century ago, it should be treated the same.

Furthermore, programs without means tests tend to be protected and reasonably well funded, whereas programs for the poor tend to be poor programs. Examples of successful universal programs include Social Security and Medicare here and most of the European welfare state.

Finally, even when a program covers wealthy people, federal income taxes (as opposed to other taxes) are collected in a pretty progressive way, so most of the cost falls on the wealthy.

On the other hand, as Jordan Weissman notes, one-time debt cancellation is not an entitlement or a program built for sustainability. Moreover, Sanders’ plan involves truly regressive spending. Families earning $173k or more hold an average debt of nearly $50k, which the federal government would hand them as tax-free income under his plan.

You could counter that families in the bottom quartile–who have real need–hold an average of $26k in college debt, usually more than their whole annual household income, and forgiveness would make the most difference to them. But it would also cost $1.5 trillion that could be spent on other things. And yes, even if the President of the United States calls himself a socialist, he’ll have limited resources and will have to choose. For instance, that’s $1.5 trillion that could have been added to a Green New Deal.

These proposals have a communicative goal. They convey that education is a public good and that we should all benefit from government support. The proposals are very unlikely to pass as written, and if they fail, they will prove to be mainly symbolic. Even if they pass, they will still have symbolic elements. For instance, the message that they cover everyone is meant to change opinions about government.

So I worry about what these ideas–especially Sanders’–actually convey. Democrats, especially White Democrats, have typically benefited from formal education and value it in everything they say and do. They admire science, professionals, credentials. If a Democratic president and Congress spend $1.5 trillion to subsidize higher education for people like themselves, that will cement the party’s class position.

See also college and mobility; what does the European Green surge mean?; working-class people versus elites on education; and why the white working class must organize

Early Bird Ends June 30th for IAP2 N. American Conference

In case you missed it, The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) – an NCDD member organization, is holding their 2019 North American Conference from Sept 4-6 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The conference will be a three-day opportunity to dig deeper into public participation with fellow practitioners and highlight the theme, “Leveraging P2 to Create Thriving Communities”. Follow the hashtag #IAP2NAC for extra conference happenings. Early bird registration is open for just another 5 days (until June 30th), so make sure you purchase your tickets at this great rate! You can read the announcement from IAP2 below or find the original on their site here.

 2019 IAP2 North American Conference – Leveraging P2 to Create Thriving Communities

Join us in Charlotte, North Carolina for the 2019 IAP2 North American Conference September 4 – 6, 2019! Charlotte is a city rich in history and diversity, having almost 200 neighborhoods radiating from the central Uptown neighborhood.

Read the Schedule-at a-Glance featuring over 50 professional Development opportunities including sessions, field trips, workshops and more! This is your opportunity to learn from presenters from around the globe. We have presenters from 14 States, 9 Canadian Provinces, and 4 Countries including Finland and Australia.

Never been to an IAP2 North American Conference? Check out materials from our 2018 Conference held in Victoria, BC!

Timing is EVERYTHING! Register on or before June 30, 2019 to get $100 savings on your conference registration! Check out our 2019 Schedule-at-a-Glance to preview speakers, sessions, themes, and SO much more!

Full conference registration covers most pre-conference events, opening reception, Thursday and Friday activities including breakfast, lunch, and the Core Values Awards Gala and dinner.

Stay close to the action by reserving your room at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel! All conference attendees are eligible to receive our conference discount starting at only $149.00 USD per night! You must book by August 4th to receive the IAP2 discount.

IAP2 Core Values Awards Gala
Join us as we celebrate the best of the best in P2 in North America. We will be celebrating and learning about the amazing projects that have been taking place from the northern tips of Canada to the southern corners of the United States.

Each year, IAP2 Affiliates around the world celebrate excellence in the profession through the IAP2 Core Values Awards. The awards go to projects and organizations which best demonstrate IAP2’s Core Values.

If you are registered for the 2019 IAP2 North American Conference as an attendee, your admission is part of your conference registration. Bring a guest to the festivities! Gala tickets cost $80 USD.

You can find the original announcement from IAP2 at:

Gandhi versus Jinnah on means and ends

(Posted while leading the 11th annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies, on questions like this one.)

A major theme in Gandhi’s thought it the primacy of means over ends.

In 1924, some Indian political leaders proposed the immediate creation of a new, independent “Federated Republic of the United States of India.” They argued that this end justified a wide range of strategies. They wanted to “delete the words ‘by peaceful and legitimate means’ from the Congress creed, so that men holding every shade of opinion may have no difficulty in joining” the independence struggle. That would have expanded the range of means employed to achieve the goal of home-rule.

Gandhi replied, “They say ‘means are after all means’. I would say ‘means are after all everything’. As the means so the end.” The “only universal definition to give it is ‘that status of India which her people desire at a given moment.’ If I were asked what India desires at the present moment, I should say I do not know.” For Gandhi, the means used to pursue swaraj (independence in its deepest sense) had to be good ones. “As the means so the end. Violent means will give violent swaraj. That would be a menace to the world and to India herself.”  

Drawing on Karuna Mantena, I would suggest the following Gandhian reasons to focus on means rather than ends. Human beings are cognitively limited and cannot see justice far beyond our own present circumstances. Human beings are motivationally flawed and highly susceptible to various distorting and destructive impulses. Therefore, we must choose modes of politics that channel our impulses in beneficial rather than harmful directions. Forming too sharp a definition of justice (or any of its components, such as national sovereignty) can simply excuse bad behavior. Consequences are always difficult to predict and control, and trying to pursue elaborate ends is foolish. We disagree, and what we decide about justice right now is contingent on how we are organized, so it is crucial to get the organization right. Finally, how we participate in politics helps to constitute the world. By acting, we don’t merely bring about a result (usually an unpredictable one); we immediately create a new reality just in virtue of our action.

A focus on means and a reluctance to specify ends does, however, pose a risk. A person might (whether intentionally or inadvertently) select and defend means that generate a foreseeable outcome or that foreclose the outcome that others prefer. That could be a back-door strategy for getting the ends that the person wanted in the first place. To claim that you are too humble and aware of your own limits to know the best goals is disingenuous if it’s clear what ends your favored means will lead to.

This was essentially Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s quarrel with Gandhi. Gandhi insisted that the social movement for Indian independence must involve close collaborations among Hindus, Muslims and adherents of other faiths. Immediately after saying that he did not know what India wanted, he added that he only endorsed a few values, including “truthful relations between Hindus and Mussalmans.” (“Truthful,” for him, would imply a close, sincere, and interactive relationship.) For Gandhi, the means of political action in India must incorporate interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

Although Gandhi insisted that “Congress leaves swaraj undefined,” Jinnah could see that if Hindus and Muslims won independence together, they would found a democracy with a large Hindu majority. This new country might be secular, or it might be Hindu-dominated, but it couldn’t be an Islamic republic–simply because of demographics. Jinnah identified the Congress as a Hindu organization and created the Muslim League as an alternative. He objected when Congress tried to place its Muslim President, Maulana Azad, in the provisional cabinet for British India, arguing that the Muslim League should name all Muslim members. After Gandhi’s assassination, Jinnah eulogized him as “one of the greatest men produced by the Hindu community and a leader who commanded their [sic] universal confidence and respect.” Jinnah regretted Gandhi’s death “so soon after the birth of freedom for Hindustan [his term for India] and Pakistan.” Thus, although Gandhi claimed that “means are after all everything,” Jinnah saw that Gandhi’s means would prevent Jinnah’s goal, a sovereign Pakistan. And he charged Gandhi with having an implicit goal of his own: the creation of a “Hindustan.”

The broader, theoretical question is how to think about means and ends when sometimes the means that we choose for good intrinsic reasons have foreseeable ends that are subject to debate. Yet, if we propose a clear vision of our goal, how can we know that it is right, and who gets to evaluate it? Surely, that requires a process that is not simply designed to yield a given outcome.

For what it’s worth, this is my verdict on the case at hand. Gandhi joined and then led an interfaith party for swaraj that encouraged debates about both means and goals. Jinnah was a member of that party, albeit mostly before Gandhi’s arrival from South Africa. Jinnah and others had the right to quit the party and movement. Exit is a legitimate choice in movements and party politics. As a result of Jinnah’s exit, Gandhi’s means failed: Congress ceased to be a forum for dialogue and cooperation that included the kinds of people who preferred the Muslim League. But Gandhi’s failure doesn’t invalidate his general advice to focus on means rather than specific ends.

Drawing here on Karuna Mantena, “Another Realism, the Politics of Gandhian Nonviolence,” American Political Science Review, vol. 106, no. 2 (May 2012) and various original passages from Gandhi’s works that Mantena’s article led me to. Also drawing on Ramachandra Guha, Gandhi: The Years that Changed the World, 1914-1948 (New York: Knopf, 2018)

Mellon Foundation Grants $800k for PLACE Collaboratory

We’re always excited to hear of new efforts being developed to promote stronger civic engagement practices between our communities and higher education institutions. We wanted to share a new project launched yesterday, so folks in participating regions can tap in, as well as, to serve as an inspiration that civic engagement work is being well funded. The Partnerships for Listening and Action by Communities and Educators (PLACE) Collaboratory is a new initiative that seeks to create better cross-sector collaboration between communities and higher education institutions in order to develop action plans grounded in community voice. PLACE is organized by the Bringing Theory to Practice project in partnership with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), and has received an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the two-year effort. You can read about the project below and find the original article on the BTtoP site here.

Bringing Theory to Practice Launches Partnerships for Listening and Action by Communities and Educators (PLACE) Collaboratory

Washington, DC—June 19, 2019—The Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP) project is pleased to announce the launch of a multi-campus collaborative initiative (a “collaboratory”) titled Partnerships for Listening and Action by Communities and Educators (PLACE). The project is supported by a two-year, $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), which serves as the host and partner to BTtoP.

The PLACE Collaboratory brings together a network of academic-community partnerships, involving eleven colleges and universities from diverse sectors and regions, to do civic-engagement and public-humanities work. Using cultural practices like oral history or photo-voice, as well as the civic pedagogies of the humanities, these partnerships will develop shared public agendas that ground the setting and solving of community issues in community voice. They may involve such significant themes as community development, wealth disparities, and environmental justice, but the agendas and action plans will be set through listening and dialogue. Some partnerships will be anchored by a single university; in others, multiple institutions may join together in regional collaboration. All the partnerships will include undergraduate students as key participants, culture-makers, and often cultural brokers.

The collaboratory will also work as a committee of the whole, communicating and convening regularly to set shared goals and values, confront common challenges, and learn together. The goal of each local project will be to develop action plans grounded in community voice and enabled by academic-community partnership. The goal of the larger collaboratory will be to distill best practices for such partnerships, to model the role of the humanities in sustaining them, and to use networked collaboration to disseminate them across higher education.

“We are thrilled for the opportunity to pursue the PLACE initiative,” said David Scobey, the Director of BTtoP and Principal Investigator for The Mellon Foundation’s grant. “Its focus on the value of community engagement to higher education, and the potential contribution of higher education to community betterment, is at the heart of our mission. So is the innovative focus on the humanities as a way of fostering authentic engagement and democratic agenda-setting. And we believe strongly in the power of networked collaboration to make change in higher education. We are grateful to The Mellon Foundation and our colleagues at AAC&U for supporting this proposal, and to our partnering institutions for joining us.”

“The PLACE collaboratory serves as a model for the ways in which colleges and universities should be engaging, as anchor institutions, with the communities in which they are located. Humanities practice, at the core of this project, is more critical than ever, as we seek to bridges differences in support of the common good,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella.

The participating institutions in the PLACE Collaboratory will be Rutgers University-Newark; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; five institutions in the Greensboro, North Carolina region (Elon University, Greensboro College, Guilford College, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and the University of North Carolina, Greensboro); and four institutions in the Los Angeles region (College of the Canyons, Pitzer College, the University of LaVerne, and the University of Southern California).

The PLACE Collaboratory initiative is made possible through the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and in alignment with their mission to “strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies.”

You can find the original version of this announcement on The Bringing Theory to Practice site at