How Should We Prevent Mass Shootings in Our Communities? (Issue Advisory)

The 4-page issue advisory, How Should We Prevent Mass Shootings in Our Communities? was published September 2016 from National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation. The issue guide offers participants three options to use during deliberation on how to address the tragic realities of mass shootings that are occurring in our communities. The issue advisory is available to download for free on NIFI’s site here.

From NIFI…

The tragic attacks in Orlando, Florida, San Bernardino, California, and other places have raised concerns among many people across the nation. Other violent episodes, such as a teenager who was gunned down after returning home from the president’s inauguration, have also drawn attention. While mass shootings are infrequent, they may be increasing. Each event has devastating effects on the entire community.

Overall, the United States has become safer in recent years. Yet mass shooters target innocent people indiscriminately, often in locales where people ordinarily (and rightly) feel safe—movie theaters, college campuses, schools. How can we stop these violent acts and ensure that people feel safe in their homes and communities?

This issue advisory presents three options for deliberation, along with their drawbacks:

​Option 1: Reduce the Threat of Mass Shootings
The problem is that we are too vulnerable to violence. Communities and homes should be places where people are safe. The means for carrying out mass shootings are all around, and those who might perpetrate them are free among us. It is too easy for individuals to obtain weapons that are designed to kill a large number of people in a short time. We cannot stop all violent impulses, but we can and should make it much more difficult for people to act on them. We need to restrict the availability of dangerous weapons, identify potentially dangerous people, and prevent them from carrying out their plans.

Option 2: Equip People to Defend Themselves
The problem is that most people are unable to defend themselves against sudden danger from violence. There will always be some people who are a threat to those around them. In such situations, we cannot afford to rely on someone else to rescue us. We need to be prepared for violence and have the means to defend against it. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees this right.

Option 3: Root Out Violence in Society
The problem is that we live in a culture that perpetuates violence and numbs people to its effects. Violence and criminality are pervasive in popular music, films, television, video games, and sports. Mass murderers gain notoriety through nonstop media portrayals. This results in a culture in which stories of mass shootings circulate and gain momentum, increasing the likelihood of further shootings. We need to root out and stop the glorification of violence to break this cycle.

Note about this Issue Advisory
Recent horrific events involving mass shootings have touched a deep chord in many of us. Deliberative forums on this issue will not be easy. It will be important to remember, and to remind participants, that the objective of these forums is to begin to work through the tensions between security, freedom, and a healthy society.

Mass violence evokes raw emotions. Participants in this forum may become angry, and those with strong feelings may feel attacked by those who hold other points of view. This may sidetrack the deliberation. In productive deliberation, people examine the advantages and disadvantages of different options for addressing a difficult public problem, weighing these against the things they hold deeply valuable. This framing is designed to help people work through their emotions to recognize the trade-offs that each of us must wrestle with in deciding how to move forward.

The framework outlined in this issue advisory encompasses several options and provides an alternative means of moving forward in order to avoid the polarizing rhetoric now growing around the major policy options. Each option is rooted in a shared concern and proposes a distinct strategy for addressing the problem that includes roles for citizens to play. Equally important, each option presents the drawbacks inherent in each action. Recognizing these drawbacks allows people to see the trade-offs they must consider in pursuing any action. It is these drawbacks, in large part, that make coming to shared judgment so difficult—but ultimately, so productive.

One effective way to begin deliberative forums on this issue is to ask people to describe how the issue of mass violence has affected them or their families. Some will have had direct experience; many more will say they are affected by the fear of such acts. They are likely to mention the concerns identified in the framework.

The goal of this framework is to assist people in moving from initial reactions to more reflective judgment. That requires serious deliberation or weighing options for action against the things people value.

NIF-Logo2014About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s Issue Guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

Follow on Twitter: @NIForums

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/es/issue-guide/issue-advisory-how-can-we-stop-mass-shootings-our-communities-2016

Civility Lessons from Washington in Honor of President’s Day

In honor of President’s Day, we wanted to share this piece by Big Tent Nation on some lessons from George Washington that was posted on NCDD member org, the Bridge Alliance‘s website. This post lifts up some of the gems the first president wrote about on the power of dialogue and importance of civility especially within conversation. In addition to BTN and BA, there are several organizations in the NCDD network like the National Institute for Civil Discourse and The Village Square, have been working to improve civility just as G.W. advised. You can read the post below or find this version on the BA’s site here.


Lessons from George Washington: It’s Time We Listened!

We all want America to flourish and prosper, but disagreements on “how” keep tripping us up. How is much more than picking between policy prescriptions – at its core it involves how we treat each other, and particularly those we disagree with.

The person most essential to realizing America in the first place thought about this issue a lot. It’s time to revisit his legacy.

George Washington was incredibly wealthy, physically imposing and a war hero of epic proportions. He probably could have gotten away with being a total jerk and still been revered! The fact is, many Americans wanted to give him almost limitless power. Some even wanted to make him a king.

His response? To a degree unprecedented in history (with all due respect to Cincinnatus), he put nation ahead of personal power and glory.  Was it because he wasn’t ambitious? Was it because he never felt like knocking Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s heads together and telling them to just behave? Absolutely not. He had the same desires and frustrations we all struggle with.

In fact, Washington was a highly emotional person who worked incredibly hard to manage his impulses.

He started cultivating self-control and interpersonal wisdom at an early age.  At just 16, he created a book for himself now called “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” In it he transcribed 110 guidelines for personal conduct, manners and social relations. Reading them now, I’m struck by how relevant they are to today’s political challenges – and the degree to which we’re systematically ignoring them.  Below are a few that would contribute enormously to authentic American greatness, if only we put them into practice:

At a profound level, Washington recognized that discipline and respect for others are essential to achieving greatness as a person or a nation.  We’ve strayed too far from these principles – and that represents an existential threat to our democracy.

Too many of us have allowed “our side” winning to triumph over the best interests of America as a whole.  The political dysfunction we suffer today has its roots in this toxic, zero sum mentality. Is there a way forward? The jury is out, but I can’t think of a better guide for all of us than the saying George Washington wrote down last:

You can find this version of the Big Tent Nation’s blog piece on the Bridge Alliance site at  www.bridgealliance.us/lessons_from_george_washington_it_s_time_we_listened.

Recap on our Tech Tues Feat Iceland’s Citizens Foundation

NCDD hosted another one of our informative and exciting TechTues calls earlier this week! We were joined by around 100 participants from across the world to learn more about Citizens Foundation, their digital democracy solutions, and how they are working to strengthen civic engagement in Iceland and internationally.

We recommend you listen to the recording if you weren’t able to make it because it was a great call!

On the call, Robert Bjarnason of Citizens Foundation walked participants through a brief history of how democracy has evolved throughout the last millennium in Iceland and set the stage for the work they are doing today. Founded in the aftermath of Iceland’s economic collapse in 2008, Citizens Foundation sought to improve public participation in government and policy change, by creating open source tools and implementing more democratic processes. They specialize in participatory budgeting, policy crowdsourcing, and other open source projects spanning several countries in Europe and in Australia.

Some of our favorite quotes from Robert during the Tech Tuesday:

  • “A key factor is to make participation fun. Make it informational and educational, but it can’t be boring. People have too many other options, there’s competition for attention, so make it an enjoyable experience”
  • “Lower the barrier to reach more people and not just the usual suspects”
  • “It’s key to let people know about the effort, they can’t participate if they don’t know about it.”
  • “If you listen to the people, the people will listen to you.”
  • [In response to a question on how do you make participation fun?] “Complicated is how you kill fun, make it simple and use pictures!”

If you were unable to join us on the call, never fear! We recorded the webinar which can be found on the archives page here. Access to the archives is a benefit of being an NCDD member, so make sure your membership is up-to-date (or click here to join).  We had an active chat discussion which raised some really interesting questions and examples, and you can check out the transcript of this chat by clicking here. Robert also shared the slides from his presentation, which you can find by clicking here, in case you wanted to scroll through them.

Tech_Tuesday_BadgeBig thank you to Robert and everyone who participated on the call to make it engaging and informative! We encourage you to check out the TechTues recording and learn more about Citizens Foundation’s ongoing work at https://citizens.is/. To learn more about NCDD’s Tech Tuesday series and hear recordings of past calls, please visit www.ncdd.org/tech-tuesdays.

Finally, we love holding these events and we want to continue to elevate the work of our field with Tech Tuesdays and Confab Calls. It is through your generous contributions to NCDD that we can keep doing this work! That’s why we want to encourage you to support NCDD by making a donation or becoming an NCDD member today (you can also renew your membership by clicking here).

MetroQuest Webinar on Finding Common Ground, Feb. 28th

Coming up at the end of February, NCDD member org MetroQuest will be hosting the webinar, How to Design Public Engagement to Find Common Ground; co-sponsored by NCDD, IAP2, and the American Planning Association (APA).  This webinar will be an opportunity to learn more on how to design public engagement efforts that uplift the common ground amongst the community and create solutions that demonstrate these shared ideals. You can read the announcement below or find the original on MetroQuest’s site here.


MetroQuest Webinar: How to Design Public Engagement to Find Common Ground

A 5-star recipe for public engagement – how to find common desires and build a winning plan!

Wednesday, February 28th
11 am Pacific | 12 pm Mountain | 1 pm Central | 2 pm Eastern (1 hour)
Educational Credit Available (CM APA AICP)
Complimentary (FREE)

REGISTER HERE

When it comes to urban and transportation planning, motivated groups with competing demands often emerge in community outreach efforts. On February 28th, learn how online community engagement can help find common ground to build a plan citizens will support.

Mark Evans from BartonPartners and Mary Young with the Town of Westport will share their success in engaging the public to inform the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design Master Plan. Find out how online engagement provided a fun and safe way for citizens to provide input without fear of reprisal from local insurgent groups. The result? A master plan that meets the common desires of the local community.

Register for this complimentary 1-hour live webinar to learn how to …

  • Create a public engagement process to find common goals
  • Ensure privacy in the process to uncover the true priorities
  • Optimize citizen engagement to go beyond motivated groups
  • Collect informed, constructive input from all demographics
  • Find the balance between livability, character, and transportation
  • Gain transparency with actionable data to support your plan

You can find the original version of this announcement on MetroQuest’s site at http://go.metroquest.com/Westport-City-Plan-Barton-Partners

Review of Deliberation across Deeply Divided Societies: Transformative Moments

The 5-page review written by Nancy A. Vamvakas of Deliberation across Deeply Divided Societies: Transformative Moments (2017), by Jürg Steiner, Maria Clara Jaramillo, Rousiley C. M. Maia, and Simona Mameli, was published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the book, the authors analyze group discussions from three distinct conflicts in Colombia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and Brazil; and discuss the various approaches to deliberation in each area. Read an excerpt of the review below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the review…

Indeed, this book is the result of a very ambitious undertaking; Jürg Steiner et. al. have compiled and analyzed group discussions among ex-guerrillas and exparamilitaries in Colombia, among Serbs and Bosniaks in Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and among poor community residents and police officers in Brazilian favelas.

The discussions were facilitated by passive moderators who posed a general question about peace, but did not intervene; facilitators did not ask further questions and did not ask participants to speak up. In the case of Colombia, the groups were asked: what are your recommendations so that Colombia can have a future of peace, where people from the political left and the political right, guerrillas and paramilitaries, can live peacefully together? (p. 24). The Bosnian groups were asked to formulate recommendations for a better future in BosniaHerzegovina (p. 31). Finally, in Brazil, discussants were given the following question: How is it possible to create a culture of peace between poor community residents and the local police? (p. 36).

Steiner et. al. advance the on-going debate between those deliberative theorists who stress a purely rational approach and those who adopt a softer focus which incorporates finer threads of emotions. The authors argue that “deliberation means that all participants can freely express their views; that arguments are well justified, which can also be done with well-chosen personal stories or humor; that the meaning of the common good is debated; that arguments of others are respected; and that the force of the better argument prevails, although deliberation does not necessarily have to lead to consensus” (p. 2). They are in agreement with deliberative theorists such as Laura Black who see the great potential in storytelling and the limitations of the rationalist approach. Personal stories, as presented here are examples of “non-rational elements” (86) that have added to the deliberation model. Steiner et. al. argue that Jürgen Habermas set “very high standards of how rational justification of arguments should look” (p. 106). The book proposes a less demanding test for rationality; less stringent criteria; the bar is lowered. Context matters, who the actors are matters, and “standards of rationality should not be universal” (p. 106). The authors argue that given the “low level of formal schooling,” the discussions were “hard tests” (p. 86) for rational arguments.

The authors argue that there is a complexity to deliberation, hence, analysis must take into account deliberation over the course of a discussion. They code deliberation to see how it evolves and whether it fluctuates; for these ups and downs of group dynamics they coin the very innovative concept of Deliberative Transformative Moments (DTM). The units of analysis are the individual speech acts. Speech acts were coded using four categories: the speech act stays at a high level of deliberation; the speech act transforms the level of deliberation from high to low (flow of discussion is disrupted); the speech act stays at a low level of deliberation; the speech act transforms the level of deliberation from low to high (participants add new aspects to a topic or formulate a new topic). The reader has the luxury of being able to follow these discussions on the book’s website (www.ipw.unibe.ch/content/research/deliberation) and is able to see first hand the speech acts; and can also see the justifications given for the authors’ coding as to whether deliberation was high, low, shifted up or down. Hence, the authors are able to argue that their research process is “fully transparent and therefore open for replications” (p. 6).

Download the full review from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

About the Journal of Public DeliberationJournal of Public Deliberation
Spearheaded by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in collaboration with the International Association of Public Participation, the principal objective of Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD) is to synthesize the research, opinion, projects, experiments and experiences of academics and practitioners in the emerging multi-disciplinary field and political movement called by some “deliberative democracy.” By doing this, we hope to help improve future research endeavors in this field and aid in the transformation of modern representative democracy into a more citizen friendly form.

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

Follow the International Association of Public Participation [US] on Twitter: @IAP2USA

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol13/iss1/art9

NCDD at Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference

We are thrilled to let folks know that NCDD staff, Courtney Breese and I will be at the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference, which is happening on March 8th – 10th in the Phoenix area. This conference will be a fantastic opportunity to learn about the top innovations in civic engagement and democracy, and to network with leaders in the field doing this powerful work.

We are especially excited to announce we will be presenting a session in collaboration with two fellow NCDD members: Cassandra Hemphill of the IAP2 Federation and adjunct faculty at Missoula College of the University of Montana, as well as, Annie Rappeport of the University of Maryland where she serves as a PhD Student and Research Assistant. In this interactive workshop, we will use art to explore participants’ individual connections to participatory democracy, what led us to our work on improving our democracy, and what each of us offer to the field. We’ll explore how we are connected in our communities and how we might connect with others to strengthen participatory democracy. If you are attending IPD, we hope you will join us for our session during Block 1 on Thursday, March 8th from 3-4:30pm.

While we are in town, we would love to meet up with NCDDers in the area (and those attending the conference)! We are working to identify a location that could accommodate a meetup on Friday night (March 9th) after the IPD events that evening. If you are in town on the 9th and would like to join us, send Courtney an email at courtney[at]ncdd[dot]org and we’ll keep you in the loop as we firm up our plans!

IPD is being hosted by NCDD member organizations – the Participatory Budgeting Project and the Jefferson Center, as well as, the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Katal Center, the Participatory Governance Initiative at Arizona State University, Phoenix Union High School District, and the Policy Jury Group. If you’ve never been to a conference hosted by PBP and these fine organizations, you are in for a special treat! Tickets go up February 28th – so make sure you get yours ASAP.

There are several pre-conference trainings planned for Wednesday, March 7th, like a training on participatory budgeting (PB) hosted by the Participatory Budgeting Project, or a training on citizen juries, citizen assemblies, sortition, and more hosted by the Jefferson Center and the Policy Jury Group. Click here to learn more and register for these pre-conference trainings, and to see the full IPD conference schedule.

Remember to keep an eye out for Courtney and I if you are attending the conference because we would love to see you!

NIFI Deliberation Day Coming up Monday, February 19th

NCDD member org – the National Issues Forums Institute, will be hosting Deliberation Day on Monday February 19th, where folks will have five back-to-back opportunities to participate in an online deliberative forum on immigration. Participants will have a chance to use NIFI’s Common Ground for Action online forum, where the results will then be part of A Public Voice 2018; an annual event hosted by Kettering Foundation and NIFI that bring Congressional and agency staffers together in a working meeting to discuss results from the deliberative forums (learn about APV 2017 here). NIFI is offering complimentary copies of their issue guide, Coming to America, before April 11th and have a free recorded webinar available on moderating these deliberative forums. We encourage you to read the announcement below or you can find the original here.


Join Us for Deliberation Day – Monday, February 19, 2018

Five Back-to-Back Online Forums about Immigration

Moderators and conveners around the country are planning and holding public deliberative forums about the issue of immigration to help kick off the 2018 A Public Voice forum series. At least 40 forums are already being scheduled, and more are in the works. A notable feature of this year’s forums, Deliberation Day, scheduled for Monday, February 19th, will include five, back-to-back Common Ground for Action online forums.

You are invited to choose a time that works best for you and participate in one of the online forums on February 19th. And you can help by sharing this invitation and the registration links below with your friends, family, and communities. All forums will use the brand-new Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do? issue framework.

All forums will be held on Monday, February 19th (Presidents’ Day)

Click on a link to register:

Forum 1: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm EST
Forum 2: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST
Forum 3:  3:30 pm – 5:30 pm EST
Forum 4:  6:30 pm –   8:30 pm EST
Forum 5:  9:00 pm – 11:00 pm EST

If You’re Planning to Hold a Forum – FREE Materials Offer

For a limited time, the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) is offering complimentary sets of 20 Coming to America issue guides and questionnaires to conveners holding forums before April 1, 2018. Click here or contact Darla Minnich at dminnich@nifi.org to sign up to receive your free materials.

Please let us know about your forums. When you’ve scheduled your forum (either before or after April 1, 2018), please let us know about it by posting your information on the NIFI web site in the Events section. You must log in to submit an event; or send your forum details (contact name and email address, date, time, location, city, state, zip code) to Patty Dineen at dineenp@msn.com.

Watch a Webinar about Moderating Coming to America Forums

On January 30, 2018, Kara Dillard presented a one-hour webinar about convening and moderating forums using the new National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) issue guide titled, Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do? The webinar, Moderating the Coming to America Deliberative Forums, was recorded and has been archived. Click here to watch the webinar.

You can find the original version of this blog post from NIFI at http://conta.cc/2G94kX4.

Don’t Miss Tomorrow’s Tech Tuesday Featuring Iceland’s Citizens Foundation!

In case you missed our original announcement, we have an exciting NCDD Tech Tuesday call featuring Iceland’s Citizens Foundation, tomorrow February 13th from 2-3pm Eastern/11am-Noon Pacific. This FREE call will showcase Citizen Foundation’s digital democracy tools and how they are working to strengthen civic engagement in Iceland. You don’t have to be an NCDD member to participate in the webinar, so we hope you will join us! Register ASAP to save your spot on the call.

Róbert Bjarnason, from the nonprofit Citizens Foundation in Iceland, will present digital tools for upgrading democracy in Iceland and beyond, outlining the Foundation’s digital democracy work since 2008. Projects including policy crowdsourcing and participatory budgeting using open source tools will be demonstrated in this webinar. As highlighted in the Financial Times, since 2011 the citizens of Reykjavik have voted online to select close to 1,000 community improvement projects totaling over $20 million dollars.

The Citizens Foundation open source digital democracy tools have been used in over 20 countries and by over 1 million people to change policy and help rebuild trust between citizens and their governments. Collaborating with E-Democracy.org in the United States to help others deploy and measure civic digital outreach efforts, a new case study (request a copy) comparing paid Facebook and Google advertising used to reach nearly every citizen of Iceland will be shared in brief.

Róbert is a successful entrepreneur that introduced the web to Iceland in 1993 and in 1995 to Denmark. Before co-founding the Citizens Foundation in the year 2008 he worked in the online gaming industry where his team received many industry awards.

Robert has many years experience and much success in using digital tools for democracy, and he is looking forward to sharing his knowledge and experience with us. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity – register today!

About NCDD’s Tech Tuesdays

Tech Tuesdays are a series of learning events from NCDD focused on technology for engagement. These 1-hour events are designed to help dialogue and deliberation practitioners get a better sense of the online engagement landscape and how they can take advantage of the myriad opportunities available to them. You do not have to be a member of NCDD to participate in our Tech Tuesday learning events.