Join the Nat’l Week of Conversation Coming up Next Week

Have you checked out the National Week of Conversation‘s site recently? There are currently over 70 events planned, either in person or online and more being added every day! Join the unprecedented National Week of Conversation starting next week on Friday, April 20th and going until Saturday, April 28th. This is a unique opportunity for Americans of different views to talk with each other and, more importantly, really listen to each other. We encourage you to go check out the site to sign up for an event or start your own conversation!

The National Week of Conversation is designed to:

  • Turn the tide of rising rancor and deepening division
  • Begin mending the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides
  • Bring people together again–from ‘us vs. them’ to ‘me and you’
  • Build relationships by listening first to understand the other

NCDD is a proud organizing partner of NWOC, and our founding director Sandy Heierbacher is on NWOC’s core team, along with over 100 additional participating partners!

During the NWOC, Americans from all over the country will take a small step to help bridge the political divides in our country. They will do this by reaching out to people who have different political views and engaging them in civil and respectful conversation about the future of our nation. The goal of these conversations is to help people learn from each other, build relationships, and look for ways to reduce the growing polarization in our public life.

You can sign up at www.nationalweekofconversation.org to pledge your intention to participate in NWOC as an individual or organization (let them know that you are connected to NCDD as a partner organization!). Check out the event calendar to see if there are events near you that you’d like to participate in. We encourage folks to start planning an event during NWOC and add it here. If you’re not sure what model to use or topic to focus on, we recommend you check out the organizations listed here or look over the resources under NWOC’s six suggested topics here.

Here are a few events from our friends:

  • Many from the NCDD network are holding events during the week that we strongly recommend you check out on the event calendar – like Annette Strauss Institute, Ben Franklin Circles, Big Tent Nation, Bring it to the Table, Interactivity Foundation, Kettering, Listen First Project, Living Room Conversations, and the National Institute for Civil Discourse.
  • April 21: Listen First Project will be hosting Listen First in Charlottesville to support the progress of healing and reconciliation in Charlottesville with a number of local and national influencers. (Sandy Heierbacher will be there, so make sure you keep a lookout and say hi!)
  • April 24: Boston Public Library are holding several events – Conversation Cafés, Living Room Conversations, World Cafes, and an option to video chat with folks in Kansas.
  • April 24, 25, 26, 28: Kansas Public Libraries have several events happening at various branches on each of these days

Learn more at NationalWeekofConversation.org and share your experience using #ListenFirst & #NWOC. Let us know if you have an event planned and share it with us in the comments below!

The Better Arguments Project Nominations due TODAY

Now, this is a tight turnaround for this next announcement, but we wanted to give folks in our network a heads up in case you missed it. The Better Arguments Project is an effort for Americans to engage each other around core US values and they are seeking nominations for communities to host their Better Arguments forums. Applications are due TODAY – April 10th, so check it out and get yours in ASAP!  In the post below, learn more about the funding support and other opportunities for those selected, as well as, find more detailed information on the Better Arguments Project’s site here.


The Better Arguments Project – Nominate your Community!

The Better Arguments Project allows Americans to reach across political, cultural and economic divides to have arguments that bring us closer together instead of driving us further apart. We launched this project out of the recognition that arguments are essential for our democracy. Indeed, America is an argument — between equality and liberty, central and local government, unity and diversity. The more we can equip communities to have arguments rooted both in this history and in best practices of constructive communication, the healthier our country will be.

Visit www.BetterArguments.org for more background on this initiative.

This project is designed to be practiced around a specific issue. How will we do this? We need YOU!

Over the next year, we will pilot the Better Arguments Project through local forums in select communities around the country. Would you and your community like to host one of our pilot Better Arguments forums? You’re in the right place!

With each partner, the Better Arguments Project will:

  • Provide the funding, materials, and training needed to convene community members.
  • Offer resources to help successfully lead community members through the forum.
  • Facilitate at least one agreed-upon follow-up step.
  • Document the experience in a video to be shared.

Our team is seeking partners representing various political parties, big and small towns, rural and urban areas, and most importantly, people from all walks of life. Some key qualities include:

  • Individuals or organizations rooted in community
  • Open-mindedness
  • Ability to convene community members representing a wide range of perspectives

Dates and Deadlines

  • Application due April 10th, 2018
  • Selections made April 24th, 2018

Ready to start a Better Argument? For more information:

The Better Arguments Project is a partnership among Facing History and Ourselves, The Aspen Institute Citizenship and American Identity Program, and The Allstate Corporation.

You can find the original version of this announcement on The Better Arguments Project’s site at www.facinghistory.org/together/better-arguments.

The International Residents Network: A Self-Sustaining Instrument for Learning and Sharing (Connections 2016)

The six-page article, “The International Residents Network: A Self-Sustaining Instrument for Learning and Sharing” by Ruby Quantson was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the ninth article of the newsletter, Quantson talks about her efforts to re-connect with members of Kettering’s International Residents Network. She and Leonardo Correa, a previous member of the network reached out to fellow members to see in what ways the network had been self-sustained and what to do moving forward. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

Responding to growing international interest in democracy research, in 1991, the Kettering Foundation established international residencies. These residencies, initially called “fellowships,” include the international residents, the Katherine W. Fanning Residents in Journalism and Democracy, and staff exchanges with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Peking University. Residents usually spend several months at the foundation’s headquarters in Dayton, Ohio, exploring questions central to Kettering’s research program. Thus far, about 130 people have participated from around the world.

In the spring of 2014, I embarked, along with Leonardo Correa from Brazil, on a new research project to locate as many former international residents as we could. Both of us are former international residents, which put us in a unique position to interview others and analyze what we heard. This article focuses on the insights gathered from the research, expressed through the thoughts and voices of those we interviewed. It particularly highlights existing foundations and structures for building a formidable international network and how this platform could be sustained for learning across the world through self-responsibility as a principle of democratic practice.

A key interest in this research was whether former residents (at least a critical number) were self-motivated enough to be responsible for sustaining the network. This interest was particularly driven by two questions posed in the research interviews: how might you work with the international network, and how can the network be managed and sustained?

Mapping out Opportunities for Networking

Interactive Database
The core product generated in this research, critical to the sustenance of the network, was a database or directory on former residents. Intended to operate as an online interactive map, the directory describes careers, interests, and contact details of former residents and therefore offers the international alumni a platform to connect, exchange ideas, and promote collaborative work across a broad range of careers. Several former residents are applying the knowledge acquired during their residency in innovative ways. Their stories have the potential to ignite citizens’ actions elsewhere. For instance, a former resident who currently works as a wood sculptor observed inter alia:

I then took a few chairs and tables of wood; I went to a park near my place, . . . I made a circle, then I invited a few friends and the community. A lot of people came, people from my neighborhood, women that worked around the place, some of my students. . . . Now this place is a space where people can get together and talk about their issues.

What is needed is a means of sharing and learning from these experiences.

Global Voices and Actions for Democracy
The conversations with the former residents also revealed a broad knowledge base enriched by diverse cultures, practices, and experiences useful for knowledge exchange and transfer. The thoughts expressed were not abstract or whimsical; it was a rich and pressing struggle. They spoke to us about the challenges to democracy they see or seek to address within the contexts of a world facing a variety of challenges, including ISIS, Al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram; immigration and refugee crises; polarized politics; diminishing roles for NGOs; and coup d’états and unsustainable development goals in the developing world. When these voices and actions come together, they depict a challenging, yet engaging, global effort toward stronger democratic practices. If these conversations were to take place in a regular (even virtual) space among the residents, the learning and insights would be profound.

Building on Existing Initiatives
Former residents are interacting in many ways all around the world. We have learned of small gatherings in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Fiji, Ireland, New Zealand, Russia, and Tajikistan, to mention a few.

Residents from Ghana have assisted in offering training programs and participated in programs for organizations led by former residents from Zimbabwe and South Africa. The interactions range from simple dinners to exploring democratic practices in policymaking, as well as naming and framing issues. Several former residents are focused on boundary spanning, collaborating with each other to coproduce civic goods that strengthen democracy and promote learning in their respective institutions, as we heard in Kosovo and Tajikistan.

Mapping out these formal and informal connections with the aim of sharing with the larger network and upscaling can lead to greater learning and sustenance of the network.

This is just an excerpt, you can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2016 issue of Connections, edited by KF program officer and senior writer/editor Melinda Gilmore; KF senior associate Philip Stewart; and KF vice president, secretary, and general counsel Maxine Thomas, focuses on our year-long review of our multinational research.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/sites/default/files/periodical-article/Quantson-Connections-2016.pdf

NCDD2018 Call for Session Proposals is Now Open!

NCDD’s 2018 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation is coming up this November 2-4 in downtown Denver.

NCDD conferences bring together hundreds of the most active, thoughtful, and influential people involved in public engagement and group process work across the U.S. and Canada.

Today we’re announcing our call for proposals for our concurrent sessions for NCDD 2018. We’re interested in finding creative ways to highlight the best of what’s happening in public engagement, group process, community problem-solving, civic tech, and arts-based dialogue — and we know you have lots of ideas!

Check out the Application for Session Leaders now to see what we ask for, and start cooking up those great proposals we’ve come to expect from our network! If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, look over the comments on this blog post, where we asked the NCDD community to share what they’d like to see happen at NCDD 2018, and peruse the fabulous sessions offered at the 2016 and 2014 NCDD conferences.

Please note that the deadline for proposals is Wednesday, May 9th. We look forward to seeing what you’d like to offer!

If your work involves dialogue and deliberation, or you want to get involved with this work, you’ll love this conference. Imagine spending three days with some of the most amazing leaders in this field, forming new relationships and reconnecting with old colleagues and friends, hearing about innovative new approaches to the challenges you’re facing, and exploring together how we can shape the future of this important movement, all while using innovative group techniques there’s really nothing like it. (See our 2016 Conference Storify page for quotes and pictures.)

Here is some guidance for those thinking about presenting sessions at NCDD 2018…

Our theme for the 2018 conference is Connecting and Strengthening Civic Innovators, and we invite workshop proposals that in some way build upon or engage the ideas around this theme.

NCDD 2018 is taking place the weekend before the November midterm elections and these are vital times for using the skills and tools of the dialogue and deliberation community to continue to bring people together. We have heard from so many, both in our field and particularly those unfamiliar with D&D work – how do we come together and talk with each other despite the divisiveness that pervades our society? There are many in our country that are unaware of the D&D field’s work to better engage people and improve democratic processes.

Our goal of the conference is to explore how to bring dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement work’s many tools and processes into greater visibility and practice within our society. At the conference, we will dig into how to bring D&D to the more widespread awareness and use by:

  • Cultivating new partnerships and connections with other fields utilizing these approaches, including government, libraries, and journalism;
  • Developing our skills, and building our toolkits to address the emerging needs of the communities we work with and live in;
  • Making the case for public engagement, by elevating the stories of how people are coming together across divides, making decisions and taking action together, as well as demonstrating the value and impact of this work;
  • Growing the skills of D&D in our young people, and cultivating leaders who are drawn to D&D;
  • Building the skills and capacities of others in our communities to do this work;
  • Reaching out to and engaging with those less drawn to D&D, including conservatives, activists, and others;
  • Highlighting the ways D&D can be fun, and exploring innovative methods for public engagement – including the arts.

We invite session proposals that will highlight the work being done to tap D&D into the peoples’ daily lives, build democratic participation, and better expose D&D work through the above connections. Your proposal will be evaluated, in part, by its relevance to our theme and goals.

Some advice for potential session leaders:

  1. Identify great co-presenters.  Most workshops at NCDD conferences are collaborative efforts involving multiple presenters from different organizations and universities. Have you thought about who you can co-present with? Now’s the time to contact them to see if they’d like to offer a session with you! (Use the NCDD Main Discussion list and the comments below to put out feelers for potential co-presenters if you’d like.)
  2. Look over past workshop descriptions. Peruse the list of workshops from NCDD Boston to get a sense of the kinds of sessions the planning team selects. Sessions focused on innovative solutions to common challenges, ways to take this work to scale or to new audiences, and deep dives into great projects (and thoughtful explorations of failed projects!) are especially welcome.
  3. Be innovative with your session.  NCDD attendees are usually not too impressed with traditional panels or long speeches. Get them engaging with you and each other! Think about how you can get them out of their seats and moving around the room. And think about what you’d like to learn from them (not just what they can learn from you). Challenge yourself to run a session without relying on PowerPoint.
  4. Share your stories.  NCDDers prefer hearing your stories to getting a run-down of your organization or methodology.  People are interested in learning about what you did, what you learned, and how they may be able to learn from your experience.
  5. Share the latest.  What’s the latest research? What are the latest innovations in the field? What new challenges are you facing? What are your latest accomplishments?

Not quite ready to draw up a proposal yet? Use the comment field (and/or the NCDD Main Discussion listserv) to float your ideas by other NCDDers and members of the planning team. We may be able to match you up with potential co-presenters who can address the same challenge or issue you’re interested in focusing on.

Look over the comments on our engagement of members around what they would like to see at the conference, on the blog and the listserv. There is a wealth of ideas and insight in those results!

Deadline for submissions
To have your session proposal considered, we need you to submit the session application by the end of the day on Wednesday, May 9th. Members of the conference planning team will review the proposals and plan to respond by email to the first contact listed in your proposal early June.

Don’t forget that the super early bird tickets are NOW AVAILABLE! Get yours at this great low rate before it goes up!

The Kettering Foundation and China-US Relations (Connections 2016)

The six-page article, “The Kettering Foundation and China-US Relations” by Wang Jisi was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the eight article of the newsletter, Jisi shares his experience with Kettering’s consistent engagement with China for over three decades, by bringing together people from both the US and China to learn from each other and maintain relations. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

Since 1986, the Kettering Foundation has maintained a close and fruitful relationship with China, especially with China’s scholarly community. As a participant in this relationship from the beginning, I am both humbled at Kettering’s brave and strenuous efforts to strengthen US-China ties and proud of being a small part of them.

In 1986, when I was a junior lecturer in Peking University’s Department of International Politics, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) cosponsored with the Kettering Foundation a group visit to the United States. The Chinese delegation was headed by Li Shenzhi, vice president of CASS, and consisted of several senior Chinese individuals and four “young observers,” including Yuan Ming of Peking University and myself. We toured Racine, Wisconsin, where we joined the US delegation headed by Kettering president David Mathews and attended a conference together, which covered world politics in general and China-US relations in particular. We were also entertained by local officials and celebrities in Racine. In fact, what impressed me most was not anything related to China-US relations, but a special session conducted by David Mathews, in which he vividly introduced Kettering’s political philosophy and approach to conducting its projects.

It was the first time I had ever heard a representative of an American NGO explain to us how it worked. During the Racine conference, we had interesting conversations with our US counterparts, some of whom had no China connection at all. Racine was a perfect location that allowed Chinese and American public citizens to get to know each other personally.

I confess, although I had spent 18 months at the University of California at Berkeley in 1984-1985 and toured other American cities and towns during that period, my personal contacts in the United States had been confined almost exclusively to Americans who were interested in China, East Asia, or international politics. It was Kettering that widened my horizon by bringing me to Racine and, later, to Dayton, Ohio, where its headquarters is located. This helped me become familiar with grassroots America. In this sense, Kettering opened a window for me—and presumably for many other Chinese colleagues who have participated in the Kettering programs—to observe and understand American society and domestic politics by way of knowing some “real” Americans who live in “typical” US cities like Dayton.

As one of the so-called “US watchers” in China, I used to make the analogy that the relationship between China and the United States is like a state-society relationship. In the China-US relationship, China acts as a state, a hierarchical structure of organizations like CASS and Peking University with individuals in them as a subordinating part, whereas America acts as a society, in which horizontal networks like the Kettering Foundation coexist with governmental organizations but are not subordinated to them. With my experience at Kettering, I have developed a strong belief that we will not be able to catch the essence of US foreign policy and US-China relations unless we understand how civil society functions in America. It will take more time for me, or other Chinese, to fully grasp the meaning of such concepts as “framing public deliberation.” Still, Kettering’s numerous programs have greatly benefited dozens of Chinese citizens and enriched our knowledge about the United States beyond government-to-government connections.

Indeed, it is my own observation that the greatest contribution Kettering has made to the ChinaUS relationship is to bring together social elites from the two societies, making friends between us, letting us know that we share the same purposes of life—happiness, love, family, harmony, and unity. To be sure, political and cultural differences, as well as geographical spans, divide the two peoples, but these differences are secondary if compared to our shared purposes of life as human beings.

This is just an excerpt, you can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2016 issue of Connections, edited by KF program officer and senior writer/editor Melinda Gilmore; KF senior associate Philip Stewart; and KF vice president, secretary, and general counsel Maxine Thomas, focuses on our year-long review of our multinational research.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/sites/default/files/periodical-article/Jisi-Connections-2016.pdf

Exploring How We Engage Values with Ben Franklin Circles

As we mentioned a couple of weeks back, we are going to be sharing stories from the Circles convened by NCDD member org, the Ben Franklin Circles. NCDD teamed up with BFC on this collaborative effort to bring alive the circle process our founding father, Ben Franklin, maintained for over 40 years. In the article, NCDD member Katherine Roxlo reflects on the Circle she convened in Scottsdale, Arizona with students from the Community College Initiative; and how the experience impacted the youth, as well as, affected how the values play out in her life. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


Circle Spotlight: Katherine from Phoenix

Name: Katherine Roxlo
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona (Circle is in nearby Scottsdale)
Sponsor Organization: Scottsdale Community College
Date Launched: August 30, 2017

What attracted you to Ben Franklin Circles?
I have always been interested in respectful conversations and community. The Ben Franklin Circles give me an opportunity to reflect on important values in a constructive fashion and to develop a special community in my life. Concentrating on one value at a time has allowed me to work the values into my life. I feel that morality, ethics and respectful conversations that incorporate the good of our local and national community are at a low point right now in the U.S. The Circles are one small step in the right direction for me. And small steps are GOOD!

How did you recruit members for your Circle? Any lessons learned?
I sent out proposals to conduct Ben Franklin Circles to a number of organizations, including youth groups, senior citizen groups, schools and churches. Scottsdale Community College took me up on it! It is a perfect way to incorporate ethics into a class and to give the students a time to reflect on what they are doing.

I love the question that Ben Franklin started his day with: “What good can I do today?” We start each meeting with a meditation, prayer or moment of silence. It allows us all to calm down from our busy schedules and get centered. During this opening moment, we always ask, “What good can I do today? What good can we do for our community?”

How has hosting a Ben Franklin Circle impacted you?
So many ways! My Circle is made up of Community College Initiative (CCI) students. These are foreign students on a nine-month scholarship program in the U.S. with the goals of learning, gaining experience through internships in a field of interest and contributing to the community through 100-plus hours of volunteer service.

It is an honor to work with these bright students. I see them struggling, but also improving their talents, every time we meet. Some are speaking out more and improving their English. Some are taking on leadership roles. Some are learning to use their time more constructively.

Working with the group gives me extreme hope for the future. They are all thoughtful and smart. At first, the group was a little quiet. But, at the last two meetings, we started letting different students run different parts of the meeting. One conducts the opening. One reviews the past value, one the new value. One student keeps us on schedule. One student runs the last part of the meeting, which we call sharing, listening, caring. I was very impressed with how easily they stepped up to the plate. Giving them the opportunity has been enlightening for me! Now I just sit back, take notes and ask some questions. Often, I am working on my own issues with the virtue.

It is interesting to see the differences in values that they have. Their perspectives have been very good for me. They do not have the food addictions and issues with weight that many Americans have. They place a higher value on personal downtime and family time than those of us in the U.S. They say that Americans must be told everything specifically and literally, that we do not take hints that are obvious in their culture. They are more receptive to unspoken communication. This has been really valuable to me. I see how I can apply these perceptions to my own life in order to be a better person.

Which virtue means the most to you personally and why?
I am not sure. With temperance, I focused on tempering my use of playing solitaire on my cell phone. I had to keep my cell phone in another room at night. What an addiction! It gave me more time to be productive. It also gave me compassion for those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. If I have this much trouble with playing solitaire, I can only imagine someone’s struggle with drugs. Part of the problem is that there truly is a short-term pleasure and positive body response from addictive material. But I know it is short lived and leads to ruin.

With silence, I worked on not giving too many constructive suggestions to my husband (and to never repeating a request). By being silent I learned that he was doing more than I thought and actually had some good ideas of his own.

With order, I made a list of things I wanted to get done. All my plans and order went out the window when my husband had a heart attack. I gladly spent three days in the hospital with him, and realized how flexible and subject to change our priorities can be. It is easy to reorganize when something that is truly important comes up.

With resolution, I successfully gave up chips. That must sound like something small, but it isn’t for me. For more than a year, I have been focused on improving my health and fitness. I am cutting out as much sugar, flour and processed food as I can. The open bag of chips that my husband leaves above the refrigerator have been a huge temptation. I was never able to kick the habit of grabbing that bag of chips when I got home and was tired. But we are reporting our progress on our resolution back to the group and I didn’t want to tell them I failed! I am happy to say I can report eating no chips for three weeks. It is easier to give them up completely. Having to be accountable to my Circle is a huge driver for success.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circle’s at https://benfranklincircles.org/circle-spotlight/circle-spotlight-katherine-from-phoenix-az.

Join Next Tuesday’s Confab Feat Community Rights US!

We are excited for our April Confab call featuring Community Rights US, coming up next week on Tuesday, April 10th from 1-2:30pm Eastern/ 10-11:30am Pacific! Please join us for this free call with NCDD member, Linda Ellinor, who will be interviewing Paul Cienfuegos of Community Rights US. They will be addressing the growing success of the Community Rights movement which is empowering citizens to pass local laws that protect our right to clean air and water, safe food, living wage jobs, and much more, in their local communities. Register today to reserve your slot!

About the Community Rights movement:

Since its inception in 1999, over 200 communities and counties in nine states have passed legally and culturally groundbreaking Community Rights ordinances that have banned harmful corporate activities such as fracking, water bottling, unsustainable energy development, aerial spraying of pesticides on farms and forests, and much more. These local laws also enshrine Nature as having locally enforceable Rights to exist, flourish and evolve. This is a real breakthrough approach for those of us in NCDD trying to facilitate effective community engagement projects especially around environmental and social justice issues. Come learn how to help your communities work ’outside the regulatory law box’ that has made it virtually impossible to block predatory corporate projects such as factory farms, GMOs, and mining operations from coming in and destroying local communities and ecosystems.

About the presenters:

Paul Cienfuegos is a national leader in the Community Rights movement, which works to dismantle corporate constitutional so-called “rights” and assert The People’s inherent right to govern themselves. He has been leading workshops across the US since 1995. Launched in October 2017, Paul is the founding director of Community Rights US. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Linda Ellinor pioneered Bohm Dialogue in the 1990s and is now focused on climate change activism and helping to found the “Academy for Professional Dialogue’, slated to be launched in 2018.

This call is not-to-miss – register today to join us for this conversation!

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

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

A Comparative Study of Coastal Communities in Cuba and the United States (Connections 2016)

The nine-page article, “A Comparative Study of Coastal Communities in Cuba and the United States” by Paloma Dallas, Penny Dendy, Terry Jack, Esther Velis, Virginia York, was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the seventh article of the newsletter, the authors talk about the collaboration between Kettering and the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation, on how each organization worked with communities in the US and Cuba, respectively, on addressing important issues that impact both areas. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

This article tells the story of two organizations—one in Cuba and the other in the United States—and the community-based networks they collaborate with to learn how to make a difference on issues that affect both nations.

Nearly two decades ago, the Kettering Foundation began a series of ongoing exchanges with the Havana-based Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity, a nongovernmental environmental organization founded by Antonio Núñez Jiménez, a renowned Cuban geographer, archeologist, and speleologist.

As part of these exchanges, the Núñez Foundation was interested in exploring ways citizens can play an active role in responding to the challenges their communities face. Kettering has long studied how people come together to make progress on difficult problems and do the work of creating resilient communities. Both foundations saw potential in comparing the experiences of communities facing related problems in different contexts.

An obvious opportunity for such an exchange seemed to be their shared geography: the Gulf of Mexico. Communities along the Gulf in both countries face some of the very same challenges, namely a vulnerability to hurricanes, as well as other human-made disasters. These dangers are not going away, so the challenge was, how could they respond? How might people living in those communities begin to work together to protect their communities and strengthen their capacity to bounce back from disasters?

Both foundations reached out to communities that they thought would be interested in taking up this challenge. Because the Kettering Foundation doesn’t work directly in communities, they contacted colleagues in Panama City, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama, who have long worked to encourage public deliberation on pressing issues. The Núñez Foundation initially identified the community of Cárdenas, also on the Gulf Coast, but since the foundation would be leading the work themselves, they decided to select a community in which they were already working. So, after further consideration, they chose Playa Larga in Ciénaga de Zapata, on Cuba’s southern Caribbean coast.

What follows draws from two essays authored by those who led the work: Esther Velis, director of international relations for the Núñez Foundation; Frances “Penny” Dendy, organizational consultant and community volunteer in Mobile, Alabama; Virginia York, retired professor, consultant, and community volunteer in Panama City, Florida; and Terry Jack, professor emeritus, Gulf Coast State College.

This is just an excerpt, you can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2016 issue of Connections, edited by KF program officer and senior writer/editor Melinda Gilmore; KF senior associate Philip Stewart; and KF vice president, secretary, and general counsel Maxine Thomas, focuses on our year-long review of our multinational research.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/sites/default/files/periodical-article/Dallas-Connections-2016.pdf

Co-Creating a Shared Future and Funding the Vision

Those in the NCDD network can attest that while there is a lot of enthusiasm and effort around engagement work; what many in our field continue to struggle with is having funding to do said work and operating in silos. That’s why we wanted to share this excellent article posted on the Bridge Alliance site from NCDD member, Debilyn Molineaux, that articulates this vital need for co-creating a shared future and getting this shared vision funded.

Like the article states and our community knows, it takes conversation in order to build a shared future, and there’s a longing for many in this country to be able to bridge divides and work better together. NCDD stemmed from this need to bridge the D&D field and we’ll continue to share the important work being done to engaged people – like the National Week of Conversation on April 20-28, a collaborative effort to build relationships and heal our divisions. You can read Debilyn’s post below and find the original version on BA’s site here.


We Need To Talk: It’s Time to Create and Fund Our Future

Collectively, there are thousands of organizations and funders already working to improve our country. So why does our country appear to be a mess?

The weakest part of our country is our willingness to live in a narrative/news stream that confirms our own bias and demonizes others. We could make our collective work exponentially more effective by fostering strong relationships among people of different viewpoints.

Our current frayed social fabric is the result of “winner take all” politics, party loyalty over patriotism and is exacerbated by attacks from foreign influencers who manipulate us through social media and propaganda. Only We the People can change our attitudes and behavior to stop it.

Foundations have spent or committed $4.1 billion since 2011 to strengthen our democratic republic. And yet, the results are not recognizable to the average American. What will it take to continue to progress the ideals of our country and the future we want to create in this environment of turmoil and chaos?

Some of the most well-known movements in the last decade have started in a seemingly spontaneous manner following years of build-up. Think of the Tea Party in 2009, Occupy Wall Street in 2011, and #MeToo in 2017.

Collectively, the citizens and organizations that comprise our current post or cross-partisan movement are very energetic, and we are not yet coalesced. Largely because our biology is focused on what we DON’T want instead of what we DO want.

Creating and funding our shared future requires a shared vision of what we want — beyond avoiding the crisis of the current moment. It is our dreams, goals, and visions combined with a solid strategy and certain resources that will sustain us, long-term.

To determine this, we need to talk with each other to determine a vision for our shared future. We often hear people express how tired they are of talking — especially when they’ve been talking with friends and strangers for decades about what doesn’t work.

And that’s exactly the point —  focusing on problems is exhausting. Some among us are inclined to move straight to action — just fix it. But how will we know it’s “fixed” without checking in? This is why we need to engage in conversations, debates, and deliberation — it’s the fastest way forward to consciously create a shared vision.

We are constantly creating our future. I suggest we upgrade our visioning and planning to develop new social systems. As with anything new, extra communication is needed to establish systems, experiment with different approaches, and say what is working or not. Extra communication enables us to move forward, together.

Once new systems are in place, we can talk less and “just do it.” But when the systems are broken, unknown, ineffective or corrupt, then increasing our communication processes is an important FIRST ACTION.

So here is a prescription for creating and funding our future:

  1. Talk, debate and deliberate to create a future vision we WANT to share. (Maybe sign up for the National Week of ConversationApril 20-28, 2018).
  2. Talk, debate and deliberate the tactics needed to support the shared vision.
  3. Fund the leaders, programs and organizations who have the skills and capacities to turn deliberation into shared action.

“We deliberate not about ends,” said Aristotle, “but about the means to attain ends.”

In the end, it all starts with conversation.

You can find the original version of this post on the Bridge Alliance’s site at www.bridgealliance.us/we_need_to_talk_it_s_time_to_create_and_fund_our_future.

Kick off NWOC at Listen First in Charlottesville April 20-22

The National Week of Conversation (NWOC) is coming up this month from April 20-28th! It will be an unprecedented week of conversations throughout the Nation designed to bring folks from across divides to build relationships and provide opportunities to work more effectively together in addressing the divisions in this country. NCDD is a proud organizing partner for this effort, joined by over 50 partner organizations, all working to help Americans have better conversations with each other.

One of the first major events to kick off this exciting week is Listen First in Charlottesville (LFC), which will be from Friday, April 20th – Sunday, April 22nd. This event will convene several heavy hitters from the NCDD network, including our own Sandy Heierbacher -We strongly encourage folks to attend! Sandy will be moderating the final panel at the Saturday session, Bridging Divides Across America, with NCDD member David Leaverton of Undivided Nation, as well as, David Blankenhorn of Better Angels, Malka Fenyvesi of On Being’s Civil Conversations Project, and Joseph Pinion of Conservative Color Coalition.

LFC will also feature many influential people in the D&D field, including NCDDers Pearce Godwin of Listen First Project (a major convener of this event!), Parisa Parsa of Essential Partners, Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer of National Institute for Civil Discourse, Debilyn Molineaux of Bridge Alliance and Living Room Conversation Project, Liz Joyner of Village Square, John Gable of Allsides, John Steiner of Mediators Foundation, and Erin Leaverton of Undivided Nation. Check out the incredible line-up hereWe are thrilled to see so many exciting and engaging leaders in the field at one event, we hope you can make it!

Below is the agenda for the weekend with events beginning on Friday evening and concluding on Sunday. For those from the NCDD network that will be attending, Sandy would love to connect with you, so let her know that you will be there by emailing her sandy[at]ncdd[dot]org. To learn more about other exciting events happening during the National Week of Conversation, to start up your own event, or to join as a partner – click here to learn more!


Listen First in Charlottesville

Presented by Bridge Alliance Education Fund
April 20-28, 2018

  • To support the progress of healing and reconciliation in Charlottesville.
  • To inspire America toward mending the frayed fabric of society by bridging divides with conversations that prioritize understanding the other.

Friday, April 20th, 6pm, various locations
Village Square & Connect Cville Challenge invite you to host or attend diverse Charlottesville Dinners. Register at ConnectCville.org or contact liz@villagesquare.us.

Friday, April 20th, 8:30pm, The Haven
Free concert by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Saturday, April 21st, 1-5:30pm, Sprint Pavilion
Listen First Conversations which prioritize understanding the other among panels of local and national influencers as well as personal conversations amongst all attendees that both enhance understanding and spark ideas for action, followed by inspiring keynotes. Conversation topics will include:

  • Charlottesville’s Historical Divisions and Fresh Wounds
  • Charlottesville Working to Heal and Progress
  • A Nation Divided
  • Bridging Divides Across America

Sunday, April 22nd, various times and locations
Programming by Listen First Coalition partners Living Room Conversations, Montpelier, Common Ground Committee, Better Angels, Converge UVA, United Citizen Power, AllSides, and Charlottesville’s Playback Theater. Details at the Saturday event.

National Week of Conversation
This event is part of the first National Week of Conversation (April 20-28) in which Americans come together coast to coast and #ListenFirst to understand the other in conversation. At a moment in history in which we’re increasingly isolating ourselves from our fellow Americans, especially those with whom we disagree, NWOC is an opportunity to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides one conversation at a time. Learn more at NationalWeekofConversation.org and share your experience using #ListenFirst & #NWOC!

You can find the original version of this announcement on Listen First Project’s site at www.listenfirstproject.org/listen-first-in-charlottesville-event/.