Community-Police Relations Confab Call Lessons with PCRC

In case you missed it, we had another fantastic Confab call with NCDD member org, the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center (PCRC) in December. We were joined by roughly 60 participants to learn more about PCRC’s work over the last 20 years coordinating community-police relations and their best practices for how they have brought people together. Listen to the recording if you weren’t able to make it, because it was a great call!

On the call, we were joined by PCRC Executive Director Michelle Vilchez and Engaging Communities Initiative Director Malissa Netane who shared with participants some of the tenets of PCRC and strategies they’ve used to bridge divides between the community and police in San Mateo County, CA. A big part of the work that PCRC does is done collaboratively and before any engagement effort immense pre-work must be done, especially for more contentious issues. They are diligent to go to the community they are working with and personally get to know folks, ensure that people have a space to share their stories before gathering together in a larger group, and build relationships through dialogue. PCRC is mindful of the communities they are working with and are sensitive of the particular needs of each group, they emphasized the vital need to work with cultural humility when dealing with communities. – “When engaging any group that’s outside your own, you don’t have to be an expert in someone else’s culture. Have a commitment to learn and know there are culturally appropriate ways to communicate.”

“What a great call. I was struck particularly by how dialogue is one element in their larger strategy for community building: in many ways, they’re engaging in culture change as much as anything else. It makes me wonder how many dialogue efforts are tied into larger strategies in this way.” – John Backman, Confab participant

We want to thank Michelle, Malissa, and all the Confab participants for contributing to this important conversation! To learn more about NCDD’s Confab Calls and hear recordings of others, visit www.ncdd.org/events/confabs.

Confab bubble imageNo worries if you couldn’t participate in the Confab – we recorded the whole presentation, which you can find on the archives page by clicking 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 several excellent contributions on the chat, which you can find the transcript of here.

Finally, we love holding these events and we want to continue to elevate the work of our field with Confab Calls and Tech Tuesdays. 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).

NCDD Board Member on Protecting our Civic Ecosystem

Our NCDD board member, Jacob Hess recently wrote a piece in which he correlates the increasing call to protect our threatened natural ecosystems with the need to also protect our democratic ecosystem. In the article, he shares his experience adapting Living Room Conversations in Utah by collaborating with individuals and organizations already doing civic engagement work, of which developed into a thriving network of civically-engaged folks. We encourage you to read Jacob’s piece below or find the original here.


Preserving and Protecting Our Precious Civic Ecosystem

Lots of attention is going today to physical habitat under siege (and for good reason): without more attention, many of these beautiful areas might go away, or be irreparably damaged. For that reason, many believe that energy invested in this protection and preservation is well spent.

Far less attention, however, goes to the way our civic ecosystem remains under increasing siege. What began as occasional concern for the hostility in the U.S. media and elected leaders, has become widespread trepidation regarding public animosities deepening in every direction, on nearly every issue.

Some believe that without more attention, this precious civic ecosystem could go away or likewise become irreparably damaged, thus prompting similar calls for additional investment to protect and preserve this fragile democratic habitat.

A case study in Utah. Starting in 2014, I had the opportunity to work for Living Room Conversations in a Utah experiment to help cultivate the civic ecosystem there. Rather than plowing up the roots already in place (or riding into town with the “newfangled solutions”), it felt important to build upon and leverage whatever rich habitat already existed.

Thus we began with a local reconnaissance reaching out to 20 different civics organizations to find out what had already been done (it turns out, a lot, as you can see here in a general summary and here in a more recent success in LGBT-religious conservative dialogue). After meeting with a number of leaders in the past work, including John Kesler (Salt Lake Civil Network), Michele Straube (Environmental Dispute Resolution, U of U) and David Derezotes (Peace & Conflict Studies, U of U), I was struck at how underrecognized and little known their efforts were, compared to much louder initiatives that captured the public eye.

Given the lack of recognition and continuing suspicion this kind of bridge-building elicited from many, we have experimented with different ways to connect more people to the possibility of vibrant and productive “disagreement practice”, as defined in the AllSides Dictionary.

Small is big. Perhaps the most obvious way to do so is meeting people where they are – in their own homes and communities. From my own early experiences, I quickly became mesmerized by the almost magical power of small group gatherings to bring people together across divides (see Eating Hummus With the ‘Enemy’: From Aversion to Affection).

We subsequently experimented with different ways to introduce people in Utah to this Living Room Conversation practice, from a local press release with offers of free consultation, to highlights of a filmed conversation, to even going door to door with invitations in my own neighborhood. Our conversations ranged from gun rights and evolution, to women’s rights and same-sex marriage/religious freedom. Everyone who participated came away feeling uplifted and encouraged. Out of all these efforts, two additional lessons became clear: (1) The pervasive busyness of American culture remained the largest barrier to involvement: why should I take away time from other things to do this? (2) As simple as these conversations seem, they elicit some visceral fears in some people of political confrontation or dangerous exposures. That explains another parallel dialogue “gateway” that we attempted.

Easing concerns with a PARTY! Alongside direct invitations to try it in your own home, we also organized larger community events where people could come have some food, laugh and watch a high-quality conversation take place on stage. This was possible due to the critical support of our key partner, Utah Humanities, in two different “seasons” of dialogue events. As you can see in the highlights from our inaugural Village Square event, we intentionally aimed to make the atmosphere light and social.

After repeating this approach in a dialogue on the secular/religious divide in Utah, we got feedback that people wanted more of a chance to explore the issue on their own, rather than just listen to a panel explore it. So in each event since – immigration, policing, climate change, racial bias – we have done a hybrid Village Square / Living Room Conversation model, where we begin with small table conversations over a meal before turning to a panel and then ending with small debriefing conversations.

The success of these efforts over time led to a larger, day-long gathering, that we called the Utah Citizen Summit. Sponsored by nearly 15 prominent Utah organizations, this event brought together local citizens and national speakers to first, learn how and practice dialogue, and then celebrate positive steps being taken. That event expanded our network to include the Salt Lake Public Library system, The Deseret News (the largest newspaper in the state), Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams’ office, the Governor’s Office of Civic & Character Education, the NAACP, and the conservative Sutherland Institute.

Equipping citizen leaders. Even with all this, however, we noticed most people were hesitant and not confident in their own capacity to make any difference. Thanks to a grant from the Bridge Alliance, we’ve started an ongoing series of training for citizens who want to grow in their capacity to lead conversations, using the Essential Partners “Power of Dialogue” trainings as a vehicle.

Each participant comes away from these trainings with a new awareness of the many approaches they might use in their own community.

Building a practice network. One single event or training is not enough, though. As with most any craft, real time and work is needed to hone and develop the practice.For that reason, we have been deliberate about developing a network of dialogue practitioners throughout the state. This includes in-person and zoom meetings, as well as ongoing coordination in how to support each other’s work.

Like those who gather who practice meditation and gather with others for ongoing support and training, we aim to be a community of like-minded folks who support each other in “honing the craft.” Part of this “practice network” approach is helping each other make space and time for the practice, much like a meditation network encourages each other to “keep practicing.”

Why do we make time for this?

Because it’s worth prioritizing. Rather than waiting for national leaders to figure out how to talk across differences, our network of Utah citizens are committed to do whatever we can cultivate and preserve the civic ecosystem in our own communities. Once again, instead of advocating one technique, one organization or one practice as holding the singular capacity to “save” us from our current political atrophy, our overriding focus is on the complex and multiform civic ecosystem needed in order for communities to thrive. Just as, in nature, no single species in an ecosystem can thrive without a degree of interdependence on other forms of life, so too must efforts toward constructive dialogue draw strength from a web of other existing efforts. In this way, we envision Utah becoming a national model of what it takes to fight to protect a robust ecosystem for civic engagement, and in this way, strengthen our democracy.

You can find the original version of Jacob Hess’ article at: www.livingroomconversations.org/preserving-and-protecting-our-precious-civic-ecosystem/.

Civil Conversation Transforms Holiday Experiences

While the holiday season is now behind us, we wanted to pass along this reflection shared with us from NCDDer Ellen Geisler on their transformative holiday experience bringing facilitated dialogue to her family. In the article, she talks about how a civic engagement series at a public library opened up space for community dialogue (similar to the NCDD partnership with ALA). Geisler then brought civil dialogue home for the holidays and shares a key takeaway as we move into the New Year – that we can strongly disagree and still hear each other out. You can read the article below or find the original here.


Helping Families Learn How To Disagree About Tough Topics Over The Holidays

Every year, my large, extended family gathers for the entire week of Thanksgiving, which also coincides with deer hunting season in Wisconsin. While we agree to get along, we also rarely talk about controversial topics and the underlying values we hold that shape our perspectives on them. This Thanksgiving, though, inspired by my work as a community development educator for University of Wisconsin-Extension Marinette County, I brought one work project home to my family gathering.

Civility Speaks was a series of discussions held at the Stephenson Public Library in Marinette from June 2016 to June 2017. The series began when a patron asked if the library could organize events for visitors to learn and talk about controversial issues in a non-threatening environment in the lead up to the 2016 presidential elections. Working with UW-Extension, the library hosted community discussions that gave participants an opportunity to talk about controversial issues.

The goals of such discussions are that as participants learn about issues, they learn how to transform conflict, take individual and collective action, and improve institutional decision making. In turn, these changes can lead to increased civic capacity and improved community problem solving.

The series included discussions on a variety of topics throughout the year. For example, one was co-facilitated by Amy Reddinger, director of the LGBT Center at UW-Marinette, which serves Marinette and Oconto counties in Wisconsin and Menominee County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  More than 30 people gathered at the library to learn and talk about transgender youth. One participant attended “to learn more about LGBT communities and how I could be more open-minded toward LGBT people,” and another asked, “what cultural issues can address these issues for our children and take away fear and [stigma] that may exist?”

It was surprising to hear transgender youth who attended the discussion describe their experiences with teachers and school administrators. The youth said they felt unsupported and in some cases threatened by classmates and adults. The LGBT Center, which opened in February 2017, continues to host events about transgender-related topics and other issues to build awareness and fulfill needs of the region’s LGBT community and their family and friends.

Prior to Thanksgiving this year, my uncle invited me to share with our family what I do for work — I suggested we organize a facilitated discussion about the use of technology. Politics, religion and agricultural production methods were all topics that hit close to home, so I proposed we start with an easier topic that wouldn’t necessarily feel so personal.  We all needed practice disagreeing with each other and talking about our values, as we rarely reach that area of conversation within our family.

After supper the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, my uncle introduced me as the guest facilitator for our family’s discussion, which would include 25 people ranging from age 8 to 65. We started by establishing ground rules as a group, and to my surprise everyone agreed to stay and participate instead of moving to another table to play cards. Everyone worked in groups of three or four responding to questions I offered. Every 10 minutes, they rearranged into new groups and I gave another prompt.

When the family came back to a large group to debrief, the most pleasing feedback was two adults, ages 65 and 35, saying they were impressed and excited by the thoughtful responses and participation from the youngest members of the family.

Our family comes from a dozen households, each with differing set of rules about what can or cannot be talked about in polite company. However, because this discussion started with established ground rules, everyone was on the same playing field.

During our family discussion, it was surprising to notice the kids seemed more at ease than the adults. When probed with questions like, “What about that is important to you?” the younger family members were eager to expound. The fact that so many relatives could listen to each other encouragingly suggests that we can disagree openly and continue to get along.

The day after our family discussion, it was revealed that four cousins in their 20s stayed up well into the night, prompted by one cousin who expressed an interest in discussing “something that matters, like abortion or euthanasia.” In another unanticipated outcome, a cousin and I slowly worked our way into discussing our perspectives about a topic about which we very strongly disagree.

My family is making progress in ways I could never have imagined. My optimistic five-year plan is to encourage family members who don’t want to ruffle feathers to talk about more contentious topics like reproductive rights, gender and sexuality, or immigration. It was exciting to take civil dialogue home for the holidays.

WisContext produced this article as a service of Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and Cooperative Extension.

You can find the original article on the WisContext site at www.wiscontext.org/helping-families-learn-how-disagree-about-tough-topics-over-holidays.

Register for 2018 IAF N. America & Caribbean Conference

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


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

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

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

Conference Location: Ottawa Marriott Hotel, 100 Kent Street Ottawa

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

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

For more information on the IAFNAC 2018 conference, visit www.iaf-world.org/site/iafnac2018.

Highlights from the December 2017 Kettering Newsletter

The holidays are in full swing and we wanted to boost the newsletter updates released this week from NCDD org member, the Kettering Foundation. They recently published two of their annual periodicals – Connections 2017 and Higher Education Exchange 2017, which we encourage you to check out. Over the last two years, Kettering has been working together with libraries, museums, and historical associations, on how these bodies can enrich their work by deeper engagement with their communities. Finally, we’d like to congratulate Sherry Magill on becoming Kettering’s newest addition to their board. There’s more to the newsletter that we didn’t share so make sure you sign up for their monthly updates by clicking here to stay up-to-date on all that Kettering is working on.


Kettering Foundation News & Notes – December 2017

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

Connections 2017: Letter from the Editors

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

Exchanging Research with Libraries and Museums

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

Higher Education Exchange 2017

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

Sherry Magill Elected to Kettering Board

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

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

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

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

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

As always, if you have news you would like to share, please get in touch. We’re especially interested in stories of how you apply ideas and insights shared with you at Kettering.

Connecting Outside of our Filter Bubbles

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


Free Yourself from your Filter Bubbles

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

You can find this Ted talk at www.ted.com/talks/joan_blades_and_john_gable_free_yourself_from_your_filter_bubbles.

Making Difficult People Disappear… in a Way

We wanted to share this piece from the Essential Partners’ blog written by NCDD member Parisa Parsa, on making difficult people seemingly disappear. In the article, she talks about how each of us can be difficult people under certain circumstances, but how this can be minimized by well-designed process where folks speak their truth anchored by their beliefs. She also elaborates how often we miss the nuance of each other’s understanding and ultimately humanity, when we generalize that someone is “difficult”. You can read the Essential Partner’s article below or find the original version here.


Difficult People

Earlier this year, a dialogue participant helped us with an amazing discovery:

We can make difficult people disappear.

Let me explain.

Our climate of public discourse is toxic, inundating us with the message that folks who believe differently must be pitied or feared. They are difficult. Intractable. Irrational. Naive. These stereotypes have different shapes when viewed from the left or the right, but the effect is just as stifling. And yet, many of us have real people in our lives — family members, neighbors, co-workers — who believe, vote, and live differently than we do.

Recently we included a dialogue about guns in schools in one of our trainings. Participants held widely divergent views on the subject, and the dialogue circles were composed of individuals who held a range of beliefs. Strong gun rights activists and fervent gun control advocates engaged in deep conversations about their relationship with firearms. As we debriefed, people were amazed that they found so many points of identification with “the others” in the room, so much understanding and shared experience.

Finally, someone said: “This was all fine, but where were all the difficult people?”

This landed for me on two levels:

First, of course, when we are feeling fearful, mistrustful, threatened, and under siege, any of us — all of us — are capable of being difficult people. The careful work of preparation we do with participants before dialogues and to shape agreements and structure for conversation is designed to help speak their deepest truths. Which turns out to be much more interesting than our well-rehearsed diatribes. When we speak and listen from where our beliefs and values are anchored, we let go of the defensive/offensive behavior of difficult people. We become, simply, people.

On yet another level, that question, “where were all the difficult people?” also spoke to another toxic factor in our public life. We have become accustomed to equating disagreeing with being difficult to such an extent that it is hard to believe we really had a conversation across difference if we didn’t cause or experience offensive behavior. We have stopped trusting our own experience of our neighbors as nuanced, full people, and instead are on alert for the jerks. Yet it turns out that the handful of really intractable people on any side of an issue are just that: a minority. They get a lot of airtime that distances the rest of us from each other out of fear and anxiety that everyone who believes differently is at the far extreme. This robs us of the experience of knowing each other all across the middle of the continuum. And it tells us that our experience of genuine compassion, of real stories and humanity in the people right in front of us somehow can’t be trusted.

The work of careful engagement in structured conversation helps us reclaim our own experience. It gives us an opportunity to see ourselves and others more clearly, in deeper, richer light. We give up nothing but our outdated assumptions and stereotypes. And we gain a window into a more abundant truth: that we can be both utterly committed to each other’s humanity and in disagreement about one – or many – issues.

After we can see each other as people, we also can claim and name how we are passionate people who want to stand up for what we believe is right. We become compassionate people who need one another to live out our values and navigate our personal and community struggles. We become committed people working toward solutions to our community’s and our nation’s problems.

When we make difficult people disappear, we set our sights on the new horizons of possibility in our connection, in our compassion and in our collaboration.

You can find the original version of this Essential Partner’s blog piece at www.whatisessential.org/blog/difficult-people.

What Should We Do About The Opioid Epidemic? (NIFI Issue Advisory)

The National Issues Forum Institute released the six-page Issue Advisory, What Should We Do About The Opioid Epidemic?, published October 2017. The issue advisory presents three options to use during deliberation on how society can address the rising opioid epidemic that has swept the U.S. The issue advisory is available for free download on NIFI’s site here, as well as, a post-forum questionnaire.

From NIFI…

Drug abuse, a problem the United States has faced for decades, has taken a sharp and lethal turn with the rise of opioids—both legal pain- killers, such as oxycodone and fentanyl, and illegal ones like heroin.

More than 64,000 Americans were killed by drug overdoses in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and at least two-thirds of those deaths were caused by opioids. That is worse than the peak of the HIV epidemic in 1995 and more than the number of US combat deaths in the entire Vietnam War.

In the last year, doctors wrote more than 236 million prescriptions for opioids, or about one for every American adult. But many patients became addicted to the painkillers as their bodies began to tolerate higher and higher doses. Others, if they could no longer get prescriptions, switched to heroin; then came the even deadlier fentanyl.

Now drug abuse is so widespread it is even affecting productivity–employers say they can’t fill positions because too many applicants fail a drug test. The Federal Reserve reports that opioid addiction may be shrinking the number of job applicants because it is keeping otherwise able-bodied people out of the workforce.

The problem exists in almost every community throughout the United States, though it has hit hardest in the Northeast, the Midwest, and Appalachian regions, where joblessness and poverty have hollowed out many small towns and left families in desperate circumstances. In Cincinnati, Ohio, police estimated that police officers and paramedics spent at least 102 hours tending to overdose patients in just one week. Responding to the crisis is straining the budgets of many small towns and counties.

Doctors and nurses now see the epidemic’s effects on the next generation, a wave of babies born addicted to painkillers or heroin. Sara Murray and Rhonda Edmunds, nurses in Huntington, West Virginia, founded Lily’s Place, a facility for addicted babies and their mothers.

“The devil has come to Huntington,” Murray said on CNN. “We have generational addiction and that’s their normal. It was their mother’s normal. It was their grandmother’s normal. And now, it’s their normal.”

What should we do to relieve the opioid epidemic facing our communities? This issue advisory presents three options for deliberation, along with their drawbacks. Each option offers advantages as well as risks. If we increase enforcement, for example, this may result in many more people in prison. If we reduce the number of prescriptions written, we may increase suffering among people with painful illnesses.

Option 1: Focus on Treatment for All
This option says that, given the rising number of deaths from opioids, we are not devoting enough resources to treatment to make real headway in turning around the epidemic. Addiction is primarily a medical and behavioral problem, and those are the best tools for combating the crisis. Treatment should be available on demand for anyone who wants it. At the same time, the pharmaceutical companies that have profited from making and promoting opioid painkillers need to contribute more to the solution

Option 2: Focus on Enforcement
This option says that our highest priority must be keeping our communities safe and preventing people from becoming addicted in the first place. Strong enforcement measures are needed, including crackdowns and harsher sentences for dealers, distributors, and overprescribing doctors. And we should take tougher measures to cut off the supply of drugs at the source. Addiction to opioids and other hard drugs brings with it crime and other dangers, and closing our eyes to these dangers only makes the problem worse. Mandatory drug testing for more workers is needed. In the long run, a tough approach is the most compassionate.

Option 3: Focus on Individual Choice
This option recognizes that society cannot force treatment on people. We should not continue to waste money on a failed “war on drugs” in any form. Only those who wish to be free of addiction end up recovering. We should be clear that crime will not be tolerated, but if people who use drugs are not harming society or behaving dangerously, they should be tolerated and allowed to use safely, even if they are damaging their own lives. Those who do not or cannot make the decision to get well should not be forced, and communities shouldn’t spend their limited resources trying to force treatment on people.

About 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/en/issue-guide/issue-advisory-what-should-we-do-about-opioid-epidemic

Register for Tomorrow’s NCDD Confab on Community-Police Relations with PCRC!

We wanted to remind everyone to register for the next NCDD Confab Call on community-police relations taking place tomorrow Tuesday December 19th from 1:00-2:30pm Eastern/10:00-11:30am Pacific. This FREE call will feature the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, an NCDD Organizational Member who will share with us their experience with community-police relations work in San Mateo County, California.

We will be joined by PCRC Executive Director Michelle Vilchez and Engaging Communities Initiative Director Malissa Netane on the call, who will share the story of their work, and the lessons they have learned. Be sure to register for this call to learn more!

From PCRC:

Silicon Valley is one of the most unique, diverse, exciting, and enlivening regions on earth, with seemingly abundant opportunities for achieving a high quality of life. Despite these unique characteristics, there are stark social and economic divides among us that sometimes lead to interpersonal misunderstandings and feelings of disconnectedness and disenfranchisement.

Many recent events across our nation involving racial tensions between communities of color and law enforcement (Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, and others) and the associated uncivil manner of discourse appear to be amplifying ideological and political differences, making this an uneasy time in our community and nation. In this region, we are extremely fortunate that we have not experienced such extreme incidents, yet we should never consider ourselves immune. Such tragedies, no matter how geographically distant, affect us all at some level, and our thoughts, reactions and emotions come with us when we go to school, or work, or out in the community.

For the past 20 plus years, PCRC has drawn from their foundation of mediation, training, facilitation and conflict coaching to bridge the divides between many different communities and law enforcement agencies. The success of this work depends on building and sustaining respectful and mutually beneficial working relationships among all of the participating partners, which is PCRC’s area of expertise. The vision of PCRC is a future where all members of society engage and collaborate to create a strong, vibrant community. Our mission is to partner with individuals, groups and institutions to empower people, build relationships, and reduce violence through collaborative and innovative processes.

PCRC has over 30 years of providing conflict resolution, mediation, violence prevention and community building services. By engaging in authentic dialogue, building capacity through leadership development, and focusing on action that lends itself to personal and collective transformation, the targeted five communities will have stronger relations inside the community and with other groups and institutions.

Time is running out! So make sure you register to join this exciting call!

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!

Submit Your Nominations for 2018 Brown Democracy Medal

It’s that time again! The McCourtney Institute for Democracy – an NCDD member org, is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Laurence and Lynne Brown Democracy Medal. For the fifth year running, this medal celebrates those working to advance democracy. The winner will be awarded $5,000, have their work published, and will present at Penn State in the fall of 2018. Nominations must be submitted by January 8th, 2018! We encourage those in the NCDD network to apply, and check out the details in the post below or you can find the original here.


Call for Nominations for the 2018 Brown Democracy Medal

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State is accepting nominations for the 2018 Brown Democracy Medal. The Medal and $5,000 are awarded annually to individuals or organizations doing the best new work to advance democracy in the United States and around the globe. The Brown Medal recognizes recent work that is significant but under-appreciated. The medal helps bring new ideas and innovations the public recognition they deserve.

Award Review Process

The award is open to any significant contribution in democratic research, reform, practice, or theory. All nominations will be considered according to the review criteria set out below.

Nominations for the 2018 medal will be accepted through January 8, 2018.

The winner will give a talk at Penn State in fall of 2018, when they will receive their award. Between the spring announcement of the winner and the on-campus event in the fall, the Institute will provide the recipient with professional editorial assistance toward completing a short (20-25 page) essay describing the innovation for a general audience. In the fall, Cornell University Press will publish the essay, which will be available at a very low price to aid the diffusion of the winning innovation. Essays from the previous winners are available through Cornell University Press and other online outlets.

To assure full consideration, please send all nomination letters before January 8, 2018 to democracyinst@psu.edu. Initial nomination letters are simply that, a one-to-two page letter that describes how the nominee’s work meets the criteria for this award and what distinguishes it from other work on democracy. Both self-nominations and nominations of others are welcomed. In either case, email, phone, and postal contact information for the nominee must be included.

A distinguished review panel will screen initial nominations and select a subset of nominees for the second round. Those nominees will be required to provide further documentation, including: a brief biographical sketch of the individual or organization nominated; two letters of support; and a basic description of the innovation and its efficacy. The review panel will scrutinize the more detailed applications and select an awardee in the spring of 2018.

Review Criteria

The democratic innovation selected will score highest on these features:

  1. Novelty. The innovation is precisely that—a genuinely new way of thinking about democracy or practicing it. The award is thus intended to recognize recent accomplishments, which have occurred during the previous five years. The innovation will likely build on or draw on past ideas and practices, but its novelty must be obvious.
  2. Systemic Change. The idea, theory, or practical reform should represent significant change in how we think about and practice democracy. Ideas should be of the highest clarity and quality, empirical studies should be rigorous and grounded in evidence, and practical reforms must have proof of their effectiveness. The change the innovation brings about should be able to alter the larger functioning of a democratic system over a long time frame.
  3. Potential for Diffusion. The idea or reform should have general applicability across many different scales and cultural contexts. In other words, it should be relevant to people who aspire to democracy in many parts of the world and/or in many different social or political settings.
  4. Democratic Quality. In practical terms, while the nominees themselves may well be partisan, the spirit of this innovation must be nonpartisan and advance the most essential qualities of democracy, such as broad social inclusion, deliberativeness, political equality, and effective self-governance.

Individuals or organizations who are Penn State alumni or employees, or who have worked closely with the Institute, are not eligible. Returning applicants may notice that our process has changed from previous years, when awards alternated between democratic theory and practical innovation.

Questions and Further Information

Any questions or requests for more information should be sent to .
The McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State (http://democracyinstitute.la.psu.edu) promotes rigorous scholarship and practical innovations to advance the democratic process in the United States and abroad.