MetroQuest Hosts Facing Contention Webinar, Jan. 30th

Coming up at the end of January, NCDD member org MetroQuest will be hosting the webinar, Facing Contention – How to Detox Public Engagement; co-sponsored by NCDD, IAP2, and the American Planning Association (APA).  If you are looking to improve public engagement processes around controversial projects, then make sure you register ASAP to join the webinar.  We encourage you to read the announcement from MetroQuest below or you can find the original here.


MetroQuest Webinar: Facing Contention – How to Detox Public Engagement

Are you looking for effective ways to collect meaningful and constructive public input for controversial projects?

Tuesday, January 30th
11 am Pacific | 12 pm Mountain | 1 pm Central | 2 pm Eastern (1 hour)
Educational Credit Available (CM APA AICP)
Complimentary (FREE)

REGISTER HERE

Jeanette Janiczek from the City of Charlottesville with Jonathan Whitehurst and Sal Musarra from Kimley-Horn and Associates will discuss their success with an innovative approach to public involvement on the contentious Belmont Bridge Replacement project.

Numerous forces have combined recently to create an increasingly toxic and adversarial climate for public engagement. These patterns and their effects are being felt across the country and its planners and community engagement staff who increasingly find themselves on the front lines of this conflict. Finding ways to design and manage public engagement efforts to maintain a respectful and productive dialog and collect meaningful and constructive public input is more important than ever.

This highly-visual webinar will showcase the Belmont Bridge Replacement case study along with proven best practices, research findings, and practical tips to guide agencies towards the successful application of community engagement on hot button and contentious projects.

Attend this complimentary 1-hour webinar to learn how to …

  • Create public engagement process to mitigate tensions
  • Engage more people from a broader demographic to hear diverse viewpoints
  • Collect informed and constructive public input on contentious topics
  • Get past entrenched positions to understand community priorities
  • Work with opposing groups to create a more harmonious outcome

You can find the original version of this announcement on MetroQuest’s site at http://go.metroquest.com/Belmont-Bridge-Kimley-Horn-Webinar.

Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, we wanted to share this article from NCDD member org, Everyday Democracy‘s Executive Director, Martha McCoy. The article speaks on the painful realities of racism and how it continues to afflict the world around us. McCoy calls on us to better understand and address racism together in order to create a more just and true democracy. You can read the article in the post below or find the original on EvDem’s site here.


The Urgency of Now

EvDem LogoThe writings of Martin Luther King continue to urge me to clearer sight and greater urgency on issues of racial justice.

As a white girl growing up throughout the South – with most of my young years in Richmond, Virginia – I saw and was part of a genteel culture of segregation and inequality that supported discrimination and a systematic denial of opportunity for people of color. That experience was seared into my brain and soul. I was blessed that black faith leaders and teachers took the time to teach me when I was in my teens and early 20s. They helped me understand the meaning of what I was seeing.

Through the work of Dr. King and others, I began to see how racism affects all of us, not just people of color, and how it suffuses the very fabric of our democracy, to the detriment of all of us. That is why envisioning and fighting for a “New South” that would embrace racial justice – and indeed, a “new United States” – became an integral part of my life’s work.

As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his assassination, may those of us who have internalized his messages bring them to life.  For me, Dr. King is so much more than an historical figure. He affects me directly. The people he taught went on to teach me, and as a result I am working to pass those teachings along. He still speaks to our country today about the “fierce urgency of Now” – a line from his “I have a dream” speech that is less often quoted.

We have an urgent need to help all people in our country understand the ways in which racism sickens our souls, our relationships, and our body politic. We need to understand that racism is a “shape shifter” that uses culture, policies, institutions, and social media to perpetrate itself. But there is the hope that Dr. King described. He called on us to see racism clearly, understand its impact, address it together, and use the highest democratic principles to create true opportunity for all. The more of us who understand that and move forward to create a “New United States” that embraces racial justice, the more authentic our democracy will be, and the more our country will experience true greatness.

You can find the original version of this article on Everyday Democracy’s site at www.everyday-democracy.org/blog/fierce-urgency-now.

Submit Your #CLDE18 Program Proposals by Jan. 29th

For those of you passionate about advancing civic engagement in higher education, make sure you check out the 2018 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting (CLDE18) coming up June 6, 2018 in Orange County, California. Coordinated by the American Democracy Project (ADP), The Democracy Commitment (TDC), and the NASPA Lead Initiative; it’s sure to be a great networking and learning opportunity. Program proposals are currently being accepted until January 29, 2018 – submit yours ASAP! You can read the announcement below or find the original on ADP’s site here.


#CLDE18: Lend your voice to something bigger than yourself

An unprecedented chapter of America’s political history is upon us and it has never been more critical to nurture engagement with democracy in our students. It is as engaged citizens that we can put the values we proclaim on our campuses into action, and support those with less access, privilege, resources, and even basic rights, who are seeking a path to higher education.

The 2018 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting (CLDE18), being held June 6-9, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County, in Anaheim, California, offers an opportunity for student affairs professionals, faculty, community partners, and students, to participate in discourse around the fundamentals of democracy and gain inspiration from our featured speakers to take back to your campus community. #CLDE18 will rejuvenate your passion for activating your students to be the change they want to see in the world.

The American Democracy Project (ADP), The Democracy Commitment (TDC), and the NASPA Lead Initiative are committed to advancing the civic engagement movement in higher education, and invite you to submit a program proposal to this unique and vital professional development event by Monday, January 29, 2018.

We urge you to be a part of something bigger than yourself by sharing your civic learning or democratic engagement theory, success, or best practice—or by joining us as a participant for this year’s convening of change.

Register by May 1, 2018 to get the best rates.

You can read the original version of this at ADP’s site at www.adpaascu.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/clde18-lend-your-voice-to-something-bigger-than-yourself/.

Free NIF Workshop at ALA Midwinter Meeting in Feb.

As part of our partnership with the American Library Association, we have been working with the ALA on their Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change series; an initiative which seeks to train librarians in various dialogue and deliberation approaches. There is an opportunity for academic librarians to attend a free National Issues Forums workshop tailored for academic libraries on Friday, February 9th from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. MT at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver. Qualifications for attending the workshop are in the post below or on the original post here. While participation is free, space is limited – please check it out and share with your academic librarian friends!


Free Workshop for Academic Libraries this February!

We’re reaching out to encourage you to contact your academic library partners about this exciting opportunity for them to receive a free training workshop in the National Issues Forums model at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver.

Academic libraries are invited to attend “LTC: National Issues Forums Workshop for Academic Libraries,” which will be held on Friday, February 9, 2018, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

The one-day pre-conference workshop at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting will highlight the National Issues Forums approach to dialogue and deliberation. Participation in the workshop is free; however, space is limited and registration via this website is required.

NOTE: In order to qualify for the in-person workshop, librarians must view three 90-minute online learning sessions prior to the workshop and must claim a participation badge via Credly.com after each webinar. View the online sessions here and create a Credly account by following these instructions.

Please share this opportunity with your academic librarians and encourage them to both view the free webinars and apply to attend the workshop. Space is still available but it won’t last long!

About Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change

This workshop is offered as part of Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Models for Change, an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). The initiative seeks to introduce libraries to various dialogue and deliberation approaches, enabling libraries to foster conversation and lead change in their communities. LTC: Models for Change Series 2 highlights dialogue and deliberation models most useful for academic libraries.

LTC: Models for Change is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant RE-40-16-0137-16.

You can find the original version of this announcement on ALA’s LTC site at: www.apply.ala.org/LTCMidwinter.

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.

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.

Strengthening the Bridge of Civic Engagement

As the field continues to grow and address the deep divides in our country, we wanted to share this thoughtful piece written by NCDD member, Ashley Trim, Executive Director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy. In the piece, she talks about how building and bridging civic engagement in this country is very similar to building actual bridges. She writes that for a long term solution to be able to support the community, both sides of the bridge need to meet in the middle in order to function. We encourage you to read the piece in the post below or find the original on the New America blog here.


Building Bridges from Both Sides

This blog is part of the civic engagement blog series released in tandem with the “Building Civic Capacity in a Time of Democratic Crisis” white paper. To read the rest of the series, click here.

Today, we face an interesting political challenge, not just in our legislation, but in how we address the strength and capacity of our civic processes. It has become clear that our country must consider more than just physical infrastructure to truly address the nation’s durability, endurance, and stability.

However, infrastructure and architecture can offer useful sources of inspiration.

The arch-style bridge is one of the most ancient, used in the aqueducts of Rome and in designs from the present day. Building these bridges has become more efficient with modern technology, but the original design is still so commonly relied on because of its natural strength. However, it must be built from both sides. It bears tremendous weight across chasms, but only when both sides meet in alignment. What a beautiful picture of what renewed civic engagement must look like here in the United States!

In June, we welcomed an extraordinary group of men and women to Pepperdine’s beautiful Malibu campus for a deep dive into public engagement. The cohort were majority city government professionals. And one thing was clear: They were eager to build their civic muscles.

“This is how you build a civic engagement bridge from both sides,” I thought as I listened to their struggles, insights and enthusiasm throughout the three-day course.

Too often on both the right and the left, community organizing models have taken a combative approach to engagement between the people and the government – drafting demands, recruiting or band-wagoning behind outsider candidates, developing “tactics” and “strategies.”

Instead of building an arch, we seem to dig the chasms that divide us deeper and wider.

This blog highlights a number of ways that civic entrepreneurs such as Participatory Budgeting’s Maria Hadden, New York City’s Regina Schwartz, and the City of Baltimore’s Rev. Kimberley Lagree are offering new models of engagement. In my near-decade of working with local governments to improve public engagement practices, I can attest that a growing number of local government staff and elected officials at home and abroad are also looking to bridge the divide. For them, however, using this ancient approach can be done with some new, innovative strategies:

Rethinking Relationships

Following the great scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, educators began to apply scientific methods to other fields: professional schools of public administration were established to turn out experts who would analyze the problems facing communities and implement solutions accordingly.

Then the 21st century arrived with a revolution in communications technology, an economic recession and recovery, and increased diversity of every kind in communities across the country. With its questions of culture and community, this new context proved too complex for the expert analysis model of simply solving issues from a scientific approach. Many local government practitioners are now seeking a new model that sees government less as a problem identifier and solver, and more as a convener and facilitator of difficult and rewarding conversations about the appropriate responsibilities of the whole community in creating and delivering a vision for the future.

Experimenting with New Processes

If you’ve ever seen an episode of NBC’s Parks and Rec you may recognize the traditional engagement process. An elected body on a dais, staff flanking them with notebooks or computers, a nearly empty council chamber or auditorium. Everyone gets 3 or 5 minutes at the microphone. The decks are easily stacked. The local government has done its legal duty and everyone goes home. Rarely is a heart or mind (or even a policy) substantively changed.

Over the past decade, more and more city governments have started looking at new ways of engaging residents – from participatory budgeting to pop up engagement stations to online platforms. Many are realizing that true engagement comes not when residents feel heard, but when they are heard; when government poses the right questions and is open to creative answers. True engagement also involves residents talking to each other. Only when this happens are community members invited into the hard work of governance, made aware of competing priorities and stories that may not parallel our own.

Prioritizing Inclusivity

City staff calls them the “usual suspects” — the same dozen residents that show up at every council meeting. They are predictably old and white, far from an accurate reflection of the population of most cities.

Across the country, cities are exploring ways to make engagement reflect the community. They know that inclusivity means more than not turning someone away at the door. It requires proactive efforts, often overcoming deeply-rooted mistrust. Some of the processes mentioned above are ways of breaking down barriers, as are offering materials in relevant language translations, orally or visually; holding meetings in different locations and at different times of day, partnering with cultural leaders, providing food and childcare. When they are honest, even cities on the cutting edge of public engagement know they have a long way to go, but they’re working on it.

Which leads to a final thought:

Building Strong Bridges is a Rickety Business

Building bridges is hard work. With arch bridges, the structure is only stable when the two sides finally come together. We could say the same for building engagement. As we build toward each other, we rely on support from a variety of sources: community leaders, thought leaders, individual citizens, champions within the government. Sometimes it may seem like all our efforts are going to holding up what little structure is currently in place. Our best efforts may feel rickety at best. But we must persevere through the unstable stage, until the spans meet in the middle. If we do so, we’ll create valuable infrastructure that can bear the weight of community long into the future.

You can read the original version of Ashley Trim’s piece on the New America blog at www.newamerica.org/political-reform/blog/building-bridges-both-sides/.

EvDem Host Intergenerational Webinar This Thurs. Nov 9

Our friends at Everyday Democracy – an NCDD member org – are hosting an intergenerational webinar this coming Thursday, November 9th from 12pm – 1pm Eastern/9am – 10am Pacific. The webinar will feature Families United for Education, who will share their experience on building an intergenerational network to address racial and educational inequities in Albuquerque.  We encourage you to register ASAP for this webinar! You can read the announcement below or find the original on Everyday Democracy’s blog here.


EvDem Logo

Intergenerational Equity Webinar: Spotlight on Families United for Education

Intergenerational equity is the practice of treating everyone justly regardless of age and considering the structural factors that privilege some age groups over others. We do this by building strong relationships and partnerships, sharing power across generations, creating mentorship and cross-generational learning opportunities, and making space for youth voice.

This webinar will explore best practices for building intergenerational equity in your work. Families United for Education will talk about their work building an intergenerational network to address racial inequities in Albuquerque schools. They will discuss their successes and challenges.

Join us for our intergenerational equity webinar on November 9th at 12pm ET.

What: Best practices for building intergenerational equity in your work, through the experiences of Families United for Education.

When: Thursday, November 9 at 12pm ET

Presenters:

Malana Rogers-Bursen, Program Associate for Everyday Democracy
Omkulthoom Musa Qassem, Leader for Families United for Education
Corrina Roche-Cross, Leader for Families United for Education
Tony Watkins, Leader for Families United for Education

Registration Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1057858115539498753

Families United for Education:

Families United for Education (FUE) is a decentralized, self-organized network of approximately 500 families in Albuquerque, NM that formed in response to gross gaps in educational outcomes between white students and students of color. FUE successfully researched, wrote and advocated for a family engagement policy for Albuquerque Public Schools that passed the APS Board of Education in 2012. The research that went into the policy included dozens of one-on-one meetings, community forums, and small group meetings that uncovered the lived experiences of students and families in our schools. Thus, the policy that emerged reflects those lived experiences.

The policy calls for “utilizing the histories and cultures of our families as a foundation for education”, “safe and welcoming environments”, “building relationships and capacity”, “expanding communication”, and “equitable and effective systems.” FUE strives to model the elements of the policy with each other in our organizing efforts. Since the passage of the policy, FUE has continued its campaign for racial justice by organizing candidate forums for APS school board elections, and convening anti-racism trainings for school board and community members. Most recently, FUE successfully advocated for ethnic studies to be included in APS’s academic master plan, and organized anti-racism trainings for ethnic studies teachers, new board members, and APS administrators. We are currently advocating for authentic implementation of ethnic studies district-wide, K-12, and urging the District to develop rapid response protocols to address incidents of racism in our schools.

Omkulthoom Qassem is a Palestinian-Chicana graduate student at the University of New Mexico pursuing a degree in Educational Thought and Sociocultural Studies. She has been working in community based organizing and educational endeavors for the last few years and is particularly passionate about undoing-racism efforts, media literacy, identity development and multicultural education. She previously received her bachelor’s degrees in International Studies and Foreign Languages with a minor in Peace and Global Justice studies. Omkulthoom has been working with Families United for Education for about one year on facilitation, communication, and anti-racism projects. She is dedicated to FUE’s dedication to bridging the gap between policy development and community. She believes that community at all age levels should have a voice in the policy that guides and outlines the governmental education system of the community.

Tony Watkins is a 53 year old white man who moved to a border town of the Navajo Nation when he was eleven years old. He started out on anti-racism work resisting the use of a U.S. History textbook in his daughter’s high school. Since then, Tony has joined over 500 families in Albuquerque to research, write, and advocate for a family engagement policy for Albuquerque Public Schools. The policy passed the school board in August, 2012 after a lengthy organizing effort and is a reflection of the lived experiences of families in our schools. In addition to organizing with FUE, Tony sits on the Leadership Council of Within Our Lifetime, a national network dedicated to ending racism within our lifetimes.

Corrina Roche began organizing since middle school through Bikes Not Bombs, an organization that focuses on youth and transportation justice. Since, she has continued to work with community in various forms. Corrina is currently a senior at the University of New Mexico working toward a degree in dance with a concentration in Flamenco. She plans on also receiving her elementary education teaching license and has been engaging with and studying public education for the past few years. Corrina is has been a member of FUE for the past two years because she is passionate about providing quality education to students and engaging with schools that reflect and uplift the families, communities, and backgrounds of students. Through working with students, she has seen the damage racism has done to our public education system and is committed to advocating for students and their right to receive anti-racist, empowering, and creative education.

You can find the original version of this post on Everyday Democracy’s blog at www.everyday-democracy.org/news/intergenerational-equity-webinar-spotlight-families-united-education.