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/.

The Mediated Town Halls of the Eastern Cape (Connections 2016)

The eight-page article, “The Mediated Town Halls of the Eastern Cape” by Rod Amner was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the fourth article of the newsletter, Amner discusses the ways in which public engagement has been transforming in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, focusing on the ways in which journalism outlets have facilitated engagement spaces with the community to better amplify the voices of the people. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

The town hall meeting is a simple, old-fashioned idea: an informal public space in which community members come together to discuss issues, to voice opinions, or to engage with public figures.

But, despite 22 years of democracy, it is a relative rarity in South Africa.

So, it is significant that in recent years, a number of “legacy” and “emerging” community news organizations in the Eastern Cape province of the country have hosted scores of town hall meetings in a range of formats, all ostensibly aimed at re-engineering in some way relationships with and between the people they formerly knew as their audiences.

It is also surprising because the Eastern Cape does not immediately suggest itself as a promising incubator of journalistic, civic, or any other kind of innovation. It is South Africa’s poorest province—beset with stagnating industries in the urban areas and the frustrating persistence of sub-subsistence agriculture in most of the countryside. Just 26 percent of its citizens have jobs, and its schools produce the worst educational outcomes in the country— and by most benchmarks, the entire world.

On the other hand, despite its apparent marginality, this province has always been an important fulcrum of South African politics. It is a traditional stronghold of the African National Congress (ANC), producing the bulk of its struggle icons (Mandela, Tambo, Biko, and Hani) and nurturing decades of peaceful, mass-based protest.

So, when the hitherto unassailable ANC lost political control of Nelson Mandela Bay (formerly Port Elizabeth) to the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) in the August 3, 2016, local government elections, the resulting shock waves convulsed the region’s post-apartheid political landscape.

But, many of the region’s journalists were not shocked. Mainstream media houses like Nelson Mandela Bay’s Eastern Province Herald and Buffalo City’s Daily Dispatch, along with community outlets like Grahamstown’s Grocott’s Mail, Skawara News in the rural hamlet of Cofimvaba, and radio stations like ZQKM, had for years been convening public platforms for engaging citizens in political discourse. Many of their journalists had therefore been in unusually close and deep dialogue with local citizens and communities and had seen the writing on the wall. The Kettering Foundation has a longstanding interest in how journalists go about the work of reporting in a way that encourages greater citizen engagement in the democratic politics of a given community. The examples in this article reveal how journalism practice and community agency can be transformed by a citizen-centered approach to reporting.

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/Amner-Connections-2016.pdf

From Skepticism to Engagement: Building Deliberative Faith among Israeli College Students (Connections 2016)

The seven-page article, “From Skepticism to Engagement: Building Deliberative Faith among Israeli College Students” by Idit Manosevitch was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the third article of the newsletter, Manosevitch shares the story of when he initiated the first student-led deliberation conference in Israel and the profound effect it had on the students, staff, and school community. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

One of the spaces that seems appropriate for educating people for citizenship is academia. As an educational arena with a public mission and young citizens as key players, it may—and some would argue ought—to be a hub of civic education for deliberative public skills and values. This captures the essence of deliberative pedagogy, an area of ongoing research at the Kettering Foundation.

In what follows, I tell the story of what inspired me to get involved in deliberative pedagogy and share some insights from experimentation with Israeli students in recent years.

On January 16, 2013, six days prior to the Israeli general elections, I initiated the first student-led deliberative issue conference at the School of Communication in Netanya Academic College in Israel. The event was tagged “Students say NO to the horse race: Elections Conference 2013.”

The conference was a peak event in an intensive three-month process with my undergraduate seminar students, which combined theory and practice. Theoretical readings and discussions served as a baseline for understanding the essence of deliberative theory and the role of public deliberation in democratic societies. The hands-on process of preparing for and facilitating a deliberative, student-led issue conference complemented the theory and helped students internalize the idea of public deliberation, the norms and values associated with it, and the challenges of pursuing such ideals in practice.

Faculty had cautioned me not to expect more than 50 participants because students—as I should well know—are uninterested, unengaged, and unwilling to make extra efforts beyond the mandatory degree requirements. My students were also wary, and rightly so. A week prior to our deliberative election conference, a political panel took place in the same conference hall, with representatives from 12 different parties running for office. The event was stopped in the middle due to a political dispute, in which the audience began shouting and booing one of the representatives. It was a very disappointing and embarrassing experience for the college community. My students were concerned about moderating group discussions—What if participants don’t talk? What if they get violent and we cannot control them? Some suggested we hire security guards.

But the concerns turned out to be unwarranted. The conference outcomes exceeded everyone’s expectations—students and faculty alike. We had an unexpected turnout of 127 student participants, which surpassed my goal of 100 students. After the opening plenary, students broke up into 10 groups that engaged in lively discussions of the selected election issues. Faculty members were startled to see students actively participating in civilized discussions led by their fellow classmates. So were the student-moderators. I cannot help smiling when I recall that beautiful moment when I stood humbled in the middle of the conference hall immediately after the end of the discussions, and numerous students approached me, excited to share their reflections. Group moderators were thrilled about their experience, and first-year students were anxious to find out how they could sign up to serve as moderators next year. Before I knew it, a new tradition was born.

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/Manosevitch-Connections-2016.pdf

Opportunity to Host a Jefferson Dinner!

We are excited to announce NCDD is working with NCDD member organization The Village Square to support dialogues across the country using the format of the Jefferson Dinner, which invites people with differences of opinion to discuss an important topic over dinner.  These dinners are compelling experiences that The Village Square wants you to experience firsthand, and so we are letting you all know about an exciting opportunity!

Because they are particularly interested in making this surprisingly powerful tool available to NCDD members, they are offering stipends to at least 15 moderators to organize and facilitate a Jefferson Dinner. And the best part is that you can pick the topic for your dinner from any current political or civic topic around which there is substantial disagreement in the public square.

Some history about this tradition: Jefferson hosted his dinners at a time when prospects weren’t good that our new republic would hold together. Early legislators were described as coming to work “in the spirit of avowed misunderstanding, without the smallest wish to agree.” Sound familiar? Jefferson hosted dinners that were profoundly humanizing for these angry opponents. One dinner – with guests Alexander Hamilton and James Madison – resulted in the Dinner Table Bargain of 1790, widely credited with saving the American experiment.

In the same way that Jefferson mastered the art of these dinners as a way to make things happen that mattered to him, The Village Square would like you to experience how you can do the same.  Your dinner is about what’s in your heart  – whether that’s starting a civic project, running for office, contemplating solutions to a problem that deeply concerns you or imagining the future. By intentionally gathering people with diverse opinions – something that doesn’t happen enough these days – you’re harnessing incredible power toward whatever matters to you.

All that’s really required: 8-12 diverse guests, 1 dinner table and a welcoming environment. Could be your home, a private room at a restaurant, or a picnic table at a park. If you’re feeling inspired, put a modern twist on it & make it a brunch. Live a little!

The Village Square also hosts group Jefferson Dinners (a number of conversations in the same room, as part of a public event) and is delighted to support you in offering this format as well.

Find the Village Square’s Jefferson Dinner project online: www.jeffersondinner.org.  Read a feature piece about a dinner here.

This is a great opportunity for members to use this model to connect people who normally wouldn’t share a meal together and experience its potential to form the basis of unique alliances. NCDD would love to see a whole bunch of our members get involved with Dinners across the country. It’s another great way we can work to strengthen community connections and help people bridge divides, at this particularly divisive time in our nation.

If you are interested and would like to connect with organizers to learn more about how the dinner format can be used to achieve your goals, please fill out this quick form here and they will contact you directly!

For more information about The Village Square please visit https://tlh.villagesquare.us/. The Jefferson Dinner project is funded by a grant from the Bridge Alliance and in partnership with the 92Y’s Ben Franklin Circles project (all NCDD Members!).

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. ”  — Thomas Jefferson

Deliberation: Touching Lives across National Boundaries (Connections 2016)

The six-page article, “Deliberation: Touching Lives across National Boundaries” by Maura Casey was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the second article of the newsletter, Casey discusses the 2016 convening of the Multinational Symposium, held by Kettering, in which participants shared the various approaches occurring in their countries to better engage youth in democratic processes. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

In March, people from around the world gathered at the Kettering Foundation to explore the approaches that groups from Tajikistan, Germany, India, Brazil, Russia, and the United States are taking to civic education and learning—approaches that range from rap music to deliberative forums. The Multinational Symposium is an annual series of meetings organized by Kettering. Each year, the symposium has a different focus. In 2016, the symposium explored, how do young people learn to engage in the practices of citizenship in a democracy? What can be learned from experiments in using deliberative practices in the civic education of young people?

The approaches are all different. Germany is using music and meetings with public officials to engage youth; in Russia, libraries are the neutral ground for young people to flock to forums; in Brazil, the Steve Biko Institute helps people raise their voices and take pride in their racial backgrounds. But the goals are the same: to develop young people into citizens.

Citizens all have at least one thing in common: no matter what nation they come from, sooner or later they gather to ask one another, “What should we do?” The Kettering Foundation has long researched what comes after that question: how people overcome differences to deliberate together and make good decisions.

Inevitably, sometimes are more turbulent and challenging than others. That’s the situation those from Brazil say they face.

Widespread protests over economic and political upheaval pose a special challenge to teachers in Brazil. “Democracy seems shaken due to recent events,” said Telma Gimenez, who also stated that even wearing certain colors of clothing can be interpreted as a political act, revealing allegiances for or against the government. “People are fighting. The question is, how can schools go against the current atmosphere to reach students? We help teachers take advantage of the educational moment.

For Gimenez, that means convening deliberative forums using issue guides on topics like bullying not only to explore the nuances of the issue, but also to allow students to relate their own personal experiences. “We use [the forums and guides] to show the complexities and get away from the confrontational aspects of an issue.”

“Brazil became a democracy in the mid-1980s after a dictatorship lasting decades,” said Andreia Lisboa De Sousa, who works with youth at the Steve Biko Institute. “We forget that; the political culture is not very new.” The Biko Institute has worked for 22 years to teach the skills needed for citizenship to black and native students. Approximately 6,000 students have attended the Citizenship and Black Consciousness course at the institute. Others have undergone leadership training there. “Brazil is seen as a model of racial democracy, but when you see the material conditions of these people, we don’t have equality,” she said.

Stefanie Olbrys, a social studies teacher in the Windsor Central School District outside of Binghamton, New York, said that when she was a student, she did not view her voice as an instrument for change. Now that she is an educator, she is determined to give her students a different experience. “Every day, I began to say to my students, ‘What do you think?’” In her classes, the students began to deliberate every day and became so engaged in learning that their marks improved and they began to hand in assignments more consistently. Other teachers and administrators also noticed the changes. Now, many more teachers in her school district are using deliberation in their classrooms. “Our state education department sees this as valuable and wants teachers to do this all over the state,” Olbrys said. “It will help students become life-long learners.” One state education department official visited her classroom and asked one of her students, “What are you learning?” The student replied, “I’m learning how to be a leader.”

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/Casey-Connections-2016.pdf

Creating Community Through Ben Franklin Circles

Back at the end of Summer, we announced NCDD had teamed with Ben Franklin Circles (BFC), an NCDD member org, and we have some exciting updates to share! BFC is a collaborative project with New York’s 92nd Street Y, Citizen University, and the Hoover Institution. We are starting to hear the stories from these Circles and we will continue to uplift them on the NCDD blog over the coming weeks. Learn more about the grassroots development of these self-improvement talking circles, inspired by one of our founding fathers, and the ways in which these experiences have helped to build relationships and community. We encourage you to read the post below or find the original on BFC’s site here.


Why I Started a Benjamin Franklin Circle

Even just a cursory look at headlines these days brings forth an environment of “us vs them” and foretells a path toward greater divisions.

While our society has had a history of deep divisions, this somehow seems different. What seems different is that the people who make this country work – the teachers, the social workers, the police, the tradesmen, the small business owners, the big business employees, are now pulled into a colossal, epic struggle among themselves. We are letting go of the final threads holding us together – the threads that remain after television first brought our attention indoors instead of out; after social media took us from face-to-face contact even with our closest friends and families; after the hectic life style took away our free time to build community. We are now building walls all over. You said this, so I reject you. You believe this, so I will un-friend you.

“Where there is no human connection, there is no compassion. Without compassion, then community, commitment, loving-kindness, human understanding, and peace all shrivel. Individuals become isolated, the isolated turn cruel, and the tragic hovers in the forms of domestic and civil violence.” – Susan Vreeland, Art, Peace, Compassion

But, I’m an optimistic at heart who believes that people, deep down, are good and want to bring joy to others in order to create happiness for themselves. And so, this brings us to a small but significant action you can take. Benjamin Franklin Circles is a model that revives a model of community gathering created by one of our founding fathers (And yes, our founding fathers were not perfect. Some had qualities that are incomprehensible or even reprehensible to us now, but play along with me here.) These circles aimed to gather people of diverse backgrounds for self-improvement and community benefit. Is this not what we need more of today?

I decided to start my own Benjamin Franklin Circle to build more community connections as a means to strengthen our society and build its resilience against the onslaught of divisive forces. In the best practice of starting with yourself and close to home, I decided to organize this Circle among my neighbors, of whom, after 8 years of living here, I knew very few. My personal objectives were two: to meet my neighbors, and create a stronger community spirit.

We have no community listserv. The last neighborhood directory was published in 2010. In short, we all live our lives inside our homes, smile at each other if we’re walking our pets, but we don’t ask a favor of them or even know their names, nevermind invite anyone over. In thinking about the Circles, my first fear was that if I invited neighbors, no one would come. While that slowed me down for a few days, I realized that there was no other way to reach my objective than to invite people I do not know. And what’s the worst that can happen? People I don’t know will think that my initiative was futile. And what’s the best that could happen? I meet new friends and feel more a part of a community. From that perspective, my decision was strengthened.

With no email addresses or phone numbers, I decided to create flyers and distribute them. I printed out 150 flyers and placed them on door knobs. In the process of walking around the community, I met many people for the first time. I learned stories of previous community networks that no longer exist. I was encouraged by everyone for the needed initiative. One neighbor walked with me and shared with me her knowledge of the community as she was one of the first residents. Without a single response to my invitation, the first objective was being accomplished!

The first responses came to me shortly after I returned from the distribution with the following messages:

“I just wanted to let you know that I would love to be a part of your Benjamin Franklin Circles! I think it’s great that you’re starting something like this; as we both know the world could use a coalition of thinkers for the better.”

“It was great to meet you today! I’ve read your flyer, and would love to participate in the circle.”

Within 10 days, the deadline I had communicated, I had 10 people on the roster. We held our first meeting in November.

So, if you are wondering what you can do or if you are wondering if small things can make a difference, I share with you one of my favorite quotes by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

More connection, not less, is what is needed to help all of us bring forth our better selves. If we all make an effort, make some new friends and strengthen the bonds with those around us, that can only bring more good to the world.

Nanette Alvey spent the majority of her career in West Africa, managing education, health and training programs. She was recently Director of Leadership and Organizational Development at EnCompass LLC in Maryland. She continues to consult with international development programs and she’s working to strengthen US non-profits addressing economic inequities and racism in the Washington DC area. She runs a Ben Franklin Circle in Gaithersburg, MD.

For more information, please visit: benfranklincircles.org. You can follow BFC on FacebookInstagram, and on Twitter at @BFCircles as well as the hashtag #BenFranklinCircles.

You can find the resource on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at www.benfranklincircles.org/ben-franklin-circle-hosts/why-i-started-a-benjamin-franklin-circle.

Citizens in a Global Society (Connections 2016)

The eight-page article, “Citizens in a Global Society” by David Mathews was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. This is the initial article in the newsletter that introduces the theme for the whole publication which centers around Kettering’s multi-national work.  Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

The foundation’s multinational research falls into two broad categories or groups. In the first category, the foundation collaborates with nongovernmental organizations outside the United States that are interested in what Kettering is studying about how people do or don’t become engaged as citizens who exercise sound judgment, the work citizens do in communities to solve problems and educate the young, and productive ways that people can engage large institutions, both governmental and nongovernmental, as those institutions try to engage them. This research is the way the foundation organizes its study of democracy.

At the heart of the word democracy is the demos, or “citizenry,” and Kettering refers to the ways citizens go about their work as “democratic practices.” (Kratos, or “power,” is the other root of democracy.) The democratic practices that Kettering studies require self-responsibility, which can’t be exported or imported. So the focus of our research is on the United States, not other countries. Yet our studies have been greatly enriched by what the foundation has learned from nongovernmental organizations in some 100 other countries spread across the globe.

Organizations in other countries interested in this research come to summer learning exchanges called the Deliberative Democracy Institutes (DDIs) to share their experiences with one another and the foundation. Some of the participants come back to enter Kettering’s multinational residency program, which now has a large alumni group. These alumni often return as faculty for the institutes. Kettering’s second category of multinational research is on citizen diplomacy, and it centers on three countries—Russia, China, and Cuba. The governments in these countries have or have had serious differences with the government in the United States; communications have broken down or been problematic.

The premise of the studies, as the late Hal Saunders, Kettering’s longtime director of international affairs, explained to the New York Times, is that we live in a time when governments face a growing number of problems they cannot deal with alone, so citizens outside government have to fill that void. Citizen diplomacy is not intended to replace or compete with government diplomacy but to supplement it. And from Kettering’s perspective, this research gives the foundation a way to study dangerous conflicts, which are, unfortunately, an inescapable part of politics.

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/Mathews-2016.pdf

Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference Recap

Last week, NCDD Managing Director Courtney Breese and I had the pleasure of attending the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference in the Phoenix area. The conference was hosted by NCDD member organizations – the Participatory Budgeting Project and the Jefferson Center, as well as, the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Katal Center, the Participatory Governance Initiative at Arizona State University, Phoenix Union High School District, and the Policy Jury Group.

It was three exhilarating days of mixing and mingling and learning with folks from across the world about the innovative practices going on to better engage our communities and improve participatory democracy. Huge shout out to PBP and all the co-hosts for such a great event, we heard from several people that this was one of the most engaging conferences they had attended.

NCDD was well represented at the conference with pre-conference trainings and several folks from the network who presented sessions:

    • Courtney and I presented a session with two fellow NCDD members, Cassie Hemphill (of the IAP2 Federation and University of Montana) and Annie Rappeport (of the University of Maryland), on Using art to explore participatory democracy work and connections.
    • There were two pre-conference trainings by NCDD member orgs: One on participatory budgeting (PB) hosted by the Participatory Budgeting Project, and another training on citizen juries, citizen assemblies, and sortition hosted by the Jefferson Center and the Policy Jury Group.
    • Our upcoming Tech Tuesday speaker, David Fridley of Synaccord, presented the session, Up for deliberation using digital tools, with Amy Lee of Kettering, John Richardson of Ethelo, and several others. [Learn more about Synaccord at our free Tech Tuesday webinar next week on March 20th – register here]
    • Martha McCoy of Everday Democracy held a session on Advancing Racial Equity in Government Planning and Participatory Democracy with Sarita Turner of PolicyLink and John Dobard of the Advancement Project.
    • Matt Leighninger of Public Agenda did a session with Patrick Scully of Participedia and Mark Warren from the University of British Columbia on What can we gain from better documentation of participatory democracy? And how can we do it together?
    • Jim Rough from the Center for Wise Democracy had a session with several others on Dealing with Global Democratic decline: What now?
    • The Participatory Budgeting Project held numerous sessions (too many to list here!) but you can check out the full conference schedule by clicking here.

We had an NCDD meet up on Friday night in Tempe, where we had a great opportunity to connect with folks in our network and those new to NCDD – all of whom are passionate about participatory democracy. It was nice to be able to have a chance to sit down over drinks, get to know each other better, and learn about the work going on in each of our lives.

At the conference, several things stood out:

It was incredible to be able to see the participatory budgeting process going on at Central High School in Phoenix and hear from the students, staff, and administrators themselves about the impact of PB in their school and on the psyche of the student body. This was year two for this PB process and the effort has grown to include all Phoenix high schools. (By the way, have you heard the incredible news that PB will soon be implemented in all NYC high schools – which is over 400 schools! Learn more here about this phenomenal accomplishment.)

It was so rewarding to be in attendance with so many folks from across the world, each bringing exciting experiences of participatory democracy and how to transform the way that people engage. Below are some examples shared at IPDConf and by no means is an extensive list of the incredible individuals in attendance and work being done!

  • Mayor José Ribeiro shared the exciting work going on in Valongo, Portugal to empower community members to be more participatory and some of the democratic policy initiatives that have been implemented in the area. “The job of perfecting democracy is a never-ending job” – Mayor Ribeiro
  • Courtney and I had the pleasure of befriending, Antonio Zavala of Participando por México and we had an opportunity to learn more about his work on participatory budgeting in México City.
  • Hsin-I Lin of Taiwan Reach-Out Association for Democracy shared about her organization’s work bridging intergenerational connections and the participatory budgeting going on in Taiwan.
  • During lunch on the first day, Courtney and I got to talk with Suzanne van der Eerden and Petra Ramakers from the Netherlands and learn about their techniques to make participatory budgeting even more fun with gamification.
  • Willice Onyango who is leading the Coalition for Kenya Youth Manifesto presented the session on Barriers to participatory governance and how we can contribute to international efforts to move the needle, with presenters Carrie O’Neil of Mercy Corps and Malin Svanberg.

The closing panel was an energizing close-out to a powerful conference, featuring a conversation on each of the panelists’ visions for the Future of Democracy led by incoming Co-Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project, Shari Davis, with Sarita Turner of Policy Link, Carlos Menchaca the NYC Council Member for District 38, Ashley Trim of the Davenport Institute, and Josh Lerner, fellow PBP Co-Executive Director. Check out the hashtag #IPDConf2018 on Twitter for more photos, quotes, and participant experiences!

TheChisel Releases the American Dream Survey Results

We are excited to lift up this article from Deborah Devedjian, Founder of TheChisel.com, on the recent results from their “What’s Your American Dream?” survey – and the results might surprise you! One of the biggest highlights they found is that of the 34 issues surveyed, Americans agreed on their #1 goal for 53% of those issues. NCDD was proud to be part of this coalition, in addition to many other organizations, including fellow NCDDers – Living Room ConversationsAllSides, and the Pepperdine School of Public Policy. We encourage you to read the announcement below or find the original version on PR Newswire’s site here.


Bipartisan Survey Shows Right, Left, and Center Agree on #1 Goal for 53% of 34 Issues

In an era of political divide and confusion, a bipartisan coalition has announced surprising results from its nationwide survey What’s Your American Dream?

“The results demonstrate that despite different vocabularies, favorite news channels, local customs, or professions, Americans maintain many shared values,” said Deborah Devedjian, Founder of TheChisel.com which spearheaded the survey.

Right, Left, and Center agreed on their #1 goal for 53% of 34 issues surveyed. For a further 21% of issues, they shared the same top 2 or 3 goals in varying order.

The survey addressed 7 themes: Economy; Social Justice; Liberty & Regulation; Health, Education & Care; Infrastructure & Services; Foreign Affairs; and Governance.

TheChisel.com’s survey grew out of discussions with former Members of Congress and everyday Americans. All are frustrated with being out of touch with one another. The coalition—30 universities, media outlets, and policy organizations across the political spectrum and the nation—reaches 58 million Americans.

The survey was hosted on TheChisel.com, a unique bipartisan public discussion platform.

“Given partisan stereotypes and soundbites, many commonalities will surprise readers, especially in Employment, Mental Health, Foreign Aid, Campaign Finance, and Elections,” said Erik Fogg, Editor of ReConsider Media.

“The widest divergences were in Guns, Environment, and Police. But even there, we see common ground among pragmatic, compassionate people who want to move the nation forward on American ideals of freedom, prosperity, equality, and security for all,” said Fogg.

Findings will be shared with the media. TheChisel will deliver the report to the President, Cabinet, Members of Congress, Supreme Court, federal agencies, and state governors.

“As a nation, we are frustrated and face uncertainties. We expect this effort will help guide our nation’s leaders to understand Americans’ goals and devise tactics to achieve those goals. It’s time for a new playbook,” said Devedjian.

The book will be released at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on February 27, 2018. Press and lawmakers are invited www.YesWeAgree.Eventbrite.com

The 100-page book features visually-stimulating infographics, is easy to understand, and appeals to a wide audience. Insights from American figures on liberty and freedom and personal comments from respondents add a human voice to the data. To order: www.YesWeAgree.com

Based on 1,318 voting-age Americans reflecting 2016 Census by gender, age, race, geography, income. Respondents self-identified for political affiliation and provided numerical rankings and 5,000+ personal comments.

TheChisel.com is the first and only online civic platform based on 100% bipartisan facts and proposals. No bias. No jargon. And fun, easy-to-understand graphics. Content is developed with recognized experts from both sides of the aisle working together. Our board, advisors, investors, and team reflect America’s full political spectrum. Voice your thoughts, engage with experts, and give your feedback to TheChisel community to realize America’s aspirations.

Universities: Pepperdine School of Public Policy, University of Georgia College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Mary Government and Political Philosophy Department, University of Missouri School of Journalism, University of the Pacific Political Science Department, Williams College Forum.

Media: Associated Collegiate Press, The Citizen’s Story, Exchange Nation, Independent Voter Network, ReConsider.

Organizations: ALL-IN Campus Democracy Challenge, AllSides, Diplomat Books, Future 500, Heartfelt Leadership Institute, Hope Street Group, Inyo County Clerk-Recorder, Living Room Conversations, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, National Speech and Debate Association, ProCon.org, Take Back Our Republic, The Democracy Commitment, The Policy Circle, Wellville, The Women’s Debate.

Sponsors: Gold: Ziggeo. Silver: Collen IP Law; The TAI Group. Bronze: AquaThority Pools & Spas; JGArchitects.

You can find the original version of this article on PR Newswire’s site at www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/bipartisan-survey-shows-right-left-and-center-agree-on-1-goal-for-53-of-34-issues-300602892.html.