PBP Opening for PhDs as Participation Design Strategist

There is an exciting opportunity for recent PhDs to work with NCDD member org, Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) and help strengthen participatory democracy! PBP recently announced they have an opening as a Participation Design Strategist, part of the Mellow/ACLS Public Fellows program, for those who are new PhDs. The deadline to apply is March 14th, 2018 for the position, and we hope some NCDDers will apply (by clicking here)! You can read more information on the fellowship opening in the post below or find the original here. Good luck to all applicants!


Mellon/ACLS Fellowship Opening – Participation Design Strategist

At the Participatory Budgeting Project, we’re pleased to announce that we have been selected by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) as a host organization for the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program, a career-building fellowship initiative designed to expand the reach of doctoral education in the humanities. In 2018, the Public Fellows program will place up to 25 recent PhDs from the humanities and humanistic social sciences in two-year staff positions at partnering organizations in government and the nonprofit sector. Fellows will participate in the substantive work of these organizations and will receive professional mentoring, an annual stipend of $67,500, and health insurance.

The application deadline is March 14, 2018 (9pm EDT). For more information, please visit http://www.acls.org/programs/publicfellowscomp/.

Fellowship Details
Position Title:
Participation Design Strategist

Position Description:
We are seeking a Participation Design Strategist to work in PBP’s Participation Lab, one of our three program areas. The Lab evaluates, researches, and develops tools and practices to make participatory budgeting and democracy work better. The strategist will work closely with other staff and partners to develop and test strategies that improve PBP’s services and PB processes. Through this work the strategist will identify and help implement design solutions that enable participatory democracy to grow and scale, and that advance equity, diversity, and inclusion in civic participation. This will include close collaboration with government and nonprofit staff, community leaders, and user design experts.

This position is great preparation for those interested in a career in the nonprofit or public sectors, including in user experience design, human centered design, public participation, civic engagement, program evaluation, service delivery, or public administration. This is a new position that expands PBP’s capacity to make data-informed design decisions as well as to keep pace with the increasing volume and diversity of communities excited about deepening local democracy. See the full job posting here.

  • Stipend: $67,500 per year, with health insurance coverage for the fellow, a relocation allowance, and up to $3,000 in professional development funds over the course of the fellowship
  • Tenure: Two years; start date on August 1 or September 1, 2018, depending on the fellowship position
  • Applications will be accepted only through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system (ofa.acls.org). The system will open on January 4, 2018.
  • Application deadline: March 14, 2018, 9pm EDT
  • Notification of application status will occur by email starting late-May 2018.

Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows is a fellowship program offered by the American Council of Learned Societies and is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Please direct all inquiries about the fellowship program to ACLS.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Participatory Budgeting Project’s site at www.participatorybudgeting.org/mellon-fellowship/

ILG Offers Training for Local Gov’t Public Engagement

For those in the NCDD network working in local government and looking to improve public engagement skills, check out this great training coming up from NCDD member org Institute for Local Government (ILG). ILG is offering their TIERS Learning Lab, which will be a two-day training on Tuesday, March 13th and Wednesday, March 14th in Sacramento, CA. This is a great opportunity for staff and elected officials working in local government to better engage and sustain their public engagement efforts. You can read the announcement from ILG below or find the original version here.


TIERS Public Engagement Learning Lab – March 13th & 14th, Sacramento CA

The Institute for Local Government is thrilled to offer our Public Engagement Learning Lab to California local governments on March 13-14 in Sacramento. The Learning Lab includes a two-day training and up to six hours post-training consulting. During the training, you will learn how to implement ILG’s TIERS Framework, a step-by-step public engagement guide, and practical tools to successfully plan your public engagement efforts. By the end of the training, you will also have a “blueprint” for the implementation of your given public engagement effort. Early bird registration deadline is February 2.

What: The TIERS Public Engagement Learning Lab is a training and coaching program for local government staff and elected officials. In the TIERS Learning Lab you will:

  • Receive customized coaching on your public engagement projects from ILG staff
  • Learn to utilize ILG’s TIERS Framework to successfully plan and implement your public engagement projects
  • Apply the TIERS process to a specific public engagement project you are working on
  • Discuss strategies to overcome a wide variety of barriers and challenges often seen in public engagement work
  • Practice valuable facilitation skills and communication techniques that can be applied to many areas of your work

Who: Teams of 2-5 individuals from cities, counties and special districts looking to strengthen their public engagement work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018: 10am – 4pm Pacific
Wednesday, March 14, 2018: 9am – 2:30pm Pacific

Location: 1414 K Street, Adelante Room (1st floor), Sacramento, CA 95814

Registration Deadline: February 16th (Early Bird: February 2nd)

Learning Lab Overview
The TIERS Learning Lab is a comprehensive training and coaching program from ILG that provides local government teams of 2-5 individuals with hands-on instruction and coaching on the TIERS Framework. By participating in the TIERS Learning Lab, staff and electeds will learn how to utilize, customize and implement the TIERS tools and processes. The TIERS Learning Lab will help you build and manage successful public engagement in order to support local government work, stakeholder input and project success.

TIERS Learning Lab Components
The TIERS Learning Lab consists of training and support over a six month period for an agency team of up to five people. This six-month hands-on coaching opportunity includes:

  • A pretraining consultation with ILG to discuss your goals, plans and challenges; and to select your Learning Lab public engagement case
  • Immersive two-day Learning Lab: hands-on, participatory in-person training with expert coaches and peer learning
  • Post-training customized implementation coaching (up to 6 hours)
  • Monthly ’Open Lab’ for problem solving during the three months post training
  • Training workshop materials and meals
  • Scheduling and coordination of consulting calls for pre and post training

Learn More & Registration
For additional information and pricing, please visit http://www.ca-ilg.org/TIERSLearningLab.
To register please contact publicengagement@ca-ilg.org or (916) 658-8221.

“Attending TIERS was a great learning experience for the San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD) team.  The training helped us understand why our traditional methods of public outreach were not as effective as we hoped, and it provided insight into how we could enhance those efforts in the future.  Spending time together as a team was helpful, and the exercises and tools presented were enlightening.  The methods we learned at TIERS have already changed our public engagement process.  Using many specific techniques that we learned and working as a team, RTD increased our annual Unmet Transit Needs responses from 12 last year to over 1,350 this year! Thanks for the help!” -Donna DeMartino, Chief Executive Officer, San Joaquin Regional Transit District

You can find the original information of this training on ILG’s site at: www.ca-ilg.org/TIERSLearningLab.

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.

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/.

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.

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/.

Benefits and Challenges of Digitizing Deliberative Democracy

We wanted to share this article from NCDD sponsor, The Jefferson Center about the potential of digital democracy. The article talks about the powerful impact digital democracy can have and lifts up some of the challenges faced. It explores several examples and asks “what other ways do you think civic participation organizations can use technology to increase democratic participation?” and we invite you to leave your thoughts in the comments below!  You can read more on post below or find the original version the Jefferson Center blog here.


Digitizing Deliberative Democracy

The smartphones in our pockets can seemingly accomplish anything—even things you didn’t know you needed (like downloading virtual bubble wrap). While various apps and our social media feeds may threaten our productivity and full night’s sleep, they also connect us to people, organizations, and information at our fingertips. However, there’s one key area that hasn’t quite reached its full digital potential: democracy.

While we live in an increasingly interconnected world, we also use the internet to join neighborhood associations, alumni pages, and other community groups. Digital spaces, which can be used on a city to national scale, may have the power to cultivate meaningful local impacts. It’s no secret that trust in the institutions and processes that govern our lives as citizens is in decline. Could digital democracy, that seeks to involve citizens anywhere, anytime, be the fix?

Increasing Accessibility

Jimmy Carter, writing in a recent op-ed for the New York Times, writes the United States needs to improve “systems for inclusive and effective political participation” in the digital era. Between outdated communications, layers of bureaucracy, and purposeful confusion tactics, it can be extremely difficult for citizens to know where to go, and who to talk to about community grievances or ideas.

If democracy is rule by the people, then it makes sense to engage citizens with the tools right at our fingertips. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll, nearly 9 in 10 Americans are now online, and 77% of Americans own a smartphone. People with limited mobility, job commitments, vehicle troubles, childcare responsibilities, and any other hindrance to participating in person could have their voices heard more easily.

At the Jefferson Center, we’ve seen these trends in action. In our current project with the Minnesota Community Assembly Project, citizens in Red Wing, Minnesota wanted strengthened digital public engagement from their city. Better digital platforms would allow more citizens to reach out directly to elected officials to offer their input and recommendations, have conversations with other community members, or vote directly on public decisions.

Digital Democracy in Action

Digital democracy has been taking root around the world, and it’s easy to find success stories. In Seoul, South Korea, residents use an app called “mVoting” that allows residents to share their thoughts on the “city’s public parks, bus routes and designated smoking areas.” To date, there have been 181 cases that have been officially accepted as Seoul policy.

Meanwhile in Spain, “Decide Madrid” is a similar app which asks residents to submit suggestions or new laws, and other communities members can voice their support on suggestions. A South Australian program called “YourSAy” is trying to accomplish a similar task, by offering an online forum where citizens can take part in discussions, vote in polls, and decide where government funds are spent within broader engagement efforts that include face-to-face meetings. The UK Parliament has also begun a system of “evidence checks”, which invites citizens to examine current policies, and the evidence used to support these policies, to identify any gaps or problems.  A United States start-up firm called “Innovote” is also working to increase participation and accessibility by taking the vote to your phone, working with governments across the country.

Harnessing people power through technology would require apps, website, and other digital engagement tools. But in the long run, inviting people to participate remotely likely saves time and money, as well as delivering representative results.

Challenges to Inclusive Participation

In Taiwan, the website “vTaiwan” seeks to gather citizen views on issues. The results are collected and the program condenses the range of opinions into core citizen views. The website doubles as a facilitator, where stakeholders can participate in digital discussions, and policies are eventually formed on a national scale.

While the program has been scaled up over time, digital participation still remains in the thousands. Taiwanese activist Audrey Tang states that one driver of this lower participation may be because the process works well when primary stakeholders are online. When affected citizens don’t use the same technology, the process may be limited to niche issues. However, the website has been successful in both deciding and implementing policy, and popularizing media coverage around social enterprise company law, Uber ride service, and others. Minister Jaclyn Tsai commented that the process can be successful “if we can all take the time to understand the problem, read the data, while also listening to the views of the people—and enter a discussion, we are much more likely to reach a consensus.”

While accessibility to democratic conversations may increase for some, many citizens may not have stable internet access, or feel comfortable enough with technology to participate. In order to create representative solutions to issues, technology could be brought to different communities, combining new techniques and traditional advocacy to listen to more people.

Translating the Process

While these examples have largely focused on national and local government, there’s opportunities to broaden this scope. For instance, digital democracy could be used to ask what kind of local news citizens want to read, helping journalists to decide what issues to cover and how best to inform their communities. This could also be used to reduce diagnostic error, by engaging digitally with healthcare consumers to gather patient-focused perspectives.

At the Jefferson Center, we’re incorporating digital tools to recruit people to participate in our Citizens Juries, inform community members, and facilitate decision making. What other ways do you think civic participation organizations can use technology to increase democratic participation?

You can read the original version of this blog article from the Jefferson Center at www.jefferson-center.org/digitizing-deliberative-democracy/.

Submit Your Proposals for the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference

We are thrilled to announce the upcoming Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference in Spring 2018 that will convene civic practitioners, of all ages, to explore innovations in how people participate in democracy. The conference is the creative effort of several fantastic organizations working to empower their community, including NCDD sponsoring org the Jefferson Center, and NCDD member org the Participatory Budgeting Project. Proposals are to be submitted by November 1st, so make sure you get yours in and reserve your space at this great event by purchasing your tickets ASAP.

We strongly encourage you to read the announcement from the Participatory Budgeting Project below or you can find their original post on their blog here.


Get involved with the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference

The Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference will bring together more than 250 youth, educators, advocates, elected officials, and researchers to explore innovations that empower community members to make real decisions and directly participate in government.

Our conference kicks off just as 10 public high schools wrap up two weeks of voting in the Phoenix Union High School District—where students are using participatory budgeting to decide how to spend $55,000.

Join us! Purchase your tickets now at discounted rates.

Call for Proposals

In order to plan a conference that’s as participatory as the innovations we’re exploring, we want to hear from you!

We’re excited to review creative, engaging, and interactive proposals (check out these example session types) that focus on innovations in participatory democracy such as participatory budgeting, citizen juries and assemblies, and key practices that connect civic engagement and deliberation with decision-making.

Submissions close November 1, 2017.

We’re especially interested in proposals that:

  • are creative, engaging, and interactive;
  • showcase a diversity of opinions, experiences, and backgrounds;
  • encourage interaction, discussion, and/or skill-sharing with session attendees;
  • are accessible to people of any background or experience level;
  • promote new collaborations among conference attendees.

Submit your proposal for the 2018 Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference.

On behalf of the powerful team planning the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference, we’re excited to shape this conference and the future of participatory democracy with you!

We look forward to reviewing your proposal and to working together to grow and deepen the impacts of innovations in participatory democracy.

You can find the original version of this blog post on the Participatory Budgeting Project’s site at www.participatorybudgeting.org/join-us-for-ipdconference/.

Using Thick and Thin Engagement to Improve Politics

The NCDD network specializes in structures and processes for better civic engagement, which is why we wanted to share an insightful piece written by Matt Leighninger from Public Agenda, an NCDD member org. In the article, he gives concrete ways to improve politics from the ground up, by strengthening networks using both thin and thick ways of engagement. We encourage you to read Leighninger’s article below or find the original on Public Agenda’s blog here.


Fixing Politics by Strengthening Networks for Engagement

As David Brooks pointed out in his column on “How to Fix Politics,” our political system has reached a perilous state of dysfunction and distrust, and it is unlikely that any solutions to this crisis will come from the political parties or their presidential candidates.

Brooks is also right that the partisanship and incivility that plague our politics are not just due to poor manners or bad process skills. They are based in much deeper structural flaws in how leaders and communities engage each other around important issues and resulting strains in the relationship between citizens and government.

Brooks argues that strong community networks are essential for successful politics, and uses a 1981 quote from one of our founders, Daniel Yankelovich, to illustrate how long the weakening of those networks has been going on. “If we’re going to salvage our politics,” Brooks says, we’ll have to “nurture the thick local membership web that politics rests within.”

This kind of argument is often dismissed as a sentimental notion, or a lament over our lack of civic virtue, but it shouldn’t be. There are specific proposals and measures that can accomplish it.

Strengthening networks for engagement should be one of our top public priorities, and there are in fact a number of concrete ways to move forward on it. Much of our work at Public Agenda centers on these challenges, and we are part of a field of other organizations and leaders – from neighborhood organizers to innovative public officials – who have pioneered more productive formats and structures for democratic politics.

There are two kinds of communication that need to be happening for those networks to strengthen and grow. One kind, as Brooks references, is “thick” engagement that is intensive, informed and deliberative. In these kinds of settings, people are able to share their experiences, learn more about public problems, consider a range of solutions or policy options and decide how they want to act.

Other tactics produce “thin” engagement, which is faster, easier and potentially viral. It encompasses a range of activities that allow people to express their opinions, learn about other people’s views and affiliate themselves with a particular group or cause.

When thick and thin engagement activities are common and interwoven in community life, they can:

  • Facilitate faster, more far-reaching dissemination of information from governments, school systems and other public bodies.
  • Allow citizens to provide information back to the institutions, in ways that are convenient for people.
  • Foster discussion and connection, and the strengthening of personal relationships, among different groups of citizens, and among citizens, public officials and public employees.
  • Provide choices for people to make at the level of the family and neighborhood;
  • Create deliberative processes in which people can make informed public policy choices;
  • Encourage and support citizens to contribute their energy, ideas and volunteer time to improving their communities.

By understanding what thick and thin engagement look like, and what they can accomplish, communities can assess and improve their systems of engagement, or “civic infrastructure,” defined as “the laws, processes, institutions, and associations that support regular opportunities for people to connect with each other, solve problems, make decisions and celebrate community.”

Stronger civic infrastructure could include more productive and participatory public meetings, revitalized neighborhood and school associations, and vibrant local online forums. Overall, it should establish a better “ground floor of democracy” that fosters new leaders, creates social connections and helps people work together on common concerns like ensuring public safety and improving the quality of education for our young people.

The structural elements that support these activities can include:

  • new laws and ordinances on public engagement;
  • tools for engaging residents for neighborhoods and schools;
  • annual participatory budgeting processes;
  • public engagement commissions;
  • tools for measuring engagement and the strength of networks;
  • citizen advisory boards that engage rather than just trying to represent residents; and
  • protocols, job descriptions and professional development that help public employees understand how to support productive engagement.

While some of these elements are clearly the province of governments and school systems, many other components are ones that should be supported by neighborhood groups, nonprofits, businesses, faith communities, universities, foundations and other stakeholders.

David Brooks is right that strengthening the web of community networks can help fix politics, at every level of government. There are practical ways to do this – this is a matter for policy, law, cross-sector collaboration, and long-term planning. We should be proactive, and think constructively, about how we want our democracy to work.

You can find the original version of this article on Public Agenda’s blog at www.publicagenda.org/blogs/fixing-politics-by-strengthening-networks-for-engagement.

Second Phase of D&D training with Am. Library Association

In the beginning of the year we launched our two-year partnership with the American Library Association (ALA) on the Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change initiative. For this collaborative project, we are working to train librarians on D&D methods and processes which they can in turn share with their communities to further make libraries hubs of community engagement and agents for change. We were thrilled at the response during the first phase of the project, which focused on large and urban libraries featuring NCDD member orgs Everyday Democracy and World Café.

Starting in September will be the second phase of the project, to provide D&D training tailored to academic libraries and further deepen the impact these spaces have on collaborative change on campuses. This round is comprised of three webinars featuring NCDD member orgs Essential Partners and National Issues Forums; and those that attend all three webinars will be invited to the in-person pre-conference workshop at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting early next year. This partnership is an incredible opportunity to share the work of our field and increase the possibilities for our members to network with librarians over the long-term. We encourage you to read the announcement from ALA below and you can find the original here.


Announcing Free Dialogue & Deliberation Learning Series for Academic Libraries

ALA’s Public Programs Office, the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) and the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) invite academic library professionals to attend a free learning series that teaches several dialogue facilitation approaches and helps librarians position themselves to foster conversation and lead change on their campuses and beyond.

Through Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change, a two-year ALA initiative in collaboration with NCDD, academic library professionals can participate in three online learning sessions and one in-person workshop, all free of charge, between September 2017 and February 2018.

Attendees of this professional development training will learn to convene critical conversations with people with differing viewpoints; connect more meaningfully with library users and better meet their needs; and translate conversation into action.

Registration is currently open for three online sessions:

Each session will be recorded and archived for free on-demand viewing on the Programming Librarian Learning page.

Individuals who view all three webinars, live or recorded, will be invited to attend the free, one-day pre-conference workshop at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver (Feb. 9 to 13, 2018). Details about the pre-conference will be available in fall 2017 and will be shared during the webinars.

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

You can find the original version of this announcement on the ALA’s Programming Librarian site at www.programminglibrarian.org/articles/announcing-free-dialogue-deliberation-learning-series-academic-libraries.