Join Free Webinar on NY Public Library Community Conversations Program, 12/5

Last year, we announced a two-year partnership with the American Library Association on a new initiative, Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change, which sought to train librarians in dialogue and deliberation processes with the goal of turning libraries into spaces of civic engagement and community discussions. We invite you to join a free one hour webinar on December 5th on how the New York Public Library created their Community Conversations series pilot to support the community in addressing important issues. In this webinar, you’ll learn how they developed the 11-month training program for librarians in 16 branches, tailored the conversation series to what the community needed, and implemented the series to deepen the libraries’ role as civic centers. You can read the announcement below and sign up to join the webinar here.


Community Conversations Across Neighborhoods: Dialogue-Driven Programming

Libraries have the potential to inspire local dialogue on timely issues across communities, positioning library staff as trusted facilitators. Join us for this free one-hour webinar to hear how New York Public Library created a conversation series on important issues in the diverse communities they serve.

In February 2017, the New York Public Library (NYPL) launched a Community Conversations pilot with the goal of further establishing branch libraries as key civic convening centers, providing space, information and quality discussion for communities to better understand and problem-solve around local issues.

Aligning with the ALA Public Programs Office’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, NYPL’s Adult Programming and Outreach Services (ORS) Office developed an original 11-month training program with staff from 16 branch libraries that resulted in a series of unique, community-led programs.

Program boundaries were kept flexible enough for branch staff to be able to design programs with their own diverse neighborhood communities in mind. Branches experimented with a variety of tactics to ensure community focus, including community issue voting boards, a public planning committee, community-mapping and final program sessions that invited attendees to discuss next steps.

Participants of this session will learn:

  • Best practices and lessons learned from NYPL’s Community Conversations programming
  • How to launch successful location-based Community Conversations initiatives that build partnerships and engage staff in new ways
  • Specific dialogue-driven program models that can be used as templates for programs in libraries across geographic locations

Presenters
Alexandra Kelly Berman is the manager of adult programming and outreach services at the New York Public Library, where she works with library staff across 88 neighborhood branches to introduce programs for local adult communities, including the recent Community Conversations pilot. Alexandra began at NYPL by developing and leading the successful multi-branch Community Oral History Project. Before working at NYPL, she was a facilitator at StoryCorps and received an M.A. from the School of Media Studies at The New School, where she also acted as director of student services + engagement. She has also launched several youth media projects around New York City, including an oral history project in Crown Heights, The Engage Media Lab program at The New School, and a documentary filmmaking project at Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

Andrew Fairweather is a librarian at the New York Public Library’s Seward Park branch in the Lower East Side. He is fervent in his belief that the library can serve as a unique platform for discussion about tricky issues and current events. He enjoys painting and drawing when not occupied with library work. Andrew’s interest in any one subject is incredibly unfaithful — he will read (most) anything as a result.

Nancy Aravecz is a senior adult librarian at the Jefferson Market branch of The New York Public Library. In this role, she focuses on providing top-notch discussion-based programming to the Greenwich Village community, centered around information literacy, technology, current events and classic works of literature. She is a recent graduate of Kent State University’s MLIS program, where she studied digital libraries. She also holds a previous MA degree in English Language and Letters from New York University, where her studies centered around literary theory and criticism, postcolonial studies and the digital humanities.

Related Learning Opportunities:

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Programming Librarian website (part of the American Library Association Public Programs Office) at www.programminglibrarian.org/learn/community-conversations-across-neighborhoods-dialogue-driven-programming.

Exciting New Book on 30 Years of Participatory Budgeting

For our participatory budgeting enthusiasts out there (and we know there are a lot of you!), NCDD member org – the Participatory Budgeting Project, recently shared the exciting new book, Hope for Democracy: 30 years of participatory budgeting worldwide. The 600-page volume, edited by Nelson Dias, features over 60 authors on their experiences with PB across the world over the last 30 years and offers great insights for how to further grow the PB movement. We are thrilled to note that folks are able to download this book for free! You can read more about it in the post below and find the original announcement on the PBP site here.


Hope for Democracy: A New Book Reflects on 30 Years of Participatory Budgeting

An expansive new volume edited by Nelson Dias features dispatches by more than 60 authors from the frontlines of participatory budgeting’s (PB) growth around the world. This book, Hope for Democracy, could not have come out at a better time for PB supporters in North America. Next year will mark 10 years of PB in the US and new opportunities to take PB to the next level: a big citywide process approved in NYC, hundreds of new school PB processes, and growing political interest in strengthening democracy.

To make the most of these great opportunities to revitalize democracy, we need to first learn from PB’s growth internationally. Dias and his collaborators deliver countless insights in their 600-page panorama. (Download the book for free here.)

We lift up the biggest lessons below…

Why have Hope for Democracy?
Dias begins with an overview of key trends in PB as it spread from Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 to over 7,000 localities around the world. PB experts Brian Wampler, Stephanie McNulty, and Michael Touchton note how in Brazil during the 1990s, leftist politicians and activists championed PB as a radical project to “broaden the confines of representative democracy, mobilize followers, and achieve greater social justice” (p. 55); over time, it attracted support from a wide range of actors, including international organizations like the World Bank, because of its potential to improve governance and promote civic engagement. Giovanni Allegretti and Kalinca Copello discuss how, as PB spread internationally, new processes often committed fewer funds, whether measured as lower PB spending per person or as a smaller share of PB in the overall budgets (p. 45).

Benjamin Goldfrank and Katherine Landes examine how this trend has played out in the U.S. and Canada. They report that PB has expanded more slowly than other regions in terms of the number of cities implementing it, the amount of participants, and the volume of funds (p. 161). Yet, Goldfrank and Landes demonstrate this is not due to a lack of public interest: “we find that where PB allocates larger pots of money, the rate of participation tends to be higher” (p. 172). In other words, the more dollars that a PB process allocates, the more people care about it. Moreover, two bright spots on the horizon indicate that PB may grow faster in coming years: its mounting presence in schools and its rising appeal among progressive activists and politicians.

In the light of the recent victories in NYC—PB in all public high schools and citywide PB approved into the city charter—this watershed may be closer than the Goldfrank and Landes anticipated. Chapters on Paris, Russia, and Portugal offer additional insights on how to scale up PB in North America.

Paris offers a model of PB going big
Paris currently runs the largest PB process in the world. Similar to NYC’s coming city-wide process, PB in Paris was championed by a progressive mayor, Anne Hidalgo, who successfully campaigned on bringing PB to Paris in her 2014 election. Mayor Hidalgo wasted no time in implementing her plan of dedicating 5% of the city’s capital budget to PB over the first five years (That’s roughly 500 million euros!). Tiago Peixoto and colleagues use the Paris case to study large-scale issues, like whether online voting improves the process or biases it towards more privileged residents. Their research finds that voting patterns between online voters and those who vote in person are remarkably similar.

PB in Russia innovates, expands rapidly
In 2015, Russia experienced a turning point after which the number of PB processes grew surprisingly fast. This occurred when the Ministry of Finance noted the positive outcomes in regional PB processes and created a framework known as Initiative Financing. The next year, 8,732 PB projects were implemented. By 2018, half of all regional governments in the country (the equivalent of U.S. states) decided to set up PB programs.

Why did so many regions begin PB so quickly, when the federal government did not provide financial incentives to do so? Ivan Shulga and Vladimir Vagin emphasize how the central framework and technical assistance provided by the Ministry of Finance and the World Bank made regional implementation much easier. These processes also made use of some innovative institutional designs. In some programs, municipalities, businesses, organizations, and citizens pledged to co-finance projects, increasing their chance of receiving regional funding. Another program used a form of sortition or citizen jury, in which a cohort of volunteer budget delegates was randomly selected, to work with experts to turn project ideas into full-fledged and feasible proposals.

Portugal leads the way with national PB
Portugal was the first country to run nation-wide PB. While the process is not particularly large in terms of public participation or budget, it does provide one model of a large-scale institutional design that bridges disparate regions.

Roberto Falanga outlines how the process collected nearly 1,000 ideas from each part of the country in 50 assemblies and winnowed them down into viable proposals for a vote. The process did not use budget delegates to revise the proposals. While this may streamline the process, it runs the risk of giving experts and officials more power than public participants. However, an effort was made to minimize this danger by requiring detailed reasons for rejecting proposals and re-including ones that could be revised and made feasible. Still, proposals that were backed by informal social networks may have received undue prominence. For example a bullfighting project won funding even though a majority of the Portuguese public believes that the practice should be banned.

Reflecting on what’s been done, ready for more
It’s an exciting moment to get involved with PB. And it’s an important time to reflect on how far different regions have taken PB. While there are currently around 100 active processes in the U.S. and Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean hosts around 2,500 processes and Europe 3,500. We have some catching up to do.

Donate here to help PB grow.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Participatory Budgeting Project’s site at www.participatorybudgeting.org/hope-for-democracy-a-new-book-reflects-on-30-years-of-participatory-budgeting/.

Democracy Fund Creates New Team to Support Strategic Investment in our Democracy

Hot off the digital press! Democracy Fund, an NCDD 2018 sponsor, announced this morning they are building a new team dedicated to being a better resource for donors and the field; in order to support strategic efforts to invest in our country’s democracy. Currently, there is very little funding given to those working to improve our democracy, and it is vital to invest resources to those doing this work if our democracy is to survive. Democracy Fund is seeking a Director of Partnerships to lead this newly created team and stay tuned for the program rollout which will offer investment strategy resources, educational events, and joint funding opportunities.

On a related note, if you are looking to support an organization working to further democracy then consider donating to NCDD! We are one of the leading organizations that work to foster the D&D field and support those working to actualize a truer democracy. This Giving Tuesday, Facebook will match your donations – so double your impact and donate tomorrow through our NCDD FB page here! We encourage you to read the announcement below and find the original on Democracy Fund’s site here.


Building a Team to Invest in Democracy

Following the 2016 election, Democracy Fund heard from many philanthropists seeking advice on what they can do to respond to the threats facing our political system. For some, the last two years have brought a newly pervasive sense that our democracy is under threat and that our political system is far more fragile than most of us assumed. We feel the same way, and we are humbled that interested donors and their advisors are turning to us and to our peers for guidance.

Through our efforts to support these new partners, we discovered that Democracy Fund can play a helpful role in providing advice and connections to philanthropists who are learning about the field. To that end, I am delighted to share that we are building a new team at Democracy Fund to help us be a better resource to philanthropists, advisors, and our peers. The team will be led by a newly created position, the Director of Partnerships. (Read and share the job description here.)

This swell in philanthropic interest comes at a pivotal time. Despite a clear and pressing need, the level of philanthropic support for this field remains critically low. Whether you look at voting, journalism, or civic education, many of the most capable and innovative organizations in the space have struggled through multiple cycles of feast and famine and need more resources to meet the challenges at hand.

To make progress on issues that are important to the American people and to ensure the health of our democracy for future generations, the United States needs deep investment by philanthropists and advocates. Policy reforms ranging from the future of affordable housing to climate change depend on a political system that is responsive to the public. A more equitable society requires eliminating barriers to voting and reducing the influence of money on politics. And improving the ability of individuals and communities to thrive rests on a functioning government, fair enforcement of the rule of law, and stability in our politics. Despite the reality that progress hinges on a healthy democracy, the field receives less than two percent of overall philanthropic giving.

Building a healthier democracy together

Working with our peer funders, we hope the Democracy Fund Partnerships team can be a resource to donors and to the field. Our goal is to make the expert capacity of our staff and our collaborative approach available to interested philanthropists. We believe that enlisting greater philanthropic energy, ideas, and resources to the fields in which we work is one of the most effective ways for us to meet the scale of the challenge.

Our new team will educate and engage philanthropists who are new to democracy with the goal of helping them to enter the field. Led by the Director of Partnerships, the team will help donors and their advisors make strategic decisions to invest in our country’s democracy. It will take some time and experimentation to build this program, but there are a few things you should expect to see:

  • Resources: Democracy Fund will work with our peers to develop resources that help new donors to better understand the space, including investment guides highlighting the most innovative and high-impact strategies and organizations in the field. The Foundation Center’s data tool for the democracy field is an excellent example of the kind of resource we have helped create in the past that can help philanthropists understand the existing landscape.
  • Educational Events: Over the past 18 months, Democracy Fund has partnered with the Giving Pledge to educate members of that network about opportunities to strengthen democracy in the United States. We expect to organize more briefings and workshops like those we organized with Giving Pledge to inform new donors.
  • Joint Funds: Democracy Fund participates in and has created several collaborative funds that enable donors to easily contribute to vetted, highly effective grantees working to protect the health of our government, elections, and free press. Our Public Square program, for example, works with other journalism funders through NewsMatch, the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund, and the Community Listening and Engagement Fund. We aim to work with our peers to develop other similar funds that make it easier for new donors to enter the space.

Our Commitment to the Field

Our new efforts to build philanthropic partnerships will not slow our existing efforts to deploy our resources to support the field. Since Democracy Fund began, we have committed more than $100 million in grants and built a team of more than 45 people with deep expertise on issues ranging from journalism and elections to Congress and government accountability. Thanks to the generosity and leadership of Pierre Omidyar we intend to continue to invest at a similar level in the coming years.

At the same time, our commitment to our existing grantees will not limit our advice to new donors – we hope to help philanthropists find their own path into the field, whether or not it mirrors the path that we have chosen.

We are grateful for the mentorship and ongoing partnership of many foundations who have supported this field for decades, including the Knight Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund. At such a deeply important moment for our country, we are excited to begin this important work and will continue to share our progress as the team grows and the program develops.

You can find the original version of this announcement on Democracy Fund’s site at www.democracyfund.org/blog/entry/building-a-team-to-invest-in-democracy.

Opportunity for Students to Join Youth Collaboratory by 11/13

In case you missed it, Citizen University is accepting applications until this Tuesday for their 2019 Youth Collaboratory cohort! The Youth Collaboratory is an exciting opportunity for 24 high school sophomores and juniors, passionate about civic engagement, to join this year-long program to strengthen civic literacy and network with civic leaders. Applications are due November 13th – so make sure to share with your networks and submit applications by this coming Tuesday. You can read more about the Youth Collaboratory and how to apply in the post below, and find the original version of this information on Citizen University’s site here.


Empowering the Rising Generation: Youth Collaboratory

The Youth Collaboratory is a year-long program for 24 highly-motivated students from around the country who are passionate about civic engagement and making a positive change in their communities and country. The Youth Collaboratory is one component of Citizen University’s Youth Power Project, a multi-year effort supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation to empower and connect a rising generation of civic leaders and doers. The application for the 2019 Youth Collaboratory is open now!

The application due date is Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at 11:59pm PT. For details about the program, including a PDF of all application questions – read more below. If you have questions about this application, please contact Ben Phillips at ben@citizenuniversity.us.

Learn More About the Youth Collaboratory 

Members of the 2019 Youth Collaboratory will spend the year sharpening their literacy in civic power while traveling to cities around the nation and meeting with national civic innovators. They participate in interactive workshops led by Eric Liu and Citizen University educators, collaborate with CU staff to develop, test, and optimize programs to engage youth nation-wide, and individually complete independent projects in their communities. This is a unique and exciting opportunity to be connected to a network of incredible change-makers and gain the skills and connections for a lifetime of civic power.

The Youth Collaboratory program includes:

  • Travel, accommodations, and meals to attend three meetings of the Youth Collaboratory in 2019:
    • Feb. 20-22 in Malibu, CA
    • May 15-17 in Chicago, IL
    • Sept. 11-13 in Washington, DC
  • Tools and workshop trainings to become powerful, engaged citizen leaders
  • Connections with civic innovators and mentors
  • Connections with other student leaders and innovators from around the country

Who is eligible:

  • Applicants must be current high school sophomores or juniors
  • Applicants must live in the United States
  • Applicants must be able to attend all three of the Youth Collaboratory meetings (We are aware that the May dates conflict with certain Advanced Placement (AP) testing dates. There is a place on the application to indicate any AP tests you are taking, and we will make arrangements as possible.)
  • Students who come from backgrounds that historically have less access to power and civic opportunity are especially encouraged to apply, specifically young people of color, immigrants, and young women.

Application:

  • The application deadline is November 13, 2018 at 11:59pm Pacific Time
  • View a PDF of the application here
  • Apply now

Please contact Ben Phillips at ben@citizenuniversity.us with any questions.

In this era of economic and political inequality, the work of power literacy is especially urgent, nowhere more so than in the rising generation of young people who will be facing the consequences of today’s polarization and inequality for years to come. Armed with the knowledge, skills, connections, and experience of the Youth Collaboratory, our diverse cohort of passionate young people will be prepared to be true leaders of civic change in America for the next generation.

Past Participants

The 2019 cohort of the Youth Collaboratory is the third cohort of this exciting and innovative program. In the first two years of the program, participants came from over 20 states representing every region of the country, with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Here is some of what they had to say about the Youth Collaboratory:

“The highlight was getting to meet with the Civic Collaboratory, to really connect to people in the successful, professional world and talk to them about the issues and projects that they’re working on. It’s really inspiring.”

“I was shocked at the space we created, that we allowed each other to feel safe expressing our opinions and views.”

“I was so pleased to be welcomed into a group that taught me how to be the best civic version of myself that I could be.”

Follow Citizen University on social media, to learn more about the Youth Collaboratory and other programs!

You can find the original version of this information on the Citizen University site at www.citizenuniversity.us/programs/youth-power-project/.

The 2018 Civvy Awardees Announced – CSU Center for Public Deliberation Ties for Local Winner!

Exciting news – the winners of the 2018 American Civic Collaboration awards (a.k.a. The Civvys), were announced at the National Conference in Citizenship last week! Granted to those doing high-collaboration work that transcends political division, we invite you to join us in wishing the awardees a big congratulations! Several NCDDers were listed as finalists and we are proud to see the Colorado State University Center for Public Deliberation, founded and directed by NCDD Board Chair Martin Carcasson, tie for Local Winner! You can read the announcement below and find the original version here.


Celebrating 2018 Civvys Winners

On October 18, 2018 at the National Conference in Citizenship in Washington, D.C., six inspiring initiatives were honored as winners of the 2018 American Civic Collaboration awards.

The six winners and 23 finalists represent outstanding examples of collaborative work that elevate democracy and civic engagement, at every level of American life. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, these organizations are working hard to build a better future, and inspire others to do the same.

Meet the 2018 winners in each category:

NATIONAL WINNER: iCivics

iCivics is a leader in the field of civic education, paving the way for students to learn about their nation through innovative curriculum that includes games, digital interactives, surveys and teacher resources. More than 200,000 teachers use iCivics games and resources to educate and engage 5 million K-12 students in all 50 states, and the organization is committed to doubling its reach by the year 2020. In the words of Civvys judge and 2017 National Winner Jody Thomas, “This organization hits all the right notes and they have the metrics to back it up.”

LOCAL WINNER – TIE: Interfaith Works NY El Hindi Center for Dialogue; Colorado State University Center for Public Deliberation

The El-Hindi Center for Dialogue at Interfaith Works in Central New York was nominated for their outstanding work in a variety of programs, most notably an initiative bridging the gap in understanding between the Syracuse Police Department and the local community. Their immediate and lasting impact presents a model for other communities to follow. Civvys judge Michele Holt-Shannon, who was also a 2017 Local winner, pointed out “the use of multiracial, multilingual facilitators expands the impact of the dialogues.”

As a pioneering model adopted by other universities, the Colorado State University Center for Public Deliberation operates under the belief that universities play a key role in not just providing quality information or training informed citizens, but in elevating the quality of communication in their communities. They provide forums for citizen engagement, connection and empowerment – improving outcomes for the students involved, the local community, the faculty bringing together theory and practice, and the university as a convener.

YOUTH WINNER: FIRST VOTE NC

First Vote NC believes that if students have an opportunity to practice voting, it will become a habit. They have built a track record of success with their virtual voting platform and civics lessons, which provide education, information, and room for engagement, while de-emphasizing the right versus wrong nature of today’s politics in favor of understanding how perspectives differ because of a myriad of factors. Through a mobilized network of teachers using the platform, the work of First Vote has reached over 40,000 students in 46 counties.

POLITICAL WINNER: MAINE RANK CHOICE VOTING EDUCATION EFFORT

This year, the Chamberlain Project Foundation and the Foundation for Independent Voter Education launched a joint effort in Maine to make sure voters were comfortable and aware of ranked choice voting, which helps broaden candidate pools beyond two parties, increase voter turnout and give more power to each vote. Their work created a transformational change in the way the state of Maine elects its leaders, what Civvys judge David Sawyer called “a game changer for the nation, breaking the polarization paradigm.” Two other judges called this work “an essential experiment” in the “laboratory of democracy.”

COMMITTEE CHOICE AWARD: MONTEVALLO JUNIOR CITY COUNCIL

In 2012, eight middle-schoolers in a small, rural Alabama community approached their mayor to start the first-ever Junior City Council in their town. Through the work of these young people, they established themselves as a political body, and their president sits on the dais at all City Council Meetings to represent the youth voice. The JCC hosts deliberative forums, developed a merchant discount card for teens and convened a mayoral debate, among other activities. Their nomination, submitted by an adult, noted, “In the decade I have worked in civic engagement, I have never seen a group of young people be given as much real power to make positive change in their community.”

You can find the original version of this on The Civvy’s site at www.civvys.org/the-2018-civvys-1/.

Submit Application for NCL’s 2019 All-American City Awards

It’s that time again! Applications are now being accepted for the 2019 All-American City Awards until March 5th, 2019. Hosted by the National Civic League, an NCDD partner and conference sponsor, the award will be given to the communities working towards improving health equity through inclusive civic engagement. We encourage you to watch the video from the 2018 awardees with tips on applying and how the award has benefitted their communities. You can read the announcement below and find the original version on NCL’s site here.


Creating Healthy Communities Through Inclusive Civic Engagement

The National Civic League invites you to apply for the All-America City Award – the nation’s most prestigious community award, now in its 70th year.

The AAC Award offers the opportunity for both recognition and reflection. Applications require communities to come together to assess their strengths and challenges. The 2019 All-America City Award is focused on celebrating examples of civic engagement practices that advance health equity in local communities. We are looking for communities that demonstrate inclusive decision-making processes to create better health for all, and particularly for populations currently experiencing poorer health outcomes.

Download the application now and mobilize local groups to work together and display on a national stage the people and projects that make your community a great place to live, work and play.

Details and Dates
Applications on behalf of cities, counties, towns, or tribes are due March 5, 2019. Leaders from local government, schools, nonprofits, community foundations, libraries, chambers of commerce and youth have all led their communities to win the All-America City Award. APPLY NOW!

  • July 2018 – June 2019
    All-America City Promising Practices Webinar Series
  • Nov. 14, 2018
    Letter of Intent due (not required to apply)
  • March 5, 2019
    Application Due
  • April 2019
    Finalists Announced
  • June 21 – 23, 2019
    Awards Competition and Conference

Want to submit a competitive application? Watch the webinar recording below to hear 2018 All-America City winners, Kershaw County, SC and Las Vegas, NV, present on their All-America City journey with tips for applying, the types of projects they submitted and an update on the benefits they have seen from winning the award.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the National Civic League’s site at www.nationalcivicleague.org/creating-healthy-communities-through-inclusive-civic-engagement/.

Democratic Learning Exchanges with NCL and Kettering

NCDD member and partner – the National Civic League has been working with the Kettering Foundation on “learning exchanges” with city managers. The two organizations have a long working history over the last several decades, which has sought to explore how to further democratic practices, particularly within local government. This is the most recent effort in this work to continue to shift deeper government collaboration with the community. You can read the article in the post below or find the original on NCL’s site here.


Learning About Democratic Practices with City Managers

The National Civic League is working with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation to organize “learning exchanges” to explore the ways professional city managers engage with members of the public to foster democratic practices in communities.

These twice-a-year exchanges, which have been held at the foundation’s campus in Dayton, Ohio, have facilitated wide-ranging conversations about civic engagement efforts and examples of complementary public action—everything from an experiment in participatory budgeting in Chicago’s 49th ward to dialogues about community-police relations in a small southern city.

The participants have also explored issues such as assets-based community development, relational organizing, social media and technology and the role of public deliberation in addressing “wicked problems,” that is, persistent problems for which there are no obvious technical solutions.

In many of the exchanges, participants have identified tensions between the job of professional manager and the idea of public engagement and democratic governance. Traditionally, managers have been trained to view themselves as technical problem-solvers who advise elected officials and manage city departments to implement the policies adopted during public meetings.

In effect, local elected and appointed officials made the tough decisions and handled the strategizing, prioritizing and long-range planning efforts that allowed municipalities and counties to flourish.

But managers are in some ways uniquely positioned to foster collective problem-solving efforts and grassroots community initiatives, especially when there is a continuity of effort by public managers over a period of years. Some city governments, in fact, have developed detailed protocols to help staff-members think about how and when to engage the public in decision-making and public deliberation.

The National Civic League’s involvement with the Kettering Foundation goes back many years. In the early 1970s, the two organizations worked together to conduct research on what was then described as “citizen participation.” With support from the foundation, the League developed a series of books and videos, highlighting how winners of the All-America City Awards had come together to address pressing issues.

The Kettering Foundation’s primary research question is, “What does it take to make democracy work as it should?” For Kettering, one aspect of this mission is to look at ways professionals can “align their work” with the work of ordinary members of communities.

The League’s various research agreements with the Kettering Foundation have offered unique opportunities over the years to develop new ideas and new relationships with individuals and organizations, some of which have led to other initiatives and projects.

The city manager exchange, for example, led to the development of the Richard S. Childs Fellowship, a project that offers editorial assistance and guidance to working city managers seeking to write about their experiences with democratic practices in their communities. Some of these writings have already appeared in the National Civic Review as case studies and essays.

The fellowship was named for the political reformer and long-serving member of the National Civic League board of directors who played a leading role in developing the 1915 Model City Charter, the original blueprint for the city council-city manager plan for local government.

These research exchanges have become an important part of the League’s efforts to learn more about community-based efforts and address challenging issues. They also serve as a bridge between the organization’s historic mission of promoting professionalism in local government with its more modern focus on civic engagement, collaborative problem-solving and social equity.

You can find the original version of this on National Civic League’s site at www.nationalcivicleague.org/learning-about-democratic-practices-with-city-managers/.

Our Responsibility to Safeguard Our Democracy

NCDD member org, the Bridge Alliance, recently shared this article on their blog from Dr. Thom Little of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF). In the article, he speaks on the tenets at the core of our democracy and the need for the people and the representatives to protect and uphold these principles if this nation is to be able to continue. You can read the article below and find the original on the Bridge Alliance site here.


Protecting Our Democracy: The Obligation of Leadership

More than two centuries ago, fifty-five men from across thirteen American colonies established a government like none other before, a government where power was bestowed not by birth right or by armed might, but by consent. A democracy. The governed had, by the power of their voice and their vote, the right to determine who would govern them and accordingly, the right to remove them as necessary. Thus began what Alexis de Tocqueville described as “the great experiment” to see if man was truly capable of self government.

With a lot of hard work, good leadership and not a little bit of luck, this government has endured- it has survived some less than competent and noble leaders and irrational decisions made out of fear, racism, sexism, partisanship and just plain ignorance. It has survived wars internal and external. It has, although not without pain, hardship and some serious missteps, integrated peoples of different races, ethnicities, identities and philosophies. The nation has moved forward in fits and starts, but it has moved forward.

And yet, the success of America’s democracy is not preordained, based on destiny or providence. What has been so long maintained can easily be lost if we as a people and our leaders lose sight of the institutions that have allowed it to prosper and served us well for so long: free and fair elections; an independent press; three autonomous branches of government and strong and effective state governments. While not perfect, these four institutions have been the bedrock of democracy and must be maintained if this experiment is to continue.

Free and Fair Elections. A government that derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed can only stand if the governed have faith in the process by which they lend that consent: the elections. That faith has been tested from time to time, especially when no candidate for the US Presidency earned a majority of the electoral votes. Further, electoral reforms such as voter registration, primary elections, campaign finance regulations and limitations and the elimination of numerous obstacles to voting have been implemented to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. In addition, the right to vote has been extended to Americans of all races, genders over the age of seventeen fulfilling the revolutionary vision of the founders that indeed all are created equal.

An Independent and Trusted Press. While the relationship between public officials and the press has always been a tense one, the authors of the United States Constitution understood that for the infant government to thrive, freedom of the press, even the very partisan papers, pamphlets and fliers of the time, would have to be protected. The founders so valued freedom of the press that they codified it in the very first amendment to the new Constitution. Ideologically driven journalism is nothing new, but the rise of electronic media, cable news, talk radio and social media have made it so difficult to determine what sources are to be trusted that faith in the press is being severely tested.

Autonomous Branches of Government. Separation of powers. Checks and balances. Power spread across three independent units of government? Preposterous- at least to most in the eighteenth century when power was given by God or taken by might. Kings or dictators made the laws, administered the laws and interpreted the laws. In America, each of those decisions are to be made by an independent branch (legislative, judicial and executive), with some oversight from each of the others to keep any one branch from getting out of hand. However, for this system to work, each independently elected branch must be strong enough to do their jobs and willing to stand against the others when they step beyond their bounds.

Strong and Capable State Governments. Perhaps the most unique contribution to the American system of the governed is federalism, a system by which power is shared. While the thirteen states were all part of a larger nation, each also retained significant rights by which they would govern themselves and, perhaps more importantly, address important issues when the national government is unwilling or incapable of doing so. Strong, capable state governments, led by informed and independent legislatures are as critical today (maybe even moreso in light of the gridlock and bitterness that has gripped Washington, DC) as it was more than two hundred years ago.

The responsibility to maintain this gift of democracy has, and always will be, in the hands of the people and the representatives they elect to serve and govern them. If we do not protect and honor these institutions, the government that has for so long been a beacon to the world could easily be lost like others before it. So, I challenge you and all of us to work diligently to make sure that the democracy that has served us so well for so long will stand for our children and their children and their children’s children. And SLLF stands ready, willing and able to help in any way we can!

You can find the original version of this article on the Bridge Alliance site at www.bridgealliance.us/protecting_our_democracy_the_obligation_of_leadership.

The Modern Revival of Democracy in Municipalities

While democracy on the national level has gone through some serious upheaval in the last years, it’s inspiring to see many cities across the country come together and nurture localized democracy. NCDD member org, Public Agenda, shared this article on how cities are returning to being spaces of civic engagement for the community and some cities have even adopted deliberative democratic practices. We encourage you to read this piece that elevates the work of several NCDD member organizations in the post below (thanks for mentioning us too!) and find the original on Public Agenda’s site here.


Cities as Centers for Deliberative Democracy

Whether dealing with climate change, immigration or even trade, cities and metropolitan areas have for some time now taken initiatives and formed networks to address pressing social and economic issues.

The New Role for Cities

The late Benjamin Barber, a political theorist, wrote that the dysfunction of democracy that we see at the national, and even state level, has caused us to return to the origins of democracy in metropolitan areas because it is in cities that we can get things done on a manageable scale. Consequently, cities are taking on a role once played by states. Barber’s book, “If Mayors Ruled the World,” has turned out to be prescient, especially in light of our federal government’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord.

Whether dealing with climate change, immigration or even trade, cities and metropolitan areas have for some time now taken initiatives and formed networks to address pressing social and economic issues. In light of the prevailing headwinds democracy itself faces today it is not surprising to look to cities as the place for innovations as well. One example of a city leading innovation in democracy is Pittsburgh, where under the mayor, Bill Peduto, the city has adopted “deliberative democracy.”

Deliberative Democracy

Under the ideals of deliberative democracy, political decisions are the product of fair and reasonable discussions and debate among the public.

In one sense, the principles and practice of deliberative democracy are straightforward: Create conditions for inclusive, informed and well-structured conversations; ensure that the results of these deliberations are taken seriously by stakeholders; and hope that those participating in these conversations leave with a positive attitude and a heightened sense of civic engagement.

In today’s political climate, this may seem Pollyannaish, but it is important to see how this situation came to be. Here, proponents of deliberative democracy are in a good position: its principles can help analyze the problem and its practices can help address the problem.

Today’s Political Climate: How did we get here?

Since the 18th century, the concept of democracy came to embody the ideas of the Enlightenment (basic rights including freedom of speech and thought). These ideals were expressed in our written constitution as amendments to an essentially mechanistic set of procedures that comprise the way our government works. Recently, this model of a “thin, liberal constitution” was seen as sufficient to create democracies abroad. Granted that there was a lot more to be done on the ground (establishing a rule of law, courts, districting for representatives, etc.), but essentially there was a belief that a constitution was like an algorithm – turn it on and democracy happens.

But we need to add the virtues of citizenship to the freedoms granted by our constitution. Such civic virtues include political toleration, a willingness to listen to other points of view, and the ability to give public reasons for one’s own view. A willingness, if you will, to engage in open and informed conversations with those who are different from us and our circle of friends. A society that has failed to instill these civic virtues will easily collapse into warring tribes — as we have seen with the Sunni and Shia groups in the Middle East and the Red and Blue counties of America.

A second problem arises when democracies are seen as “‘vote centric”’ and the game of democracy becomes that of winning the most votes. Getting the most votes has evolved into a science these days and political consultants can use a whole array of strategies that involve framing, agenda setting, and manipulation to do whatever it takes to influence voters. Politics becomes a kind advertising campaign where winner takes all.

Deliberative Democracy Today

One could argue that a Madisonian interpretation of our Constitution envisions a deliberative democracy as its original intent. But contemporary interpretations of deliberative democracy go back to philosopher Jürgen Habermas’s view of democracy in the 1980s. For Habermas, those affected by a policy should participate in a rational conversation of that policy, allowing the force of the better argument to determine the outcome of the deliberative process.

Since the beginning of this Century, the field rapidly expanded as practitioners in mediation and group facilitation connected with theoreticians. As a result, deliberation is now aligned with a set of procedures designed to provide the basic requirements for informed, well-structured conversations linked to outcomes of some sort. Today, organizations like the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation have over 3,000 followers and many universities have programs in the field of deliberative democracy.

In essence, a deliberative democracy is not a society that ‘talks’ but a model of democracy that is instantiated in a set of explicit protocols that I call Deliberative Loops. One can adjust these protocols as the situation requires. Everyday Democracy, for instance, uses multiple learning circles spread out over a period of weeks.

Despite expansion through the integration of theory and practice, the link between this practice and the functioning of government was limited to ad hoc funding opportunities and both large and small scale projects. These activities were not insignificant and many were quite successful in fulfilling the desiderata of deliberative democracy. A great deal of empirical data was also compiled, leading to rigorous assessment studies of actual real-world protocol driven citizen deliberative forums. But the crucial link between the principles and practices of deliberative democracy and the everyday functioning of government had not been established.

Institutionalizing Deliberative Democracy at the Level of Local Government

In 2013 a Civic Health Index sponsored by the National Conference on Citizenship recommended that the City of Pittsburgh become a national center for deliberative democracy. Mayor Peduto endorsed this recommendation and in 2014 the city ran six “Community Deliberative Forums” to assist in the hiring of a new Police Chief. In light of the quality of the feedback and the degree to which the public expressed its appreciation of the process, the city began to develop its own in-house capacity to run these forums. The city chose to do so in areas that meet the regulatory requirements for Public Comment. To

date

there have been three City Budgets (2016, 2017 and 2018) using Community Deliberative Forums as well as special Community Deliberative Forums on topics like affordable housing. The City has even published its own handbook on Community Deliberative Forums and made it available for use by the National League of Cities and other organizations here and abroad (http://hss.cmu.edu/pdd/cities/).

This model of deliberative democracy is working in Pittsburgh and can work in other cities as well. But it is hard to see how it can work its way up to state legislatures and the federal government, given our political climate. Mickey Edwards’ book, “The Parties vs The People,” offers suggestions by which we can “‘move the furniture around”’ in Washington to help those bodies live up to their potential. The subtitle is telling: “How to Turn Democrats and Republicans into Americans.” But it’s a daunting task. Better to see how cities can do it. There’s even a handbook.

Robert Cavalier, PhD is Emeritus Teaching Professor in Carnegie Mellon’s Philosophy Department and Director of the Program for Deliberative Democracy, which won a 2008 Good Government Award from the Pittsburgh League of Women Voters. He is author of Democracy for Beginners (For Beginners LLC, 2009) and Editor of Approaching Deliberative Democracy: Theory and Practice (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2011).

You can read the original version of this article on Public Agenda’s site at www.publicagenda.org/blogs/cities-as-centers-for-deliberative-democracy.

CitizenFEST Coming to Dallas and Memphis This Fall

Mover and shaker org, Citizen University is holding two more of their exciting CitizenFEST events this coming fall and we encourage you to them check out! For folks in Texas, there will be one coming to you next week in Dallas on September 8th and for folks in Tennessee, you can catch the final one on October 13th in Memphis. CitizenFEST is a free and entertaining learning summit on strengthening civic power. You can read about the upcoming events, learn about what the May CitizenFEST was like, and check it all out on Citizen University’s site here.


Upcoming CitizenFESTs

Power + Character = Citizenship

CitizenFEST is a festive learning summit on how to exercise civic power, held in three communities across the country. Activists, artists, and everyday citizens come together for a unique blend of art, creativity, and the concrete skills of effective change-making. Our country needs more people to show up in more places to practice power in more ways. Join us!

How do you get your voice heard? How do you change a rigged system? How do you stir others out of apathy or connect with those with whom you disagree? We’ll tackle these questions and more in a day of skill-building workshops, artistic performances, and deep community conversations. Participants will leave with practical strategies of civic power to apply in their own work, new connections with community members, and new ideas and inspiration for the work at hand.

Our goal is to make registration as accessible and inclusive as possible, which is why it’s free to attend CitizenFEST!

September 8: Dallas, TX

in partnership with the Embrey Family Foundation and Ignite/Arts Dallas
Learn more and register here.

Agenda
8:30 Registration & Breakfast

9:00 MORNING PLENARY SESSION
Welcome & Opening Performance
Keynote: Power + Character | Eric Liu, Citizen University
Panel: “Creating the Dallas We Need” | Giovanni Valderas, Assistant Director at Kirk Hopper Fine Art and visual artist; Brianna Brown, Texas Organizing Project; Vicki Meek, independent curator and artist; moderated by Kayla DeMonte, Citizen University

11:00 MORNING BREAKOUT
Power + Character Workshop – Citizen University

12:30 LUNCH
Music by S’anah Ras and DJ RonAmber. Tabling from local organizations

1:45 AFTERNOON BREAKOUTS
Workshops:
-Dr. Njoki McElroy
-Dallas Community Innovation Lab
-Panel: Texas Freedom Network, Creating Our Future, Dallas Area Interfaith, JOLT, moderated by Mercedes Fulbright

3:00 CLOSING PLENARY
Yoga N Da Hood, Mutual Aid Circles, performance, closing remarks by Eric Liu

4:30-5:30 Happy Hour Reception, music from DJ RonAmber

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Gilley’s Dallas is ADA accessible. Please contact us if you would like further accommodations.
Parking will be free and available.

Learn more about Citizen University: citizenuniversity.us
Learn more about Embrey Family Foundation: embreyfdn.org
Learn more about Ignite/Arts Dallas: igniteartsdallas.com

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October 13: Memphis, TN

in partnership with The Fourth Bluff
Learn more and register here.

May 11-12: New Orleans, LA

in partnership with the Family Independence Initiative
Learn more about this past event here.