MetroQuest Webinar on Finding Common Ground, Feb. 28th

Coming up at the end of February, NCDD member org MetroQuest will be hosting the webinar, How to Design Public Engagement to Find Common Ground; co-sponsored by NCDD, IAP2, and the American Planning Association (APA).  This webinar will be an opportunity to learn more on how to design public engagement efforts that uplift the common ground amongst the community and create solutions that demonstrate these shared ideals. You can read the announcement below or find the original on MetroQuest’s site here.

MetroQuest Webinar: How to Design Public Engagement to Find Common Ground

A 5-star recipe for public engagement – how to find common desires and build a winning plan!

Wednesday, February 28th
11 am Pacific | 12 pm Mountain | 1 pm Central | 2 pm Eastern (1 hour)
Educational Credit Available (CM APA AICP)
Complimentary (FREE)


When it comes to urban and transportation planning, motivated groups with competing demands often emerge in community outreach efforts. On February 28th, learn how online community engagement can help find common ground to build a plan citizens will support.

Mark Evans from BartonPartners and Mary Young with the Town of Westport will share their success in engaging the public to inform the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design Master Plan. Find out how online engagement provided a fun and safe way for citizens to provide input without fear of reprisal from local insurgent groups. The result? A master plan that meets the common desires of the local community.

Register for this complimentary 1-hour live webinar to learn how to …

  • Create a public engagement process to find common goals
  • Ensure privacy in the process to uncover the true priorities
  • Optimize citizen engagement to go beyond motivated groups
  • Collect informed, constructive input from all demographics
  • Find the balance between livability, character, and transportation
  • Gain transparency with actionable data to support your plan

You can find the original version of this announcement on MetroQuest’s site at

NCDD at Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference

We are thrilled to let folks know that NCDD staff, Courtney Breese and I will be at the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference, which is happening on March 8th – 10th in the Phoenix area. This conference will be a fantastic opportunity to learn about the top innovations in civic engagement and democracy, and to network with leaders in the field doing this powerful work.

We are especially excited to announce we will be presenting a session in collaboration with two fellow NCDD members: Cassandra Hemphill of the IAP2 Federation and adjunct faculty at Missoula College of the University of Montana, as well as, Annie Rappeport of the University of Maryland where she serves as a PhD Student and Research Assistant. In this interactive workshop, we will use art to explore participants’ individual connections to participatory democracy, what led us to our work on improving our democracy, and what each of us offer to the field. We’ll explore how we are connected in our communities and how we might connect with others to strengthen participatory democracy. If you are attending IPD, we hope you will join us for our session during Block 1 on Thursday, March 8th from 3-4:30pm.

While we are in town, we would love to meet up with NCDDers in the area (and those attending the conference)! We are working to identify a location that could accommodate a meetup on Friday night (March 9th) after the IPD events that evening. If you are in town on the 9th and would like to join us, send Courtney an email at courtney[at]ncdd[dot]org and we’ll keep you in the loop as we firm up our plans!

IPD is being hosted by NCDD member organizations – the Participatory Budgeting Project and the Jefferson Center, as well as, the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Katal Center, the Participatory Governance Initiative at Arizona State University, Phoenix Union High School District, and the Policy Jury Group. If you’ve never been to a conference hosted by PBP and these fine organizations, you are in for a special treat! Tickets go up February 28th – so make sure you get yours ASAP.

There are several pre-conference trainings planned for Wednesday, March 7th, like a training on participatory budgeting (PB) hosted by the Participatory Budgeting Project, or a training on citizen juries, citizen assemblies, sortition, and more hosted by the Jefferson Center and the Policy Jury Group. Click here to learn more and register for these pre-conference trainings, and to see the full IPD conference schedule.

Remember to keep an eye out for Courtney and I if you are attending the conference because we would love to see you!

Don’t Miss Tomorrow’s Tech Tuesday Featuring Iceland’s Citizens Foundation!

In case you missed our original announcement, we have an exciting NCDD Tech Tuesday call featuring Iceland’s Citizens Foundation, tomorrow February 13th from 2-3pm Eastern/11am-Noon Pacific. This FREE call will showcase Citizen Foundation’s digital democracy tools and how they are working to strengthen civic engagement in Iceland. You don’t have to be an NCDD member to participate in the webinar, so we hope you will join us! Register ASAP to save your spot on the call.

Róbert Bjarnason, from the nonprofit Citizens Foundation in Iceland, will present digital tools for upgrading democracy in Iceland and beyond, outlining the Foundation’s digital democracy work since 2008. Projects including policy crowdsourcing and participatory budgeting using open source tools will be demonstrated in this webinar. As highlighted in the Financial Times, since 2011 the citizens of Reykjavik have voted online to select close to 1,000 community improvement projects totaling over $20 million dollars.

The Citizens Foundation open source digital democracy tools have been used in over 20 countries and by over 1 million people to change policy and help rebuild trust between citizens and their governments. Collaborating with in the United States to help others deploy and measure civic digital outreach efforts, a new case study (request a copy) comparing paid Facebook and Google advertising used to reach nearly every citizen of Iceland will be shared in brief.

Róbert is a successful entrepreneur that introduced the web to Iceland in 1993 and in 1995 to Denmark. Before co-founding the Citizens Foundation in the year 2008 he worked in the online gaming industry where his team received many industry awards.

Robert has many years experience and much success in using digital tools for democracy, and he is looking forward to sharing his knowledge and experience with us. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity – register today!

About NCDD’s Tech Tuesdays

Tech Tuesdays are a series of learning events from NCDD focused on technology for engagement. These 1-hour events are designed to help dialogue and deliberation practitioners get a better sense of the online engagement landscape and how they can take advantage of the myriad opportunities available to them. You do not have to be a member of NCDD to participate in our Tech Tuesday learning events.

Strengthening Public Engagement with Volunteers

Public engagement practices can be best accomplished with the help of volunteers as NCDD member org Everyday Democracy points out in this article. Volunteers can provide several benefits to public engagement, because of their community expertise and additional support for the work that needs to be done. In the article, Evdem gives examples from across the country of engagement work being done with the help of volunteers to drive a more participatory democracy. You can read the article below or find the original on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

A New Take on the Role of Volunteers in Public Engagement

EvDem LogoFor every one professional athlete, thousands of amateurs play pickup games in the spare time.  For every Broadway actor, hundreds take up theater as a hobby on a community stage.  For every band with a hit single, there are dozens of musicians jamming in garages or playing covers in bars.

The “professionalization” of these activities, or forms of art, has obviously not stopped those with far less training and skill from taking up the craft.  If anything, we often see an upsurge in hobbyists when a professional rises to prominence–think of the impact Tiger Woods had on golfing, or how American Idol inspired shower singers to take the stage.

This all has relevance in the context of deliberative democracy and public engagement for a few reasons.  In the last few decades, this field has experienced significant growth in the number of practitioners focusing on public engagement as a profession or occupation; that is, receiving specialized training and making their living in the design and convening of public engagement.  More and more governments–particularly at the local level but also in counties, regions, and states–have worked with such professionals to evolve their public engagement strategies away from the “three minutes at the microphone” public hearings that satisfy few citizens’ needs.  The profession has helped governments involve citizens earlier and more robustly and meaningfully than hearings held the night of a vote.  Decisions made by those governments incorporate more of the public’s interest and often prove more politically sustainable.

So, where might that leave those who care deeply about including the public in political deliberation but who have another professional calling?  What about those who have retired and lack the stamina for a full-time job but would love to be involved?  What about full-time students focused on academics but interested in internships, course credit, or community.

The number of public engagement “professionals” (defined as those who make most or all of their living doing this work) does not seem to meet the demand for public engagement nationwide–especially in cities where engagement may happen on multiple topics simultaneously.  But that does not necessarily mean government agencies have been willing to fund the amount of public engagement that they believe they need.  Elected officials often pay lip service to the need for better, more expansive public engagement, without budgeting funds for that purpose.

Consider the difference between what a professional and a volunteer (or an “amateur”) might bring to their work in this field.  Those who come to this work as volunteers often bring the perspective of their other profession or career and a different way of framing questions to discuss with the public or respond to comments made during dialogue.  They may also bring a special level of passion and commitment to their opportunity to facilitate; they may view it as a unique opportunity for them in ways that professionals doing the work every day might not.

Additionally, while many public engagement professionals or volunteers do work in their own communities and are recognized and trusted by community members, they often “parachute into” a community where they lack relationships that local volunteers might have.  Those volunteers may make community members participating in a public dialogue feel more at ease, particularly if the volunteers are hosting dialogue in their homes or in familiar local hangouts, rather than governmental facilities.

All of these assets (and others) have led several communities to embrace the role of volunteers in public engagement. For instance: in Arizona, Project Civil Discourse has involved volunteers as facilitators of small group discussions held at forums on issues affecting quality of life in the state.  They call upon all participants to follow a pledge: “I pledge to engage in the basic principles of civil discourse: to respect diverse points of view, listen with an open mind and speak with integrity. I call upon all civic leaders to meet the challenge of solving difficult social issues by adhering to these principles, thereby creating a better world for ourselves and future generations.”

In the Pacific Northwest, the Countywide Community Forums empowered residents in the greater Seattle area to discuss local issues facilitated by volunteer hosts.  Participants could register online to find conveniently located meetings and join a group of between 4 and 12 participants discussing a common topic, introduced by a video.  Participants and their volunteer host even decide on a meeting place and time.  In an evaluation of the program, the King County Auditor’s Office reported, “Overall, participants are satisfied with this engaging, nonpartisan effort and report that they learn about the topic and King County policies.”  The auditor recommended that the Forums “engage [volunteer] citizen councilors and others in providing feedback and ideas and helping make the program more attractive to users.”

Chicago developed a model replicated in other cities (including Columbus, OH) known as “On the Table,” in which thousands of volunteers host dinner dialogues to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the local community.  Some 55,000 people participated in roughly 3,500 volunteer-led dialogues in 2016, with dinners occurring in private homes or offices and public spaces (up to the host’s discretion).  The Chicago Community Trust, which helped organize the day of dinners, reported that out of the respondents from 2016 who participated in On the Table in previous years, 57 percent  participated in follow-up conversations over the past year, 46 percent stayed in contact with other attendees and 24 percent worked with one or more attendees on an idea.  One third of surveyed 2016 participants also said they made specific plans to work with one or more attendees.  More than three-fourths of those surveyed said the dinners helped them better understand both community issues and how to address them.  Everyday Democracy’s Anchor Partner InterFaith Works in New York hosts a similar dinner dialogue program, aimed at promoting deep inter-faith conversations.

In nearby Oak Park, Illinois, Dinner & Dialogue gave community volunteers a chance to host discussions in their homes over meals paid for by the City of Oak Park on topics including diversity, race, and inclusion.

In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and other communities across the state, Everyday Democracy Anchor Partner New Hampshire Listens,  and its affiliate Portsmouth Listens, recruit volunteer facilitators to host multiple dialogue sessions, often in their homes and on consecutive weeks, and to guide their small groups towards consensus on a local issue.  Portsmouth’s process involves volunteers from the get-go:

“Portsmouth Listens volunteers and city officials form a Steering Committee drawing together stakeholders in the question or issue.  This committee frames the dialogue question to be given to the study circles. For example, ‘How do we balance the tax burden and level of services needed to make Portsmouth the best place to live and work for everyone?’ (Dialogue on FY12 city budget)…Portsmouth Listens recruits and trains neutral facilitators and develops a study guide for the four two-hour sessions that the study circles will deliberate….Citizens in the small groups or Study Circles deliberate for two hours a night over four weeks to answer the question….The individual Study Circles write their conclusions in a report, and present their findings. The reports are presented to relevant government bodies (city council, planning board, etc.) in person and their written reports are published in the newspaper.”

Building on New Hampshire’s model, in Austin, “Conversation Corps” has recruited and trained hundreds of volunteers to host dialogue throughout the city on topics recommended by the City of Austin, the Austin Independent School District, and the public transit agency, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority.  Through carefully designed discussion guides, volunteers could give participants an overview of the topic and some background statistics and pose specific questions that agencies felt would yield information helpful to their policymaking.  As Austin transitioned into a single-member district City Council, with ten members representing districts instead of six members elected at-large, conversations in all ten districts helped better connect voters to their elected officials and gave a more accurate picture of public opinion across the city.  To date, more than 200 volunteers completed training.

Additionally, models like the “meeting in a box” utilized in multiple cities and “Text, Talk, Act,” a project of Everyday Democracy and several other partners, drew upon the energy of volunteers to bring topics that would have been discussed at a public meeting into their circles of friends, community organizations, and the like.  These self-facilitated discussions did not require host training or volunteer coordination as much as a willingness on the part of the initiating participant to report their group’s findings back to the sponsoring entity at the conclusion.  In an evaluation of the Text, Talk, Act dialogue on mental health, a study found:

“participating in Text, Talk, Act leads to an increase in participants’ ability to recognize a peer in need, ability to reach out to a peer in need, ability to talk about the topic of mental health, likeliness to seek additional information, and likelihood to implement information or skills from TTA. Furthermore, participants reported positive experiences based on the technology used by TTA, clarity of TTA purpose, and the relevancy/usefulness/quality of TTA content. These satisfaction indicators support the participants’ likelihood to recommend TTA to others…Also, when participants were asked, ‘what are the best ways to engage youth on the topic of mental health, TTA was voted to be the third most effective or popular method (after face to face conversation and social media).”

Countless other examples exist of volunteers contributing to the work of public engagement, but this survey illustrates the variety of ways in which those charged with engaging the public can multiply their forces and improve their reach into their target populations.  While volunteers may lack the time and expertise that public engagement professionals bring to the table, they can entice those disinclined to participate to change their minds, and they can bring about a revolution in the ways the public engages.

You can find the original version of this article on Everyday Democracy’s site at

NCDD Orgs Team up for Utah Civic Engagement Fellowship

For Utah folks in our network, there is an exciting endeavor underway that we wanted to share with you! Several NCDD member orgs – Essential Partners, Village Square, and Living Room Conversations – in partnership with Salt Lake Civil Network and Utah Humanities, have teamed for a year-long Civic Engagement Fellowship, with a focus on further building Utah as a hub for civil discourse. The fellowship will kick off with two-day training in dialogue facilitation by Essential Partners on March 2 & 3, then the following year will be dedicated to designing and implementing a civic engagement plan and facilitating civil dialogues. The deadline to apply is February 23rd, so make sure you apply ASAP! We encourage you to read the announcement below or find the original on EP’s site here.

Announcing the Utah Civic Engagement Fellowship

In partnership with Village SquareLiving Room ConversationsSalt Lake Civil Network, and Utah Humanities, we are building a statewide network in Utah for citizens seeking to become skilled leaders in designing and facilitating civil dialogues in their communities.

The year-long Civic Engagement Fellowship for Utah begins with a comprehensive two-day training in dialogue facilitation, provided by Essential Partners, from March 2-3 in Salt Lake City (venue TBD). Over the following year, Fellows will be connected to a larger collective impact initiative focused specifically on Utah as an ideal hub for shifting the culture of civic discourse. With support from skilled practitioners and a network of other trainees, Fellows will develop and implement community engagement plans centered on civil, connective dialogues.

To apply, please complete and submit the form at this link by no later than February 23, 2018.

About the 2-day Fellowship Training:

The Fellowship builds on a foundational two-day comprehensive training, Facilitating Dialogue Across Divides, provided by Essential Partners.

Are you witnessing an increase in divisiveness in your community? Do you see the need for us to talk across our divides? Do you want to be able to help your community have the difficult conversations it needs to have to move forward together? Facilitating Dialogue Across Divides is designed to help you build skills to facilitate tough conversations, whether in your daily life or in formal dialogues. This workshop is intended to be an introductory workshop for those new to facilitation, or to Essential Partners’ model.

Community is an act of courage. We believe that behind every belief is a person with a story. 27 years ago, Essential Partners created a unique approach to dialogue that promotes connection and curiosity between those who see one another as enemies. Our approach, Reflective Structure Dialogue (RSD), has transformed conflicts across the country and the world, and is widely applicable to the vital conversations that communities need to have to do the work they need to do. An intentional communication process can help individuals, groups, and communities rebuild trust, enhance resilience, address challenging issues, and have constructive conversations with people from different perspectives or those they otherwise would avoid or fight with.

Beginning with this training, Fellows will embark on a rigorous program to cultivate facilitation skills through practice and direct engagement of their communities in Utah.

Benefits of Fellowship:

  • Two-day training in facilitating civic dialogues
  • Monthly webinars and support gatherings
  • Updates about opportunities to facilitate
  • One-on-one coaching for community projects
  • Training for facilitating Village Square forums and smaller Living Room Conversations

Fellowship requirements:

We encourage candidates to come with a connection to a community, institution, or group in which they could use these skills. Because this work involves collaboration, we strongly encourage candidates to apply with partners, working together to help facilitate conversations. We can help pair people who do not have partners. Teams may be as large as 4. Call with questions.

This Fellowship requires:

  • Training completion and monthly webinars
  • Design/execution of a plan for using this work in each team’s home community or group
  • Facilitating at least one civic dialogue
  • Participating in a Village Square event
  • Hosting a Living Room Conversation
  • Supporting other Fellows in their work
  • A refundable $100/person deposit

Skills taught in the training:

  • Designing & structuring conversations for civic engagement: focusing on curiosity, community, and connection across difference
  • Achieving clarity of purpose & expectations
  • Utilizing agreements, structures, preparation, and inquiry
  • Practicing competence and confidence in facilitating through challenging moments

As a result of training, Fellows will be able to:

  • Create a context for people to communicate with self-confidence about difficult or divisive topics
  • Break destructive communication habits (e.g., avoidance, silence, or reactive responses, enabling people to feel heard
  • Design conversations, dialogues, or meetings with clear purpose, full participation, and a structure for moving forward together
  • Introduce a dialogue circle
  • Intervene to support a group through rough spots

Who might be a Fellow?

  • Community or nonprofit leaders, clergy
  • Gov’t officials seeking to drive collaboration
  • School administrators, professors, teachers
  • Directors of community engagement, diversity, and inclusion

To learn more about the Fellowship (application, requirements, program elements and expectations), please download the program description here.

You can find the original announcement on Essential Partner’s site at

NCL Hosts 109th Nat’l Conference on Local Governance

The National Civic League, an NCDD member organization is hosting the 109th National Conference on Local Governance on June 22nd in Denver, which will precede the 2018 All-America City awards. This conference will be a great opportunity to hear about exciting civic engagement projects being done in cities across the country that are working to promote equity. You can register for the conference by clicking here and take note that early bird registration is available until March 28. Learn more in the announcement below or find the original on NCL’s site here.

109th National Conference on Local Governance: Building Community, Achieving Equity

The National Civic League is hosting the 109th National Conference on Local Governance in Denver on June 22, 2018. This one-day conference will highlight successful projects and initiatives around the country, with speakers from cities that are implementing creative strategies for civic engagement that promote equity. The conference will promote expansive civic engagement, innovation and collaboration as the best strategies for cities to make progress on complex issues like health, education, and relations between community and police.

The conference will precede the 2018 All-America City awards event, which will focus this year on Promoting Equity Through Inclusive Civic Engagement. The theme of both the conference and All-America City awards will be connected to the 50th anniversary of several events that took place in 1968, including the release of a report from President Johnson’s Kerner Commission, which warned of a worsening racial divide and proposed actions at the local and national levels to improve relations with people of color and reduce disparities.

The National Conference on Local Governance is targeted at community leaders, elected officials, academic practitioners, concerned citizens and all others with a passion for creating a stronger community. The conference will provide resources, examples and best practices for community activists, government officials, nonprofit leaders, academic researchers and those interested in better understanding how we can create more inclusive, equitable and thriving communities.

Speakers for the event include Jandel Allen-Davis, M.D., vice president of government and external relations for Kaiser Permanente; Secretary Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development; former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris, who served on President Johnson’s Kerner Commission; and Manuel Pastor, Ph.D., director of University of Southern California’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

The conference will feature three issue tracks:

Health Equity
Healthy, thriving communities use all sectors to make better health possible for all residents. Whether it’s access to fresh food, green space or affordable housing, local governments, nonprofits, school districts and businesses all have a role to play. This track will focus on creating a complete picture of health, from physical environments and planning to strategies for promoting mental health. Equity will be a connecting focus throughout the conference, with a focus on eliminating disparities and a vision of creating a community in which demographics or a zip code do not determine residents’ health outcomes.

Youth and Education
Investing in equitable educational opportunities for youth and adults creates a strong foundation for a thriving community. For this track, education goes beyond just the school system to include all learning opportunities a community can provide for youth and adults from libraries to monuments to arts spaces and more. This track will also explore the strategies and programs that create spaces for youth to be leaders in the community. The vision for this track is a thriving, learning community that provides equitable, culturally responsive educational opportunities that lead to meaningful work.

Community-Police Relations
Fostering community trust and relationships with police departments is top of mind for American communities. This track will explore successful programs that begin to honestly address policing issues and increase safety and well-being for all residents, regardless of race or other characteristics. Implicit bias training and hiring practices for police will be highlighted. Breaking down the school-to-prison pipeline will also be a focus. A thriving, safe community is one where all residents feel welcome and supported by law enforcement and justice systems.

You can find the original announcement on NCL’s site at

Traversing Institutional Silos in Engagement

We wanted to share this article written by Matt Leighninger of NCDD member org Public Agenda, on the need for institutions to break out of their silos in order to improve public engagement. In the article, he talks about how public engagement efforts are often challenged and unnecessarily duplicated because of the common practice by institutions to perform their own engagement efforts, as opposed to working together with other groups. This article is part 5 in the series on ways that public engagement needs to improve and the links to the 4 previous installments are at the bottom of this article. You can read the article below or find the original on Public Agenda’s site here.

How Public Engagement Needs to Evolve, Part 5

How can public engagement evolve in order to meet the challenges and conditions of 2017? My previous post explored ways we can give engagement opportunities more authority, so that people are clear on how their voices will be heard and confident that it will make a difference. This time, I’ll address the need for public institutions to collaborate in their efforts to support engagement so that it becomes more efficient, systemic and sustained.

In most issue areas, engagement happens as a temporary, stand-alone activity – and even when those processes or initiatives are successful, participatory practices are rarely incorporated into the official avenues for engagement. So planners conduct participatory charrettes and then go back to contentious public hearings; police departments engage in police-community dialogue even as neighborhood watch groups flounder; school districts mobilize parents to support bond issues while PTAs languish.

Furthermore, the professionals in these different areas rarely work together when they are trying to engage the public. Even though education, health, policing, land use and other issues are inextricably intertwined, and even though a citizen who cares about one of them is quite likely to care about others, engagement rarely happens in ways that people can connect any of the dots. For each issue, there is a separate set of meetings to attend, announcements to track, processes to follow and websites to look at. In engagement, it is usually an every-department-for-itself situation.

This is a problem for several reasons. First, it is inefficient: engagement takes time and resources, and it is a duplication of effort for each individual department or issue area to create its own separate meetings, apps, processes and websites. Second, the people doing all this work are rarely able to learn from each other: instead of comparing notes and pooling community contacts, they essentially reinvent the wheel every time they try to engage citizens.

Finally, every-department-for-itself engagement usually results in lower turnout. Faced with a choice about which of many meetings to attend, busy citizens will usually choose the one that is most relevant to their interests (or none at all). So the parents of school-age children will attend the school meetings and not the ones about crime, while the senior citizens may be active in neighborhood watch but won’t be connected with the schools. It becomes very difficult for any single engagement opportunity to attract a broad cross-section of people. And since much of the power in engagement comes from being able to recruit a large, diverse number of people, all of these efforts suffer.

One way to break out of these engagement silos is to build some “universal pieces” of local engagement infrastructure. These include:

  • Hyperlocal and local online networks. This category of infrastructure (described in previous posts in this series) is already rapidly growing and holds great potential for connecting engagement in many different issue areas.
  • Buildings that are physical hubs for participation. The political philosopher Hannah Arendt is said to have remarked that “Democracy needs a place to sit down.” Communities need accessible, welcoming, wired public spaces for engagement on a range of issues.
  • Youth councils. Perhaps the most undervalued of our civic assets, youth leadership should be cultivated and supported in settings specifically for young people.
  • Engagement commissions. A local engagement commission (or advisory board) can advise a community on the design, implementation and evaluation of public participation tactics, and more broadly on building and embedding a sustainable participation infrastructure. Such a commission could be an official body constituted by local government, or a stand-alone entity recognized and supported by a range of community institutions, such as foundations, governments, school systems, chambers of commerce and interfaith councils and faith institutions.

Instead of always going it alone, officials, experts and activists in seemingly intractable issue areas might profit by working together to build and support these universal pieces of engagement infrastructure. At the very least, they should compare notes about how to do engagement well. But by taking that critical step towards building a participation infrastructure, leaders can begin to sustain and support regular opportunities, activities, and arenas for people to connect with each other, solve problems, make decisions and celebrate community.

Let us help you take that first step towards better engagement. Check out our free resource Strengthening and Sustaining Public Engagement In Vermont. Although created for Vermont, the guide is intended for local municipalities and community leaders across the country who are looking to plan for an overall system of engagement that’s both effective and sustainable.

You can find the original version of this article on Public Agenda’s blog at

Unrig the System Summit in NOLA Next Week

If you’re tired of political corruption and looking to improve our democracy, then check out what’s being convened next week! If you hadn’t heard already, Debilyn Molineaux, Co-Founder and Director of the Bridge Alliance – an NCDD member org – will be speaking at the upcoming Unrig the System Summit. The summit is February 2-4 in New Orleans, and is being hosted by BA member, Represent.Us. Convening folks from across the political spectrum, this conference will be an excellent opportunity to network and collaborate on next steps to improving our democratic environment. You can read the announcement in post below or find more information on BA’s site here.

Join us at Unrig The System Summit in NOLA!

We are thrilled to announce that Debilyn Molineaux, our Co-Founder & Director, will be a speaker at the Unrig The System Summit hosted by Bridge Alliance member Represent.Us in New Orleans on February 2-4.

Convening the Brightest Minds from the Right and Left to Fix American Politics…and Party in New Orleans

Unrig The System Summit is no ordinary conference. No endless panels and speeches. It’s fast-paced and fun, with plenty of time to self-organize as you mingle with top advocacy leaders, academics, comedians, musicians, celebrities, activists, philanthropists and journalists. This is about crossing partisan and ideological divides and working together on concrete solutions to unrig America’s political system…. with plenty of New Orleans fun mixed in. The Summit runs from Friday, February 2nd, 1pm through Sunday, February 4th, 2pm CT. Key programming will take place all 3 days, so plan on being in attendance for the entire event.

Click here to register – We hope to see you there!

Program tracks for Advocacy, Policy and One Helluva Good Time 
Shape the future of: Money in Politics, Gerrymandering, Citizens United, Voting Reform, Transparency and more. See the hour-by-hour agenda here, or get the Unrig Summit App to plan your personal agenda.

Advocacy Track Sneak Peek:

  • The Power of Storytelling – Learn the narrative skills that power winning campaigns from the experts who have organized some of the best. From gaining new recruits to getting press coverage, so much of what we do relies on our ability to tell a compelling story about our work and ourselves.
  • Fighting Big Money While Running for Office – If you’re running for office, thinking about running for office, supporting a candidate, or just interested in any of the above, come learn about how candidates can embrace a pro-democracy agenda on the campaign trail. You will learn about how to use the right language, how to raise money, how to run a winning campaign and build the next generation of elected champions who will fight to end the influence of big money.
  • Campaign Design Lab – In this interactive training, you’ll join a team to create a campaign live at the summit. You will be guided through a campaign planning 0simulation, and walk away with the recipe for designing and building groundbreaking new campaigns! After the workshop you may continue by participating in one of several follow-up workshops during the Summit. Build something great and it may even be showcased live from stage on Sunday!

Policy Track Sneak Peek:

  • At Our Whit(ford)’s End With Gerrymandering? – Join the lawyer who argued on behalf of Wisconsin’s voters in the Supreme Court’s recent Gill v. Whitford gerrymandering case and other redistricting experts to find out how the Court might rule, and how to prepare for next steps in each possible scenario. Gill v. Whitford is a potential blockbuster case to decide whether partisan gerrymandering is constitutional — and we expect a decision soon after the Summit.
  • From Russia, with Facebook: Foreign Influence in American Elections – Join leading experts in a discussion on how we can limit the influence of people who are beyond the reach of our laws — and if we should. The 2016 presidential cycle showed how vulnerable our elections are to foreign influence.
  • What to Do About Citizens United? – Hear from the best legal minds in the country about how we can fight Citizens United, super PACs, dark money, and more. What are the most promising avenues for legal reform, and where should we be focusing our efforts? What’s the near- and long-term game?


  • Friday Night Welcome Party – Join us for a night on the town, and meet the movement at one of New Orleans’ most prolific venues: The Howlin’ Wolf, featuring local live music from Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, and Brass-A-Holics. Make sure to arrive on time to catch the open bar happy hour sponsored by Center for Secure and Modern Elections. This mixer is designed to help you meet new allies. Don’t be shy! 
  • Saturday Night Live Performance – Saturday night is the marquee event of the Summit: an inspiring evening of live music, stand-up comedy, and short speeches in a 1,800-seat historic New Orleans theater. The evening will be hosted by Jennifer Lawrence and Adam McKay and will be livestreamed on multiple platforms. Speakers include Represent.Us Director Josh Silver; Professor Richard Painter; comedians Nikki Glaser, and Adam Yenser; astronaut Ron Garan; former State Senator and Our Revolution President Nina Turner and more, with live music from HoneyHoney, and the legendary New Orleans-based Preservation All-Stars. 

Remember to follow the #UnrigTheSystem hashtag on Twitter for more in-the-moment happenings!

You can find the original version of this announcement on Bridge Alliance’s site at

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

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 ( 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

Future Possibilities for Civil Rights Policy (IF Discussion Guide)

The 32-page discussion guide, Future Possibilities for Civil Rights Policy, was published by Interactivity Foundation in May 2011 and edited by Suzanne Goodney Lea. For this discussion guide, participants consider what does a civil right actually mean and then explore the policy directions that will redefine civil rights over the next few decades. The guide is available in both English and Spanish. Below is an excerpt of the guide, which can be downloaded as a PDF for free from IF’s site here.

From IF…

We hear a lot about civil rights. Some people say these rights embody the very soul or essence of our democracy and must be actively safeguarded. Others observe that these kinds of rights are spreading to other places around the world. Still others contend that these rights must sometimes be given up in order to protect our nation’s security. But do we ever stop and think about what rights are or could be? Why do we have them? What purposes do they serve and where might they be headed?

Our country’s Constitution and other founding documents incorporate many important ideas about civil rights as they have been imagined within our democratic society. Still, while our Constitution has survived for a couple hundred years, it has also had to change to meet the challenges of new social and political realities. We’ve seen some civil rights expanded to people who were not even recognized as “persons” in earlier times. We’ve also seen some rights contracted during times of social or political upheaval, or eroded through disuse.

Participants in this project discussion are struggling with multiple possible dimensions to civil rights that go well beyond the conventional legal and political frameworks. For example, how might civil rights influence and even define the ways we choose to live our lives as individuals, the ways our government treats us as citizens, and the ways we treat one another as fellow citizens? How might civil rights relate to broader concepts of rights or citizenship or democracy? What new civil rights might emerge and what others might fall away as we move forward into this century?

Panelist discussions for this project began in the summer of 2009, completed their work in the early fall of 2010, and the final discussion report is now available in both printed and online versions.

You can download a copy of this report from our “Discussion Reports” page (also listed in the sidebar to the right), which lists all of our published reports, or, to download a copy directly, you can click on either of the following links:  Future Possibilities for Civil Rights Policyor en Español, Politica Sobre Derechos Civiles (32 páginas/1.3 MB).

If you are interested in further information about the process used to develop IF reports or IF’s work in general, we invited you to consult our website at

About the Interactivity Foundation
The Interactivity Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to enhance the process and expand the scope of our public discussions through facilitated small-group discussion of multiple and contrasting possibilities. The Foundation does not engage in political advocacy for itself, any other organization or group, or on behalf of any of the policy possibilities described in its discussion guidebooks. For more information, see the Foundation’s website at

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