Celebrating Women Who Are Making Democracy Stronger

This week marks the close of March and Women’s History Month, which is an intentional time to lift up the vital contributions women have given to history and society. It is in this spirit of celebration and honor, we share this piece from the Democracy Fund, Celebrating Women Who Are Making Democracy Stronger, written by Anne Gleich, Jessica Harris, and Jessica Mahone. The article offers an incredible list of phenomenal women across the nation working to improve our election systems, political representation, journalism, and who are leading efforts to build bridges across divisions and combat hate. Shout out to Shari Davis of NCDD member org The Participatory Budgeting Project who was mentioned for her work! We highly encourage folks to learn more about the work of these powerful women and to join us in congratulating them on their hard work and impactful accomplishments! Read the article below and find the original on Democracy Fund’s blog here.


Celebrating Women Who Are Making Democracy Stronger

In the first presidential proclamation celebrating women’s contributions to United States history, President Reagan observed: “American women of every race, creed and ethnic background helped found and build our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways … Their diverse service is among America’s most precious gifts.”

As pioneers, teachers, mothers, soldiers, journalists, inventors, lawmakers, laborers and so many other roles, women have and continue to make vital contributions to American economic, political, and social life. Throughout our history, women have not only advocated to secure their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity, but were also early leaders in the abolitionist, temperance, mental health, labor, and social reform movements, as well as the modern civil rights movement. It is not hyperbole to say that the United States has been transformed by these generations of women, and our democracy has been strengthened through their courage, creativity, and persistence.

As we commemorate Women’s History Month at Democracy Fund, we also want to take some time to celebrate our incredible women-led and women-focused grantees who today are continuing this long tradition of public service and leadership.

Women are leading efforts to improve our elections and make sure every vote counts.

At Democracy Fund, we believe that voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. Through our Elections Program, we are proud to support many innovative American women who are leading efforts to ensure our elections are free, fair, accessible, and secure.

Tianna Epps Johnson, founder of the Center for Technology and Civic Life, is building free and low-cost tech tools to help local election officials better engage with their communities and modernize elections. Electionline, run by Editor-in-Chief Mindy Moretti, is providing news and information about election administration and reform across all 50 states and has created a hub for elections officials to network, learn from each other, and collaborate on ways to improve the voting process.

When it comes to accessibility, many Americans still face barriers that prevent them from participating in the election process. Michelle Bishop and the National Disability Rights Network are educating election officials, equipment vendors, advocates, and the public on the need for fully accessible elections. Terry Ao Minnis, Democracy Fund Senior Fellow and Director of the Census and Voting programs at Asian Americans for Advancing Justice, is working to ensure a fair and accurate Census so that all Americans receive the resources and assistance they need to participate in our democracy. And Whitney Quesenbery and Dana Chisnell at the Center for Civic Design are bringing user experience principles to the design of forms and tools that will make voting easier for all voters. Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg at CIRCLE at Tufts University and the historic League of Women Voters, under the leadership of Virginia Kase, are innovating new ways to inform and engage women voters across the political spectrum.

Jennifer Morrell, a former Colorado election official, is working with state election officials to develop and implement new testing and auditing procedures to ensure votes are counted correctly, and results are reported accurately. And Mari Dugas and the Cyber Security Project and Defending Digital Democracy has published several playbooks to help campaign and election officials defend themselves against cyberattacks and information operations aimed at undermining trust in the American election system.

Women from both sides of the aisle are working together to create a Congress that looks more like America.

Even though we just saw a historic election cycle where a record-setting number of women ran for elected office and won, we still have a long way to go until women are fully represented in the United States. That is why, through our Governance Program, Democracy Fund is proud to support many leaders and organizations that are working to equip women with the skills they need to participate in politics, run for office, and lead once elected.

ReflectUS, a nonpartisan coalition working to increase the number of women in office and achieve equal representation across the racial, ideological, ethnic, and geographic spectrum, is fostering collaboration among seven of the nation’s leading training organizations to help equip more women to run, win, and serve. The Women’s Public Leadership Network aims to increase the number of women under consideration for political and government-related appointments and is growing a network and support system for conservative women who are interested in running for elected office or participating in our political system. Latinas Lead, a new program from The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, helps current Latina state legislators scale the leadership ranks in their State Capitols, as well as recruit potential Latina candidates for state-level office.

Once women are elected, the National Foundation of Women Legislators provides resources and opportunities to develop leadership skills and build professional and personal relationships across the aisle through regular conferences, state outreach, educational materials, and more. The Women’s Congressional Policy Institute, lead by Cindy Hall and a bipartisan board of female former legislators, has been bringing women policymakers together across party lines to advance issues of importance to women and their families for over twenty years. With our support, they have also launched several programs to foster women’s leadership on Capitol Hill through the Congressional Women’s Caucus and the Women Chiefs of Staff Program. We are also supporters of the Congressional Women’s Softball Game— a yearly event to foster bipartisan relationships between women Members of Congress and their counterparts in the D.C. Press Corps.

Women journalists are holding our leaders accountable and creating opportunities for the next generation of reporters.

Women play a vital role in holding leaders accountable once they’ve been elected. Although the majority of journalism and communications graduates are women, the majority of newsroom workers, particularly leaders, are men. Holding leaders accountable to all Americans requires a news industry that is inclusive and represents all communities, which is why, through our Public Square Program, we are proud to support organizations and leaders that are working to change America’s newsrooms and create new resources to inform and serve their communities.

By pioneering innovative new methods that newsrooms can use to better listen to and collaborate with the communities they serve, Bettina Chang at CityBureau and Sarah Alvarez and an all-woman staff at Outlier Media are rethinking how journalism is done. The Obsidian Collection, led by Angela Ford, is working to promote the importance of Black media in the United States, preserve the stories of Black communities through archiving, and build a blueprint for future generations in Black media.

Founded by Nikole Hannah JonesThe Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting is dedicated to increasing the number of and retaining reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting by providing low-cost regional trainings in the use of advanced technology, open records laws, advanced interviewing techniques and other investigative techniques. The Ida B. Wells Society partners with organizations such as the National Association for Black JournalistsInvestigative Reporters and Editors, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to provide access to journalists and aspiring journalists of color who want to sharpen their investigative reporting skills and broaden their professional networks.

Take the Lead’s 50 Women Can Change the World in Journalism training program harnesses the collective power of women in journalism to build a more just and equal world, advance their careers, and work together to re-envision journalism. According to co-founder Gloria Feldt, Take the Lead’s goal is “nothing less than gender parity by 2025.”

Women are leading efforts to combat hate in America and build bridges across our divides.

Like many who care about the health of our political system, we at Democracy Fund have been alarmed by increasing tribalism and extremism across the United States, including the implementation of policies targeting immigrant and minority communities and the rise in hate-crimes against communities of color, and Jewish, Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. We’re partnering with leaders and organizations that are working to ensure the resilience and safety of targeted communities through our Special Project on Fostering a Just and Inclusive Society.

Grantees like Sherrilyn Ifill at the NAACP-LDFKristen Clarke at the Lawyers Committee for Civil RightsMarielena Hincapie at the National Immigration Law Center, and Aarti Kohli at the Asian Law Caucus are leading efforts to protect those whose civil rights and safety are endangered in this volatile political moment. Purvi Shah and Movement Law Lab are incubating projects that combine law and community organizing to protect, defend, and strengthen racial justice movements. To inform national conversations, Meira Neggaz and Dahlia Mogahed at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding provide case studies and data on the day-to-day challenges many Muslims face, as well as actionable recommendations for breaking the structural barriers that hinder the American Muslim community from full inclusion and participation. And Samar Ali is leading the Millions of Conversations campaign to engage communities across the country in changing the narrative about Muslims in America.

In this blog, we could only highlight a few of the remarkable women leaders whose organizations, programs, and projects Democracy Fund is proud to support. We hope you’ll take some time to explore the complete list below. By working to improve our elections, hold our government accountable, combat hate, and open doors for the next generation, these women are making their mark on American history right now—and our democracy will be stronger because of them.

ELECTIONS

Bonnie AllenChicago Lawyers’ Committee

Pam AndersonConsultant for Voter Centric Election Administration

Michelle BishopNational Disability Rights Network

Mitchell BrownCapacity and Governance Institute

Jamie ChesserNational States Geographic Information Council

Dana ChisnellCenter for Civic Design

Kristen ClarkeLawyers Committee for Civil RIghts

Lisa DanetzNational Voter Registration Act Compliance Consultant

Mari DugasBelfer Center Cybersecurity and Defending Digital Democracy

Tiana Epps Johnson, Center for Technology and Civic Life

Rebecca GreenWilliam & Mary Law School eBenchbook

Astrid Garcia OchoaFuture of California Elections

Kathleen HaleCapacity and Governance Institute

Karen Hobert FlynnCommon Cause

Shanna Hughey, ThinkTennessee

Sharon JarvisMoody College of Communications, University of Texas

Virginia Kase, League of Women Voters

Kei Kawashima-GinsbergCIRCLE at Tufts University

Kate KrontirisVoter Turnout consultant

Nsombi LambrightOne Voice

Susan LernerCommon Cause New York

Amber McReynoldsVote at Home

Gretchen Macht, RI VOTES at University of Rhode Island

Mimi MarzianiTexas Civil Rights Project

Terry Ao MinnisAsian Americans for Advancing Justice

Mindy MorettiElectionline

Jennifer MorrellRisk-Limiting Audits consultant

Katy Owens HublerCommon Data and Elections Process Model consultant

Katy PetersDemocracy Works

Wendy QuesenberyCenter for Civic Design

Ashley SpillaneImpactual

Wendy UnderhillNational Conference of State Legislatures

GOVERNANCE

Erica BernalNALEO Educational Fund

Danielle BrianProject On Government Oversight

Louise Dube, iCivics

Mindy FinnEmpowered Women

Sylvia Golbin GoodmanAndrew Goodman Foundation

Rosalind GoldNALEO Educational Fund

Dr. Mary GrantEdward M. Kennedy Institute

Cindy HallWomen’s Congressional Policy Institute

Cherie HarderTrinity Forum

Marci HarrisPopVox

Dr. Carla HaydenLibrary of Congress

Audrey HensonCollege to Congress

Lorelei Kelly, Beeck Center

Sheila KrumholzCenter for Responsive Politics

Frances LeeUMD Interdisciplinary Polarization Research

Dr. Carolyn LukensmeyerNational Institute for Civil Discourse

Tamera LuzzattoPew Safe Spaces Project

Maya MacGuineasCommittee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Angela MansoStaff Up Congress, NALEO Educational Fund

Meredith McGeheeIssue One

Darla Minnich, National Issues Forum Institute

Joan MooneyFaith and Politics Institute

Jennifer NassourReflectUS

Beth Simone NoveckNYU GovLab

Michelle PayneCongressional Sports for Charity

Rachel PericWelcoming America

Lisa RosenbergOpen the Government

Laura RosenbergerAlliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund

Sonal ShahBeeck Center

Suzanne SpauldingDefending Democracy Initiative, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Michele StockwellBipartisan Policy Center Action

Jody ThomasNational Foundation for Women Legislators

Sarah TurbervilleThe Constitution Project at POGO

PUBLIC SQUARE

Sarah AlvarezOutlier Media

Bettina ChangCity Bureau

Heather ChaplinThe New School for Journalism + Design

Meredith ClarkUniversity of Virginia/ASNE Diversity Survey

Sue CrossInstitute for Nonprofit News

Gloria FeldtTake the Lead

Leslie Fields-CruzBlack Public Media

Angela FordThe Obsidian Collection

Martha FoyeWorking Narratives

Lackisha Freeman, WNCU

Sarah GustavusNew Mexico Local News Fund

Elizabeth GreenChalkbeat, American Journalism Project

Andrea HartCity Bureau

Hadar HarrisStudent Press Law Center

Rose HobanNC Health News

Deborah Holt NoelUNC-TV Black Issues Forum

Janey HurleyAsheville Writers in the Schools

Paola JaramilloEnlace Latino North Carolina

Nikole Hannah JonesThe Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting

Mollie KablerCoast Alaska

Regina LawrenceAgora Journalism Center

Sally LehrmanTrust Project

Joy MayerTrusting News Project

Stefanie MurrayCenter for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University

Tamiko Ambrose MurrayAsheville Writers in the Schools

Amy NilesWBGO

Angie NewsomeCarolina Public Press

Suzanne NosselPen America

Erika OwensOpenNews

Tracie PowellDemocracy Fund Senior Fellow

Angelique PowersField Foundation

Kristy RoschkeNews Co/Lab at Arizona State University

Melanie SillSenior Consultant for North Carolina Local News Lab

Sheila SolomonSenior Consultant for Chicago

Michelle SrbinovichWDET

Talia StroudCenter for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin

Katie TownsendReporters Committee for Press Freedom Litigation Program

Naomi Tacuyan Underwood, Asian American Journalists Association

Mary Walter BrownNews Revenue Hub

Nancy WatzmanColorado Media Project

Journalism and Women Symposium

JUST & INCLUSIVE SOCIETY

Samar AliMillions of Conversations

Rachel BrownOver Zero

Kristen ClarkeLawyers Committee for Civil Rights

Marielena HincapieNational Immigration Law Center

Sherrilyn IfillNAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Aarti KohliAsian Law Caucus

Dalia Mogahed, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding

Meira NeggazInstitute for Social Policy and Understanding

Catherine OrsbornShoulder to Shoulder

Purvi ShahMovement Law Lab

Shireen ZamanRise Together Fund (formerly Security and Rights Collaborative)

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

Shari DavisParticipatory Budgeting Project

Rachel KleinfeldCarnegie Endowment for International Peace

Melissa RodgersImmigrant Legal Resource Center

Prof. Susan Stokes – Bright Lines Watch, University of Chicago

You can find the original version of this article on Democracy Fund’s site at www.democracyfund.org/blog/entry/celebrating-women-who-are-making-democracy-stronger.

What You Missed on the March Confab Call – Listen Now!

NCDD was thrilled to co-host our March Confab call last week with the National Conversation Project, featuring Net Impact and The National Issues Forums Institute! We were joined by 40 participants for this dynamic call to learn more about Net Impact’s youth engagement programs and their recent work with NIFI on a newly-revised national debt issue guide, the paid opportunity to host forums on this guide and how this can be part of the upcoming National Week of Conversation happening April 5-13.

Confab bubble imageOn the call, we were joined by Net Impact’s Program Manager Christy Stanker who gave us an overview of Net Impact’s work and how the nonprofit works to inspire and equip emerging leaders to build a more just and sustainable world. Net Impact’s programs help new leaders broaden their thinking, build their networks, and scale their impact beyond just individual actions. Christy highlighted one of their particularly stand-out programs, Up to Usa partnership between Net Impact, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and the Clinton Global Initiative University. Up to Us, is a rapidly growing, nonpartisan movement of young people who recognize that when it comes to securing their future opportunities, they have no better advocates than themselves. Amid high-profile debates over jobs and the economy, social mobility, healthcare, and tax reform, Up to Us is the only nationwide, campus-based campaign focused on building a sustainable economic and fiscal future for America’s next generation. 

Christy shared more about the funding opportunity to host forums on the “A Nation in Debt” issue guide that Net Impact recently co-produced with NIFI. If you are a student, faculty, or administrator at an accredited U.S.-based college or university, then you are eligible to receive a $150 microgrant for hosting a deliberative dialogue forum using this newly updated national debt issue guide. All you have to do to receive the funding and free guide is fill out this form by May 15, 2019 and host a forum using the “A Nation in Debt” issue guide before June 31, 2019. Once you fill out the form, staff at Net Impact will follow-up with resources including a moderating training and the moderator “cheat sheet.” Don’t miss out on the opportunity to contribute to this meaningful dialogue! Reach out to Christy at cstanker[at]netimpact[dot]org with any questions. Apply for the microgrant here!

Pearce Godwin, Executive Director of our Confab co-hosting organization, The National Conversation Project, discussed the exciting application of this opportunity during the second annual National Week of Conversation (NWOC) happening Friday, April 5th to Saturday, April 13th. NWOC will be a week of intentional conversation, where folks around the country will be hosting or joining conversations, in hopes to better address the intense divisions in our society through dialogue, deepening understanding, and building relationships. Learn more here!

Here are some of our favorite snippets from the Confab:

  • On hosting NIFI forums “maybe you start with people with different opinions but through structured conversation can find common ground” – Christy Stanker
  • “The feedback we get from teachers who use NIFI forums ID 3 benefits: helps students develop critical thinking skills, communication skills, & collaboration skills.” – Bill Muse
  • Resources available to support moderating forums on NIFI’s National Debt issue guide at https://www.nifi.org/en/announcing-micro-grant-program-nation-debt-how-can-we-pay-bills
  • “Everyone has an opportunity to intentional convene and host or join a conversation from April 5-13 during the National Week of Conversation” – Pearce Godwin

We recorded the whole presentation in case you weren’t able to join us, which you can access on the archives page by clicking here. Access to the archives is a benefit of being an NCDD member, so make sure your membership is up-to-date (or click here to join). We saved the transcript of the chat discussion and it can be found here.

Confab bubble image

We want to thank Christy, Darla and Bill at NIFI, and Pearce and Jaclyn at NCP, for making this call happen! And an equally large thank you to all the Confab participants for contributing to this conversation! To learn more about NCDD’s Confab Calls and hear recordings of others, visit www.ncdd.org/events/confabs.

Finally, we love holding these events and we want to continue to elevate the work of our field with Confab Calls and Tech Tuesdays. It is through your generous contributions to NCDD that we can keep doing this work! That’s why we want to encourage you to support NCDD by making a donation or becoming an NCDD member today (you can also renew your membership by clicking here). Thank you!

Submit Nominations for Leadership in Democracy Award

In case you missed it, NCDD member org Everyday Democracy, recently announced they are accepting nominations for the third annual Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy award! The $10K award will be granted to those 16 and older who embody the values of Paul and Joyce Aicher. Nominations are due April 15th, so make sure you get yours in ASAP! We encourage you to learn more about the award criteria and how to submit a nomination in the announcement below and on the Everyday Democracy site here.


Nominations Open for the 2019 Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award Now

EvDem LogoEvery year, Everyday Democracy recognizes a standout community change agent —a person or organization whose work in their community exemplifies the values on which we were founded – voice for all, connection across difference, racial equity, and community change.

The Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award provides recognition and a $10,000 award to an individual or organization in the U.S. whose achievements inspire us and can be lifted up for many others to aspire to.

Who comes to the top of your mind when you think about exceptional people or local organizations that create opportunities for people to talk to and listen to each other, work together for equitable communities, and help create vibrant communities that work for everyone? Show how much you understand and appreciate their contribution to society by nominating them for the 2019 Aicher Award!

For more than 25 years, Everyday Democracy has worked in communities across the country to foster a healthy and vibrant democracy – one that is characterized by strong relationships across divides, racial equity, and widespread leadership and voice.

Paul and Joyce Aicher’s generosity and creative genius have had a profound impact on individuals and organizations in every part of this country. Their passion and diligent effort inspired the dialogue guides, organizing and facilitating training, and community coaching that Everyday Democracy is so well known for delivering. In 2017, we launched the inaugural Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award to carry on their legacy after the passing of Joyce Aicher.

Our 2018 award winner was Beth A. Broadway, President of InterFaith Works of Central New York, who has worked for more than 40 years as a force for justice, raising voice to issues of oppression and advancing racial and social equity through the process of dialogue and action. Her racial equity work has directly impacted thousands of individuals and families and has markedly improved Syracuse and surrounding communities. Learn more about Beth’s extraordinary work here. Read more about past honorees.

Nominations are due April 15, 2019. See below for full details about eligibility and the nomination process.

We can’t wait to see your nominations!

Awards

The recipient of the Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy award will receive $10,000 at the award reception in December 2019. Finalists will receive one day of community assistance to help them implement Everyday Democracy’s principles into their community engagement work.

Who is eligible

Individuals 16 years of age and older, coalitions, and organizations conducting projects at the community level in the U.S. are eligible to be nominated. Organizations do not have to be a registered 501(c)3 and do not need to be affiliated with Everyday Democracy or its Dialogue to Change process to qualify. Current Everyday Democracy employees and board members are excluded from being nominated. People/organizations may not nominate themselves. If you wish to be considered for the award, please encourage a colleague or friend to nominate you.

Nomination process

Anyone may nominate any person or organization that meets the criteria for this award. You will need to provide contact information for yourself and your nominee, a short summary of their work, and a description of how they embody our values in a 500-1,000 word essay that provides examples of specifically what they have done. Send this completed nomination form to aichernomination@everyday-democracy.org and cc the nominee. The nomination form is due April 15, 2019.

Download the nomination form.

We will confirm the nominations when they are received. Nominees will be asked to supplement their nomination with evidence of the things they have done that demonstrate how they exhibit our core values. Supplemental information is due by May 15, 2019, at 11:59pm ET. Submissions will be evaluated by a panel put together by Everyday Democracy.

Once a final decision is made, the winner and others will be notified.

The 2019 Aicher Award winner will be expected to attend the award reception in December. (Transportation to the reception and lodging will be provided.)

A brief history of Paul and Joyce Aicher

Paul J. Aicher’s motto, “Don’t just stand there, do something,” marked all that he did. Before founding the Study Circles Resource Center (now called Everyday Democracy) in 1989, he was a model for civic engagement. Shortly after graduating from Penn State, he participated in a discussion course which helped him find his voice in civic life and sparked his lifelong interest in helping others find their own. He saw a direct connection between his early experiences as a participant and a facilitator and his later vision for embedding these kinds of opportunities into American political life and culture.

Throughout his life, he spent his free time volunteering. Early in their marriage, he and his wife Joyce got involved with a refugee resettlement project in Illinois; Paul then served as president of the North Shore Human Relations Council. Back in Pennsylvania in the mid-1960s, he started the World Affairs Council of Berks County and led his neighbors in discussions of the “Great Decisions” guides published by the Foreign Policy Association. Through his long-time work and friendship with Homer Jack, an American Unitarian Universalist clergyman and social activist, Paul developed a passion for racial justice and international peace, both of which would inspire his later social action.

In the 1970s, he devoted his energies to launching his company Technical Materials and raising four children with Joyce. But he always returned to activism. In the early 1980s, after moving to Pomfret, Connecticut, Paul joined the local anti-nuclear freeze movement. In 1982, he formed the Topsfield Foundation, which was renamed The Paul J. Aicher Foundation after Paul’s passing in 2002. It began with making grants to advance a number of causes: affordable housing; educating and engaging the public on international security issues; and networking grass-roots peace and justice groups across the U.S. As it became an operating foundation, it focused all of its efforts on its current mission – to strengthen deliberative democracy and improve the quality of life in the United States. In the past twenty-five years, it has been best known through the work of its primary project, Everyday Democracy, which supports communities across the U.S. in implementing Paul’s vision of public dialogue that enables everyone to have a voice and be heard.

Joyce shared Paul’s commitment to civic engagement, community activism, and social justice. With her quiet strength and humor, she often worked behind the scenes to make the work of the Foundation possible. She also strengthened the local community through her numerous volunteer efforts. She and Paul shared a love of nature, books, and the arts and were self-effacing advocates of democratic values. Joyce passed away in 2016.

You can find the original version of this Everyday Democracy announcement at www.everyday-democracy.org/aicher-award.

NCDD March Confab This Weds Featuring Net Impact, NIFI, and Nat’l Conversation Project!

In case you missed our announcement last week, we have an exciting March Confab call happening tomorrow Wednesday, March 13th, in coordination with Net Impact, National Issues Forums Institute, and the National Conversation Project! On the call, we will learn more about Net Impact’s youth engagement work, their collaboration with NIFI on a new National Debt issue guide, a paid opportunity to host forums with the guide, and how this all plays into the upcoming National Week of Conversation (NWOC). Join us for this dynamic call tomorrow from 3-4 pm Eastern, 12-1 pm Pacific.

This free one-hour webinar will be a great opportunity for anyone passionate about cultivating the next generation of leaders, those interested in learning how to apply for the microgrant, and/or hosting a conversation during NWOC. You won’t want to miss out on this discussion – register today!

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On this call, we will be joined by Net Impact’s Program Manager Christy Stanker who will share about Net Impact’s work to nurture youth into emerging leaders, their stand-out program Up to Us, and how to apply for the microgrant to host forums on the national debt.

The issue guide, A Nation in Debt: How Can We Pay the Bills? was published by the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) in partnership with Up to UsUp to Us, an initiative of Net Impact and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, is a rapidly growing, nonpartisan movement of young people who recognize that when it comes to securing their economic and fiscal future, they have no better advocates than themselves.

Amid high-profile debates over jobs and the economy, social mobility, healthcare, and tax reform, Up to Us is the only nationwide, campus-based campaign focused on building a sustainable economic and fiscal future for America’s next generation. Net Impact’s programs help new leaders broaden their thinking, build their networks, and scale their impact beyond just individual actions.

Net Impact is excited to offer a microgrant of $150 to moderators* who host a forum using the newly updated A Nation in Debt issue guide and NIFI’s Chief Administrative Officer Darla Minnich will join the call to share details on the offer. *Moderators must be affiliated with an accredited US-based college or university to be considered eligible for the microgrant.

This microgrant opportunity also coincides with the upcoming National Week of Conversation, happening April 5-13. Our co-hosts at the National Conversation Project, Jaclyn Inglis, Partnerships Director, and Pearce Godwin, Executive Director, will share more about this upcoming initiative to get people engaged in conversations and how you can get involved. We hope many of you will consider combining the microgrant opportunity and contributing to the National Week of Conversation!

Make sure you register today to secure your spot!

About Our Confab Co-Hosts

Net Impact is a nonprofit that inspires and equips emerging leaders to build a more just and sustainable world. Net Impact’s programs help new leaders broaden their thinking, build their networks, and scale their impact beyond just individual actions.

National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI), is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that serves to promote public deliberation about difficult public issues. Its activities include publishing the issue guides and other materials used by local forum groups, encouraging collaboration among forum sponsors, and sharing information about current activities in the network.

National Conversation Project is an overarching, collaborative platform that aggregates, aligns, and amplifies the efforts of more than 175 partners to mainstream conversations in which we #ListenFirst to understand. NCP promotes National Weeks of Conversation, #ListenFirst Fridays, and any conversation inviting people of all stripes to revitalize America together.

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

Confab bubble imageNCDD’s Confab Calls are opportunities for members (and potential members) of NCDD to talk with and hear from innovators in our field about the work they’re doing and to connect with fellow members around shared interests. Membership in NCDD is encouraged but not required for participation. Confabs are free and open to all. Register today if you’d like to join us!

Engaging Everyday Individuals for Better Public Policy

A driving force behind much work in the D&D field is centered around the belief that individuals are the expert of their own experiences and should be the key consultants in shaping the policies that shape their own lives. The Jefferson Center – a NCDD sponsor org, shared an article on their blog this week, How can everyday citizens create better public policy? by Annie Pottorff, which offers tips on bringing in “everyday” individuals during policymaking. The article gives several key insights on why this is important and talks more about how the process of Citizen Juries can increase civic participation and more direct democratic practices. You can read the article below and find the original version on the Jefferson Center blog here.


How can everyday citizens create better public policy?

Each election, the United States Congress looks a little bit more like the country it represents. In 2018, we celebrated a record number of congressional firsts, including the youngest woman elected, first Muslim congresswomen, first Native American congresswomen, and many other ‘firsts’.

While representation is improving, there are still clear differences according to Pew: the share of women, people of color, and immigrants in the House and Senate lags behind the overall US population. Congress members are also typically highly educated and wealthier than the general public. These distinctions show a clear mismatch, and lead us to wonder: how can we better include diverse experiences, perspectives, and aspirations in decision-making?
Direct democracy approaches, including Citizens Juries, invite “everyday” people (like you, your neighbor, and your grandma) to participate. By using our incredibly different life experiences and personal expertise to shape public policy, we can create a more representative, transparent, and trusted democracy.

Turning to “Everyday” Experts

Average citizens have an incredible resource too often overlooked: their unique expertise. In the current Congress, 96% of House members and all senators have a bachelor’s degree or higher. But in 2017, only about a third (34%) of American adults 25 and older said they had completed a bachelor’s degree or more, according to Pew.

But education and degrees shouldn’t determine your contribution to democracy. Most of us have been shaped by our work, travel, volunteering, relationships, and more, in addition to traditional schooling. Within a Citizens Jury, you’ll find people of all education levels working together to create recommendations to a given challenge.

Participants have the rare opportunity to listen to one another, hear different perspectives, build off one another’s ideas, empathize, and establish common ground. This helps Jurors create recommendations that utilize one another’s expertise and experiences, and are more representative of the population as a whole.

Listening to the People Most Impacted

Last summer, we conducted a Citizens Jury in the Forest of Dean, United Kingdom. Two local hospitals, which were closely intertwined with the community, were set to close. The National Health Service wanted to hear from residents on where a new, centrally located hospital should be built.

Citizen input isn’t always clearly invited (or even welcomed) by representatives in similar situations. People may not be able to travel to their representative’s office, and if they do get there, their representatives might be booked or have other issues on the agenda. In the Forest of Dean, while the closure of the hospital was a sensitive topic for many, a Citizens Jury helped create a recommendation for the location new hospital that was actually trusted by the wider community.

As one participant put it, “People trust the outcome a lot more, they think there’s a fairer representation of views and that the people who are actually going to be using the hospital have a chance to give some insight into their needs which should be valuable feedback for the decision makers.”

Making Participation More Accessible

Getting informed on local, state, national, and global issues can take a lot of time that many people simply don’t have. Citizens Juries, meanwhile, pay people to participate and cover things such as childcare expenses, so participants can more easily take time to participate.

Juries also make participation easier for young people. In the United States, Senators have to be at least 30, and House Representatives must be over 25. And even though people younger than 25 will obviously be impacted by many of today’s issues, barriers such as moving often, work, and difficulty registering to vote all present big obstacles to civic participation. Citizens Juries typically invite participants 18 and older, providing much needed insight into these missing perspectives.

Free from Outside Influence

Instead of the policy issue at hand, politicians might be focused on winning the next election, gaining favorable public opinion, or keeping campaign funders happy.

But your average person isn’t usually worried about these issues. And if there’s ever extra pressure felt by Jury members from their peers, participants can remain anonymous. The experts that inform Jurors about the topic don’t advocate for a specific stance, but provide neutral background information for participants to reference. This sets the stage for more trusted policy, as Jurors made their decision based on high quality information and a transparent process.

Combining Direct & Representative Democracy

Wider citizen participation can complement representative democracies around the world: we’d more fully capture the range of citizen ideas and hear from underrepresented groups. Officials would have a much clearer picture of what the public thinks on complex issues, instead of just hearing from the loudest voices in the room.

Although Citizens Juries don’t always create immediate policy adoption, the recommendations guide legislation and community initiatives. These recommendations aren’t influenced by money or power, but represent the aspirations, interests, and needs of everyday people, creating a stronger democracy we can all believe in.

You can find the original version of this article on the Jefferson Center blog at https://jefferson-center.org/2019/03/how-can-everyday-citizens-create-better-public-policy/

Announcing a Blockbuster March Confab!

We are pleased to announce an exciting March Confab call happening next week in coordination with Net Impact, National Issues Forums Institute, and the National Conversation Project! On the call, we will learn more about Net Impact’s youth engagement work, their collaboration with NIFI on a new National Debt issue guide, a paid opportunity to host forums with the guide, and how this all plays into the upcoming National Week of Conversation (NWOC). Join us for this dynamic call on Wednesday, March 13th from 3-4 pm Eastern, 12-1 pm Pacific.

This free one-hour webinar will be a great opportunity for anyone passionate about cultivating the next generation of leaders, those interested in learning how to apply for the microgrant, and/or hosting a conversation during NWOC. You won’t want to miss out on this discussion – register today!

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On this call, we will be joined by Net Impact’s Program Manager Christy Stanker who will share about Net Impact’s work to nurture youth into emerging leaders, their stand-out program Up to Us, and how to apply for the microgrant to host forums on the national debt.

The issue guide, A Nation in Debt: How Can We Pay the Bills? was published by the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) in partnership with Up to UsUp to Us, an initiative of Net Impact and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, is a rapidly growing, nonpartisan movement of young people who recognize that when it comes to securing their economic and fiscal future, they have no better advocates than themselves.

Amid high-profile debates over jobs and the economy, social mobility, healthcare, and tax reform, Up to Us is the only nationwide, campus-based campaign focused on building a sustainable economic and fiscal future for America’s next generation. Net Impact’s programs help new leaders broaden their thinking, build their networks, and scale their impact beyond just individual actions.

Net Impact is excited to offer a microgrant of $150 to moderators* who host a forum using the newly updated A Nation in Debt issue guide and NIFI’s Chief Administrative Officer Darla Minnich will join the call to share details on the offer. *Moderators must be affiliated with an accredited US-based college or university to be considered eligible for the microgrant.

This microgrant opportunity also coincides with the upcoming National Week of Conversation, happening April 5-13. Our co-hosts at the National Conversation Project, Jaclyn Inglis, Partnerships Director, and Pearce Godwin, Executive Director, will share more about this upcoming initiative to get people engaged in conversations and how you can get involved. We hope many of you will consider combining the microgrant opportunity and contributing to the National Week of Conversation!

Make sure you register today to secure your spot!

About Our Confab Co-Hosts

Net Impact is a nonprofit that inspires and equips emerging leaders to build a more just and sustainable world. Net Impact’s programs help new leaders broaden their thinking, build their networks, and scale their impact beyond just individual actions.

National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI), is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that serves to promote public deliberation about difficult public issues. Its activities include publishing the issue guides and other materials used by local forum groups, encouraging collaboration among forum sponsors, and sharing information about current activities in the network.

National Conversation Project is an overarching, collaborative platform that aggregates, aligns, and amplifies the efforts of more than 175 partners to mainstream conversations in which we #ListenFirst to understand. NCP promotes National Weeks of Conversation, #ListenFirst Fridays, and any conversation inviting people of all stripes to revitalize America together.

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

Confab bubble imageNCDD’s Confab Calls are opportunities for members (and potential members) of NCDD to talk with and hear from innovators in our field about the work they’re doing and to connect with fellow members around shared interests. Membership in NCDD is encouraged but not required for participation. Confabs are free and open to all. Register today if you’d like to join us!

Who Will You Invite? An Exploration of Stakeholder Selection in Dialogue and Deliberation

A NCDD Listserv synopsis of the conversation entitled: How to pick stakeholders for a stakeholder dialogue

Listserv Contributors: Tom Altee, Adrian Segar, Peter Jones, Marjo Curgus, Peggy Holmes, Chris Santos-Lang, Betsy Morris, Eric Simley, and Sally Theilacker

Synopsis by: Annie Rappeport, NCDD Intern

“The approach to stakeholder selection is the most critical step in the design of fair and inclusive dialogues that reflect a community’s contributions and perspectives” ~ Peter Jones, NCDD Member

In your dialogue and deliberation work do you find yourself struggling as much about who to invite to a dialogue as how to set the agenda? Are you wanting to include many but worried about sacrificing the needed intimacy of the conversation?  If so, you are not alone.

In September 2018, NCDD member Tom Altee began a conversation with an inquiry to the greater NCDD community about the different considerations for and ways to select community stakeholders gathering because they all care about a particular issue.  Although Tom Altee’s questions were for a specific project related to community transit and the varying interests of bicyclists, walkers, and drivers, the responses quickly broadened this important conversation about dialogue. Tackling who will be included in a dialogue has valuable impacts on what will be discussed as will the overall size of the group and any present uneven power dynamics.

Our NCDD community responded with resources and ideas aplenty. Here are some contributions we believe may serve others well as they craft an approach for their specific local needs and contexts.

  1. Peter Jones has dedicated much of his work and scholarship to the importance of stakeholder selection. He recommends a technique entitled “evolutionary stakeholder discovery” whereby there are multiple waves of invitation and a creation of optimal criteria that the participating stakeholders may represent. This is a time-consuming and worthwhile approach. Marjo Curgus also uses a specific technique that combines network analysis and stakeholder analysis to craft a preferred list of included stakeholders. Marjo notes the importance of conducting this process with a committee and to prioritize levels of influence.
  2. Peggy Holmes mentions different models including the diversity promoting “faultlines” conceptual framework from The Maynard Institute. A handy guide to the faultlines approach is provided on the Society for Professional Journalists website (2019). She also mentions the work of Sandra Janoff and Marv Weisbord as providing useful criteria considerations.
  3. Chris Santos-Lang illustrates impossibility of creating the perfect gathering of stakeholders and the significant issue in dialogue and deliberation work to include stakeholder representation when the needed stakeholder may be physically, mentally or technically (i.e. language barriers) unable to participate at the needed level themselves.
  4. Adrian Segar recommends the 2013 John Forester book Planning in the Face of Conflict. This book features a dozen profiles of planning practitioners that serve as exemplary cases of stakeholder selection for practical problem solving in communities.

What we can continue to take from this discussion overall is the importance of questioning how we invite and who we invite in community discussions. The tools and approaches vary, but many times our goals remain constant–to have high quality and effective dialogues that are so because they are diverse, inclusive, and a size that enables everyone to contribute.

We hope this discussion may continue! Please post your thoughts and ideas for stakeholder selection in your work.

Explore D&D Future in New Cosmopolis2045 Website

Imagine a world in which communication practices are centered in social interactions and the way society operates, where the whole community lives dialogue and deliberation practices every day?

This is the vision for the exciting new website that just officially launched – Cosmopolis2045, which offers a vision of a future communication-centric society in the year 2045. This project has been an on-going, multi-year collaborative effort between scholars, practitioners, and community members; you may remember we announced this endeavor several years back on the blog and it’s wonderful to see this come to fruition. Thanks to NCDD member Kim Pearce for sharing this update with us! We encourage you to read more in the post below and especially to explore the future vision of the Cosmopolis2045 website here.


Cosmopolis2045: Imagining a better social world in which communicating matters

What if a whole community treated relationships with other people as if they really mattered? What if a whole community took dialogue and deliberation seriously? And what if that community tried with all their hearts to bring about a better social world in all the myriad of ways we engage in communication with others in our world?

These were the questions asked by a group of scholars and practitioners sponsored by the CMM Institute, a NCDD member organization. The Cosmopolis2045 website is their answer, visit https://cosmopolis2045.com/

The Cosmopolis2045 website depicts an imagined community set in the future (circa 2045) in which residents and leaders of the community have adopted a communication-centric view of how their own and other social worlds function. This website offers an intriguing look at a possible near future in which dialogue and deliberation are an integral part of everyday community events and are at the heart of city functioning. The website is also an information-rich resource for teaching classes on communication, especially cosmopolitan communication and for exploring the implications of a communication-centric view for a range of educational, legal, governance, and associated community practices.

Behind the scenes

How might we, as scholars, practitioners, citizens and all those concerned with the quality of our social life, respond to such an invitation?

What might it take to act wisely, if only for the moment, in our response?

What resources, stories and other experiences do we have to draw on to respond?

What can we share with others that might enhance all our capacities to act wisely in the making of better social worlds?

Those are the questions we asked ourselves as we set about imagining a community where a new social fabric could emerge out of treating communicating seriously.

In this section, we give you behind-the-scenes information which addresses the above questions. Our starting vision and guiding theory are described in Inspiration for the Cosmopolis2045 project. Here we also outline the futurist research we drew upon; elaborate at greater length on our “non-utopian” attempts at being visionaries; and describe what we mean by cosmopolitan communication.

The Cosmopolis2045 project is a collaborative thought experiment that has involved an international group of scholars and sponsors. These people and organisations are described in Collaborators and sponsors.

If any particular topic or underlying theory attracts your attention please go to Want to know more? Here we offer introductory background material on the Coordinated Management of Meaning, our guiding theory. We also include references and websites to a range of supporting material from futurist research to pedagogy, to sustainable food practices and procedural justice, and more. You can also find links to like-minded websites, scholars and practitioners. All these references and links show the breadth and depth of social change going on now and how much our vision for the near future is possible and not far removed from reality.

Inspiration for Cosmopolis2045

The Cosmopolis2045 project has been a collaborative thought experiment involving many people and taking place over a number of years. It is, in fact, still on-going.

The website depicting our vision of Cosmopolis is one, but not all, manifestation of our response to the challenge of how do you envision better social worlds, knowing that there is no “best” goal outside of the very process of communicating itself.

Here we offer some of the behind-the-scenes material that, hopefully, explains how we responded to the challenge we set ourselves. We lay this out under three themes:

What we are trying to achieve

 Our goal with this website is to create and maintain a virtual depiction of a community set in the future (circa 2045) in which residents and leaders of the community have adopted a communication-centric view of how their own and other social worlds function. It is our belief, and one that can be substantiated, that this communication-centric view is what we need for the evolution of better social worlds.

However, we have found, as scholars, practitioners and involved citizens, that this communication-centric view is not one commonly shared. Mainstream communication theories, both formal and implicit, narrowly focus on the content and quality of messages, along with an implicit assumption that successful communication is the receipt of an unsullied message or the creation of shared understanding.

Our primary challenge, then, in creating the imaginary world of Cosmopolis2045, has been to depict ways of living in communicating that many have not imagined and others only in part. On the other hand, we also know from our collective experiences that there are many social change initiatives happening around the world that point the ways to meet this challenge.

In our imagination we have drawn together many of the social change initiatives and woven them within a communication perspective“loom”. And in doing this, we have created new imaginings of what can happen if we treat communicating seriously.

The stories, the new social institutions and the dialogic practices of the citizens and leaders in our imagined community have been developed to point to new ways and new possibilities for personal and social evolution. Given the local and global challenges we all face in the 21stcentury, we hope our new imaginings offer some hope and some new directions to explore.

Our guiding theory

The Theory of the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM) is the primary impetus behind the Cosmopolis 2045 Project. Barnett Pearce and Vernon Cronen at the University of Massachusetts developed CMM theory in the late 1970s. The seminal expressions of the theory can be found in Pearce and Cronen’s Communication, Action and Meaning: The Creation of Social Realities (Praeger, 1980), Pearce’s Communication and the Human Condition (Southern Illinois University Press, 1989), Pearce and Littlejohn’s Moral Conflict: When Social Worlds Collide (Sage, 1997), and Pearce’s Making Social Worlds: A Communication Perspective (Blackwell, 2009).

A more comprehensive account and further references on CMM can be found in Want to know more?

CMM is premised on the belief that the social worlds we inhabit are constructed in the many diverse forms of everyday communication we engage in. Put simply, we live in communication. CMM, which can perhaps best be described as a “practical theory,” provides heuristic tools for understanding the ways in which we do this living-in-communication. The same tools and broader communication perspective can also guide mindful practice in communicating.

We believe that the communication perspective offered by CMM has greater potential to meet the challenges of the contemporary global environment than narrower, instrumental beliefs in which the process of communication is taken to be immaterial or insignificant. The latter views of communication are, in particular, unable to address the many challenges arising from distinct, if not colliding, cultural values and patterns of behavior that abound in our contemporary world. From our CMM perspective, these cultural challenges need to be coordinated and navigated rather than subjected to efforts at persuasion or clarity of meaning (i.e., as reflected in the dominant Western paradigm for theorizing about communication).

CMM proposes that creating and sustaining a cosmopolitan form of cultural communication is a better model for communicating with diverse others than extant models such as monocultural, ethnocentric, or modernistic forms of communication (see Want to know more?). The Cosmopolis 2045 website is designed to render one expression of what cosmopolitan cultural patterns might look like in the everyday life of a community.

By definition, cosmopolitan cultural patterns bring about an environment in which humans thrive, both in terms of personal and social evolution. This culture is characterized by one in which the members:

  • hold a communication-centric view of social worlds, recognizing that their social worlds (i.e., relationships, selves, groups, episodes, and culture itself) are “made” and “remade” in everyday communication patterns
  • value their own cultural traditions, beliefs and values yet recognize that, except for the accident of birth, they would likely hold some other set of beliefs and values (thus are profoundly open to the value of other traditions)
  • treat “others” (strangers, non-members of their community) with engaged curiosity, seeing them simultaneously as “different from us” (in that may they have different values or social practices), and yet “like us” (in that both of our beliefs and practices are socially made). In this way, each of our “ways of being” are treated as partial expressions of what it means to be human
  • understand that they live in multiple social worlds and are able to draw resources from several social worlds in constructing new ones
  • are able to make conscious choices about what forms of life they wish to enact in given situations
  • work collectively as citizens to make their social worlds better places to live—they see designing their public life together as an indication of “conscious evolution”
  • believe that patterns of life that are not productive or helpful can be altered through conscious collective effort.
  • have developed skills for “making better social worlds,” including: framing and reframing; identifying and choosing wisely how to act into (as well as out of) contexts; sensing the flow and rhythms of “logical forces” (deontic logic of should/ought); identifying/creating “bifurcation points” and acting wisely into them.

Projecting futures and making better social worlds

Cosmopolis 2045 is a collaborative thought-experiment, a partnership in imagining a plausible version of a future social world(s), particularly if we act wisely in dealing with the trends and counter-trends already happening around us.

“Futurists” have been projecting worlds of tomorrow for ages. In developing Cosmopolis, we consulted many sources on future trends in technology, medicine, work and economics, politics, education, and many other aspects of social life. In our Research the Future topic in Want to know more? we share some of that research, identify books you can read, or connect you to websites that summarize future trends.

In using this research, we wanted to make sure that how we depict a fictional future in 2045 is plausible, according to the best research and projections. Among other things, that research suggested that dialogic communication—that found in cosmopolitan cultures—could be an important driver of change; where the change is to what one future scenario group called a “transformed world”. For a fascinating review of this research, see Barnett Pearce’s essay “Reflections on the role of dialogic communication in transforming the world”.

In this “transformed world” there is a vision of shared power in which grassroots organisations co-operate effectively and in which sustainable development, socially, economically and environmentally, is a collective goal.  And while we have drawn on the ideas projected for such a transformed world we have also consciously tried to avoid making Cosmopolis an unrealistic or impossibly utopian vision.

You can find the original version of this information on the Cosmopolis2045 site at www.cosmopolis2045.com/.

Insights on Co-Creating Collaboration That Fosters Participation and Equity

NCDD member Beth Tener recently posted the article, Collaboration That Fosters Equity, Participation, and Co-Creation, on the New Directions Collaborative website. In the article, she shares several powerful insights from a co-hosted learning exchange, which offer important reminders on co-creating collaborative spaces that are equitable and liberating. We encourage folks to check out the upcoming workshop, Working in Collaborative Ways, happening next Wednesday March 6th, which will offer skills and methods for collaborating more equitably. You can read the article in the post below and find the original on the NDC’s site here.


Collaboration That Fosters Equity, Participation, and Co-Creation

In the last couple of years in the US, we have witnessed many examples of white supremacy – how the patterns of power, domination, oppression, and separation play out. These patterns are hundreds of years old. What does it take to work and live from patterns and behaviors that embody mutual respect, dignity, equity, belonging, and being more together? I gratefully had the experience of teaming with four other facilitators* to host a learning exchange with people working on collaboration and equity, primarily in New Hampshire. The invitation was to build our collective understanding of how to create collaborative spaces centering on equity and liberation. We offered a spacious series of conversations for these experienced practitioners to share knowledge and experiences.

Here are some key ideas that surfaced from the conversations and insights from the day:

Where Do You Come From?

At the start of a meeting or gathering, it is traditional to go around and introduce ourselves with our organization and role. This gathering began instead with an invitation to reflect on where you come from, from several dimensions, and then share where you now work. People’s sharing was poetic and moving. We heard of the ancestry, places, challenges, traumas, resilience, people, and ideas that shaped them. Some people in the room I primarily knew through a work context. When I heard their stories, it made me realize how limited the lenses I had seen them through were.

This reminded me something Melinda Weekes-Laidlow said in a class I took with her on racial equity. She spoke of the importance of “locating ourselves” within the history and systems around us, saying: “the past is present in people, things, and systems of oppression. Because our histories, upbringing and socialization create the lenses by which we see the world and make sense of it, as leaders, we must become aware of the lenses by which we understand the world and the biases those lenses bring with them.” 

The metaphor of location in a system/community is helpful as that implies a vantage point, where I see and experience things in ways that differ from others in a different location.

Vision: What Does Equity Look, Feel, and Sound Like?

In these times, so much attention and focus is on what we don’t want, resisting, criticizing, and galvanizing action. In equity conversations, there is a great need to name and illuminate the patterns and statistics of inequity and the deliberately hidden histories of those oppressed. Yet, we also need to imagine a different future. adrienne marie brown, in her book Emergent Strategy, writes “How do we cultivate the muscle of radical imagination needed to dream together beyond fear? Showing Black and white people sitting at a lunch counter together was science fiction.” Using the process of 1-2-4-All, we explored the questions of What vision, or elements thereof, guide you in your work? What does equity and liberation look, feel, and sound like? What are we working toward?  We can see that it is not only some distant goal, but we can glimpse what is possible in microcosms in the present. We recognized that this looks different to different people. Here are some of the themes that were shared:

  • The experience of being oneself without being judged. Being seen and respected as a person – not needing to act or play a role.
  • In all settings (family, work, school, etc.), people experience authentic relationships where others genuinely see them and care about their well-being and growth.
  • Education institutions are about helping individuals to thrive and become fully themselves.
  • Now the level of fear in relationships, community, and society is higher than the level of love and trust. When the level of love rises higher than fear, it changes everything.
  • There is an emphasis on truth telling and seeing the world as it is, feeling what is happening, and being empathetic. We excavate and acknowledge the problematic histories that shape the present situation.
  • When those who see power in an “either/or” way experience sharing it, they see that there are other kinds of power in collaborations that are not as hierarchical. It is possible to move beyond that one lens of power.
  • Those who have a dominant identity, e.g., whites, take leadership and active roles in dismantling the racist patterns and systems.
  • We relate across identities with solidarity in many forms: accomplices, mutual lines of support, thinking partners, networks of friendship and sharing resources.
  • “Hurt people hurt people. Healed people heal people. Healed people create systems for healing.” A vision of the future is a large and varied investment of time, energy, and ways to bring about healing and restoration individually and collectively, and with the earth.

Moving from Transactional to Relational

We shared stories of what we find most challenging and most promising in our work for equity and liberation. A common dynamic is that leaders and those in positions of power may say they value equity, yet, their urgency to get action on narrowly defined outcomes can override the raising of concerns or conflict, allowing the patterns of injustice to perpetuate. It takes time to fully understand the dynamics and history that underlie inequitable situations. It takes time to build authentic relationships that are trusting enough to support fundamental change. Truly valuing equity means prioritizing the relational aspects of the work, seeing the health of that as critical beyond the success of one transaction.

*Thanks to my co-facilitators Jennifer NearCurtis Ogden, and Karen A. Spiller…and Michele Holt-Shannon for hosting. Great working with you to co-host this rich learning exchange.

On March 6th, I will be offering an on-line workshop called Working in Collaborative Ways that will offer practical methods for designing meetings and collaborative work that foster equity and participation.

Listen to Confab Recording on All-America City Awards

Last week we held our first co-hosted Confab call of 2019 with The National Civic League, who shared more about the All-America City Awards! We were joined by 35 participants to learn more about this prestigious award and requirements for how a city can be eligible to win. This was a particularly timely call, as applications for the 2019 AAC Awards are being accepted until March 6th. That deadline is approaching quickly so we encourage you to listen to the recording to learn more, share this announcement with your networks, and consider organizing your city to apply!

On the call, we were joined by NCL’s Program Director Rebecca Trout and two representatives, Jordan Moore of Las Vegas, NV and Renae Madison of Decatur, GA -both from previous award-winning All-America Cities. Over 500 cities have been awarded the All-America City Award over the last 70 years. Every year, NCL awards the cities who are leveraging innovative civic engagement practices in order to create change on the local level. The focus of this year’s theme is on, “creating healthy communities through inclusive civic engagement” and the award will be given to the cities with projects that promote more equitable health practices and better overall health in the community. Click here to learn more about the award, resources, and where to apply.

The call was an opportunity to hear directly from past recipients of the award and how it has impacted each of their communities. Both shared the projects their cities highlighted for the award, the preparation required, how their teams coordinated logistics, and the overall deep engagement required with each community throughout the whole experience. Jordan, who works for the City of Las Vegas, shared with us the experience of applying for the AAC award and how this process has led to a greater feeling of pride in the city and increased draw for new residents and businesses. We also heard from Renae who works for the City of Decatur and how the award process was a great time for the community to build deeper relationships with each other and with other cities passionate about engaging their communities. The award and the accompanying conference (where the award is announced) work to elevate the powerful community engagement work going on across the country and celebrate those cities best in service to their communities.

We were live tweeting during the call and here are some of our favorite quotes from the Confab:

  • NCL is looking for the cities with programs that are innovative and working to address the real challenges in their city.
  • One thing that surprised me was how welcoming and open everyone was, they didn’t treat it as a competition… communities were so open to sharing and exchanging what works, what was challenging
  • [The AAC awards] is a time to celebrate and connect with other communities doing similar work and it’s an opportunity to learn from different communities.
  • This award attracts new citizens and new businesses. Because Vegas has a reputation for not being a place to live, this [award] helps show that it is a liveable city.
  • This process [of applying for the AAC Award] is unlike any award I’ve ever seen. The amount of transparency and the engagement needed was a lot, and was so worth it.

Confab bubble image

We want to thank our friends at the National Civic League for co-hosting this call with us! Thank you to Rebecca, Jordan, Renae, and all the Confab participants for contributing to this conversation! We recorded the whole presentation in case you weren’t able to join us, which you can access by clicking here. To learn more about NCDD’s Confab Calls and hear recordings of others, visit www.ncdd.org/events/confabs.

Finally, we love holding these events and we want to continue to elevate the work of our field with Confab Calls and Tech Tuesdays. It is through your generous contributions to NCDD that we can keep doing this work! That’s why we want to encourage you to support NCDD by making a donation or becoming an NCDD member today (you can also renew your membership by clicking here). Thank you!