NCDD Member Creates Racial Dialogues White Ally Toolkit

We are thrilled to share this excellent write-up by the Richmond-Times Dispatch on long-time NCDD member David Campt and his most recent racial dialogue work. Campt travels across the U.S. holding racial dialogue trainings using his White Ally Toolkit Workbook, which offers strategies for engaging in these conversations (learn more about the toolkit and purchase here). He speaks on the importance of white people having these conversations with fellow white people and emphasizes the need to communicate in a way that doesn’t attack but instead genuinely seeks to engage with each other. We encourage you to read the full article below or find the original version on the Richmond-Times Dispatch site here.


Williams: Racial dialogue is his specialty. His book details how white people should talk to each other about racism.

This post was shared with the permission of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Written by Michael Paul Williams

Coming of age in a polarized Detroit as black and white communities disengaged, David Campt became engrossed in the nature of conversation.

His hometown’s 1970s power struggle fueled his interest in terms of engagement as the outspoken Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor, presided over a riot-torn city experiencing massive white flight to the suburbs. But his curiosity was also nurtured by a white teacher named Nathan Fine, who taught his students that people are far more alike than different.

“What he was trying to do is to get us to not replicate the kind of conflicts that we were watching on the news as fourth-graders,” Campt recalled. “The city’s in a certain amount of turmoil. And he’s trying to have a different kind of message, trying to get us to see the common humanity.”

Helping people find common humanity through dialogue would become a vocation for Campt, 56, a civic engagement specialist affiliated with the Richmond-based nonprofit Hope in the Cities. He put his tools to work last week moderating a meeting of Mayor Levar Stoney’s Monument Avenue Commission.

Issues don’t get much more contentious than the question of what to do with our Confederate statues.

“I have always thought about the monuments the same way I think about reparations, which is, what’s really important is the conversation about it,” Campt said during an interview Friday. “Where that lands has some significance, but what’s really important is how do institutions put the public in the position to engage each other. That’s what’s really important in these kind of big, divisive things.

“People are very focused on, ‘What’s the outcome?’ But my focus is, ‘What is the process? … What’s the engagement that you’re trying to foster?”

The tranquil commission meeting last week bore no resemblance to the verbal Molotov cocktails hurled about during a town hall-style meeting of the panel last August at the Virginia Historical Society, now called the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

“He did a superb job helping focus the meeting while providing ample opportunities for those attending to engage in a variety of ways,” said Christy Coleman, the commission’s co-chair and CEO of the American Civil War Museum.

On Thursday, Campt — a faculty member with Hope in the Cities’ Community Trustbuilding Fellowship — will read from his new book, ”The White Ally Toolkit Workbook: Using Active Listening, Empathy, and Personal Storytelling to Promote Racial Equity,” at the Downtown YMCA.

Campt, a gregarious and towering presence at 6 feet 5 inches tall, promises that the event will be interactive and entertaining with a minimum of white guilt.

“A lot of people who do this kind of race work, they think that it is important that white people feel bad about themselves and bad about the history. I’m not sure that that’s the best strategy for having people learn.”

The toolkit seeks to dismantle the notion that “racial dialogue” in America involves a conversation between white people and people of color. It argues that some progress on race relations is best achieved when white people talk to one another.

This is imperative for several reasons. Campt cites 2017 public opinion polls in which 55 percent of white respondents said they face discrimination.

If we’re going to advance the conversation, “part of our arsenal has to be white folks talking to each other about race when there are no people of color in the room.”

There’s another reason whites must more effectively engage race matters: People of color have grown increasingly weary of the task.

Campt’s book states that it would be “neither fair nor feasible” for people of color to carry the burden of these conversations. Their ranks are too few and they “are increasingly fatigued by educating white people; they are already dealing with the additional burden of actually coping with racism.”

He said Friday that white allies of people of color have several built-in advantages in talking to fellow whites about race: racially biased whites might be more receptive and can’t legitimately accuse the “allies” of arguing their point out of self-interest.

But all of this will require a sharpening of their engagement tools.

“Part of what has happened is that allies have come to think that the way to talk to skeptics is to berate them, to call them names, to inundate them with facts — to basically use strategies that are not effective, that we know from science are not effective,” he said.

These inappropriate tactics have helped fuel a backlash. “We have given our allies bad advice about how to engage people.”

Campt said we must learn to talk across our divisions. As residents of the former capital of the Confederacy should know all too well, “different groups have had very different histories and senses of the history. And part of what the monuments represent is contention over what’s going to be our collective history.

“Well, our histories are very divergent,” Campt said. “Every group thinks its version of history is the right version. If we’re going to create a democracy that works, then what’s important is we try to come up with a collective history.”

The history that landed Campt in his role as a dialogue leader was circuitous.

He studied computer science on a scholarship at Princeton, but hated it. At age 20, with a degree at hand, he edited a magazine in New York and grappled with racism in all its contradictions.

“I’m afraid on the subway and people are afraid of me,” he recalled.

He moved to the West Coast to attend graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. During his second year, he began working as a dialogue facilitator.

“I think I was a natural at that because of my obsession with how people talk to each other,” he said.

After earning a Ph.D. in city planning, he was chosen for the staff of President Bill Clinton’s Initiative on Race.

“It was a fantastic opportunity and a horrible experience,” Campt recalled.

Whatever ambitions Clinton had about racially progressive public policy weren’t shared by some of his staff members, who were more intent on campaign-style messaging than on fostering engagement, Campt said.

Then the Monica Lewinsky scandal exploded in 1998, with the race initiative as collateral damage.

“The extent to which he had any moral authority was diminished,” Campt said.

It’s difficult to imagine, but 20 years later, we’re even more divided. On many fronts, we have lost the capacity to engage each other.

If his book’s tools can encourage productive dialogue on race, “the toughest issue in American engagement, maybe we can talk to each other across ideological lines on other issues,” Campt said.

Our current breach is not only corrosive to democracy, it’s also eroding families.

“People don’t want to go home for Thanksgiving because they don’t want to be with their relatives, or they don’t want to have those encounters. That’s ridiculous.”

Too often, when white individuals hear something racist from a family member or friend, they stare at their shoes. That’s an understandable response, Campt says.

“You don’t want to damage that relationship. So you’re stuck in a quandary. You don’t know what to do. You don’t want to attack the person so you don’t do anything.”

He’s seeking to empower people to respond with practical conversation strategies.

“This is about a third choice,” he said. “Don’t attack. Don’t avoid. Engage. This is about how you engage.”

– Michael Paul Williams, mwilliams@timesdispatch.com, published May 14, 2018

This post was shared with the permission of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. You can find the original version of this article on the Richmond Times-Dispatch site at www.richmond.com/news/plus/williams-racial-dialogue-is-his-specialty-his-book-details-how/article_7d086bdd-4b7f-5c7d-9947-8f66af2bf287.html.

NCDDer Gives Transforming Communication Tedx Talk

We are thrilled to share that Katie Hyten of NCDD member org, Essential Partners, recently gave a Tedx Talk on Designing Communication: Moving Beyond Habit. It is always so exciting to see the work of the NCDD network and have important communication skills being shared like the ones she recommended!

The talk was given at TedxTufts just a few weeks back, in which, Katie talked about the need to transform the way that we communicate at every level. She shared how defensiveness and survival mechanisms can kick in during challenging conversations, even those with whom we have close personal relationships. She offered several tactics in order to listen better, be more intentional, and ultimately more effective when communicating with each other. Like she highlighted in her talk, when we transform the way we communicate, we transform our relationships.

Great work on this TedTalk, Katie! We encourage you to watch the video below.

Register for the 2018 Summer Peacebuilding Institute

In case you missed it, the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) is happening now! This phenomenal program offered by NCDD member org, the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University is an opportunity to learn from leaders in the D&D field about conflict transformation and restorative justice. Courses can be taken to improve your skills or for academic credit (and they now offer an M.A. in Restorative Justice program).  Session 1 has already begun, but the remaining sessions are going until the end of June – so check it out ASAP (or prep for next year!). Below are the list of courses offered for 2018, and you can read more about the courses and SPI here


Summer Peacebuilding Institute 2018

The Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) provides useful and intellectually stimulating opportunities to learn more about yourself, others and the world around you. Courses are designed for people interested in integrating conflict transformation, peacebuilding, restorative justice, and related fields into their own work and personal life.

SPI 2018 Course Offerings
Session I – May 14 – 22, 2018 (7-day, 3-credit)
Session II – May 24 – June 1, 2018 (7-day, 3-credit)
Session III – June 4 – 8, 2018 (5-day, 2-credit)
Session IV – June 11 – 15, 2018 (5-day, 2-credit)
Session V – June 18 -20, 2018 (3-day, non-credit workshops)

Only one course may be taken per session. All courses can be taken for training and skills enhancement or academic credit. Session 1 and 2 courses may be taken for three academic credits. Session 3 and 4 courses may be taken for two academic credits.  Courses with PAX/PTI can be taken for academic credit or training. Courses with PTI can only be taken for training. Contact SPI for more information.

If you have questions about a particular course that are not answered in the information below, please feel free to contact the SPI office at spi[at]emu[dot]edu.

SESSION I: May 14 – 22, 2018
Analysis: Understanding Conflict – PAX/PTI 533, Gloria Rhodes
Explore the nature, dynamics, and complex causes of conflict and violence. Discuss how relationships, motivations, culture, and worldviews increase or decrease violent conflict. Learn ways to understand and change multifaceted systems that perpetuate conflict.

Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR), Level II – PAX/PTI 640, Katie Mansfield and Lisa Collins
Review and deepen the concepts from STAR Level 1. Work with trainers and other participants to plan your application and contextualization of STAR frameworks, models, concepts, and activities.

Transformative Leadership for Organizational Development – PAX/PTI 684, David Brubaker and Elizabeth Girvan
Focus on the role of leaders in leading organizational and social change and managing structures, personnel, finances, and external networks and partnerships.

Forgiveness & Reconciliation – PAX/PTI 563, Hizkias Assefa
Explore the concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation from multidisciplinary perspectives and understand how they can be used to generate durable solutions and healing at many levels of conflict from the interpersonal to the international.

Modern Slavery and the Prison-Industrial Complex – PAX/PTI 685, Monti Narayan Datta
Critically assess what human rights are, explore how and why it is still possible for human beings to be bought and sold around the world today, and investigate inequality in the American prison system.

SESSION II: May 24 – June 1, 2018
Formation for Peacebuilding Practice – PAX/PTI 532, Gloria Rhodes
Explore various competencies needed by those who feel compelled to work for peace and social justice. Strengthen your abilities to listen and communicate, create and maintain healthy boundaries, recognize and promote diversity, lead from your vision and values, and engage people in dialogue and decision-making.

Restorative Justice: Principles, Theories & Applications– PAX/PTI 571, Carl Stauffer
Deepen your understanding of justice. Explore a justice framework that focuses on healing, accountability, and community, not blame, punishment, and isolation.

Adaptive Action: Nonviolent Resistance in the 21st Century – PAX/PTI 645, Glenda Eoyang, John N. Murray and Mary Nations
Transform oppression into opportunity. Learn to effectively engage in a chaotic and uncertain political and social world. Analyze the dynamics that drive complex change in human systems and find practical ways to respond to forces that oppress.

Sexual Harms: Changing the Narrative – PAX/PTI 692, Carolyn Stauffer
Join the wave of leaders committed to creating environments free from sexual harm. Gain tools to respond to sexual violence and learn about preventative best practices. Design restorative interventions that build safety and resilience.

Circle Processes PAX/PTI 672, Kay Pranis
Gain skills to lead a process that brings together victims, offenders, family, community members, and others to have difficult conversations and respond to acts of violence or crime. Explore the foundational values and key structural elements of the circle process and learn to design and conduct circles.

Biblical Foundations of Justice and Peacemaking – BVG 541, Andrew Suderman
More than a study of a few select texts that deal with peacemaking, this course will explore and examine the various dimensions of peace in the Bible, with special attention to how the Bible as a whole, functions as a foundation for peacemaking. This course is being offered through Eastern Mennonite Seminary. To register as a non-seminary student use this part-time application.

SESSION III: June 4-8, 2018
Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR), Level 1 –PAX 540/PTI 041, Donna Minter and Ram Bhagat
Explore processes and tools for addressing trauma, breaking cycles of violence, and building resilience. Increase awareness of the impact of trauma on the body, mind, beliefs, and behavior of individuals, communities, and societies.

Truth-telling, Racial Healing and Restorative Justice – PAX/PTI 671, Fania Davis, Jodie Geddes and Lenore Bajare-Dukes
Explore linkages between truth, justice, and healing at personal and collective levels in the wake of violence. Discuss informal and formal approaches to truth-telling, restorative justice and reconciliation from around the world. Consider future applications of truth-telling amidst ongoing police violence against communities of color in the US.

Christian Spirituality for Social Action – PAX/PTI 688, Jennifer Lee and Johonna Turner
Explore Christian spiritual formation practices to nurture and sustain a life of community leadership, engaged ministry, and social activism. Expand awareness of spiritual disciplines as well as biblical and theological resources to support a faith-rooted approach to social action.

SESSION IV: June 11-15, 2018
The Transformative Power of Identity and Dignity – PAX/PTI 551, Barry Hart
Understand the positive and negative roles and transformative power of identity and dignity within complex conflicts, violence, and trauma.

Building Resilience in Body, Mind, and Spirit – PAX/PTI 612, Katie Mansfield and Katia Ornelas
Taking the body-mind connection seriously, peacebuilders, caregivers and change makers need full-bodied, creative engagement in activities for self-care and well-being. Explore strategies, tools, and exercises for individual participants and communities/organizations to cultivate safety, healthy uses of power, and a deeper sense of connection. Discuss cultural contexts, taboos, stereotypes, and biases that keep us from integrating creative, embodied practice into work for social change and peace.

Peace Education – PAX/PTI 546, Ed Brantmeier
Discuss the education that is needed for the elimination of direct and indirect forms of violence. Explore strategies to reduce violence such as bullying, implicit bias, ethnocentrism, physical fights, or institutional discrimination in schools, the workplace, and the community.

Designing Facilitated Processes that Work – PAX/PTI 689, Catherine Barnes
Do you ever think you need to go beyond basic meeting facilitation to design processes that will help groups address challenging situations, deal with differences and envision a better future? This class is intended for people with some experience of facilitation who want to take their skills to the next level through using context analysis, process design principles, and more conducive process methods.

Story-gathering: Participatory theatre for facilitation and empowerment – PAX/PTI 691, Heidi Winters Vogel and Roger Foster
Develop fluency in participatory theatre techniques for use in mediation, intervention and group facilitation to promote participant-generated change.

SESSION V: June 18-20, 2018
Restorative Justice in Higher Education – PTI 080 E, Jon Swartz and Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz
How is the restorative justice approach being used in the context of education settings for accountability, repair, and healing?

Resisting the White Savior Complex in Social Justice Organizing – PTI 081 E, Amanda Gross and Cole Parke
What do well-intentioned white people need to understand about the harm, violence, and insidiousness of racism? Exploration of a theological basis for anti-racism work.

Crime Victims, Survivors, and Restorative Justice – PTI 082 E, Matthew Hartman
Explore the intersection between trauma, recovery, victim assistance, and restorative justice. Develop programming strategies that orient toward the needs of crime victims and survivors.

Developing Integrated Conflict Management Systems – PTI 083 E, Brian Bloch
Learn to create a system and culture that collaborative addresses conflict and the practical steps an organization can use to put this system in place.

Performance Arts: Developing Sustainable Resources for Community Learning & Action – PTI 084 E, Heidi Winters Vogel and Roger Foster
Learn to assess and evaluate performance-based community engagement programs to strengthen them and make them more attractive to funders.

Singing to the Lions: Helping Children Respond Effectively to Violence and Abuse – PTI 085 E, Lucy Steinitz and Naoko Kamiok
Training of trainers to learn the use of games, drama, dance, and art to help trauma-affected children and young adults overcome fear and violence in their lives.

You can find more information on these courses and the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at www.emu.edu/cjp/spi/.

Essential Partners on Using Social Media to Talk about Guns

Social media platforms can be a challenging medium to hold conversations, especially around contentious issues like gun access, but like NCDD member Essential Partners recently wrote; it’s possible. EP collaborated with several orgs like Time, Spaceship Media and Advance Local to bring folks together to explore conversations on guns, and they shared their experience on utilizing a closed Facebook group to connect people. We encourage you to read the article below and you can find the original version on Essential Partners site here.


Guns: An American Conversation

The subject of guns in America lends itself to strong emotion and great strife, especially in the face of continued mass shootings. We all wish we could make it stop, but we can’t seem to agree on where to focus. The guns themselves? The troubled souls who carry out these acts of violence? The inconsistent regulation of existing laws? The poor infrastructure for recognizing this danger?

At the end of March, Essential Partners worked with Spaceship Media and Advance Local to bring people from across the country together to talk about guns. John Sarrouf and I traveled to Washington, DC, to facilitate the conversations. At the end of the two-day conversation, that core of 21 people then formed a closed Facebook group with more than 130 members, and continued the dialogue online for the following month.

John and I followed along. We offered behind-the-scenes support to the moderators, who worked 24/7 to help those 130 online conversants share their views in ways that could be understood. We witnessed the yearning for a deeper, richer conversation on this divisive topic, and we learned that while it is possible to have that dialogue in a Facebook group, it doesn’t happen without thoughtful facilitation.

Three things we saw:

  • Online engagement was much stronger if people had one-on-one conversations via phone or even Facebook messenger with someone they disagreed with. Being “known” in this way by even a few individuals in the larger group made a big difference in the ability of participants to hang in during tough interactions. Even moderators had an easier time intervening with people who exhibit challenging communication styles after they had a phone call with them.
  • The 21 participants who had invested a lot of personal time at the outset wanted their own smaller group to reconnect, take a breather, and process the many things happening in the larger group. This was not because they all had the same point of view. It was because they were known and knew each other as well-rounded people in the small group.
  • The online conversation could easily have gone on for months in order to reach the fullness of the issues surrounding guns in this country. The level of attention and strength of relationships needed to sustain a conversation on such a hot topic could span years. At the same time, even within a month, there were productive inroads and proposals surfaced for potential continued work on the issue.

We are continuing this work in the coming months. Stay tuned for updates as we take this conversation on the road.

You can read the full article on Essential Partners site at www.whatisessential.org/blog/guns-american-conversation.

NWOC Partner Shares Piece on Hearing Every Voice

The National Week of Conversation is wrapping up tomorrow, April 28th, and many across the nation have participated in this collective movement to bring Americans together to talk and heal divisions. Which is why we wanted to lift up this piece that fellow NWOC partner AllSides recently shared on their Perspectives blog on Hearing Every Voice written by Tom McSteen of Sacred Discourse. The article talks about the experience of connecting through conversation in a way that honors every voice present and the importance of utilizing structures like those of Living Room Conversations, also a partner of NWOC and an NCDD member. Read the post below and find the original on AllSides site here.


Hearing Every Voice

How do you feel when your voice is heard? How do you feel when it is not?

We all want our voice to be heard. We all want to feel self-expressed. We all want to leave a gathering where we had something to say, having said what we wanted to say. If that does not happen, feelings of frustration, disagreement, and aloneness can creep in. These feelings, particularly when experienced over time, can lead to states of separation and division.

Unsurprisingly, I have experienced many conversations and public events where I felt my voice was not heard, from extended family gatherings at holidays to governmental forums on whether to build pipelines. Leaving these situations with the experience of not being heard left me feeling isolated.

Hearing every voice can be literal, as in taking the time at a particular gathering to give everyone a chance to speak. It can also be figurative, when people feel in some collective way that their views or experiences have been dismissed. This figurative example is often seen in national elections, when groups of people feel glossed over and unheard. Yet, this state is more likely to develop over time when there are not tangible forums for people to fully eexpressthemselves.

We have choices, both in the literal and figurative sense. We can act so as to not hear or marginalize certain voices, to selectively hear only what we want to hear. When we do so, however, we add, often unintentionally, to the current division in our politics, our public discourse.

Or, on the other hand, when we intentionally make an attempt to hear every voice, in any setting on any topic, literally or figuratively, we create the possibility of conversation or discourse that is more inclusive and connective.

When people do not feel heard, they are more likely to be dismissive of others’ voices. And, when people feel heard, they are more likely to allow others to be heard, in turn.

It may not always be easy or simple to create the space for every voice to be heard. But it’s possible. Setting rules of engagement and establishing a safe and clear container in a structured environment are two key ways to allow for every voice to be heard.

The new and rising organization, Living Room Conversations, provides a safe place to hear every voice. Having been a part of multiple conversations using this methodology, I know firsthand that people with very different points of view can come together and have a civil conversation. And, most importantly, they can walk away with a new understanding of the “other.”

A key differentiator, perhaps, is a well-stated intention to hear every voice no matter the setting. Whether in families or at the office, imagine what is possible when there is a concerted effort to hear all voices. Business journals, as an example, laud corporations that invest the time and effort into really providing time and space to listen to each and every employee. Could not the same be true for public discourse? Particularly for local issues, town halls can be a forum where there is a clear intention to give time and space to hear every voice on a given topic.

The experience of being heard can go a long way toward acceptance of a decision that goes against what I want to happen. When I feel that I have had the opportunity to express myself fully, and I feel the self-respect that comes from being able to do so, I can much more easily accept whatever the decision may be, even if I disagree with the outcome.

Might this simply be a return to respectful dialogue? In early April, the organization A Peace of Mind set up a studio at a leadership conference focused on cultivating civil discourse. They asked participants, “How have you cultivated civil discourse in the past year?” The responses were wide-ranging, and they provide numerous examples of what people can do to promote this practice.

One participant said: “I try to really learn about the speaker’s perspective and not just wait for them to pause so I can jump in and talk.” What a difference this could make toward returning to an experience of civil discourse that is respectful and constructive and that does not separate and divide.

As we move forward to the 2018 national elections, and then on to the 2020 presidential elections, what are ways that we each can be sure that those voices, particularly of people with whom we disagree, are heard? What community forums might we create to give people an opportunity to fully express their beliefs and concerns?

In addition to creating the forums, it helps to prepare people for these conversations. That is what we do at Sacred Discourse, following a relational framework that supports a shared intention to leave the others in a conversation feeling more whole, inspired, and connected after the conversation. Our framework begins with a commitment to hear all the voices, because without including everyone, we cannot move forward together.

You can find the original version of this article on AllSide Perspectives blog at www.allsides.com/blog/hearing-every-voice.

NCDD Teams Up for Bridging the Divides Workshop in CO

Several weeks back, I was invited by Colorado Common Cause to give a workshop at their monthly membership meeting in Denver, Colorado, on Bridging the Divide: or How to Have a “Productive” Political Conversation. This was an exciting opportunity to connect with this fantastic organization and share some of the best practices from the NCDD network on how to navigate emotionally-heated conversations.

Huge thank you to all the participants who attended the event and made it an engaging experience! Another big thank you to Caroline Fry from Colorado Common Cause for inviting NCDD to come speak with their members and share some of the tools and wisdom from our network to help better bridge divides.

Caroline kicked off the meeting with a brief intro to Colorado Common Cause –  an org that has been working for over four decades to improve democratic processes by reducing barriers to voting, working to ensure that elections are run fairly, reducing the influence of money in politics, and that our government is being held accountable through more transparent practices.

During the workshop, I shared the transformative work being done in the NCDD network to enable people to connect more authentically with each other, build deeper relationships, and engage in challenging conversations- specifically around heated political issues. I spoke on the importance of humanizing each other and finding common ground by connecting to our shared values; and how this work is possible in even the most painful conflicts (though it is by no means easy). I lifted up examples from our NCDD members of tools that help facilitate having challenging conversations and shared some deliberative processes that hold space for these conversations while contributing toward policy-making.

Finally, I shared a couple of upcoming events with participants, that I encourage you to join in!

  • National Week of Conversation is going on right now until this Saturday, April 28th – join this national movement to improve listening, deepen our connections through conversation, and better heal the divisiveness in our society. Join an event already planned on the National Week of Conversation site here or create your own, maybe using the resources provided on NWOC or right here on the NCDD Resource Center.
  • Our upcoming National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation is being held this November 2-4 in Downtown Denver. Our conferences are an exciting mingling of enthusiasts and practitioners in dialogue, deliberation, and engagement work and we encourage you to learn more here.
    • “Super Early Bird” tickets are now available for a limited time, so make sure you act fast to utilize this great low rate by clicking here.
    • The theme for this year’s conference is “Connecting and Strengthening Civic Innovators”, and our intention is to focus on how we can further uplift dialogue, deliberation, and engagement work; learn more details on the theme here.
    • For folks interested in presenting a session at NCDD2018, the call for proposals is currently open for concurrent sessions – learn more here.

You can watch the full live stream of the workshop in the video below. I’ve also included a link to the resource doc I shared which has the exercises we did, as well as, the resources I referenced – which you can find here.

If you like what you see – NCDD staff would love to come hold a workshop with your group, organization, or event!  We are happy to tailor the workshop to your needs for navigating challenging conversations. I am located in Denver, Managing Director Courtney Breese is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Co-Founder Sandy Heierbacher is in Boston; all of us can travel to our respective surrounding areas to hold workshops. For folks that are located outside of these places, contact us and let’s see if we can coordinate logistics with travel or technology to make a workshop happen for you! Please contact me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org for workshop inquiries. 

About Colorado Common Cause
Colorado Common Cause is a non-profit organization fighting for open, honest and accountable government. We work to strengthen public participation and to ensure that government and the political process serve the public interest, rather than the special interests.

We believe the serious issues that confront our society – problems like lack of affordable health care and quality education, poverty, discrimination, and global warming – will only be solved when government is responsive to the needs and the voices of its citizens, and not to the pressures of special interests. Partnering with groups representing diverse constituencies, we campaign to break down barriers to voting, ensure every vote is counted as cast, reduce the impact of special interest money in the political process, and promote open government and high ethical standards.

Follow on Twitter at @CommonCauseCO
Connect on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ColoradoCommonCause

Restorative Justice Webinar on Centering Survivors, 4/18

Next Wednesday, April 18th, the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice, a program of NCDD member org, the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, is offering a free restorative justice webinar on centering survivors. Join this critical conversation as the three RJ-informed speakers share their work, help to broaden the understanding of survivor/victim, and offer implications for centering survivors in RJ and other movements. You can read the post below and find the original on the Zehr Institute site here.


Webinar: Centering Survivors – A Critical Conversation

When: – Guest: Alison Espinosa-Setchko, Kazu Haga, Richard Smith
Host: Johonna Turner

REGISTER HERE

Centering victims and survivors of harm is a longstanding principle of restorative justice. What does this mean in the restorative justice movement today? How should we define “victims” and “survivors”? What needs must be addressed? Join us for a critical conversation with the leaders of two RJ-informed initiatives centering survivors of violence who offer fresh perspectives on these questions.

HealingWorks is the first national learning collaborative for individuals and organizations working with young men of color who have been harmed by violence. They address the compelling needs of young survivors of color by delivering tools, information and support to the people and organizations that serve them. Because healing doesn’t happen in isolation, HealingWorks also promotes practices that take place in a broader context, addressing the essential roles of women, elders and other community members.

The Ahimsa Collective is a network of people creating an alternative way to address violence and heal trauma- a way that is driven by relationships, not systems. They use a restorative justice practices and a peacemaking approach. The Ahimsa Collective intersects with various movements: the restorative justice movement, the anti-oppression and racial justice movement, the anti-sexual violence movement and the criminal justice reform movement.

Our guests will provide an overview of their work, and the insights that guide them. Moreover, they will help us to understand the critical need to reframe and broaden dominant understandings of victims/survivors of violence, and the wide-ranging implications of this work for restorative justice, victims’ services, trauma healing, and other movements for safety and social justice.

Guest Bios
Alison Espinosa-Setchko was born in Oakland, Calif. She received a degree in Community Healing and Social Engagement from Pitzer College, and has spent much of her adult life working with young people as a teacher, a mindfulness educator and a facilitator of restorative justice. She is now the Programs Manager at The Ahimsa Collective where she supports Ahimsa’s various projects and co-facilitates restorative circles within Valley State Prison. A survivor of child sexual abuse, her family was also impacted by the criminal justice system. Espinosa-Setchko’s life has shown her the power of restorative justice to transform lives and institutions, and she is committed to making its healing potential manifest on a larger scale.

Kazu Haga is the founder and Coordinator of the East Point Peace Academy, is a trainer in Kingian Nonviolence and teaches various aspects of nonviolence, restorative justice and mindfulness. Haga is also a facilitator in the Ahimsa Collective’s Restorative Approaches to Intimate Violence program in prison. Born in Tokyo, Japan, he has been engaged in social change work since the age of 17, and has played leading roles in various social movements. He works to empower incarcerated communities, young people and activists around the country. He currently resides in Oakland, Calif.

Richard Smith is an academic activist and healer with nearly two decades of experience developing and implementing community-based programs for disadvantaged populations.  Smith is currently the National Director of HealingWorks, a learning collaborative that addresses the healing needs of male survivors of violence by delivering tools, information, and technical support to organizations that serve them. He is also currently one of the technical assistance leaders for the US Department of Justice’s National Resource Center on Reaching Underserved Victims, a one-stop shop for victim service providers, culturally-specific organizations, criminal justice professionals, and policymakers to get information and expert guidance to enhance their capacity to identify, reach, and serve victims from underserved communities. Smith holds a Master’s Degree from the University at Albany in Africana Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree from Boston University in Sociology. He has taught criminal justice, history, and social work courses as an Adjunct Professor at SUNY Empire State College, Sage College and LIU Brooklyn. He is presently a doctoral candidate at SUNY Albany’s School of Social Welfare. His research focus is male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. He is the proud father of two sons, Kaden (4 years.) and Kaleb (6 years).

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Zehr Institute’s site at www.zehr-institute.org/webinar/centering-survivors/.

Addressing Safety in Schools by Turning to Each Other

In the wake of the current gun violence, NCDD sponsoring organization Essential Partners recently shared this piece written by their executive director Parisa Parsa, on the urgency for people to come together and address how do we keep our schools and communities safer. She talks about the need to come in conversation with each other from a place of creativity and with the purpose of recognizing our shared values, and rise above the current polarization. These conversational practices are vital in order to deepen relationships and ultimately work towards preventing another mass shooting from happening again. You can read the Essential Partner’s article below or find the original version here.


…As if our lives depend on it

The question was: what is at the heart of the matter for you when you think about the question of whether guns should be allowed in schools?

Seven people ranging in age from their 20’s to their 60’s, 4 women and 3 men, leaned in to listen closely to one another’s responses. They had many different views on the question of guns in schools, and guns in American life in general.

When it came time for him to speak, one man’s eyes welled with tears. After a long pause he said:

“Here is what is at the heart of the matter for me: I don’t want to be talking about this at all. I don’t want to live in a world where kids are not safe going to school. So when someone asks me what I think, all I can think is how can we make this stop?”

The simple recognition of our shared grief and anger brought more of the group to tears, and began a shift in the conversation. Person after person had already shared the values they learned growing up about guns, and now enriched by one anothers’ stories the sense of companionship led to a new entry point to thinking together. What would it take for our town prevent mass shootings?

The conversation later turned to social isolation and the need for folks to really look out for each other, to know each other’s’ children. And to offer services for those in need who might escape other attempts at outreach. And support for concerned parents.

The community still needed to talk about the issue at hand: the question of arming school personnel. But this small group was now also armed with the beginnings of a conversation that could help them work together on many of the other known contributing factors to preserve safety in schools. Perhaps, I thought, working on some of those other things together would help them deepen their relationship so that the continuing conversation about guns could have more creativity than the zero-sum perception both sides have been diving into. And which we dive into again and again.

Most recently, we’ve watched it in the wake of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Social media has been awash, as ever, with people’s grief and anguish, fear and outrage. This time, the young people who survived the shooting almost immediately made a very pointed ask of our nation’s leaders. They asked the grown-ups in charge to sort out whatever needs sorting out to keep this from happening again.

The initial message they shared in the days immediately after the shooting was simple: as a nation we have to sort this out together. Their initial leadership was their refusal to accept that the current polarization in our conversation on guns is inevitable and permanent. And they are absolutely right to refuse the current story that this is an issue we cannot touch as a nation.

The students weren’t all, or even mostly, activists before the incident. Some were gun rights advocates, some gun control advocates, many more neutral and uninvolved. As the media conversation has continued, a predictable pattern has emerged: the loudest and most extreme voices have been amplified, put into debate mode with politicians at a Town Hall, lashed out on Twitter. And then came the responses: the kids are paid actors, being manipulated by left-wing interests, their Tweets analyzed and criticized for their violence and perceived extremism.

When the shouts begin, the door of possibility closes and we can’t figure anything out together. There is no listening, no further understanding, just suspicion and accusation. One “side’s” gains in activism get a counter-attack or build greater cynicism, driving the other “side” to feel justified in nasty rhetoric. So the win of one side becomes the rallying cry for the other, locking us in a battle few of us would have chosen. And the din leaves no space for the many folks who find themselves somewhere in the middle between the two defined “sides.”

The thing is, we can have sensible conversations with our neighbors who don’t agree. In our conversations about guns in Montana, Massachusetts, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Wyoming we have found some trends that are worth considering and also cause for hope.

  1. Taking the time as a community to work toward building trust and understanding (even when we don’t agree, and won’t agree) can in itself be a factor in reducing gun violence. A Yale study in 2014 found a correlation between high social cohesion and reduced gun violence. Dialogue about guns can actually be a preliminary preventative measure, reducing alienation and isolation; building trust and understanding.
  2. Neither gun rights advocates nor gun control advocates feel heard or understood by the other side, but when invited to share their values and beliefs without trying to persuade or convince, 97% of participants felt heard and understood. And 94% of participants believed they could use the dialogue process in other settings where there is a conflict over diverse views.
  3. When we spoke with focus groups about this issue, we heard shared values across the spectrum of belief on this issue: a desire to live in safe communities, a belief in the importance of education, and a sense of responsibility for others.

Friends, there is no one but us, no time but now, and no way forward without turning to one another. Let’s start engaging in deep, honest, conversations about this violence in our nation. Our communities, and our lives, depend on it.

Here are three things you can do today to change the conversation:

  1. Invite a friend or family member with different viewpoints into conversation, and propose these agreements to get you started.
  2. Share a reflection on how you came to your own position on the Constitutional right to firearms, gun control, based on your own experience. Let it open up a conversation that asks others to share their own.
  3. When you encounter someone with a view you don’t share, try asking a question that invites them to speak about their experience that led them to that view. Try: Tell me a story from your life that has shaped your thinking about this.

You can find the original version of this Essential Partner’s blog piece at www.whatisessential.org/blog/if-our-lives-depend-it.

Working in Consensus Around Challenging Issues

As collective heartache and anxiety takes the nation in waves due to recent tragedies, dialogue offers a place where folks can come together in conversation to process and better understand one another on challenging issues like gun access. Written by NCDD member Larry Schooler, he shares the need to talk with each other from a place of consensus as opposed to compromise; and lifts up some of the core tenets of dialogue in a beautiful analogy of a dinner party, in which we come to the table open-minded and open-hearted. We encourage you to read the article below or find the original version posted here.


I’m a Broward County Schools parent. Time to talk.

Any parent would feel shaken by a shooting at a school anywhere in the world. But when it happens less than 30 miles from where you live, and your own child attends a school in the same district, it felt different to me.

It reminded me of both what I have, and have not, done to keep my own children safe, to talk to them about the issues around violence, guns, mental health, and the like. It also reminded me of what I could do to help.

I am a conflict resolution professional, but it does not take an expert to see we have conflict around gun ownership and usage that needs resolving. If you are looking for policy proposals on gun control, look elsewhere. But if you want to be part of the resolution to these conflicts, consider this: compromise may be less important than consensus.

What’s the difference? Think of the contexts in which we use the word “compromise.” “The mission was compromised and had to be abandoned.” “Her immune system was compromised making her more susceptible to infection.” Usage in these cases connotes weakness, defeat, vulnerability. In the context of resolving a conflict, some scholars argue compromise generally involves loss–the surrender of something important to one party in service of an agreement.

Would a passionate advocate for gun rights or gun control want to give in on any of their core values in the spirit of any agreement? Would a leader of the National Rifle Association or Everytown for Gun Safety want to “lose” on any aspect of their principles in pursuit of a deal? No one wants the perfect to be the enemy of the good, as the saying goes in public policymaking, but no one wants to feel as if he or she has to lose in order to get a win, either–or, as one dictionary puts it, engage in “the acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable.”

But consensus differs in key ways. It connects to the perhaps overused but highly significant concept of a “win-win” outcome. It holds out hope that with enough understanding of each other’s goals and viewpoints, an agreement can emerge that everyone can actively support. Debate does not yield consensus; dialogue and discussion do. We seem incredibly eager to debate–in government, online, and beyond–and far less eager, or even able, to discuss.

Imagine if you found someone whom you knew had a very different perspective on guns than you do. Maybe you’ve never owned or even fired a gun, and a good friend is a hunter. Maybe you’ve defended yourself or someone else using a gun, and a good friend or relative thinks you are endangering yourself or others by having one. Sit down with that person, as soon as possible.

Start by listening to understand, not to respond. Start by asking what makes the issue of guns important to the other person–why does it matter, what personal connections might there be. Start by considering what you can learn from the other person’s perspective that you did not know or had not fully considered before–why guns do more than just hurt, why gun ownership inspires fear rather than safety.

From that place of curiosity and interest, list the core values you each hold, without judgment; do it individually and then share. Maybe you both care about safety for all, the right to self-defense, the need for gun owners to receive training or licensure. Even if the lists of values stay separate, the act of acknowledging the importance of each other’s values matters. If you find common ground at this stage, so much the better; momentum emerges.

Now that you’ve set the table, you can begin adding the food for thought–ideas to carry out the values. When you go to a dinner party, you are unlikely to reject a dish as it comes out; so, too, should all ideas be welcomed, at this stage. So, if your counterpart says no one should own a gun before the age of 25, keep your concerns about that suggestion to yourself, for now.

When the food comes out–and, chances are, you and your counterpart will have prepared a feast of ideas, given the chance to do so without fear of immediate judgment–you evaluate those ideas based on what matters to each of you individually and both of you collectively. If you have agreed that safety for all matters, does the suggestion to restrict gun ownership based on age achieve that? If you have agreed that a person reserves the right to self-defense, does that suggestion help? Even at this stage, when you are determining what you can and cannot support, you search for what you can support, actively, in consensus, rather than what you must “give up” in compromise. If you feel determined to “defeat” a proposal, be prepared to offer an alternative. If age-based restrictions on gun ownership don’t work, what restrictions would? If the presence of an armed guard in a school doesn’t make sense to you, what protections would?

It would be easy to dismiss this process as far-fetched, unrealistic, for the moment when pigs fly. Frankly, it is hard to know whether we are capable of this kind of civil discourse–we rarely, if ever, have undertaken it, though participants from both sides of the abortion debate have triedwith some success. I can only state, with some empirical evidence, that our previous tactics have not worked. No matter how tragic or unthinkable prior incidents have been, efforts to defeat the other side have produced few results.

Dare we, as a nation, risk failure in order to achieve lasting success? Our past victories have seldom come out without that risk, and we undoubtedly risk greater bloodshed and broken hearts through a repetition of our past failures.

You can find the original version of Larry School’s article at www.linkedin.com/pulse/im-broward-county-schools-parent-time-talk-larry-schooler/.

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)

REGISTER HERE

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 http://go.metroquest.com/Westport-City-Plan-Barton-Partners