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

Attend the 2018 IAP2 USA Skills Symposium in Austin, Texas

Are you looking to brush up on your IAP2 skills or really want to dive deep into learning public participation tools and techniques? We wanted to give folks in our network a heads up about the 2018 IAP2 USA Skills Symposium hosted by NCDD member org IAP2, happening in Austin from February 26 – March 2. This will be a great chance to take some of the classic courses from IAP2, as well as, several more recent training opportunities which you can read about below. They will also be hosting a National Dialogue event on February 28th exploring “How and why should the public be engaged in highly technical and complex projects?”. You can read the announcement below and find more information on the IAP2 site here.


Join us at the 2018 IAP2 USA Skills Symposium in Austin, Texas!

You’re invited! This year’s IAP2 USA Skills Symposium will feature a wide range of courses of varying duration and topics exploring skills, tools, and techniques that support effective public participation. This training will be undertaken in a rich learning environment, with activities building a creative and supportive space for participants whether they spend a day or the week at the event!

We will also be hosting a National Dialogue event on February 28, 2018 at the University of Texas at Austin talking about “How and why should the public be engaged in highly technical and complex projects?” See attached flyer for more details or register now!

Courses include but are not limited to…

Social Media And P2: How to design and host effective online engagement –  We know that online tools reach new participants and enable different kinds of conversation. But, it’s an emerging field and there is still much trial and error, so this course will give you a leg up by examining what’s worked and what’s failed. This interactive course will teach you to create social media campaigns that gather input creatively, enable collaborative online interactions, and sustain participation over time. You’ll also learn how to use social media for participant recruitment, and how to integrate mobile communication into your participation strategy. Bring your computer; this course gives you an opportunity to experience both the host and participant sides of online participation.

Evaluating & Measuring P2 – Evaluation should always be useful, and this introductory course will cover theories and practical strategies to help you evaluate your public participation efforts. In this hands-on course, you will apply foundational tools like logic models, examine the differences between process and impact evaluation, and review the components of an evaluation plan. You will craft evaluation questions, and identify indicators and sources of information to help you answer those questions. Overall, you will learn how to employ evaluative thinking as a learning strategy, in order to strengthen your work and achieve greater impact.

When Things Go Sideways: How to embrace emotion & outrage, and change results – Building on EOP2 (but not a pre-requisite) this highly participatory course will have participants uncover what’s driving emotion and outrage in P2 processes and discover what triggers these natural responses. Through exercises, discussion and multi-media presentation, participants will learn about AND PRACTICE highly effective, collaborative strategies to transform conflict and outrage and create an environment for constructive engagement.

Toolz For Tough Conversations – This conflict de-escalation and civil discourse training program prepares individuals, organizations, and communities for difficult discussions, cross-sector deliberations and collaborative decision-making. The unique, multi-track engagement framework, body-based mindfulness strategies, and powerful conflict communication skills are useful throughout all phases of creating dynamic, inclusive, community engagement programs. This highly-experiential training demonstrates mindfulness strategies and provides time to apply key concepts in all phases of project design: scoping, invitation, implementation, evaluation, and continuous improvement and shared leadership.

That’s not all! See our online Schedule to about the other courses that we have to offer! Spaces are limited. Check out our website for more information.

Courses are offered at $300/person/day for IAP2 members and $375/person/day for non-members with the following exceptions: IAP2 Foundations and “Strategies for Dealing with Opposition & Outrage in P2” courses are offered at $350/person/day for IAP2 members and $425/person/day for non-members. There will be a special rate for full-time students, see the website. The daily rate includes mid-morning beverages and lunch.

We hope to see you in Austin! Feel free to email us at info@iap2usa.org.

You can find this information on the IAP2 site at www.iap2usa.org/2018symposium.

Exploring Restorative Justice in Law Enforcement

In case you missed it, we wanted to lift up this exciting online course from the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice, a program of NCDD member org, the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. The four-session course will provide an introduction to restorative justice with an emphasis on its application in law enforcement and other community partnerships. It will be a great opportunity for those working in or with law enforcement agencies, though make sure you sign up ASAP as the course is limited to 25 participants. You can read the announcement below or find the original on the Zehr Institute’s site here.


Law Enforcement Through Restorative Justice: Peacebuilding in the Community

This four-part online course is an introduction to restorative justice with an emphasis on its applications in law enforcement and community-engaged program partnerships. Participants will explore innovative ways to incorporate restorative justice within an agency, and to collaborate with community organizations on such initiatives. Through presentations and interactive discussions, examples of implementation in police agencies throughout the United States will be showcased. Some of these will include:

  • An alternative to, or within, the criminal justice system
  • Citizen complaints
  • Internal conflict and
  • Community engagement.

Restorative justice is often referred to as “the missing piece in law enforcement”. You will learn why police chiefs around the country have been utilizing or are incorporating restorative justice as an option within their organization. From victim advocacy, to offender accountability, restorative justice provides many benefits to an entire community. For example, police departments experience a high rate of victim satisfaction, community participation, and reduction in offender recidivism which ultimately results in accomplishing procedural justice and police legitimacy.

Course dates:

  • March 13, 2018 3 – 4:30 pm Eastern
  • March 20, 2018 3 – 4:30 pm Eastern
  • March 27, 2018 3 – 4:30 pm Eastern
  • April 3, 2018 3 – 4:30 pm Eastern

Course Fee: $200 for the full 4-week course.
Complete payment & registration by clicking here.

Course Objectives

  • Explore why and how law enforcement is implementing restorative justice programs across this country
  • Engage select guest speakers on the greatest successes and challenges they have faced in applying restorative justice to law enforcement.
  • Learn about innovative restorative justice practices that have enhanced law enforcement and community engagement, partnerships, and collaboration
  • Grapple with how to make law enforcement more restorative – changing structures, policies and procedures

Course Instructor(s): Dr. Carl Stauffer and Officer Vanessa Westley
Course Syllabus: Download Syllabus

Target Audience
The course is intended for people working in or associated with law enforcement agencies. Criminal justice practitioners, law enforcement agency directors, command level officers and those working in the field will benefit from this series.

Course Structure & Cost
The course will be held four consecutive weeks for 90 minutes per session – Tuesdays, March 13 – April 3, 2018 from 3-4:30 pm (EST), and will be synchronous, (i.e. live) through the Zoom platform. Unlike a webinar, all participants will be able to see, hear and speak to the others. Participants will need access to an internet-connected computer with webcam and microphone, head phones, a quiet spot and good lighting.

Enrollment is limited to 25. This is a non-credit course however, a certificate of participation will be provided upon request.

Instructor Bios
Officer Vanessa Westley is a twenty-five year veteran of the Chicago Police Department.  She has served in various positions within the Department’s Patrol Division and other units.  She began her service in Community Policing in 2004 under now-retired First Deputy Dana V. Starks, as project manager in the Department’s CAPS Project Office.  She later served as project manager for the Mayor’s Office of Faith Based and Community Partnerships.  Currently she is the program manager for the Chicago Police Department’s and the Metro YMCA’s “Bridging the Divide” program.  She is the special projects coordinator for the CAPS Revitalization effort launched in 2013.  She leads the community engagement training program for the Department through DePaul University’s Center for Urban Education.  Vanessa is a Restorative Justice and Art of Hosting practitioner and trainer.

Dr. Carl Stauffer teaches Restorative and Transitional Justice at the Graduate Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia. Stauffer also serves as Co-Director of the Zehr Institute of Restorative Justice and the Academic Director of the Caux Scholars Program in Switzerland. Stauffer entered the Restorative Justice field as the first Executive Director of the Capital Area Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program in Richmond, Virginia in 1991. In 1994, Stauffer and his family moved to South Africa where he worked with various transitional justice processes such as the Peace Accords, Community-Police Forums, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Local Community Development structures. From 2000 to 2009, Stauffer was appointed as the Mennonite Central Committee Regional Peace Adviser for the Southern Africa region. His work has taken him to 20 African countries and 15 other countries in the Caribbean, Middle East, Europe, Asia and the Balkans.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Zehr Institute’s site at www.zehr-institute.org/courses/law-enforcement-through-restorative-justice-peacebuilding-in-the-community/.

Unrig the System Summit in NOLA Next Week

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


Join us at Unrig The System Summit in NOLA!

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

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

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

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

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

Advocacy Track Sneak Peek:

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

Policy Track Sneak Peek:

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

Entertainment

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

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

You can find the original version of this announcement on Bridge Alliance’s site at www.bridgealliance.us/unrig_the_system_summit.

Healing Through Conversation and Connection

We wanted to share this piece from longtime NCDD member Parisa Parsa, Executive Director of Essential Partners, which was posted on the blog of NCDD member org, the Bridge Alliance. In the article, she speaks on the lack of connection and trust amongst people today and all-too-common feelings of isolation and avoidance despite technological advances in communication. Our ability to be in conversation with people, especially those with whom we disagree, is one of our greatest connections to our humanity; and we need to repair it in order to heal our society and ourselves. We encourage you to read the article below or find the original on BA’s site here.


Staying Connected in the Midst of Differences

In 1989, a group of therapists engaged in some commiseration at their shared Cambridge practice. They discussed a concern about what had become of sane discourse about weighty issues of policy in the United States. At that time one of the therapists, Laura Chasin was a doctoral student of government with a special interest in the philosophy of John Dewey, who in the late 1800’s expressed his profound belief in expressing how democracy and ethical ideals of humanity were synonymous.

In the office with the others, Laura shared how she was particularly distressed by the chaos and ineffectiveness of public debates about abortion. Her colleagues Corky Becker, Dick Chasin and Sallyann Roth, along with researcher and editor Maggie Herzig, puzzled at how much was lost in the public shouting matches that passed for debate. The mutual understanding, restoration of trust and sheer humanity that was the bedrock of effective family therapy were utterly absent from the publicly televised conversations about some of our most critical social and political issues. What was common however, were disjointed policies, stalemate and a devolution of the social fabric in communities around the country, just when our democracy needed solutions most.

From the confines of those pivotal hours of discourse, the question the group considered was, “Could the practices of family therapy be engaged to build relationship and understanding, and restore trust among folks who were deeply divided on issues that were rooted in their core values?” That question motivated years of research and the development of the practices at the core of the Public Conversations Project, now Essential Partners.

In the last 28 years, the United States has seen a continuing rift between what passes as public discourse and the practices that have been developed to be effective in building and sustaining personal, direct relationships. Today as much as anytime since, the same question that brought our founders together is a source of dismay, concern, alarm or despair for people across the political and social spectrum.

At least as far back as Plato, the notion of public discourse has been engaged and debated in philosophical treatises. Questioning the effectiveness and relevancy of open dialogue is part of democratic ideals. Within a democratic system, the common person is assumed to have the right to engage in discussion about the realm of truth and justice. In that regard, which topics warrant engagement, and what qualifications ought one have to properly engage? If we are to have a system of government in which each person has a vote, it is assumed then that we can express freely, differences in ideas, opinions, world views. The free exchange of ideas, the ability to argue, debate and dialogue has been central to the democratic experiment — not just in forming public policy, but in considering what defines the common good.

The spirit of public, civilized debate that operates according to competing arguments that proceed rationally until there is an objective winner, has become a charming anachronism, especially in our current political arena. Persuasive strength of one side’s logic often pushes into the shadows the ideals of democratic discourse and goals. In the lead up to the 2016 election, there was much hand-wringing about the lack of reasoned argument and loose treatment of facts in the formal debates. Even the moderators were subject to personal attack from candidates. And then it was open season on everyone — candidates, moderators, audience members, on social media, on broadcast television and in public.

The issue we have today is not the lack of access to information – it is a lack of connection and trust. Added to our political polarization are alarming rates of afflictions borne of isolation and despair: rates of depression and anxiety have skyrocketed; addiction rates are escalating and, in the case of opioids, are now being declared epidemic; suicide rates increased by 24% from 1999-2014. Measured as cultural trends, these point to a deep need to relocate ourselves in relationship with caring others and with a sense of purpose and meaning that goes beyond the struggles within us. This can be accomplished through therapy, of course, but the practices of connection, relationship, trust and understanding need to be activated among us in community as well. After all, the wider definition of human community includes agreements despite conflicting perspectives.

“Apart from conversation, from discourse and communication, there is no thought and no meaning, only just events, dumb, preposterous, destructive.”  These words of John Dewey in 1922 seem to capture well the malaise of our times. We live a frustrating paradox: the many vehicles at our fingertips for pumping out information have not resulted in an increase in communication. The real interchange of ideas beyond lobbing insults or competing “facts” at one another has been the true casualty of our times. The advent of social media simply provided an accelerant.

While working on this article, in fact, I overheard another coffee shop patron discussing the news of the day with a companion: “I feel like I have so much to say and nowhere to say it,” he said, “I think I’ll open a Twitter account just to have somewhere to vent it all.” We are good at talking about those “dumb, preposterous, destructive” events, but lack the corresponding opportunities for the kind of discourse that makes meaning of those events and our relationship with them. It is only through conversation, that shared experience of knowing and being known, that we arrive at a sense of our purpose, and what comes next.

At Essential Partners, we believe our times demand a refreshed public discourse. Our approach rests on the fact that behind every belief is a person with a story. Our practices help to build a web of relationships that assumes difference and can remain connected even through deep disagreement. When we have a foundation in the honoring of one another’s humanity, a relationship built on the trust that our neighbor or political opponent comes at their view honestly, we can hold our disagreements alongside the fact of the others’ fundamental dignity. And then our passionate, principled differences remain grounded in the fact that we are mutually interdependent.

Conversation is the simple and profound act of sharing who we are with one another. It has been the primary mode of human connection for as long as humanity has existed. Connection between ideas and their implications in real lives. Connection between our pain and our joy: the recognition of the arc of human living that includes isolation, loss, despair and also exalted moments of the pleasure and privilege of being alive. Connection between our past, rife with wrongs done and wrongs done to us, and a future in which we demand and strive for better. The suffering of generations that is born anew with each tends to be given too short a story arc in our imaginations and in our societal awareness: our short memories are stunting not just our sense of history but our sense of compassion as well. Our ability to tell one another our stories – and tell them fully, truly, in all their complexity – is what builds a sense of the truth that honors the depth and breadth that those old philosophers may have been getting at.

In our current cultural moment, we hear constantly that people avoid or suppress the desire to be in this kind of conversation with folks who think or believe differently. The loss in this turning away, in this avoidance, is one that cannot be overstated. Because it confuses our political ideas with our humanity, and allows us to build destructive stereotypes of each other based on exaggerated differences. That practice, no matter how principled ones opposition is to the other side’s views, always leads to terrifying conclusions. The rampant conversation right now about whether one should entertain views that are “simply wrong and destructive” forgets that those views are held by people. We don’t get to cast fellow human beings to the wayside because their ideas are wrong to us, lest we too find ourselves on the wrong side of that equation. We can disagree with our opponents ideas and still hold a bedrock conviction in their humanity and their dignity. This has been the core outcome of our sustained dialogues among folks in leadership on different sides of the biggest divides.

In our pluralistic society we can never expect to be without difference and even conflict. In the world of conflict resolution we know that the process of moving through conflict is not about tying things up in a neat little bow, but about building practices that help us transform conflict in ways that are generative. Rather than imagining conflict is something to be avoided, suppressed, or expelled, we believe we can build a kind of public discourse that opens up the creative possibility when conflicting ideas meet. We can always learn something about ourselves and one another and realize a new truth: our ability to stay connected in the midst of our differences. These practices are critical to sustaining a healthy culture.

Ultimately, when people enter the public sphere with opinions and values informed by the deep, relational connection with others who believe differently, the whole quality of our public discourse can be transformed. Through this education and growth we can learn to embrace passionate views that sharply differ without dehumanizing our opponents.

Almost 30 years after the meeting between the founders of Essential Partners, we have come to a critical point in our self-evaluation of democratic ideas. If our collective social values are dependent on communication and dialogue, then this new norm can truly allow difference to flourish, while sharpening our understanding of how our beliefs, ideas, policies and actions affect others. And through all this, we can rebuild our democracy.

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

MetroQuest Hosts Facing Contention Webinar, Jan. 30th

Coming up at the end of January, NCDD member org MetroQuest will be hosting the webinar, Facing Contention – How to Detox Public Engagement; co-sponsored by NCDD, IAP2, and the American Planning Association (APA).  If you are looking to improve public engagement processes around controversial projects, then make sure you register ASAP to join the webinar.  We encourage you to read the announcement from MetroQuest below or you can find the original here.


MetroQuest Webinar: Facing Contention – How to Detox Public Engagement

Are you looking for effective ways to collect meaningful and constructive public input for controversial projects?

Tuesday, January 30th
11 am Pacific | 12 pm Mountain | 1 pm Central | 2 pm Eastern (1 hour)
Educational Credit Available (CM APA AICP)
Complimentary (FREE)

REGISTER HERE

Jeanette Janiczek from the City of Charlottesville with Jonathan Whitehurst and Sal Musarra from Kimley-Horn and Associates will discuss their success with an innovative approach to public involvement on the contentious Belmont Bridge Replacement project.

Numerous forces have combined recently to create an increasingly toxic and adversarial climate for public engagement. These patterns and their effects are being felt across the country and its planners and community engagement staff who increasingly find themselves on the front lines of this conflict. Finding ways to design and manage public engagement efforts to maintain a respectful and productive dialog and collect meaningful and constructive public input is more important than ever.

This highly-visual webinar will showcase the Belmont Bridge Replacement case study along with proven best practices, research findings, and practical tips to guide agencies towards the successful application of community engagement on hot button and contentious projects.

Attend this complimentary 1-hour webinar to learn how to …

  • Create public engagement process to mitigate tensions
  • Engage more people from a broader demographic to hear diverse viewpoints
  • Collect informed and constructive public input on contentious topics
  • Get past entrenched positions to understand community priorities
  • Work with opposing groups to create a more harmonious outcome

You can find the original version of this announcement on MetroQuest’s site at http://go.metroquest.com/Belmont-Bridge-Kimley-Horn-Webinar.

Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, we wanted to share this article from NCDD member org, Everyday Democracy‘s Executive Director, Martha McCoy. The article speaks on the painful realities of racism and how it continues to afflict the world around us. McCoy calls on us to better understand and address racism together in order to create a more just and true democracy. You can read the article in the post below or find the original on EvDem’s site here.


The Urgency of Now

EvDem LogoThe writings of Martin Luther King continue to urge me to clearer sight and greater urgency on issues of racial justice.

As a white girl growing up throughout the South – with most of my young years in Richmond, Virginia – I saw and was part of a genteel culture of segregation and inequality that supported discrimination and a systematic denial of opportunity for people of color. That experience was seared into my brain and soul. I was blessed that black faith leaders and teachers took the time to teach me when I was in my teens and early 20s. They helped me understand the meaning of what I was seeing.

Through the work of Dr. King and others, I began to see how racism affects all of us, not just people of color, and how it suffuses the very fabric of our democracy, to the detriment of all of us. That is why envisioning and fighting for a “New South” that would embrace racial justice – and indeed, a “new United States” – became an integral part of my life’s work.

As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his assassination, may those of us who have internalized his messages bring them to life.  For me, Dr. King is so much more than an historical figure. He affects me directly. The people he taught went on to teach me, and as a result I am working to pass those teachings along. He still speaks to our country today about the “fierce urgency of Now” – a line from his “I have a dream” speech that is less often quoted.

We have an urgent need to help all people in our country understand the ways in which racism sickens our souls, our relationships, and our body politic. We need to understand that racism is a “shape shifter” that uses culture, policies, institutions, and social media to perpetrate itself. But there is the hope that Dr. King described. He called on us to see racism clearly, understand its impact, address it together, and use the highest democratic principles to create true opportunity for all. The more of us who understand that and move forward to create a “New United States” that embraces racial justice, the more authentic our democracy will be, and the more our country will experience true greatness.

You can find the original version of this article on Everyday Democracy’s site at www.everyday-democracy.org/blog/fierce-urgency-now.