AllSides Updates: New Students Website & Is Civility Bogus?

In an era when the mainstream media is hyperpolarized, it is vital to our societal and democratic well-being to have access to news sources with more balanced viewpoints. AllSides provides news sources from across the center-left-right spectrum and works to improve civil discourse, and they just announced exciting news and posted a great article exploring civility!

The new website, AllSides for Schools, offers resources for students to improve their media literacy, build empathy, and have tools for engaging in civil discourse – read more about it in the post below! Listen to the archive of our TechTuesday here featuring AllSides’ student-focused programming, Mismatch. 

They also shared the article, Is Civility a Bogus Concept After All?, which explores the challenging arguments around civility on if it’s possible and how it can be best utilized. You can read the article below and find the original on AllSides site here.


Brand New AllSides for Schools Website!

America, we need to talk. Our democracy is increasingly media-driven and polarized. How can we prepare young people?

We’re so excited to announce the launch of our brand-new AllSides for Schools website, featuring updated tools and resources to help students gain the media literacy and critical thinking skills they need to improve our democracy long-term.

We worked hard to launch our new Schools site, and we can’t wait for you to see it.

Featuring a clean new design, AllSides for Schools features nearly a dozen resources to make media literacy fun and engaging. Students can take AllSides’ bias quiz to find out where they fall on the Left-Center-Right political spectrum, then browse our Balanced Dictionary to see how people across the political spectrum define, think and feel differently about the same term or issue.

Plus, our Mismatch program and Civil Conversation Guides ensure students get the guidance they need to build relationships with people who are different from them. And it works — a whopping 92% of students who tried our Mismatch program said they better understood another person or perspective after just one conversation.

Through a revealing look at today’s news media and memorable experiences of respectful dialogue, AllSides for Schools equips students to navigate the complexities of modern media, social networks (on and offline), and personal relationships.

Join the 12,000 teachers and students in 47 states who are already using our tools every week. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them.

You can check out the new Allsides for Schools website at www.allsidesforschools.org

Is Civility a Bogus Concept After All?

By Julie Mastrine

We built AllSides in part because we believe in the power of civility and civil discourse. AllSides helps people build relationships with those who are different from them, which we believe will ultimately improve our democracy.

But, could we be wrong? What if civility is actually a sham?

A TED Talk by political theorist Teresa Bejan raises this very question. Bejan studied and wrote a book about civility — particularly, religious tolerance in early modern England and America — because at the time, she thought that civility was, as she puts it, “bullsh*t.”

Yet how wrong she was.

After concluding her studies, Bejan learned “the virtue that makes un-murderous coexistence possible [in society] is the virtue of civility,” as she states in her TED Talk. “Civility makes our disagreements tolerable so that we can share a life together, even if we don’t share a faith — religious, political or otherwise.”

Still, she says, when most people talk about civility today, they are talking about something different than this. While civility is the virtue that “makes it possible to tolerate disagreement,” she says, “talking about civility [today] seems to be a strategy of disengagement — its like threatening to take your ball and go home when the game isn’t going your way.”

Often, she says, today’s “civility talk” is used as a way to “silence, suppress and exclude” those people we disagree with. (It’s a concept AllSides refers to as “tyranny of civility.”)

“Civility talk” or “tyranny of civility” gives people the feeling of the moral high ground while also allowing them to paint those they disagree with as offensive, or uncivil.

“Some people use “civility” when they want to communicate that certain views or people are beyond the pale, but they want to save themselves the trouble of actually making an argument,” Bejan says.

This is why some people (like Bejan in the past) roll their eyes at the call for civility.

“It seems like “civility talk” saves us the trouble of actually speaking to each other, allows us to talk past each other, signal our superior virtue, and let the audience know which side we’re on,” she says. In this way, “civility talk” can actually deepen divisions.

Instead of civility talk, Bejan argues we need what she calls “mere civility.” This type of civility is not the same thing as being respectful, because “we need civility precisely when we’re dealing with people we find it the most impossible to respect.” And it’s not the same as being nice, either — “because being nice means not telling people what you really think about them or their views.”

Mere civility means “speaking your mind, but to your opponent’s’ face, not behind her back…Being merely civil means pulling out punches but not landing them all at once.”

The point of civility, she says, is to allow us to “have fundamental disagreements without denying or destroying the possibility of a common life tomorrow with the people we think are standing in our way today.”

In this way, civility is closely related to courage.

“Mere civility is having the courage to make yourself disagreeable and to stay that way, but to do that while staying in the room and present to your opponents,” Bejan says. “If you’re talking about civility as a way to avoid an argument, as a way to isolate yourself in the more agreeable company of the like-minded who already agree with you, if you find yourself never actually speaking to anyone who fundamentally disagrees with you, you’re doing civility wrong.”

You can listen to Bejan’s TED Talk in full below.

You can read the original version of article on the Allsides Perspectives blog at www.allsides.com/blog/civility-bogus-concept-after-all.

Webinar Roundup Featuring Cities of Service and more!

Another roundup of webinars coming your way! We are thrilled to share the following list of webinars happening this week from the NCDD network, including NCDD members National Civic League and Living Room Conversations, and Cities of Service. We know there is a lot of great work going on in the field, and like we mentioned last week, we will be doing more roundup-style posts of webinars going on in order to keep up with all the great D&D happenings.

NCDD works to strengthen our network by being a resource center and hub for those passionate and working under the wide umbrella of dialogue, deliberation, and engagement work. We strive to support our coalition with posts such as this that elevate our members work and help to keep folks in our field informed on what’s going on.

We have a lot of vision for how NCDD can be of better service for our members, the D&D field, and our society. If you appreciate the work NCDD does and would like to support us (and invest in this vital field!), then please make a tax-deductible donation to NCDD today during our End-of-the-Year Fundraiser!

Do you have a webinar coming up that you’d like to share with the NCDD network? Please let us know by emailing me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org, because we’d love to add it to the list!


Webinar Roundup: Cities of Service, Living Room Conversations, and National Civic League

Cities of Service webinar – “How Tulsa’s Residents Increased the City’s Capacity to Address Public Problems”

Wednesday, December 12th
11am-12pm Pacific, 2-3pm Eastern

This spring, Cities of Service named the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma one of three winners of our Engaged Cities Award. Among several successful strategies to engage citizens, the city established the Urban Data Pioneers program made up of citizens committed to helping solve public problems by analyzing specific data.

This webinar will focus on a new city program called Civic Innovation Fellowship. This program takes citizen engagement in public problem solving even deeper. The program relies on citizens to shape the public problem, collect data around it, prototype solutions, and present the best ones to the city for budget considerations. James Wagner, City of Tulsa’s Chief of Performance Strategy and Innovation will talk through the process of the Civic Innovation Fellowship highlighting lessons and impact to date.

REGISTER: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3077404798140506637

Living Room Conversations webinar – “Media and Polarization”

Thursday, December 13th
3:30-5 pm Pacific, 6:30-8pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Media and Polarization. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • How does the media impact you, your friends, and your family?
  • How often do you talk politics with your friends and family?
  • Has polarization impacted your relationships? What happened?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Lewis G.

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/living-room-conversation-media-and-polarization/

National Civic League Webinar – “Engaging the Public in Fiscal Matters”

Wednesday, December 19th
11:30 am Pacific, 2:30 pm Eastern

Can the public really help local governments make solid budget decisions? Of course!

Two communities – Hampton, Virginia, and Placentia, California – will share how residents have contributed their views on budget matters. In Hampton, City Manager Mary Bunting will discuss the I-Value effort in Hampton. In Placentia, Rosanna Ramirez, the city’s director of administrative services, will talk about the city’s Citizens Fiscal Sustainability Task Force.

This webinar is part of the All-America City Promising Practices series and we shared more information about this offering earlier on the NCDD blog – read it here!

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/aac-promising-practices-webinar-engaging-the-public-in-fiscal-matters-tickets-53114553058

Webinar Roundup Featuring MetroQuest, Living Room Conversations, and more!

As the NCDD network continues to grow, we are coming across more and more exciting webinars that we are thrilled to share with you! Because we try to only post on the blog once a day, we are going to be doing more weekly roundups of webinars happening in the field in order to keep sharing more D&D events for you to tap into. This roundup includes several NCDDers that we encourage you to check out in the post below and register in the links provided. This week we are featuring MetroQuest (and are proud co-sponsors of this webinar!), PACE (this webinar is co-hosted with Media Impact Funders and includes our NCDD2018 sponsor, the Democracy Fund), Living Room Conversations (register ASAP for this one as the webinar is tomorrow) and the Zehr Institute.

Do you have a webinar coming up that you’d like to share with the NCDD network? Please let us know by emailing me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org, because we’d love to add it to the list!


Webinar Roundup: MetroQuest, Living Room Conversations, and PACE

MetroQuest webinar – “Transforming Public Apathy to Revitalize Engagement”

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

Apathy is all around us. Most people have become disengaged not only from politics, but also from the government agencies that make decisions that directly affect their quality of life. Increasingly, leaders are asking themselves “How do we boost public participation?”

Join TED Talk celebrity, Dave Meslin and MetroQuest Chief Engagement Officer, Dave Biggs as they explore proven techniques for building a culture of engagement. They encourage us to recognize apathy as a web of barriers that reinforce disengagement – and show us how we can work together to dismantle the obstacles to revitalize public engagement.

This in-depth journey will combine humour with many examples of best-practices. The strongest cities have learned how to tap into the collective creativity, passion, and knowledge of their constituents. This webinar will chart the course.

REGISTER: http://go.metroquest.com/Transforming-Public-Apathy-to-Revitalize-Engagement.html

Living Room Conversations webinar – “Peace Building in the United States”

Friday, December 7th
2-3:30 pm Pacific, 5-6:30 Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Peace Building in the United States. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • How do the “us and them” divisions impact you?
  • Who is us and who is them?
  • How many friends do you have in other groups?
  • What should we expect from our leaders in terms of healing divisions?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Shakira M.

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/online-living-room-conversation-peace-building-in-the-united-states

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement – “Re-Envisioning America’s Public Square”

PACE LogoMonday, December 10th
9 am Pacific, 12 pm Eastern

America’s public square–the institutions, networks, and spaces where Americans engage in the critical issues facing our democracy–is facing a paradigm shift. #Infogagement–a term that describes the recent collision of media, technology, and civic engagement–is fundamental to that shift. A combination of economic impacts, advances in technology, and social change are re-shaping how we access and engage with the information that connects us to civic life. To respond, we must come together to re-envision and rebuild our public square so it serves all members of our democracy.

This webinar will bring together thought leaders from across the Infogagement landscape to engage with participants in answering several questions:

  • What are some of the institutions and spaces that created our public square?
  • What caused the paradigm shift we’re experiencing today?
  • What kind of public square best serves all members of our democracy?
  • How can we reconfigure existing institutions and build new infrastructure to rebuild our public square to serve all members of our democracy?

Speakers:

  • Ashley Alvarado, Director of Community Engagement at KPCC
  • Sarah Alvarez, Founder and Lead Reporter, Outlier Media
  • Kristen Cambell, Executive Director, PACE =
  • Eli Pariser, Founder and CEO, Upworthy
  • Josh Stearns, Director, Public Square Program, Democracy Fund

REGISTER: www.pacefunders.org/webinar-re-envisioning-americas-public-square/

Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice – “Transforming Violence: Restorative Justice, Violent Crime, and an End to Mass Incarceration”

Wednesday, December 12th
1:30pm – 3:30pm Pacific, 4:30pm – 6:30pm Eastern
Guest: Danielle Sered
Host: Howard Zehr

Sered will discuss the use of restorative justice in cases of serious violent crime such as robbery and assault. Common Justice, the organization she leads, operates a restorative justice program that serves as an alternative to prison in the adult criminal justice system. Sered proposes that responses to violence should be survivor-centered, accountability-based, safety-driven, and racially equitable. She will explore the potential of restorative justice applications through each of those lenses, discuss the program’s partnership with the district attorney’s office, describe the violence intervention model the program employs, and invite conversation regarding the potential for more diversion of violence in the movement as a whole.

REGISTER: www.zehr-institute.org/webinars/transforming-violence.html

Huge Thank You to Our Giving Tuesday Champions!

Please join us in a HUGE round of applause for the individuals who donated to NCDD last week as part of Giving Tuesday! It is thanks to these incredible champions of dialogue and deliberation that we were able to raise almost $3,300! We recognize you have a lot of great organizations to support on Giving Tuesday and so we are even more humbled and grateful for the support. NCDD is a small operation and we truly mean it when we say, that the Coalition thrives because of support like this! Thank you so much to the following folks for their generous contributions…

Paula Atkinson
Lisa Beutler
Ulf Bley
Barbara Brown
Martin Carcasson
Susan Stuart Clark
Lark Corbeil
Cobie DeLespinasse
Linda Denton
Julie Marett Forbush
Michael Freedman
Cheryl Graeve
Ellen Griffin
Sandy Heierbacher
Jacob Hess
Peggy Holman
Betty Knighton
Mette Kreutzmann
Jen Lade
Steve Lee
Diane Miller
Avril Orloff
Bill Potapchuk
Jeff Prudhomme
Bettye Pruitt
Christine Plourde Reed
Christine Whitney Sanchez
Carol Scott
Landon Shultz
Bruce Schuman
Stephen Silha
Lisa Singh
Jim Snow
Helen Spector
Allan Steiner
Gail Stone
Mary Thompson
Vicki Totten
Linda Urban
Jay Vincent
Wendy Willis

Thank you all so much! We love you!!

In addition to how phenomenal the D&D field is in general, #NCDD2018 was an incredible opportunity to convene hundreds of amazing people dedicated to furthering dialogue and deliberation, which left us absolutely inspired and positively fired up for the new year! We here at NCDD have some really exciting goals in store for 2019 and we can’t wait to share them with you – so stay tuned to the NCDD blog!

New Resource & Webinar on Combating Bias in Schools

Addressing incidents of bias when they come up can be challenging, especially when they happen in schools. NCDD member org, Public Agenda, just released their new guide, “Addressing Incidents of Bias in Schools” to support having these conversations (which can be downloaded for free on their site here). There will also be a free webinar on addressing bias in schools this coming Wednesday, December 5th from 3-4pm Eastern, 12-1 Pacific – which you can register for here. You can read this announcement below and find the original version on Public Agenda’s site here.


Ways to Combat Bias in Schools: A New Resource

There’s a growing concern about discrimination and hate crimes taking place across the country. While incidents of bias can occur anywhere, it’s especially troubling when it happens in our schools. Discussing race and discrimination can be difficult for the most seasoned of professionals, however, that discomfort should not prevent important conversations from taking place.

Join Matt Leighninger and Nicole Cabral of Public Agenda for a one-hour webinar where attendees will be armed with the tips and strategies they need to facilitate safe, illuminating and productive conversations on incidents of bias. Matt and Nicole will pull from the newly-released discussion guide, “Addressing Incidents of Bias in Schools: A guide for preventing and reacting to discrimination affecting students” to provide a framework for this virtual conversation that will include advice on how to use the guide in classrooms, staff meetings, afterschool programs, and schoolwide events.

Date: Wednesday, Dec. 5 – 3:00 pm ET

Guest Speaker: Nicole Cabral, associate director of public engagement, Public Agenda
Moderator: Matt Leighninger, vice president of public engagement, Public Agenda

To register for this free webinar and to receive updates leading up to the event, please  is serving only as the host for this presentation. The content was created by the sponsor. The opinions expressed in this webinar are those of the sponsor and do not reflect the opinion of or constitute an endorsement by Editorial Projects in Education or any of its publications.

Closed-captioning is available for this event. On the date of the event, you can log in as early as 15 minutes before the start of the webinar. Open the “Closed-Captioning” link from the “resource list” (located at the bottom of the console) to access Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART). A transcript will also be available for download from the resource list within three business days after the event.

You can find the original version of this announcement on Public Agenda’s site at www.publicagenda.org/pages/ways-to-combat-bias-in-schools-a-new-resource.

Exciting New Book on 30 Years of Participatory Budgeting

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


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

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

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

We lift up the biggest lessons below…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donate here to help PB grow.

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

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

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

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


Building a Team to Invest in Democracy

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

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

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

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

Building a healthier democracy together

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

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

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

Our Commitment to the Field

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

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

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

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

Rural Lessons on Weaving Civic Fabric

NCDD member Public Agenda recently reposted an article on their blog that talks about the ways in which rural America is a great incubator and educator of civil society. The original article shares five lessons that rural communities can teach on how to form and maintain a civil society, and they illustrate this point through the use of a magic carpet analogy. In order to make society fly, we need to work together to weave the carpet – but in smaller rural areas, people often have to take on several civic roles to repair the carpet along the way. You can read the article below and find the original version on PA’s site here.


What Rural America Can Teach Us About Civil Society

When one thinks about “community engagement” or “public participation” the image is often of a neighborhood meeting, or a public hearing. Implicitly, the background setting is a town or city.

I’m glad to highlight analysis by Allen Smart and Betsey Russell about What Rural America Can Teach Us about Civil Society.

Allen is leading a project at Campbell University to identify, align, and energize effective rural philanthropy around the country. Betsey is a philanthropy writer and researcher, currently developing a series of case studies about successful rural funding approaches.

Smart and Russell focus on dispelling stereotypes of rural America.

There is a popular, longstanding perception (among urban folk) that rural America is somehow separate from the rest of us…. Seen either as one large, poorly educated and impoverished backwater (a rural dystopia as in the film Deliverance), or a self-segregated, agrarian utopia…. (À la the sitcom “Green Acres”). Post 2016, another frame has emerged: that of rural America as an angry white mob that votes counter to its own interests.

Their nice metaphor is of a magic flying carpet:

We believe civil society exists when people who live in a defined geographic proximity work cooperatively—even when they strongly disagree with or dislike one another—to sustain mutually beneficial conditions. Think of civil society as a magic flying carpet that, to hold a community aloft, must contain many different fibers.

Five lessons are derived from their experience with rural community engagement and philanthropy. Two highlights:

Civil society is rooted in actions, not words.

…while some urban researchers, thinkers, and pundits may spend time developing and analyzing theories about civil society, people in rural communities are spending time imagining and incubating the “real-world” conversations, partnerships, mutual understandings, and trust necessary to create it.

Civil society can become a bastion of the privileged.

In many cases, civil society in rural communities has been controlled by a few, much to the detriment of the whole…. Those in power are quick to serve on boards, run for office, donate to local organizations, and speak their minds. While this may ensure some consistency in leadership for civil society, the downside is that this small group of people ultimately control the community….Fortunately, rural communities can change this dynamic to foster civil society.

To find out about the other three lessons, here’s their August 2018 post. which is part of a partnership between  and the nonprofit group Independent Sector called the Civil Society for the 21st Century series.

This blog was originally posted on Community Engagement Learning Exchangement — a University of North Carolina School of Government blog.

You can find the original version of this article on Public Agenda’s site at www.publicagenda.org/blogs/what-rural-america-can-teach-us-about-civil-society.

Common Ground for Action Dates in November & December

For those looking to get more experience with the Common Ground for Action (CGA) forums, there are several forums and open practice sessions happening throughout November and December. CGA is an online platform from NCDD member orgs, the National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation, to be used in conjunction with the NIFI issues guides and hold space for participants to deliberate on that specific issue. Forums will be held on a wide range of subjects, so we encourage you to learn more about the offerings and register to join! You can read the announcement in the post below and find the original information on NIFI’s site here.


Register to Join an Online Forum – November and December Dates Available

The Kettering Foundation (KF) and the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) are convening online Common Ground for Action (CGA) forums in November and December— these are great opportunities to share with people you’d like to experience a deliberative forum: teachers who might want to use deliberation in the classroom, partners on an issue who are new to forums.  Please share this post widely with your networks and on social media.

Register below to participate in any of the following CGA forums.

Common Ground for Action Open Forum Series:

What Should We Do About the Opioid Epidemic?  Register
Thursday November 1 @ 1:30p ET/10:30am PDT

Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome? What Should We Do?  Register
Tuesday November 13th @ 12:00pm ET/9:00am PDT

Changing World of Work: What Should We Ask of Higher Education?  Register
Monday November 26th @ 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PDT

Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want?  Register
Wednesday December 5th @ 1:00pm ET/10:00am PDT

America’s Energy Future: How Can We Take Charge?  Register
Saturday December 15th @ 6:00pm ET/3:00pm PDT

November and December Common Ground for Action moderator practice sessions on Fridays. Register to join by signing up here!

This is an open practice session for new and seasoned Common Ground for Action online deliberation moderators. We will play around with features, workshop deliberative questions, and get practice moderating a robust online deliberative forum.

  • November 2nd @ 12p ET
  • November 9th @ 12p ET
  • November 16th @ 12p ET
  • November 30th @ 12p ET
  • December 7th @ 12p ET
  • December 14th @ 12p ET

You can find the original version of this announcement on NIFI’s site at www.nifi.org/en/register-join-online-forum-november-and-december-dates-available.

Large Grant Available for Dialogues on Experience of War

Veteran’s Day offers us a chance to be intentional in our gratitude to those individuals who have served our country and honor the freedom they provided because of their service and sacrifice. Which is part of why we were eager to share this funding announcement for a $100K grant available that is geared toward veterans (but the application is due soon!). The National Endowment for the Humanities is offering up to $100,000 to support discussion programs designed to reach veterans and active military on the experience of war. The application is due November 15, so make sure you submit yours ASAP and share with your networks! You can find the announcement below and read the original on the NEH site here.


Dialogues on the Experience of War

The National Endowment for the Humanities offers the Dialogues on the Experience of War program as part of its current initiative, Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War. The program (Dialogues) supports the study and discussion of important humanities sources about war, in the belief that these sources can help U.S. military veterans and others think more deeply about the issues raised by war and military service. Dialogues is primarily designed to reach military veterans; however, men and women in active service, military families, and interested members of the public may also participate.

The program makes awards of up to $100,000 to support…

  • the convening of at least two sustained discussion programs for no fewer than fifteen participants; and
  • the creation of a preparatory program to recruit and train program discussion leaders (NEH Discussion Leaders).

Preparatory training and discussion programs may take place in veterans’ centers, at public libraries or cultural centers, on college and university campuses, and at other community venues. The discussion programs should comprise multiple meetings that are long enough to allow participants to engage in deep and inclusive discussion.

Grant Snapshot

Maximum award amount: $100,000
Open to: Organizations
Expected output: Curriculum, Community Partnerships, Discussion Groups, Facilitator Training
Period of performance: Twelve- to twenty-four months

Application available September 26, 2018
Draft due October 10, 2018
Application due November 15, 2018
Expected notification date April 1, 2019
Project start date May 1, 2019

Potential Resources for Dialogues on the Experience of War Projects

War, military service, patriotism, pacifism, and civic duty are themes that have permeated the great works of history, literature, philosophy, and art that will form the basis of Dialogues on the Experience of War discussion programs. From the Standard of Ur to the Book of Deuteronomy, to Herodotus, Thucydides, Sun Tzu, the Mahabharata, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas, the subject of war—its causes and effects, and the experience of soldiers, sailors, civilians, and families—has animated the works of poets, philosophers, historians, artists, and theologians of the ancient and medieval world.

The same is no less true in the modern world, in which great questions about war and military service have commanded sustained attention in literary, historical, artistic, and philosophical sources. Powerful works emerged from the wars of the last three centuries. Consider, for example, the writings of Carl von Clausewitz and Henry David Thoreau; poetry by Rudyard Kipling, Wilfred Owen, Anthony Hecht, and Brian Turner; histories by Russell Weigley, Drew Gilpin Faust, John Keegan, and Laura Hillenbrand; plays by Alice Dunbar-Nelson and David Rabe, artworks by Käthe Kollwitz, Pablo Picasso, and Stanley Spencer; Civil War ballads and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony (dedicated to the city of Leningrad in 1941).

To this list may be added many powerful cinematic treatments, including La Grande Illusion (France, 1937), The Best Years of Our Lives (United States, 1946), Night and Fog (France, 1955), The Cranes Are Flying (USSR, 1957), Hell in the Pacific (United States, 1968), Das Boot (Germany, 1981), The Pianist (Poland, 2002), Turtles Can Fly (Iraq/France/Iran, 2005), and The Messenger (United States, 2009).

The works listed here are offered only as examples. None of them needs to be included on proposed syllabi.

Download Application Materials

Dialogues on the Experience of War Guidelines (PDF)

Dialogues on the Experience of War Guidelines (DOC)

Dialogues on the Experience of War Grants.gov application package

Budget Resources

Budget Form, September 2018 (MS Excel)

Dialogues on the Experience of War Sample Budget, 2018 (PDF)

Program Resources

Form for Submitting a Preliminary Sketch of a Dialogues on the Experience of War Proposal (MS Word)

Dialogues on the Experience of War Frequently Asked Questions, 2018 (PDF)

List of recent grants in this program

DUNS Number Requirement

Sample Application Narratives

Governors State University, War Memory and Commemoration in the Humanities (PDF)

University of Florida, War and the Everyday Life of Combatants (PDF)

Minnesota Humanities Center, Echoes of War (PDF)

Touchstones Discussion Project, Comparing the Returns Home of Homer’s Odysseus and Modern Soldiers (PDF)

You can find the original version of this and where to register at www.neh.gov/grants/education/dialogues-the-experience-war.