NCDD Joins Coalition in Launching National Survey on the American Dream

In an era of political divide and confusion, we can learn a lot about what is happening if we slow down and ask people how their thoughts and feelings about the issues that seem to divide us most are changing.

That is why NCDD is proud to announce that we’ve joined a national, nonpartisan coalition that is launching the “What’s Your American Dream?” survey. This survey will ask people across the US to express their values and goals around the issues they see as most vital, and deliver the results to lawmakers. We think that an effort like this can help guide the nation’s leaders – as well as dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement practitioners –  to understand Americans’ goals for this time and then devise the tactics to achieve those goals.

The survey grew out of discussions with former members of Congress and everyday Americans, all frustrated with being out of touch with each other. The coalition rolling out the “What is Your American Dream?” survey – comprised of 25 universities, media outlets, organizations spanning the political spectrum, and spearheaded by the team at TheChisel – has the potential to reach 30 million Americans.

NCDD joined this growing coalition because we believe that the survey is a great tool to help D&D practitioners in our network gain clearer insights on what the people we’re engaging are really thinking and how they’re prioritizing for different issue areas, which will help our field do more impactful work that is responsive to the needs in our communities. That’s why we’re supporting the survey and encouraging our network to participate & share the survey to your own networks!

The seven-week survey is being hosted on TheChisel.com, a unique nonpartisan public discussion platform that encourages people across the US to step beyond political slogans and platforms to share what matters to them, their loved ones, and communities.

Their survey uses elements of public deliberation to help distill Americans’ shared dream in seven important areas: Economy; Social Justice; Liberty and Regulation; Health, Education, and Care; Services; Foreign Affairs; and Governance. One of these themes will be featured each of the seven weeks that the survey is open. Unlike traditional surveys, the American Dream survey allows participants to share their stories with fellow Americans, or even add issues important to them that they think should be part of the conversation. It also features whimsical graphics and game-like navigation, is easy to use and understand, and appeals to all ages – whether they are 18 or 99 year olds.

TheChisel and the coalition will share the survey’s findings with the media and hand-deliver the report to the President, Cabinet, Members of Congress, Supreme Court, and state governors once it’s completed.

The “What’s Your American Dream?” survey launched on May 16 and will be open to the public for free until July 4, 2017, so be sure to participate soon! You can find the survey at www.thechisel.com/americandream. We encourage NCDD members and our broader network to take the survey yourself, share it with your followers, or even consider signing on to the coalition, which already includes other NCDD member orgs!

More about the Coalition
University partners include University of Missouri School of Journalism, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, University of Mary Government and Political Philosophy Department, University of the Pacific Political Science Department.

Other partners include: ALL-IN Campus Democracy Challenge, AllSides, Associated Collegiate Press, Diplomat Books, Future 500, Heartfelt Leadership Institute, Hope Street Group, Independent Voter Network, Inyo County Clerk-Recorder, JGArchitects, Living Room Conversations, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, National Speech and Debate Association, ReConsider Media, The TAI Group, Take Back Our Republic, TheChisel, The Democracy Commitment, The Policy Circle, Wellville, and The Women’s Debate.

More about TheChisel
TheChisel is a nonpartisan website offering citizens a unique platform to engage in a dialogue with experts from both sides of the aisle. It enables citizen voices to be heard over the noise of special interest groups and media spin. On TheChisel’s proprietary discussion platform, every American can engage and help revise public policy proposals related to issues important to America’s future. These proposals are developed by nonpartisan organizations and bipartisan coalitions. With TheChisel’s help, Americans’ views will educate civic leaders and guide their policy-making.

Addressing the Problem of Separation through Dialogue

In these divided times, we wanted to share an encouraging piece that NCDD member organization Public Agenda recently posted on their blog. It summarizes insights gained from focus groups PA convened which demonstrated something our field knows – when people from different perspectives engage in dialogue, they realize they aren’t so different or separate after all. We encourage you to read PA’s piece below or find the original version here.


What Discussing Polarizing Topics Like Inequality Exposes

After a divisive election season we continue to see stark evidence of polarization and conflict in our society. But also – and this is less frequently reported on – we see a desire to bridge gaps and find common ground.

Polarization is about more than simply holding differing or even opposing views. These days, it is also about how people with a certain view are, by choice or circumstance, increasingly isolated from those who think differently. The interaction of diverse views is valuable, but the trend of increasing separation of and decreasing interaction between those who hold opposing views is troubling and potentially consequential. The less we interact with those who think differently, the more hardened our views tend to become, and the more apt we are to vilify one another and rely on stereotypes, which in turn further divide us.

Such political polarization is on the rise. While this is much more extreme among political leaders, there are also troubling signs that it is becoming more true among the public. According to a 2014 Pew survey of over 10,000 Americans, Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the past two decades. And, among those who hold “consistently liberal” or “consistently conservative” views, the majority of each group report that most of their close friends hold their same views.

However, it is important to not gloss over the rest of the story. According to the same study:

These sentiments are not shared by all – or even most – Americans. The majority do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views. Most do not see either party as a threat to the nation. And more believe their representatives in government should meet halfway to resolve contentious disputes rather than hold out for more of what they want.

And while those with more “consistently held” ideological views are more likely than others to say it is important to them to live in a place where most people share their political views, still only 28% of Americans overall say this is important to them. Growing numbers of Americans also say racial diversity in the United States is important to them: in another Pew survey from this month, 64% of Americans said an increasing number of people from different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in the U.S. makes the country a better place to live, an increase from 56% who said so in August 2016.

When we convened groups of ideologically, racially, and socioeconomically diverse Americans in six large and small urban centers across the country to discuss the economy, inequality, and opportunity, people were clearly grateful for the exposure to different viewpoints and people.

Sitting in on each of these groups, I knew that the participants were a diverse yet accurate cross-section of their surrounding community. I knew there were Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; wealthy and unemployed people; and people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds sitting together at the table. Some of these differences were evident to our participants, others less so.

This meant that participants had many valuable moments of listening to, and learning from, people with very different backgrounds and experiences from their own. And it meant that when consensus emerged within the group, despite the diversity of views, it could be revelatory and important.

One example of learning from others’ experiences involved conversations about race and prejudice. In our Cincinnati group, there was an exchange about whether racial prejudice that limited people’s job prospects was more problematic than other forms of prejudice, such as gender or age discrimination. While there was no clear resolution to the discussion, white respondents were clearly deeply affected by the following story told by a black woman:

Female: My first name is [considered typically black], and I got out of my master’s program and I looked for a job for months, and months, and months…. I redid my résumé and instead of putting my full name, I just put my first initial, then my last name. Voilà.

Moderator: How do you feel about that?

Female: It’s sad. It’s sad. I personally named my daughter a white-sounding name so that in the future, when she gets old enough to get a job, she can get a job because her name sounds white.

Male: Wow.

Female: I considered that when I named her. It’s sad.

Cincinnati-area resident; in her 30s; black; upper-income; Democrat

In our follow-up interviews with respondents several days after the group, a number of people said this story stayed with them, including two white males. To me, it seemed that if they had not been brought together for this research focus group, they might not have ever had such exposure to an experience like the one this woman shared.

A good example of the importance of finding consensus also came from a participant in our Cincinnati group, who was surprised to find he had common ground with another participant who was different from him on numerous counts:

Now, you know, she’s a young African American female and I’m a more senior white male and she’s working and I’m retired, and we still came out thinking the same way. I think that’s kinda cool. That doesn’t mean her and I were right or wrong it just means we thought the same on that. I tend to be a conservative person and this made me think other ways, you know, whether I agreed or not but it made me come up with other ways to look at things. And I liked that.

Cincinnati-area resident; in his 70s; white; upper-income; Republican

Diversity of viewpoints and experience is not the problem we are faced with, but rather the separation we have between those who hold those different views and have had those different experiences, and the lack of ways to bring people of differing views together to gain perspective from one another. You can read more about these focus groups and the conversations between participants in the research report, The Fix We’re In.

You can find the original version of this Public Agenda blog piece at www.publicagenda.org/blogs/what-discussing-polarizing-topics-like-inequality-exposes.

Key Lessons on Community-Police Relations from APV2017

Last week, NCDD member orgs the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute hosted the 2017 “A Public Voice” forum that convened D&D practitioners with congressionl staff to talk about how to improve community-police relations. For those of you who couldn’t tune in to the livestream of the event, we wanted to share this insightful write up of the event’s highlights from our friends at Everyday Democracy below. We encourage you to read their piece below or find the original here. And if you’d like to watch the whole 90-minute recording of APV 2017, you can find links to it here.


A Public Voice 2017: Safety & Justice

EvDem LogoHighly-publicized police shootings, especially of unarmed black boys and men, have highlighted a national crisis of public safety and justice. These devastations lead us to ask how we can reduce crime as well as police violence, and how we can balance security and liberty. The National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) recently published a Safety & Justice guide and is moderating forums throughout the country to help people grapple with these issues and work towards solutions.

“A Public Voice,” the Kettering Foundation and NIFI’s “annual exploration of public thinking on key issues,” held on May 9 in Washington, D.C., provided the opportunity for Kettering to share with policymakers their insights from the 150 Safety & Justice forums held so far. Senior Associate Leslie King represented Everyday Democracy.

In his opening address, David Mathews, President of the Kettering Foundation, declared “There is no one in this city, no matter how important they are, that can answer questions of judgement – we have to do that.” He characterized the event as part of the work to bridge divides between the people and the government of America.

At tabletop discussions, NIFI moderators, deliberative practitioners, Congressional staffers and federal officials discussed how people are thinking and talking about issues of safety and justice. Those watching the livestream of the event had the chance to listen in to one of those discussions. Read on for insights from the conversation.

A policing perspective

“We in policing have to demystify policing,” one participant remarked, and went on to describe a 70 year-old woman who only just learned about the concept of community policing after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown. Part of demystifying the profession, according to him, requires acknowledging when someone has done wrong – otherwise, he said, the public assumes what police are thinking.

Talking about Safety & Justice leads to conversations about, and capacity to address, other issues

Leslie King pointed out that in dialogues about community-police relations, participants invariably end up talking about related issues such as employment, housing, and education. Having dialogues and organizing around community-police relations, she added, ends up building community capacity to deal with other issues. Community members realize they have agency and that government officials can’t simply dictate solutions.

People want to address root causes

In an online Safety & Justice forum, a representative from Kettering shared that the most-agreed-upon point was the need to invest more in education in communities with high rates of crime. He saw this as evidence of people’s desire to address root causes of violence and crime.

Gail Kitch, who serves on the NIFI’s board, reported on common themes from the initial Safety & Justice forums. These included:

  • People feel we urgently need to increase understanding and mutual respect between police and people of color. Popular suggestions for achieving this included police making connections with youth, and police going through cultural and racial bias trainings.
  • Participants took responsibility for the issue. Many identified community building and improving relationships within the community as tools to reduce crime.
  • Many expressed the belief that it is unsustainable for police to deal with mental illness and drug-related issues.
  • People expressed a desire to address root problems such as unemployment, poverty, and inequality.

In closing, Mathews described Kettering’s work as “awakening the capacities of people to deliberate with one another.” He left participants and viewers with a challenge he called daunting, but not hopeless: “to build on what grows” – a quote he credited to J. Herman Blake. Every person has the capacity for good judgement, he said — the job of people in the deliberative field, then, must be to nurture that ability.

You can find the original version of this Everyday Democracy blog post at www.everyday-democracy.org/news/public-voice-2017-safety-justice.

Share Power through Public Participation… Or Else

As NCDD reflects on D&D in “flat” organizations during today’s Confab Call, we found a special appreciation for this insightful blog piece from NCDD member org The Participation Company. In it, TPC leader Debra Duerr writes on how conventional public participation still assumes a top-down model where the regular people address public officials who are really listening. She reflects on how the assumptions of that model are no longer working as power is ever-more concentrated out of the reach of everyday citizens and what might happen if we can’t facilitate, or even force, power sharing through real participation. We encourage you to read her provocative piece below or find the original here.


Revolutionary Conflict Resolution Styles

These are challenging times for us public participation practitioners. Our life’s work is conflict management and dispute resolution, plus adjusting to the various conflict resolution styles. To support this, we’ve built some nice, neat boxes that contain tools for working with people in most of the ‘real world’ situations encountered over the last 40 years. But, boy, the real world has changed. It seems there are no more boxes and no more rules.

The framework developed by the International Association for Public Participation to encompass the range of ways people can impact decisions is our ‘Spectrum’ (IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum). Says the organization, “IAP2’s Spectrum of Public Participation was designed to assist with the selection of the level of participation that defines the public’s role in any public participation process. The Spectrum shows that differing levels of participation are legitimate and depend on the goals, time frames, resources, and levels of concern in the decision to be made.”

Here’s the big But: This whole paradigm, including the ‘empower’ construct, implies that there’s an identifiable decision maker listening to what the public has to say. It’s an entirely top-down model. There are reasons why the top-down approach has worked for a long time, given the way worldwide democracy has developed over the past several decades. And there are reasons why it isn’t working anymore; the challenge is trying to figure out what those reasons are, and how to address them.

Everyone has conflicts that are eventually resolved through a variety of conflict resolution styles. A little history is helping me think about this. The bookends, for me, are the events and political climate of the early 1970s (when public involvement did not exist as a discipline) and the events and political climate of January 2017. So many parallels…

At the beginning of this phase, I wrote my thesis on Structural Constraints on Citizen Participation in Planning. It all had to do with Power: who has it, who doesn’t, how can power-sharing be forced, and what’s the role of professional facilitators in this process. In the intervening years, public participation in government (and even private industry) planning and decision processes has been recognized as not only legitimate, but crucial to implementing anything. To accommodate this, we’ve built structures in which citizens expect to have a voice, know how to make that voice heard, and expect that somebody’s listening – this is the ‘promise to the public’ that IAP2 honors. It’s been a long, slow process of building trust.

Breaking down that trust hasn’t taken nearly as long. It feels like it’s happened overnight – Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring, Brexit, a mind-blowing presidential election, backlash demonstrations in the streets. It’s clear that social movements have a life of their own, and they are certainly not initiated or approved by decision makers.

I believe the common theme, then as now, is still Power. The more power is concentrated within the walls of the citadel, the more citizens will be pounding on the gates. Listen to us! Let us in! We want a piece of this! Off with their heads!

So, what happens when large segments of the population feel that nobody’s listening? When conflict resolution styles and processes are not being followed or addressed? Revolution. I suggest that we put this thought on the table for dialogue and deliberation (as we P2 people are fond of promoting). If we can help create a way to channel the astounding energy and commitment of grassroots movements into the halls of power in a mutually constructive way, we’ll be heroes. We did it once; I think we can do it again … but it’s like eating an elephant.

Here’s some inspiration:

  • from St. Francis of Assisi – “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
  • from the seminal anthropologist of the 20th Century, Margaret Mead – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

You can find the original version of this blog post from The Participation Company at www.theparticipationcompany.com/2017/03/revolutionary-conflict-resolution-styles.

NCDDer Gives TEDx Talk on #BridgingOurDivides

Did you know that NCDD member Mark Gerzon did his own TED Talk recently?

We were proud to see Mark – the Founder and President of NCDD member org, the Mediators Foundation – speak at TEDxVail this past January about the need for our country to deepen the work of #BridgingOurDivides between the partisan left and right blocs. In his talk, he challenges us to take inspiration from the integration of the left and right parts of our own physiology as we consider the importance of going beyond partisanship.

We think Mark’s selection for this prestigious opportunity speaks to the power of the sorts of ideas that drive the work of NCDD. We encourage you to join us in congratulating Mark on the accomplishment, and check out his 11 minute talk below.

Join Kettering’s “A Public Voice” Event on Safety & Justice

In case you haven’t heard about it already, we want to encourage all of you in the NCDD network to mark your calendars for A Public Voice 2017 (APV) on Tuesday, May 9th from 1:30-3pm Eastern.

APV 2017 is the annual event hosted by NCDD member organizations the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute that brings together Congressional and agency staffers in Washington DC for a working meeting on the results of the deliberative forums that KF and NIFI have hosted across the nation on pressing public policy issues.

This year’s APV forum will focus on what was learned about the public’s feelings on community-police relations during the Safety & Justice forums held this year in communities across the country. And KF and NIFI will be livestreaming the Washington event via Facebook Live, so you are invited to particiapte by sending your comments on social media directly into the program.

Here’s how they describe the event:

At this year’s A Public Voice event in Washington, we’re trying something new. We will introduce congressional staffers to NIF forum convenors from their districts, and those convenors will explain the most unique and transformational moments from the deliberative forums in their communities. Our aim is to illustrate the unique value of these forums and the breadth of the network.

Which means, WE NEED YOU. Put May 9 from 1:30 to 3:00 pm on your calendar, because we’ll be livestreaming the Washington event via Facebook Live.

We encourage our network to join the APV event on Facebook to get updates as the event nears and share about it with your networks. You can learn more about A Public Voice 2017 by visiting www.apublicvoice.org and checking out NIFI’s Safety & Justice deliberative forum discussion guide here.

Journalists Convene Divide-Bridging Dialogue in Pacific NW

Recently, journalists from The Evergrey undertook an effort that provided an inspiring, real-life example of dialogue work that is #BridgingOurDivides, and we wanted to highlight it for our network. The group brought people from urban, liberal King County, WA together with people from rural, conservative Sherman County, OR to have conversations about politics and their perspectives. Not only did they avoid shouting mathes, but people acutally listened to and learned from each other.
We encourage you to read the excerpt below from the great write up about the trip below from one of the organizers, Mónica Guzmán of The Evergrey, and check out the full version here. You can also learn more by watching the recording of the live chat that The Evergrey hosted to debrief the trip, which you can find here.


Seattleites took a 10-hour road trip to cross a political divide. Here’s what happened

Sherman County, Oregon, sits just south of the Washington border, east of the Cascades. Fewer than 2,000 people live in its 831 square miles. Stand on one of the hills near Moro, the county seat, and you’ll see wheat fields all around – and maybe some tall wind turbines.

Sherman County has very little in common with Seattle and King County. And yet, we’re connected: It’s the nearest county to ours that voted exactly opposite us in the presidential election. While 74 percent of King County voters went for Clinton, 74 percent of Sherman County voters went for Trump.

So on Saturday, about 20 of us King County residents took a 10-hour road trip to pay the people of Sherman County a visit.

We called the trip “Melting Mountains: An Urban-Rural Gathering.” Sandy Macnab, a just-retired Sherman and Wasco County agricultural agent who planned the event with us, came up with the name. It refers to the snowmelt that runs down the mountains dividing the eastern and western parts of our states, nourishing the land below.

We like the metaphor. And though we know we can’t melt the political and cultural “mountains” that divide our two counties in an afternoon – red vs. blue, liberal vs. conservative, rural vs. urban – we figured we might help people take a first step…

We encourage you to read the full version of this piece by Monica Guzman of The Evergrey at www.theevergrey.com/took-10-hour-road-trip-cross-political-divide-heres-happened.

New NCDD Podcast Episode Featuring Bring it to the Table!

The latest episode of the NCDD Podcast is now live! You can find this on iTunes, SoundCloud and Google Play.

In this episode, NCDD Managing Director Courtney Breese speaks with Julie Winokur of Bring it to the Table. Julie is Producer and Director of Bring it to the Table, a project seeking to bridge political divides and break down partisanship through a documentary, webisodes, online platform and community engagement campaign. Julie speaks about her experiences filming the original documentary in 2012 (some of you saw the documentary at NCDD 2014!), as well as her more recent work bringing the film and table talks to college campuses. She also shares her reflections on the state of U.S. politics today and the opportunities she sees for us to come together through dialogue.

The NCDD podcast is a new format for leaders and practitioners from the D&D field to share their stories and ideas, as well as discuss opportunities and challenges in this work. The podcast will also help us to continue our conversation from the NCDD 2016 Conference about #BridgingOurDivides.

We invite you to listen to this episode and share your thoughts here, particularly about the opportunities you see for dialogue across political and other divides. In light of Julie’s story, what more can we be doing as individuals and dialogue & deliberation practitioners to bring people together across our differences? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Our thanks to Ryan Spenser for his continued help recording and editing these podcast episodes.

Please share this episode and the podcast links with others – and let Courtney (courtney@ncdd.org) know if you have any ideas for future episodes!

Reflections on Civic Courage & Bridging Our Divides

In these times, the work of #BridgingOurDivides continues to be one of the biggest contributions our field can make to the nation. But it takes a lot to do that difficult work. Today, we wanted to share a great piece by NCDD member Martha McCoy of Everyday Democracy reflecting on civic courage – what it means, why it’s important for bridging divides, and ideas for how to cultivate it. The piece also invites D&D practitioners to share your stories and thoughts about civic courage with EvDem, which we hope you’ll do. You can read Martha’s piece below or find the original version here.


Practicing Civic Courage in Our Time

EvDem LogoThe day after the election, we shared a piece by our board member Peter Levine, in which he called for civic courage. As division, uncertainty, and anxiety continue to grow, I find myself coming back to this important idea. When messages of fear become louder and more frequent, what does civic courage look like ? How can we practice it?

At difficult times throughout our history, many people have exercised civic courage. What kind of courage do we need to practice today? What will it take to advance a democracy that values the voice and participation of people of all racial and ethnic groups, economic means, creeds, ages, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, and walks of life?

Since Everyday Democracy is a national civic organization that focuses on providing ways to lift every voice, we have opportunities to work with and learn from civic practitioners and visionary leaders across the country. Here are a few lessons about civic courage we have drawn from their experiences:

Reach in

The work of strengthening democracy is ultimately collective, but it is alsoan “inside job.” Those whose words and actions touch us most deeply draw on their inner strength – often rooted in their faith in God and grounded in deeply held beliefs, such as a strong sense of compassion and justice.

Many leaders we work with spend time apart – in quiet retreats, with others of their faith tradition, in nature, in poetry, in meditation – so that they can enter more fully into the work of strengthening voice, participation, and justice. They show us that when we take the time to listen to and nurture our own longings for wholeness and connection, we are better able to find the courage to operate from our best selves and to persist through great challenges.

Reach out

It requires courage to connect with and seek to understand others, especially those who have experiences and beliefs different from our own. As our politics become more prone to personal attack, overgeneralization, and stereotyping (“all conservatives believe this, all progressives believe that”), it is becoming even more difficult to open our hearts and minds. But it is possible. In our work, we have heard thousands of people tell their own stories, speak from their own values and experiences, listen deeply to others’ stories and concerns, and find human and civic connection.

The willingness to speak honestly and listen to others creates the empathy that is essential to democracy. Empathy helps us put ourselves in another’s shoes, understand the meaning of justice, and form relationships across difference. It enables us to be hard on ideas but not on people. It helps us make conflict productive. It prevents the “us vs. them” that is at the root of violence. It provides the foundation for working together, even when some disagreement (inevitably) remains. It makes it possible to stand for our convictions, even while we make room for others to stand for theirs.

Stand up

It takes courage to use our voices to stand against anti-democratic behaviors and practices and to stand for more democratic ways of governing ourselves. Speaking out against racism is one of the most powerful examples of “standing up.”

People are learning that racism goes well beyond bigotry. Racism is a web of attitudes, practices, and policies that treats people of color as inferior and creates unfair disadvantages. It has been a primary impediment to democratic practice since our very founding. And it has laid the foundation for other forms of disadvantage and inequity – such as those based on income level, education, gender, age, religion, ability, language, immigration status, and sexual orientation.

The more people understand the true nature of racism, the more they understand that it affects all of us – people of all colors, ethnicities, and income levels. Since our society provides very few ways to learn about this, it can be difficult for many to recognize those times when racism is being used to divide us from each other.

Today, growing numbers of people of all backgrounds are demonstrating civic courage by standing up to name the effects of structural racism and call for racial justice. People of color and white people are showing that it is possible to use a clearer understanding of racial justice to strengthen their advocacy for all kinds of justice and their efforts to bring all kinds of people into dialogue and public problem solving. And growing numbers of white people are showing the power of “standing with.”

Create spaces for democratic participation

We work with hundreds of leaders who bring people together across all kinds of divides for honest, sometimes difficult, conversations that are organized to lead to action and change. Such conversations allow people of all backgrounds and views to build trust and create solutions to public problems.

It takes civic courage and skill to build a welcoming public space where people of all backgrounds and views can share honestly and listen deeply, especially in the face of so much division. It takes courage to take part in dialogue, to sit down with others, especially when messages of distrust and fear bombard us daily. And it takes courage for elected leaders at all levels to sit down with everyday people and commit to listening to them.

Yet, all of this is possible. Diverse coalitions of community groups, grass-roots leaders, and public officials are creating opportunities for all kinds of people to:

  • speak honestly and listen deeply to each other
  • find their own voices and leadership potential
  • dispel stereotypes
  • build relationships of trust that can nourish and sustain civic courage
  • deepen their understanding of the nature of public problems and the roots of inequities
  • explore each other’s views and find shared concerns
  • consider a range of possible public solutions
  • make recommendations to policymakers
  • and develop action priorities and plans they can carry out together.

We and many of our partners are working toward a society in which these opportunities and practices become routine – in the ways we relate to each other, strengthen community, solve public problems, and make public decisions.

In fact, that is what “everyday democracy” would look like.

Cultivate hope

The late civil rights leader Vincent Harding once famously asked: “Is America possible?” He wondered whether it was possible to create a multi-racial democracy that works for all people.  His answer: “Yes, but only as we make it so.” Harding practiced civic courage in his own life, and then he shared his stories and lessons with many young people. He understood that advancing democracy was a multi-generational journey for the long haul, and that each of us can (and must) contribute.

At Everyday Democracy, we are committed to making America possible, to creating an authentic democracy that works for all. We stand against fear and for hope. We stand against demonizing others and for encouraging the voices and participation of all. We stand against implicit and explicit bias in ourselves and others; we stand for understanding and attending to the ways that structural racism has shaped our relationships with each other and how we govern ourselves.

There is great power in sharing stories of courage and hope and of how you are using these principles and values in your communities and in your work. It is possible for all of us to embrace civic courage by working to create positive change – in ourselves, our relationships, our institutions, and our systems.

Please share your stories and thoughts with us:

  • What does civic courage mean to you in this time?
  • What does it look like?
  • What are you doing to exercise it?
  • What are you struggling with?
  • What resources are you calling on?
  • What are you learning?

Please send your stories, thoughts, and photos to us at naflalo@everyday-democracy.org, and check back for updates from around the country. We stand with you as you take this important work forward. In this challenging time, your commitment, and work are vital. Together we will make America possible.

You can find the original version of this Everyday Democracy piece at www.everyday-democracy.org/news/practicing-civic-courage-age-civic-anxiety.

Capturing Lessons from the Journalism-D&D Confab Call

Last week, NCDD and Journalism That Matters (JTM) co-hosted a special Confab Call between journalists and public engagement practitioners, and it was an incredible discussion. We had just shy of 70 practitioners, journalists, and others from our network who participated, along with some distinguished guests.

Confab bubble imagePeggy Holman and Michelle Ferrier of JTM kicked us off with a discussion of some of the amazing potential of more meaningful collaboration between the D&D world and journalism professionals, then we launched into examples of what’s already been happening. Kyle Bozentko of the Jefferson Center and 45-year journalism veteran Doug Oplinger shared stories of how they collaborate to help Ohio journalists rebuild public trust in the press. Betty Knighton shared about how the W. Virginia Center for Civic Life has partnered with public broadcasting groups to help regular people explore the interconnections between hot current issues. We also discussed how journalists can provide a much-needed “community listening infrastructure” for public officials and many other critical topics in our break out group discussions.

If you missed the call, you missed an exciting and thought-provoking conversation. But don’t worry – we recorded it, and you can hear (and see) the whole thing again by checking out the recording below or here. You can also follow along with what was happening in the live chat during the call by downloading the saved conversation here.

We know that we only scratched the surface on this call, and that the conversation about how we can strengthen our field’s connection to the power of the media world will continue to percolate over the coming months and years.

If you want to delve deeper into this topic, we highly encourage you to register to attend JTM’s Elevate Engagement Un-Conference this May 18th-21st in Portland, OR where journalists and public engagement/D&D practitioners will all come together in person to take this collaboration to new heights. We also recommend checking out the recent NCDD podcast on the same topic here, or revisiting the D&D-journalism panel discussion that we hosted during NCDD 2016 here.

Thanks again to Journalism That Matters, all of our featured speakers, and the participants for helping make this a great conversation. We look forward to continuing it in the future and seeing the fruits of where it can lead our work!