PBP Opening for PhDs as Participation Design Strategist

There is an exciting opportunity for recent PhDs to work with NCDD member org, Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) and help strengthen participatory democracy! PBP recently announced they have an opening as a Participation Design Strategist, part of the Mellow/ACLS Public Fellows program, for those who are new PhDs. The deadline to apply is March 14th, 2018 for the position, and we hope some NCDDers will apply (by clicking here)! You can read more information on the fellowship opening in the post below or find the original here. Good luck to all applicants!


Mellon/ACLS Fellowship Opening – Participation Design Strategist

At the Participatory Budgeting Project, we’re pleased to announce that we have been selected by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) as a host organization for the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program, a career-building fellowship initiative designed to expand the reach of doctoral education in the humanities. In 2018, the Public Fellows program will place up to 25 recent PhDs from the humanities and humanistic social sciences in two-year staff positions at partnering organizations in government and the nonprofit sector. Fellows will participate in the substantive work of these organizations and will receive professional mentoring, an annual stipend of $67,500, and health insurance.

The application deadline is March 14, 2018 (9pm EDT). For more information, please visit http://www.acls.org/programs/publicfellowscomp/.

Fellowship Details
Position Title:
Participation Design Strategist

Position Description:
We are seeking a Participation Design Strategist to work in PBP’s Participation Lab, one of our three program areas. The Lab evaluates, researches, and develops tools and practices to make participatory budgeting and democracy work better. The strategist will work closely with other staff and partners to develop and test strategies that improve PBP’s services and PB processes. Through this work the strategist will identify and help implement design solutions that enable participatory democracy to grow and scale, and that advance equity, diversity, and inclusion in civic participation. This will include close collaboration with government and nonprofit staff, community leaders, and user design experts.

This position is great preparation for those interested in a career in the nonprofit or public sectors, including in user experience design, human centered design, public participation, civic engagement, program evaluation, service delivery, or public administration. This is a new position that expands PBP’s capacity to make data-informed design decisions as well as to keep pace with the increasing volume and diversity of communities excited about deepening local democracy. See the full job posting here.

  • Stipend: $67,500 per year, with health insurance coverage for the fellow, a relocation allowance, and up to $3,000 in professional development funds over the course of the fellowship
  • Tenure: Two years; start date on August 1 or September 1, 2018, depending on the fellowship position
  • Applications will be accepted only through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system (ofa.acls.org). The system will open on January 4, 2018.
  • Application deadline: March 14, 2018, 9pm EDT
  • Notification of application status will occur by email starting late-May 2018.

Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows is a fellowship program offered by the American Council of Learned Societies and is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Please direct all inquiries about the fellowship program to ACLS.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Participatory Budgeting Project’s site at www.participatorybudgeting.org/mellon-fellowship/

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.

Register for Tomorrow’s NCDD Confab on Community-Police Relations with PCRC!

We wanted to remind everyone to register for the next NCDD Confab Call on community-police relations taking place tomorrow Tuesday December 19th from 1:00-2:30pm Eastern/10:00-11:30am Pacific. This FREE call will feature the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, an NCDD Organizational Member who will share with us their experience with community-police relations work in San Mateo County, California.

We will be joined by PCRC Executive Director Michelle Vilchez and Engaging Communities Initiative Director Malissa Netane on the call, who will share the story of their work, and the lessons they have learned. Be sure to register for this call to learn more!

From PCRC:

Silicon Valley is one of the most unique, diverse, exciting, and enlivening regions on earth, with seemingly abundant opportunities for achieving a high quality of life. Despite these unique characteristics, there are stark social and economic divides among us that sometimes lead to interpersonal misunderstandings and feelings of disconnectedness and disenfranchisement.

Many recent events across our nation involving racial tensions between communities of color and law enforcement (Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, and others) and the associated uncivil manner of discourse appear to be amplifying ideological and political differences, making this an uneasy time in our community and nation. In this region, we are extremely fortunate that we have not experienced such extreme incidents, yet we should never consider ourselves immune. Such tragedies, no matter how geographically distant, affect us all at some level, and our thoughts, reactions and emotions come with us when we go to school, or work, or out in the community.

For the past 20 plus years, PCRC has drawn from their foundation of mediation, training, facilitation and conflict coaching to bridge the divides between many different communities and law enforcement agencies. The success of this work depends on building and sustaining respectful and mutually beneficial working relationships among all of the participating partners, which is PCRC’s area of expertise. The vision of PCRC is a future where all members of society engage and collaborate to create a strong, vibrant community. Our mission is to partner with individuals, groups and institutions to empower people, build relationships, and reduce violence through collaborative and innovative processes.

PCRC has over 30 years of providing conflict resolution, mediation, violence prevention and community building services. By engaging in authentic dialogue, building capacity through leadership development, and focusing on action that lends itself to personal and collective transformation, the targeted five communities will have stronger relations inside the community and with other groups and institutions.

Time is running out! So make sure you register to join this exciting call!

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

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

Letter from the NCDD Board of Directors

Dear NCDD Supporter,

With so many crucial and important issues facing society today – from health crises, to disconnection, to mass shootings, to nuclear threats – even if we could talk about these issues together, it would be a deadly serious time….

But, of course, we can’t even do that some days.

XS Purple NCDD logo

As you know, the National Coalition of Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) is a gathering place for people who know it doesn’t have to be this way – and who are doing something concrete about it. While so many others fret and philosophize about the current polarization and hyper-partisanship, this organization and its members offer practical answers that have been shown to make exactly the difference this country needs.

In the very moment this country could benefit the most from the collective skill set of this community of “domestic peacekeepers” (NCDD member Joan Blades, Living Room Conversations), however, most people remain caught up in the rhetoric of the “professional polarizers” (NCDD member Liz Joyner, Village Square).

We believe it’s time for that to change. It’s time to raise the profile of the work of our network in a way that far more Americans know about it. The Board and NCDD staff have been discussing a number of ways to do just that over the next several years:

  • Collaborative efforts to lift up the stories of NCDD members and the communities they work with making these changes. Highlight that this work happens at every level – neighborhood, local, regional, state, national, and global; in public and private sectors.
  • Bringing this network together with journalists, social justice organizations and activists, government officials, and others whose work and goals can be enhanced by better public engagement, dialogue and deliberation.
  • Fostering partnerships between NCDD members, libraries, and other community institutions to expand the public’s access to D&D.

But everything takes resources. What we can do will depend on having sufficient resources to do it. If you believe it is time for these kinds of changes in our country, please consider making a donation to these efforts – so we can get what we offer as a community in front of more and more Americans.

All contributions are welcome, whether they are $10 or $1000. Please visit www.ncdd.org/2017-funddrive to make your tax deductible donation today! Or, consider joining or renewing your membership in NCDD. You will be helping NCDD reach our $15,000 goal, which will be such a boost to these efforts in 2018. Thank you so much for supporting NCDD.

Sincerely,

NCDD Board of Directors:

Martin Carcasson, Chair
Susan Stuart Clark
Simone Talma Flowers
Jacob Hess
Betty Knighton
Wendy Willis

NCDD Confab on Community-Police Relations 12/19

NCDD is excited to announce our next Confab Call will take place December 19, 2017 1:00-2:30pm Eastern/10:00-11:30am Pacific. Register today to join us for this exciting call with the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, an NCDD Organizational Member who will share with us their experience with community-police relations work in San Mateo County, California.

We will be joined by PCRC Executive Director Michelle Vilchez and Engaging Communities Initiative Director Malissa Netane on the call, who will share the story of their work, and the lessons they have learned. Be sure to register for this call to learn more!

From PCRC:

Silicon Valley is one of the most unique, diverse, exciting, and enlivening regions on earth, with seemingly abundant opportunities for achieving a high quality of life. Despite these unique characteristics, there are stark social and economic divides among us that sometimes lead to interpersonal misunderstandings and feelings of disconnectedness and disenfranchisement.

Many recent events across our nation involving racial tensions between communities of color and law enforcement (Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, and others) and the associated uncivil manner of discourse appear to be amplifying ideological and political differences, making this an uneasy time in our community and nation. In this region, we are extremely fortunate that we have not experienced such extreme incidents, yet we should never consider ourselves immune. Such tragedies, no matter how geographically distant, affect us all at some level, and our thoughts, reactions and emotions come with us when we go to school, or work, or out in the community.

For the past 20 plus years, PCRC has drawn from their foundation of mediation, training, facilitation and conflict coaching to bridge the divides between many different communities and law enforcement agencies. The success of this work depends on building and sustaining respectful and mutually beneficial working relationships among all of the participating partners, which is PCRC’s area of expertise. The vision of PCRC is a future where all members of society engage and collaborate to create a strong, vibrant community. Our mission is to partner with individuals, groups and institutions to empower people, build relationships, and reduce violence through collaborative and innovative processes.

PCRC has over 30 years of providing conflict resolution, mediation, violence prevention and community building services. By engaging in authentic dialogue, building capacity through leadership development, and focusing on action that lends itself to personal and collective transformation, the targeted five communities will have stronger relations inside the community and with other groups and institutions.

Don’t miss out – register today to learn more about this important work!

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

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

Helpful Tips to Navigating the Holiday Conversations

As we face the holiday season, we wanted to share this article written by NCDD member Parisa Parsa, Executive Director of Essential Partners, with some tips on dealing with those tricky conversations that may come up. The holidays can be an exciting and also stressful time, uniting people who you may not see eye-to-eye with. While many of these conversations can be challenging, these helpful guidelines may hold the opportunity to connect deeper with those around you on important issues this holiday season. We encourage you to read the article below or find the original on Essential Partner’s blog here.


Facing the Holidays – And Each Other

My kids and I just flew across the country, making that annual sojourn home for the holidays. The airports were packed, and nerves were frayed. Between flights we sat down to a quick meal of expensive and unsatisfying food. Wedged in the only empty seats in the dining area, it was impossible not to overhear the intent discussion of the family next to us.

“Do not engage Uncle Matt in any topic related to the election,” the father told his college-aged son. “I know you have strong feelings. I am just telling you that if you bring it up, the whole house is in for a two hour tirade. Please don’t do that to us.”

“If I can’t talk about what I believe in, especially now, what’s the point of even being in the same room with Uncle Matt? If he won’t change his mind, he at least needs to know how wrong he is,” replied son. My own teen son raised his eyebrows and his younger brother looked alarmed. A little later, he snuggled up to me on the plane and asked if there would be fights at our Thanksgiving.

That family is in good company. As many of us leave our comfortable bubbles of politically like-minded friends and neighbors and venture into the mixing and mingling that the holidays bring, we’re faced with similar choices. We can make nice, talk about the weather, the kids and their activities, or the glories of Aunt Dot’s pumpkin pie. If the other option is civil war, making nice is indeed the route of mercy. Especially this year, I can’t help but imagine that everyone is so desperate to just get through it, to just get along.

The dread is real. So, too, are the opportunities. During the holidays, we spend hours with people we don’t see very often either by choice or physical distance, and situate ourselves in a different story than the one we craft in our daily lives. We encounter more parts of ourselves, welcome and unwelcome, as we are reunited with the folks who made us who we are (or who made our spouses who they are). In a time when the nation appears torn asunder, holiday sojourns give us a critical moment to see if we can stitch together a better understanding of just what in the world is going on. A chance to risk seeing and understanding our kin in greater dimensions, and sharing more of ourselves than we normally would.

If you are game to try this exploration, to lean in with the courage it takes to craft deeper connection, there are three things I would have you consider:

  • Is this a relationship where it is important for me to be known in this way? We don’t need to have these conversations with everyone in our lives. If political beliefs are not a strong and important part of your connections, bringing the election to the forefront may not be necessary. With some family members, though, we feel the need to be understood and to try to understand where they come from. If these are folks in the second category, proceed to:
  • What do I hope for? If your desire is to change their mind, your conversation is likely to be unsatisfying. If your desire is to have deeper understanding and to be more deeply understood, what are you going to communicate about your own values? Share your experiences, not the bullet points of your favorite pundit, and encourage your family members to do the same. Then you might proceed to:
  • Can we work together to understand each other? It is not enough for one person to have made the commitment and reflected on their wishes: it takes willing participants to be successful. If you are willing, then take turns, ask real questions, and listen to understand.

If you want more guidance – we have a handy guide and a list of potential questions for conversation. However you choose to engage this Thanksgiving, may you find some space to digest not just a great meal but also the many possibilities for action, for connection and for a future worthy of the generations to come. We owe it to each other and to the future to set aside momentary discomfort for the future of our planet. Let’s give thanks for each and every moment we have, to be alive, to learn, to connect.

You can find the original version of this on  Essential Partner’s blog at www.whatisessential.org/blog/facing-holidays-and-each-other.

Don’t Miss Tech Tuesday with Gell, Tomorrow Nov. 14

In case you missed our original announcement, we wanted to remind everyone that we are hosting our next FREE Tech Tuesday, tomorrow November 14th from 1:00-2:00 PM Eastern/10:00-11:00am Pacific. We’re very excited to welcome Loren Bendele, Founder and CEO of Gell, a new mobile/web platform for civil discourse on important issues.

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to learn about Gell – register today!

Gell is a free mobile/web platform that brings elected officials, parents, students, educators, administrators and concerned citizens together for civil discourse on issues that matter. Gell encourages, facilitates and moderates healthy discussions and debates. They then make it easy for users to find the top rated opinions for and against important issues and candidates, so the community can form its own opinions from a balanced and diverse set of facts and opinions. Columns of opposing views are displayed side-by-side, so users can quickly get a balanced viewpoint and formulate their own opinions. The community can flag inappropriate content (personal attacks, spam, off topic, etc.) for removal from the site. That way, the discussion stays focused on what matters most, while not being distracted by “noise” or irrelevant conversations.

Loren will walk participants through Gell and answer your questions about this new and exciting platform. Loren is a serial entrepreneur, and prior to Gell was the co-founder and CEO of Savings.com which he led from launch in 2007 through acquisition in 2012 by Cox Media Group and continued to run within Cox until 2015. Loren was also the founder of Favado, a grocery app that aggregates all the most popular sales and coupons for every major grocery store across the country.

Watch this video to learn more about Gell

Tech Tuesdays are a series of learning events from NCDD focused on technology for engagement. These 1-hour events are designed to help dialogue and deliberation practitioners get a better sense of the online engagement landscape and how they can take advantage of the myriad opportunities available to them. You do not have to be a member of NCDD to participate in our Tech Tuesday learning events.

Getting More Involved with Deliberative Democracy

Today’s election day and in addition to voting, NCDD Sponsor – the Jefferson Center – recently shared this piece written by Annie Pottorff to encourage people to further stretch their civic muscles and get involved with deliberative democracy. We recommend you check out this list they’ve compiled [complete with entertaining GIFs!] and find the ways that work for you to tap deeper into deliberative democracy. You can read the post below or find the original version on the Jefferson Center’s blog here.


10 Ways to Get Involved in Deliberative Democracy

Creating local change can be difficult, between finding the time, motivation, and opportunities to participate. For this week’s blog, we’ve put together a few simple ways you can become a civic leader in your own backyard (even from your own couch).

1. Listen to Community Members
Head over to your city’s website to see when the next community meeting is. For instance, here’s the calendar the City of Minneapolis publishes. You’ll likely hear grievances and suggestions from your fellow citizens, but these local gatherings may only attract a few vocal participants. While these meetings may be poorly attended, you’ll have the chance to directly introduce yourself to leaders and make your voice heard.

You can also actively listen for issues in your town while talking with your neighbors, teachers, and other community members on a daily basis. Some cities even have digital engagement interfaces where citizens can submit work requests, complaints, or suggestions to laws and ordinances. You can check out a few examples here.

2. Attend training sessions, webinars, and local events
If you want to learn more about engagement techniques, try searching for webinars and online training sessions. On October 4th, groups like the Participatory Budget Project and Healthy Democracy will share their success stories and tools you can use in your local community in a free webinar. Because it’s easy to get lost in the rabbit-hole of Google search results, using Twitter and Facebook to connect with engagement groups will likely fill up your feed with similar resources.

Shameless plug: the Jefferson Center is on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. You can follow us, and the cool people we retweet and follow, for engagement opportunities.

3. Volunteer
It can be overwhelming to know where to start when you want to volunteer. Databases like VolunteerMatch and Create the Good can help connect you with the right groups for causes you care about. If you use Facebook, you can filter local event searches by selecting the “Causes” category. Or, you can work backwards, by searching for nonprofits in your area and reaching out to them directly to see if they could use any help.

4. Bring friends
For all of the above, you don’t have to go it alone. Invite your friends to come along, and you’ll likely be more motivated to show up. Plus, you can hold each other to it.

5. Write
This option can work from the safety of your own home or your favorite coffee shop. Write about issues affecting citizens in your community, and send your drafts out into the universe. Many organizations working on civic engagement and participation want to hear from the public, to guide their own efforts, see new perspectives, or work with you to publish what you’ve written. At the Jefferson Center, we’d love to hear your ideas for new stories.

6. Listen, read, or watch
While this one may seem like a cop-out, getting informed on issues is half the battle. Instead of tuning out, find your favorite way to keep updated. If you’re not a reader, check out podcasts like Democracy Now!, or find out which organizations have their own YouTube or Vimeo accounts. You can easily share this content with others to spread the message and increase familiarity with deliberative democracy.

7. Download FREE resources
If you’re thinking about creating an engagement project, or just want to learn more about different processes involved, look online for resources. For instance, Participatory Budgeting Project has training videos, materials, and guides that are free to download. After each of our projects, we publish our full reports and findings on our website.

8. Teach Others
You can also use free resources and reports to help teach others about how deliberative democracy works. Whether you talk with your friends, family, or host a formal community meeting, involving other people will help spur new ideas and pave the way for future projects.

9. Remember all your resources
If you’re trying to contact your local government representatives, local newspaper, or other organizations, don’t give up after one phone call. Using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, sending emails, sending letters, and showing up to an office can help get your voice heard.

10. Partner with the Jefferson Center!
Sure, this last one may edge on self-promotion. But the Jefferson Center strives to shorten the gap between citizens and the institutions, policies, and issues that affect their daily lives by empowering citizens to solve shared challenges. Our process is made up of three key components: we listen to stakeholders in your community to gain a deeper understanding of the issue at hand. Then, we develop a specialized engagement process to unleash creative citizen ideas. Finally, our project partners use the public designed solutions to: advance actions in their local community, reform institutional practices and processes, and guide policy development and decision-making. For more information on our process, head over to our about us page.

Bonus: You can also make an individual donation! Every contribution makes a difference, helping everyday Americans develop and promote thoughtful solutions to challenging problems.

You can read the original version of the Jefferson Center’s piece on their blog at www.jefferson-center.org/10-ways-to-get-involved-in-deliberative-democracy/.

CGA Forums and Trainings Coming up in November

We wanted to let everyone know about several updates this month from NCDD member org, Kettering Foundation on their Common Ground for Action online forum. Throughout the month of November, Kettering will be holding several CGA opportunities using the recently released Opioid Epidemic issue advisory. Also available are two training events for those interested in learning to moderate CGA forums; a general one for those new to CGA and another tailored for K-12 and college educators. Register to join these online forums and trainings by clicking on the links in the announcement below. This announcement was from the October Kettering newsletter – sign up here to start receiving their newsletter.


Common Ground for Action Activities in November

As usual, there are several opportunities to participate in a deliberative forum from the comfort of your desk. Please register at the links below if you’d like to join, or, if you can’t make any of the dates yourself, please help us spread the word and reach new audiences by sharing the links via email or social media. All of this month’s forums will use the What Should We Do about the Opioid Epidemic? issue advisory.

Tuesday, Nov. 7 | 11a.m. EST | REGISTER

Wednesday, Nov. 15 | 5:30 p.m. EST | REGISTER

Monday, Nov. 20 | 5 p.m. EST | REGISTER

Thursday, Nov. 30 | 12 p.m. EST | REGISTER

There are also two upcoming moderator training sessions for those who want to learn to hold their own online forums. These online sessions are held in two-part sessions of two hours each. (Please plan to attend both parts of the workshop.)

CGA New Moderator Training
Wednesday, Nov. 15 | 5:30 p.m. EST
Thursday, Nov. 16 | 6 p.m. EST
REGISTER

CGA for K-12 & College Educators Moderator Training
Thursday, Nov. 30 | 12 p.m. EST
Friday, Dec. 1 | 12 p.m. EST
REGISTER

If you’ve been trained as a CGA moderator, but it’s been a while and you’d like a refresher (or you just have some questions), Kara Dillard will hold online “office hours” on November 3, 10, 17, and 27 at 11 a.m. EST. Just hop on this link to talk with her.

Turning to Eachother During Unwelcome Conversations

As tragic events seem to constantly fill our lives and newsfeeds, we wanted to lift up a poignant piece from NCDD member org Essential Partners‘ blog in response to the Las Vegas tragedy. Parisa Parsa, Executive Director of EP, writes about the tendency to jump to assessing a situation and pinning down the blame, and that while this helps us cope with tragedy, often limits our ability to grieve and genuinely process. She reminds us to hold space for these painful storytelling opportunities and how these conversations can allow us the chance to come together in community, in order to find understanding and a collective way to move forward. We encourage you to read the piece below or you can find the original on Essential Partners’ blog here.


Unwelcome Conversations

“I can’t even get my mind around Las Vegas” the woman next to me exclaimed. We were both staring at the TV blasting the news while waiting to board our flight last week. As ever, the media was already flooded with analysis to explain what had happened, while we struggled again to understand why it happened. The world rushed to the usual rallying cries: gun control, mental health, male violence…the list goes on.

A typical media pundit or post usually includes some phrase critical of what others are talking about. “It’s not about [what the last commenter said], it’s about [my deepest conviction].” And with great assuredness, folks far from the situation quickly move to assert their go-to explanation. A mad dash to do this kind of assessment of a crisis offers a great coping mechanism. When we can put an unspeakably tragic event into some frame of meaning, our bearings return and panic is reduced. Because the truth is, we don’t want to be talking about terrible moments at all. We don’t want it to have happened, and we most definitely don’t want it to happen again. Having someone or something to blame, especially if it is singular, definite and not ourselves, help us detach ourselves from these horrible acts of violence and hate. Yet so far, collectively, retracting and finger pointing has not helped us prevent the unspeakable from happening again, and again, and again.

Venturing away from defining it as “all about” mental health or guns or testosterone opens up a whole new world. In the midst of our shock and horror, listening to our grief can provide answers. When we sit with the many explanations, hear the cries of those who feel misunderstood, hold one another in our pain, sorrow and anger, we begin to connect to another story. Many voices, conflicting views, and multiple understandings arise. Those stories forge a new way out of the mire, lets our pain and our hope speak to one another, and begins to carve a path to creative solutions.

Turning to one another in community to share our responses, our meaning-making and our experiences can create another possible future. Let’s talk and listen more deeply, and see what happens.

You can find the original version of this on Essential Partners’ blog at www.whatisessential.org/blog/unwelcome-conversations.