Land of Plenty: How Should We Ensure that People Have the Food They Need? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 25-page issue guide, Land of Plenty: How Should We Ensure that People Have the Food They Need?, was published June 2017 from National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation.. The issue guide offers participants three options to use during deliberation on how to address the inequities within the current food system and how to create a world where all people have the food they need to thrive. The issue guide is available to download for free on NIFI’s site here, where you can also find a post-forum questionnaire.

From NIFI…

All of us affect, and are affected by, the food system: students who grow and eat carrots and tomatoes from their school garden; farm owners who maintain patches of natural habitat for bees; immigrants who hand-pick our apples, grapes, and oranges; public employees who design food-nutrition labels and monitor food safety; restaurant workers who take our orders and serve our meals; food reporters who write about ethnic cuisine; local groups of gleaners who keep edible food out of the dumpster and put it to good use; food pantries that teach teenagers to garden on vacant lots; parents who work to stretch their food budgets to the next payday; policymakers who determine agricultural subsidies; community members who advocate for policies to ensure that all of us have the food we need.

While we have one of the most productive and efficient food systems in the world, millions of people in the US still fall between the cracks. People who may have enough to eat today worry about the availability and quality of food for future generations.

This guide explores different approaches and actions that are, or could be, taken to create a food system that works for all of us. While the approaches overlap in some respects, they do suggest different priorities and involve different trade-offs. With this in mind, what should we do to ensure that people from all walks of life have the food they need?

This issue guide placemat presents three options for deliberation:

Option 1: Improve Access to Nutritious Food
Despite our nation’s abundance of food, some people still don’t have enough to eat, which undermines their health, productivity, and overall well-being. According to this option, we need a food system that ensures everyone has a stable source of affordable, nutritious food. We must strengthen our school nutrition programs and food assistance for low-income families, as well as improve access to fresh food in rural and low-income communities.

Option 2: Pay More Attention to the Multiple Benefits of Food
We have drifted away from traditions and principles that once helped us enjoy a healthier relationship to food, according to this option. We all need to be better informed about the foods we choose, their nutritional value, and how they’re produced and processed. Rather than allowing food advertisements to determine our choices, we need to pay closer attention to what we value about our food, traditions, and well-being.

Option 3: Be Good Stewards of the Food System
We are not managing our food system as well as we should, according to this option. We must do more to safeguard the quality and availability of food for generations to come. Good stewardship is needed at every link in the food-supply chain, from the seeds we plant to the reduction of food waste. It also includes preserving our natural resources, choosing sustainable methods of production, and strengthening the food-system workforce.

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NIF-Logo2014About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s Issue Guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

Follow on Twitter: @NIForums

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/en/issue-guide/land-of-plenty

NCDD Orgs Team up for Public Engagement Training

We wanted to let the NCDD network know about these training opportunities coming up with our friends at the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) and Public Agenda (PA). These two NCDD member orgs have teamed up to dive deep into public engagement skills at an in-person workshop in NYC, which also is part of PBP’s final module for their Summer Implementation Institute. Coming up this Weds July 26, is PBP’s final FREE webinar on breaking barriers for outreach during the Idea Collection phase – the third module in the Summer Implementation Institute. Next week, Public Agenda will doing a two-day workshop to strengthen public engagement strategy on July 31-August 1, with PBP presenting their session on the second day.

Coming up…

  • THIS Weds July 26: final FREE webinar with PBP, from 3pm – 5pm Eastern, 12pm – 3pm Pacific
  • July 31st: Public Agenda workshop in NYC
  • August 1st: Joint workshop with PBP and Public Agenda in NYC

To RSVP for the PBP webinar, click here. To register for the PA and/or PBP in-person NYC workshop[s], click here. For more on PBP’s Summer Implementation Institute, follow the hashtag #PBPInstitute on Twitter for more participant quotes, questions, and experiences! You can read the announcements from PBP and PA below or find the original on PA’s site here.


From the Participatory Budgeting Project

At the Participatory Budgeting Project, we’re wrapping up the first-ever PB Network Summer Implementation Institute with a final free webinar on Wednesday and an in-person session in NYC on August 1st.

On our final free webinar, we’re talking about outreach strategies used to generate ideas from non-English speakers, young people and court-involved people during Idea Collection!

Kenneth Tang from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) and our West Coast Project Manager, Francesco Tena, will present on their local experience in two flagship PB processes: Oakland (the first process to do PB with federal funds in the U.S.) and Boston (the first youth PB process in the U.S.)

Join other PB-implementing staff and officials from across North America to:

  • Discuss record-breaking outreach strategies.
  • Dive into the challenges and benefits of using innovative outreach tactics in PB idea collection.
  • Collaboratively brainstorm ways to improve and expand outreach in communities where there are barriers to civic participation.
  • Receive tools and resources to use in your PB processes and in your work more broadly.

Likewise, if you’re interested in taking community leadership in government to the next level, join our in-person Steering Committees 101 workshop hosted in New York City next month, in partnership with Public Agenda. This session is focused on building and sustaining effective community leadership in democratic processes.

When: Tuesday August 1
Where: New York City
Cost: $200 REGULAR admission and $75 STUDENT admission. Or, check out the registration page for the full two-day workshop on public engagement with Public Agenda!
Register: Here

Hope to see you Wednesday and in August!

From Public Agenda

Looking for assistance with organizing and sustaining productive public engagement? Struggling to decide how to use online engagement tools? Frustrated with the standard “2 minutes at the microphone” public meeting? Need expert advice on bringing together a diverse critical mass of people?

Our Public Engagement team is leading a 1.5 day workshop on how you can hone an effective engagement strategy along with a special session led by our friends at the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP).

On July 31, Public Agenda’s Matt Leighninger and Nicole Cabral will:

  • Provide an overview of the strengths and limitations of public engagement today;
  • Help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of public engagement in your community;
  • Explore potential benefits of more sustained forms of participation;
  • Demonstrate a mix of small group and large group discussions, interactive exercises, case studies and practical application exercises

On Aug 1, during Session 1, we’ll focus more squarely on options and next steps that participants can take in their communities. These sessions will help participants to:

  • Develop skills for planning stronger engagement systems;
  • List existing community assets that can be instrumental for sustained engagement;
  • Anticipate common challenges to planning for stronger systems;
  • Develop an initial set of next steps to pursue.

During the afternoon session of August 1, PBP will present “Steering Committees 101: Centering community experience & expertise.”

This PBP session is part of PBP’s first-ever Summer Implementation Institute hosted by the North American Participatory Budgeting Network, consisting of 4 modules. The in-person session in New York City is preceded by three online webinars. Each module focuses on a particular phase of participatory budgeting (PB) starting with the PB vote and working backwards through proposal development, idea collection, and building a PB process with community leaders. Along with registering for this in-person session, you can RSVP for the three webinars from PBP here.

The in-person session in New York City is focused on building and sustaining effective community leadership in democratic processes. Here, leaders in community engagement will come together to share experiences, discuss pain points, and solve challenges. This session stems from an asset-based approach to community leadership within PB and beyond. Although focused on PB, this session is applicable to all public engagement practices centered in community experience and expertise.

You can find the original announcement on Public Agenda’s website at www.publicagenda.org/pages/workshop-public-engagement-strategy-in-new-york-city.

Everyday Democracy Announces New Local Anchor Partner

We are inspired to see long-standing dialogue efforts continue to grow and wanted to lift up this blog piece that NCDD member org, Everyday Democracy, shared recently announcing their new anchor partner with Community Partners. The local Florida organization has been using EvDem’s Dialogue-to-Change program for the last 16 years to address issues in Palm Beach County. Anchor partners work closely with EvDem to co-create and support efforts to build capacity for a Dialogue-to-Change program in their communities. To learn more about Evdem’s anchor program and how to become a partner, click here.

We encourage you to read more on EvDem’s blog below or find the original here.


One Community’s Journey From a Small Local Dialogue to Becoming a National Partner

EvDem LogoFor the last 16 years, residents in Palm Beach County, Fla., have been using Everyday Democracy’s Dialogue-to-Change process to work on issues of race, early childhood education, and building strong neighborhoods.

Not only have they done great work in West Palm Beach and surrounding communities— Housing Partnership, Inc (dba Community Partners) is now one of Everyday Democracy’s anchor partners. Anchor partners help Everyday Democracy carry out our work on a larger scale then we could alone, sharing a strong commitment to dialogue, engagement and racial equity, and committing to share knowledge and work together.

Community Partners first used Dialogue-to-Change to address an issue in their community in 2002. In Belle Glade, Fla., a young black man was found hanging from a tree. Residents were split along racial lines – white residents believed it was a suicide and black residents believed he was hanged. The court ultimately deemed it a suicide, but that didn’t resolve the tension in the community surrounding this tragic event.

In addition to becoming an anchor partner, Community Partners has since grown to more than 10 ongoing projects across the county. Everyday Democracy and Community Partners were among several presenters to train organizers from around the country in authentic community dialogue and engagement, and inform them about our anchor partner program, at NeighborWorks America’s Community Building and Engagement annual meeting in May.

Back in 2002, Barbara Cheives had already organized and trained facilitators for other dialogues in the area as the Executive Director of a nonprofit called Toward a More Perfect Union, and was called in to do some racial reconciliation work. She used our Dialogue-to-Change process to engage small groups in a structured dialogue process that let participants share stories and build trust.

She recalled one night after the dialogues seeing an older white gentleman from a sugar cane family and a black woman talking to each other long after the dialogues had ended. They were exploring each other’s point of views and what they saw in the streets of the towns they grew up in. That was just one of many bridges that were built from the dialogue-to-change program.

“I’ve seen real change, real discussion, and real action,” said Cheives.

Another participant in the race dialogues was a white male president of a national bank. After talking with other residents and seeing different perspectives, he noticed his own staff wasn’t very diverse. He immediately started taking action to hire candidates from many backgrounds, and that spread throughout the bank.

“The beauty of dialogue group is there’s no winning. It’s not a debate – we just have to listen to each other and come out with an action that works for the whole,” said Cheives.

In 2010, Palm Beach County residents joined across the county to discuss early childhood development, organized by a local organization called BRIDGES.

“We went into communities that have long been disenfranchised and they’re worried about food, safety, etc. – not necessarily getting their kids ready for kindergarten,” recalls Jaime-Lee Brown, Vice President of Community Services with Community Partners, one of the early organizers for the dialogues. “But everybody cares about their children. If we start with that conversation, then we can keep them engaged.”

Some of the actions that came out of that dialogue-to-change effort were kindergarten readiness toolkits and “kindergarten roundup” day where parents sat through a day of kindergarten so they could prepare their kids for the upcoming school year.

This led to dialogues and actions around building strong neighborhoods, which they are still working on today.

“What has really worked is to make sure that residents are gaining a voice, working toward a power balance, and engaging as a peer instead of speaking for the group,” says Brown.

Public engagement isn’t always easy, but it’s a necessary part of making communities work for everyone.

Some challenges organizers often face when engaging community members include: burnout, people are too busy, follow-up, and no new people attend meetings or events.

So how do we truly engage a community in decision-making?

Palm Beach County residents have put into practice the values Everyday Democracy looks for in anchor partners: commitment to relationships, incorporating an equity lens into the work, building local capacity for the community dialogue process, and creating sustainable change.

Everyday Democracy is looking for more local organizations interested in becoming anchor partners. Everyday Democracy helps to build the capacity of anchor partners to embed the work in their local communities and amplify the impact of our coaching and Dialogue-to-Change process, making sure everyone can have a voice and role in their community.

Learn more about Everyday Democracy’s anchor network, including how to become an anchor, or contact Valeriano Ramos at vramos[at]everyday-democracy[dot]org.

You can find the original version of this Everyday Democracy blog piece at www.everyday-democracy.org/news/one-community%E2%80%99s-journey-small-local-dialogue-becoming-national-partner.

Energy Choices: What Should We Do About America’s Energy Future? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The issue guide placemat, What Should We Do About America’s Energy Future?, was published on National Issues Forums Institute site in Summer 2017. This issue guide gives three options for participants to deliberate around the issue of how America’s energy consumption is sustainable.

In addition to the issue guide placemat, there is also a post-forum questionnaire available to download on NIFI’s site here.

From the guide…

Meeting the United States’ substantial appetite for energy raises a complex network of economic, environmental, and political issues. There are national-security and economic concerns, environmental problems like air and water pollution, and potential climate-change effects from fossil fuels, such as extreme weather, sea- level rise, and changing growing seasons.

Americans have long been aware of the wide- ranging impacts of fueling our energy needs, along with ever-increasing global demands. This awareness is reflected in growing support for clean energy, development of new ways to extract oil and natural gas, efforts to do more with less power, and so on.

Concerns over foreign entanglements, terrorism, and carbon pollution from fossil fuels have grown. At the same time, new domestic production from oil, natural gas, and renewable sources has helped America move closer to energy independence. New technologies for power production, storage, vehicle fuels, and energy efficiency are proliferating. The question is how to navigate this changing landscape and arrive at an energy future that supports a thriving economy.

This guide presents three options based on views and concerns of people from across the country. Any path we choose will put some of these concerns into tension with some others. Our task is to deliberate, or weigh options for action against the things that people hold valuable. What should America do to ensure a continuing supply of energy to meet our needs as well as those of our children and grandchildren?

This issue guide placemat presents three options for deliberation:

Option 1: Keep America Self-Reliant and Stable
We should use our own abundant natural resources to produce all the energy we need to fuel our economy and avoid entanglements in unstable and unfriendly regions. Relying on the market and technological advancements will continue to lead us to a cleaner energy future, BUT large-scale energy production, even solar and wind power, has major environmental impacts, and unfairly affects communities near facilities like mines, refineries, and transmission lines. Furthermore, the transition to cleaner energy may not occur quickly enough to stave off the threat of climate change.

Option 2: Take Local Responsibility for Clean Energy
If we want our country to transition to clean, low-carbon power, everyone needs to participate, as not only a consumer but also a producer. Currently, most of the electricity in our system flows one way, from large power plants through transmission and distribution lines to end users. We need to decentralize that system to enable more clean, locally produced energy to ow where it is needed, BUT retooling our power grid and fueling infrastructure could be costly, take a long time, and cause economic disruptions. This would change how our communities look and how we live, and add a responsibility for producing power, which people may not want or be able to afford.

Option 3: Find Ways to Use Less Energy
We should aggressively reduce energy use and boost efficiency. Energy consumption in the United States has leveled off recently, but to tackle climate change, we must rapidly reduce carbon emissions. Using less energy could also lead to greater security, BUT requiring energy conservation could restrict personal choices and limit economic growth. And tackling climate change could depend more on replacing fossil fuels with cleaner fuels than on how much energy we use.

NIF-Logo2014About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s Issue Guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

Follow on Twitter: @NIForums

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/en/issue-guide/energy-choices

NCDD Orgs Respond on How to Save American Democracy

As we grapple with a quickly changing political environment, many are struggling with the current state of American democracy and what are the best steps to repair our damaged system. Over the course of the year, several writers have expressed their beliefs that the way to improve our political system is to reduce public participation and increase political intermediaries/institutions.

In a direct response to these viewpoints, NCDD member org Healthy Democracy, recently published the article on their blog, Actually, More Public Participation Can Save American Democracy, which can be found here. The Deliberative Democracy Consortium, also a NCDD member org, wrote an immediate follow-up piece inviting the dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement community to respond to these claims and the writers themselves. For information on how to send your responses, read the DDC’s article on their blog here.

The article from Healthy Democracy can be found below or read the original on their blog here.


Actually, More Public Participation Can Save American Democracy

Lee Drutman of the New America Foundation, writing on Vox.com’s Polyarchy blog, makes a bold statement: more public participation isn’t the answer to our political woes because the reasonable, civically-minded voter is a myth. This is the latest in a trend of articles analyzing American politics and the role of citizens, beginning with Jonathan Rauch’s sprawling analysis for the Atlantic of our political system and its populist weaknesses.

Fortunately, Mr. Drutman’s analysis is narrowly focused and should not discourage those of us who have broader imaginations about democracy and the power of an active citizenry. Public participation is not limited to voting for or against representative policymakers, as Drutman asserts. Rather, civic life is a rich ecosystem of opportunities to participate in our grand experiment in self-governance. The individual voter is the building block of democracy. Civically-minded wise Americans exist across the land, and they are doing good, important work in their communities.

Drutman’s article relies on a series of assumptions that are, at the very least, not the whole picture. They are based largely on assumptions that Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes make in their recent Brookings paper advocating for an increased role of political intermediaries and a decrease in direct democracy. In their world, participation in politics is limited to the election of representatives; the sole result of a citizen exerting their political wisdom is to vote out politicians who prioritize interest groups over the people; and, finally, making politicians serve the people is the end goal of public participation. But in reality, citizenship and public participation encompass a wide array of powers and responsibilities. To be clear, I don’t take issue with the negative impacts of unbridled, reactive populism. Rather, I see clearly the vast and largely untapped potential of democratic wisdom at the citizen level.

The mythical citizen

Drutman articulates others’ assertion that there is a mythical wise citizen who will save our democracy by influencing politicians to serve the people. This citizen is “moderate, reasonable, and civic-minded” and if given more power would compel politicians to behave differently. It would indeed be naïve to assume that this magic citizen would influence American society so greatly that they could change the fundamental behavior of politicians. In that way, the author’s objection to this mythical citizen is easy to make.

And I agree that waiting for a perfectly reasonable, moderate, and civically minded voter to fix our Republic is a flawed strategy. Thankfully for all of us, public participation is much broader, deeper, and more creative than that. The various mechanisms of public participation build civic literacy, increase citizen power through knowledge and interaction with our political systems, and build bridging social capital among disparate groups. There are positive downstream impacts on our local, state, and national communities that come from citizens engaging in their communities in a meaningful way.

Drutman also addresses the role of political intermediaries. These intermediaries, which he defines as “politicians, parties, and interest groups” are the people who help people recognize what their interests are through cues. But this group is depressingly limited, and strikingly partisan. It ignores faith leaders, universities, media, community groups, advisory groups, citizens’ juries, and local government engagement folks. These groups, many of which are nonpartisan, provide moral leadership, knowledge, and granular information about voter interests that Drutman’s definition of intermediaries ignores.

The power of regular citizens

Drutman’s article forecloses the citizen’s ability to participate in democracy in ways that consider tradeoffs and the long-term view. There is a glimpse of possibility in his discussion of hybrid systems, citing Rauch and Wittes’s assertion that ““better decisions” come when specialist and professional judgment occurs “in combination with public judgment.” Unfortunately, Drutman rejects the concept by conjecturing that hybrid systems are not possible because they would not have a clear person who is “in charge” and holding the power. In fact, the entire field of democratic deliberation is devoted to creating hybrid systems that connect citizens with policy experts and allow them the time, space, and information to carefully consider policy choices.

Of course, power is held both formally and informally, and differently depending on the situation. In a classic representative system, elected policymakers have the ultimate power, and they can gather input in various forms. There are also stakeholder processes where groups can be given very strong recommending power, to the point where it would be politically infeasible to reject their advice. There is also direct empowerment of citizens, such as through ballot initiatives and referenda, where a majority vote of the people makes policy. Drutman’s claim that “voters are not policymakers” is simply not true in states, cities, and counties with direct democracy.

Creative solutions

In all of these cases, there are opportunities to merge technical expertise with citizen participation. The example with which I most familiar is the Citizens’ Initiative Review. This process, which was developed by Healthy Democracy, is a hybrid system in which a microcosm of representative citizens (reasonable, moderate, and civic-minded, by the way) examines a ballot measure. They draw upon the arguments of partisan intermediates (advocates for and against the measure) and the input of independent policy experts. Their goal is to provide to their fellow voters a clear statement that outlines the key facts about a ballot measure as well as the best arguments on each side.

The result of public participation in the Citizens’ Initiative Review is an artifact that can be used by voters to make civic-minded decisions when participating in direct democracy. The knowledge that a group of fellow citizens spent four days sorting through the issue on their behalf is an inspiring service, one that can compel not only the people in the room but those who read their statement and appreciate the service to be more civic-minded and engaged in their own lives.

Research by scholars in the political science, communication, and government fields affirms that the Citizens’ Initiative Review process is democratic, deliberative, and unbiased. Their analyses find that Citizens’ Statements are highly accurate and are a reliable source of information for voters. They also find that voters actually do use the statement when casting their ballots, and that voters who read the statement have more knowledge and are more confident in their knowledge.

This piece is not intended to be an advertisement for the Citizens’ Initiative Review, but the fact is that reforms like it are rare and most folks do not have the opportunity to witness these processes and their results. In our unique position as a deliverer of these reforms, we see the extraordinary transformation that regular people undergo when called to serve their fellow voters in this way. The vast majority of citizen participants leave with a better understanding of democracy, political values, and policy analysis—not to mention a deeper understanding of the policy topic under study.

It should be noted that one reason these reforms are rare is because they disrupt the work of partisan intermediaries who would prefer to deliver information to voters through a lens that suits their own ends, often at the expense of accuracy. In a refrain familiar to many political observers, partisan intermediaries’ assessment of the value of nonpartisan intermediaries corresponds closely with how well the information produced via nonpartisan means supports their partisan ends.

Democracy starts–but does not end–with politics

You see, citizen participation takes many forms. And participating in democracy does not fit neatly in the world of policy and politics. It is a common lament recently that hyperpartisanship has led to two Americas, and that our problem is that we refuse to talk to one another. Well, the first step to breaking down hyperpartisanship is to personally know people with politics that oppose your own. Any action that builds bridging social capital (social capital across heterogeneous groups) is an act of democracy. Then, when our democratic systems are stressed, we can draw upon that social capital for resilience. If we can see the other side as people, and don’t demonize, dehumanize, and disregard them based on partisan cues, we can stay engaged in democracy with one another.

In the close of his piece, Drutman calls on us to abandon the search for the mythical average citizen and seek an alternative. Since the author fails to articulate an alternative, I offer one here: let us expand our understanding of public participation to include the multitude of civic actions that add value to our democracy.

We can start in the realm of policymaking and politics with deliberative democracy. Well-designed deliberative processes (see the National Issues Forums, citizens juries, and the Citizens’ Initiative Review, among others) give voters a structured container to consult experts, consider tradeoffs, and deliberate the merits, consequences, and underlying values of policy choices. These processes take time, patience, and resources, but it is a worthwhile investment in the health of our democracy.

Let’s also work to build social capital through community work. A bank of social capital can give us the tools and relationships to better consider policy tradeoffs and impacts to our communities in the future. Additionally, an expanded conception of public participation gives voters opportunities to grow into more civically literate people. Not only can they better understand and act on their interests, they will be more likely to consider political problems creatively if they choose to enter representative politics. These kinds of programs are all around us. See Community Oregon, our experiment in building statewide urban-rural social capital in the state of Oregon, as well as other organizations that bring different types of people together to build connections across differences (e.g. Everyday Democracy, The Village Square, and many others).

The mythical citizen is all around us. She sings in a choir, volunteers her time, helps her neighbor with homework, and teaches her grandchild about the branches of government. She is doing democracy in her everyday life. She is serving her fellow citizens. She is our Plan B.

You can find the original version of this Healthy Democracy blog article at: https://healthydemocracy.org/blog/2017/06/13/actually-more-public-participation-can-save-american-democracy/

To respond to this article via the Deliberative Democracy Consortium blog, click here: http://deliberative-democracy.net/2017/06/15/we-invite-you-to-respond/

New Video on Bringing Participatory Budgeting in Schools

We are excited to announce that NCDD member org – The Participatory Budgeting Project recently released a new video on bringing participatory budgeting in schools. The video is on the recent participatory budgeting pilot in 5 Phoenix high schools, where more than 3,800 students participated in their first PB process. We encourage you to read more about the new PB in Schools video below or find the original on the Participatory Budgeting Project’s blog here.


NEW VIDEO – Participatory Budgeting in Schools

We are proud to share our newest tool to make civics education meaningful by putting real money on the table, our new Participatory Budgeting (PB) in Schools video!

This video introduces you to participatory budgeting in schools by showing you how it worked in Phoenix. Featuring interviews with students, teachers, principals, local elected officials, and the superintendent — see how PB can be a tool for learning democracy while building stronger schools.

Check out Participatory Budgeting in Schools from PBP on Vimeo.

Now we need your help to share the video and redefine the way democracy is learned.

1. Share this video!
Connect with students, parents, educators, school administrators, PTAs or anyone who wants to see the future of democracy start today. PB takes work from committed volunteers, but learning the importance of real democracy as a school community is worth it!

2. Download the guide to PB in Schools.
Get 18 lessons, 6 worksheets, and everything you need to bring PB to a school budget!
Students will learn to work collaboratively, conduct research, solve problems, present solutions, build empathy, deepen community, and explore why participation in democracy matters.

3. Learn more!
Sign up for our newsletter so you never miss an update about the future of PB in Schools.

Consider looking back to read our previous posts about PB in Schools—including the district-wide funds PB process that was featured in the video! [blog post link]

4. Join the community of supporters that make this work possible.
We’re really into this participatory budgeting thing.

Every year we set aside half the money raised by individuals to let our community directly decide how to spend it to make PB more equitable and effective. We call it PB2 (or “PB squared”), it’s PB for PBP.

We know that all PB processes address big concerns. It’s been surprising and exciting to see that for the last two years, our supporters have chosen to support PB processes in schools. You funded the PB in Schools Guide in 2015. In 2016, you supported this new advocacy video.

See what’s on the 2017 PB Ballot and donate to start building the pot of money for next year!

Support from donors lets us try new things. Without this support, thousands of students would never have had the opportunity to directly decide a portion of their school budgets.
PB works because you show up. Thank you for making democracy better with us.

You can find the original version of this blog post from the Participatory Budgeting Project at: www.participatorybudgeting.org/new-video-participatory-budgeting-schools/

Exploring Possibilities by Challenging Assumptions

We wanted to share this piece from NCDD member, Beth Tener, on the New Directions Collaborative blog about her recent experience at a workshop she ran on The Art of Strategic Questioning and the insights she took away about the power of framing questions. Tener notes how much more powerful questions can become when they are co-developed by a diverse group of people in order to test the assumptions on how a question is framed and consequently open up the creative possibilities. We encourage you to read Tener’s article below or find the original on the New Directions Collaborative blog here.


Questioning to Question Our Assumptions

Asking powerful questions can spark people’s intrinsic motivation to learn, contribute, and create positive change. They also allow organizations and networks to tap and synthesize the knowledge, experience, and perspectives of many people in a system, organization, or community. Today I taught a workshop called The Art of Strategic Questioning, with a group of about 30 people who do facilitation, sponsored by New Hampshire Listens, a civic engagement initiative of the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH. We explored the art of framing questions that open up possibilities and help a group find its way to a joint vision and/or action steps.

Good questions are framed in a way that is truly open, meaning they don’t lead to a yes/no answer or contain or suggest a solution. Examples of open questions are, “what is an important conversation we are not having?” or “what gifts and assets can be better utilized and connected?” We practiced creating questions for one another’s current challenges and noticing what makes a question powerful. Here are some insights that emerged:

In the introductions, I asked people to share their name, organization, and a question they were sitting with. A wide range of interesting questions were shared and about halfway through, I asked people to notice how they felt hearing others’ questions. They said they were drawn in, curious, and wanted to talk further and hear more. Acknowledging our questions, what has us thinking, and where we are curious or don’t know naturally stirs human interest and puts us on a more equal footing.

A participant mentioned the need to be aware of her assumptions. This is hard to do on your own. The time spent talking and practicing questions revealed that the way to really see our own assumptions, beliefs, and blind spots is through the process of conversation. Being asked questions by people who have other perspectives sheds light on where our viewpoint or thinking is limited.

Through the course of the workshop, people noticed how their own assumptions affected how they framed the question. For example, we can frame a question as “will option A or B be a better way to go?” or we can open it up to ask “what course of action will help me achieve my intention; option A, B or some other option I can’t see yet?”

As a way to practice using good questions in meeting design, we practiced the 1-2-4-All exercise, a great alternative to traditional brainstorming. People answered this question:

What question could be most powerful for us to take into our communities at this time?

Participants wrote their ideas first and then shared in a pair. One of the participants wrote this question first:

What happens if the current versions of our social safety nets fail?

When he paired up to talk with another participant, the reaction he got was, “wow, that’s a downer of a question that would be hard to get people to engage with.” They both recognized that was true. His professional training as a software engineer had him trained to look for problems and what might fail. This is a valuable skill and way of thinking for some situations; however, in a context of engaging a group and community in a conversation, this question needed some work. Together, they came up with a reframed version:

What would our community look like if it didn’t matter if our safety nets failed?

A more powerful question, indeed. When the original pair joined another pair of people to talk, the other participants immediately began envisioning what that community would feel and look like. This is a sign of a good question – it unleashes a sense of potential and possibility, it draws us in, and sparks our intrinsic motivation to engage and contribute.

This story also illustrates how coming up with a powerful question is best done in conversation with a group. This allows us to can better see our own assumptions and get insights from various perspectives. This is why it is so valuable to have a design team work together well ahead of a meeting to “set the table” for a good meeting. The team can design the agenda and get clear on the appropriate questions and how to word them most powerfully. Diversity on a design team is key to discern the most appropriate question(s); diversity in a meeting or gathering is key to discern the best answers.”

When we ask questions we don’t know the answers to and trust the unknown and the wisdom of the group, new insights and possibilities can emerge. This quote from Ria Baeck and Helen Titchen Beeth sums this up beautifully:

“Emergence is the manifestation of the truly new that has never existed before, where new connections are made that create a new whole. It requires a degree of chaos, where the structuring comes not from manmade attempts at control, but from holding a strong energetic container for the necessary chaos, while staying with the guiding question and the intent that the emergence is invited to serve.”

You can find the original version of this New Directions Collaborative blog article at www.ndcollaborative.com/question-assumptions/

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.

Learn from Iceland’s Deliberative Constitutional Change

We want to encourage our NCDD network, especially those in California, to consider registering to attend an intriguing event this June 3 at UC Berkeley called A Congress on Iceland’s Democracy. This international gathering aims to explore new approaches to democracy inspired by the deliberative process that Iceland used to create its new constitution through a mock legislative process, and we’re sure many NCDDers would take a great deal of inspiration from participating.
You can learn more about the gathering in the invitation letter below sent to the NCDD network from our friends at Wilma’s Wish Productions, whose Blueberry Soup documentary on Iceland’s constitutional transformation we previously posted about on the blog, or learn more at www.law.berkeley.edu/iceland.


A Congress on Iceland’s Democracy

We are writing to extend an invitation to an event we believe would interest you. On June 3rd, 2017, we are hosting a citizen’s gathering at the University of California, Berkeley.

This event will translate participatory discussion into concrete action proposals by organizing as a mock legislative body to develop, debate, and decide on proposals for moving forward with Iceland’s constitutional change process. The event’s structure takes inspiration from the 2010 Icelandic National Assembly and Robert’s Rules of Order.

This powerful summit will revolve around discussions on how to address the current political and social climate in the United States, using Iceland’s constitutional reform process as an example. Iceland’s new constitution was written in perhaps the most democratic way possible and we want to model this methodology and learn how it can be applied in communities across the United States and the world. Our goal is to create a non-partisan environment that will foster new approaches to democracy and a shared vocabulary.

Many prominent political figures from Iceland will be in attendance as well as many of the authors of the new constitution. Furthermore, academics, activists, startups, and journalists from all over the United States and Europe are also coming to participate in this “Icelandic National Assembly” style event.

This gathering of citizens has piqued the interest of people from all around the globe – a mass exodus of Icelanders and Europeans are flying in just to sit at these tables because they know real change is possible through dialogic methodologies. We hope this historic gathering will shape the way Americans think about democracy with a focus on the impact that dialogue can have on the democratic process on a local as well as global scale.

This conference aims to achieve exactly what many of you have dedicated your life to – reimagining democracy and the way we converse with one another about tough issues. Your passion for dialogue and democracy in addition to your excellent facilitation skills makes me believe you would be a valuable asset to this event and an excellent voice for others to engage with.

We want a broad range of perspectives present at this event, so we invite you to register to attend this citizens gathering and participate in history as it is being made.

You can learn more about the Congress on Iceland’s Democracy at www.law.berkeley.edu/iceland.

Lessons on Non-Hierarchical Decision Making from Our Confab with Loomio

On Thursday of last week, NCDD hosted another one of our Confab Call events with over 40 people from our network. The call featured Rich Bartlett and MJ Kaplan of the Loomio cooperative who talked about their experience with decision making in non-hierarchical organizations. If you missed this Confab Call, you missed a great event!

We had a lively conversation on how non-hierarchical organizations can be structured, how decisions are made (spoiler alert: deliberatively!), and how work flows can be managed in ways that don’t require anyone to be “the boss.” Rich and MJ also shared interesting reflections on what they’ve been learning on their US tour in meetings with all kinds of organizations – from government departments to non-profits to grassroots organizations – who are exploring “the democracy question” internally and in civic society.

If you couldn’t participate in the Confab, never fear – we recorded the whole presentation and conversation, and you can hear and see the whole thing again by clicking here. You can also find the slides from MJ and Rich’s presentation by clicking here, and the transcript of the discussion being had in the chat during the call can be found here.

Confab bubble imageWe want to thank Rich, MJ, and the whole Loomio team again for collaborating with us on making this timely conversation happen. We encourage our network to explore how the Loomio tool can help your or other “flat” organizations work together better at www.loomio.org.

To learn more about NCDD’s Confab Calls and hear recordings of others, visit www.ncdd.org/events/confabs.