Finding a Seat for Social Justice at the Table of Dialogue and Deliberation

The 4-page article, Finding a Seat for Social Justice at the Table of Dialogue and Deliberation (2014)was written by David Schoem and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. In the article, Schoem discusses the relationships that many dialogue and deliberation organizations have toward social justice. Many D&D organizations have a tendency to shy away from social justice in an effort to maintain neutrality. Schoem puts forth three arguments that “the field needs to 1) work intentionally for social justice and serving the public good for a strong, diverse democracy, 2) confront the illusion of neutrality, and 3) address issues of privilege and power. ”

Read the article in full below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

First, most people, whatever language they choose to use, regardless of their political affiliation, perspective, or point of view, share a hope for a better society and believe in a more just world. To use the foundation of a just society or a better world as a common starting point allows for purposeful dialogue and is an invitation to a wide range of people, perspectives and viewpoints. Even the Pledge of Allegiance speaks of “liberty and justice for all,” so it’s surprising that those words are too often taken off the table in dialogue and deliberation organizations because they are seen as “too political.” To ignore social justice serves only to diminish the opportunity and promise that dialogue and deliberation have to offer.

Second, ignoring inequity and inequality predictably leads to the marginalization and exclusion of less privileged groups and those expressing unpopular opinions. Rather than opening the door to open discussion and dialogue by invoking a value of neutrality, when issues of social justice are left off the table it signals to people who are concerned with such issues that the conversation will support the status quo, that substantive change will not result, and that they are unwelcome at the table.

Third, declaring an approach of neutrality, without accounting for power and privilege, almost always privileges those in power. The invocation of unexamined neutrality ignores the power relations embedded in social issues, makes invisible the privilege and power of members of different social identities actually participating in any dialogue and deliberation, and serves to silence less privileged voices. To presume a priori an approach of neutrality mistakenly creates an unequal situation from the outset.

Fourth, efforts to convene substantive dialogue and deliberation without a social justice orientation typically end up as an exercise to give already privileged people more power. When the D&D community gathers people together for good discussions and conversations without any acknowledgement of or attention to issues of social justice, power or privilege, it simply creates space for a privileged group of people to gain an even larger voice and to reify existing inequalities. Admittedly, some in the D&D community who previously felt excluded have carved a niche for themselves and found a voice in public discourse through D&D, but too often when doing so without any social, racial, economic and/or other justice orientation, they have left even further behind those with even less privilege and power.

Fifth, issues of power and privilege are present in dialogue and deliberation whether or not people are ignorant of their presence or choose not to acknowledge them. The fact that people with more privilege are unaware of their power or may consciously choose to ignore it, does not mean that such dynamics are not present and salient in dialogue and deliberation.

Download the article from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

About the Journal of Public Deliberation
Journal of Public DeliberationSpearheaded by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in collaboration with the International Association of Public Participation, the principal objective of Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD) is to synthesize the research, opinion, projects, experiments and experiences of academics and practitioners in the emerging multi-disciplinary field and political movement called by some “deliberative democracy.” By doing this, we hope to help improve future research endeavors in this field and aid in the transformation of modern representative democracy into a more citizen friendly form.

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

Follow the International Association of Public Participation [US] on Twitter: @IAP2USA

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol10/iss1/art20/

The Truth Telling Project

The Truth Telling Project is a grassroots, community-based truth telling process that is designed to share the stories of Black people in the US and their experiences with police violence; and to address the legacies of racism in the US against Black people. The Truth Telling Project arose after the murder of Michael Brown and the lack of indictment of the police officer in his murder. It is a collaborative effort between “the Peace and Justice Studies Association, The Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College, The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Sophia Project of St.Louis MO and the National Peace Academy”.

The Truth Telling Project developed the The Truth Telling Initiative for Ferguson and Beyond (FTI), to perform community-based hearings of Black peoples’ stories of police violence. The FTI started with an initial panel event Nov 13-14, 2015 in Ferguson, MO; and was recorded to be utilized in living room conversations around the nation. The Truth Telling Project provides support for holding living room conversations called FTI WeFi gatherings- “Watch [parties], Exchange [ideas], Formulate [a plan of action], and Implement [the plan]”; to hear and address the issues of systemic and structural racism against Black people.

To learn more about The Truth Telling Project and the FTI, check out their site here.

From the site…

The information below is excerpted from the Truth Telling Project’s Mandate, the whole document can be read on their site here

In light of the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 and the subsequent findings of the Grand Jury not to indict the officer who shot Mr. Brown, despite witness testimony that his hands were in the raised, “surrender” position, and

In light of the overwhelming number of incidents where unarmed black men, women and children have been assaulted, injured, or killed at the hands of police officers or while in police custody in Ferguson, and

In light of the proliferation of deaths of black men, women and children in the 21st century at the hands of police or while in police custody in the U.S. and

In light of the racist and oppressive nature of Slave Patrols, Fugitive Slave Laws, Jim Crow Laws, Racial Profiling and Stop and Frisk Practices having all served as historical and/or contemporary directives comprising four centuries of police practices violating the lives of black men, women and children in the U.S.:

The Truth Telling Project, on behalf of the citizens of Ferguson, MO calls for the conduct of the Truth Telling Initiative for Ferguson and Beyond (FTI) to allow national and international audiences to listen to first-hand accounts of persons impacted directly and indirectly by police violence in the city of Ferguson and beyond.

The FTI is not for the purpose of exacting revenge or recrimination; additionally, the Truth Telling Project does not endorse violence in any form. The Truth Telling Project supports truth sharing for the purposes of helping all members of society acknowledge the realities and consequences of violence, and work towards the collective healing needed to produce reconciliation.

The Panel charged with listening to testimonial stories will have no powers, but they will be tasked with inquiring and helping others learn how persons came to be directly or indirectly involved in instances of police violence, including harm and death while in police custody. As a necessary part of the truth seeking process, the Panel will also consider questions of individual and institutional responsibility surrounding the stories presented.

It is the firm belief of the Truth Telling Project that giving voice to the voiceless through the power of storytelling will humanize persons in a manner that no Commission report, visual representation or media interview can. Given the historical and perennial nature of violent assaults and deadly encounters between police and African Americans in the U.S., it is urgent that the national and international community be given an opportunity to hear personal accounts directly from those impacted; the FTI will provide this opportunity.

It is the position of the Truth Telling Project that addressing the legacy of structural and systemic racism and its consequences in the U.S. must begin with citizen actions to expose truths. We believe that promoting truth will increase mutual understanding and respect, and lay the foundation needed for healing the long-standing wounds and by-products of oppression in our nation.

There can be no genuine healing and moving forward without honestly, courageously and collectively involving the citizens of Ferguson, MO in confronting truths surrounding accounts of police violence and fully acknowledging the direct and indirect suffering associated with those experiences. Giving recognition to individual experiences and truths is the beginning of healing and the related processes of resolution; each is a necessary step if we are to move our society through, and then past the pain associated with the legacies of racism in the U.S.

“There comes a time in the life of every community when it must look humbly and seriously into its past in order to provide the best possible foundation for moving into a future based on healing and hope.” – The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 2006

Follow on Twitter: @TruthTellersUSA

Resource Link: http://thetruthtellingproject.org/

How to Develop Discussion Materials for Public Dialogue

The 28-page guide from Everyday Democracy, How to Develop Discussion Materials for Public Dialogue, was published November 2007. This guide describes in detail the process for developing materials for public dialogue, as have been used to develop the Everyday Democracy discussion guides. From how to get started, this guide provides tips for creating a team that represents though the guide is aimed toward and some best practices for when selecting team contributors. The guide continues with four templates for developing each step of the process when developing materials, some exercises for writing, and some addition optional elements to consider developing.

Below is an excerpt of the guide, which is available for download as PDF on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

ED_Develop_dialogue_materialsFrom Everyday Democracy…

Good discussion materials help people explore a complex, public issue from a wide range of views, and find solutions that they can agree to act on and support. Discussion materials don’t have to provide all the answers; instead, they provide a framework and a starting place for a deep, fair discussion where every voice can be heard.

Keep in mind that this is an art, not a science. As you write, think about your audience. Don’t overestimate what people know, but don’t underestimate their intelligence. Trust the public, and trust the process.

The step-by-step instructions provided here mirror the order that many discussion guides follow. They are designed to help the writing team move through a series of meetings and tasks to produce the discussion materials.

Guiding principles
Your discussion guide should…

– give people a sense that their voice matters.
– connect personal experience to public issues.
– help people understand the power of collective thinking and collaborative work.
– welcome all points of view.
– acknowledge and embrace cultural differences.
– help build trust.
– encourage people to analyze the values and assumptions that underlie their views.
– help people uncover common ground and find better solutions.
– help people move from dialogue to action.

Characteristics of effective discussion guides
An effective discussion guide…

– addresses a current issue with broad public appeal.
– provides a starting place for a safe and open discussion.
– presents many different points of view about the issue, without promoting any particular point of view or solution.
– represents widely held views of citizens and experts.
– is easy for people from all walks of life to use.
– is brief and uses plain, jargon-free language. Quotes or viewpoints should soundlike something people might actually say.
– states each viewpoint clearly, in the “voice” of a person who holds that view.
– helps people learn about the issue.
– helps people explore areas of disagreement.
– may include sample action ideas

About Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy (formerly called the Study Circles Resource Center) is a project of The Paul J. Aicher Foundation, a private operating foundation dedicated to strengthening deliberative democracy and improving the quality of public life in the United States. Since our founding in 1989, we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across the United States on issues such as: racial equity, poverty reduction and economic development, education reform, early childhood development and building strong neighborhoods. We work with national, regional and state organizations in order to leverage our resources and to expand the reach and impact of civic engagement processes and tools.

Follow on Twitter: @EvDem

Resource Link: www.everyday-democracy.org/resources/how-develop-discussion-materials-public-dialogue

Racial Dynamics to Watch For

The two-page tip sheet from Everyday DemocracyRacial Dynamics to Watch For, was published April 2010. The tip sheet gives pointers on how to keep racial dynamics in mind, in order to design better and more inclusive programs/events. The tip sheet gives advice for three categories: Planning and organizing, Dialogues and facilitation, and Working on Action. Below is an excerpt from the tip sheet and it’s available on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

From Everyday Democracy…

As you approach a large community-change initiative, pay attention to racial dynamics. Consider the following examples. Talk about how you might prevent or correct these situations.

Planning and organizing
– The organizing committee recruits one person of color to “represent” the African American / Latino / or Asian “community”.

-The chair of the group selects a large, prosperous, white church – or another venue frequented by whites – a a regular meeting site for the organizing team.

-The group decides to rotate meeting sites between a prosperous white church and a local black church. White attendance is very low when the meeting takes place as the black church.

Dialogues and facilitation
– The white facilitator seems to lead most of the times; the person of color who is co-facilitating tends to do more note-taking.

– The white organizer checks in with the white facilitator about how things are going.

– One or two people or color in a circle or 10 are asked to speak for their whole group.

Working on Action
– Action groups are often dominated by whites. While people of color may be invited to participate, they are more “for show”. Old habits and behaviors continue, and whites stay in the lead.

– As people form new partnerships to address problems in the community, they hesitate to include people from different racial groups.

– People who are most affected by new policies are shut out. They have no voice in the policy making.

This is a condensed version of Racial Dynamics to Watch For, the original can be found in full on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

About Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy (formerly called the Study Circles Resource Center) is a project of The Paul J. Aicher Foundation, a private operating foundation dedicated to strengthening deliberative democracy and improving the quality of public life in the United States. Since our founding in 1989, we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across the United States on issues such as: racial equity, poverty reduction and economic development, education reform, early childhood development and building strong neighborhoods. We work with national, regional and state organizations in order to leverage our resources and to expand the reach and impact of civic engagement processes and tools.

Follow on Twitter: @EvDem

Resource Link: http://everyday-democracy.org/resources/racial-dynamics-watch

Climate Choices: How Should We Meet the Challenges of a Warming Planet? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 25-page issue guide, Climate Choices: How Should We Meet the Challenges of a Warming Planet?, was published April 2016 from National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation, in collaboration with, North American Association for Environmental Education. Climate change is undeniable, this issue guide offers participants three options to use during deliberation on how to address our warming world. The issue guide is available to download for free on NIFI’s site here, where you can also find: the moderator’s guide, an options chart, and a post-forum questionnaire.

NIFI_Climate ChoicesFrom NIFI…

The Environment and Society Series is designed to promote meaningful, productive deliberation, convened locally and online, about difficult issues that affect the environment and communities.

All around is evidence that the climate is changing. Summers are starting earlier and lasting longer. Heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense. Dry regions are getting drier and wet regions are seeing heavier rains. Record cold and snowfalls blanket some parts of the country, while record fires ravage forests across the West.

The effects are being felt across many parts of the United States. Farmworkers in California’s Central Valley, snow-weary New England business owners, crab fishermen in Alaska, and cattle ranchers across the Great Plains have all seen uncommon and extreme weather. Occasional odd weather and weather cycles are nothing unusual.

But the more extreme and unpredictable weather being experienced around the world points to dramatic changes in climate— the conditions that take place over years, decades, and longer.

Climate disruptions have some people worried about their health, their children, their homes, their livelihoods, their communities, and even their personal safety. They wonder about the future of the natural areas they enjoy and the wild animals and plants that live there. In addition, there are growing concerns about our national security and how climate change might affect scarce resources around the planet and increase global tensions.

This issue guide presents three options for deliberation:

Option One: “Sharply Reduce Carbon Emissions”
We can no longer rely on piecemeal, voluntary efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The only way to protect ourselves and the planet is to tackle climate change at its source by taking coordinated, aggressive action to reduce the CO2 we put into the atmosphere—enforced by strict laws and regulations, and supported by significant investment. If we don’t make averting further climate change our top priority, warming of the land and oceans will accelerate, increasing the frequency of droughts, fires, floods, and other extreme weather events, and damaging the environment for generations to come.

Option Two: “Prepare and Protect Our Communities”
Preparing for and coping with changing conditions must be our top priority. We should work together now to secure our communities and strengthen our resilience in the face of climate-related impacts. That includes protecting our infrastructure—roads, bridges, and shorelines—and ensuring that the most vulnerable members of society have the support they need to adapt to the effects of a warming planet.

Option Three: “Accelerate Innovation”
Across the country and around the world, many private enterprises are already responding to climate change by seeing opportunity. Agricultural biotech companies Monsanto and Syngenta, for example, are poised to profit from newly patented drought-resistant crops. The water giant Veolia, which manages pipes and builds desalination plants, has expanded its operations to 74 countries on five continents. Lucid Energy, a startup in Portland, Oregon, generates electric power from the city’s domestic water pipes.

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/climate-choices

Creating Spaces for Dialogue – A Role for Civil Society

Creating Spaces for Dialogue – A Role for Civil Society, is a publication released December 2015 from the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). It is a compilation of different case studies about dialogue processes that have taken place among polarized societies.Creating_space

From GPPAC…

Dialogue and mediation is at the heart of the work of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). GPPAC members employ dialogue and mediation as a means for conflict prevention, to decrease tensions during conflict, or as a tool for reconciliation in post-conflict situations. Last week, GPPAC presented its new publication dedicated to dialogue and mediation “Creating Spaces for Dialogue – A Role for Civil Society” in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The stories presented in this book are authored by GPPAC network members who initiated a conversation between communities and societies polarised and divided as a result of conflict. Each story shows how civil society plays a vital role in rebuilding trust and enabling collaborations.

The authors describe how the dialogue processes unfolded, and share resulting lessons and observations. They also present their views on the questions that need to be addressed in designing a meaningful process. Is there such a thing as the most opportune moment to initiate a dialogue? Who should introduce the process? How is the process of participant selection approached, and what are the patterns of relationship transformation? Lastly, what follows once confidence and trust have been established?

The first two stories provide an account of civil society contribution to normalising inter-state relations between the US and Cuba, and Russia and Georgia. The following two chapters offer chronicles of community dialogues between Serbians and Albanians in Serbia and Kosovo, and Christians and Muslims in Indonesia.

On June 10th, GPPAC’s experts on dialogue and mediation convened in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, for a seminar co-organised by the Korean National Peace Committee and GPPAC. The seminar marked the first public presentation of the book.

In Pyongyang, the GPPAC delegation reflected on the case studies presented in the book. They also shared and examined specific examples of dialogue and mediation initiated and facilitated in different contexts, including in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia.

You can download the full publication in PDF here.

About GGPAC
The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC, pronounced “gee-pak”) is a global member led network of civil society organizations (CSOs) who actively work on conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The network consists of fifteen regional networks of local organisations with their own priorities, character and agenda. These regional networks are represented in an International Steering Group, which jointly determines our global priorities and actions for our conflict prevention and peacebuilding work.

Our mission is to promote a global shift in peacebuilding from solely reacting to conflict to preventing conflicts from turning violent. We do this through multi-actor collaboration and local ownership of strategies for peace and security. Together, we aim to achieve greater national, regional and global synergy in the field of conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and to strengthen the role of local members in the regions affected by conflict.

Follow on Twitter: @GPPAC

Resource Link: Creating Spaces for Dialogue – A Role for Civil Society