Citizens in a Global Society (Connections 2016)

The eight-page article, “Citizens in a Global Society” by David Mathews was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 annual newsletter, Connections 2016 – Kettering’s Multinational Research. This is the initial article in the newsletter that introduces the theme for the whole publication which centers around Kettering’s multi-national work.  Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

The foundation’s multinational research falls into two broad categories or groups. In the first category, the foundation collaborates with nongovernmental organizations outside the United States that are interested in what Kettering is studying about how people do or don’t become engaged as citizens who exercise sound judgment, the work citizens do in communities to solve problems and educate the young, and productive ways that people can engage large institutions, both governmental and nongovernmental, as those institutions try to engage them. This research is the way the foundation organizes its study of democracy.

At the heart of the word democracy is the demos, or “citizenry,” and Kettering refers to the ways citizens go about their work as “democratic practices.” (Kratos, or “power,” is the other root of democracy.) The democratic practices that Kettering studies require self-responsibility, which can’t be exported or imported. So the focus of our research is on the United States, not other countries. Yet our studies have been greatly enriched by what the foundation has learned from nongovernmental organizations in some 100 other countries spread across the globe.

Organizations in other countries interested in this research come to summer learning exchanges called the Deliberative Democracy Institutes (DDIs) to share their experiences with one another and the foundation. Some of the participants come back to enter Kettering’s multinational residency program, which now has a large alumni group. These alumni often return as faculty for the institutes. Kettering’s second category of multinational research is on citizen diplomacy, and it centers on three countries—Russia, China, and Cuba. The governments in these countries have or have had serious differences with the government in the United States; communications have broken down or been problematic.

The premise of the studies, as the late Hal Saunders, Kettering’s longtime director of international affairs, explained to the New York Times, is that we live in a time when governments face a growing number of problems they cannot deal with alone, so citizens outside government have to fill that void. Citizen diplomacy is not intended to replace or compete with government diplomacy but to supplement it. And from Kettering’s perspective, this research gives the foundation a way to study dangerous conflicts, which are, unfortunately, an inescapable part of politics.

This is just an excerpt, you can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2016 issue of Connections, edited by KF program officer and senior writer/editor Melinda Gilmore; KF senior associate Philip Stewart; and KF vice president, secretary, and general counsel Maxine Thomas, focuses on our year-long review of our multinational research.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

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Picture a Conversation™

Nearly five years ago, after seeing so many couples and families interacting with their devices instead of each other, author, advice columnist and now conversation catalyst Debra Darvick felt compelled to do something. That “something” was to create Picture a Conversation™, an engaging set of conversation prompts whose topics are inspired by her husband’s gorgeous nature photographs. Darvick has made it her mission to help people reconnect through face-to-face conversations.

What distinguishes Picture a Conversation™ cards from others in the genre is Darvick’s innovation of using nature images as the inspiration for the conversation topics. The front of each card features an image and a reflection on our life challenges, situations, blessings and more. On the reverse, three questions invite meaningful discussion on a specific theme tied to the image and the reflection. For instance, an image of a butterfly hovering above a zinnia is accompanied by the phrase, “The moment is yours. Take flight!” Flip the card over to discuss take flight moments in your life and more. A card showing a grouchy monkey invites a conversation on how we deal with crankiness — others’ and our own.

Darvick field tested Picture a Conversation™ with women’s groups and families, in faith communities and with family and couples therapists. She found that the images made for a gentle “entry” into conversations. By enjoying a beautiful scene first, participants were in a more receptive and self-reflective state of mind as they began to engage in a meaningful dialogue on ideas that matter.

Each set of Picture a Conversation™ contains 25 cards featuring 25 different images and topics and seventy-five questions. In addition to sparking valuable conversations, the cards make useful journalling prompts, public speaking topics and meditation themes. They are appropriate for family dinner table conversations (ages eight and up), icebreakers, team-building endeavors, and discussions where the goal is to build bridges across seeming divides. Mental health professionals use them as well in their work with clients as communication support.

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This resource was submitted by Debra Darvick, creator of Picture a Conversation™ via the Add-a-Resource form.

Living Room Conversation Guide: Guns and Responsibility

Living Room Conversation published the conversation guide, Guns and Responsibility, which was released October 2017. The guide gives pointers on how to hold living room conversations in order to develop a deeper understanding between participants around gun beliefs, gun safety, and responsible gun ownership. You can read the guide below, find a downloadable PDF here, or the original on Living Room Conversation’s site here.

From the guide…

In Living Room Conversations, a small group of people (e.g. 4-7) people come together to get to know one another in a more meaningful way. Guided by a simple and sociable format, participants practice being open and curious about all perspectives, with a focus on learning from one another, rather than trying to debate the topic at hand.

The Living Room Conversation Ground Rules
Be Curious and Open to Learning
Listen to and be open to hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration and learning.
Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking.

Show Respect and Suspend Judgment
Human beings tend to judge one another, do your best not to. Setting judgments aside will better
enable you to learn from others and help them feel respected and appreciated.

Look for Common Ground and Appreciate Differences
In this conversation, we look for what we agree on and simply appreciate that we will disagree on
some beliefs and opinions.

Be Authentic and Welcome that from Others
Share what’s important to you. Speak authentically from your personal and heartfelt experience. Be
considerate to others who are doing the same.

Be Purposeful and to the Point
Notice if what you are conveying is or is not “on purpose” to the question at hand. Notice if you are
making the same point more than once.

Own and Guide the Conversation
Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and the conversation by noticing what’s
happening and actively support getting yourself and others back “on purpose” when needed.

Though feedback is consistently positive, some people are concerned about managing people that dominate the conversation as well as off-topic, or disruptive situations during the Living Room Conversation. We offer these tips:
● Everyone shares responsibility for guiding the conversation and is invited to help keep the conversation on track.
● The group can decide to keep track of time in some way to help people remember to keep their comments similar in length to others. Soft music when the time is up is a great reminder.
● If an area of interest has arisen that has taken the group off topic, ask the group if they would like to set aside the new topic for a separate Living Room Conversation.
● If someone is dominating, disruptive or has found their soapbox, respectfully interrupt the situation, refer to the Ground Rules and invite everyone to get back on track with the current question
● If the group opts to shift from the format of the Living Room Conversations, please provide us with feedback for future learning. There are many ways to have a great conversation! Thank you!

Rounds/Questions: The Living Room Conversation Starts Here
We all care about the victims of gun violence. We all love our children and our family. We all want children to arrive home safely at the end of the day. We have seen tragedy in our communities and want that to end. Let’s start with this as a given. This conversation focuses on our own personal experience with guns, gun safety and our beliefs about the balance between constitutional right and common good. This is a conversation about our hopes and concerns with a diverse set of community members in order to develop a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges surrounding responsible gun ownership.

Background Information: While you don’t need to be an expert on this topic, sometimes people want background information. Our partner, AllSides, has prepared a variety of articles reflecting multiple sides of this topic.

Round One: Getting Started / Why Are We Here?
● What interested you or drew you to this conversation?

Round Two: Core Values
Answer one or more of the following:
● What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
● What would your best friend say about who you are and what makes you “tick”?
● What are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country?

Round Three: Guns and Responsibility
Remember that the goal for this Living Room Conversation is for all of us to listen and learn about where we have different opinions and where we have shared interests, intentions and goals. Answer one or more of the following questions:
● Where did you learn about guns? And what did you learn?
● What role have guns played in your life?
● What are your concerns about gun safety?
● Are gun issues on your top 10 list of concerns? Why or why not?

Round Four: Reflection
Answer one or more of the following questions:
● In one sentence, share what was most meaningful / valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation.
● What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on this topic?
● Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?

Round Five: Accomplishment and Next Steps
Answer both of the following questions:
● What is one important thing you thought was accomplished here?
● Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

Closing​ – Thank you! Please complete the feedback form to help improve Living Room Conversations.

To download a printable version of this conversation guide with the feedback form, click here.

About Living Room Conversations
Living Room Conversations are a conversational bridge across issues that divide and separate us. They provide an easy structure for engaging in friendly yet meaningful conversation with those with whom we may not agree. These conversations increase understanding, reveal common ground, and sometimes even allow us to discuss possible solutions. No fancy event or skilled facilitator is needed.

Follow on Twitter: @LivingRoomConvo

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Pocket Guide to Hosting Zine

Story Artist Mary Alice Arthur and graphic facilitator Viola Clark collaborated in 2016 to create the first in their Zine series – a POCKET GUIDE TO HOSTING. One side features the Art of Hosting practices, the other side features the AoH methods.  Here is a little snapshot of a couple of pages of the zine. (A zine is a self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, usually reproduced via photocopier.)

Art of Hosting will be using the Zine in the upcoming trainings in Innsbruck, Austria and Denmark.

Next in the series will be Harvesting.

Mary Alice advises: “It is set up as an A4 (if you are not on the A4 system, shrink to fit the space) — follow the instructions for folding (and unleash your inner creative geek!).”

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Civil Conversations Project

The Civil Conversations Project seeks to renew common life in a fractured and tender world. We are a conversation-based, virtues-based resource towards hospitable, trustworthy relationship with and across difference. We honor the power of asking better questions, model reframed approaches to entrenched debates, and insist that the ruptures above the radar do not tell the whole story of our time. We aspire to amplify and cross-pollinate the generative new realities that are also being woven, one word and one life at a time.

Better Conversations: a starter guide
It seems we are more divided than ever before — unable to speak across the differences we must engage to create the world we want for ourselves and others. We offer this guide as a resource for creating new spaces for listening, conversation, and engagement. We’ve created it as producers, but more as citizens, out of what we’ve learned in over a decade of conversation on On Being.

The seven-page pdf opens with an invitational letter from Krista Tippett, and provides a flexible roadmap for speaking together differently in a way that allows us to live together differently.

This guide is intended to help ground and animate a gathering of friends or strangers in a conversation that might take place over weeks or months. Adapt this guide for your group and your intentions, choosing a focus and readings you find meaningful and relevant.

Download the Better Conversations PDF here

From the guide…

Our young century is awash with questions of meaning, of how we structure our common life, and who we are to each other. It seems we are more divided than ever before – unable to speak across the differences we must engage to create the world we want for ourselves and our children.

Yet you and I have it in us to be nourishers of discernment, fermenters of healing. We have the language, the tools, the virtues – and the calling, as human beings – to create hospitable spaces for taking up the hard questions of our time.

This calling is too important and life-giving to wait for politics or media at their worst to come around. We can discover how to calm fear and plant the seeds of the robust civil society we desire and that our age demands.

This is civic work and it is human, spiritual work – in the most expansive 21st century sense of that language. We can learn for our time what moral imagination, social healing, and civil discourse can look like and how they work.

The Civil Conversations Project is a collection of audio, video, writings, and resources for planting new conversations in families and communities. How do we speak the questions we don’t know how to ask each other? Can we find ways to cross gulfs between us about politics and the meaning of community itself? How to engage our neighbors who have become strangers? Can we do that even while we continue to hold passionate disagreements on deep, contrasting convictions? How is technology playing into all this, and how can we shape it to human purposes? You will have your own questions – particular to your community and concerns – to add.

We insist on approaching civility as an adventure, not an exercise in niceness. It is a departure from ways of being and interacting that aren’t serving our age of change. This is a resource and reflection for beginning this adventure — creating new spaces for listening, conversation, and engagement. We’ve created it as producers, but more urgently as citizens.

Public life is bigger than political life. We have narrowly equated the two in recent years, and we’ve impoverished ourselves in the process. Public life includes all of our disciplines and endeavors, including our selves as citizens and professional people and neighbors and parents and friends. The places we’ve looked for leadership and modeling have become some of the most broken in our midst. And so it is up to us, where we live, to start having the conversations we want to be hearing and creating the realities we want to inhabit.

I have seen that wisdom, in life and society, emerges precisely through those moments when we have to hold seemingly opposing realities in a creative tension and interplay: power and frailty, birth and death, pain and hope, beauty and brokenness, mystery and conviction, calm and fierceness, mine and yours.

About On Being
On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.

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The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter

The 300-page book, The World Cafe, was written by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs and published April 2005. In the first comprehensive book on the World Café, co-founders Brown and Isaacs introduce readers to this simple yet powerful conversational process for thinking together, evoking collective intelligence, and creating actionable results.

Beautifully illustrated with stories contributed by World Café practitioners, this is still the most definitive compendium of Café Know-How available.

Available in Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Japanese, Simple Chinese, Complex Chinese, German, Korean, and Thai. Below is an excerpt from the foreword of the book, which can be purchased on the World Café site here.

From the foreword…

We Can Be Wise Only Together
By Margaret J Wheatley

The World Café process reawakens our deep species memory of two fundamental beliefs about human life. First, we humans want to talk together about things that matter to us. In fact, this is what gives satisfaction and meaning to life. Second, as we talk together, we are able to access a greater wisdom that is found only in the collective.

The World Café in Action
As you read the stories and counsel in this book, you will see these two beliefs brought to life in the Café process. In order to provoke your exploration of them, I’d like to underline some of the dimensions of the Café process that bring these beliefs into vibrant, healthy reality.

Belief in Everybody
The World Café is a good, simple process for bringing people together around questions that matter. It is founded on the assumption that people have the capacity to work together, no matter who they are. For me, this is a very important assumption. It frees us from our current focus on personality types, learning styles, emotional IQ—all the popular methods we currently use to pre-identify and pre-judge people. Each of these typologies ends up separating and stereotyping people. This is not what was intended by their creators, but it is what has happened. The Café process has been used in many different cultures, among many different age groups, for many different purposes, and in many different types of communities and organizations. It doesn’t matter who the people are—the process works. It works because people can work well together, can be creative and caring and insightful when they’re actively engaged in meaningful conversations around questions that count. I hope that these stories inspire us to move away from all the categories and stereotypes we currently use about who should be involved, who should attend a meeting—all the careful but ill-founded analysis we put into constructing the “right” group. We need to be focused on gathering the real diversity of the system, but that’s quite different from being absorbed with these other sorting devices.

It’s important to notice the diversity of the places and purposes for which the World Café is used, and the diversity of participants who are encouraged to attend World Café gatherings. These pages contain a rich illustration of a value I live by: we need to depend on diversity. Including diversity well is a survival skill these days, because there’s no other way to get an accurate picture of any complex problem or system. We need many eyes and ears and hearts engaged in sharing perspectives. How can we create an accurate picture of the whole if we don’t honor the fact that we each see something different because of who we are and where we sit in the system? Only when we have many different perspectives do we have enough information to make good decisions. And exploring our differing perspectives always brings us closer together. One Café member said it well: “You’re moving among strangers, but it feels as if you’ve known these people for a long time.” Invitation In every World Café, there’s a wonderful feeling of invitation. Attention is paid to creating hospitable space. But the hospitality runs much deeper. It is rooted in the host’s awareness that everyone is needed, that anyone might contribute something that suddenly sparks a collective insight. Café facilitators are true hosts—creating a spirit of welcome that is missing from most of our processes. It’s important to notice this in the stories here, and to contrast it with your own experience of setting up meetings and processes. What does it feel like to be truly wanted at an event, to be greeted by meeting hosts who delight in your presence, to be welcomed in as a full contributor?

When people are engaged in meaningful conversation, the whole room reflects curiosity and delight. People move closer physically, their faces exhibit intense listening, and the air becomes charged with their attention to each other. A loud, resonant quiet develops, broken by occasional laughter. It becomes a challenge to call people back from these conversations (which I always take as a good sign).

In the World Café process, people generally move from table to table. But it’s much more than physical movement. As we move, we leave behind our roles, our preconceptions, our certainty. Each time we move to a new table, we lose more of ourselves and become bigger—we now represent a conversation that happened among several people. We move away from a confining sense of self and our small certainties into a spaciousness where new ideas can reveal themselves. As one participant describes it: “It’s almost as if you don’t know where the thought came from because it has merged so many times that it has been molded and shaped and shifted with new dimensions. People are speaking for each other and using words that started somewhere else that they hadn’t thought of before.” We also move into a greater awareness as we look for connections amongst the conversations, as we listen to voices other than our own. Patterns become apparent. Things we couldn’t see from our own narrow perspective suddenly become obvious to the entire group.

Good Questions
World Café dialogues, like all good conversations, succeed or fail based on what we’re talking about. Good questions—ones that we care about and want to answer—call us outward and to each other. They are an invitation to explore, to venture out, to risk, to listen, to abandon our positions. Good questions help us become both curious and uncertain, and this is always the road that opens us to the surprise of new insight.

I’ve never been in a World Café that was dull or boring. People become energized, inspired, excited, creative. Laughter is common, playfulness abounds even with the most serious of issues. For me this is proof positive of how much we relish being together, of how wonderful it is to rediscover the fact of human community. As one host from a very formal culture says: “My faith in people has been confirmed. Underneath all the formal ways of the past, people really want to have significant conversations. People everywhere truly love to talk with each other, learn together, and make a contribution to things they care about.”

Discovering Collective Wisdom
These are some of the Café dimensions that bring out the best in us. But this is only half the story. World Café conversations take us into a new realm, one that has been forgotten in modern, individualistic cultures. It is the realm of collective intelligence, of the wisdom we possess as a group that is unavailable to us as individuals. This wisdom emerges as we get more and more connected with each other, as we move from conversation to conversation, carrying the ideas from one conversation to another, looking for patterns, suddenly surprised by an insight we all share. There’s a good scientific explanation for this, because this is how all life works. As separate ideas or entities become connected to each other, life surprises us with emergence—the sudden appearance of new capacity and intelligence. All living systems work in this way. We humans got confused and lost sight of this remarkable process by which individual actions, when connected, lead to much greater capacity.

About World CaféWorld Cafe_logo
Using seven design principles and a simple method, the World Café is a powerful social technology for engaging people in conversations that matter, offering an effective antidote to the fast-paced fragmentation and lack of connection in today’s world. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique – it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.

Follow on Twitter: @TWCcommunity

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Red Blue Dictionary

The Red Blue Dictionary, in partnership with Allsides, is a collaborative effort with dozens of dialogue experts from the NCDD network, to create a site that gives definitions for a wide variety of words to help those all across the political spectrum better understand each other.

The idea for the website stemmed from the “Red Blue Dialogue brainstorming session” at the 2012 NCDD conference in Seattle, where Joan Blades, Amanda Roman and Jacob Hess decided to further develop the idea. Living Room Conversations, in early 2016, continued to support the effort by funding Jacob Hess to develop the site. Since then, all contributions to flesh out the Red Blue dictionary have been on a volunteer basis. You can peruse some of the highlight of the Red Blue dictionary below and find the full site here.

From the site…

This guide to America’s contested vocabulary has been written by a politically diverse team of 30 contributors from the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation. Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals, our editorial and contributor teams draw together dialogue experts from maximally diverse backgrounds: religious & atheist, liberal & conservative, Marxist & capitalist, anarchist & libertarian, independent & partisan, hippie & traditionalist, Neil Diamond fans & the rest of us.

Are Americans losing the capacity to disagree in healthy ways? If so, how can we restore (and preserve) our civic ecosystem?

What would it mean to get curious about our differences? (and maybe even smile a little..)

Welcome to a Less-Painful, More Enjoyable Conversation

Overwhelmed at the thought of venturing into contested word-territory. Have no fear! Issue-specific guides have been created to lay the groundwork to get you moving.

And you thought super-heroes were cool? Buckle up…because these dialogue pioneers are going to rock your world.

Every day some word seems to take on a new meaning…or lose an old…or become weaponized. We’re keeping an eye on that (78 eyes, to be exact) – to help you stay on top of it all!

Worried about slipping into some college textbook? Don’t be. We’ve written textbooks before and don’t like them either…!

When was the last time you had a good belly laugh? Beware – because we’re coming after you with political bumper-stickers (and lots of other giggle-provocateurs).

Tired of spending your life listening in to ONE more nasty-aggressive-mean-spirited comment? (Us too) We came across an innovator with the answer…and we think you’re gonna like it!

Tired of (more) small-talk at family parties? Pull one of these mind-popping inquiries out and let the (better) times roll!

Confused at why that word means X to THEM and Y to THOSE PEOPLE? Lucky for you! We got some of THEM and THOSE PEOPLE to collaborate on a guide to help us make sense of it all…hope it’s helpful!

Stumped with a word (or person-using-a-word) that you really-cannot-fathom? Check out some of our suggested links to videos and other reading sure to liven (and loosen) things up a bit…

The following categories are offered as another way to help orient readers to the terms, which are otherwise organized alphabetically. These categories are organized thematically in general idea clusters – with each term potentially showing up more than once across the different categories:

Race, Ethnicity & Class
Food, Environment & Health
Gender, Sexuality & Family
Life, Death & Conflict
Spirituality, Religion & Doubt
Money, Power & Freedom
Government Systems & Agencies
American History & Tradition
U.S.-World Relations
Education, Learning & Knowledge
Hostility, Dialogue & Peace
Judgment, Interpretation & Deliberation
Liberal & Progressive Thinking
Conservative & Traditional Thinking
U.S. Elections 2016
New & Unusual Terms

Find the Red Blue Dictionary explorations of these categories at the resource link below!

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