Democracy Fund Revamps Their Engaged Journalism Lab

Over the last couple years, NCDD has been working to grow and strengthen the partnership between the D&D and journalism fields (which you can learn about from our NCDD2016 conf panel, our D&D-journalism podcast, and Confab call).  Journalism is vital to both a functioning democracy and the engagement field – because without journalists, the important stories from the community don’t get shared in the same way and thus have a less powerful impact. We have been especially excited for efforts around engaged journalism, which is why we wanted to share the recent announcement from the Democracy Fund – an NCDD2018 conference sponsor org, about their Engaged Journalism Lab, a resource for audience-driven journalism. You can read the article written by Josh Stearns below and find the original on the Democracy Fund’s Medium site here.


Welcome to the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab

The Engaged Journalism Lab is a resource for building and supporting trusted, inclusive, and audience-driven journalism.

The ability of journalism to serve as our Fourth Estate — to be a check and balance on government and powerful interests — is under increasing threat. Journalism today faces multiple challenges: a faltering business model with shrinking resources; a political environment in which they find themselves under attack; and a climate of deep distrust by the American people.

In a 2017 survey, the Poynter Institute, a Democracy Fund grantee, found that only 49% of Americans have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the media. We believe this distrust is connected to another problem: journalism’s lack of deep engagement with its audiences, exacerbated by news organizations whose staff and coverage do not represent the communities they serve.

At Democracy Fund, one of our goals is to ensure that every American citizen has access to audience-centered, trusted, resilient journalism. To meet this goal, we are working to build a media landscape that truly serves the public interest.Through our Public Square Program, we support projects and organizations that enable newsrooms to build meaningful, trusted relationships with their communities through audience-driven storytelling, inclusion, and transparency. We call this work “Engaged Journalism,” and have seen firsthand how practical investments in these organizations and ideas can have a transformative effect on newsrooms.

As a part of this effort, we’re re-launching this Medium publication as the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab. The Engaged Journalism Lab will focus, not on how to get a grant from Democracy Fund, but rather on what our grantees and partners are doing and learning. We’ll also discuss the big ideas shaping the field and shine a spotlight on the people helping to make journalism more inclusive and engaged with its community. We hope it will serve as a resource for those working at the intersection of media and democracy.

The Local News Lab’s work exploring bold ideas for the future of local news continues at LocalNewsLab.org and through the weekly Local Fix newsletter. And you can find out more about Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation created by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to ensure our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people, at democracyfund.org.

Managed by Paul Waters and Lea Trusty, the Engaged Journalism Lab will feature content on a variety of subjects, including how newsrooms can better:

  • Engage their communities in content generation, production, dissemination, and discussion;
  • Address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within journalism through inclusive newsroom policies and practices, including recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse staff and supporting minority ownership of independent media properties;
  • Experiment with new tools and technology that aim to help the public and news distribution platforms identify quality, trusted news; and
  • Rebuild and fortify trust between the media and Americans.

We recognize that these are not small goals — and we know we can’t do it alone. Democracy Fund believes that collaboration is the only way we can begin to solve journalism’s most pressing challenges, and as a systems change organization, we are committed to learning, iterating, and partnering in ways that strengthen both our work and the field at large.

It is our hope the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab becomes a place to highlight new ideas and uncover new solutions that we haven’t thought of yet. If you have a question or a thought, please share it. If there’s an idea or project that we should know about, please let us know. You can reach us at EJLab[at]democracyfund[dot]org. We don’t pretend to have all answers to journalism’s problems, but we hope this will be a place where we can work through some of the questions together.

You can find the original version from Democracy Fund on their Medium site at www.medium.com/the-engaged-journalism-lab/welcome-to-the-democracy-fund-engaged-journalism-lab-95e56a5bc08a

NCDD Member with Tips to Expand Your Information Bubble

The engagement field knows the value of folks being able to reach outside of their usual information bubble in order to understand other perspectives, build empathy, and expand your mind. Which is why we wanted to share this piece by Annie Pottorff of The Jefferson Center – an NCDD member organization, which shared some excellent tips for bursting your info bubble. We encourage you to share your additional ideas in the comments section below. You can read the article below and find the original on The Jefferson Center’s site here.


How to Burst Your Information Bubble

If you’re reading this, we’d bet that you care about the future of democracy, the forces that damage it, and the work that strengthens it. If you do, then chances are also good that you’ve heard the phrases “information bubble” and/or “filter bubble” as topics of concern. To provide a (very) brief overview: as humans in the digital age, we tend to seek out people and publications with similar opinions to ours, which is a pretty good way to avoid conflict. When we can get our news feed tailored exactly to our tastes, providing only information we’ll appreciate and relate to, why would we want anything else?

These bubbles can also be dangerous: when we remain inside, we don’t interact with those who disagree with us or with the information they consume. That may sound great on the surface, but this makes it easier for us to dismiss opposing opinions as being in the minority (even though that may not be the case), since we aren’t seeing them on a daily basis. Making things worse, actually escaping the bubble is pretty difficult. Our social media algorithms have been programmed specifically to show us stories we’ll generally like and agree with. Plus, we’ve all seen (or maybe even gotten involved with), political Facebook fights with distant relatives, or stumbled down the rabbit hole of our local newspaper comments section. Seeing these extreme views from people on the internet can make it difficult to even want to listen to anyone who may have different thoughts than us.

But at the Jefferson Center, we’ve found that when people have their beliefs challenged, it can be a good thing. We host Citizens Juries–deliberative events where a group of randomly-selected citizens are given the knowledge, resources, and time they need to create solutions to community issues. People often find themselves sitting across from complete strangers, and quickly realize that not everyone from “the other side” is as extreme as the pundits we see on TV and the trolls in the comment section. Instead, many people have a spectrum of beliefs, shaped by their own experiences, and aren’t easily labelled. Especially when it comes to local issues, participants find that partisan politics disappear when it comes to things like improving city government communication. As one citizen said “It’s really refreshing to sit down with a bunch of community members and realize you share the same core values and are united.”

If we choose to burst our information bubbles and listen to each other, we will let in not only new information, but new people, ideas, and experiences. Here are a few easy ways you can start:

1. Visit websites that present different takes

On allsides.com, you’ll find today’s biggest headlines and coverage from the left, center, and right. They also provide media bias ratings and a “balanced dictionary”, because certain news terms have come to mean different things to different people.

If you’re a reddit user, you can also submit and post in r/change my view. It’s pretty much what it sounds like–you submit an opinion, and ask people to present other viewpoints. The page is focused on having respectful, engaged discourse, rather than fighting.

2. Sign up for a well-rounded news digest

The Echo Chamber Club newsletter delivers a variety of viewpoints and contrary opinions on relevant news. Their goal is to offer an alternative to the personalized articles we see via social media algorithms, and instead showcase the nuances in today’s tough issues.

3. Curate a well-rounded list of reputable news sources

Here’s a great starter list of well-regarded news sites across the political spectrum, curated by Patrick Kulp at Mashable:

Conservative-leaning prestige media:

  • The National Review
  • The Weekly Standard
  • The American Conservative

Conservative-leaning new media:

  • Independent Journal Review
  • Heat Street
  • The Daily Caller

Liberal-leaning prestige media:

  • The New Yorker
  • The Nation
  • Mother Jones

Liberal-leaning new media:

  • Salon
  • AlterNet
  • Talking Points Memo

International Perspective:

  • Al Jazeera
  • The Economist
  • Der Spiegel

4. Analyze your social media and browsing settings

Did you know you can adjust your news feed preferences on Facebook? Just click on the drop down arrow in the upper right corner of your homepage, select “news feed preferences”, and choose a variety of news sources to appear at the top of your feed.

There are also browser extensions you can download that pop your information bubble for you! Escape Your Bubble, available on Chrome, automatically inserts articles and issues that may challenge your current political views into your feed, after taking time to learn your personal news consumption habits and preferences.

5. Read your local newspaper, including the editorials!

Checking out your local op-ed section will give you good insight into what your neighbors are thinking about local and national issues. Plus, if you disagree, you can shake things up and provide a few counterpoints in the next edition.

6. Be critical

Learn how to identify fake news sites and bots before you share, like, or comment. Sometimes these fake articles can travel around Facebook or Twitter for days, because people don’t investigate beyond the headline. Here are a few ways to root them out:

  • Fake articles usually use all caps, and are hyperbolic. Most legitimate news sites don’t write headlines like this.
  • Actually click the article–if the page doesn’t exist or is unavailable, it’s probably fake.
  • Double check the URL. Fake news sites thrive off of having almost legitimate names, like cnn-news.com.co
  • Skim the article. If it seems unprofessional, is riddled with errors, or presents information on a topic completely different from what the headline promised, you should move on.
  • It’s also important to be critical of your favorite news sources. Recognize when your go-to sites use clickbait tactics or present their partisan opinions as fact.

7. Attend community meetings

Because of TV shows like Parks & Rec, we’re inclined to picture community meetings as full of impassioned people yelling about pretty mundane issues.
But what if more and more people began to show up? We’d probably have a more diverse approach to many community issues and understand our neighbors a little better.

8. Have a few uncomfortable conversations

On Mismatch.org, you answer a few questions about yourself and your views, and they automatically match you with someone across the country with different views for a guided video conversation.

Living Room Conversations provides a local model for respectful discourse: you find someone to act as your co-host that has a different perspective than you on a given topic. Both of you find two other people to join. Then you meet for a guided conversation in a living room, church, school, or other community meeting place.

Did you notice anything missing from this list? Let us know so we can add it!

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center’s site at www.jefferson-center.org/how-to-burst-your-information-bubble/.

Ben Franklin Circle Reflections on Moderation in Politics

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles (BFC), we are continuing to share stories coming from the Circles. In this most recent BFC post, Micah Towery lifts up reflections from the discussion that took place in the Circle he runs when they explored moderation; and how this virtue can play a role in our political lives. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


Moderation as a Political Virtue

“Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”

Didn’t we already cover this idea with temperance? That was my first thought as I prepared to lead our Circle on the topic of moderation.

I read it again. Resentment? Injuries? That sounded pretty different from “Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.” Clearly, Franklin thought of this term differently than I was used to, but as a leader, I struggled to understand the difference between moderation and temperance.

Thankfully, facilitating a Ben Franklin Circle doesn’t mean having all the answers, and my own Circle helped me realize that Franklin is talking about this term as a particularly political virtue.

Here are some things I discovered about this virtue from our discussions.

1. Avoid extremes

Does being moderate mean being wishy-washy? Does it mean always taking the political middle ground? Certainly not. Some in our group brought up the great social reformers, especially those who used non-violence as a tactic. The Civil Rights movement was certainly not in the political ‘middle,’ and many people died for that cause. Clearly, there were strong convictions at work, but the Civil Rights movement still embodies Franklin’s virtue of moderation.

Another example of moderation that our Circle discussed were Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. These examples demonstrate the power of checking resentment without watering down conviction or pretending “I’m OK, you’re OK.”

2. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve

In contemporary society, we’re often taught that strong feelings guide the way to our inner convictions. Indeed, a deep passion to set things right is a positive thing. It energizes us and can embolden us to make sacrifices or speak up when we are afraid. But what if strong feelings aren’t always a reliable guide? What if instead, they are passions that could turn destructive and blind us to self-examination?

I think Franklin’s virtue of moderation also requires us to examine our own positions soberly. What’s the line between resentment for personal slights and a deep passion to set things right?

It’s not always easy to see. As the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has argued, our feelings often come first and rationalization comes later. Haidt says we’re caught in a kind of “moral matrix” and there is a deep and pleasurable tendency to join “teams” with similar matrices (cheering for your favorite sports team is a great example of this). In this sense, our deepest feelings, even those we share with others who we admire, could be blinding us from open dialogue across values systems.

We will always have disagreements with others, sometimes irreconcilable ones. Yet we must live together and confront mutual problems, as well.

Moderation is about honoring the general norm that civic engagement–necessary for our life together–cannot continue without our ability to check and examine our own strong feelings. Cultivating this virtue, then, means listening to others better and seeing ourselves more truly.

3. Practical civility

Going through Franklin’s 13 virtues, I have come to realize that these civic virtues are not puritanical rules. They are norms we must apply practically, but not obsessively enforce. They are habits of mind and body we should try to cultivate in ourselves and encourage in others.

If you visited Micah Towery in South Bend, you’d probably find him hanging out with neighbors or engaged in a side hustle. He formed and lead the first Ben Franklin Circle in South Bend. He teaches occasionally at Notre Dame and Goshen College. He has a book of poetry called Whale of Desire.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at https://benfranklincircles.org/moderation/moderation-as-a-political-virtue.

Calling All D&D Showcase Presenters for NCDD2018

NCDD is excited to announce that we’ll once again be holding our popular “D&D Showcase” during the 2018 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, and we are looking for presenters!

The D&D Showcase is a lively cocktail networking event that provides an opportunity for select individuals and organizations in our field to share some of the leading ideas, tools, projects, and initiatives in dialogue & deliberation with conference participants all in one space. It’s a fun way for conference-goers to meet some of the movers-and-shakers in D&D and hear about the projects, programs, and tools that are making waves in our work.

How the Showcase will work

Showcase presenters display simple “posters” about their work, tools, or projects and bring handouts and business cards to share with participants who are interested in learning more or following up. Showcase presenters will be ready to succinctly express what’s important for conference participants to know about their resource, method, research, program, etc. and to elaborate and answer any questions people may have.

During the 90-minute Showcase event, conference participants will stroll around the ballroom, chatting with presenters, and checking out their displays and picking up handouts. We’ll also have finger foods and beverages available as well as a cash bar, adding to the social atmosphere of the session.

The Showcase is a great chance to strike up conversations with leaders in the field and other conference participants who are strolling around the room, perusing the “wares.”

You can get a good sense of what the Showcase is like by watching this slideshow from our 2012 conference in Seattle.

You can also see Janette Hartz-Karp and Brian Sullivan presenting at the 2008 Showcase event here (back when we called it the “D&D Marketplace”), and check out the video of Noam Shore, Lucas Cioffi, and Wayne Burke presenting their online tools here.

Becoming a Showcase Presenter

The conference planning team is hard at work planning NCDD 2018, and one of our upcoming steps includes selecting people and organizations who are passionate about sharing tools and programs we know will interest our attendees as presenters during the Showcase. If you are interested in having your tool, project, idea, or work being featured in the Showcase, please email our conference manager Keiva Hummel at keiva@ncdd.org and include: what it is you would like to showcase, a brief description of it, any links to where more information can be found, and any questions you have.

Please note that these slots are very competitive, and we will be favoring Showcase presentations that relate to the conference theme, Connecting and Strengthening Civic InnovatorsSo if your work, project, or tool focuses on helping to better bring the work of the dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement into greater visibility and widespread practice – we definitely want to hear from you!

If you are selected as a D&D Showcase presenter, you’ll be expected to:

  • Register for NCDD 2018 and attend the conference.
  • Prepare a quick spiel or “elevator speech” about your Showcase topic that will get people interested in learning more. Practice it until it comes out naturally. We suggest you prepare several introductions of different lengths (30 seconds, 1 minute, etc.) so you can adjust quickly to different circumstances during the Showcase.
  • Prepare a simple, visually interesting poster and bring it with you to the conference.
  • Bring handouts about your program, method, online tool, publication, etc. that include further details.
  • Have any laptop-dependent pieces of your Showcase presentation finished, functional, and ready to share (you’ll need to bring your own computer).
  • Show up for the Showcase session about 20 minutes early so we have time to make sure everyone is set up and has everything they need.

You can find more information and advice for Showcase presenters on our Conference FAQ page here.

We are looking forward to having another informative and inspirational D&D Showcase this year, so we hope you’ll consider applying to be a presenter or urging your colleagues who are doing ground-breaking and critical work in the field to do so. We can’t wait to see all of the cutting-edge projects showcased in November!

Save the Date for Civility Convening April 30 – May 1, 2019

We wanted to let folks know to save the date for the Civility Convening, happening April 30 – May 1, 2019 at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA. NCDD member Russ Charvonia, who is coordinating the event, shared this with us and wanted to let the network know they are currently seeking presenters; so we encourage you to learn more and apply to present! The event, also hosted with several non-profits, will be a great opportunity for those working to improve civility across the sectors of government, education, workplace, media (social and public), and family. You can read more about it in the announcement below or find the original on the Civility Convening site here.


The Urgency of Civility – A Springboard for Action

You are invited to attend a convening of organizations engaged in improving civility within our world. This important session is intended to open conversations around our various goals, and how we can leverage the strengths of each, while remaining independent.

Mission of the Convening: To positively impact current civility initiatives through the discovery of common understanding. With these new learnings, we can dramatically increase the probability of our collective effectiveness.

Goals of the Convening:

  • Building – By engaging in an active, constructive dialogue of discovery and learning, we may cross-promote and leverage existing civility initiatives.
  • Better –  With awareness and familiarity of current civility initiatives, we can design strategies to clarify and create a more legitimate viable product to build and improve civility in our world.
  • Together – This work will create strong relationships within this space, and build capacity within organizations and individuals actively engaged in the broad spectrum of civility.

Theme: Together, we can build capacity, create a better, more civil society, while working within the overarching promise of civility.

Meeting Format: The convening will begin with an informal reception the evening of April 29, 2019, and will formally open the morning of April 30, with facilitation of a wide range of topics within the civility space. The sessions on May 1 will feature a keynote speaker, plenary and breakout sessions on specific topics that are designed to meet the needs of the various participants. A farewell dinner will wrap up what is expected to be a very fruitful and worthwhile session.

Tracks: Participants will be able to choose a “track” or “ala carte.” Tracks include: Government, Education, Workplace, Media (social and public), and Family

This timely, important meeting of organizations engaged in the civility space is hosted by several organizations who all share the objectives of encouraging open dialogue, purposeful thought, and capacity building among all groups in pursuit of building a more civil society.

Request to be a presenter
If you are passionate about the topic of Civility and willing to share your passion, we want to hear from you.

The event tracks include: Government, Education, Workplace, Media (social and public), and Family. If you have a special passion for any of these topics please reach out to us.

This is a self-supporting conference. No person or organization is generating any profit from it. It is our intention to provide valuable and useful information, while keeping the costs reasonable and accessible.

You can find the original version of this information on the Civility Convening site at www.civilityconvening.org/.

NCDDer Gives Transforming Communication Tedx Talk

We are thrilled to share that Katie Hyten of NCDD member org, Essential Partners, recently gave a Tedx Talk on Designing Communication: Moving Beyond Habit. It is always so exciting to see the work of the NCDD network and have important communication skills being shared like the ones she recommended!

The talk was given at TedxTufts just a few weeks back, in which, Katie talked about the need to transform the way that we communicate at every level. She shared how defensiveness and survival mechanisms can kick in during challenging conversations, even those with whom we have close personal relationships. She offered several tactics in order to listen better, be more intentional, and ultimately more effective when communicating with each other. Like she highlighted in her talk, when we transform the way we communicate, we transform our relationships.

Great work on this TedTalk, Katie! We encourage you to watch the video below.

Tuning in and Shifting Strategy with Ben Franklin Circles

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles, we have been sharing stories from those participating in the circles and some of the key learning that has taken place during the process. Read the remarkable change that happened in Victoria Fann’s BF Circle when she decided to step back from facilitating and have the circle members take the rein. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


The Spirit of Community

My Ben Franklin Circle in Weaverville, NC has been meeting since November 2017. Since I have been facilitating groups of various kinds since 1989, stepping into the role of facilitator for this group was easy for me. We met for the first four months with me asking most of the questions, reading the quotes and gently steering the conversation if we strayed away from the topic.

This seemed to work well, but something was missing. I had a gnawing feeling that there was a better way to structure our little group. Based on some words from his autobiography, I knew that Ben Franklin would heartily agree. For example, he writes, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Involvement was precisely what we needed!

The first small step in this direction took place at our February meeting. Instead of discussing the virtues in the order listed on the Ben Franklin Circle website, I decided to write each one of the remaining virtues on small slips of paper and fold them up. I brought those papers to the meeting and placed them in a hat. At the end or our discussion, I asked a member to draw out one of the slips of paper, saying that we would discuss whatever virtue was chosen.

This felt good—so good, in fact, that at the March meeting, I decided to take this idea a step further. Prior to the meeting, I wrote out that month’s virtue questions and quotes provided by the Ben Franklin Circle website onto small slips of paper, folded them and placed them into a bowl at our host’s house. I then invited members to draw one out and read it aloud to the group to prompt our discussion. I also encouraged members to add their own questions.

Franklin’s very own group, on which the BF Circles are based, encouraged a similar involvement from the members of the group as he writes here: “I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year, I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the JUNTO; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute, or desire of victory; and, to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.”

What we discovered during that meeting was that having the members chose the questions at random and read them to the group led to a much deeper level of conversation. I suspect this was because the playing field had been leveled and everyone felt more engaged and involved than when I was the one asking most of the questions. My leadership role softened as I yielded to this more community-based approach. Our trust of each other and our willingness to explore the outer edges of the virtue increased exponentially. Plus, there was almost a palpable feeling of relief among all of us once we shifted into this more egalitarian way of relating to each other. It was clear we’d been seeking it all along.

The lesson for me was a reminder of how important it is to tune into the specific needs of a situation without assumptions, agendas or formulas, but rather an open mind and a willingness to learn.

Though initially my “expertise” proved to be a hindrance, the group process itself became the catalyst that allowed the solution to emerge effortlessly.

Thank you, Ben Franklin.

Victoria Fann is a writer, transformational coach, group facilitator and workshop leader. Her Ben Franklin Circle meets in Weaverville, NC.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at https://benfranklincircles.org/ben-franklin-circle-hosts/the-spirit-of-community.

Join NCDD at Frontiers of Democracy Conference 2018

We are thrilled to announce the upcoming 2018 Frontiers of Democracy conference is happening at Tufts University from Thursday, June 21st until Saturday, June 23rd! The annual Frontiers of Democracy brings together leaders working on deliberative democracy, civic engagement and civic education, to explore how to further advance democracy. NCDD’s Managing Director Courtney Breese will be presenting a session on Friday, June 22rd during on the 2nd session block from 2:30pm-4pm on “Partnering to Strengthen Participatory Democracy: How Might We Connect and Collaborate?”. We encourage you to read the announcement below and find the original on the Tisch College website here.


Frontiers of Democracy Conference

Frontiers of Democracy is an annual conference hosted by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University since 2009. The 2018 conference will take place from June 21 (5:00 p.m.) until June 23 (1:00 p.m.) at Tufts University’s downtown Boston campus in Chinatown.

Partners for the conference in 2018 include the Bridge Alliance, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the National Conference on Citizenship, and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

You can now register and pay to hold a spot. Please note that speakers and session organizers must purchase tickets.

Frontiers of Democracy immediately follows the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, a selective 2-week seminar for scholars, practitioners, and advanced graduate students.

Frontiers 2018 Theme

According to Freedom House, democracy has been in retreat worldwide for 12 years. Many people are pushing back, including activists and organizers who are nonviolently struggling, using tactics like strikes, boycotts, and mass demonstrations against entrenched power. Other individuals and groups take different approaches, some seeking a greater degree of neutrality and emphasizing deliberative dialogue, particularly when they work within institutions such as schools, public agencies, and newspapers. This year, Frontiers will bring people from these communities of scholarship and practice together to ask how they can learn from and complement each another.

You can read the full agenda for the 2018 conference by clicking here.

Looking Back: Frontiers 2017

Thanks to everyone who joined us at an exciting, thought-provoking, and timely Frontiers of Democracy 2017. You can watch the video of this year’s introduction, “short take” speakers, and one of our afternoon plenaries, below. (You can click on each video’s title to watch on YouTube and, in the description, find timestamps that allow you to skip to a specific speaker’s presentation.)

Frontiers 2017 was focused on multiple frameworks for civic and democratic work developed respectively by Caesar McDowell of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and MIT, Archon Fung of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Tisch College’s Peter Levine. Our short take speakers included Rev. Dr. F. Willis Johnson, the senior minister of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri; Wendy Willis of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the National Policy Consensus Center; and Hardy Merriman, President of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

In addition, the Journal of Public Deliberation, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, and The Democracy Imperative held a pre-conference symposium on “Deliberative Democracy in an Era of Rising Authoritarianism.”

Check out the preconference symposium’s agenda and readings and the full Frontiers 2017 schedule.

You can find the original version of this announcement on Tisch College’s site at https://tischcollege.tufts.edu/research/civic-studies/frontiers-democracy-conference.

Register for the 2018 Summer Peacebuilding Institute

In case you missed it, the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) is happening now! This phenomenal program offered by NCDD member org, the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University is an opportunity to learn from leaders in the D&D field about conflict transformation and restorative justice. Courses can be taken to improve your skills or for academic credit (and they now offer an M.A. in Restorative Justice program).  Session 1 has already begun, but the remaining sessions are going until the end of June – so check it out ASAP (or prep for next year!). Below are the list of courses offered for 2018, and you can read more about the courses and SPI here


Summer Peacebuilding Institute 2018

The Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) provides useful and intellectually stimulating opportunities to learn more about yourself, others and the world around you. Courses are designed for people interested in integrating conflict transformation, peacebuilding, restorative justice, and related fields into their own work and personal life.

SPI 2018 Course Offerings
Session I – May 14 – 22, 2018 (7-day, 3-credit)
Session II – May 24 – June 1, 2018 (7-day, 3-credit)
Session III – June 4 – 8, 2018 (5-day, 2-credit)
Session IV – June 11 – 15, 2018 (5-day, 2-credit)
Session V – June 18 -20, 2018 (3-day, non-credit workshops)

Only one course may be taken per session. All courses can be taken for training and skills enhancement or academic credit. Session 1 and 2 courses may be taken for three academic credits. Session 3 and 4 courses may be taken for two academic credits.  Courses with PAX/PTI can be taken for academic credit or training. Courses with PTI can only be taken for training. Contact SPI for more information.

If you have questions about a particular course that are not answered in the information below, please feel free to contact the SPI office at spi[at]emu[dot]edu.

SESSION I: May 14 – 22, 2018
Analysis: Understanding Conflict – PAX/PTI 533, Gloria Rhodes
Explore the nature, dynamics, and complex causes of conflict and violence. Discuss how relationships, motivations, culture, and worldviews increase or decrease violent conflict. Learn ways to understand and change multifaceted systems that perpetuate conflict.

Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR), Level II – PAX/PTI 640, Katie Mansfield and Lisa Collins
Review and deepen the concepts from STAR Level 1. Work with trainers and other participants to plan your application and contextualization of STAR frameworks, models, concepts, and activities.

Transformative Leadership for Organizational Development – PAX/PTI 684, David Brubaker and Elizabeth Girvan
Focus on the role of leaders in leading organizational and social change and managing structures, personnel, finances, and external networks and partnerships.

Forgiveness & Reconciliation – PAX/PTI 563, Hizkias Assefa
Explore the concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation from multidisciplinary perspectives and understand how they can be used to generate durable solutions and healing at many levels of conflict from the interpersonal to the international.

Modern Slavery and the Prison-Industrial Complex – PAX/PTI 685, Monti Narayan Datta
Critically assess what human rights are, explore how and why it is still possible for human beings to be bought and sold around the world today, and investigate inequality in the American prison system.

SESSION II: May 24 – June 1, 2018
Formation for Peacebuilding Practice – PAX/PTI 532, Gloria Rhodes
Explore various competencies needed by those who feel compelled to work for peace and social justice. Strengthen your abilities to listen and communicate, create and maintain healthy boundaries, recognize and promote diversity, lead from your vision and values, and engage people in dialogue and decision-making.

Restorative Justice: Principles, Theories & Applications– PAX/PTI 571, Carl Stauffer
Deepen your understanding of justice. Explore a justice framework that focuses on healing, accountability, and community, not blame, punishment, and isolation.

Adaptive Action: Nonviolent Resistance in the 21st Century – PAX/PTI 645, Glenda Eoyang, John N. Murray and Mary Nations
Transform oppression into opportunity. Learn to effectively engage in a chaotic and uncertain political and social world. Analyze the dynamics that drive complex change in human systems and find practical ways to respond to forces that oppress.

Sexual Harms: Changing the Narrative – PAX/PTI 692, Carolyn Stauffer
Join the wave of leaders committed to creating environments free from sexual harm. Gain tools to respond to sexual violence and learn about preventative best practices. Design restorative interventions that build safety and resilience.

Circle Processes PAX/PTI 672, Kay Pranis
Gain skills to lead a process that brings together victims, offenders, family, community members, and others to have difficult conversations and respond to acts of violence or crime. Explore the foundational values and key structural elements of the circle process and learn to design and conduct circles.

Biblical Foundations of Justice and Peacemaking – BVG 541, Andrew Suderman
More than a study of a few select texts that deal with peacemaking, this course will explore and examine the various dimensions of peace in the Bible, with special attention to how the Bible as a whole, functions as a foundation for peacemaking. This course is being offered through Eastern Mennonite Seminary. To register as a non-seminary student use this part-time application.

SESSION III: June 4-8, 2018
Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR), Level 1 –PAX 540/PTI 041, Donna Minter and Ram Bhagat
Explore processes and tools for addressing trauma, breaking cycles of violence, and building resilience. Increase awareness of the impact of trauma on the body, mind, beliefs, and behavior of individuals, communities, and societies.

Truth-telling, Racial Healing and Restorative Justice – PAX/PTI 671, Fania Davis, Jodie Geddes and Lenore Bajare-Dukes
Explore linkages between truth, justice, and healing at personal and collective levels in the wake of violence. Discuss informal and formal approaches to truth-telling, restorative justice and reconciliation from around the world. Consider future applications of truth-telling amidst ongoing police violence against communities of color in the US.

Christian Spirituality for Social Action – PAX/PTI 688, Jennifer Lee and Johonna Turner
Explore Christian spiritual formation practices to nurture and sustain a life of community leadership, engaged ministry, and social activism. Expand awareness of spiritual disciplines as well as biblical and theological resources to support a faith-rooted approach to social action.

SESSION IV: June 11-15, 2018
The Transformative Power of Identity and Dignity – PAX/PTI 551, Barry Hart
Understand the positive and negative roles and transformative power of identity and dignity within complex conflicts, violence, and trauma.

Building Resilience in Body, Mind, and Spirit – PAX/PTI 612, Katie Mansfield and Katia Ornelas
Taking the body-mind connection seriously, peacebuilders, caregivers and change makers need full-bodied, creative engagement in activities for self-care and well-being. Explore strategies, tools, and exercises for individual participants and communities/organizations to cultivate safety, healthy uses of power, and a deeper sense of connection. Discuss cultural contexts, taboos, stereotypes, and biases that keep us from integrating creative, embodied practice into work for social change and peace.

Peace Education – PAX/PTI 546, Ed Brantmeier
Discuss the education that is needed for the elimination of direct and indirect forms of violence. Explore strategies to reduce violence such as bullying, implicit bias, ethnocentrism, physical fights, or institutional discrimination in schools, the workplace, and the community.

Designing Facilitated Processes that Work – PAX/PTI 689, Catherine Barnes
Do you ever think you need to go beyond basic meeting facilitation to design processes that will help groups address challenging situations, deal with differences and envision a better future? This class is intended for people with some experience of facilitation who want to take their skills to the next level through using context analysis, process design principles, and more conducive process methods.

Story-gathering: Participatory theatre for facilitation and empowerment – PAX/PTI 691, Heidi Winters Vogel and Roger Foster
Develop fluency in participatory theatre techniques for use in mediation, intervention and group facilitation to promote participant-generated change.

SESSION V: June 18-20, 2018
Restorative Justice in Higher Education – PTI 080 E, Jon Swartz and Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz
How is the restorative justice approach being used in the context of education settings for accountability, repair, and healing?

Resisting the White Savior Complex in Social Justice Organizing – PTI 081 E, Amanda Gross and Cole Parke
What do well-intentioned white people need to understand about the harm, violence, and insidiousness of racism? Exploration of a theological basis for anti-racism work.

Crime Victims, Survivors, and Restorative Justice – PTI 082 E, Matthew Hartman
Explore the intersection between trauma, recovery, victim assistance, and restorative justice. Develop programming strategies that orient toward the needs of crime victims and survivors.

Developing Integrated Conflict Management Systems – PTI 083 E, Brian Bloch
Learn to create a system and culture that collaborative addresses conflict and the practical steps an organization can use to put this system in place.

Performance Arts: Developing Sustainable Resources for Community Learning & Action – PTI 084 E, Heidi Winters Vogel and Roger Foster
Learn to assess and evaluate performance-based community engagement programs to strengthen them and make them more attractive to funders.

Singing to the Lions: Helping Children Respond Effectively to Violence and Abuse – PTI 085 E, Lucy Steinitz and Naoko Kamiok
Training of trainers to learn the use of games, drama, dance, and art to help trauma-affected children and young adults overcome fear and violence in their lives.

You can find more information on these courses and the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at www.emu.edu/cjp/spi/.

Sign Up for the Local Civic Challenge Starting in June!

Are you looking to dig deeper into local democracy in your community? We encourage you to sign up for the Local Civic Challenge with NCDD sponsoring org, The Jefferson Center! Starting in June, they will email you every week with a mini-challenge for you to learn more about your community, engaging in your local democracy, and strengthening those civic muscles. Read all about the challenge in the post below and on the JC site here.


Join the Local Civic Challenge!

At long last, the leaves are turning green and the temperatures are rising in Minnesota, signaling that spring has finally sprung. Our team is excited to break out of hibernation, and bring what we’ve learned from our recent projects directly to you! If you’ve ever had an interest in getting more involved in local democracy, but haven’t been clear on where to start, this is the perfect opportunity to dive in.

This June, we’re launching the Local Civic Challenge, where we’ll deliver a weekly newsletter to your inbox filled with mini-challenges that will help you become a more engaged citizen. Here are the four themes:

1. Getting familiar with your town

Do you know if you have a strong or weak mayor system? What about where you should go if you want to share your thoughts on how the local government is working? Learning more about the ins and outs of your community helps people feel empowered to make a difference on local issues.

2. Joining local offices, committees, and boards

Groups like the local school board or neighborhood councils are often in need of volunteer members and leaders. Perhaps even local elected office is in your future?

3. Participating in elections, from campaigns to the voting booth

Maintaining the integrity of our elections is vital to our democracy: why not get more engaged with the process? We’ll provide advice on how to find your voting ward and precinct, register, volunteer at the polls, and more.

4. Supporting local journalism and storytelling

Journalism sometimes ends up on the back burner when we talk about getting involved in our community. But sharing our stories, experiences, and thoughts with one another is a key way we can better understand each other, making it easier to tackle community projects together.

We hope these weekly challenges will give everyone an easy way to stretch out their civic muscles and dip their toes into democracy! If you’re in, sign up here.

You can find the original article on The Jefferson Center’s site at www.jefferson-center.org/join-the-local-civic-challenge/.