Creating Visuals that Inspire Real-Time Conversation

We are thrilled to share the following piece written by Lydia Hooper on the powerful way that graphic recordings can both capture a conversation in real time, and as folks saw first hand at NCDD2018, can be a motivator of conversation as well. We were fortunate to work with Lydia during the 8th National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation in Downtown Denver this last November (view her work here!) and she helped create and facilitate an interactive graphic recording project over the course of the three days. She describes it more in the post below…

By Lydia Hooper

How many conversations have you had this week about something you saw, on TV or happening in front if you? Vision is the primary way we sense and experience our world, and we are social beings who process information with others. We can easily leverage these tendencies if we want to inspire specific conversations in specific moments.

The conventional way of doing so is using presentation slides or videos to introduce or explain important topics. These visual forms, however, emphasize what is important from the perspective of the presenter. They do not necessarily offer opportunities to capture what a larger group of people thinks or feels.

Visuals that can break this norm are known as graphic recordings. Graphic recordings are visuals that capture conversation as it is happening in real time. By doing so they are able to help us literally see what is being said and thereby process this information in different ways.

There is a third way that can ensure both that many people are able to collectively create a meaningful visual and that the meaning is specifically tied to a clear objective. These visuals, which do not yet have a single term associated with them, are typically templates that evolve as the result of participation. Creating them requires little technology nor aesthetic skills, but it does require use of a thoughtful design process.

I recently had the pleasure of creating a visual of this type for the 2018 National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation conference. Here are the basic stages of design, their main elements, and how I experienced them for this project in particular.

  1. Empathize. There are two sides of this coin, both of which are important for planning appropriately. First, think about the audience or group the visual will engage: What kind of support do they need to think, feel, and/or act in ways that help them reach their individual goals? Now, consider the conveners’ or facilitators’ needs: What would help them reach collective goals, whether those be to build relations or to accomplish tasks? For this example, conference organizers were quickly able to articulate their desire to deepen conversation related to their partnership with the White Privilege Symposium. After some discussion they also identified that attendees may have a need to extend dialogue about related topics beyond individual sessions and contribute ideas perhaps anonymously.
  2. Create. A clear understanding of goals and needs is what informs what the visual will look like and how participants will engage with it. At this stage, collaborators work to develop main themes or questions as well as what specific words would be best to use. The purpose of this stage is to design a template that is incredibly clear and that invites active engagement. Conference organizers used a basic sketch of this template to solicit feedback from key stakeholders, in which is crucial for ensuring these purposes are fulfilled. Then I created the visual on a very large (four by eight foot) piece of paper that we planned to place in a highly visible location.
  3. Engage. During the previous stage decisions were made about how exactly ideas will be shared. These decisions will determine to what extent the visual will or will not require any degree of facilitation. In this case, we’d decided on a mix of both: attendees would be able to mark different options with stickers on their own and I would engage those who visited me during the showcase and capture those conversations on the template as well. I appreciated this approach because it allowed attendees to get a quick “big picture” idea of their fellow attendees perspectives and it also allowed them to learn from the individual insights that were captured. In my experience, this stage, like the previous one, is somewhat experimental, especially since some people will test the limits of any creative license you give them while others will be confused or even paralyzed by such an interruption in group norms.

The key thing to keep in mind for these visuals is that, unlike other visuals perhaps, the product or outcome matters less than the fact that group members are being offered an opportunity to participate in a shared experience and to collectively make meaning. Because they are nontraditional, these visuals also provide space for intentional conversations to occur in unexpected ways.

In the co-creation of this example visual, NCDD conference attendees made it abundantly clear how they feel power and privilege impacts them, their work, and the field. They reflected on familiar ideas, posed new questions, and, if nothing else, were heard.

Lydia Hooper is a creative who collaborates to communicate about complexity and create culture change. She is the creator of the 40 day listening challenge. To learn more and download her free ebook Using Visuals to Support Collaborative Work, please visit

Opportunity to Test Mismatch Spring 2019 Pilot, Grades 6-12

In case you missed it, NCDD member org Living Room Conversations and AllSides recently announced an opportunity to test out the Spring 2019 Pilot of Mismatch for grades 6-12! Mismatch is a platform that digitally connects classrooms with each other and facilitates structured conversation between students via video conferencing using Living Room Conversation topic guides. Last year, we featured Mismatch during one of our Tech Tuesday events and you can listen to the recording here! Read the details in the post below and find the original information on the LRC newsletter here.

Calling All Parents, Educators, and Students

We are excited to announce the Spring 2019 Pilot of Mismatch! And your (child’s) grade 6-12 classroom is invited to join!

AllSides for Schools is our joint project with the news site AllSides.comMismatch is a platform that pairs students from different schools around the U.S. and facilitates structured online video conversations between these students using Living Room Conversation topic Guides. You can learn more about Mismatch in the video you’ll find here.

Our goal is to make the Mismatch platform available for anyone interested in civil discussions with someone who thinks differently. We are looking forward to this and bet you are too!

How to join the Mismatch pilot? The AllSides for Schools team is currently looking for grade 6-12 educators in government, social studies, history, and related fields who would like to sign up their classrooms for our Spring 2019 Mismatch pilot. Joining the pilot entails these activities:

  • Completing a short pre-survey about your classroom
  • Providing feedback on our matching criteria, conversation guides, and web platform
  • Matching with another classroom and orchestrating realtime, F2F video conversations between students in your two classrooms (with our help)

92% of students surveyed after using Mismatch reported a positive shift in attitude after just one conversation, citing “great appreciation for the other perspective or other person.” 99% of students found the experience somewhat or extremely valuable.

Once the AllSides for Schools team receives your inquiry, you’ll be contacted for a 1:1 exploratory call to answer questions and describe the pilot program in more detail.  (Note: While every request to participate may not be able to be accommodated, due to matching constraints, the AllSides for Schools team will do its very best!)

Sign Up for FREE Here!

P.S. Do you know someone that would enjoy hearing from us? Please forward this email to friends and colleagues and encourage them to join our community.”

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Living Room Conversations newsletter at

Upcoming Opportunities at Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life

NCDDer Peter Levine shared this on the NCDD Main Discussion listserv yesterday and we wanted to lift it up here for the larger network. There are a lot of fantastic opportunities happening at Tisch College this year that we encourage you to check out! Some highlights – proposals are now being accepted for 2019 Frontiers of Democracy (June 20-22), applications are also being accepted for The Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tisch and an opportunity to receive a postdoctoral fellowship, and more!

The NCDD Main Discussion listserv is a great place for engaging with folks passionate about dialogue, deliberation, and engagement! Learn how to join this list here.

Opportunities at Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life for Summer 2019

Please consider applying or submitting proposals for one or more of these 2019 opportunities

Don’t Miss the Confab Recording with Senator Unger!

Last week, we had a fantastic Confab call featuring Senator Unger who discussed how he engaged with his community during his recent campaign and how that ultimately lead to his re-election. If you weren’t able to join the call, never fear, we recorded the whole event and you can listen to it here!

On the call, Senator Unger shared how he focused on the community during his recent re-election campaign against a well-funded opponent who utilized negative attack tactics. Unger, instead of retaliating these attacks, stayed engaged with the community by asking them what they needed and explored with the community their solution recommendations. The senator emphasized the need to engage with community in a relational way, seeing peoples’ humanity and valuing their unique contributions, as opposed to a transactional, de-personalized way. Unger is part of the National Issues Forums Institute board and utilized the NIF discussion guides to explore community needs, perspectives, and values. He held various deliberative dialogue forums with the community, and even the debates were designed in a more deliberative manner.

It was incredibly inspiring to hear an elected official engage the community the way he did and bring in these D&D practices.  Here are some of our favorite quotes during the Confab:

  • During debates when my opponent would attack me on positions and issues…. and then the solutions the community had come up with, he wasn’t only attacking me, he was attacking the community because they had come up with these solutions deliberatively.
  • I used the NIF guides to guide the discussions, but mostly what I did was sit down and ask the basic questions – “what’s bothering you?”, “how does this problem affect you and your family?”, “what should we do about it?”.
  • Many assume that when you’re an elected official you have to have a five-point plan or plan of action (and many elected officials feel compelled to have one), but instead I asked [the community] “what do you think we should do about it?” and look at both the negative and the positives of a proposal.
  • I wanted to make it a campaign focused in on community empowerment. Where so often elected officials and political systems treat people like objects, they do things TO people. Or treat people like RECIPIENTS, like it’s transactional, “I get your vote, I do something for you”.
  • But what I wanted to do is to change the dynamic, to not treat people like objects or recipients, but instead treat people like resources, empower them, “What can we do together? What can I do WITH you?” This attitude shift was a game-changer.
  • If you look at why Americans are so angry, Americans feel like they don’t have control of their life anymore, they don’t have control over how to help their families or their communities, they feel the situation is out of their control… By working with people and doing things with people versus TO or FOR, you give people agency and you address that anger by giving people control over their life.
  • The moral of the story [of the Wizard of Oz] is the group had everything they needed, but they needed to come together to get it it was collectively when they came together and took this journey to demand these things that they discovered they already had these things in themselves.
  • As an elected official, if we look at people we serve as part of that journey, we all have different talents and roles, but collectively we come together, we discover those and we enhance and help each other – that’s the ultimate aspect of community capacity building and empowerment, and that’s where deliberative dialogue is an essential component, that will allow that to happen.

We recorded the whole presentation in case you weren’t able to join us, which you can access on the archives page by clicking here. Access to the archives is a benefit of being an NCDD member, so make sure your membership is up-to-date (or click here to join).

Confab bubble image

We want to thank Senator Unger and all the Confab participants for contributing to this informative conversation! To learn more about NCDD’s Confab Calls and hear recordings of others, visit

Finally, we love holding these events and we want to continue to elevate the work of our field with Confab Calls and Tech Tuesdays. It is through your generous contributions to NCDD that we can keep doing this work! That’s why we want to encourage you to support NCDD by making a donation or becoming an NCDD member today (you can also renew your membership by clicking here). Thank you!

Weekly Online Roundup Feat Bridge Alliance and More!

January is finishing strong with this fantastic line-up of D&D online events! NCDDer Chris Santos-Lang let us know about his upcoming webinar on making research transparent that we encourage you to check out. There is a Common Ground for Action deliberation series running for three consecutive Saturdays from NCDD member National Issues Forums Institute, and more exciting webinars from NCDD member orgs, MetroQuest, Bridge Alliance, and Living Room Conversations!

Do you have a webinar or other event coming up that you’d like to share with the NCDD network? Please let us know in the comments section below or by emailing me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org, because we’d love to add it to the list!

Online Roundup: NIFI, CSA’s Ethics Working Group, Living Room Conversations, MetroQuest, Bridge Alliance

National Issues Forums Institute – January & February CGA Forum Series Deep Deliberation: Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome? What Should We Do?

Three consecutive Saturdays in Jan & Feb
Saturday, Jan 26th, Feb 2nd, Feb 9th
2pm Pacific, 5pm Eastern

Please join us for a deep dive into immigration reform using Common Ground for Action (CGA) online deliberation platform.

This will be one online forum set across three consecutive Saturdays in January and February in order have a deeper deliberative experience. Starting at 5pm ET on Saturday January 26th, February 2nd and February 9th, we will take an in-depth look at Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome? What Should We Do? On Jan 26th, we’ll discuss our personal stake and Option 1: Welcome Immigrants, Be a Beacon of Freedom. On February 2nd, we’ll deliberate Option 2: Enforce the Law, Be Fair to Those Who Follow the Rules and Option 3: Slow Down and Rebuild Our Common Bonds. On February 9th, we’ll begin making sense of our common ground, talk next steps, and the value of deliberation in these types of conversations. Plan to participate in all three forums for a highly deliberative and deep look at this wicked issue.

If you’ve never participated in a CGA forum, please watch the “How To Participate” video before joining. You can find the video link here:

If you haven’t had a chance to review the issue guide, you can find a downloadable PDF copy at the NIF website.:

If you’d like to watch the starter video before registering, you can view it here:


Ethics Working Group of the Citizen Science Association webinar – How to Make Your Research Transparent
* shared via NCDD member Chris Santos-Lang

Thursday, January 31st
9-10 am Pacific, 12-1 pm Eastern

A Webinar from CSA’s Ethics Working Group, presented by Chris Santos-Lang (Ethics Working Group Co-Chair)

This webinar is a practical how-to demonstrating some of the latest technologies developed to satisfy the transparency principles in the European Citizen Science Association’s Ten Principles of Citizen Science and the DIYbio Codes of Ethics. It will demonstrate two free solutions as examples: One is the Open Science Framework and the other is a homespun mixture of Google Drive, Google Docs, and FigShare. Both solutions leverage PubPeer, Creative Commons licenses, and research standards. This webinar also introduces the “APRICOT” mnemonic to map the range of transparency failures, and discusses the concerns that drive current negotiations between transparency and privacy.

About Chris: Chris Santos-Lang co-chairs the Ethics Working Group of the Citizen Science Association. He applies citizen science to ethics (e.g. studying moral psychology, machine ethics, and the sociology and political science of ethics).

If you experience any issues in registration, please email:


Living Room Conversations webinar – Guns & Responsibility

Tuesday, January 29th
12-1:30 pm Pacific, 3-4:30pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Guns & Responsibility Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • What role have guns played in your life?
  • Where did you learn about guns? And what did you learn?
  • Are gun/second amendment issues very important to you?

Is there anything you would change about current gun laws or regulation in your state or at the federal level?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Harold R.


MetroQuest webinar – “Public Engagement at All Scales | CMAP’s Winning Recipe”

Wednesday, January 30th
11 am Pacific | 12 pm Mountain | 1 pm Central | 2 pm Eastern (1 hour)
Educational Credit Available (APA AICP CM)
Complimentary (FREE)

For the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, award-winning comprehensive plans involve public engagement at all scales, collaboration with 284 communities, and a Local Technical Assistance program that’s admired nationally. Join us January 30th to get inspired!

CMAP Deputy Executive Director of Planning Stephane Phifer, Associate Outreach Planner Katanya Raby, and Senior Planner Lindsay Bayley will take you inside their local approach to online engagement for OnTo2050 – their comprehensive regional plan to improve quality of life and economic prosperity for 8.5 million people.

Public feedback was essential to exploring alternative futures for innovative transportation, climate change, walkable communities, a transformed economy, and constrained resources. You’ll learn how CMAP used a multi-phased approach to online engagement for a variety of local plans, including the downtown Aurora Master Plan.

Attend this complimentary 1-hour webinar to explore effective ways to:

  • Engage inclusively to build inclusive plans
  • Uncover the ideas, hopes, and concerns of residents
  • Take a multi-phase approach to online engagement
  • Think both locally and regionally for collaborative planning

This webinar will include a live Q&A session to help you prepare for 2019. Bring your public engagement questions for Stephane, Katanya, Lindsay, and Dave Biggs, Chief Engagement Officer at MetroQuest.


Bridge Alliance webinar – BridgeUSA Peer Learning Session – Achieving Diversity: An Example *this webinar is for Bridge Alliance members only – learn more here

Wednesday, January 30th
12 pm Pacific, 3 pm Eastern

Manu Meel will discuss how the Bridge Alliance and its members can achieve greater diversity in the revitalization movement. Specifically, he will present on:

  1. BridgeUSA’s lack of diverse leadership.
  2. The importance of diversity.
  3. How BridgeUSA is prioritizing diversity within its organization.
  4. What lessons other Bridge Alliance organizations can draw from its example.

We are very excited to host this event for Bridge Alliance member organizations through Zoom Video Conference, and we hope you will be able to join us.

If you wish to attend this event, please RSVP by January 24th.


Living Room Conversations webinar – Mental Health

Thursday, January 31st
1:30-3 pm Pacific, 4:30-6 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Mental Health. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • What experiences in your life, your work or your family inform your thinking about mental health?
  • Is mental health an important issue in your community, and if so, why?
  • In your experience, how are mental health issues affecting young people? (If you are a young person, how do mental health issues affect you and your peers?)

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Lewis G.


Living Room Conversations webinar – Status & Privilege

Friday, February 1st
2-3:30 pm Pacific, 5-6:30 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Status & Privilege. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • What status do you enjoy? Education, wealth, gender, race, etc?
  • What are the privileges of your status?
  • What do you value and how is that connected to your status or privilege?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Shay M.


Featured D&D Story: KRIA The Icelandic Constitution Archives

Today we’d like to feature a great example of dialogue and deliberation in action, KRIA The Icelandic Constitution Archives. This mini case study was submitted by Eileen Jerrett via NCDD’s Dialogue Storytelling Tool. Do you have a dialogue story that our network could learn from? Add your dialogue story today!

ShareYourStory-sidebarimageTitle of Project:
KRIA The Icelandic Constitution Archives

At the end of September, Build Up joined constitutional and legal scholars, government ministers, and democratic activists from around the world at the conference on Democratic Constitutional Design (DCD) at the University of Iceland hosted by EDDA Research Center in Reykjavik. We presented a tool, in partnership with the Center for Democratic Constitutional Design (CDCD) and the University of Washington, to support the continued process of constitutional reform in Iceland.

Iceland may seem like a strange destination, possibly far from the characteristics we’ve come to expect for peacebuilding processes. Build Up staff collectively have decades of experience supporting efforts by peacebuilders all around the world, but mostly in non-Western and global South conflict contexts. We don’t think Iceland sees itself as a conflict or post-conflict country — but as we learned more about Iceland’s citizen-driven constitutional reform process, we recognized that what Icelanders are doing around their constitution process is relevant to all of us.

We came to know this process in 2014 at our first Build Peace conference at MIT in Boston, where Eileen Jerrett presented her documentary Blueberry Soup, a beautiful film that introduced all of us to Iceland’s remarkable constitutional reform process.

Being able to amplify and broaden participation in peacebuilding processes, which often times including constitution making, is critical. Build Up feels there is a lot to learn from the organic process that Icelanders have gone through and continue to pursue in the aftermath of their 2008 economic crash.

The entire history of this process, including crowd-sourced inputs from common citizens and the innovative process employed by its authors… are in danger of being lost.

We are profoundly moved by Icelanders efforts to re-imagine their constitution, by truly making it a people driven social contract. Too often, the legalistic and technical complexities of a modern constitution makes it inaccessible to the people it’s intended to protect; it’s not a government’s document, it’s a people’s document. At the DCD conference, there were some wonderfully provocative discussions on a variety of forms of engaging and convening people, both online and offline — whether through new forms of digitally connected conversations and crowd-sourcing, or mini-publics and deliberative processes.

At this point, the core drafting process of the proposed Icelandic constitution is complete. The Icelandic people approved the draft Constitution in a non-binding referendum in 2012, but a filibuster by the opposition party prevented it from being voted on by the Parliament in that year and it has been stalled ever since. There are a number of political parties that remain committed to the passage of draft Constitution, however, and citizen’s groups have worked hard to keep the issue of citizen-centered constitutional reform on the national agenda.

What’s at risk in this process is more than just the success or failure of a unique and forward-thinking citizen-driven constitution. Writing a constitution is a society’s statement of values and purpose. Imagine it as the core social and legal contract that holds a nation together. This would be the backbone of stewardship of public resources, spaces, rights, and laws, should the constitution, or even parts of it, be enacted.

Yet, the new draft of the Icelandic constitution faces other dire problems through this stagnation. Over a decade’s worth of documentation critical to the reform process, including interviews, drafting notes, analysis, films, photos, and other electronic and physical evidence remains scattered across the island on the computers and in the homes of many who participated. The entire history of this process, including crowd-sourced inputs from common citizens and the innovative process employed by its authors in drafting the reformed constitution are not easily accessible to Icelanders, and are in danger of being lost. The memory of the process, of what mattered to Icelanders in their difficult four-year struggle after the 2008 economic crisis, is in danger of fading away.

Given the resistance by some of the political elite to put that people-driven constitutional reform process behind them, losing this history could ultimately close the door on a process that still shows signs of life.

In collaboration with the Icelandic Constitutional Society, the CDCD, and the University of Washington, Build Up envisioned a portal to access an archive of the history. A well designed and well presented interactive analysis of events important to the constitutional process could help Icelanders stay connected to its relevance.

Through an ongoing process of input from Icelandic stakeholders, Build Up worked closely with Eileen Jerrett (CDCD) and Cricket Keating (University of Washington) to develop a portal prototype— a proof-of-concept that gives us an idea of what’s possible when it comes to preserving the history and telling the story of an active constitutional reform process.

Our initial presentation of the tool was met with overwhelming positivity. There is clearly a strong desire for this kind of resource, not only by those central to the Icelandic process but many conference participants from around the world were equally excited about having access to this important process and its history.

Build Up will continue to support this important process. Following the conference, we are now working with CDCD and the Icelandic Constitution Society to bring more Icelanders on board. While thousands of documents and electronic files have been collected, there are likely thousands more uncollected across the island. Icelanders will also need to play a central role in determining the proper framing for the resources as they’re presented through the portal, ensuring the material is relevant and usable. Ideally, this portal not only preserves the history, but also catalyzes new energy among those Icelanders who were central to the effort, as well as a new generation of reformers who were too young to participate in a process that started over a decade ago.

What Icelanders are doing around their constitutional process is relevant to all of us.

While we see many learning opportunities beyond Iceland in making this process accessible, we also appreciate that its universal lessons must first and foremost be focused inward on a process of change within the country. Build Up is excited to play a small but, we believe, important role in supporting Icelanders efforts to present and preserve their recent history while continuing to reform their constitution for a more just and equitable future.

Which dialogue and deliberation approaches did you use or borrow heavily from?

  • Essential Partners dialogue
  • Technology of Participation approaches
  • Deliberative Polling
  • Council / Circle process

What was your role in the project?
Creative Director

What issues did the project primarily address?
Human rights

Where to learn more about the project:

We Are All Catalysts: Part Two – How We Can Amplify and Broaden Dialogue and Deliberation Work

In part one of We Are All Catalysts, the focus was on examples of groups in dialogue in deliberation who showcase how our powerful inner sparks can be used to transform conversations and communities. In part two, we want to follow up and have all of you help guide our continued conversations!

“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.” ~ Yogi Berra

We live in a world of noise. Many of us lament at the current environment of ideological polarization that hinders respectful and productive conversation. We have the power to break through this noise and create spaces for listening and thoughtful dialogue. It can seem daunting in the current ways of the world, but the tools are accessible and the need critical.

The space for listening and dialogue was successfully achieved at the biennial NCDD conference in November. Wonderful themes emerged that are well worth continued attention. We must work in the spirit of this year’s conference theme and gain momentum by connecting while home in our respective areas. One way we at NCDD hope to support is through helping to launch monthly phone conversations among a small group of committed members, to continue some of these discussions into the spring. If you would like to lead a group on a particular topic of interest to you, please let us know via the comment tool below or by emailing us!

Some themes to consider from the conference sessions that may inspire ideas for the forthcoming conversation topics include:

  • How can we design our D&D work to be more proactive and recurring? Too often, our programs are reactive and follow a “one and done” model.  The conference session led by Todd Davies and Michael Freedman in November asked us to consider improving our efforts through intentional design in D&D work focusing on long-term community relationships across many constituencies. Through building trust and transparency, the ongoing meetings could take the form of citizen juries, participatory budgeting, town halls among other formats.
  • How might the Bohm Dialogue technique be utilized in different settings? The Bohm technique removes cross talk while adding reflective pauses after each speaker contributes. The approach is meant to encourage collective community processing of local and global crisis that impact many, if not all, humans and the planet. This comes through suspension of judgement, listening at three levels, assumption identification, inquiry and reflection.
  • In what ways may arts (visual, musical, movement) enhance D&D work? Expression can take many forms and can be a great way to make D&D both more inclusive and more engaging. From visual arts to music and movement, varying the tools for expression can help the dialogue branch out into more creative and freeing spaces and spaces that can transcend barriers created by language.
  • What are successful ways to have more ideologically inclusive based participation in dialogues? Continued exploration on how to engage across the entire spectrum of ideological beliefs and political affinities. What forms this takes will vary depending upon local contexts.

The above are just a few suggestions to get everyone thinking. Please feel free to take a look at the Open Space session notes from the conference at this link for further inspiration, and/or comment below with your own ideas for which topics you would like to see a committed group dive into this spring!

New Website Launches Called weDialogue – Test it Now!

The new website, weDialogue, recently launched and the creators are currently looking for folks to experiment with the site and provide feedback. weDialogue is a participatory, citizen-driven platform designed to facilitate better online news commentary and be a space for improved online discussions. The creators are testing between two platforms right now, so check out the site ASAP to join this exploratory phase! You can read about the website in the post below and find the original website here.

weDialogue – A Space for Real Debate

What is weDialogue?
weDialogue is a global experiment to test new solutions for commenting on news online. The objective of weDialogue is to promote humility in public discourse and prevent digital harassment and trolling.

What am I expected to do?
The task is simple. You are asked to fill out a survey, then wait until the experiment begins. You will then be given a login for your platform. There you will be able to read and comment on news as if it was a normal online newspaper or blog. We would like people to comment as much as possible, but you are free to contribute as much as you want. At the end of the experiment we would be very grateful if you could fill in a final survey and provide us with feedback on the overall experience.

Why is important to test new platforms for news comments?
We know the problems of harassment and trolling (see our video), but the solution is not obvious. Developers have proposed new platforms, but these have not been tested rigorously. weDialogue is a participatory action research project that aims to combine academic expertise and citizens’ knowledge and experience to test potential solutions.

How much does weDialogue cost? Who is financing weDialogue?
weDialogue is funded by Humility and Conviction in Public Life, a project of the University of Connecticut, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. The grant is for USD 250,000. The real cost of weDialogue is significantly higher. Most members of the project team are volunteering a significant amount of time because they believe the objectives of the project are so important.

Do you have a political agenda? Is weDialogue a conservative or liberal project? Are you linked to a political organization?
weDialogue is not linked to any political organization. It is a non-partisan research project led by university researchers. Our political agenda is to improve online discussions so that they become more civil, safe and meaningful.

What are you going to do with the research?
All our research and data will be publicly available so that others can build upon it. Both the Deliberatorium and are free software that can be reused. The data we will create and the resulting publications will be released in an open access environment.

Who is weDialogue?
weDialogue is an action research project led by a team of academics at the University of Westminster (UK) and the University of Connecticut (USA).  For more information about the academic project see our academic project website.


weDialogue is divided into 3 phases:

Phase 1: Enrollment
In this phase you will be asked to fill out a survey and provide your email. Based on the survey data, we will create similar groups of participants to take part in the experiment. We aim to start the enrollment in the third week of November 2018.

Phase 2: Experiment
In this phase your group will be assigned to an online platform where you can comment on news items. You will receive an anonymous login and a password to access the platform. Groups will use different commenting platforms so that we can compare their impact on the discussion. We designed the experiment to last 3 weeks.

Phase 3: Exit survey and debriefing
At the end of the experiment, we will ask you to complete a final survey. We will then open all the discussion groups of weDialogue so that you can explore and compare the different platforms. You will have an opportunity to provide open feedback on the experience. We designed the debriefing to last 2 weeks.

You can check out the original weDialogue website at

The Dangers of “Mega-partisan” Identities in the US

A Summary of the NCDD Listserv Conversation Entitled: Democrats are wrong about Republicans and Republicans are wrong about Democrats

Listserv Contributors: Ken Homer, Tom Altee, Babara (last name masked), Peter Jones, John Backman, Bruce Waltuck, Rosa Zubizarreta, Dennis Boyer, Linda Ellinor, Dana Morris-Jones, Sarah Read, David Fridley, Kim Crowley, Steve Griffith, Chris Santos-Long, Terry Steichen, James Anest, Joan Blades, Kenoli Oleari, David Fridley, Deb Blakeslee, Britt Blaser, Eric Smiley, Howard Ward

In July, NCDD member Ken Homer shared a news article by Perry Bacon Jr. in the “Secret Identity” column from which features articles discussing the role of identity in politics and policy.  This article entitled, “Democrats Are Wrong About Republicans. Republicans Are Wrong About Democrats” claims that the political divide between Republicans and Democrats in the United States has grown to “encapsulate all other divides” and is continuing to grow reinforcing negative partisanship and overall misconceptions by both political parties about the other and their membership. This article emphasizes how “the parties in our heads” do not align with reality and that these stereotypes are problematic.

As many fellow NCDD members weighed in, the issue of an increasingly polarized population in the United States was deemed concerning. Questions arose about who fuels the fire of polarization and whether the encouragement is intentional via a divide and conquer strategy of the political parties themselves. Other important actors include traditional media and social media which frame thinking and dialogue regarding politics. Market driven media has led to a system were it is very easy to only consume what we want to, including local and global news. Increasingly, it is becoming easier to remain in political comfort zones or “echo chambers” that reinforce our own beliefs, deface the political “other”, and facilitate less necessity to look at policy outcomes versus political loyalties. As NCDD member Peter Jones wrote, “The news is not an unbiased partner but a corporate instigator in search of clicks and attention.”

We share our wonderings together in our NCDD community via the discussion listservs.  Multiple contributors chimed in with stimulating perspectives and ideas. Here are some examples:

  1. John Backman asks, “Based only on my own observations over the years, I wonder if another divide—one we rarely hear discussed—is even more fundamental and defining: between urban and rural?”
  2. Rosa Zubizarreta brings up ideas for new voting options including “ranked choice voting” to help our society step away from mega-partisan tendencies. Looking for alternatives that eliminate the frequent bi-partisan voting complaint of needing to pick “the lesser of two evils.”
  3. Linda Ellinor notes the worthwhile exercise of intentional system designs that could facilitate large scale conversations that focus on inclusivity with the objective of better governance. Reiterating that we must remain diligent, persistent, and intentional, because “it always leads to better futures when we tap our collective intelligence…” David Fridley agreed and would like to work with others to begin designing and working on a collaborative project.
  4. Kenoli Oleari emphasizes the need for “standing assemblies” around the world–bringing diverse communities together physically to combat isolations which leads to polarization. As Kenoli states, “It may take a community to raise a child; it also takes a community to raise adults.”
  5. A discussion about how the “elites” and “masses” dialogue (or lack thereof) and the importance of how these dialogues can be improved as varying contexts delineate who belongs to the “elite” versus the “masses.” In other words, in some contexts an individual or group may be an elite, and in a different realm, they may be part of the masses. One way mentioned that the two interact are via media reporting and the groups reacting. (Kenolli Oleari, David Fridley, Chris Santos-Long, Howard Ward)
  6. Britt Blaser brings up the idea for having crowdsourced policy-making in the United States context.

The phenomenon of mega-partisan politics can spur a desire to look externally to blame, however we must also critically look at our own ways of learning and aligning our values to political allegiances. Many in NCDD brought up ideas for critical reflection and moving discussion towards doable positive action including ways to think about structural improvements to existing democratic systems, fostering more participation at the local level, and ways to create dialogues that are politically inclusive to determine mutual goals across political divides.

Want to follow the full thread of this conversation? Check out the NCDD Discussion List archives!

We want to keep the dialogue going!

What are your thoughts to the questions below? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

What are the consequences of political choices being closely (and falsely) tied to many other identities including one’s religion, race, zip code, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education level, etc.?

What does it mean for someone to vote based on political party versus personal values?

What are mega-partisanship and negative partisanship? What are the implications to society of each of these phenomenon?

With a society that is primarily bipartisan, what are the most effective ways to exercise voice among those who do not identify with either the Democratic or Republican party?

How can we as a nation move towards a less polarized environment? Can data help?

How do individuals and communities define reason? Values? Information? Facts?

How can we work to challenge our own “blind spots” when it comes to political stereotypes and speculation?

What can be done to cross the divide? What could be done to eliminate it? What can the role be for those of us doing dialogue and deliberation work?

What could accountability look like for news/media/government?

How can the disconnect between what the American people want and policy initiatives be reconciled?

Read On – Additional Resources on the Topic:

Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage.

Haidt, J., & Graham, J. (2007). When morality opposes justice: Conservatives have moral intuitions that liberals may not recognize. Social Justice Research, 20(1), 98-116.

Javidiani, M. (2018) Beyond Facts: Increasing Trust In Journalism Through Community Engagement & Transparency. [MRP] Retrieved by:

Lessig, L. (August 10, 2017) TedTalk: How the net destroyed democracy. Retrieved by:

McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1967). The medium is the message. New York, 123, 126-128.

Mounk, Y. (July 2, 2018). The Rise of McPolitics: Democrats and Republicans belong to increasingly homogeneous parties. Can we survive the loss of local politics? New York Times. Retrieved from:

Wheatley, M. J. (2012). So far from home: Lost and found in our brave new world. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

AllSides Updates: New Students Website & Is Civility Bogus?

In an era when the mainstream media is hyperpolarized, it is vital to our societal and democratic well-being to have access to news sources with more balanced viewpoints. AllSides provides news sources from across the center-left-right spectrum and works to improve civil discourse, and they just announced exciting news and posted a great article exploring civility!

The new website, AllSides for Schools, offers resources for students to improve their media literacy, build empathy, and have tools for engaging in civil discourse – read more about it in the post below! Listen to the archive of our TechTuesday here featuring AllSides’ student-focused programming, Mismatch. 

They also shared the article, Is Civility a Bogus Concept After All?, which explores the challenging arguments around civility on if it’s possible and how it can be best utilized. You can read the article below and find the original on AllSides site here.

Brand New AllSides for Schools Website!

America, we need to talk. Our democracy is increasingly media-driven and polarized. How can we prepare young people?

We’re so excited to announce the launch of our brand-new AllSides for Schools website, featuring updated tools and resources to help students gain the media literacy and critical thinking skills they need to improve our democracy long-term.

We worked hard to launch our new Schools site, and we can’t wait for you to see it.

Featuring a clean new design, AllSides for Schools features nearly a dozen resources to make media literacy fun and engaging. Students can take AllSides’ bias quiz to find out where they fall on the Left-Center-Right political spectrum, then browse our Balanced Dictionary to see how people across the political spectrum define, think and feel differently about the same term or issue.

Plus, our Mismatch program and Civil Conversation Guides ensure students get the guidance they need to build relationships with people who are different from them. And it works — a whopping 92% of students who tried our Mismatch program said they better understood another person or perspective after just one conversation.

Through a revealing look at today’s news media and memorable experiences of respectful dialogue, AllSides for Schools equips students to navigate the complexities of modern media, social networks (on and offline), and personal relationships.

Join the 12,000 teachers and students in 47 states who are already using our tools every week. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them.

You can check out the new Allsides for Schools website at

Is Civility a Bogus Concept After All?

By Julie Mastrine

We built AllSides in part because we believe in the power of civility and civil discourse. AllSides helps people build relationships with those who are different from them, which we believe will ultimately improve our democracy.

But, could we be wrong? What if civility is actually a sham?

A TED Talk by political theorist Teresa Bejan raises this very question. Bejan studied and wrote a book about civility — particularly, religious tolerance in early modern England and America — because at the time, she thought that civility was, as she puts it, “bullsh*t.”

Yet how wrong she was.

After concluding her studies, Bejan learned “the virtue that makes un-murderous coexistence possible [in society] is the virtue of civility,” as she states in her TED Talk. “Civility makes our disagreements tolerable so that we can share a life together, even if we don’t share a faith — religious, political or otherwise.”

Still, she says, when most people talk about civility today, they are talking about something different than this. While civility is the virtue that “makes it possible to tolerate disagreement,” she says, “talking about civility [today] seems to be a strategy of disengagement — its like threatening to take your ball and go home when the game isn’t going your way.”

Often, she says, today’s “civility talk” is used as a way to “silence, suppress and exclude” those people we disagree with. (It’s a concept AllSides refers to as “tyranny of civility.”)

“Civility talk” or “tyranny of civility” gives people the feeling of the moral high ground while also allowing them to paint those they disagree with as offensive, or uncivil.

“Some people use “civility” when they want to communicate that certain views or people are beyond the pale, but they want to save themselves the trouble of actually making an argument,” Bejan says.

This is why some people (like Bejan in the past) roll their eyes at the call for civility.

“It seems like “civility talk” saves us the trouble of actually speaking to each other, allows us to talk past each other, signal our superior virtue, and let the audience know which side we’re on,” she says. In this way, “civility talk” can actually deepen divisions.

Instead of civility talk, Bejan argues we need what she calls “mere civility.” This type of civility is not the same thing as being respectful, because “we need civility precisely when we’re dealing with people we find it the most impossible to respect.” And it’s not the same as being nice, either — “because being nice means not telling people what you really think about them or their views.”

Mere civility means “speaking your mind, but to your opponent’s’ face, not behind her back…Being merely civil means pulling out punches but not landing them all at once.”

The point of civility, she says, is to allow us to “have fundamental disagreements without denying or destroying the possibility of a common life tomorrow with the people we think are standing in our way today.”

In this way, civility is closely related to courage.

“Mere civility is having the courage to make yourself disagreeable and to stay that way, but to do that while staying in the room and present to your opponents,” Bejan says. “If you’re talking about civility as a way to avoid an argument, as a way to isolate yourself in the more agreeable company of the like-minded who already agree with you, if you find yourself never actually speaking to anyone who fundamentally disagrees with you, you’re doing civility wrong.”

You can listen to Bejan’s TED Talk in full below.

You can read the original version of article on the Allsides Perspectives blog at