Equity in School Forums: An Interview with John Landesman

The 14-page article, Equity in School Forums: An Interview with John Landesman (2016)was written by Carolyne Abdullah, Christopher Karpowitz, and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, the authors interview Landesman of Everyday Democracy to share his experience working to address the barriers within the Montgomery County Study Circles Program, which he helped to coordinate. Landesman clarifies the importance between equality and equity; and how these play out when designing a process to effective address the power dynamics that arise within school spaces between admin, faculty, parents, and students.

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

From the article…

For adults and youth, American public schools are a major entryway to public engagement. Not only are public schools charged with preparing students for civic life, but they are the custodians of parents’ educational and economic aspirations for their children, often the largest recipients of taxpayer funding in a community, neighborhood hubs that host public meetings and events, and institutions that are formally accountable to the community through school boards, parent teacher associations, and other public forums. Schools need active support from their communities to approve school bonds, attract donations, enlist mentors and volunteers, approve (or at least accept) curriculum reforms, engage parents in supporting their children’s learning, and address social problems such as academic achievement gaps among students of different racial and income backgrounds, bullying, and gangs. Yet, like other institutions of democracy, public school governance is often dominated by the voices of politicians and policy makers, professionals (administrators and teachers), and privileged citizens (parents of higher socio-economic status) (Nabatchi & Leighninger, 2015).

In Maryland, the Montgomery County Public School system offers a hopeful example of how public dialogue can improve school governance. John Landesman, a Senior Associate at Everyday Democracy, coordinates the Montgomery County Public Schools Study Circles Program. The program engages parents, students, staff, and administrators in dialogue to address racial and ethnic barriers to parent involvement and student achievement in this multilingual, multi-ethnic school district. These dialogues have helped to build trust and collaboration, and increased involvement by parents of color, as well diminishing differences in achievement among students from more and less advantaged backgrounds (Childress, Doyle, and Thomas, 2009; Orland, 2007; Fagotto & Fung, 2009).

In this interview, Landesman explains how Everyday Democracy thinks about equity and equality, and how the organization integrated equity considerations throughout the process of organizing study-circle dialogues in Montgomery County, including recruiting and retaining diverse participants, forming agendas, facilitation, small group discussions in affinity groups of less-powerful participants as well as mixed groups, evaluation, and implementation of plans. The techniques discussed here can be adopted or adapted to forums on schooling and many other issues.

Equity and Equality
Abdullah, Karpowitz, and Raphael (AKR): Some people working in dialogue and deliberation have argued that instead of practicing equality by treating people 1 Abdullah et al.: Equity in School Forums: An Interview with John Landesman similarly, we should strive for equity by treating participants differently in order to create conditions that achieve fair discussion and decisions. Do you see this distinction between equal and equitable treatment as useful to our field and in your own work?

Landesman: I do see a distinction. There’s a picture that we often use in our presentations of three boys trying to look over a fence at a baseball game (see Figure 1). In the first panel, which shows equal treatment, each boy is standing on a box that is the same height. The tall boy can see the game over the fence, the middle boy can barely see, and the shortest boy can’t see at all. In the next panel, which shows equity, the tall boy’s box has been given to the little boy, so now all three of them can see the game. The idea is that everyone needs something different to participate in whatever they’re doing. But to me, this feels like the wrong question. The question should be, “What is the goal of the dialogue, and who needs to be in the room to make the dialogue effective?” If the goal is to have a variety of perspectives deliberating together, then organizers need to think about how to recruit for those different perspectives. If there are people who need something different to be part of it, but having their voice will make the deliberation more effective, then organizers have to use different strategies to get them there.

Think of successful companies like Coca-Cola. Their goal is to sell more of their products. They don’t just develop their product and then say, “OK everyone, come get it.” They spend a lot of time and resources thinking about how to get different kinds of people to buy their products. If the goal of deliberation is to have a richer understanding of an issue based on all the different perspectives that are in the community, than we need to spend time thinking about how to ensure that we get all those perspectives in the room.

In my experience, organizing for diverse perspectives is often an afterthought. Organizers plan the way they always have, and then say, “How do we get Latino participants or low-income folks, or people who have different political perspectives?” That never works, because all we’re doing is adding an extra strategy to what’s already been put in place. Successful organizing starts by asking, “What is the goal of the dialogue, and who needs to be in the room to reach that goal?” Then every piece of the organizing—whether it’s the outreach, the facilitation, the setup once you get there, where it’s located—all of those things are driven by who you want in the room and what perspectives you need to hear to make your dialogue effective. That’s a very different way of looking at it than saying, “We’re going to do it the way we’ve always done it, and now we’re going to develop a strategy to get to these so-called marginalized people.”

This is an excerpt of the article, which can be downloaded in full from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

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

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

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

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol12/iss2/art12/

Community Conversations About Mental Health

The 20-page discussion guide, Community Conversations About Mental Health (2013)was sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services. This guide was prepared for SAMHSA by Abt Associates and its subcontractors, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and Everyday Democracy. In the guide are instructions for hosting and facilitating community dialogues around mental health issues today and especially for young people; how to identify challenges and what ways to support youth mental health. The beginning of the toolkit includes an Informational Brief section with facts regarding mental health, then there is a Discussion Guide section and finally, a Planning Guide section with facilitator tips.

Below is an excerpt of the guide and it can be found in full for free download, in both English and Spanish at the bottom of the page. To view the original posting on SAMHSA’s site, click here.

From the guide…

us_mental-health_-logoOn January 16, 2013, President Barack Obama directed Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Arne Duncan of the U.S. Department of Education to launch a national conversation on mental health to reduce the shame and secrecy associated with mental illness, encourage people to seek help if they are struggling with mental health problems, and encourage individuals whose friends or family are struggling to connect them to help.

Mental health problems affect nearly every family. Yet as a nation, we have too often struggled to have an open and honest conversation about these issues. Misperceptions, fears of social consequences, discomfort associated with talking about these issues with others, and discrimination all tend to keep people silent. Meanwhile, if they get help, most people with mental illnesses can and do recover and lead happy, productive, and full lives.

This national conversation will give Americans a chance to learn more about mental health issues. People across the nation are planning community conversations to assess how mental health problems affect their communities and to discuss topics related to the mental health of young people. In so doing, they may also decide how they might take steps to improve mental health in their families, schools, and communities. This could include a range of possible steps to establish or improve prevention of mental illnesses, promotion of mental health, public education and awareness, early identification, treatment, crisis response, and recovery supports available in their communities.

Goals and Objectives of the Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health
The Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health is designed to help individuals and organizations who want to organize community conversations achieve three potential objectives:

– Get others talking about mental health to break down misperceptions and promote recovery and healthy communities;
– Find innovative community-based solutions to mental health needs, with a focus on helping young people; and
– Develop clear steps for communities to address their mental health needs in a way that complements existing local activities.

The Toolkit includes:
1. An Information Brief section that provides data and other facts regarding mental health and mental illness and how communities can improve prevention of mental illnesses, promotion of mental health, public education and awareness, early identification, treatment, crisis response, and recovery supports available in their communities.
2. A Discussion Guide section that is intended for use in holding community conversation meetings of 8-12 people each. (In a community forum with more participants, the audience would divide into groups of this size for much of their time together.) It provides discussion questions, sample views, ideas, and an overall structure for dialogue and engagement on mental health issues.
3. A Planning Guide section that describes a variety of ways in which people can facilitate their community conversations and take next steps at the local level to raise awareness about mental health and promote access to mental health services.

Mental health issues in our communities—particularly for our youth—are complex and challenging; but, by coming together and increasing our understanding and raising awareness, we can make a difference.

To download the guide in full click the link below.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

Follow on Twitter: @samhsagov

Resource Link [in English]: community_conversations_about_mental_health

Resource Link [in Spanish]: dialogos_comunitarios_acerca_de_la_salud_mental


Racial Dynamics to Watch For

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

From Everyday Democracy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow on Twitter: @EvDem

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

What’s Race Got to Do with It? (Video)

The 49-minute video, What’s Race Got to Do with It?, published by California Newsreel in 2006, shows the journey of a diverse group of 16 UC Berkeley students who participated in a semester-long intergroup dialogue program sponsored by University of California, Berkeley Ethnic Studies Department and Stiles Hall. The students were part of the class, “FACING YOU, FACING ME: Race, Class & Gender Among UCB Student Leaders”, led by David Stark and co-facilitator, Jerlena Griffin-Destaco. An online facilitator’s guide is available on PDF here.

Below is a six minute clip from the video:

More about the film…
This excerpt comes from the film’s site, whatsrace.org.

More than 40 years after the Civil Rights Movement, America faces the paradox of being a nation “with racism, but without racists,” as sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has put it. Racial inequality is harder to recognize in a world where it no longer announces itself with white-only signs. Meanwhile, the idea of “colorblindness” conveniently allows us to condemn prejudice and bigotry while ignoring how racism contributes to the vast disparities that persist right under our noses.

Not surprisingly, many of today’s students, born in the post-Civil Rights era, don’t seek out opportunities to engage in diversity programs and interracial dialogue. They feel they’ve heard it all before or wonder why we’re still talking about a problem that ended a long time ago. More often than not in these discussions, structural racism is ignored and multiculturalism gets confused with equality. Even many students of color don’t realize how underlying conditions impact opportunity.

Too few resources exist to help young people scrutinize their own assumptions, beliefs and attitudes about race – using language they understand, spoken by their peers. At a time when campuses are struggling to close achievement gaps, foster inclusion, and promote diversity – while equity initiatives across the country are under attack – we responded to the demand for a new tool that is up to date and speaks directly to students’ doubts and concerns in today’s post-Civil Rights world.

What’s Race Got to Do with It? chronicles the journey of a diverse group of students participating in a 15-week intergroup dialogue program at U.C. Berkeley. As the students share personal stories, debate hot topics, and confront one another about the role race plays in their lives, they make discoveries about their preconceived ideas and assumptions, and in so doing, help us begin to disentangle our own.  The film goes beyond identity politics, celebratory history and guilt trips to help viewers “see through” achievement myths and create a safe space for open, honest exchange, particularly within educational environments.

In some ways, What’s Race Got to Do with It? is a “sequel” to our earlier release Skin Deep, because it highlights an interracial dialogue and provides a window into the different attitudes and assumptions that young people hold about race and equality.However, it goes further by highlighting the unique challenges and obstacles that students from disadvantaged backgrounds face compared to their peers (e.g., isolation, discomfort, underrepresentation, lack of encouragement and support, financial and emotional stress, societal disparities) and helping us understand the structural and institutional conditions underlying those difficulties.

In addition, the film focuses not just on what’s being said but also what’s not being discussed openly – the underlying fears, frustration, ignorance and confusion that render unproductive so many of our conversations about racism. The film spotlights the stories young people use to rationalize (to themselves and others) the persistence of racial disparities as well as the rhetorical strategies and often-loaded language they employ to evade, resist or deflect ideas that are unsettling. And it reveals just how different our experiences and perceptions can be of the world we ostensibly share – how something that is painfully obvious to one person can be invisible to another.

What’s Race Got to Do with It? does not attempt to replicate the experience of the class nor does it supply easy answers or address the concerns of every group. What it does provide is a starting point for a deeper, more productive level of conversation – one grounded in real-life issues and experiences. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the students on screen, their stories help get the “high stakes” topics out on the table, in a manner accessible to individuals who have never thought much about race as well as long-time activists. Perhaps most importantly, the film challenges each of us to reflect on existing disparities and the responsibility we all share – individually and institutionally – to create more equitable conditions for everyone.

For more information about the UC Berkeley class or to learn how to start your own intergroup dialogue program, contact David Stark at 510-841-6010 or info[at]stileshall[dot]org.

Resource Link: www.whatsrace.org/pages/film.htm

UC Davis Extension: Conflict Resolution Courses

From UC Davis Extension, The Conflict Resolution Professional Concentration, which has proven tools to resolve conflicts, negotiate agreements, deal with difficult people, facilitate groups and build consensus. In a streamlined format composed of three courses, the program prioritizes theory and practical tools to equip students to resolve every type of conflict and positively impact people, organizations, programs and policies. These courses are designed for professionals seeking to further develop their effectiveness and leadership skills in a broad variety of fields including government, business, health care, education, human resources, law, land use, water and natural resources.

Who should attend

This program is designed for a broad audience—for those seeking conflict resolution skills to benefit their current careers and for those interested in a new career in conflict resolution. It is recommended for anyone interested in developing knowledge and skills in mediation, facilitation, collaborative decision-making and other forms of problem solving and conflict resolution.

The professional concentration can be completed in less than a year while working in a full-time position.

Courses required

Fall: Introduction to Conflict Resolution (online, 2 units) $795
Winter: Fundamental Conflict Resolution Skills (Sacramento 3-day course, 2 units), $795
Spring: Advanced Conflict Resolution Skills (Sacramento, 3-day course, 2 units) $795

If you enroll in all 3 courses at once, you pay a discounted price of $1,995.

***Please note, you must call (530) 752-0881 to enroll and receive the discounted price.

About the courses

Introduction to Conflict Resolution:
Become a vital problem-solver in your organization or community. Build a solid foundation in the basics of conflict resolution, and learn theory and new techniques for mediating conflicts and facilitating group dynamics. Discover leading models in the field and apply these to current cases using practical strategies to effectively transform conflicts.

Fundamental Conflict Resolution Skills:
Learn the communication skills and mediation models essential for successful conflict resolution. Practice facilitation skills and techniques required for successful group and team meetings. Learn strategies to minimize and address conflict in difficult conversations and with difficult people. Explore tools to assess and meaningfully engage diverse interests and participants.

Advanced Conflict Resolution Skills:
Discover collaborative methods and techniques for consensus building, negotiation and resolving complex conflicts. Learn to find mutually agreeable solutions to challenging situations so projects and programs can move forward. Gain leadership skills to address tough conflict and negotiation settings.

For more information or to enroll, call (800) 752-0881, email extension[at]ucdavis[dot]edu or visit the website here.

More about UC Davis Extension
UCD_Collab_CtrThe continuing and professional education division of UC Davis, has been an internationally recognized leader in educational outreach for individuals, organizations and communities for more than 50 years. With 62,000 annual enrollments in classroom and online university-level courses, UC Davis Extension serves lifelong learners in the growing Sacramento region, all 50 states and more than 115 countries.

Follow on Twitter: @UCDExtension

Resource Link: https://extension.ucdavis.edu/areas-study/collaboration-center

Read the Room for Real

Read the Room for Real: How a Simple Technology Creates Better Meetings (2015) by David Campt and Matthew Freeman is a 200-page book intended for facilitators, presenters, conference planners, or anyone who is curious about how to use increasingly accessible audience polling technology to improve meetings.

Read the RoomCampt and Freeman have a deep background in facilitating dialogues about difficult diversity issues and as well as refining dialogic processes on all matter of topics for very small to very large groups of people.

From the DWC Group…

Read the Room for Real answers these questions:

  • In my speeches and trainings, how can I make sure my my audience is with me?
  • In my conferences, how can I make sure the attendees feel connected to each other?
  • In my workshops, how can make sure that the group is using all of is brainpower?
  • In the meetings I pay for, how can I make sure that my organization gets information it can use, not just a big bill for an experience that participants may or may not not remember?

After reading, you will be able to use the newly accessible technology that can transform meeting audiences into participants. Knowing how to leverage the new interactivity will give you a competitive advantage over peers who are slow to apply the worldwide trend for greater participant voice and interactivity so every meetings merits praise.

Purchase it on Amazon here.

About David Campt
Dr. Campt currently provides consultation about race relations and diversity issues with United States congressional representatives, the foundation community, and national community organizations. In addition to his work as a program evaluator and trainer, Dr. Campt also has extensive experience as a designer of large-scale community engagements, dialogue facilitator and university lecturer. His first book, The Little Book of Dialogue for Difficult Subjects (2007), provides practical guidance about how individuals and organizations could use skills of dialogue to better solve shared problems.

Follow on Twitter: @thedialogueguy

About Matthew Freeman
Matthew is a facilitator and trainer with over 10 years experience working on race and diversity issues, civic engagement, and organizational development. He is the President of TMI Consulting, based in Richmond, Virginia. He has pioneered the use of cutting-edge audience response technology to make group conversations more productive and participatory. Matthew has published numerous articles on the subject, including “Using Keypad Polling to Make Meetings More Productive, Educational, and Participatory” in the National Civic Review.

Follow on Twitter: @rvamf

Resource Link: www.thedwcgroup.com/RTRFR