Submit Your Proposals for the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference

We are thrilled to announce the upcoming Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference in Spring 2018 that will convene civic practitioners, of all ages, to explore innovations in how people participate in democracy. The conference is the creative effort of several fantastic organizations working to empower their community, including NCDD sponsoring org the Jefferson Center, and NCDD member org the Participatory Budgeting Project. Proposals are to be submitted by November 1st, so make sure you get yours in and reserve your space at this great event by purchasing your tickets ASAP.

We strongly encourage you to read the announcement from the Participatory Budgeting Project below or you can find their original post on their blog here.


Get involved with the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference

The Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference will bring together more than 250 youth, educators, advocates, elected officials, and researchers to explore innovations that empower community members to make real decisions and directly participate in government.

Our conference kicks off just as 10 public high schools wrap up two weeks of voting in the Phoenix Union High School District—where students are using participatory budgeting to decide how to spend $55,000.

Join us! Purchase your tickets now at discounted rates.

Call for Proposals

In order to plan a conference that’s as participatory as the innovations we’re exploring, we want to hear from you!

We’re excited to review creative, engaging, and interactive proposals (check out these example session types) that focus on innovations in participatory democracy such as participatory budgeting, citizen juries and assemblies, and key practices that connect civic engagement and deliberation with decision-making.

Submissions close November 1, 2017.

We’re especially interested in proposals that:

  • are creative, engaging, and interactive;
  • showcase a diversity of opinions, experiences, and backgrounds;
  • encourage interaction, discussion, and/or skill-sharing with session attendees;
  • are accessible to people of any background or experience level;
  • promote new collaborations among conference attendees.

Submit your proposal for the 2018 Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference.

On behalf of the powerful team planning the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference, we’re excited to shape this conference and the future of participatory democracy with you!

We look forward to reviewing your proposal and to working together to grow and deepen the impacts of innovations in participatory democracy.

You can find the original version of this blog post on the Participatory Budgeting Project’s site at www.participatorybudgeting.org/join-us-for-ipdconference/.

Using Thick and Thin Engagement to Improve Politics

The NCDD network specializes in structures and processes for better civic engagement, which is why we wanted to share an insightful piece written by Matt Leighninger from Public Agenda, an NCDD member org. In the article, he gives concrete ways to improve politics from the ground up, by strengthening networks using both thin and thick ways of engagement. We encourage you to read Leighninger’s article below or find the original on Public Agenda’s blog here.


Fixing Politics by Strengthening Networks for Engagement

As David Brooks pointed out in his column on “How to Fix Politics,” our political system has reached a perilous state of dysfunction and distrust, and it is unlikely that any solutions to this crisis will come from the political parties or their presidential candidates.

Brooks is also right that the partisanship and incivility that plague our politics are not just due to poor manners or bad process skills. They are based in much deeper structural flaws in how leaders and communities engage each other around important issues and resulting strains in the relationship between citizens and government.

Brooks argues that strong community networks are essential for successful politics, and uses a 1981 quote from one of our founders, Daniel Yankelovich, to illustrate how long the weakening of those networks has been going on. “If we’re going to salvage our politics,” Brooks says, we’ll have to “nurture the thick local membership web that politics rests within.”

This kind of argument is often dismissed as a sentimental notion, or a lament over our lack of civic virtue, but it shouldn’t be. There are specific proposals and measures that can accomplish it.

Strengthening networks for engagement should be one of our top public priorities, and there are in fact a number of concrete ways to move forward on it. Much of our work at Public Agenda centers on these challenges, and we are part of a field of other organizations and leaders – from neighborhood organizers to innovative public officials – who have pioneered more productive formats and structures for democratic politics.

There are two kinds of communication that need to be happening for those networks to strengthen and grow. One kind, as Brooks references, is “thick” engagement that is intensive, informed and deliberative. In these kinds of settings, people are able to share their experiences, learn more about public problems, consider a range of solutions or policy options and decide how they want to act.

Other tactics produce “thin” engagement, which is faster, easier and potentially viral. It encompasses a range of activities that allow people to express their opinions, learn about other people’s views and affiliate themselves with a particular group or cause.

When thick and thin engagement activities are common and interwoven in community life, they can:

  • Facilitate faster, more far-reaching dissemination of information from governments, school systems and other public bodies.
  • Allow citizens to provide information back to the institutions, in ways that are convenient for people.
  • Foster discussion and connection, and the strengthening of personal relationships, among different groups of citizens, and among citizens, public officials and public employees.
  • Provide choices for people to make at the level of the family and neighborhood;
  • Create deliberative processes in which people can make informed public policy choices;
  • Encourage and support citizens to contribute their energy, ideas and volunteer time to improving their communities.

By understanding what thick and thin engagement look like, and what they can accomplish, communities can assess and improve their systems of engagement, or “civic infrastructure,” defined as “the laws, processes, institutions, and associations that support regular opportunities for people to connect with each other, solve problems, make decisions and celebrate community.”

Stronger civic infrastructure could include more productive and participatory public meetings, revitalized neighborhood and school associations, and vibrant local online forums. Overall, it should establish a better “ground floor of democracy” that fosters new leaders, creates social connections and helps people work together on common concerns like ensuring public safety and improving the quality of education for our young people.

The structural elements that support these activities can include:

  • new laws and ordinances on public engagement;
  • tools for engaging residents for neighborhoods and schools;
  • annual participatory budgeting processes;
  • public engagement commissions;
  • tools for measuring engagement and the strength of networks;
  • citizen advisory boards that engage rather than just trying to represent residents; and
  • protocols, job descriptions and professional development that help public employees understand how to support productive engagement.

While some of these elements are clearly the province of governments and school systems, many other components are ones that should be supported by neighborhood groups, nonprofits, businesses, faith communities, universities, foundations and other stakeholders.

David Brooks is right that strengthening the web of community networks can help fix politics, at every level of government. There are practical ways to do this – this is a matter for policy, law, cross-sector collaboration, and long-term planning. We should be proactive, and think constructively, about how we want our democracy to work.

You can find the original version of this article on Public Agenda’s blog at www.publicagenda.org/blogs/fixing-politics-by-strengthening-networks-for-engagement.

Upcoming Opportunities with Common Ground for Action

We wanted to let everyone know about several updates this month from NCDD member org, Kettering Foundation on their Common Ground for Action online forum. Coming up quick is the  CGA forum on climate choices being held tomorrow (September 8th – Register ASAP!) and another CGA forum on healthcare on September 21st. Later on in the month, Kara Dillard will be hosting a two-part training on how to use CGA forums in your communities or places of work. Register to join these online forums and trainings by clicking on the links in the announcement below. This announcement was from the September Kettering newsletter – sign up here to start receiving their newsletter.


Common Ground for Action: Updates, Upcoming Forums, and Moderator Training

The largest public university in the country, the Ohio State University, is using Common Ground for Action online forums as part of its first-year experience programming again this year, offering students the chance to participate in deliberative forums on climate choices and other issues. CGA is also being used by many other teachers in colleges around the country, including Lone Star College in Texas, Florida International University, and the University of Washington.

If you haven’t had a chance to participate in an online deliberative forum using KF and NIFI’s Common Ground for Action platform yet, or if you want to participate in a forum on Climate Choices or Health Care, there are two open forums in the next couple of weeks.

Friday, September 8, 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST | Climate Choices | REGISTER

Thursday, September 21, 12 p.m. EST/9 a.m. PST | Health Care | REGISTER

If you’re unable to participate in either of those forums, click on the button below to sign up to receive e-mail invitations to other upcoming CGA forums.

Would you like to learn to use CGA in your work or community? Kara Dillard, an experienced moderator of CGA forums, is leading an online training session soon. The session consists of two parts, Thursday, September 21, at 12 p.m. ET and Friday, September 22, at 4 p.m. ET. The first session consists of participating in a CGA forum; the second session walks participants through moderating an online forum and using the support materials. REGISTER.

Rich Discussion on NCDD Listserv about Charlottesville

We’ve been having a rich, active conversation on the main NCDD Discussion list since the tragedy in Charlottesville took place a few weeks ago.  One of our members, Lucas Cioffi, a resident of Charlottesville, queried listserve subscribers about what next steps might be possible for the city, and the conversation expanded and deepened from there.

Archives of the NCDD Discussion list (going all the way back to 2006!) are available online, and we encourage you to check them out and subscribe to the list to be part of future such discussions.

One message I wanted to lift up in particular was sent in by Joseph McIntyre, Principle Facilitator of Ag Innovations and Founding Member of the Academy for Systemic Change. In it, he uses a disaster metaphor to outline four steps communities can take to heal from traumatic events, and how dialogue and deliberation fit into those steps.

Dear Lucas and my Fellow NCDD’rs—

One of the things I love about NCDD is how we as a community can rally to offer friendship and experience at key moments like this. Already some wonderful suggestions have come forward.

It might be helpful to use a disaster metaphor when thinking about how a community responds and heals from a traumatic event such as what happened in Charlottesville. In that metaphor—

1) Step one: triage. This is about providing support and succor to those most impacted by the events. The families of those who lost their lives, people close to the front line of the violence, anyone who feels emotionally scarred from the experience. The goal of triage is individual healing. Since we work in communal space, the focus of our offerings are about honoring the experiences of those who are impacted. We construct venues where we can listen to each other deeply, experience the pain of the moment, and begin to put ourselves back together. This is definitely not about finding solutions and it is not a moment to do conflict resolution, mediation, or bringing opposing views together.

2) Step two: understanding. This is about developing a much more sophisticated understanding of the events—what drives extremists, what drives counter-protests. What the context is. This is what Scharmer et al describe as descending the U. There are a number of methods to do this and I think each of us uses those methods we are most comfortable with. What matters more is our intention. Here the intention is clearly on understanding what happened from a systems, historical, social, political, racial (and on…) perspective. Here we construct venues where the community can think together…

3) Step three: bridging. This is about exploring where there may be opportunities to build bridges between those willing to see from the whole. One of the most painful lessons I have learned as a facilitator is that one can find middle ground only between those willing to move from their entrenched positions. The challenge of our time is that we are being encouraged to dig in and not move. This renders many of our best tools impotent because they are premised on an inherent drive to wholeness. Some of the best work in the world around building these bridges, particularly when the parties have a history of violence and animosity is from Adam Kahane—his latest book Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust is very helpful. Still we can do bridging and here we construct venues where the community can aspire together.

4) Step four: building. This is about making decisions together about how we want to act and be together. It is the last step (although we all too often want to skip ahead and make it the first). It comes after we have healed, have created shared understanding, attempted to build bridges, and is entirely about tapping community wisdom and values. The venues we construct here are about the future we are trying to create. This is Future Search, vision quests, wisdom circles, and deep dialogue.

I am of the belief that we have a historic opportunity to put hate back in its proper box. Democracy can not run on hate. Dialogue can not run on hate. But again as Adam Kahane writes in Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change, we have to create venues where we as a community can learn to balance the impulse to love and to power. Neither alone is sufficient.

 

Submit Your Nominations for the 2017 Civvys Awards

It’s important to recognize the work people are already doing in civic engagement to make strides toward improving the world around them. Which is why we are excited to announce the first-ever American Civic Collaboration Awards which honor the individuals and organizations who work in collaboration to improve their community and their nation. The Civvys are presented by NCDD member org, The Bridge Alliance and Big Tent Nation, and will be determined by a panel of civic engagement experts. Submit your nominations by Sept 15, 2017 and the winner will be announced October 20, 2017 at the National Conference on Citizenship in Washington DC.

We encourage you to read the details on The Civvys below or read the original version here.


The 2017 Civvys American Civic Collaboration Awards

In a nation awash in divisiveness, there’s a profound need to recognize individuals and organizations who work together across differences for the best of their communities and this nation.

That’s why the Bridge Alliance and Big Tent Nation, organizations committed to the grapple against partisan rancor and division, have joined forces to announce the first annual American Civic Collaboration Awards, or the Civvys.

NOMINATION

Do you know people or organizations working together to address what divides us? Does their work:

  • Have a direct impact on America at a local, state or national level?
  • Use collaboration, community input and other collective action principles to make a difference?
  • Embody civility and mutual respect?

The Civvy Awards are thefirst national awards program designed to highlight organizations and individuals that leverage collaboration as a key strength in building initiatives that improve communities.

Whether it’s a grassroots neighborhood group working to bring people together, a nonprofit program to improve educational outcomes, a city government outreach initiative, or a corporation working with local leaders – we’re looking forward to celebrating projects of all sizes and types that utilize collective action best practices.

ABOUT THE CIVVYS

Driven by a panel of civic engagement experts, including former members of Congress, senior managers from top foundations and political thought leaders, the Civvys will highlight best practices in collective action that put community and nation before party, ideology, and narrow interests.

In an era of division and gridlock, it’s more important than ever to celebrate and support organizations that work together to improve America.

By recognizing projects and processes that emphasize collaboration, civility and on-the-ground impact, the Civvys are a powerful means to honor this work and inspire more of it.

The awardees will be celebrated in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on October 20, 2017 at the National Conference on Citizenship, a distinguished event that brings together the best minds in civic engagement

Distinguished review committee members include:

Mickey Edwards, Aspen Institute
Betsy Hawkings, Democracy Fund
Peter Levine, Tufts University
David Sawyer, Converge for Impact

You can find the original version of the Bridge Alliance and Big Tent Nation announcement at www.civvys.org/.

Join Call on Bridging Divides Using Civil Discourse

As part of our #BridgingOurDivides and desire to lift up this important work, we wanted to share this upcoming call with the Orton Family Foundation, which will feature practical tips on bridging divides using civil discourse. This free event on Sept 28th will feature long-time NCDD member Carolyn Lukensmeyer of the National Institute for Civil Discourse and Thom Harnett the mayor of Gardiner, Maine. We encourage you to read the post from Orton Family Foundation and register for the call below or read the original here.


Heart & Soul Talks: Bridge Divides with Discourse that’s Civil

Orton LogoTaking on controversial issues is a challenge that every community faces. How those issues are approached can make the difference between a community that thrives and one where divides erode a community’s vitality.

Join us for insight and practical ideas and tools for advancing civil discourse from nationally-recognized expert in the field, Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, and Thom Harnett, mayor of Gardiner, Maine, who has led the way in welcoming new residents, embracing the value they bring to the town, sometimes in the face of protest.

Speakers:

Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, executive director, National Institute for Civil Discourse

As a leader in the field of deliberative democracy, Dr. Lukensmeyer works to restore our democracy to reflect the intended vision of our founding fathers. She previously served as Founder and President of AmericaSpeaks, an award-winning nonprofit organization that promoted nonpartisan initiatives to engage citizens and leaders through the development of innovative public policy tools and strategies.

Thom Harnett, mayor, Gardiner, Maine.

Thom, now serving his third term as mayor of Gardiner, Maine, recently retired from the state Office of the Attorney General where he had served as an assistant attorney general, and established Civil Rights Teams in more than 220 schools statewide. Thom was active in Gardiner’s Community Heart & Soul® project.

Fran Stoddard, moderator

A national award-winning producer of video programs, Fran produced and hosted Vermont Public Television’s weekly “Profile” interview program for more than a decade. She frequently serves as moderator for community events and has served on numerous non-profit boards.

This FREE event is 2-3 p.m. Eastern, Thursday, September 28. Can’t join us live? Register and we’ll send the call recording.

Heart & Soul Talks features stories and insight from Community Heart & Soul®, a community development model that builds stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant small cities and towns. Learn more at orton.org.

You can find the original version of this announcement at www.eventbrite.ca/e/heart-soul-talks-bridge-divides-with-discourse-thats-civil-registration-37129446173?aff=es2.

Second Phase of D&D training with Am. Library Association

In the beginning of the year we launched our two-year partnership with the American Library Association (ALA) on the Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change initiative. For this collaborative project, we are working to train librarians on D&D methods and processes which they can in turn share with their communities to further make libraries hubs of community engagement and agents for change. We were thrilled at the response during the first phase of the project, which focused on large and urban libraries featuring NCDD member orgs Everyday Democracy and World Café.

Starting in September will be the second phase of the project, to provide D&D training tailored to academic libraries and further deepen the impact these spaces have on collaborative change on campuses. This round is comprised of three webinars featuring NCDD member orgs Essential Partners and National Issues Forums; and those that attend all three webinars will be invited to the in-person pre-conference workshop at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting early next year. This partnership is an incredible opportunity to share the work of our field and increase the possibilities for our members to network with librarians over the long-term. We encourage you to read the announcement from ALA below and you can find the original here.


Announcing Free Dialogue & Deliberation Learning Series for Academic Libraries

ALA’s Public Programs Office, the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) and the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) invite academic library professionals to attend a free learning series that teaches several dialogue facilitation approaches and helps librarians position themselves to foster conversation and lead change on their campuses and beyond.

Through Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change, a two-year ALA initiative in collaboration with NCDD, academic library professionals can participate in three online learning sessions and one in-person workshop, all free of charge, between September 2017 and February 2018.

Attendees of this professional development training will learn to convene critical conversations with people with differing viewpoints; connect more meaningfully with library users and better meet their needs; and translate conversation into action.

Registration is currently open for three online sessions:

Each session will be recorded and archived for free on-demand viewing on the Programming Librarian Learning page.

Individuals who view all three webinars, live or recorded, will be invited to attend the free, one-day pre-conference workshop at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver (Feb. 9 to 13, 2018). Details about the pre-conference will be available in fall 2017 and will be shared during the webinars.

LTC: Models for Change is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant number RE-40-16-0137-16.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the ALA’s Programming Librarian site at www.programminglibrarian.org/articles/announcing-free-dialogue-deliberation-learning-series-academic-libraries.

NCDD Org on the Need for a National Conversation

In such challenging times, we wanted to lift up the blog piece from NCDD member org Essential Partners on the urgent need for holding a national conversation to address our most pressing issues as a country, and what that conversation could look like on an individual level. The article calls for the deeper need to actually hold a national conversation and not just call for one; and then to show up for these conversations with the purpose of listening not just talking, being reflective not just reactionary. We encourage you to read the full piece below or you can find the original version on Essential Partners site here.


What Do You Mean When You Say ‘National Conversation?’

Did you read the recent article by Wesley Morris in the New York Times called “Why Calls for a National Conversation Are Futile?” I did, and though it resonated deeply, I found it troubling. Morris writes to shine a spotlight on the dangerous combination of our limited attention spans and historical amnesia when it comes to demanding a dialogue about a tough topic. Today, he argues, it seems that calling for a conversation is as good as having one. At the very least, it’s as good as absolving us of our accountability to actually engage across differences. After all, easier to call for a national conversation than to actually embark on the thorny, sometimes painful process of having one, committing to truly wrestle with the issues that matter, and about which we painfully disagree.

Morris is right in one sense. In the age of most public discourse happening over 140 characters, we are not in the age of listening he describes, in which the fabric of our civic life was regularly discussed, meaningfully, on mainstream media. He says “I miss everyday Americans opening up on daytime television.” So do we. But whether the voice comes from Oprah Winfrey or Bill Clinton in a reflection on race or a random Twitter user, it is still a single voice. And that’s where I think Morris’ definition of “conversation” falls short in what it imagines to be possible. No matter how empathetic Oprah and her program, his vision is of a platform better suited for public grandstanding rather than personal connection.

National conversations, be they about race or guns and public safety, are urgent. Media must be part of those conversations. But in today’s landscape, the burden of national conversation can’t land on the shoulders of the media. That’s not because the intentions aren’t good, or the leaders eager to make a difference. It’s because the missing ingredient he names – empathy – doesn’t just happen. Empathy happens when we truly listen to, and are heard by, people who are different from us. Culture shift around how we talk with each other about what matters requires more than tuning in; it requires the deep, careful work of showing up to a conversation ready not simply to share your story, but to listen to others whose words might hurt. More even than willingness, it requires a specific skillset in asking new questions that invite reflection and curiosity, in listening with resilience, in allowing a structure that grounds a conversation in experience. It’s easy to call that hard, human work futile, when it’s really challenging, intimate, and potentially exposing.

There are resources out there. Here at Public Conversations Project [now known as Essential Partners], we focus on equipping individuals and communities to have those essential conversations, and to build the capacity for addressing tough topics for the long haul. Morris is right – we need courageous conversations in our public life. But we also need to embrace a bold will to have those conversations at home, around our dinner tables and in our town halls.  We would welcome journalists to cover the stories when those conversations happen, not simply bemoan the widening divide when they don’t.

You can read the full article on Essential Partners site at www.whatisessential.org/blog/what-do-you-mean-when-you-say-national-conversation.

Transpartisan Review Issue #2 Now Available

I’m excited to announce the latest issue of a project produced by a handful of members and friends of NCDD – The Transpartisan Review #2. Originally introduced to the NCDD community last fall at our NCDD 2016 conferenceThe Transpartisan Review is a new digital journal dedicated to sharing thoughts and insights from the growing transpartisan community.

In our second issue, The Transpartisan Review takes an introspective look at the state of politics in the US and examines the potential transpartisan engagement has in finding solutions for this troubled time. Executive editors Lawrence Chickering and James Turner explore the effect the transpartisan impulse has on political engagement, taking a comprehensive look at the current political climate in the United States through the lens of their “Transpartisan Matrix”.

This issue of The Transpartisan Review also includes several articles on a variety of topics, including contributions from distinguished NCDD members Pete Peterson & Michael Briand (who also served as managing editor), and shares an account of a Living Room Conversation focused on transpartisan issues. Not only are they effective conversation starters, but these features represent the continuation of a dialogue the editors of the journal are encouraging with and between its readership.

You can read the entire issue online or download it for free at the journal’s website, www.transpartisanreview.com, and while you’re there, we invite you to read Chickering and Turner’s Transpartisan Notes, a series of short-form articles on current issues written with a transpartisan perspective.

You can look forward to more critical contributions to the work of bridging our nation’s divides in future issues of The Transpartisan Review and from this great team of NCDDers and transpartisan leaders in the coming months.

NCDD Sponsor Shares Nevins Fellow Experience

NCDD has been part of the ongoing effort by Penn State’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy, to connect students from their Nevins Democracy Leaders Program to internships with individuals and organizations in the D&D, public engagement field. Which is why we are excited to share this blog piece from NCDD sponsor org The Jefferson Center about their recent intern’s experience working on the Minnesota Community Assembly Project. The Nevins Democracy Leaders Program is an incredible opportunity to host a D&D-trained student at no cost for two months during the summer.  You can learn more about the Nevins Democracy Leaders Program by checking out our earlier write-ups on the blog here and by listening to the Confab Call recording here.

We encourage you to read the Jefferson Center blog post below and you can find the original version on their site here.


The Minnesota Community Assemblies: Red Wing

This June and July the Jefferson Center hosted a Penn State student, Emma Rohan, made possible by Penn State’s Nevins Fellows program. Emma’s academic work focuses on education policy, and she came to us with experience in the field of deliberative democracy. While she was here, we were grateful for Emma’s support in the first of three Minnesota Community Assemblies — Red Wing. Below is Emma’s reflection on the experience.

It’s been an exciting and engaging start to the Minnesota Community Assembly Project (MNCAP)! This project, part of our Democratic Innovation Program, began in Red Wing over the course of three weekends. On Friday, June 9, participants gathered in the Red Wing Ignite event room, brimming with expectation and more than a little caffeine.

Eight full days of deliberation is a lot of work and commitment, but the thirty-six Red Wing citizens were in it for the long haul. Before they got down to business, participants had the chance to introduce themselves to their neighbors by sharing what they are sacrificing in order to be present at the Citizens Assembly. Taking care of children, enjoying free weekends with family, and going to work are just a few of the activities that participants agreed to forgo for this eight-day project, acknowledging that engaging in citizen-led democracy sometimes involves personal sacrifice.

These participants, randomly selected to reflect the demographics of their community, set out to learn about local government, discuss strengths and areas for improvement, identify the values underpinning good local government, and explore and recommend opportunities to ensure their local government reflects these values.

Participants learned about local government structures from experts around the globe – from Minnesota to Australia. Each equipped with a tablet, participants could vote on their preferred alternatives while visual representations of the results revealed themselves on the big screen. Bonds were forged as citizens helped each other navigate the digital voting system on their tablets.

During the second weekend, June 23-25, two guests joined the assembly in Red Wing to observe, though neither were new to the process. In the case of Ned Crosby, the founder of the Jefferson Center, this was an opportunity to see old processes in a new setting. As the creator of the Citizens Jury process in the United States, Dr. Crosby took the backseat this time, taking note of participation dynamics and exchanging ideas with our other guest observer, Neall Ireland.

A participant in a Canadian province-wide Citizens Assembly in British Columbia in 2004, Neil was captivated by the experience and makes it a habit to seek out opportunities to watch other assemblies in action around the globe: “I really enjoyed observing the Citizen’s Jury; found it particularly interesting to see how there is a common theme for in this type of process for the participants. It is my thought when educated to the issues and empowered, citizen participation truly is the most effective method of engagement and means to making impactful decisions for a constituency. I admire each of the individuals who have come forward to donate their time and contribute to their communities in a meaningful way. I am certain that each of the three communities engaged in the this process will move forward from it in a positive way and be a great example for other communities in the future.”

As the process moved along, time revealed that even cohesive and unified communities carry underlying tension. Discussions on participation responsibilities and representation in local government sparked contention, and the facilitated conversation unearthed divergent expectations and assumptions between community members. With careful attention paid to group dynamics and how a deliberation space may advantage some and silence others, it was refreshing to notice participants sort out their disagreements themselves over a snack break.

Citizens Juries aimed at the prospect of equipping people to evaluate the structure of their local governments and the platform to recommend changes is an undertaking which requires special consideration toward the role of the facilitator. As outsiders in a tight-knit community, the Jefferson Center team realizes the value of presentation of unbiased materials, giving participants space to share and respond to each other, and knowing when to step in to move the conversation along. Even so, navigating uncharted territory comes with miscalculations and oversights. End-of-the-day surveys gave participants the opportunity to share their feedback on the content and process of the event from a facilitation standpoint, and changes were incorporated in order to steer the group in the right direction.

The final weekend in Red Wing presented some of the largest challenges yet, while simultaneously inspiring some of the greatest displays of individual hard work and collective responsibility. With the deadline for the final recommendation by the Community Assembly fast approaching, participants worked together to craft their final recommendations and supporting statements, the report representing the culmination of their work together. Decisions about the presentation of the report were far from unanimous, and even after eight-hour days of deliberation, citizens in Red Wing stayed overtime to continue the discussion.

The Red Wing Community Assembly’s vision statement highlights some of the qualities of local government participants agreed were indispensable: “Our community needs a clear strategic vision, with leadership committed to working toward that vision. We’d like to see broad community participation, engagement, and communication – all aspects of transparency – to ensure community members are informed and engaged in developing and implementing our strategic vision and holding leadership accountable.” To accomplish this vision, the assembly advocated for a few alternatives to the status quo, such as ranked-choice voting, stronger financial disclosure requirements , better public meetings, and digital public engagement. It is important to note that support for these recommendations was not unanimous, and citizens had the opportunity to express their personal dissent or further recommendations by submitting a personal statement attached to the final report. See the final report in its entirety here.

By the end of our time in Red Wing, we couldn’t help but notice a renewed sense of ownership and personal stake in many of the citizens toward the governance of their communities. Several people shared new commitments they have undertaken since the Community Assembly got underway: people described their conversations with family and friends about the work they’ve done, several participants mentioned applying for local boards and commissions for the first time, and one participant even wrote a Letter to the Editor in the local newspaper. Regardless of the outcome, the value of forging these types of relationships between communities and their local governments cannot be overstated.

We are enthusiastic about the ways Red Wing will carry on this work beyond the formal process of the Community Assembly and into the community as a whole. One down, with Willmar and Brooklyn Park on deck!

You can find the original version of the Jefferson Center blog post at www.jefferson-center.org/red-wing-summary/.