Celebrating Women Who Are Making Democracy Stronger

This week marks the close of March and Women’s History Month, which is an intentional time to lift up the vital contributions women have given to history and society. It is in this spirit of celebration and honor, we share this piece from the Democracy Fund, Celebrating Women Who Are Making Democracy Stronger, written by Anne Gleich, Jessica Harris, and Jessica Mahone. The article offers an incredible list of phenomenal women across the nation working to improve our election systems, political representation, journalism, and who are leading efforts to build bridges across divisions and combat hate. Shout out to Shari Davis of NCDD member org The Participatory Budgeting Project who was mentioned for her work! We highly encourage folks to learn more about the work of these powerful women and to join us in congratulating them on their hard work and impactful accomplishments! Read the article below and find the original on Democracy Fund’s blog here.


Celebrating Women Who Are Making Democracy Stronger

In the first presidential proclamation celebrating women’s contributions to United States history, President Reagan observed: “American women of every race, creed and ethnic background helped found and build our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways … Their diverse service is among America’s most precious gifts.”

As pioneers, teachers, mothers, soldiers, journalists, inventors, lawmakers, laborers and so many other roles, women have and continue to make vital contributions to American economic, political, and social life. Throughout our history, women have not only advocated to secure their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity, but were also early leaders in the abolitionist, temperance, mental health, labor, and social reform movements, as well as the modern civil rights movement. It is not hyperbole to say that the United States has been transformed by these generations of women, and our democracy has been strengthened through their courage, creativity, and persistence.

As we commemorate Women’s History Month at Democracy Fund, we also want to take some time to celebrate our incredible women-led and women-focused grantees who today are continuing this long tradition of public service and leadership.

Women are leading efforts to improve our elections and make sure every vote counts.

At Democracy Fund, we believe that voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. Through our Elections Program, we are proud to support many innovative American women who are leading efforts to ensure our elections are free, fair, accessible, and secure.

Tianna Epps Johnson, founder of the Center for Technology and Civic Life, is building free and low-cost tech tools to help local election officials better engage with their communities and modernize elections. Electionline, run by Editor-in-Chief Mindy Moretti, is providing news and information about election administration and reform across all 50 states and has created a hub for elections officials to network, learn from each other, and collaborate on ways to improve the voting process.

When it comes to accessibility, many Americans still face barriers that prevent them from participating in the election process. Michelle Bishop and the National Disability Rights Network are educating election officials, equipment vendors, advocates, and the public on the need for fully accessible elections. Terry Ao Minnis, Democracy Fund Senior Fellow and Director of the Census and Voting programs at Asian Americans for Advancing Justice, is working to ensure a fair and accurate Census so that all Americans receive the resources and assistance they need to participate in our democracy. And Whitney Quesenbery and Dana Chisnell at the Center for Civic Design are bringing user experience principles to the design of forms and tools that will make voting easier for all voters. Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg at CIRCLE at Tufts University and the historic League of Women Voters, under the leadership of Virginia Kase, are innovating new ways to inform and engage women voters across the political spectrum.

Jennifer Morrell, a former Colorado election official, is working with state election officials to develop and implement new testing and auditing procedures to ensure votes are counted correctly, and results are reported accurately. And Mari Dugas and the Cyber Security Project and Defending Digital Democracy has published several playbooks to help campaign and election officials defend themselves against cyberattacks and information operations aimed at undermining trust in the American election system.

Women from both sides of the aisle are working together to create a Congress that looks more like America.

Even though we just saw a historic election cycle where a record-setting number of women ran for elected office and won, we still have a long way to go until women are fully represented in the United States. That is why, through our Governance Program, Democracy Fund is proud to support many leaders and organizations that are working to equip women with the skills they need to participate in politics, run for office, and lead once elected.

ReflectUS, a nonpartisan coalition working to increase the number of women in office and achieve equal representation across the racial, ideological, ethnic, and geographic spectrum, is fostering collaboration among seven of the nation’s leading training organizations to help equip more women to run, win, and serve. The Women’s Public Leadership Network aims to increase the number of women under consideration for political and government-related appointments and is growing a network and support system for conservative women who are interested in running for elected office or participating in our political system. Latinas Lead, a new program from The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, helps current Latina state legislators scale the leadership ranks in their State Capitols, as well as recruit potential Latina candidates for state-level office.

Once women are elected, the National Foundation of Women Legislators provides resources and opportunities to develop leadership skills and build professional and personal relationships across the aisle through regular conferences, state outreach, educational materials, and more. The Women’s Congressional Policy Institute, lead by Cindy Hall and a bipartisan board of female former legislators, has been bringing women policymakers together across party lines to advance issues of importance to women and their families for over twenty years. With our support, they have also launched several programs to foster women’s leadership on Capitol Hill through the Congressional Women’s Caucus and the Women Chiefs of Staff Program. We are also supporters of the Congressional Women’s Softball Game— a yearly event to foster bipartisan relationships between women Members of Congress and their counterparts in the D.C. Press Corps.

Women journalists are holding our leaders accountable and creating opportunities for the next generation of reporters.

Women play a vital role in holding leaders accountable once they’ve been elected. Although the majority of journalism and communications graduates are women, the majority of newsroom workers, particularly leaders, are men. Holding leaders accountable to all Americans requires a news industry that is inclusive and represents all communities, which is why, through our Public Square Program, we are proud to support organizations and leaders that are working to change America’s newsrooms and create new resources to inform and serve their communities.

By pioneering innovative new methods that newsrooms can use to better listen to and collaborate with the communities they serve, Bettina Chang at CityBureau and Sarah Alvarez and an all-woman staff at Outlier Media are rethinking how journalism is done. The Obsidian Collection, led by Angela Ford, is working to promote the importance of Black media in the United States, preserve the stories of Black communities through archiving, and build a blueprint for future generations in Black media.

Founded by Nikole Hannah JonesThe Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting is dedicated to increasing the number of and retaining reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting by providing low-cost regional trainings in the use of advanced technology, open records laws, advanced interviewing techniques and other investigative techniques. The Ida B. Wells Society partners with organizations such as the National Association for Black JournalistsInvestigative Reporters and Editors, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to provide access to journalists and aspiring journalists of color who want to sharpen their investigative reporting skills and broaden their professional networks.

Take the Lead’s 50 Women Can Change the World in Journalism training program harnesses the collective power of women in journalism to build a more just and equal world, advance their careers, and work together to re-envision journalism. According to co-founder Gloria Feldt, Take the Lead’s goal is “nothing less than gender parity by 2025.”

Women are leading efforts to combat hate in America and build bridges across our divides.

Like many who care about the health of our political system, we at Democracy Fund have been alarmed by increasing tribalism and extremism across the United States, including the implementation of policies targeting immigrant and minority communities and the rise in hate-crimes against communities of color, and Jewish, Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. We’re partnering with leaders and organizations that are working to ensure the resilience and safety of targeted communities through our Special Project on Fostering a Just and Inclusive Society.

Grantees like Sherrilyn Ifill at the NAACP-LDFKristen Clarke at the Lawyers Committee for Civil RightsMarielena Hincapie at the National Immigration Law Center, and Aarti Kohli at the Asian Law Caucus are leading efforts to protect those whose civil rights and safety are endangered in this volatile political moment. Purvi Shah and Movement Law Lab are incubating projects that combine law and community organizing to protect, defend, and strengthen racial justice movements. To inform national conversations, Meira Neggaz and Dahlia Mogahed at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding provide case studies and data on the day-to-day challenges many Muslims face, as well as actionable recommendations for breaking the structural barriers that hinder the American Muslim community from full inclusion and participation. And Samar Ali is leading the Millions of Conversations campaign to engage communities across the country in changing the narrative about Muslims in America.

In this blog, we could only highlight a few of the remarkable women leaders whose organizations, programs, and projects Democracy Fund is proud to support. We hope you’ll take some time to explore the complete list below. By working to improve our elections, hold our government accountable, combat hate, and open doors for the next generation, these women are making their mark on American history right now—and our democracy will be stronger because of them.

ELECTIONS

Bonnie AllenChicago Lawyers’ Committee

Pam AndersonConsultant for Voter Centric Election Administration

Michelle BishopNational Disability Rights Network

Mitchell BrownCapacity and Governance Institute

Jamie ChesserNational States Geographic Information Council

Dana ChisnellCenter for Civic Design

Kristen ClarkeLawyers Committee for Civil RIghts

Lisa DanetzNational Voter Registration Act Compliance Consultant

Mari DugasBelfer Center Cybersecurity and Defending Digital Democracy

Tiana Epps Johnson, Center for Technology and Civic Life

Rebecca GreenWilliam & Mary Law School eBenchbook

Astrid Garcia OchoaFuture of California Elections

Kathleen HaleCapacity and Governance Institute

Karen Hobert FlynnCommon Cause

Shanna Hughey, ThinkTennessee

Sharon JarvisMoody College of Communications, University of Texas

Virginia Kase, League of Women Voters

Kei Kawashima-GinsbergCIRCLE at Tufts University

Kate KrontirisVoter Turnout consultant

Nsombi LambrightOne Voice

Susan LernerCommon Cause New York

Amber McReynoldsVote at Home

Gretchen Macht, RI VOTES at University of Rhode Island

Mimi MarzianiTexas Civil Rights Project

Terry Ao MinnisAsian Americans for Advancing Justice

Mindy MorettiElectionline

Jennifer MorrellRisk-Limiting Audits consultant

Katy Owens HublerCommon Data and Elections Process Model consultant

Katy PetersDemocracy Works

Wendy QuesenberyCenter for Civic Design

Ashley SpillaneImpactual

Wendy UnderhillNational Conference of State Legislatures

GOVERNANCE

Erica BernalNALEO Educational Fund

Danielle BrianProject On Government Oversight

Louise Dube, iCivics

Mindy FinnEmpowered Women

Sylvia Golbin GoodmanAndrew Goodman Foundation

Rosalind GoldNALEO Educational Fund

Dr. Mary GrantEdward M. Kennedy Institute

Cindy HallWomen’s Congressional Policy Institute

Cherie HarderTrinity Forum

Marci HarrisPopVox

Dr. Carla HaydenLibrary of Congress

Audrey HensonCollege to Congress

Lorelei Kelly, Beeck Center

Sheila KrumholzCenter for Responsive Politics

Frances LeeUMD Interdisciplinary Polarization Research

Dr. Carolyn LukensmeyerNational Institute for Civil Discourse

Tamera LuzzattoPew Safe Spaces Project

Maya MacGuineasCommittee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Angela MansoStaff Up Congress, NALEO Educational Fund

Meredith McGeheeIssue One

Darla Minnich, National Issues Forum Institute

Joan MooneyFaith and Politics Institute

Jennifer NassourReflectUS

Beth Simone NoveckNYU GovLab

Michelle PayneCongressional Sports for Charity

Rachel PericWelcoming America

Lisa RosenbergOpen the Government

Laura RosenbergerAlliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund

Sonal ShahBeeck Center

Suzanne SpauldingDefending Democracy Initiative, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Michele StockwellBipartisan Policy Center Action

Jody ThomasNational Foundation for Women Legislators

Sarah TurbervilleThe Constitution Project at POGO

PUBLIC SQUARE

Sarah AlvarezOutlier Media

Bettina ChangCity Bureau

Heather ChaplinThe New School for Journalism + Design

Meredith ClarkUniversity of Virginia/ASNE Diversity Survey

Sue CrossInstitute for Nonprofit News

Gloria FeldtTake the Lead

Leslie Fields-CruzBlack Public Media

Angela FordThe Obsidian Collection

Martha FoyeWorking Narratives

Lackisha Freeman, WNCU

Sarah GustavusNew Mexico Local News Fund

Elizabeth GreenChalkbeat, American Journalism Project

Andrea HartCity Bureau

Hadar HarrisStudent Press Law Center

Rose HobanNC Health News

Deborah Holt NoelUNC-TV Black Issues Forum

Janey HurleyAsheville Writers in the Schools

Paola JaramilloEnlace Latino North Carolina

Nikole Hannah JonesThe Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting

Mollie KablerCoast Alaska

Regina LawrenceAgora Journalism Center

Sally LehrmanTrust Project

Joy MayerTrusting News Project

Stefanie MurrayCenter for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University

Tamiko Ambrose MurrayAsheville Writers in the Schools

Amy NilesWBGO

Angie NewsomeCarolina Public Press

Suzanne NosselPen America

Erika OwensOpenNews

Tracie PowellDemocracy Fund Senior Fellow

Angelique PowersField Foundation

Kristy RoschkeNews Co/Lab at Arizona State University

Melanie SillSenior Consultant for North Carolina Local News Lab

Sheila SolomonSenior Consultant for Chicago

Michelle SrbinovichWDET

Talia StroudCenter for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin

Katie TownsendReporters Committee for Press Freedom Litigation Program

Naomi Tacuyan Underwood, Asian American Journalists Association

Mary Walter BrownNews Revenue Hub

Nancy WatzmanColorado Media Project

Journalism and Women Symposium

JUST & INCLUSIVE SOCIETY

Samar AliMillions of Conversations

Rachel BrownOver Zero

Kristen ClarkeLawyers Committee for Civil Rights

Marielena HincapieNational Immigration Law Center

Sherrilyn IfillNAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Aarti KohliAsian Law Caucus

Dalia Mogahed, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding

Meira NeggazInstitute for Social Policy and Understanding

Catherine OrsbornShoulder to Shoulder

Purvi ShahMovement Law Lab

Shireen ZamanRise Together Fund (formerly Security and Rights Collaborative)

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

Shari DavisParticipatory Budgeting Project

Rachel KleinfeldCarnegie Endowment for International Peace

Melissa RodgersImmigrant Legal Resource Center

Prof. Susan Stokes – Bright Lines Watch, University of Chicago

You can find the original version of this article on Democracy Fund’s site at www.democracyfund.org/blog/entry/celebrating-women-who-are-making-democracy-stronger.

Recognizing Silence for Deeper Engagement

Some of the most challenging aspects of being in dialogue with someone is the ability to hold space for silence, yet not all silence means the same thing or has the same impact. Katie Hyten of NCDD sponsoring member org Essential Partners, recently wrote the piece, Positive and Negative Silence: Notes from the Field, which offers some distinguishing examples. We encourage you to check out the upcoming trainings on their website and remember that NCDD members receive special discounts on these workshops listed here. You can read the article below and find the original version on Essential Partners’ blog here.


Positive and Negative Silence: Notes from the Field

When I first trained as a mediator, I was awed by a demonstration from one of my early instructors: he would listen to people argue, he would ask a question or reflect something back in fewer than five words—and then he … waited. And waited. He waited until the people in conflict felt they could respond to the question.

Embracing silence lets people take ownership of the conversation, gives them time to think before speaking, and helps them be more intentional. It’s also one of the hardest things we ask of people in a dialogue.

Negative Silence: Awkward & Excruciating

Most people are familiar with awkward, uncomfortable silences, the kind of silence that means no one came prepared, or that people are unwilling to respond to a question. People are also all too familiar with the silence of being ignored. I think of these as negative silences.

Negative silence happens when I ask a question that doesn’t feel right to people, either because it doesn’t connect or because they aren’t ready to respond. Those moments can be excruciating, and endless—although they happen to every facilitator once in a while.

But I’m reminded of my first mediation coach’s advice: “negative feedback is more information.” Negative silence tells me how much work there is left to do. It tells me I need to adapt to meet the needs of participants, and lets me begin to collaborate with them on what needs to be done. Negative silence is tough, but it can be a learning moment.

Positive Silence: Care & Openness

There is also a positive silence, though: the silence of composing oneself before speaking, of being intentional about what to say. It’s a positive silence when others are taking in what someone else has said, the silence of committing to enter a tough conversation as your best self—or of waiting long enough to ensure there’s space for quieter voices.

This is the positive silence EP teaches people to cultivate when they’re facilitating difficult conversations about the differences that make a difference to their community.

Positive silence allows the toughest conversations to unfold intentionally and with care. It makes space for all voices, not just those who are most comfortable speaking up. It’s important to recognize positive and negative silences as we work to foster deeper engagement and trust in all our relationships.

If you’re struggling to hold the space for positive silence in your facilitation, consider joining us for our upcoming Advance Facilitation Skills workshop.

You can find the original version of this article on Essential Partner’s blog at www.whatisessential.org/blog/positive-and-negative-silence-notes-field.

Check out the Digital Events Happening This Week in D&D

NCDD’s online D&D event roundup is a weekly compilation of the upcoming events happening in the digital world related to dialogue, deliberation, civic tech, engagement work, and more! This week’s roundup features webinars from NCDD member orgs Living Room Conversations and National Issues Forums Institute, and from The International Association of Facilitators (IAF), Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE)Zehr Institute for Restorative JusticeGlobal Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), and the new webinar series #ThisIsGovtech by CivicMakers and GovTech Fund.

Do you have a webinar or other digital 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: IAF, PACE, Zehr, GPPAC, #ThisIsGovtech, NIFI, LRC

International Association of Facilitators webinar – Becoming a CPF with the IAF

Wednesday, March 20th
9:30 am Pacific, 1:30 pm Eastern

Making the decision to seek the IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator (CPF) accreditation can be hard. Common questions people ask are What’s involved? How much time will it take? Will I meet the requirements? and What if I don’t pass? In response to strong interest from members we will be exploring these questions at a webinar with hosts that have years of experience as professional facilitators and as IAF Assessors.

REGISTER: www.iaf-world.org/site/events/webinar-becoming-cpf-iaf-6

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement Webinar – Health Equity & Community Safety: How Funders Can Embrace the Power of Youth Civic Engagement

Wednesday, March 20th
10 am Pacific, 1 pm Eastern

Foundations and funders committed to building healthier, safer, and more equitable communities may be overlooking or undervaluing a key strategy: youth civic engagement. In light of recent findings from PACE’s Health & Safety working group, this webinar will highlight why and how investments in youth civic engagement can be key to improving community health and safety. The event will illustrate specific ways funders can support youth civic engagement, share stories and case studies of successful health and safety initiatives involving youth, and explore how incorporating youth into health and safety strategies can have an impact on equity in community outcomes.

REGISTER: www.pacefunders.org/webinar-health-equity-community-safety-how-funders-can-embrace-the-power-of-youth-civic-engagement/

Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice – Restorative Circles for Health: RJ as an Approach to Health Justice

Wednesday, March 20th
1:30pm Pacific, 4:30pm Eastern
Guest: Ivelyse Andino and Jason Walsh
Host: Johonna Turner

Join Ivelyse Andino and Jason Walsh for a discussion on the use of restorative practices to achieve health justice for marginalized communities. Andino, the CEO of Radical Health, and Walsh, who facilitated “Circle of Knowledge,” are on the cutting edge of this burgeoning application of RJ.

REGISTERhttp://zehr-institute.org/webinars/restorative-circles-for-health.html

Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) webinar – Peace Education: Culture of Good Neighbourhood and 15 years of Multicultural education in school; how can I be recognized in my school if I’m a minority?

Wednesday, March 20th
5 am Pacific, 8 am Eastern

In this webinar, expert Dr. Iryna Brunova-Kalisetska will present an example of system work from kindergarten to university levels of education for the multicultural societies, both as a preventive tool and post-conflict peacebuilding measure. Main principles of the “Culture of Good Neighbourhood” inclusive approach for various levels of education and multicultural contexts will be presented and discussed at the webinar.

REGISTER: www.gppac.net/peace-education-webinar-series?fbclid=IwAR371vw1Gxi_tpRI3NZsCMRgbf7Rd_IlD1keNf2KuT30iUwHzMDCiw6t1541

#ThisIsGovtech Webinar – Access & Accessibility for All! *this webinar is free for gov’t  employees and requires a gov’t email

Thursday, March 21st
11 am Pacific, 2 pm Eastern

What is govtech? It is new technologies that empower government employees, improve public services, and make a real difference in everything from the housing crisis to climate change. It is a growing market worth over $400 billion that is attracting a new generation of technologists, designers and mission-driven entrepreneurs who are collaborating with government partners to help drive a movement. As paper processes shift to digital workflows full of big data, governments are gaining new visibility and actionable insights into sticky problems and seeing their role evolve to become dedicated enablers of change. #ThisIsGovtech is a new webinar series exploring the govtech movement. If you work in government, join us to be inspired by the passion, creativity and impact of this growing field.

REGISTER: www.eventbrite.com/e/thisisgovtech-webinar-series-access-accessibility-for-all-registration-41804299786?mc_eid=6347eb7d50&mc_cid=71f141c3f8

National Issues Forums Institute – March CGA Forum Series: America’s Energy Future

Thursday, March 21st
9:30 am Pacific, 12:30 pm Eastern

Join us in March for a Common Ground for Action forum on “America’s Energy Future” We’ll be talking about how to fix our broken political system in three different options: (1) Produce the Energy We Need to Maintain Our Way of Life: We must produce more of the energy we need, while making sure that as much imported energy as possible comes from stable, friendly countries, such as Canada; (2) Put More Renewables and Clean Energy Sources into the Mix: We need to find and use more sources of renewable energy. And, because we will inevitably have to move to renewables at some point, we should start down that path now; and (3) Find Ways to Use Less Energy: Energy produced by fossil fuels will, eventually, run out and, in the meantime, we continue to do great damage to the air, water, and earth that sustain us. If you haven’t had a chance to review the issue guide, you can find a downloadable PDF here.

REGISTER: www.nifi.org/en/events/march-cga-forum-series-america%E2%80%99s-energy-future-0

Living Room Conversations webinar – Climate Change

Saturday, March 23th
1 pm Pacific, 4 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Climate Change. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include: Do you believe that climate change is a natural cycle of the earth, man-made or both? Are you concerned about climate change? Share your views. Are you frustrated by the amount of attention given to climate change? Share your views

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/online-living-room-conversation-climate-change/

Living Room Conversations webinar – Free Speech, Hate Speech and Campus Life

Wednesday, March 27th
1:30 pm Pacific, 4:30 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Free Speech, Hate Speech and Campus Life. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include: What norms do you follow when expressing your opinion? I.e. do you hold back, attempt to persuade others, “let it fly” or ??? What do you consider hate speech? What rules or norms should there be at colleges and universities?

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/online-living-room-conversation-free-speech-hate-speech-and-campus-life/

Democracy Works Podcast Celebrates First Anniversary

We want to wish our friends at the Democracy Works Podcast a happy birthday as they ring in their one year anniversary! If you haven’t listened to this podcast yet, a great place to start is the much-anticipated episode released today: Jonathan Haidt on the psychology of democracy – click here to listenDemocracy Works is produced by NCDD member organization The McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State and the podcast examines all things related to making a healthy democracy work. We encourage you to read the announcement below, shared with us by McCourtney Institute’s Communications Specialist Jenna Spinelle, and to listen to the Democracy Works podcast here.


One Year of the Democracy Works Podcast: Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

by Jenna Spinelle

This time last year, my colleagues and I in the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State launched our podcast, Democracy Works. We wanted to take a minute to thank the NCDD community for all of your help spreading the word about the podcast. We are honored to be included among shows like Find the Outside and Dialogue Lab.

As we enter year two, we also want to know who we should be talking to and what we should be talking about. Over the past year, we’ve talked with all types of thinkers and doers, from The Atlantic’s David Frum to Healthy Democracy Executive Director Robin Teater. We’ve covered civics education, economic inequality, and criminal justice — just to name a few.

Along the way, we’ve been surprised to see how much of a desire there is for political content that’s nonpartisan and educational. Reading comments from our listeners around the world makes me feel hopeful about the work that NCDD is doing to bring people from across the political spectrum together to tackle some of our most pressing issues through conversation.

As one listener from California told us, the podcast “helps soothe my worries for our democracy by creating the feeling that we are making progress toward understanding what’s going wrong, building the necessary bridges, and making the necessary repairs.”

In the coming weeks, we’ll be talking with Tim Shaffer about the new book “A Crisis of Civility?’ and Srdja Popovic, founder of Serbia’s Otpor! movement, about how to organize in turbulent political situations.

New episodes are released each Monday at democracyworkspodcast.com, along with Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and many other podcast apps. We hope you’ll check it out, then get in touch to let us know what you think and who we should be talking to next. Happy listening!

You can find the Democracy Works podcast at www.democracyworkspodcast.com/.

Knight Public Spaces Fellowship Open Until March 22nd

We wanted to make sure folks in the network were informed about the Knight Foundation offering their Knight Public Spaces Fellowship and that submissions are being accepted until next Friday, March 22nd. From the site, “The fellowship recognizes leading civic innovators who have created or influenced great public spaces in U.S. communities, creating more opportunities for connection and civic engagement. Chosen fellows will share up to $1 million in grants to continue their work”. We know there are a lot of fantastic candidates in the Coalition and we encourage you to apply for a portion of that significant support. You can find more information in the post below and find the original information on the Knight Foundation’s site here.


Knight Public Space Fellows: Leading Change, Connecting People to place

Knight Foundation is inviting nominations for its inaugural Knight Public Spaces Fellowship.

The fellowship recognizes leading civic innovators who have created or influenced great public spaces in U.S. communities, creating more opportunities for connection and civic engagement. Chosen fellows will share up to $1 million in grants to continue their work.

From Feb. 21 to March 22 at 11:59 p.m. ET, we are inviting people to nominate their candidate of choice. Individuals can also nominate themselves. Those who choose to nominate a candidate are encouraged to alert the nominee about the opportunity.

WHO WE’RE LOOKING FOR
We seek fellows with an exemplary track record of crafting public spaces—trails, parks, plazas and streets—that create opportunities for connection and civic engagement. The fellowship is open to a wide range of talented civic innovators with experience in urban design, planning, architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, government, technology, policy and programming.

Individuals with exceptional talent and leadership qualities who craft, develop, design, plan, manage and implement the use of public spaces to build the type of communities where people want to live and work are eligible to apply. Fellows must show potential to create larger, innovation and strategic momentum within the community.

FELLOWSHIP BENEFITS
In addition to the opportunity to create real impact in their city and beyond, fellows will receive:

  • Support: A small group of fellows will share up to $1 million grants which can be used for innovative, flexible projects, distributed over approximately two years.
  • Network-building opportunities: Support to work directly with peers and other experts who are passionate about using public space to transform communities.
  • Mentorship: Insight and guidance from experts to refine ideas and new thinking around public space work.
  • Public exposure: Fellows will be invited to present at Knight-supported events and other gatherings, and given opportunities to publish and share their work.

If you have questions about the application, you can watch a recorded informational webinar.

For additional questions, please email psfellows@kf.org. Follow #knightcities on Twitter for updates.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Knight Foundation site at www.knightfoundation.org/challenges/public-spaces-fellowship.

Submit Nominations for Leadership in Democracy Award

In case you missed it, NCDD member org Everyday Democracy, recently announced they are accepting nominations for the third annual Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy award! The $10K award will be granted to those 16 and older who embody the values of Paul and Joyce Aicher. Nominations are due April 15th, so make sure you get yours in ASAP! We encourage you to learn more about the award criteria and how to submit a nomination in the announcement below and on the Everyday Democracy site here.


Nominations Open for the 2019 Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award Now

EvDem LogoEvery year, Everyday Democracy recognizes a standout community change agent —a person or organization whose work in their community exemplifies the values on which we were founded – voice for all, connection across difference, racial equity, and community change.

The Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award provides recognition and a $10,000 award to an individual or organization in the U.S. whose achievements inspire us and can be lifted up for many others to aspire to.

Who comes to the top of your mind when you think about exceptional people or local organizations that create opportunities for people to talk to and listen to each other, work together for equitable communities, and help create vibrant communities that work for everyone? Show how much you understand and appreciate their contribution to society by nominating them for the 2019 Aicher Award!

For more than 25 years, Everyday Democracy has worked in communities across the country to foster a healthy and vibrant democracy – one that is characterized by strong relationships across divides, racial equity, and widespread leadership and voice.

Paul and Joyce Aicher’s generosity and creative genius have had a profound impact on individuals and organizations in every part of this country. Their passion and diligent effort inspired the dialogue guides, organizing and facilitating training, and community coaching that Everyday Democracy is so well known for delivering. In 2017, we launched the inaugural Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award to carry on their legacy after the passing of Joyce Aicher.

Our 2018 award winner was Beth A. Broadway, President of InterFaith Works of Central New York, who has worked for more than 40 years as a force for justice, raising voice to issues of oppression and advancing racial and social equity through the process of dialogue and action. Her racial equity work has directly impacted thousands of individuals and families and has markedly improved Syracuse and surrounding communities. Learn more about Beth’s extraordinary work here. Read more about past honorees.

Nominations are due April 15, 2019. See below for full details about eligibility and the nomination process.

We can’t wait to see your nominations!

Awards

The recipient of the Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy award will receive $10,000 at the award reception in December 2019. Finalists will receive one day of community assistance to help them implement Everyday Democracy’s principles into their community engagement work.

Who is eligible

Individuals 16 years of age and older, coalitions, and organizations conducting projects at the community level in the U.S. are eligible to be nominated. Organizations do not have to be a registered 501(c)3 and do not need to be affiliated with Everyday Democracy or its Dialogue to Change process to qualify. Current Everyday Democracy employees and board members are excluded from being nominated. People/organizations may not nominate themselves. If you wish to be considered for the award, please encourage a colleague or friend to nominate you.

Nomination process

Anyone may nominate any person or organization that meets the criteria for this award. You will need to provide contact information for yourself and your nominee, a short summary of their work, and a description of how they embody our values in a 500-1,000 word essay that provides examples of specifically what they have done. Send this completed nomination form to aichernomination@everyday-democracy.org and cc the nominee. The nomination form is due April 15, 2019.

Download the nomination form.

We will confirm the nominations when they are received. Nominees will be asked to supplement their nomination with evidence of the things they have done that demonstrate how they exhibit our core values. Supplemental information is due by May 15, 2019, at 11:59pm ET. Submissions will be evaluated by a panel put together by Everyday Democracy.

Once a final decision is made, the winner and others will be notified.

The 2019 Aicher Award winner will be expected to attend the award reception in December. (Transportation to the reception and lodging will be provided.)

A brief history of Paul and Joyce Aicher

Paul J. Aicher’s motto, “Don’t just stand there, do something,” marked all that he did. Before founding the Study Circles Resource Center (now called Everyday Democracy) in 1989, he was a model for civic engagement. Shortly after graduating from Penn State, he participated in a discussion course which helped him find his voice in civic life and sparked his lifelong interest in helping others find their own. He saw a direct connection between his early experiences as a participant and a facilitator and his later vision for embedding these kinds of opportunities into American political life and culture.

Throughout his life, he spent his free time volunteering. Early in their marriage, he and his wife Joyce got involved with a refugee resettlement project in Illinois; Paul then served as president of the North Shore Human Relations Council. Back in Pennsylvania in the mid-1960s, he started the World Affairs Council of Berks County and led his neighbors in discussions of the “Great Decisions” guides published by the Foreign Policy Association. Through his long-time work and friendship with Homer Jack, an American Unitarian Universalist clergyman and social activist, Paul developed a passion for racial justice and international peace, both of which would inspire his later social action.

In the 1970s, he devoted his energies to launching his company Technical Materials and raising four children with Joyce. But he always returned to activism. In the early 1980s, after moving to Pomfret, Connecticut, Paul joined the local anti-nuclear freeze movement. In 1982, he formed the Topsfield Foundation, which was renamed The Paul J. Aicher Foundation after Paul’s passing in 2002. It began with making grants to advance a number of causes: affordable housing; educating and engaging the public on international security issues; and networking grass-roots peace and justice groups across the U.S. As it became an operating foundation, it focused all of its efforts on its current mission – to strengthen deliberative democracy and improve the quality of life in the United States. In the past twenty-five years, it has been best known through the work of its primary project, Everyday Democracy, which supports communities across the U.S. in implementing Paul’s vision of public dialogue that enables everyone to have a voice and be heard.

Joyce shared Paul’s commitment to civic engagement, community activism, and social justice. With her quiet strength and humor, she often worked behind the scenes to make the work of the Foundation possible. She also strengthened the local community through her numerous volunteer efforts. She and Paul shared a love of nature, books, and the arts and were self-effacing advocates of democratic values. Joyce passed away in 2016.

You can find the original version of this Everyday Democracy announcement at www.everyday-democracy.org/aicher-award.

Online D&D Event Weekly Roundup & NCDD Confab TODAY

We’re excited for our March Confab call TODAY from 3-4 pm Eastern, 12-1 pm Pacific, in collaboration with Net Impact, National Issues Forums Institute, and the National Conversation Project! This free 1-hour webinar will be an opportunity to learn more about Net Impact’s youth engagement work, the new national debt issue guide they created with NIFI, information on a paid opportunity to host forums, and more about the upcoming National Week of Conversation. Register ASAP to save your spot on this dynamic and informational call here.

Please also check out the webinars below from NCDD partner org National Civic League, NCDD member orgs Living Room Conversations, Bridge Alliance, and National Issues Forums Institute, and from Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), and the new webinar series #ThisIsGovtech by CivicMakers and GovTech Fund.

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: NCDD March Confab, Living Room Conversations, Bridge Alliance, NIFI, PACE, Zehr, GPPAC, and #ThisIsGovtech

NCDD March Confab with Net Impact, NIFI, and National Conversation Project

Confab bubble image

Wednesday, March 13th
12 pm Pacific, 3 pm Eastern

This free one-hour webinar will be a great opportunity for anyone passionate about cultivating the next generation of leaders, those interested in learning how to apply for the microgrant to host forums, more about the new national debt issue guide, and/or hosting a conversation during the upcoming National Week of Conversation. You won’t want to miss out on this discussion – register today!

REGISTER: http://ncdd.org/29225

Living Room Conversations webinar – Tribalism 101: Next Door Strangers

Wednesday, March 13th
12:30 pm Pacific, 3:30 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Tribalism. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include: Name one or more groups you feel at home or strongly identify with (where you find a sense of belonging and/or feel stronger together)What generalizations do you make about other groups? How do you evaluate or check the validity of your generalizations, if at all? How important is it to you that your generalizations are accurate? Some groups come together based on sharing a common culture, vision, or enemy. What is the commonality for your group? What need does your group fulfill in your life?

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/online-living-room-conversation-tribalism-101-next-door-strangers-4/

Living Room Conversations Training (free): The Nuts & Bolts of Living Room Conversations

Thursday, March 14th
12 pm Pacific, 3 pm Eastern

Join us for 60 minutes online to learn about Living Room Conversations. We’ll cover what a Living Room Conversation is, why we have them, and everything you need to know to get started hosting and/or participating in Living Room Conversations. This training is not required for participating in our conversations – we simply offer it for people who want to learn more about the Living Room Conversations practice.

Space is limited to 12 people so that we can offer a more interactive experience. Please only RSVP if you are 100% certain that you can attend. This training will take place using Zoom videoconferencing. A link to join the conversation will be sent to participants by Wednesday 10am (PT) / 1pm (ET).

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/training-free-the-nuts-bolts-of-living-room-conversations-3/

Living Room Conversations webinar – American Culture: Melting pot or salad bowl or something else?

Saturday, March 16th
11:30 am Pacific, 2:30 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of American Culture: Melting pot or salad bowl or something else?. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include: What is your cultural heritage? Have you experienced cultures other than your own? What did you appreciate? What made you uncomfortable? What value do you see in having a single, shared American culture? What would that culture look like?

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/online-living-room-conversation-american-culture-melting-pot-or-salad-bowl-or-something-else/

Bridge Alliance webinar – Peer Learning Session: Get to Know the 116th Congress with the Congressional Management Foundation *this webinar is for Bridge Alliance members only – learn more here

Monday, March 18th
10 am Pacific, 1 pm Eastern

A new Congress means new committee and subcommittee chairs, new alliances, and significant changes in the political terrain on Capitol Hill. With the shift in power, and term limits for committee chairs in the House and Senate, an advocate who may have been represented by an anonymous back-bencher last year might now be the conduit to the most important legislator for your cause. This webinar will offering a snapshot of the 116th Congress, offering participants a window into how to build relationships with lawmakers. The presentation will be conducted by Bradford Fitch, President and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF).

RSVPwww.bridgealliancefund.us/cmf_peer_learning_session

National Civic League AAC Promising Practices Webinar – Community Collaborations to Improve Student Health

Tuesday, March 19th
11 am Pacific, 2 pm Eastern

Join the National Civic League to learn more about how two All-America Cities are bringing their communities together to address student health with in-school interventions. Susan Witkowski, CHCQM, CEO of Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County will discuss the offerings of their school-based health center. Lisa Campbell, CEO of Create a Change in Las Vegas, NV will discuss their Healthy School, Healthy Life Program.

REGISTER: www.eventbrite.com/e/aac-promising-practices-webinar-community-collaborations-to-improve-student-health-tickets-54558819899

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement Webinar – Health Equity & Community Safety: How Funders Can Embrace the Power of Youth Civic Engagement

Wednesday, March 20th
10 am Pacific, 1 pm Eastern

Foundations and funders committed to building healthier, safer, and more equitable communities may be overlooking or undervaluing a key strategy: youth civic engagement. In light of recent findings from PACE’s Health & Safety working group, this webinar will highlight why and how investments in youth civic engagement can be key to improving community health and safety. The event will illustrate specific ways funders can support youth civic engagement, share stories and case studies of successful health and safety initiatives involving youth, and explore how incorporating youth into health and safety strategies can have an impact on equity in community outcomes..

REGISTER: www.pacefunders.org/webinar-health-equity-community-safety-how-funders-can-embrace-the-power-of-youth-civic-engagement/

Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice – Restorative Circles for Health: RJ as an Approach to Health Justice

Wednesday, March 20th
1:30pm Pacific, 4:30pm Eastern
Guest: Ivelyse Andino and Jason Walsh
Host: Johonna Turner

Join Ivelyse Andino and Jason Walsh for a discussion on the use of restorative practices to achieve health justice for marginalized communities. Andino, the CEO of Radical Health, and Walsh, who facilitated “Circle of Knowledge,” are on the cutting edge of this burgeoning application of RJ.

REGISTER: http://zehr-institute.org/webinars/restorative-circles-for-health.html

Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) webinar – Peace Education: Culture of Good Neighbourhood and 15 years of Multicultural education in school; how can I be recognized in my school if I’m a minority?

Wednesday, March 20th
5 am Pacific, 8 am Eastern

In this webinar, expert Dr. Iryna Brunova-Kalisetska will present an example of system work from kindergarten to university levels of education for the multicultural societies, both as a preventive tool and post-conflict peacebuilding measure. Main principles of the “Culture of Good Neighbourhood” inclusive approach for various levels of education and multicultural contexts will be presented and discussed at the webinar.

REGISTER: www.gppac.net/peace-education-webinar-series?fbclid=IwAR371vw1Gxi_tpRI3NZsCMRgbf7Rd_IlD1keNf2KuT30iUwHzMDCiw6t1541

#ThisIsGovtech Webinar – Access & Accessibility for All! *this webinar is free for gov’t  employees and requires a gov’t email

Thursday, March 21st
11 am Pacific, 2 pm Eastern

What is govtech? It is new technologies that empower government employees, improve public services, and make a real difference in everything from the housing crisis to climate change. It is a growing market worth over $400 billion that is attracting a new generation of technologists, designers and mission-driven entrepreneurs who are collaborating with government partners to help drive a movement. As paper processes shift to digital workflows full of big data, governments are gaining new visibility and actionable insights into sticky problems and seeing their role evolve to become dedicated enablers of change. #ThisIsGovtech is a new webinar series exploring the govtech movement. If you work in government, join us to be inspired by the passion, creativity and impact of this growing field.

REGISTER: www.eventbrite.com/e/thisisgovtech-webinar-series-access-accessibility-for-all-registration-41804299786?mc_eid=6347eb7d50&mc_cid=71f141c3f8

National Issues Forums Institute – March CGA Forum Series: America’s Energy Future

Thursday, March 21st
9:30 am Pacific, 12:30 pm Eastern

Join us in March for a Common Ground for Action forum on “America’s Energy Future” We’ll be talking about how to fix our broken political system in three different options: (1) Produce the Energy We Need to Maintain Our Way of Life: We must produce more of the energy we need, while making sure that as much imported energy as possible comes from stable, friendly countries, such as Canada; (2) Put More Renewables and Clean Energy Sources into the Mix: We need to find and use more sources of renewable energy. And, because we will inevitably have to move to renewables at some point, we should start down that path now; and (3) Find Ways to Use Less Energy: Energy produced by fossil fuels will, eventually, run out and, in the meantime, we continue to do great damage to the air, water, and earth that sustain us. If you haven’t had a chance to review the issue guide, you can find a downloadable PDF here.

REGISTER: www.nifi.org/en/events/march-cga-forum-series-america%E2%80%99s-energy-future-0

National Week of Conversation Happening April 5th-13th

The next National Week of Conversation (NWOC) is April 5th – 13th! For the second year in a row, NWOC will be a week of intentional conversation, where folks around the country will be hosting or joining conversations, in hopes to better address the intense divisions in our society through dialogue, deepening understanding, and building relationships. We have a special Confab call happening this Weds where you can learn more about NWOC, how to join a conversation already going on and/or start your own. This free call will be on Wednesday, March 13th from 3-4 pm Eastern, 12-1 pm Pacific and we encourage you to register ASAP to save your spot on the call. (Spoiler: we will also be sharing about a paid opportunity to host discussions around the new national debt issue guide, so you won’t want to miss out!) You can read more about NWOC in the post below and on the NCP site here.


National Week of Conversation: April 5th – 13th

Today, seemingly more than ever before, it is important that we as American citizens of all stripes, take a step back followed by a step forward. Step back from our comfort zone and routine, step away from our smartphone screens and social media scrolling and step forward towards someone new, engaging and connecting with genuine curiosity. This is how we grow both as individuals and as a society. This is how we better understand the hurt we might actually be able to help heal. This is how we understand American struggles beyond simply those we experience within invisible border walls of our own communities or those we learn about in the echo chambers of our like-minded social media connections. This is the only way we understand our best way forward, together.

These uncommon steps are far from easy. So an entire movement has formed where we, hand-in-hand, walk each other into greater connection and understanding. Republicans and Democrats. Jews and Muslims. Majority and minority. In the middle of the chaos, we enter into difficult yet rewarding conversations where we #ListenFirst to understand each other. And somewhere within that, we see behind the angry social media posts and opposing votes and comments taken out of context and realize we are all human. We realize we all have stories worth open ears and struggles worth another helping hand.

This year, April 5th – 13th, this #ListenFirst movement is joining together during National Week of Conversation to rally Americans to take these steps together.

National Week of Conversation is a bold annual occasion when people with diverse perspectives #ListenFirst to understand. Through in-person and virtual conversations exploring any topic of interest, people of all stripes intentionally convene with the goal of mending our frayed social fabric and revitalizing America together. We are encouraging everyone and anyone to reach out to neighbors, family and friends, and form your own conversations.

To connect with this sweeping cross country movement, you can host or join a conversation during NWOC 2019, April 5-13. Use the #ListenFirst hashtag to invite others!

One week. One week to step back from routine work schedules and routine interactions. One week to step away from excuses and prioritize your concerns about our future. One week when we can step forward – towards each other, with each other and for each other. What is your excuse for standing back or standing still? Please join us for National Week of Conversation and practice what it means to #ListenFirst.

You can learn more about the National Week of Conversation at www.nationalconversationproject.org/.

ILG TIERS Learning Lab Training Early Bird Now Available

If you work in local government and are looking to gain some more skills when engaging the public, then we recommend folks check out this great training from NCDD member org, the Institute for Local Government (ILG). ILG is offering their two-day TIERS Learning Lab training on Thursday, April 25th and Friday, April 26th in Danville, CA. This is a great opportunity for staff and elected officials working in local government to better engage and sustain their public engagement efforts, and early bird registration ends in two weeks, on March 22nd. You can read the announcement from ILG below and find the original version here.


TIERS Public Engagement Learning Lab – April 25 & 26 in Danville, CA

Upcoming Learning Lab & Registration
Danville, April 25 & 26, 2019
REGISTER HERE

Early Bird Registration ends March 22nd
Registration deadline is April 5th

For more information or to register contact Hanna Stelmakhovych at publicengagement@ca-ilg.org or call (916) 658-8221.

ILG’s TIERS Can Help Your Agency Take Your Public Engagement to the Next Level

Not getting the results you want from your public engagement efforts? Enroll in the Institute for Local Government’s (ILG) TIERS Public Engagement Learning Lab and receive customized coaching and learn a step-by-step framework to successfully plan and implement your next public engagement effort. This comprehensive training and coaching program is available to any city, county, special district and can apply to a variety of efforts ranging from housing and climate change to budgeting and public safety.

ILG will be hosting a TIERS℠Public Engagement Learning Lab on April 25-26, 2019 in Danville. Learn more about the TIERS Public Engagement Learning Lab, pricing and future training opportunities here: www.ca-ilg.org/tierslearninglab.

Learning Lab Overview
The TIERS Learning Lab is a comprehensive training and coaching program from ILG that provides local government teams of 2-5 individuals with hands-on instruction and coaching on the TIERS Framework. By participating in the TIERS Learning Lab, staff and electeds will learn how to utilize, customize and implement the TIERS tools and processes. The TIERS Learning Lab will help you build and manage successful public engagement in order to support local government work, stakeholder input and project success.

TIERS Learning Lab Components
The TIERS Learning Lab consists of training and support over a six month period for an agency team of up to five people. This six-month hands-on coaching opportunity includes:

  • A pretraining consultation with ILG to discuss your goals, plans and challenges; and to select your Learning Lab public engagement case
  • Immersive two-day Learning Lab: hands-on, participatory in-person training with expert coaches and peer learning
  • Post-training customized implementation coaching (up to 6 hours)
  • Monthly ’Open Lab’ for problem solving during the three months post training
  • Training workshop materials and meals
  • Scheduling and coordination of consulting calls for pre and post training

Register Now for April 2019 TIERS Public Engagement Learning Lab!

“The TIERS training was incredibly motivating for our team and we were able to immediately put what we learned about the TIERS process to work on our current projects. We left with best practices and a clear process we can follow”
– Mayor Gurrola, City of Arvin

You can find the original information of this training on ILG’s site at: www.ca-ilg.org/TIERSLearningLab.

Engaging Everyday Individuals for Better Public Policy

A driving force behind much work in the D&D field is centered around the belief that individuals are the expert of their own experiences and should be the key consultants in shaping the policies that shape their own lives. The Jefferson Center – a NCDD sponsor org, shared an article on their blog this week, How can everyday citizens create better public policy? by Annie Pottorff, which offers tips on bringing in “everyday” individuals during policymaking. The article gives several key insights on why this is important and talks more about how the process of Citizen Juries can increase civic participation and more direct democratic practices. You can read the article below and find the original version on the Jefferson Center blog here.


How can everyday citizens create better public policy?

Each election, the United States Congress looks a little bit more like the country it represents. In 2018, we celebrated a record number of congressional firsts, including the youngest woman elected, first Muslim congresswomen, first Native American congresswomen, and many other ‘firsts’.

While representation is improving, there are still clear differences according to Pew: the share of women, people of color, and immigrants in the House and Senate lags behind the overall US population. Congress members are also typically highly educated and wealthier than the general public. These distinctions show a clear mismatch, and lead us to wonder: how can we better include diverse experiences, perspectives, and aspirations in decision-making?
Direct democracy approaches, including Citizens Juries, invite “everyday” people (like you, your neighbor, and your grandma) to participate. By using our incredibly different life experiences and personal expertise to shape public policy, we can create a more representative, transparent, and trusted democracy.

Turning to “Everyday” Experts

Average citizens have an incredible resource too often overlooked: their unique expertise. In the current Congress, 96% of House members and all senators have a bachelor’s degree or higher. But in 2017, only about a third (34%) of American adults 25 and older said they had completed a bachelor’s degree or more, according to Pew.

But education and degrees shouldn’t determine your contribution to democracy. Most of us have been shaped by our work, travel, volunteering, relationships, and more, in addition to traditional schooling. Within a Citizens Jury, you’ll find people of all education levels working together to create recommendations to a given challenge.

Participants have the rare opportunity to listen to one another, hear different perspectives, build off one another’s ideas, empathize, and establish common ground. This helps Jurors create recommendations that utilize one another’s expertise and experiences, and are more representative of the population as a whole.

Listening to the People Most Impacted

Last summer, we conducted a Citizens Jury in the Forest of Dean, United Kingdom. Two local hospitals, which were closely intertwined with the community, were set to close. The National Health Service wanted to hear from residents on where a new, centrally located hospital should be built.

Citizen input isn’t always clearly invited (or even welcomed) by representatives in similar situations. People may not be able to travel to their representative’s office, and if they do get there, their representatives might be booked or have other issues on the agenda. In the Forest of Dean, while the closure of the hospital was a sensitive topic for many, a Citizens Jury helped create a recommendation for the location new hospital that was actually trusted by the wider community.

As one participant put it, “People trust the outcome a lot more, they think there’s a fairer representation of views and that the people who are actually going to be using the hospital have a chance to give some insight into their needs which should be valuable feedback for the decision makers.”

Making Participation More Accessible

Getting informed on local, state, national, and global issues can take a lot of time that many people simply don’t have. Citizens Juries, meanwhile, pay people to participate and cover things such as childcare expenses, so participants can more easily take time to participate.

Juries also make participation easier for young people. In the United States, Senators have to be at least 30, and House Representatives must be over 25. And even though people younger than 25 will obviously be impacted by many of today’s issues, barriers such as moving often, work, and difficulty registering to vote all present big obstacles to civic participation. Citizens Juries typically invite participants 18 and older, providing much needed insight into these missing perspectives.

Free from Outside Influence

Instead of the policy issue at hand, politicians might be focused on winning the next election, gaining favorable public opinion, or keeping campaign funders happy.

But your average person isn’t usually worried about these issues. And if there’s ever extra pressure felt by Jury members from their peers, participants can remain anonymous. The experts that inform Jurors about the topic don’t advocate for a specific stance, but provide neutral background information for participants to reference. This sets the stage for more trusted policy, as Jurors made their decision based on high quality information and a transparent process.

Combining Direct & Representative Democracy

Wider citizen participation can complement representative democracies around the world: we’d more fully capture the range of citizen ideas and hear from underrepresented groups. Officials would have a much clearer picture of what the public thinks on complex issues, instead of just hearing from the loudest voices in the room.

Although Citizens Juries don’t always create immediate policy adoption, the recommendations guide legislation and community initiatives. These recommendations aren’t influenced by money or power, but represent the aspirations, interests, and needs of everyday people, creating a stronger democracy we can all believe in.

You can find the original version of this article on the Jefferson Center blog at https://jefferson-center.org/2019/03/how-can-everyday-citizens-create-better-public-policy/