Future Possibilities for Civil Rights Policy (IF Discussion Guide)

The 32-page discussion guide, Future Possibilities for Civil Rights Policy, was published by Interactivity Foundation in May 2011 and edited by Suzanne Goodney Lea. For this discussion guide, participants consider what does a civil right actually mean and then explore the policy directions that will redefine civil rights over the next few decades. The guide is available in both English and Spanish. Below is an excerpt of the guide, which can be downloaded as a PDF for free from IF’s site here.

From IF…

We hear a lot about civil rights. Some people say these rights embody the very soul or essence of our democracy and must be actively safeguarded. Others observe that these kinds of rights are spreading to other places around the world. Still others contend that these rights must sometimes be given up in order to protect our nation’s security. But do we ever stop and think about what rights are or could be? Why do we have them? What purposes do they serve and where might they be headed?

Our country’s Constitution and other founding documents incorporate many important ideas about civil rights as they have been imagined within our democratic society. Still, while our Constitution has survived for a couple hundred years, it has also had to change to meet the challenges of new social and political realities. We’ve seen some civil rights expanded to people who were not even recognized as “persons” in earlier times. We’ve also seen some rights contracted during times of social or political upheaval, or eroded through disuse.

Participants in this project discussion are struggling with multiple possible dimensions to civil rights that go well beyond the conventional legal and political frameworks. For example, how might civil rights influence and even define the ways we choose to live our lives as individuals, the ways our government treats us as citizens, and the ways we treat one another as fellow citizens? How might civil rights relate to broader concepts of rights or citizenship or democracy? What new civil rights might emerge and what others might fall away as we move forward into this century?

Panelist discussions for this project began in the summer of 2009, completed their work in the early fall of 2010, and the final discussion report is now available in both printed and online versions.

You can download a copy of this report from our “Discussion Reports” page (also listed in the sidebar to the right), which lists all of our published reports, or, to download a copy directly, you can click on either of the following links:  Future Possibilities for Civil Rights Policyor en Español, Politica Sobre Derechos Civiles (32 páginas/1.3 MB).

If you are interested in further information about the process used to develop IF reports or IF’s work in general, we invited you to consult our website at interactivityfoundation.org

About the Interactivity Foundation
The Interactivity Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to enhance the process and expand the scope of our public discussions through facilitated small-group discussion of multiple and contrasting possibilities. The Foundation does not engage in political advocacy for itself, any other organization or group, or on behalf of any of the policy possibilities described in its discussion guidebooks. For more information, see the Foundation’s website at www.interactivityfoundation.org.

Follow on Twitter: @IFTalks

Resource Link: www.interactivityfoundation.org/discussions/the-future-of-civil-rights/

Land of Plenty: How Should We Ensure that People Have the Food They Need? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The 25-page issue guide, Land of Plenty: How Should We Ensure that People Have the Food They Need?, was published June 2017 from National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation.. The issue guide offers participants three options to use during deliberation on how to address the inequities within the current food system and how to create a world where all people have the food they need to thrive. The issue guide is available to download for free on NIFI’s site here, where you can also find a post-forum questionnaire.

From NIFI…

All of us affect, and are affected by, the food system: students who grow and eat carrots and tomatoes from their school garden; farm owners who maintain patches of natural habitat for bees; immigrants who hand-pick our apples, grapes, and oranges; public employees who design food-nutrition labels and monitor food safety; restaurant workers who take our orders and serve our meals; food reporters who write about ethnic cuisine; local groups of gleaners who keep edible food out of the dumpster and put it to good use; food pantries that teach teenagers to garden on vacant lots; parents who work to stretch their food budgets to the next payday; policymakers who determine agricultural subsidies; community members who advocate for policies to ensure that all of us have the food we need.

While we have one of the most productive and efficient food systems in the world, millions of people in the US still fall between the cracks. People who may have enough to eat today worry about the availability and quality of food for future generations.

This guide explores different approaches and actions that are, or could be, taken to create a food system that works for all of us. While the approaches overlap in some respects, they do suggest different priorities and involve different trade-offs. With this in mind, what should we do to ensure that people from all walks of life have the food they need?

This issue guide placemat presents three options for deliberation:

Option 1: Improve Access to Nutritious Food
Despite our nation’s abundance of food, some people still don’t have enough to eat, which undermines their health, productivity, and overall well-being. According to this option, we need a food system that ensures everyone has a stable source of affordable, nutritious food. We must strengthen our school nutrition programs and food assistance for low-income families, as well as improve access to fresh food in rural and low-income communities.

Option 2: Pay More Attention to the Multiple Benefits of Food
We have drifted away from traditions and principles that once helped us enjoy a healthier relationship to food, according to this option. We all need to be better informed about the foods we choose, their nutritional value, and how they’re produced and processed. Rather than allowing food advertisements to determine our choices, we need to pay closer attention to what we value about our food, traditions, and well-being.

Option 3: Be Good Stewards of the Food System
We are not managing our food system as well as we should, according to this option. We must do more to safeguard the quality and availability of food for generations to come. Good stewardship is needed at every link in the food-supply chain, from the seeds we plant to the reduction of food waste. It also includes preserving our natural resources, choosing sustainable methods of production, and strengthening the food-system workforce.

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NIF-Logo2014About NIFI Issue Guides
NIFI’s Issue Guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, Issue Guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

Follow on Twitter: @NIForums

Resource Link: www.nifi.org/en/issue-guide/land-of-plenty

Global Responsibility for Children (IF Discussion Guide)

The 20-page discussion guide, Global Responsibility for Children, was published by Interactivity Foundation in 2015 and edited by Mark Notturno. For this discussion guide, IF brought together [in video conference] panelists from 14 different countries to explore what is means to take responsibility for children and what would policies can be put in place that would uphold this task. Below is an excerpt of the guide, which can be downloaded as a PDF for free from IF’s site here.

From the introduction…

Children are, almost by definition, the most vulnerable social group in our global society. They are often among the first victims of social crises: be they humanitarian crises arising from natural disasters, military crises arising from wars and other international conflicts, political crises arising from revolutions, human rights crises arising from abusive political regimes, psychological and physiological crises arising from sexual molestation and child abuse, or family crises arising from the divorces, breakups, and crimes of their parents. Children have been neglected, abandoned, and even killed by their parents and caretaker, both in myth and real life, and infanticide has a long history in Europe, China, and India. Indeed, the history of mankind has recorded wide scale abuses against children arising from the poverty, ignorance, and hatred of adults, caretakers, and other children – and from the unintended consequences of well-intended public policies designed to protect them.

Dickens chronicled the abuse of children in orphanages. Marx described the exploitation of children in the workplace. And Freud explained how the mind of a child could abuse itself. But children are not only vulnerable to being abused. They are also vulnerable to abusing others. They are notorious for bullying smaller children. They sexually molest and rape other children, sometimes brutally, and they frequently give birth outside of marriage. They use drugs, sell them on the street, and entice other children into addictions. They steal. They organize gangs that terrorize their neighborhoods. And, with seemingly increasing frequency, they kill other children, adults, and even their parents.

Churches, labor groups, teachers, and other reformers have long lobbied for child labor laws. And in the 19th and 20th centuries, a series of laws in Britain and the United States gradually shortened the hours, improved the conditions, and raised the age at which children can work. The United Nations’ 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, however, was the first legally binding international instrument to expand the full range of human rights to children. The Convention says that children everywhere have the right to survive; the right to develop their potential to the fullest; the right to protection from harmful influences, including abuse and exploitation; and the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. It also sets standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services. All of the nations of the world, with the exception of the United States and Somalia, have ratified it. And they have, by doing so, committed themselves to develop and undertake all of their policies and actions in light of the best interests of the child or, simply put, to assume responsibility for our children.

But what, exactly, is a child? What are the different dimensions of childhood? Should we regard everyone under a certain age as a vulnerable child? Or everyone over that age as a responsible adult? And what, in any event, constitutes an abusive practice toward children? What are children vulnerable to? What does it mean to assume responsibility for a child? What are the different dimensions of such responsibility? How can a political convention, or a state, protect children when the world around them has been torn by war, natural disasters, or the breakup of their families? How can a political convention, or a state, protect the human rights of children if and when they are in conflict with the beliefs, values, and traditions of their families, societies, and cultures? How can we know what is in the best interest of a child? What concerns might parents, family members, and societies have about states assuming responsibility for their children? And what concerns might they have when states hold them responsible for the actions of their children?

This international online project brought together panelists from fourteen different countries in video-conferences to explore the different concerns that people might have about global responsibility for children, and develop different conceptual policy possibilities for addressing them.

If you are interested in further information about the process used to develop IF reports or IF’s work in general, we invited you to consult our website at interactivityfoundation.org

The PDF version of this report is available for download here

About the Interactivity Foundation
The Interactivity Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to enhance the process and expand the scope of our public discussions through facilitated small-group discussion of multiple and contrasting possibilities. The Foundation does not engage in political advocacy for itself, any other organization or group, or on behalf of any of the policy possibilities described in its discussion guidebooks. For more information, see the Foundation’s website at www.interactivityfoundation.org.

Follow on Twitter: @IFTalks

Resource Link: www.interactivityfoundation.org/discussions/global-responsibility-for-children/

Taking the Goals of Deliberation Seriously: A Differentiated View on Equality and Equity in Deliberative Designs and Processes

The 20-page article, Taking the Goals of Deliberation Seriously: A Differentiated View on Equality and Equity in Deliberative Designs and Processes (2016), was written by Edana Beauvais and Andre Baechtiger, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. The article reviews the goals of healthy deliberative systems and the different designs of civic forums, including participant recruitment, nature of interaction, and decision-making. The authors reviews research which shows evidence that the design of a deliberative system affects its outcomes and goals.

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

From the article…

Deliberative theorists have long stressed that deliberation must be immunized against coercive power by a baseline of equality (Habermas, 1990). But what does the democratic pre-condition of equality mean, in practice, for organizers designing deliberative events and forums? After all, as Bernard Williams (1972) notes, equality is fundamentally about two – at times contradictory – values. On the one hand, the value of universal moral equality, which refers to the fundamental sameness of common humanity, requires abstracting from social circumstances. On the other hand, the value of equity, which refers to just distributions of power and resources, requires attending to social circumstances. Deliberative institutions vary in their capacity to promote one value over the other, or in their capacity to compromise between the two. We argue that negotiating between these twin values should be done with reference to the different goals of the deliberative process, with an eye to the trade-offs that achieving particular goals might require, and to the context within which the deliberation takes place.

In the first section of this paper, we discuss some of the central normative goals that discourse achieves in a healthy deliberative system. In the second section, we review existing empirical research on how institutional designs impact deliberation’s different goals, including the trade-offs different institutional design choices might require. While there are many examples of deliberative sites in political systems, we restrict our discussion to instances of organized, structured deliberation, or “civic forums” (Karpowitz & Raphael, 2014), because these are instances where practitioners can more easily exert direct influence over design.1 Civic forums include a wide variety of deliberating bodies, such as community policing initiatives (Fung, 2009; Karpowitz & Raphael, 2014), participatory budgeting (Avritzer, 2009), civic intergroup dialogue meetings (Walsh, 2004), and deliberative “mini-publics,” such as Deliberative Polls and citizens’ assemblies (Fung, 2003; Goodin & Dryzek, 2006; Grönlund, Bächtiger, & Setälä, 2014; Smith, 2009). We consider three important aspects of design – participant recruitment, the nature of the interaction, and decision-making – and review existing research regarding how different designs impact deliberation’s different normative goals.

We conclude by drawing out the implications of our discussion for practitioners and theorists, arguing against a totalizing view of deliberation where unitary deliberative institutions and processes achieve all of deliberation’s desired outcomes at once (see Fishkin, 2009). Instead, we show that deliberative theorists and practitioners should ultimately accept that various ideals may sometimes form trade-offs that require thinking about which designs and processes are most appropriate for realizing particular normative outcomes.

Achieving Different Normative Outcomes: Understanding the Trade-Offs
Deliberation can achieve a number of distinct goals or functions. One of deliberation’s central functions is to produce decisions that are perceived as legitimate by those who are bound by them. Since democratic legitimacy is predicated upon the inclusion of those affected by decisions in processes of decision-making, those affected by decisions must have equal opportunities to participate, and equal (or fair) influence over the outcomes of discourse. Clearly, these values can conflict. In practice, equal opportunity to participate is often interpreted to mean making civic forums open to anyone who wants to join. But inclusion that abstracts from social differences in this way may not produce diverse or even representative deliberating groups. By contrast, inclusion that is attentive to social differences – such as reserving seats for, or affirmatively recruiting disempowered social group members – can achieve more diverse or representative deliberating bodies, but at the cost of limiting the openness of recruitment.

In addition to legitimacy, deliberation achieves epistemic and ethical goals. Deliberation’s epistemic function refers to discourse’s capacity to encourage learning and produce opinions, preferences, and attitudes that are informed by facts, information, and the full range of relevant arguments and concerns. Conventionally, the ethical function refers to whether deliberation generates mutual respect (Mansbridge et al., 2012). We suggest that other ethical functions include promoting mutual recognition, accommodating ethno-cultural or linguistic diversity, and community-building through developing social bonds, feelings of mutual interdependence, and trust both within and across groups. As we have suggested, achieving one function may conflict with other functions in ways that are relevant for deciding how to organize a deliberative event.

Deliberative venues and forums often cannot achieve every deliberative goal simultaneously, since different functions (or different aspects of the same function) can come into conflict. This is not a problem for the overall health of the deliberative system, since different deliberative tasks are “distributed” sequentially across various component parts, which can refer to different moments in a deliberative event, or to different deliberative forums and actors across a deliberative system (Goodin, 2005). The health of the deliberative system is judged according to how well the variegated, interlocking deliberative forums and actors – informal communication networks, associations, the media, legislatures, and the courts, to name a few – achieve discourse’s various normative goals, in the aggregate (Mansbridge, 2015; Mansbridge et al., 2012). Now we will discuss how, in practice, deliberative design can impact which normative ideals are achieved and which are sacrificed in civic forums.

Download the full article from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

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

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

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

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol12/iss2/art2/

Affinity Groups, Enclave Deliberation, and Equity

The 42-page article, Affinity Groups, Enclave Deliberation, and Equity (2016), was written by Carolyne Abdullah, Christopher Karpowitz, and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. The article provides evidence for the practice of holding enclaves for marginalized groups within dialogue and deliberation processes, as part of a larger conversation. They have found that by creating space within affinity groups for enclaves to dialogue; processes are more inclusive, participatory, and democratic. The authors show several ways in which enclave groups can be used in democratic processes and implemented within government practice.

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

From the article…

Organizers of dialogue and deliberation employ several common strategies aimed at achieving equal inclusion, participation, and influence in civic forums. In forums that are open to all who want to join, each participant typically has an equal opportunity to attend, speak, and, if applicable, an equal vote. Forums that restrict participation to a sample of the public take further steps to practice equality. To achieve proportional representation of members of marginalized groups, organizers often recruit random samples or quasi-representative microcosms of the public, or recruit participants in part through networks of social service or civil society organizations (Leighninger, 2012). Some forums subsidize the costs of participation – including information acquisition, time, and money – by providing background materials about the issues, translation services, paying stipends to participants, and the like (Lee, 2011). To create conditions for equal participation and influence, facilitators set ground rules that encourage sharing of speaking time, respect for participants regardless of status or identity, and openness to a broad range of communication styles (Gastil & Levine, 2005). Each of these strategies seeks inclusion of the disempowered on more equal discursive terms than are often found in traditional public meetings, which can be dominated by more privileged citizens, or by officials or policy experts, and which are not designed to engender cooperative talk between community members as equals (Gastil, 2008).

While these are important strategies, they can be insufficient. Even forums that most aim to create representative microcosms of a community are hard pressed to include proportional numbers of community members who are disadvantaged by their education, income, race, gender, age, and political interest (Jacobs, Cook, & Delli Carpini 2009; Ryfe & Stalsburg 2012). Research often finds that despite organizers’ best efforts, more privileged participants – white, male, highly educated, and professional – speak and influence decisions more than other participants (for summaries, see Black, 2012; Karpowitz & Mendelberg, 2014; Karpowitz & Raphael, 2014). Information, issues, and choices are often framed from the perspective of the powerful, even when presented as neutral or in terms of the “common good” (Young, 2000; Christiano, 2012).

In this article, we argue that incorporating stages of enclave discussion among disempowered people within larger political forums or processes can help move us beyond formal equality to achieve more substantively equitable dialogue and deliberation.1 Democratic theorists have long recognized that members of less privileged groups need to confer among themselves in civil society associations in order to contribute autonomously and effectively to discussion in the wider public sphere (Fraser, 1992; Mansbridge, 1996; Sunstein, 2000). We extend this insight to civic forums, processes, and institutions that aim to engage the whole community, maintaining that it would be better for equity, and ultimately for the quality of deliberation, to integrate opportunities for discussion among the least powerful. We argue that enclaves can counteract background inequalities among participants, the difficult dynamics of small group discussion among people of different statuses, and the dominance of associations and ideas of the privileged in the wider political system. And we believe these benefits of enclaves can be realized not just in advocacy groups or social movements, but in the institutions of democratic deliberation that have been developed over the past few decades, from innovative government-led methods of public consultation and stakeholder engagement to forums such as Deliberative Polls, Consensus Conferences, Citizens Assemblies, and the like.

In this light, enclave discussion is not necessarily an inferior version of crosscutting talk among a microcosm of the public, which is often the dominant ideal in deliberative democratic theory and practice. Indeed, enclaves are a feature of the traditional political institutions from which many contemporary civic forums draw metaphorical legitimacy and some design features. Consider the role of enclaves in the namesake institutions of our “21st Century Town Meetings,” “Citizens Assemblies,” “Deliberative Polls,” and the like. Citizens who want to bring proposals to Town Meetings meet in like-minded groups to develop their arguments beforehand (Mansbridge, 1983). Members of legislative assemblies form caucuses based on common issue priorities and interests. Individual polling responses are shaped in part by our networks of family, friends, and others with whom we discuss politics. Like all forms of political communication, talking in enclaves poses some threats to good dialogue and deliberation, and we discuss ways of overcoming these dangers. But we start from a belief that enclaves are natural and necessary organs of healthy political institutions rather than warts on the body politic.

We begin by defining the kind of enclaves we are advocating, which share marginalized perspectives or social locations rather than essentialized identities, and the ways in which their members may be disempowered in deliberation among heterogeneous groups. Next, we draw on the empirical literature to describe the contributions that enclaves of the disadvantaged can make to creating more equitable and higher quality civic deliberation. We also describe the potential dangers of enclave discussions – such as extremism, sectarianism, and conformism – and why we see these dynamics as pitfalls that can be avoided by good deliberative design rather than as iron laws of political communication. For us, the key is to connect enclave deliberation among the marginalized well to other elements of the political system, and so we review several ways in which enclaves have been integrated productively into larger structures of democratic deliberation in forums and institutional processes that aim to represent a whole polity. To illustrate some more specific design principles for enclave deliberation, we present an extended example drawn from a set of dialogues in the U.S., entitled Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation. Finally, we discuss conditions in which enclave deliberation is most likely to be needed to create equity and sketch out an agenda for future research on the topic.

Download the full article from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

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

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

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

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol12/iss2/art6/

Equality and Equity in Deliberation: Introduction to the Special Issue

The 11-page article, Equality and Equity in Deliberation: Introduction to the Special Issue (2016), was written by Carolyne Abdullah, Christopher Karpowitz, and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. The authors make the distinction within deliberation between equity and equality, and confront what this means to fairness and participants being able to fully engage in deliberation. The article examines different approaches to inclusion within deliberative theory and practice, as well as, the authors address some challenges and opportunities.

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

From the article…

Deliberative democrats have had much to say about equality and have long been concerned with creating conditions for it in discourse. Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, for example, write that the principle of political equality “stands behind” the demand for deliberation (1996, p. 28). That is, deliberation presupposes that people deserve equal respect and that in conditions of disagreement such respect demands the open exchange of views and the mutual attempt to identify fair and just solutions. Yet how is equal respect constructed in deliberation? For example, if pursuing equality means treating everyone similarly, regardless of what they bring to deliberation, there are longstanding concerns that this approach can reproduce and reinforce enduring hierarchies of income, education, race, gender, or other characteristics (Young 2000; Sanders 1997). These disparities have the potential to frustrate and even derail the attempt to create conditions in which all perspectives can be included and fully heard. At the same time, if attention to such inequalities means treating deliberators differently, then the worry is that such approaches may stigmatize disadvantaged voices or even provoke a backlash among the more powerful.

This special issue examines different approaches to the full inclusion, participation, and influence of all voices in deliberative theory and practice. In approaching this issue, we mark a key distinction between the values of equality and equity. By equality, we mean an approach to deliberative fairness that emphasizes the need to treat all deliberators the same, regardless of their power (or lack thereof) outside of the deliberative forum. This approach holds that deliberative fairness is most likely to be achieved when those background inequalities are put aside, bracketed, or neutralized in discussion. In contrast, equity means taking into account the advantages and disadvantages that have shaped participants’ experiences, which may require treating participants differently in order to create conditions that achieve fair deliberation and decisions. As Edana Beauvais and André Bächtiger (this issue) put it, equality asserts “the fundamental sameness of common humanity” and the need to “abstract from social circumstances,” while equity emphasizes “attending to” social circumstances and the resultant distribution of power and resources. The contributors to this issue take up this core distinction between equality and equity in a variety of different ways, and occasionally with slightly different terms, but all of them are confronting the common challenge of creating circumstances in which all deliberators can participate fully and even authoritatively.

Tensions between equality and equity emerge constantly in both formal institutions of political decision-making and the wider political culture. We see these struggles in debates over access to education, fair wages, health and welfare policy, policing, immigration, regulation of speech, and many other issues.

Should universities prioritize equal treatment of applicants by following a “colorblind” approach to admissions or remedy the accumulated effects of past disadvantages by practicing affirmative action? Should schools prioritize creating more supportive environments for students from non-dominant groups by regulating offensive speech directed at them or privilege equal rights to engage in robust, even uncivil, expression? Should countries give equal access to immigrants regardless of their geographic origins, economic status, and social condition, or privilege applicants from particular countries, the highly-skilled, political refugees, or others based on social and historic circumstances? When do assertions of equal rights function to dismiss aspirations for equity? For example, in the United States, when the Black Lives Matter movement for fair and equitable treatment of people of color by the police is met with the response that “All Lives Matter,” does invoking the language of equality make it more difficult to confront and address historic and systemic inequities?

Friction between equality and equity also emerges in each stage of public deliberation, confronting organizers with thorny decisions about the design of institutions and projects, naming and framing issues, recruiting community members, rules for participation and decision making, and implementing outcomes. At every point in the process, civic forums must address the question of whether public deliberation should be organized using an equality or equity approach, or how to balance the two. For example, if we issue a general call for participation through “neutral” channels, can we have much hope of attracting less privileged and empowered community members? In the absence of facilitation or institutional rules that actively promote contributions from non- dominant participants, and encourage thorough questioning of prevalent understandings of issues, are we likely to reproduce the power dynamics that helped create the very social problem under discussion? Alternatively, at what point does stocking the room with under-represented people fall prey to charges of stacking the deck in favor of particular outcomes, risking the perceived legitimacy of deliberation?

Equality and equity must also be considered as outcomes of public deliberation. The historically marginalized are often drawn to politics more by a hunger for more equitable policies than for opportunities to deliberate. How concerned should we be about whether the policies developed through deliberation are equal or equitable? Can we be assured that deliberation will deliver fairer outcomes than other kinds of political engagement? What steps, if any, should deliberative democrats take to compel attention to equity and equality as critical aspects of all policy decisions? These are the questions that have motived this special issue.

Download the article from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

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

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

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

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol12/iss2/art1/

Finding a Seat for Social Justice at the Table of Dialogue and Deliberation

The 4-page article, Finding a Seat for Social Justice at the Table of Dialogue and Deliberation (2014)was written by David Schoem and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. In the article, Schoem discusses the relationships that many dialogue and deliberation organizations have toward social justice. Many D&D organizations have a tendency to shy away from social justice in an effort to maintain neutrality. Schoem puts forth three arguments that “the field needs to 1) work intentionally for social justice and serving the public good for a strong, diverse democracy, 2) confront the illusion of neutrality, and 3) address issues of privilege and power. ”

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

From the article…

First, most people, whatever language they choose to use, regardless of their political affiliation, perspective, or point of view, share a hope for a better society and believe in a more just world. To use the foundation of a just society or a better world as a common starting point allows for purposeful dialogue and is an invitation to a wide range of people, perspectives and viewpoints. Even the Pledge of Allegiance speaks of “liberty and justice for all,” so it’s surprising that those words are too often taken off the table in dialogue and deliberation organizations because they are seen as “too political.” To ignore social justice serves only to diminish the opportunity and promise that dialogue and deliberation have to offer.

Second, ignoring inequity and inequality predictably leads to the marginalization and exclusion of less privileged groups and those expressing unpopular opinions. Rather than opening the door to open discussion and dialogue by invoking a value of neutrality, when issues of social justice are left off the table it signals to people who are concerned with such issues that the conversation will support the status quo, that substantive change will not result, and that they are unwelcome at the table.

Third, declaring an approach of neutrality, without accounting for power and privilege, almost always privileges those in power. The invocation of unexamined neutrality ignores the power relations embedded in social issues, makes invisible the privilege and power of members of different social identities actually participating in any dialogue and deliberation, and serves to silence less privileged voices. To presume a priori an approach of neutrality mistakenly creates an unequal situation from the outset.

Fourth, efforts to convene substantive dialogue and deliberation without a social justice orientation typically end up as an exercise to give already privileged people more power. When the D&D community gathers people together for good discussions and conversations without any acknowledgement of or attention to issues of social justice, power or privilege, it simply creates space for a privileged group of people to gain an even larger voice and to reify existing inequalities. Admittedly, some in the D&D community who previously felt excluded have carved a niche for themselves and found a voice in public discourse through D&D, but too often when doing so without any social, racial, economic and/or other justice orientation, they have left even further behind those with even less privilege and power.

Fifth, issues of power and privilege are present in dialogue and deliberation whether or not people are ignorant of their presence or choose not to acknowledge them. The fact that people with more privilege are unaware of their power or may consciously choose to ignore it, does not mean that such dynamics are not present and salient in dialogue and deliberation.

Download the article from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

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

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

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

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol10/iss1/art20/

Truth-telling, Reconciliation and Restorative Justice

Truth-telling, Reconciliation and Restorative Justice, is a course taught at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. The course is part of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, under Session IV,  and taught by Cal Stauffer and Fania Davis.

To learn more about the rest of the courses offered at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, click here.

From the description…

The call for “truth-telling” has become paramount in the quest for justice. This course critically explores the linkages between truth and justice and grapples with the form and function of truth-telling in the pursuit of justice. Multiple approaches to truth-telling both informal (indigenous practices) and formal (truth & reconciliation commissions) will be surveyed and analyzed. Class participants engage in truth-telling exercises in response to working with historical harms, transitional justice processes, and racial justice issues both on the domestic and international fronts. Of particular interest is the recent call for a truth-telling processes in dealing with police violence against young men of color in the US context.

Together, we will grapple with the following questions:

– What does truth-telling mean?
– How do we practice truth-telling?
– What does it mean to speak the truth to oppressive powers
– How do we “bear witness” against deep injustices in the public domain?
– What are the best containers and structures for holding truth-telling processes in public spaces?

This course is being offered for training and for academic credit. The syllabus will detail the number of credits hours and associated course requirements.

emu_cjpAbout EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding
The Center for Justice & Peacebuilding educates a global community of peacebuilders through the integration of practice, theory and research. Our combined vision is to prepare, transform, and sustain leaders to create a just and peaceful world.

Follow on Twitter: @CJP_EMU

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

Resource Link: www.emu.edu/cjp/spi/courses/truth-telling-reconciliation-and-restorative-justice/