Review of Deliberation across Deeply Divided Societies: Transformative Moments

The 5-page review written by Nancy A. Vamvakas of Deliberation across Deeply Divided Societies: Transformative Moments (2017), by Jürg Steiner, Maria Clara Jaramillo, Rousiley C. M. Maia, and Simona Mameli, was published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 13: Iss. 1. In the book, the authors analyze group discussions from three distinct conflicts in Colombia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and Brazil; and discuss the various approaches to deliberation in each area. Read an excerpt of the review below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the review…

Indeed, this book is the result of a very ambitious undertaking; Jürg Steiner et. al. have compiled and analyzed group discussions among ex-guerrillas and exparamilitaries in Colombia, among Serbs and Bosniaks in Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and among poor community residents and police officers in Brazilian favelas.

The discussions were facilitated by passive moderators who posed a general question about peace, but did not intervene; facilitators did not ask further questions and did not ask participants to speak up. In the case of Colombia, the groups were asked: what are your recommendations so that Colombia can have a future of peace, where people from the political left and the political right, guerrillas and paramilitaries, can live peacefully together? (p. 24). The Bosnian groups were asked to formulate recommendations for a better future in BosniaHerzegovina (p. 31). Finally, in Brazil, discussants were given the following question: How is it possible to create a culture of peace between poor community residents and the local police? (p. 36).

Steiner et. al. advance the on-going debate between those deliberative theorists who stress a purely rational approach and those who adopt a softer focus which incorporates finer threads of emotions. The authors argue that “deliberation means that all participants can freely express their views; that arguments are well justified, which can also be done with well-chosen personal stories or humor; that the meaning of the common good is debated; that arguments of others are respected; and that the force of the better argument prevails, although deliberation does not necessarily have to lead to consensus” (p. 2). They are in agreement with deliberative theorists such as Laura Black who see the great potential in storytelling and the limitations of the rationalist approach. Personal stories, as presented here are examples of “non-rational elements” (86) that have added to the deliberation model. Steiner et. al. argue that Jürgen Habermas set “very high standards of how rational justification of arguments should look” (p. 106). The book proposes a less demanding test for rationality; less stringent criteria; the bar is lowered. Context matters, who the actors are matters, and “standards of rationality should not be universal” (p. 106). The authors argue that given the “low level of formal schooling,” the discussions were “hard tests” (p. 86) for rational arguments.

The authors argue that there is a complexity to deliberation, hence, analysis must take into account deliberation over the course of a discussion. They code deliberation to see how it evolves and whether it fluctuates; for these ups and downs of group dynamics they coin the very innovative concept of Deliberative Transformative Moments (DTM). The units of analysis are the individual speech acts. Speech acts were coded using four categories: the speech act stays at a high level of deliberation; the speech act transforms the level of deliberation from high to low (flow of discussion is disrupted); the speech act stays at a low level of deliberation; the speech act transforms the level of deliberation from low to high (participants add new aspects to a topic or formulate a new topic). The reader has the luxury of being able to follow these discussions on the book’s website (www.ipw.unibe.ch/content/research/deliberation) and is able to see first hand the speech acts; and can also see the justifications given for the authors’ coding as to whether deliberation was high, low, shifted up or down. Hence, the authors are able to argue that their research process is “fully transparent and therefore open for replications” (p. 6).

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

About the Journal of Public DeliberationJournal of Public Deliberation
Spearheaded 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/vol13/iss1/art9

Home for the Holidays: Dialogue Across Divides Among Family and Friends

Living Room Conversations released the guide, Home for the Holidays: Dialogue Across Divides Among Family and Friends, which we found Fall 2017 (original publish date unknown). The guide give excellent pointers on how to hold living room conversations with family members taking into consideration all the challenges that family can bring. You can read the guide below, find a downloadable PDF here or the original on Living Room Conversation’s site here.

From the guide…

This year we’ve been hearing from all sorts of people that they want to use Living Room Conversations skills to help heal family relationships​. People have experienced loss of or harm to treasured relationships because of politics. And now with the holidays coming up they are considering how to navigate. Does love supersede politics? For most people it does. But there is still confusion and hurt to manage. How do we do this? How can we listen to each other and hold the tension of our differences?

People have reported going home and having better conversations with relatives and friends they disagree with after having Living Room Conversations. There are skills that we get to practice in Living Room Conversations that are easy to take home. ​Some have invited relatives to join them in Living Room Conversations. Like with any Living Room Conversation you only invite people you believe will be able and willing to abide by the conversation agreements and follow the structure. People have a natural intuition about what friends and family to invite. We all know family members that aren’t good at taking turns being curious or listening with respect. We also tend to know when family is good at it, or might be, with gentle reminders of the conversation agreements

For years we’ve told people that family is one situation where we are not fully confident that Living Room Conversations will work. Why? Because family is known for breaking host and guest social norms. Because family knows each other’s triggers and because family relations often require more of us. Emotional stakes tend to be higher, conversations are colored by history and it can feel easier to take the proverbial gloves off and fight dirty, unconstrained by the politeness we give others. But in most instances, we can love our family, even when we don’t like what they believe!

We are thrilled to have more and more people doing the Relationships First and other Living Room Conversations in order to hone their relationship skills and thinking. Some people come away with a new appreciation for the power of listening or new curiosity about why people they love think the way they do or new insights about the power of a asking questions without​ ​judgement​. There are very few quick fixes in the world of relationships. Building trust and understanding takes time. This is slow and satisfying work.

INTRODUCTION
It’s no secret we sometimes disagree with families and friends. What seems secret is how to handle it when we do! At Living Room Conversations, we specialize in structuring challenging conversations so they are safe and enjoyable using our Conversation Agreements and Conversation Guides. Wouldn’t it be great if we could talk to family and friends as respectfully as people in Living Room Conversations talk to strangers? We realized it could be useful to share our Conversation Agreements more broadly for the holidays. They are good to keep in mind for kinder dinner-table conversations. True, others may not be following the Conversation Agreements but sometimes good practices can be contagious and you can have the satisfaction of feeling better about your own part in the conversation.

CONVERSATION​ ​AGREEMENTS
These are the Living Room Conversation Agreements:

  • Be curious and open to learning​. Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking. Enjoy hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. ​Human beings tend to judge one another; do your best not to. Setting judgments aside opens you up to learning from others and makes them feel respected and appreciated.
  • Find common ground and note differences. ​Look for common ground you can agree on and take an interest in the differing beliefs and opinions of others.
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. ​Share what’s important to you. Speak authentically from your personal experience. Be considerate of others who are doing the same.
  • Be purposeful and to the point. ​Notice if what you are conveying is or is not pertinent to the topic at hand.
  • Own and guide the conversation. ​Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and that of the conversation. Be proactive in getting yourself and others back on track if needed.

THE​ ​BASICS
Listening is powerful. It doesn’t mean you agree. Just giving someone your full attention is a valuable gift. People rarely change their beliefs in a conversation; but people often expand understanding through conversation. Focus on learning and sharing rather than debating or convincing. To do so you can:

  • Ask thoughtful questions, inspired by whatever honest curiosity you feel
  • Try to understand, not convince or persuade
  • Share personal stories and experiences, not data points
  • Notice if there are areas of agreement.
  • Assume good intentions and extend the benefit of the doubt
  • Thoughtfully end the conversation when you are triggered or tired
  • Share appreciation for having the conversation

CORE​ ​SKILLS

  • Generous listening. Listen deeply, without an intention to respond, refute, or defend. Just listen.
  • Assume good intent. Give the person the benefit of the doubt.
  • Genuine curiosity. Show curiosity by asking questions and learning more about the person’s life experiences that have shaped their perspective.
  • Respectful engagement. Showing respect and kindness can diffuse a great deal of tension and it’s often contagious.

POTENTIAL​ ​PITFALLS

  • Insults or name-calling. Using unflattering names or making derogatory remarks about people that the other person cares about (including political leaders) are fighting words.
  • Overgeneralizing. Beware of using words like “you always” and “you never.” They are seldom true, and these words tend to feel attacking.
  • Leading questions. Steer clear of asking questions designed to “trap” the person or lead them to a pre-determined answer you want to hear.
  • Talking more than listening. It is rare to make progress on understanding a different perspective while doing the majority of the talking.
  • Facts, figures, and data-points. Few things shut down a good conversation faster than cold, hard, facts…and alternative facts! Focus on concerns and experiences rather than data.

Additional​ ​Skills​ ​to​ ​Build​ ​Connection

  • Set the stage. Establish your interest in an enjoyable, productive conversation rather than a debate or argument.
  • Listen for values and desired outcomes. Most of us have core values that overlap (health, safety, prosperity). Identifying these can help strengthen the relationship.
  • Verify and acknowledge feelings. Ask about, and seek to understand what the other person is feeling about the topic. They may have very personal experiences that shape their perspective. Be aware of these feelings and acknowledge them.
  • Use humor, if possible. Be willing to laugh at yourself when and where appropriate. Humor can lighten the mood and make the conversation enjoyable.
  • First-person language. Own your feelings and express them as “I felt ______(feeling) when you ______ (describe specific behavior and when it occurred). For example, “I felt frustrated when you said I was unrealistic this morning.”
  • Explore and reflect rather than disagree directly. For example, starting sentences with “I am wondering….” can be very productive if it is sincere.
  • Find common ground. Look for and acknowledge areas of agreement.
  • Use engaging language. See how often you can replace “but” with “and”
  • Ask open-ended questions. This allows others to think out loud and may offer a better path for understanding their perspective.
  • Keep a light tone. When judgement creeps in, your tone will give you away! If this happens, own it, apologize and ask another question. FIRST​ ​AID Families know where all the buttons are. What happens if you get triggered? Avoid responding when you know you are triggered and feel yourself being defensive and/or needing to be right. Sometimes, letting go of the conversation is the best course of action. A break for a short walk or new activity or change of subject can help restore equanimity. Try the following to change the direction of a conversation and/or mend a conversation that has turned destructive:
  • Let’s change the topic. Tell me, how is your garden (or other hobby)?
  • This is a heated conversation. Our relationship is more important to me.
  • I feel bad when we argue. Let’s stop for now.
  • I’m sorry we argued. I care about you.
  • Our relationship will always be more important to me than our differences.

OTHER​ ​CONSIDERATIONS
When we stand in self-righteous anger, i.e. “how can you believe THAT?” we find ourselves separated. Some people — including family members — would prefer to be right than to be connected.

Sometimes we see family as a reflection of ourselves. We may feel an obligation to make them see “the error of their ways.” And we may want to be clear that we are not flawed in that way, too. It can be much harder to avoid judging and remain curious with family–even when we know this is the most effective way for us to connect with them.

With family, not arguing and not pushing back can feel like a betrayal of our own beliefs. It can feel like selling out just to keep peace at the dinner table. But listening with genuine curiosity is not selling out or taking the easy road. There is deep value in taking a more respectful and curious approach. When we connect in this way mutual listening is far more possible. And remember: again and again we hear from Living Room Conversation Guide users who have friends and family with very different views that love​ ​comes​ ​first​. Let’s let it!

Some family and friends may not be ready for a thoughtful conversation and that is perfectly ok. At Living Room Conversation we choose conversation partners based upon their ability — and commitment – to abide by the conversation agreements and enjoy an exploratory conversation. At a holiday gathering you may be the only person following conversation agreements. Choosing who to engage with, in what setting, and at what level is wise. For some people listening might be the only thing you want to do with them…moving on to others where you believe some mutual curiosity and appreciation might be productive. Also, recognize that a family gathering might be a place where some topics are simply not welcome. Be gentle with yourself and others. Sometimes the simple act of breaking bread together is enough.

About Living Room Conversations
Living Room Conversations are a conversational bridge across issues that divide and separate us. They provide an easy structure for engaging in friendly yet meaningful conversation with those with whom we may not agree. These conversations increase understanding, reveal common ground, and sometimes even allow us to discuss possible solutions. No fancy event or skilled facilitator is needed.

Follow on Twitter: @LivingRoomConvo

Resource Link: www.livingroomconversations.org/home-for-the-holidays/

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/

The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter

The 300-page book, The World Cafe, was written by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs and published April 2005. In the first comprehensive book on the World Café, co-founders Brown and Isaacs introduce readers to this simple yet powerful conversational process for thinking together, evoking collective intelligence, and creating actionable results.

Beautifully illustrated with stories contributed by World Café practitioners, this is still the most definitive compendium of Café Know-How available.

Available in Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Japanese, Simple Chinese, Complex Chinese, German, Korean, and Thai. Below is an excerpt from the foreword of the book, which can be purchased on the World Café site here.

From the foreword…

We Can Be Wise Only Together
By Margaret J Wheatley

The World Café process reawakens our deep species memory of two fundamental beliefs about human life. First, we humans want to talk together about things that matter to us. In fact, this is what gives satisfaction and meaning to life. Second, as we talk together, we are able to access a greater wisdom that is found only in the collective.

The World Café in Action
As you read the stories and counsel in this book, you will see these two beliefs brought to life in the Café process. In order to provoke your exploration of them, I’d like to underline some of the dimensions of the Café process that bring these beliefs into vibrant, healthy reality.

Belief in Everybody
The World Café is a good, simple process for bringing people together around questions that matter. It is founded on the assumption that people have the capacity to work together, no matter who they are. For me, this is a very important assumption. It frees us from our current focus on personality types, learning styles, emotional IQ—all the popular methods we currently use to pre-identify and pre-judge people. Each of these typologies ends up separating and stereotyping people. This is not what was intended by their creators, but it is what has happened. The Café process has been used in many different cultures, among many different age groups, for many different purposes, and in many different types of communities and organizations. It doesn’t matter who the people are—the process works. It works because people can work well together, can be creative and caring and insightful when they’re actively engaged in meaningful conversations around questions that count. I hope that these stories inspire us to move away from all the categories and stereotypes we currently use about who should be involved, who should attend a meeting—all the careful but ill-founded analysis we put into constructing the “right” group. We need to be focused on gathering the real diversity of the system, but that’s quite different from being absorbed with these other sorting devices.

Diversity
It’s important to notice the diversity of the places and purposes for which the World Café is used, and the diversity of participants who are encouraged to attend World Café gatherings. These pages contain a rich illustration of a value I live by: we need to depend on diversity. Including diversity well is a survival skill these days, because there’s no other way to get an accurate picture of any complex problem or system. We need many eyes and ears and hearts engaged in sharing perspectives. How can we create an accurate picture of the whole if we don’t honor the fact that we each see something different because of who we are and where we sit in the system? Only when we have many different perspectives do we have enough information to make good decisions. And exploring our differing perspectives always brings us closer together. One Café member said it well: “You’re moving among strangers, but it feels as if you’ve known these people for a long time.” Invitation In every World Café, there’s a wonderful feeling of invitation. Attention is paid to creating hospitable space. But the hospitality runs much deeper. It is rooted in the host’s awareness that everyone is needed, that anyone might contribute something that suddenly sparks a collective insight. Café facilitators are true hosts—creating a spirit of welcome that is missing from most of our processes. It’s important to notice this in the stories here, and to contrast it with your own experience of setting up meetings and processes. What does it feel like to be truly wanted at an event, to be greeted by meeting hosts who delight in your presence, to be welcomed in as a full contributor?

Listening
When people are engaged in meaningful conversation, the whole room reflects curiosity and delight. People move closer physically, their faces exhibit intense listening, and the air becomes charged with their attention to each other. A loud, resonant quiet develops, broken by occasional laughter. It becomes a challenge to call people back from these conversations (which I always take as a good sign).

Movement
In the World Café process, people generally move from table to table. But it’s much more than physical movement. As we move, we leave behind our roles, our preconceptions, our certainty. Each time we move to a new table, we lose more of ourselves and become bigger—we now represent a conversation that happened among several people. We move away from a confining sense of self and our small certainties into a spaciousness where new ideas can reveal themselves. As one participant describes it: “It’s almost as if you don’t know where the thought came from because it has merged so many times that it has been molded and shaped and shifted with new dimensions. People are speaking for each other and using words that started somewhere else that they hadn’t thought of before.” We also move into a greater awareness as we look for connections amongst the conversations, as we listen to voices other than our own. Patterns become apparent. Things we couldn’t see from our own narrow perspective suddenly become obvious to the entire group.

Good Questions
World Café dialogues, like all good conversations, succeed or fail based on what we’re talking about. Good questions—ones that we care about and want to answer—call us outward and to each other. They are an invitation to explore, to venture out, to risk, to listen, to abandon our positions. Good questions help us become both curious and uncertain, and this is always the road that opens us to the surprise of new insight.

Energy
I’ve never been in a World Café that was dull or boring. People become energized, inspired, excited, creative. Laughter is common, playfulness abounds even with the most serious of issues. For me this is proof positive of how much we relish being together, of how wonderful it is to rediscover the fact of human community. As one host from a very formal culture says: “My faith in people has been confirmed. Underneath all the formal ways of the past, people really want to have significant conversations. People everywhere truly love to talk with each other, learn together, and make a contribution to things they care about.”

Discovering Collective Wisdom
These are some of the Café dimensions that bring out the best in us. But this is only half the story. World Café conversations take us into a new realm, one that has been forgotten in modern, individualistic cultures. It is the realm of collective intelligence, of the wisdom we possess as a group that is unavailable to us as individuals. This wisdom emerges as we get more and more connected with each other, as we move from conversation to conversation, carrying the ideas from one conversation to another, looking for patterns, suddenly surprised by an insight we all share. There’s a good scientific explanation for this, because this is how all life works. As separate ideas or entities become connected to each other, life surprises us with emergence—the sudden appearance of new capacity and intelligence. All living systems work in this way. We humans got confused and lost sight of this remarkable process by which individual actions, when connected, lead to much greater capacity.

About World CaféWorld Cafe_logo
Using seven design principles and a simple method, the World Café is a powerful social technology for engaging people in conversations that matter, offering an effective antidote to the fast-paced fragmentation and lack of connection in today’s world. Based on the understanding that conversation is the core process that drives personal, business, and organizational life, the World Café is more than a method, a process, or technique – it’s a way of thinking and being together sourced in a philosophy of conversational leadership.

Follow on Twitter: @TWCcommunity

Resource Link: www.theworldcafe.com/world-cafe-book/

The Wise Democracy Project

The Wise Democracy Project was initiated by Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute with impetus and tremendous help from Martin Rausch in Switzerland, between July 2016 and March 2017.

The Wise Democracy Project has been created to inspire the formation of a community of practice around approaches and innovations that can further the development of a democratic system capable of generating wise public policy and collective activities. “Wise” in this context means taking into account what needs to be taken into account for long-term broad benefit. D&D – and conversation and generative interaction generally – are central to this worldview and are contextualized for their gifts among many other dimensions of a wise democracy.

The project includes both broad theory and, in particular, an initial “pattern language” of 70 design guidelines, each of which can be applied through many different modes and approaches, using different tools and resources. The pattern language site (and its accompanying set of freely downloadable modular cards) provides a space for the gathering of additional examples and resources in each design category – and the analysis of any given case of democratic practice or vision, clarifying its specific gifts and improvable shortcomings.

The Wise Democracy Pattern Language was inspired by – and is a large-system companion to – the GroupWorksDeck.org pattern language for group process, which is familiar to many NCDD members. In fact, there is a parallel project underway linking the two pattern languages into a more coherent whole.

The relevance of the Wise Democracy Project to NCDD is that it adds a larger dimension to the work of D&D professionals, a vision of a civilization capable of generating actual collective wisdom. D&D practitioners can, if they choose, view their work as part of that larger civilizational mission and, using the models, patterns and networks associated with the Wise Democracy Project, focus their efforts in ways that empower that larger undertaking.

About The Co-Intelligence Institute
The nonprofit Co-Intelligence Institute (CII) promotes awareness of co-intelligence and of the many existing tools and ideas that can be used to increase it. The CII embraces all such ideas and methods, and explores and catalyzes their integrated application to democratic renewal, community problems, organizational transformation, national and global crises and the creation of just, vibrant, sustainable cultures. The goal of the CII is the conscious evolution of culture in harmony with nature and with the highest human potentials.We research, network, advocate, and help organize leading-edge experiments and conversations in order to weave what is possible into new, wiser forms of civilization.

Resource Link: www.wd-pl.com/

This resource was submitted by Tom Atlee, co-founder of The Co-Intelligence Institute via the Add-a-Resource form.

When Relationships Are Not Enough: Reconciling with Genocide

The article, When Relationships Are Not Enough: Reconciling with Genocide, by Dave Joseph was published September 21, 2015 on Public Conversations Project’s blog. In the article, Joseph reflects on his recent trip to Rwanda and the many intense and challenging emotions that arose when paying respects at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The memorial honors those murdered in the 1994 genocide committed against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Joseph explores how such an extreme atrocity can happen and how this affects people to dialogue- what is possible for reconciliation when such profound violence has occurred?

Below is an excerpt of the article and it can also be found on the Public Conversations Project blog here.

From Public Conversations Project…

What relationships make possible
As a dialogue practitioner and trainer, I have seen opponents recognize one another’s humanity, building an improbable bridge across differences in identities, core values and world views. I have witnessed participants listen to understand and for the first time, be able to see things from a new perspective. I have watched people move from a stance of certainty in their own “rightness” to entertaining the possibility that others might not be “wrong,” but might be approaching the issue from very different life experiences and values.

PCP_quoteDialogue holds the possibility of enemies transforming their relationships and finding ways to coexist, even as their differences remain. Dialogue makes possible the development and deepening of relationships, building of trust and mutual understanding that can lay the foundation for connection, coexistence, community, and collaboration. When people see each other as human beings, it becomes much harder to demonize, dehumanize, stereotype or do violence onto one another.

Where relationships were not enough
What I saw in the museum, however, challenged many of these beliefs. Hutus and Tutsis lived together, shared a common language, worshiped together, intermarried and watched their children attend the same schools. But from April through July, 1994, the “protective factor” of relationship did not prevent one of the most horrific genocides of the 20th century. The downing of the President’s plane triggered pre-planned attacks that quickly eliminated any potential opposition to the ethnic cleansing. Approximately 70% of the Tutsi population and 20% of the general population were slaughtered. Neighbor turned against neighbor; people were betrayed and killed by those whom they had previously trusted and with whom they had enjoyed long-standing relationships, friendships and fellowship.

How to reconcile with the unthinkable
I am left with the confusion of trying to make sense out of what was truly senseless. I still believe that relationships, connection, and trust lie at the heart of community and society. I still believe that while differences are inevitable, demonization, dehumanization and violence are not. We, as human beings, have within us the power to reach out, to connect, to respect each other even as we retain awareness of our differences. Equally challenging is avoiding the seductive pull of responding to difference with fear, which can overwhelm the “better angels of our nature” and lead to violence. What was so striking in the many accounts that I read and heard at the museum was how perpetrators attributed motivations and intentions to those whom they later destroyed. How tragic and ironic that they saw their victims as presenting the kind of threat that could only be responded to with deadly violence.

Why we must continue to foster mutual understanding
I still believe in the power of mutual recognition, of understanding and of connecting as fellow human beings. And I recognize that there will be circumstances in which this will not be enough. Each of us is called upon to act upon the courage of our convictions, to do what is right. To confront our awareness of difference, to look deeply within and to engage in ways that acknowledge our common humanity and interdependence. There were a few stories in the museum of incredibly courageous individuals who acted, at great danger to themselves, to shelter and protect their friends, family and countrymen. My trip to the Genocide Memorial included a visit to the mass grave where more than 250,000 victims were buried. It left me sobered by the thought that each of us has the opportunity and responsibility to work to try to heal this very broken world.

About Public Conversations ProjectPCP_logo
Public Conversations Project fosters constructive conversation where there is conflict driven by differences in identity, beliefs, and values. We work locally, nationally, and globally to provide dialogue facilitation, training, consultation, and coaching. We help groups reduce stereotyping and polarization while deepening trust and collaboration and strengthening communities.

Follow on Twitter: @pconversations

Resource Link: www.publicconversations.org/blog/when-relationships-are-not-enough-reconciling-genocide

The Truth Telling Project

The Truth Telling Project is a grassroots, community-based truth telling process that is designed to share the stories of Black people in the US and their experiences with police violence; and to address the legacies of racism in the US against Black people. The Truth Telling Project arose after the murder of Michael Brown and the lack of indictment of the police officer in his murder. It is a collaborative effort between “the Peace and Justice Studies Association, The Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College, The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Sophia Project of St.Louis MO and the National Peace Academy”.

The Truth Telling Project developed the The Truth Telling Initiative for Ferguson and Beyond (FTI), to perform community-based hearings of Black peoples’ stories of police violence. The FTI started with an initial panel event Nov 13-14, 2015 in Ferguson, MO; and was recorded to be utilized in living room conversations around the nation. The Truth Telling Project provides support for holding living room conversations called FTI WeFi gatherings- “Watch [parties], Exchange [ideas], Formulate [a plan of action], and Implement [the plan]”; to hear and address the issues of systemic and structural racism against Black people.

To learn more about The Truth Telling Project and the FTI, check out their site here.

From the site…

The information below is excerpted from the Truth Telling Project’s Mandate, the whole document can be read on their site here

In light of the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 and the subsequent findings of the Grand Jury not to indict the officer who shot Mr. Brown, despite witness testimony that his hands were in the raised, “surrender” position, and

In light of the overwhelming number of incidents where unarmed black men, women and children have been assaulted, injured, or killed at the hands of police officers or while in police custody in Ferguson, and

In light of the proliferation of deaths of black men, women and children in the 21st century at the hands of police or while in police custody in the U.S. and

In light of the racist and oppressive nature of Slave Patrols, Fugitive Slave Laws, Jim Crow Laws, Racial Profiling and Stop and Frisk Practices having all served as historical and/or contemporary directives comprising four centuries of police practices violating the lives of black men, women and children in the U.S.:

The Truth Telling Project, on behalf of the citizens of Ferguson, MO calls for the conduct of the Truth Telling Initiative for Ferguson and Beyond (FTI) to allow national and international audiences to listen to first-hand accounts of persons impacted directly and indirectly by police violence in the city of Ferguson and beyond.

The FTI is not for the purpose of exacting revenge or recrimination; additionally, the Truth Telling Project does not endorse violence in any form. The Truth Telling Project supports truth sharing for the purposes of helping all members of society acknowledge the realities and consequences of violence, and work towards the collective healing needed to produce reconciliation.

The Panel charged with listening to testimonial stories will have no powers, but they will be tasked with inquiring and helping others learn how persons came to be directly or indirectly involved in instances of police violence, including harm and death while in police custody. As a necessary part of the truth seeking process, the Panel will also consider questions of individual and institutional responsibility surrounding the stories presented.

It is the firm belief of the Truth Telling Project that giving voice to the voiceless through the power of storytelling will humanize persons in a manner that no Commission report, visual representation or media interview can. Given the historical and perennial nature of violent assaults and deadly encounters between police and African Americans in the U.S., it is urgent that the national and international community be given an opportunity to hear personal accounts directly from those impacted; the FTI will provide this opportunity.

It is the position of the Truth Telling Project that addressing the legacy of structural and systemic racism and its consequences in the U.S. must begin with citizen actions to expose truths. We believe that promoting truth will increase mutual understanding and respect, and lay the foundation needed for healing the long-standing wounds and by-products of oppression in our nation.

There can be no genuine healing and moving forward without honestly, courageously and collectively involving the citizens of Ferguson, MO in confronting truths surrounding accounts of police violence and fully acknowledging the direct and indirect suffering associated with those experiences. Giving recognition to individual experiences and truths is the beginning of healing and the related processes of resolution; each is a necessary step if we are to move our society through, and then past the pain associated with the legacies of racism in the U.S.

“There comes a time in the life of every community when it must look humbly and seriously into its past in order to provide the best possible foundation for moving into a future based on healing and hope.” – The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 2006

Follow on Twitter: @TruthTellersUSA

Resource Link: http://thetruthtellingproject.org/

Turning To Each Other

The article, Turning To Each Other, was written by Parisa Parsa and published July 2016 on Public Conversations Project blog. In the article, Parsa discusses the need to not be a neutral party within this society because it furthers the injustices of this world. Instead she offers the alternative of multi-partiality, to not remain neutral and both hold one’s own opinion while also being able to hold alternatives perspectives, even if they differ dramatically. The dialogue and deliberation field very often is a vehicle through which conflicting opinions converge, build relations, and create change. Parsa calls for communities to turn toward each other, no matter their perspectives, in order to grow and ultimately reach liberation.

Below is the full article and it can also be found on Public Conversations Project blog here.

From Public Conversations Project…

The violence, grief and acrimony of the last week has been brutal. In the midst of such public anger and heated rhetoric, I was reminded of another piece of sad news: the death of Holocaust survivor and man of brilliance Elie Wiesel. Of a lifetime of wisdom, no words of his have felt more urgent than these; I have clung to them for both courage and challenge:

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ― Elie Wiesel

It seems like a forthright, straightforward–if bracing–statement. We have a duty, moral and relational, to stand with those who are suffering injustice. As an activist, I prided myself on living that commitment: to be on the side of what was right, to speak up for those who were being tormented.

Now I lead an organization that works to bring people with very different perspectives, beliefs, and backgrounds, into relationship. What we see in our work that community is not a given – it does not arise spontaneously due to our proximity in neighborhoods or workplaces. Community is a choice: an act of courage when fear and mistrust threaten to tear us asunder. Because of our commitment to being present with the many perspectives that reside around any issue that matters, we do not take a side on the issues. Yet we are not neutral. We make an active commitment to listen, to engage, to honor each person and perspective that arrives. Our practitioners call this being multi-partial – not im-partial, or lacking a side, but multi-partial: willing to hold each part, even though they may contradict each other.

This precarious balance requires careful preparation to make sure all those “parts” meet on ground that is as level as possible. Instead of asking “What do you want to say?” we ask, “What do you need in order to feel heard?” What do you need to do to prepare yourself to really listen to others? What agreements will help to secure a space for you to tell your truth, and to listen with resilience? These are not superficial questions – they live in the very heart of power differences, and invite reflections on the assumptions we make about each other that guide most of our communication.

What we find, over and over again, in our conversations is that it is rarely so simple as to say there is a single oppressor or oppressed. When we are able to really speak and listen from the depths and complexities of who we are, we find that we are all suffering from the human systems that keep us separate, fearful, misunderstood and misunderstanding. And we find that what takes real courage is the work of turning to one another, against all the tides that would tell us to pull back, to withdraw, to point fingers and build walls, and instead to ask: where are you hurting?

The gross atrocities of humanity don’t usually begin with hard lines of good and evil. They begin with people trying to make sense of the world from their place in it, limited in what they can know and see, acting to protect and promote the life of those they care about. This is true in this particular moment for men and women who are serving in law enforcement, and it is true for black and brown people who are advocating for a change in a society that has disproportionately imprisoned them. It is true for people who advocate fiercely for the right to bear arms, and it is true for those who are outraged at the lack of gun regulation. There are indeed systems and structures that have affected particular people disproportionately and yet those structures are not the ones whose bodies are sacrificed routinely on the altar of our misunderstanding. “We see the world not as it is but as we are,” wrote Anais Nin. I think it is safe to say we are all suffering.

Being told we are wrong rarely prompts a moment of awakening; instead, we retreat into the known, even though it may cause us greater pain. Finding a wider lens with which to view the world, situating ourselves in the midst of a bigger scene, helps us widen the circle of life we commit to promote and protect. Knowing our neighbor more fully makes connection more visible, and less optional. The more you see of that neighbor, the more you are truly seen. We don’t take a single side, because true liberation is a choice made from seeing the whole. That whole is painful, complicated, uncertain – and it is our great responsibility, no matter what our cause, to share our truth and let go of the belief that it is the only one. I’m not sure Wiesel would disagree, and it is my great loss that I never had the chance to ask him.

About Public Conversations ProjectPCP_logo
Public Conversations Project fosters constructive conversation where there is conflict driven by differences in identity, beliefs, and values. We work locally, nationally, and globally to provide dialogue facilitation, training, consultation, and coaching. We help groups reduce stereotyping and polarization while deepening trust and collaboration and strengthening communities.

Follow on Twitter: @pconversations

Resource Link: www.publicconversations.org/blog/turning-each-other

Our Differences Do Not Have To Become Our Divisions

The article, Our Differences Do Not Have To Become Our Divisions, was written by Jessica DeBruin and posted June 20, 2016 on Everyday Democracy‘s site. DeBruin wrote this article in memory of the 49 victims from the Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub, an LGBTQIA club. In the article, DeBruin shares her experience as a queer person in the aftermath of the massacre and calls for the urgent need to improve the civic process by demanding the need to ensure the voices of marginalized folks are at the table in an authentic way. She gives explicit ideas on how to do this by listening to affected communities, ensuring the mic is shared, and directly challenging and interrupting violence [in all forms].

Below is an excerpt from the article and read it in full on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

From the article…

It may be near impossible for all of us, even allies, even queer folk, to comprehend how we have internalized and acted out these violences on a daily basis – but it is essential that we begin to do so. When good people witness hate speech and say nothing, we have participated in that hate. By failing to challenge hateful narratives we become complicit to them. When we cling to compartmentalized notions of identity, we erase the experiences of people who live at the intersection of multiple group identities.

We will slip up. We will do all these things on occasion because these concepts have been with us most of our lives. Our progress will be imperfect, but we must continue to push ourselves to do better.

Where do we begin this process?

We begin with acknowledgement. We must acknowledge that on some level, great or small, we have all internalized homophobia. We acknowledge that the gender roles which some of us find comfort in, do not necessarily apply to or benefit us all. We acknowledge that institutional racism and colorism hold us all back, and rob us of the opportunity to better connect with one another.

Next we hand the mic to affected communities.

We uplift and magnify the voices of the marginalized, those who have been on the receiving end of violence.

We listen.

We listen to them, we listen to each other. We cannot feign deafness to avoid inconvenience or discomfort. If you consider yourself an ally to the queer, or any marginalized community, it is past time that you recognize that yielding the mic is one of the most powerful things you can do to support us.

Of course even within these communities, there are myriad factions, and perspectives and experiences. This touches upon a fundamental need for the creation of civic culture where people from all walks of life can come together in respect to share our experiences, to hear other people’s lived realities, and to find a way to work together.

We must find a place where we can acknowledge and uplift these differences. We must recognize that our differences do not have to become our divisions. A democracy that is alive and thriving should facilitate this kind of communal meeting of minds. This is what American core values should be.

In 1970 the grassroots implementation of this kind of dialogue between radically different queer communities produced the first Pride Marches. In cities across the nation, LGBTQIA folk came together to stand and be counted. They took tragedy and oppression and turned it into a celebration of being.

We are faced with a similar opportunity to continue this difficult work today. May we not shy away from it. May we instead use it to fuel action and positive change. May we instead practice the democracy of earnest and inclusive civic dialogue, so that on the other side of it we can emerge stronger than the sum of hatred and indifference.

Read the article in full here.

About Jessica DeBruin
Jessica is a writer and actress living in Los Angeles, dedicated to creating feminist, queer-inclusive art and media.

Follow on Twitter: @JessicaLaVerdad

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

Follow on Twitter: @EvDem

Resource Link: www.everyday-democracy.org/news/our-differences-do-not-have-become-our-divisions

Difference, Conflict & Love: How Family Can Lead Us Home

The article, Difference, Conflict & Love: How Family Can Lead Us Home by Kathy Eckles was published April 2016 on Public Conversations Project blog. In the article, Eckles shares some of her family’s history regarding dialogue and the desire growing up to have had other alternatives communication with her family, especially when it came to harder issues. She gives 3 steps for improving communication skills with family, even when differences and conflict arise.

Below is an excerpt from the article and you can find the original in full on Public Conversations Project blog here.

From Public Conversations Project…

3 Steps to Improved Communication Skills

Step 1: Build Emotional Sturdiness
Stretch your comfort zone. Break old patterns. Say ‘yes’ to opportunities. Learn new things. Build trust in yourself as you strengthen your emotional capacity to listen, speak, create, succeed, fail, give, receive, lead. There will be moments of awkwardness, but you’ll survive them and, with humility and good-heartedness, they can even be endearing. You’ll likely wish for a few ‘do-overs,’ too, but you will grow.Step one: live your life beyond what you already know.

Step 2: Understand Self & Others
Ask why do I do what I do? What motivates each of us to be so different in how we communicate, lead and interact in relationships? What are my gifts and challenges? How can I be more accepting of myself and others? How might acceptance, appreciation and knowing more about how to meet people where they are impact our relationships at home and at work? Would we be happier and more productive? One of my favorite resources is the Enneagram. It’s helped me be more compassionate, appreciate differences, and relate more effectively. Step two: know thyself. Appreciate. Diversify. Respond, not react. Communicate in ways that make sense to the receiver.

Step 3: Develop Communication Skills
…Expand your conversation toolkit beyond news, sports, weather and the 140 character comment to include how to: listen and ask genuine questions to have a conversation that’s rich with curiosity and connection; unlock stuck conversations through mutual understanding; feel more grounded in your own voice; communicate across different cultures, personalities and contexts, and develop everyday tools to resolve or transform conflict. Step three: expand your quality communication skills. Practice every day.

This is an excerpt from the article, to find it in full, go to Public Conversations Project’s site.

About Public Conversations ProjectPCP_logo
Public Conversations Project fosters constructive conversation where there is conflict driven by differences in identity, beliefs, and values. We work locally, nationally, and globally to provide dialogue facilitation, training, consultation, and coaching. We help groups reduce stereotyping and polarization while deepening trust and collaboration and strengthening communities.

Follow on Twitter: @pconversations

Resource Link: www.publicconversations.org/blog/difference-conflict-love-how-family-can-lead-us-home