Highlights from the Kettering Winter Newsletter

In case you missed it, NCDD org member, the Kettering Foundation sent out their Winter newsletter, which you can read in the post below to learn what they’ve been up to lately. Highlights include Kettering at NCDD2018, discount opportunity on Dzur’s new book – Democracy Inside, upcoming CGA forums, and more. Please join us in congratulating John Dedrick, who was recently named Kettering’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer! If you haven’t already, you can sign up for Kettering’s newsletters by clicking here to stay up-to-date on all that they are is working on.


Kettering Foundation News & Notes – Winter 2018

Sometimes wisdom can be found in odd places. In the 2008 movie The Christmas Clause, an elf at the North Pole patiently explains, “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing.” There are no elves (that we know of) at the foundation, but in researching what it takes to make democracy work as it should, we try to help people recognize democratic practices in a wide variety of often ordinary activities. In the past month, foundation program officers and associates have taken that message on the road in speeches, panels, and conferences.

Civility: Beyond Miss Manners

The need for civility was once a humdrum topic more often found in the musings of Miss Manners than in the opinion pages of the New York Times. No longer. In our highly contentious political environment, civility has become an enduring concern. And explorations of that concern frequently include people who have been involved in Kettering’s work.

An example: On October 29, Solutions Journalism Network cofounder and CEO David Bornstein authored a column in the New York Times to address the topic. Titled “Recovering the (Lost) Art of Civility,” the column is a question-and-answer session with the Consensus Building Institute’s David Fairman. It explores how economic shifts, demographic changes, and a lack of motivation for political parties to work together, instead of stoking conflict, all contribute to rising tensions. The column addresses what citizens can do; for example, cultivating a genuine spirit of curiosity and willingness to listen to what members of “the other side” really believe.

The column cited the work of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, as well as Everyday Democracy and Spaceship Media. People from all of these organizations have participated in Kettering Foundation research exchanges and other meetings at the foundation.

Hal Saunders’ Work Continues

The late Harold “Hal” Saunders, Kettering Foundation longtime director of international affairs and founder of the Sustained Dialogue Institute, was a pillar of the Dartmouth Conference and a creative thinker of the first order. His vision of citizen involvement in peacemaking resulted in his developing Sustained Dialogue, a form of citizen diplomacy that uses empathy, listening, and relationship-building between citizens of different nations to improve understanding. It’s also why he wrote his book Sustained Dialogue in Conflicts: Transformation and Change.
It is fitting that his book has now been translated into Russian, with Kettering Foundation support and the vision of Irina Zvyagelskaya and Alex Aksenenko, members of the Dartmouth Conference Task Force on the Middle East. Both had been using the English version as part of their courses on diplomacy. Irina teaches at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and Alex at Moscow State University.

Senior associate Phil Stewart tells us that the Russian International Affairs Council will hold a public event at the end of December 2018 to formally announce the book’s publication. Hal has been gone nearly two years, but it is gratifying that his visionary work continues to bear fruit.

Out and About with Kettering Staff

Ray Minor: The Day “OGs” Taught Firefighters
When Kettering Foundation program officer Ray Minor talks, E.F. Hutton listens.

Ray delivered a speech at the E.F. Hutton and Antioch College conference on Social Capital in Yellow Springs, Ohio, on October 20. Ray spoke of social capital as the relations and connections that build trust, reciprocity, and a willingness to work together as citizens, institutions, and communities.

In his speech, Ray cited five case studies to illustrate his points. One involved the Los Angeles Fire Department’s work with former gang members, or OGs (original gangsters), in the south precinct. The OGs educated the firefighters, who were fearful of answering calls in crime-ridden neighborhoods, on gang culture and behaviors; the firefighters trained the gang members in life-saving techniques. Call them strange bedfellows, call them coproducers; somehow, it all works.

Read the rest of Ray’s speech here.

Ray also moderated a panel at the 2018 Northeast Conference on Public Administration, which was held November 2-4 in Baltimore, Maryland. Ray’s remarks for the panel, “A critique on the government’s response to communities of color,” discussed US immigration policy and its adverse effects on people of color. Ray cited four cases, including Vietnamese and Haitian “boat people,” Cuban refugees, and the recent Central American refugee caravan to support his point that US immigration policy historically has favored certain European immigrants and disfavored immigrants from nations of color, including China, Mexico, and African countries.

A Civil Dialogue with Valerie Lemmie
On October 19, Kettering Foundation director of exploratory research Valerie Lemmie brought her independent status as a voter and her years of experience as a city manager to a University of Dayton panel titled “A civil dialogue in an uncivil time.”

The panel featured former Ohio governor Robert Taft and members of the Ohio statehouse on both sides of the aisle, as well as members of academia. The audience heard Valerie reflect on the challenges of citizenship and working in government.

“The value of working in local government is that you get exposed to every facet of society from elites to the downtrodden,” Valerie said. “Often when people are uncivil, it is because of their anger and their frustration. They have had it! They come to a city council meeting and are given three minutes to speak. While they are talking, nobody is listening. They have knocked on the door, and nobody has answered,” she said.

Valerie recalled her work in Cincinnati when the shooting of an African American man by a police officer sparked unrest. “The hardest part as a civil servant and a woman of color was to be boycotted whenever I walked along downtown streets, to hear protesters chant ‘No justice, no peace.’ It broke my heart that they thought I, as a woman of color, did not understand,” Valerie said. “I saw my role as being in the system but not becoming the system in order to make change.”

“Most of us care about our communities. . . . What if we got together on a wicked problem that we were concerned about? What if we said, ‘This isn’t a right or wrong issue; this is a matter of values’? We may not agree with our neighbor, but this will give us a perspective that we didn’t have before, a perspective that allows us to wrestle with the trade-offs and perhaps be able to reach common ground on what we can do to solve problems,” Valerie said.

For more, watch the video.

Dzur’s Book Explores Innovations in Democracy
In December, Oxford University Press will publish a new book by Albert Dzur, professor at Bowling Green State University and former scholar-in-residence at Kettering. Democracy Inside: Participatory Innovation in Unlikely Places looks at recent instances of transformative citizen action across the United States and, through examples and interviews, demonstrates that looking beyond conventional politics is necessary to bring about change. Dzur argues that change requires transforming classrooms, courtrooms, and offices into civic spaces where citizens and institutions can interact in a constructive and effective way.

You can order a copy on the Oxford University Press website. Use code ASFLYQ6 to save 30 percent.

KF Swarms Conference
The National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) met in Denver November 2-4, and among its 40-plus presenters for more than 5 dozen workshops were many familiar faces from the Kettering Foundation, including program officer Ekaterina Lukianova and senior associates Betty Knighton and Paula Ellis. There were many more fellow travelers who have come to the foundation over the years, including, of course, Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD’s founding director. The conference featured a deliberation led by Virginia York on the opioid epidemic, using the NIF issue guide What Should We Do about the Opioid Epidemic? For more details and information, head over to the NCDD website.

Dedrick Named Kettering’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
John R. Dedrick has been named executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation.

“John’s new title recognizes the work he has already done, providing leadership to both the foundation’s research programs and its operations,” said Kettering president David Mathews in announcing Dedrick’s new title. “This recognition is long overdue and well deserved.”

“It’s an honor and privilege to be part of this organization,” Dedrick said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve the foundation.”

Since 2008, Dedrick has served as Kettering’s vice president and program director. He joined the foundation in 1995 as a program officer and held the position of director of programs from 2003 to 2008.

Dedrick received a BA and MA from the College of William and Mary and an MA and PhD in political science from Rutgers University.

Dedrick is emeritus board president of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement. He serves on the executive committee of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, Philanthropy Ohio’s public policy committee and the editorial board of the Journal of Public Deliberation. He is also a faculty fellow at Fielding Graduate University, where he leads seminars on topics including deliberation, dialogue, and civic engagement.

Common Ground for Action Forums in December

There are a number of Common Ground for Action (CGA) forum opportunities coming up in December. These are great opportunities to let students or colleagues try a deliberative forum from the comfort of their own desk (or couch).

  • Wednesday, December 5 @ 1:00 pm EST to Thursday, December 6 @ 3:00 pm EST
    CGA Moderator Workshop for Educators  REGISTER
  • Wednesday, December 5 @ 1:00 pm EST/10:00 am PST
    Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want?  REGISTER
  • Saturday, December 15 @ 6:00 pm EST/3:00 pm PST
    America’s Energy Future: How Can We Take Charge?  REGISTER

And, for those who have been trained as CGA moderators but could use a refresher or have questions about using CGA in their work, Kara Dillard has online “office hours” each Friday. REGISTER here! December’s sessions are:

  • December 7 @ 12 pm EST
  • December 14 @ 12 pm EST

Thelma Chollar

The foundation lost a good friend the week before Thanksgiving when Thelma Chollar died at the age of 102. She was the widow of former Kettering Foundation board chair and president Robert G. Chollar (1971-1981). Chollar had been residing in an assisted living facility in Vienna, Virginia, for several years. Her son Ric wrote in an email that her final days were comfortable and pain-free. The family plans to hold a memorial service in Fairfax, Virginia, January 12.

Mary Mathews remembers Chollar as a strong woman who exerted a quiet influence behind the scenes. “What I remember the most is how open and inviting the expression on her face always was; it was reflective of an innate gentleness and acceptance,” Mary said. She said Chollar often hosted social events at her home with Kettering Foundation board members, staff, and associates because the term of her husband’s presidency predated the current campus and the foundation had no facilities for get-togethers.

Bob Daley was the foundation’s director of communications when Robert Chollar died in 1981. For several years thereafter, Bob and his wife, Berneta, would escort Chollar to foundation events, picking her up at her Kettering condominium and bringing her to dinners and other occasions. “She was a small woman, always gracious, and always grateful for the little things we would do for her,” Bob said.

Read the full obituary here.

See KF or NIF in the news? Please let us know.

We do our best to track mentions of the foundation and National Issues Forums in the news and in academic journals, but we need your help to make sure we don’t miss anything. If you see Kettering or National Issues Forums mentioned in press coverage or academic publications, please let us know by emailing newsandnotes@kettering.org.

Common Ground for Action Dates in November & December

For those looking to get more experience with the Common Ground for Action (CGA) forums, there are several forums and open practice sessions happening throughout November and December. CGA is an online platform from NCDD member orgs, the National Issues Forums Institute and Kettering Foundation, to be used in conjunction with the NIFI issues guides and hold space for participants to deliberate on that specific issue. Forums will be held on a wide range of subjects, so we encourage you to learn more about the offerings and register to join! You can read the announcement in the post below and find the original information on NIFI’s site here.


Register to Join an Online Forum – November and December Dates Available

The Kettering Foundation (KF) and the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) are convening online Common Ground for Action (CGA) forums in November and December— these are great opportunities to share with people you’d like to experience a deliberative forum: teachers who might want to use deliberation in the classroom, partners on an issue who are new to forums.  Please share this post widely with your networks and on social media.

Register below to participate in any of the following CGA forums.

Common Ground for Action Open Forum Series:

What Should We Do About the Opioid Epidemic?  Register
Thursday November 1 @ 1:30p ET/10:30am PDT

Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome? What Should We Do?  Register
Tuesday November 13th @ 12:00pm ET/9:00am PDT

Changing World of Work: What Should We Ask of Higher Education?  Register
Monday November 26th @ 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PDT

Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want?  Register
Wednesday December 5th @ 1:00pm ET/10:00am PDT

America’s Energy Future: How Can We Take Charge?  Register
Saturday December 15th @ 6:00pm ET/3:00pm PDT

November and December Common Ground for Action moderator practice sessions on Fridays. Register to join by signing up here!

This is an open practice session for new and seasoned Common Ground for Action online deliberation moderators. We will play around with features, workshop deliberative questions, and get practice moderating a robust online deliberative forum.

  • November 2nd @ 12p ET
  • November 9th @ 12p ET
  • November 16th @ 12p ET
  • November 30th @ 12p ET
  • December 7th @ 12p ET
  • December 14th @ 12p ET

You can find the original version of this announcement on NIFI’s site at www.nifi.org/en/register-join-online-forum-november-and-december-dates-available.

Taylor Willingham Grant Accepting Applications Until Nov 20

In case you missed it, the National Issues Forums Institute, an NCDD member org is now accepting applications for the 2019 Taylor L. Willingham Legacy Fund grant. The grants are intended to honor the legacy of Taylor Willingham and her contributions to the field of deliberative democracy by supporting projects in the field, and we highly encourage NCDD members to apply for a grant or donate to the fund. Applications are due November 20, 2018, so make sure you submit yours before it’s too late! Click here to learn more about Taylor’s life work and past awardees’ work – 2018 winner Matt Miller, 2017 winner Lauren Gabbard, and 2016 winner Edward W. “Chipps” Taylor III. You can read the announcement below and find the original on NIFI’s site here.


Apply Now for a Taylor L. Willingham Legacy Grant to Help Your Community Talk about Public Issues

Applications are now being accepted (deadline is November 20, 2018) from individuals who are interested in being considered to receive a Taylor L. Willingham Legacy Fund grant. Grants are provided to individuals to enable them to develop an understanding of deliberative democracy and launch one or more deliberative dialogues in their communities and organizations in order to advance NIFI’s overall mission, which is to promote public deliberation about national issues.

Grants are expected to be in the range of $500-1,000.

The Taylor L. Willingham Fund was established to honor the work of Taylor Willingham in the deliberative democracy movement and is administered by the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI).

Click here to download an application.

You can find the original version of this announcement on NIFI’s blog at www.nifi.org/en/apply-now-taylor-l-willingham-legacy-grant-help-your-community-talk-about-public-issues.

Deliberation and How We Use it in Everyday Life

The National Issues Forums Institute – an NCDD member and NCDD2018 sponsor org, recently shared an update on the work that the Kettering Foundation has found on the nature of public deliberation. While process and design are important parts of engagement work, the reality is that deliberation happens every day, both inside of ourselves and in our casual interactions. Having a structure is immensely helpful in bringing our reactions and decisions into more concrete reality, and yet even outside of the more formal spaces of forums, we are still going through the experience of weighing our options and deciding on next action steps in our everyday life. You can read the article below and find the original version on the NIFI site here.


Deliberation Every Day – An Update on Kettering Foundation Research on Public Deliberation

Two of the most-often-used words in describing public decision-making are deliberation and forums. All forums aren’t deliberative and all deliberations aren’t carried out informally organized forums. However, in this instance, the subject is deliberative forums. These forums serve several purposes. One is to remind people of their own ability to deliberate and to show what distinguishes deliberation from other forms of speech. When people become aware of their innate power to deliberate, it is self-empowering. Another function of deliberative forums is to help move public thinking from first opinions to more shared and reflective judgments. And still another is not just to inspire more forums but to bring deliberation into all the places and occasions where people are talking about the decisions they have to make as citizens.

There are some common misunderstandings that stand in the way of deliberative forums doing what they need to do in order to make democracy work as it should. One is that it is a magical process or technique that will produce a stable and lasting democracy. But, as has been said, democracy is a journey, not a destination. Deliberation helps people keep moving in a positive direction. Democracy does not produce perfect governments (if there are such things), yet it does foster governments that are able to recover from their inevitable mistakes. Another misperception is that only the well-educated and economically well-off citizenry can deliberate. That just isn’t true. Still another error is thinking that public deliberation will only be significant if it gets “up to scale.” Deliberating is difficult sometimes but it is naturally occurring; there are elements of it in everyday speech.[1]In that sense, it is already up to scale. The difficulty is that it is often interrupted by partisan diatribes, blaming, wish-listing, and other common maladies of public talk. Recognizing what deliberation is like and what it can do are the antidotes.

The choices citizens make about what should be done to solve their problems or set policies need to be sound choices. That is the role of deliberation. Without deliberation, discussions easily degenerate into personal pleadings, sound bites, and partisan rancor. Peoples’ first opinions may be store-bought, prepackaged, and unreflective. Originally the word meant to weigh carefully, as was done on the ancient balancing scales used to determine the value of goods sold in the marketplace. Weighing means exercising good judgment, which has also been called moral reasoning. Moral reasoning or judgment is required when decisions have to be made about what is best for all or, in an ethical sense, what should bedone. There are no experts on such normative questions, and in a democracy there is no authority to give answers other than the people themselves.

The most distinctive characteristic of deliberation is giving a “fair trial” to unpopular views. That is difficult, which is why deliberation has been called “choice work.” Deliberation recognizes that our most challenging decisions aren’t between options that are good and those that are evil. Rather they are between options that are both good yet are in tension in given situations. For instance, doing something that will make us more secure may well restrict our freedom. In a democracy, there is no one authority everyone accepts who can tell us what is most valuable to us. We are the only ones who can do that. However, different people, being in different situations and having different experiences, will have different priorities. And these differences, which won’t go away, can only be harmonized or made less polarizing by the collective exercise of judgment. And that is the purpose of public deliberation.

Deliberation is intertwined with acting and isn’t a separate process; the experience of acting continually shapes the decision-making, just as the decision-making shapes the action.[2]It makes no sense to think of deliberation as separate from action. In fact, past actions or experiences, when filtered through the things people consider most valuable, often become the “facts” most relevant in making decisions. The public deliberation that Kettering has seen uses expert and professional knowledge but adds the information people create as they look at their experiences through the lenses of what they hold dear.

Although deliberation is difficult, it is a natural act. The human brain is wired for deliberation. And ancient languages around the world have a term for collective decision-making because it is essential to collective survival. The purpose of forums isn’t to introduce a new methodology, “deliberation,” but rather to make people more aware of a natural faculty. That recognition is empowering—self-empowering.

In daily conversations, people talk about the problems that concern them, what action should be taken to respond, and who is needed to act. Yet their casual conversations may not sound very deliberative. Deliberation isn’t something apart from ordinary speech but goes on in multiple layers of talk. At times people may just be complaining or posturing or looking for someone to blame. Carefully weighing alternatives may be interspersed with comments that don’t appear to have anything to do with deliberating. People may start conversations by telling a story about some troubling experience and then move on to explaining who they are in order to establish their identity. “Don’t think I am heartless when I say. . . .”

Everyday deliberation often begins to take shape over backyard fences, during coffee breaks, and at the grocery store. People start by talking to those they live and work with—sometimes including even those who aren’t of a like mind. (People who look alike don’t necessarily think alike.) And while people often take comfort in opinions they like, they may also be curious about contrary views, provided those views aren’t being advanced in an offensive manner. People certainly try to persuade one another as they hold on to cherished beliefs. Yet they may do more; they may begin to weigh the options they like best more carefully.

Although found in many neighborhood conversations, deliberation can’t always be heard because much of the careful weighing of options for action goes on inside people’s heads. Still, deliberation involves listening as much as it does speaking. By listening attentively, we can take in the experiences of others without necessarily agreeing with what they are advocating.

One of the main contributions of formally organized forums is to help people recognize ways they can move informal, top-of-the-head chatter in a deliberative direction. There, one may hear helpful questions like, “How does what we are seeing affect you personally or your family?” This gets at what people hold dear. Or a question like, “What else do people consider valuable?” broadens the focus beyond things purely individualistic. “Do you know of anybody else who is concerned but might have a different opinion?” expands the focus, as does the follow-up question, “Why do you think they care?” And asking, “If that is what bothers you, what would you do about it?” moves the conversation to options for action. That opens the door to a follow-up, “If we did what you propose but it had negative consequences for what you said you cared about, would you still favor your proposal?” This kind of question brings out tensions among all that people consider valuable. And it encourages careful weighing of options. Note that these deliberative-friendly questions are quite ordinary. There isn’t anything that they require before asking them.

The citizens’ briefing books that NIF uses follow the same basic line of conversation. They describe the things people consider valuable, present options for action that follow from these concerns, and then show the tensions or trade-offs that people have to work through in order to reach shared and reflective decisions about what they are or aren’t willing to do.

I should be clear that I am not suggesting that organized forums use these questions as a script for a moderator to follow. Nothing would be more likely to inhibit the exchange that must go on in order for people to deliberate with one another. These are just illustrations of what “working through” sounds like.

[1]See Jane Mansbridge, “Everyday Talk in the Deliberative System,” in Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement, ed. Stephen Macedo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). Her concept of a “system” helps locate deliberative forums in the larger context of political speech.
[2]Daniel Yankelovich, Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1991), 95-96

You can find the original version of this post on the National Issues Forums Institute blog at www.nifi.org/en/deliberation-every-day-update-kettering-foundation-research-public-deliberation.

NIFI Common Ground for Action Events This Summer

NCDD member org, the National Issues Forums Institute, has several events and opportunities coming up this summer for their online platform, Common Ground for Action (CGA), that we wanted to share with the network. In July, there are CGA open practice sessions and several forum series events around the issues guides: Shaping Our Future, Coming to America, and The Changing World of Work. On August 15th, there is a CGA New Moderator Training Workshop for educators, which will be hosted by NCDD member Kara Dillard. We encourage you to read about the events below and find them on NIFI’s site here.


Upcoming Common Ground for Action Forums

KF and NIFI are convening four open Common Ground for Action forums in July— these are great opportunities to share with people you’d like to experience a deliberative forum: teachers who might want to use deliberation in the classroom, partners on an issue who are new to forums, all kinds of folks!  Please share this post widely with your networks and on social media!

Register below to participate in any of the following CGA forums!

“Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want?”
Monday,  July 9th | 7pm EST/4p PDT I REGISTER

“Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do?”
Saturday July 14th |  7pm EST/4p PDT I REGISTER

“The Changing World of Work: What Should We Ask of Higher Education?”
Wednesday,  July 18th |  3p EST/12p PDT I REGISTER

“Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do?”
Friday July 27th |  11am EST/8a PDT I REGISTER

Also, if you have been trained to moderate a CGA forum but are looking for chances to practice, please check out the following open practice sessions:

Wednesday July 11 | 3-5p EST | PRACTICE

Wednesday July 25th | 3-5p EST | PRACTICE

And lastly, our CGA Moderator Training Specialist, Kara Dillard, also keeps “office hours” every Friday at 3:30 pm ET/12:30 PT. Have questions about using CGA in the classroom, or remembering how to use the Gala function, or want to draft a moderator to help out with a big forum event? Register here, or just email Kara anytime!

August 2018 CGA New Moderator Training Workshop for Educators
Wednesday Aug 15th |  12pm EST/9a PDT | REGISTER

You can find the original version of this announcement on the National Issues Forums Institute’s blog at www.nifi.org/en/july-cga.

Watch Recording of the 2018 A Public Voice Event in DC

In case you missed it, the recording was released for last month’s A Public Voice, held May 9th in Washington DC. The annual event hosted by NCDD member orgs – the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute, brought together policymakers, their staffers, and folks from the D&D field to discuss outcomes from the forums on immigration that were held throughout the year. You can read the announcement and watch the APV2018 recording in the post below, and find the original on NIFI’s site here.


Watch – A Public Voice 2018, Recorded May 9, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC

A Public Voice, the Kettering Foundation‘s annual event that brings together policymakers and practitioners of deliberative democracy from around the country, was held on May 9, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The two-hour panel discussion and audience questions were recorded (the program begins at about 14 minutes, 20 seconds into the recording) and can be viewed at  https://tinyurl.com/APublicVoice2018.

Gary Paul, a National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director and professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University; and John Doble, Kettering Foundation senior associate and contributing editor of the Coming to America issue guide, moderated the exchange among members of a panel that included:

  • Jean Johnson, National Issues Forums Institute, Vice President for moderator development and communications and contributor to the Coming to America report
  • Alberto Olivas, Executive Director, Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service, Arizona State University
  • Virginia York, National Issues Forums moderator, Panama City, Florida
  • Oliver Schwab, chief of staff, Rep. David S. Schweickert
  • Mischa Thompson, senior policy advisor, US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
  • Adam Hunter, former director, immigration and the states project, Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Betsy Wright Hawkings, program director, governance initiative, Democracy Fund

You can find the original version of this announcement on the National Issues Forums Institute’s blog at www.nifi.org/en/watch-public-voice-2018-recorded-may-9-2018-national-press-club-washington-dc.

Hidden Common Ground Initiative Findings on Health Care

The second report of the Hidden Common Ground Initiative has been recently released by NCDD member org, Public Agenda, in collaboration with fellow NCDDer the Kettering Foundation. This report focuses on how people in the US feel towards health care; and it shows that while people seemed to be divided over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there was much common ground to be found over health care, in general. Explore the public’s view on this issue by checking out the full report here. You can read the announcement from Public Agenda below and find more information on the Hidden Common Ground Initiative here.


Where Americans See Eye to Eye on Health Care

This report from the Hidden Common Ground Initiative focuses on hidden or otherwise underappreciated common ground in health care. How do people talk across party lines about the problems facing our health care system? What do people think should be done to make progress?

Finding Common Ground on Health Care

Health care has long been controversial and is certainly among the more partisan problems in American politics today—at least among political leaders. In 2017 alone, the American public witnessed endless debate among leaders over whether and how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and also witnessed Republicans’ inability to devise and pass new health care legislation—all part of leaders’ age-old ideological disagreements about how health care should work in this country.

Despite such a bleak picture, does the intense partisan division over health care among elected officials and pundits actually reflect partisan divisions among the public at large? Survey research does indicate continuing partisan divisions among the public on the favorability of the ACA. But despite these and other divisions along party lines on the direction we should go to improve health care in the United States, Public Agenda’s research and engagement experience over the past 40 years indicates that even seemingly divided groups may share or be able to find significant common ground.

When people from different walks of life sit down and talk about health care, how do they process the problem and think about solutions? Our approach to exploring the public’s views on the topic began with a review of existing survey data and proceeded to three focus groups in diverse locations with ordinary Americans, with roughly equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and Independents in each group. This report concludes with implications and reflections on the solutions that are most and least likely to garner public support and with ideas for productively engaging the public on the topic of health care.

About the Hidden Common Ground Initiative

It’s taken decades for our national politics to become as ideologically polarized and gridlocked as they are today, but it’s only recently that pundits and pollsters have started to converge on a narrative that blames the general public, instead of a flawed political system and culture, for this state of affairs. Especially since the 2016 election, a storyline has taken hold that portrays our dysfunctional national politics as a reflection of our profound divisions as a people. In this account, we’re an alienated society with no ability to understand one another, let alone find common ground or work together toward common ends.

For example, a 2016 series published by the Associated Press, Divided America, argued:

It’s no longer just Republican vs. Democrat, or liberal vs. conservative. It’s the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent, rural vs. urban, white men against the world. Climate doubters clash with believers. Bathrooms have become battlefields, borders are battle lines. Sex and race, faith and ethnicity…the melting pot seems to be boiling over.

Such rhetoric about divisions among the public has proliferated, and surely it captures something important about the contemporary United States. We are fragmented in many ways, with consequential differences, divides and disagreements that are important to acknowledge and address. But our divisions are hardly the whole story, and this rhetoric can be dangerously self-reinforcing, exacerbating the divisions it chronicles, stunting our political imagination and playing into the hands of those who would manipulate and intensify our differences to their own advantage.

The Hidden Common Ground Initiative explores a different hypothesis and possibility— namely, that as far as the broader public is concerned, there is often enough common ground to at least begin forging progress on many of the problems we face. Moreover, with some nurturing quite a bit more common ground can emerge. The initiative is concerned with locating the common ground that exists on tough issues and giving it greater voice and currency in public conversations and policy debates. And it is concerned with generating insight into how more democratically meaningful common ground can be achieved.

We believe that dispelling the myth that we are inescapably divided on practically everything can not only help fuel progress on a host of issues, but also help us better navigate our real, enduring divisions, from differing philosophies of governance to racial tensions. Hidden Common Ground aspires to tell the story of what unites us by way of concrete, actionable solutions that can make a difference in people’s lives and the fate of their communities—and eventually, perhaps, in our national politics as well.

You can read more about the Hidden Common Ground Initiative on Public Agenda’s site at www.publicagenda.org/pages/hidden-common-ground-where-americans-see-eye-to-eye-on-health-care.

Watch A Public Voice 2018 Live Stream on May 9th

Coming up this Wednesday, May 9th, is the annual A Public Voice event, hosted by NCDD member orgs – the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute. APV 2018 will bring the outcomes of this year’s forums on immigration to policymakers and their staffers on the Hill. We encourage you to watch the event, which will be live streamed on Facebook Live from 9:30-11:30am Eastern. Learn more about A Public Voice 2018 here.


Watch a Livestream – A Public Voice 2018

May 9, 9:30-11:30 a.m. Eastern Time
National Press Club, Washington, DC

On May 9, 2018, the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) will host A Public Voice 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. A panel will discuss outcomes from early forums on the issue of immigration reform. A more complete report later in the year will draw from forums that will be held throughout the coming months.

The A Public Voice 2018 event will also feature discussions about the potential of creating future discussion materials about divisiveness in public life.

The 9:30-11:30 a.m., Eastern Time, panel discussion will be live streamed on Facebook, where viewers will be welcome to post their comments.

Gary Paul, a National Issues Forums Institute director and professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, will moderate the exchange among members of a roundtable that will include:

  • John Doble, Kettering Foundation senior associate and contributing editor of the Coming to America issue guide
  • Jean Johnson, National Issues Forums Institute vice president for moderator development and communications and contributor to the Coming to America report
  • Alberto Olivas, executive director, Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service, Arizona State University
  • Virginia York, National Issues Forums moderator, Panama City, Florida
  • Oliver Schwab, chief of staff, Rep. David S. Schweickert
  • Mischa Thompson, senior policy advisor, US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
  • Adam Hunter, former director, immigration and the states project, Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Betsy Wright Hawkings, program director, governance initiative, Democracy Fund

The event will be live streamed via Facebook Live. We want to hear from you about topics, such as how difficult it can be to talk across divides in this country; what those divides look like in your communities; and how you think elected officials could help citizens bridge these divides. Your comments will be part of the live event in DC.

Join the Facebook event to receive updates on when and how to participate.

Learn more about A Public Voice 2018 at www.apublicvoice.org/.
This announcement is from NIFI’s email newsletter which you can sign up for at www.nifi.org/en/user/register.

Inaugural Hidden Common Ground Report Released

NCDD member org, Public Agenda, in collaboration with fellow NCDDer the Kettering Foundation have recently released the inaugural report of their Hidden Common Ground Initiative. This is an effort which seeks to dive deeper into issues that have been polarizing, in order to illuminate where there is common ground; with the hopes of better uniting the public around concrete, actionable solutions. This first round of research explores incarceration, and the following report that is slated to be released in May will revolve around healthcare. You can read the press release from Public Agenda below and find more information on the Hidden Common Ground Initiative here.


New Research Initiative Fights Narrative of Absolute Division of Americans on Critical Issues

Inaugural project of the Hidden Common Ground Initiative elevates areas of agreement on incarceration and criminal justice reform in America

The state of America’s national politics has led many to believe the country is irreparably polarized and gridlocked. Recently, a storyline has taken hold that portrays this dysfunction as a reflection of our profound divisions as a people. However, a new research initiative launched by Public Agenda, in collaboration with the Kettering Foundation, shows that Americans can find common ground on many of the problems our nation faces.

It has taken decades for our national politics to become as polarized as it is today, leading to stagnation on critical issues like gun control, immigration and health care. While it is important to acknowledge the differences and disagreements that do exist, our divisions are hardly the whole story. The Hidden Common Ground Initiative aspires to tell the story of where the public agrees on concrete, actionable solutions and make those areas of agreement more salient and potent in our public life.

“We believe that dispelling the myth that we are hopelessly divided can not only help fuel progress on a host of issues, but also help us better navigate our real, enduring divisions.” said Will Friedman, President of Public Agenda. “We are grateful to have the Kettering Foundation as a collaborator on this initiative that has the potential to fight the often-inflated narrative of an America that is so divided, progress is impossible.”

The Hidden Common Ground Initiative will explore a variety of issues facing our nation and will include the release of a series of reports on our research findings. The first report, “Where Americans See Eye to Eye on Incarceration,” focuses on hidden or otherwise underappreciated common ground in the realm of incarceration and criminal justice reform.

In cross-partisan focus groups held around the country, reinforced by a review of existing survey research, we learned that:

    • The focus group participants felt incarceration serves important functions, such as keeping dangerous people off the streets, but agreed that the criminal justice system can be unfair and make mistakes.
    • Participants were strongly focused on preventing people from becoming criminals in the first place.

For drug crimes, and possibly some other nonviolent offenses, alternatives to incarceration made good sense to most people in the focus groups. But they were unwilling to accept alternative sentencing for violent crimes.

  • Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences was a confusing, unresolved issue for participants.

Focus group findings are summarized in the new report, “Where Americans See Eye to Eye on Incarceration.” Three focus groups were conducted in September 2017 across the United States in urban Hamilton County, Ohio; rural Franklin County, Missouri; and suburban Suffolk County, New York.

The next report from the Hidden Common Ground Initiative, scheduled to be released in May, will explore how people talk across party lines about the problems facing our health care system and what people agree should be done to make progress.

You can read more about the Hidden Common Ground Initiative on Public Agenda’s site at www.publicagenda.org/pages/hidden-common-ground-where-americans-see-eye-to-eye-on-incarceration.

NIFI During NWOC and A Public Voice 2018 on May 9th

This week, people are hosting and participating in conversations around the country as part of the National Week of Conversation (and going on until this Saturday, April 28th). NWOC is an opportunity for folks to come together through conversation and build relationships, in order to continue healing the divisive state of our society. The National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) and the Kettering Foundation – both NCDD member organizations – have created an issue guide to facilitate public deliberation around immigration; which is both a resource for NWOC and to be featured in their upcoming A Public Voice 2018 event (#APV2018) happening May 9th.

A Public Voice is an annual event, created to engage people around an important issue through deliberative forums, then bring together Washington DC policymakers and deliberative democracy practitioners to discuss results of the public’s feedback on that issue. You can learn about the several NIFI events happening this week during NWOC, both in person and online (search “Common Ground for Action”), using this issue guide or their previous guides. We encourage you to read the announcement in the post below and find more information on the APV2018’s site here.


A Public Voice – 2018

For more than 30 years, the Kettering Foundation, in collaboration with the National Issues Forums Institute, has organized A Public Voice, which brings together policymakers and practitioners of deliberative democracy from around the country to discuss insights from citizen deliberations.

A Public Voice 2018 focuses on an issue important to all Americans: immigration. After extensive research and testing with citizens around the country, the Kettering Foundation prepared an issue guide for the National Issues Forums (NIF): Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do? Citizen deliberations using the issue guide are taking place throughout 2018 in public forums around the country. In these public forums, citizens consider the options for dealing with a problem, share their views, and weigh the costs and benefits of possible actions. Forums are held both online and face-to-face, typically last 90 minutes, and attract participants of all ages from all walks of life.

Scheduled for May 9, 2018, this year’s A Public Voice will present early insights from NIF immigration forums around the country, giving policymakers the chance to learn more about citizen deliberation and its role in our democracy. The session will also include an exchange among policymakers and deliberative democracy practitioners about issues the NIF network might tackle in the future. In early 2019, the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forums Institute will publish a final report on the 2018 NIF immigration forums, followed by briefings for individual elected officials, Capitol Hill staffers, and other policymakers.

You can find the original version of this on the site for A Public Voice 2018 at www.apublicvoice.org