NCDD2018 Early Bird Extended Until Tomorrow, July 18th!

In case you missed the opportunity to get your tickets for NCDD2018 at the Early Bird rate, we’ve decided to give folks some extra time to take advantage of this great deal for one of the premier events in the dialogue, deliberation, and engagement field. Which is why we have extended the Early Bird rate to still be active until tomorrow, Wednesday, July 18th!

The National Conference for Dialogue & Deliberation will be from November 2 – 4 in Denver at the downtown Sheraton. It is already shaping up to be an immensely engaging event, where over 450 leaders, practitioners, and enthusiasts in the D&D field will come together to dive deep into this work, collaborate, learn from each other, network, and build relationships that carry on long past the closing plenary. The conference team has been deep in planning over the last many months – developing interactive plenaries, coordinating a jam-packed workshop session line-up, and building networking opportunities in-between it all – you don’t want to miss this exciting opportunity! (Pssst, while not part of this early bird rate… insider tip: we also have several full-day pre-conference sessions that are being developed for Thursday, November 1st – stay tuned to the NCDD blog for more info!)

The early bird rate is $385 until tomorrow, then it goes to our regular registration rate of $450 on Thursday. So we encourage you to get your tickets for #NCDD2018 ASAP while this rate lasts!

You can learn much more about this year’s national conference at www.ncdd.org/ncdd2018, and register today at www.ncdd2018.eventbrite.com to take advantage of the Early Bird rate.

Want to get a better sense of what our conferences are like? Watch the video of NCDD2016 and NCDD2014 and learn even more about our past conferences by clicking here.

NCDD Update: ALA Conf, Frontiers, NCL, and CO Workshop

The NCDD staff has been up to some exciting ventures this last month that we wanted to fill you in on! June 22nd, in particular, was a busy day for the NCDD team as we each trekked to several exciting events that were happening in our network; Co-Founder Sandy Heierbacher was at ALA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans, Managing Director Courtney Breese was at the Frontiers of Democracy conference at Tufts University, and I attended NCL’s National Conference on Local Governance in Denver where NCDD Board Chair Martín Carcasson presented.

As part of our partnership with the American Library Association (ALA), Sandy ran a workshop on Host Training in Conversation Café with NCDD member Susan Partnow. They gave this fantastic day-long session to a packed room of participants from public libraries serving small, mid-sized and/or rural communities; where attendees learned how to organize and host Conversation Cafés. In many communities, particularly smaller and more rural areas, libraries hold vital space as epicenters of community engagement and social change. The workshop prepared participants to run Cafés in their local libraries and how to use this great tool for holding exploratory dialogues with the community.

At the Frontiers conference, Courtney did a session on Partnering to Strengthen Participatory Democracy: How Might We Connect and Collaborate?, in which participants learned examples about efforts to connect engagement practitioners with librarians and journalists, and then explored ways to deepen network connections, particularly across fields. The conference was hosted by the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University and a primary focus this year was around how engagement work can better connect to activism. For example, there was a panel of students from Boston public high schools and Ph.D.s from UMASS, who spoke about the walkout they self-organized over budget issues, what their roles were and the ways they organized. Another one of the speakers was someone who had been previously incarcerated and they spoke about challenges of re-entering into society, the roadblocks they experienced, and how this impacted their ability to fully participate in a democratic society.

NCDD member org – the National Civic League, hosted the National Conference on Local Governance which was a jam-packed, one-day opportunity to dive into some of the cutting-edge practices and processes that improve equity within communities. Martín presented a session about Resident Engagement: How to Change Negatives in which he spoke about the neuroscience behind why traditional public engagement efforts often fall flat and how by designing better engagement processes, communities can be more effective in addressing challenging issues. It was a fantastic session with a perfect blend of information, while being engaging and entertaining! If you haven’t attended a session by Martín, I highly recommend you check one out the next opportunity you get! (Secret insider tip: He’s going to be running an exciting pre-conference session the day before NCDD2018 on Nov 1st that we encourage you to check out – Stay tuned to the blog for details to follow…)

Last week, I spoke at the monthly meeting for the Arvadans for Progressive Action about cultivating constructive conversations, in which I shared more about the NCDD network and several helpful tips and resources for making conversations more effective. Despite being a hot Colorado day, it was a great turnout of folks dedicated to working hard to engage the community and create a more equitable world. Huge thank you to all those who attended the event and asked really dynamic questions; and many thanks to the Arvadans for Progressive Action for inviting me to come share conversational tips and wisdom from the NCDD network.

On a related note, NCDD staff would love to come hold a workshop with your group, organization, or event!  We are happy to tailor the workshop to your needs for navigating challenging conversations. I am located in Denver, Managing Director Courtney Breese is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Co-Founder Sandy Heierbacher is in Boston; all of us can travel to our respective surrounding areas to hold workshops. For folks that are located outside of these places, contact us and let’s see if we can coordinate logistics with travel or technology to make a workshop happen for you! Please contact me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]orgfor workshop inquiries. 

Inspiring Our Best Selves Through Franklin’s Virtues

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles (BFC), we have been connecting the stories coming from the Circles here on the blog. The most recent article, written by Sarah Goodwin Thiel of the Harwood Institute – also an NCDD member org – makes note of how Franklin’s 13 virtues can inspire us to live closer to our higher selves. You can read the article below and find the original on BFC’s site here.


Calling Our Best Selves

When one lives in the DC Metro area, the founding fathers are never far away. You see them everywhere – universities and institutes are named after them; books by and about them grace shop windows; they are memorialized at every turn – their likenesses found in statues, their words engraved on walls and plaques. And now, as in the case of Ben Franklin, groups of people are gathering monthly to discuss their ideas. Ben Franklin Circles are not unique to Washington DC but I was unaware of them before arriving here. Following the book club format, with good food and lively conversation, these circles bring people together to discuss BF’s 13 Virtues, considered and documented by Franklin when he was just 20 years old. At this writing, I have engaged with only four of Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues. My friend and I joined another friend’s neighborhood Ben Franklin Circle on month #5 where we had a rousing discussion of frugality and were left looking at the concept in new and different ways.

Since then, in our monthly discussions of the virtues, we have each shared and discussed our varied views of the concepts and we have done our best to make sense of BF’s definitions. Our conversations cover a lot of ground, we move between confidence and vulnerability as BF calls us to live purposefully and responsibly. His focus is not on doing the “right” thing but on doing all things thoughtfully and with intention. He asks us to be mindful of our own gifts, our own privilege and to make sound decisions that do no harm to others – or to ourselves. Each month, Ben Franklin slips into our lives to remind us
to be our best selves.

Imagine if we were all to do that. It stands to reason that together our efforts would be strengthened and our impact far greater. But that kind of intentionality begs for brutal honesty, discipline, self-awareness and a sincere belief in personal responsibility. And that’s the catch, right? How many of us have all these things? Or the wherewithal to practice them, if we do? Ben Franklin surely knew this. He knew from his own experience that living a “virtuous” life, as he defined it, would not come as second nature but would require practice. Franklin’s virtues must be repeated, they need to be considered regularly and practiced daily.

I have to say that in just four months, I find myself looking at things very differently. I am determined, with BF’s virtues in mind, and with lots of practice, to put my best self forward. To use my resources and my privilege to benefit others as well as myself. I will soon be leaving the Metro area and will no longer see the founding fathers every day but I go with a new aspiration to live thoughtfully and with intention – and I have Ben Franklin to thank for that.

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness. Drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e., Waste nothing.
  6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Sarah Goodwin Thiel is a Studio Associate at the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in DC, where she is a member of a Ben Franklin Circle. Post originally published by the Harwood Institute https://theharwoodinstitute.org/news/2018/7/5/calling-our-best-selves

You can find this version of the article on the Ben Franklin Circles’ blog at www.benfranklincircles.org/virtues/calling-our-best-selves.

Get Your Early Bird Tickets to NCDD2018 by July 15th!

We wanted to give everyone a friendly reminder that the early bird registration is available until Sunday, July 15th for the upcoming 2018 National Conference for Dialogue & Deliberation! After that date, the prices will go up to our regular registration of $450 so we encourage you to act fast to take part in this low rate while it lasts!

We are so excited for NCDD2018 which will be happening from November 2-4 in Denver at the downtown Sheraton. NCDD conferences are an exciting and engaging experience that convenes over 400 leaders, practitioners, and enthusiasts in the dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement field. The theme of the conference is Connecting and Strengthening Civic Innovators, where we hope to come together to explore, learn, and work toward further bringing D&D work into greater visibility and widespread practice.

For folks who submitted workshop proposals, we are finalizing decisions now and will be letting people know ASAP. We received over 120 proposals, twice the amount we have space for, and are giving each proposal our careful consideration. Thank you so much for your patience as we review these incredible session ideas! Keep a lookout in your inbox for an email coming soon from the NCDD team!

There is another exciting opportunity we want to remind you of and that is our D&D showcase! The D&D Showcase is a lively cocktail networking event that provides an opportunity for select individuals and organizations in our field to share some of the leading ideas, tools, projects, and initiatives in dialogue & deliberation with conference participants all in one space. It’s an interactive space to share your work with hundreds of passionate fellow D&Ders. Learn more about the showcase and the requirements for being a presenter by clicking here.

If you are looking to heighten the profile of your work and/or organization – become an NCDD2018 conference sponsor! We offer many benefits for varying levels of sponsorship, as well as, the ability to sponsor specific parts of the conference.  Click here to learn more about the tiers and benefits when you become an NCDD sponsor! If you have any questions about sponsorship, or would like to discuss other ideas about how your organization can support the conference, send an email to NCDD founding director Sandy Heierbacher at sandy[at]ncdd[dot]org and suggest a few times you’re available for a call.

You can learn much more about this year’s national conference at www.ncdd.org/ncdd2018, and register today at www.ncdd2018.eventbrite.com to take advantage of the Early Bird rate.

Want to get a better sense of what our conferences are like? Watch the video of NCDD2016 and NCDD2014 and learn even more about our past conferences by clicking here.

Exploring Civility in America through Ben Franklin’s Wisdom

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles (BFC), we have been sharing stories from BFC. Because of the vitriol of the US political climate these last few years, there has been an increased call for civility. The article offers the views of Ben Franklin and Dale Carnegie as thought fodder for bringing more civility to America. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


Ben Franklin & Civility

“The only way to win an argument is to avoid it.”

Dale Carnegie’s famous remark was preceded by Benjamin Franklin’s own formulation of this axiom, which he describes in his Autobiography as the “habit of modest diffidence.” Franklin explains that this practice banishes the categorical from his vocabulary, ascribing to this habit much of his success “when [he] had occasion to inculcate [his] opinion and persuade men into measures.”

Gone were words such as “Certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give air to the positives to an opinion,” and welcomed were such phrases as “I conceived,” “I apprehend,” and “I imagine it to be so.”

At bottom, Carnegie and Franklin offer the same bit of advice: to persuade people to your point of view, you must appear to not disagree with them at all.

If you are now thinking, “How are you supposed to have a conversation without appearing to say anything different from one’s interlocutor?” I know what you mean. It is also fair to ask whether it is patronizing—or even dishonest—to smile and nod at your conversation partner for the sake of personal gain or social ease.

Indeed, Carnegie and Franklin may well be accused by one Tom Scocca of being purveyors of “smarm,” a disposition he scathingly condemned in a 4,000 word treatise.

“Smarm,” says Scocca, “is a kind of performance — an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance.” Smarm, he says, is the tool of self-aggrandizers and the death of public discourse and intellectual honesty. It was when BuzzFeed assumed Thumper’s motto, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”—which sounds vaguely reminiscent of Carnegie’s and Franklin’s advice—that Scocca could no longer stay silent. “The evasion of disputes is a defining tactic of smarm. Smarm, whether political or literary, insists that the audience accept the priors it has been given. Debate begins where the important parts of the debate have ended.” Smarm refuses to engage with ideas by instead “smoothing over” disagreement for the sake of social comfort or personal gain. This, for Scocca, is what makes smarm dishonest and worthy of contempt.

Writer Leon Wieseltier concurs: “In intellectual and literary life, where the stakes may be quite high, manners must never be the primary consideration. People who advance controversial notions should be prepared for controversy. Questions of truth, meaning, goodness, justice and beauty are bigger than Bambi.”

I quite agree.

But that does not mean we should wholly discard Carnegie’s and Franklin’s admonitions. It is possible to disagree with someone without permanently rupturing the relationship, and they point us how to do that.

By encouraging us to be sensitive to how our interlocutor will hear our words, Carnegie and Franklin direct us toward true civility, a mode that respects the inherent dignity of each person with whom one interacts

By placing people at the center, true civility provides a framework for understanding not just when to criticize and when to focus on social ease but, perhaps more importantly, how.

True civility is more than “niceness” because it respects people enough to take them and their ideas seriously. The truly civil person is one who is teachable, who is willing to be wrong, and willing to place a relationship before being right.

Oscar Wilde wrote, “A gentleman is one who never gives offense… unintentionally.” There is, contrary to Carnegie and Franklin’s position, a time to take a strong stance that perhaps even gives offense. We also are not always in control of when others are offended by us. But by plumbing with reinvigorated rigor the foundation to our souls, examining if our values and priorities are reflected in our words and deeds, and be part of re claiming a more authentic, and truly civil, America.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at www.benfranklincircles.org/virtues/ben-franklin-civility.

Ben Franklin Circle Reflections on Moderation in Politics

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles (BFC), we are continuing to share stories coming from the Circles. In this most recent BFC post, Micah Towery lifts up reflections from the discussion that took place in the Circle he runs when they explored moderation; and how this virtue can play a role in our political lives. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


Moderation as a Political Virtue

“Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”

Didn’t we already cover this idea with temperance? That was my first thought as I prepared to lead our Circle on the topic of moderation.

I read it again. Resentment? Injuries? That sounded pretty different from “Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.” Clearly, Franklin thought of this term differently than I was used to, but as a leader, I struggled to understand the difference between moderation and temperance.

Thankfully, facilitating a Ben Franklin Circle doesn’t mean having all the answers, and my own Circle helped me realize that Franklin is talking about this term as a particularly political virtue.

Here are some things I discovered about this virtue from our discussions.

1. Avoid extremes

Does being moderate mean being wishy-washy? Does it mean always taking the political middle ground? Certainly not. Some in our group brought up the great social reformers, especially those who used non-violence as a tactic. The Civil Rights movement was certainly not in the political ‘middle,’ and many people died for that cause. Clearly, there were strong convictions at work, but the Civil Rights movement still embodies Franklin’s virtue of moderation.

Another example of moderation that our Circle discussed were Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. These examples demonstrate the power of checking resentment without watering down conviction or pretending “I’m OK, you’re OK.”

2. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve

In contemporary society, we’re often taught that strong feelings guide the way to our inner convictions. Indeed, a deep passion to set things right is a positive thing. It energizes us and can embolden us to make sacrifices or speak up when we are afraid. But what if strong feelings aren’t always a reliable guide? What if instead, they are passions that could turn destructive and blind us to self-examination?

I think Franklin’s virtue of moderation also requires us to examine our own positions soberly. What’s the line between resentment for personal slights and a deep passion to set things right?

It’s not always easy to see. As the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has argued, our feelings often come first and rationalization comes later. Haidt says we’re caught in a kind of “moral matrix” and there is a deep and pleasurable tendency to join “teams” with similar matrices (cheering for your favorite sports team is a great example of this). In this sense, our deepest feelings, even those we share with others who we admire, could be blinding us from open dialogue across values systems.

We will always have disagreements with others, sometimes irreconcilable ones. Yet we must live together and confront mutual problems, as well.

Moderation is about honoring the general norm that civic engagement–necessary for our life together–cannot continue without our ability to check and examine our own strong feelings. Cultivating this virtue, then, means listening to others better and seeing ourselves more truly.

3. Practical civility

Going through Franklin’s 13 virtues, I have come to realize that these civic virtues are not puritanical rules. They are norms we must apply practically, but not obsessively enforce. They are habits of mind and body we should try to cultivate in ourselves and encourage in others.

If you visited Micah Towery in South Bend, you’d probably find him hanging out with neighbors or engaged in a side hustle. He formed and lead the first Ben Franklin Circle in South Bend. He teaches occasionally at Notre Dame and Goshen College. He has a book of poetry called Whale of Desire.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at https://benfranklincircles.org/moderation/moderation-as-a-political-virtue.

Nevins Fellows Begin Internships – TWO with NCDD orgs!

We are very excited to share an update from Penn State’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy, that the new Nevins Fellows will be starting their summer internships! NCDD has partnered with the McCourtney Institute over the last few years to help connect students from their Nevins Democracy Leaders Program to internships with individuals and organizations in the D&D and public engagement field. We are extra proud to share that two of the fellows will be joining NCDD member orgs – the Participatory Budgeting Project and Everyday Democracy. Please join us in wishing all the Nevins Fellows the best of luck in their new roles – you will be great!

We encourage you to read the announcement below and find it on McCourtney’s site here.


Nevins Fellows Begin Summer Internships

This week, our new cohort of Nevins Fellows will start working with organizations around the country that advance democracy in a variety of areas.

Over the next two months, students will have the opportunity to learn what it looks like to engage in deliberation, outreach, and other processes that are essential to a healthy democracy.

Here’s what they are most looking forward to as they begin their internships:

Alexis Burke
Participatory Budgeting Project
Brooklyn, New York

I chose to work with The Participatory Budgeting Project because of their tangible effects on the communities they work with. Through the implementation of small d democracy, The Participatory Budgeting Project helps to foster community and democracy in the New York metropolitan area.

I’m most looking forward to connecting with The Participatory Budgeting Project’s team members as well as members of New York’s various communities. I can’t wait to gain hands-on experience implementing everyday democracy.

Maia Hill
City of Austin
Austin, Texas

I selected this organization because the mission aligns with some of the practices I believe need to be incorporated within all communities. This line of work would help me in the long run because I plan on going into politics and/or becoming a State Representative and in order for me to be an effective and efficient leader in that line of work.

Entering into this internship, I hope to gain a greater understanding of the importance of participatory democracy. I am looking forward to learning how to be active within community engagement and how to get minorities within between race, ethnicity, gender, etc. involved within local government to get the change that they want and need within their communities. This hands-on experience will definitely make a huge difference in how I can also be more involved with the current community I reside in here at Penn State.

Sophie Lamb
Everyday Democracy
Hartford, Connecticut

I chose Everyday Democracy because of their focus on the inequalities in the criminal justice system. I am fascinated by the differences between how legislation is written compared to how it is implemented. I am also excited to see the outreach the organization does and how they interact directly with different communities.

I am most looking forward to the opportunity to see how laws are implemented compared to the theoretical intention behind legislation, specifically in regards to the racial disparity in the criminal justice system. In addition, this internship will allow me to continue to improve on the research and writing skills that I have built during my time at Penn State.

Stephanie Keyaka
City of Baltimore
Baltimore, Maryland

I went to school in Baltimore City, so I have an extreme love for the community. What attracted me to this site was Councilman Cohen’s dedication to building a stronger democracy and legislating that is rooted in equality and justice. I wanted to do more for communities of people that look like me, and this site and the office’s mission aligned perfectly with my political aspirations.

It will be very interesting to use a racial equity lens to tackle public policy issues in Baltimore City. Urban and local politics are often overlooked, but can have be of extreme importance for the members of this community. I am hoping to better learn the ways in which local politicians can have an impact on the immediate lives of residents, especially in marginalized communities

You can find the original version of this announcement on McCourtney Institute’s site at www.democracyinstitute.la.psu.edu/blog/nevins-fellows-begin-summer-internships.

Get NCDD2018 Tickets at “Super Early Bird” rate by Thurs!

WOW! It’s the five-month mark until the 2018 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation happening November 2-4 in Downtown Denver and we are getting so excited!! Last week we had over 100 proposals come in for workshop sessions at NCDD2018 and our conference team is now working through them. There are so many fantastic ideas that came in, we can’t wait to share with you what the line up will be! If you are interested in learning more about what NCDD conference have been like and what kind of workshops our innovative network has brought to the table in the past – make sure you check out our past conferences (and guidebooks!).

In addition to sharing our excitement about the upcoming conference, we wanted to give a friendly reminder that the “Super Early Bird” rate for tickets is available until tomorrow Thursday, May 31st! This is the only time that tickets for the conference will be available at this low rate, so make sure you secure yours before they go up on Friday. Whether you are have been working in dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement for many years or you are a newbie in the field – our conferences have something for everyone! Register for the conference by clicking here.

Our theme for this conference is, Connecting and Strengthening Civic Innovators, and it is our hope that we can come together to work on how to further amplify dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement work. There are so many valuable processes and resources that our extended community of practice offers, and we’d like to explore ways to make this work spread. Check out our ideas on the NCDD2018 page here for how we want to further build D&D power and deepen the impact of engagement work.

NCDD conferences are known for being energetic and transformational experiences where this incredible talking tribe can come and work together. They are opportunities which only come around every other year, so we hope you will join us in Denver this November!

Tuning in and Shifting Strategy with Ben Franklin Circles

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles, we have been sharing stories from those participating in the circles and some of the key learning that has taken place during the process. Read the remarkable change that happened in Victoria Fann’s BF Circle when she decided to step back from facilitating and have the circle members take the rein. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


The Spirit of Community

My Ben Franklin Circle in Weaverville, NC has been meeting since November 2017. Since I have been facilitating groups of various kinds since 1989, stepping into the role of facilitator for this group was easy for me. We met for the first four months with me asking most of the questions, reading the quotes and gently steering the conversation if we strayed away from the topic.

This seemed to work well, but something was missing. I had a gnawing feeling that there was a better way to structure our little group. Based on some words from his autobiography, I knew that Ben Franklin would heartily agree. For example, he writes, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Involvement was precisely what we needed!

The first small step in this direction took place at our February meeting. Instead of discussing the virtues in the order listed on the Ben Franklin Circle website, I decided to write each one of the remaining virtues on small slips of paper and fold them up. I brought those papers to the meeting and placed them in a hat. At the end or our discussion, I asked a member to draw out one of the slips of paper, saying that we would discuss whatever virtue was chosen.

This felt good—so good, in fact, that at the March meeting, I decided to take this idea a step further. Prior to the meeting, I wrote out that month’s virtue questions and quotes provided by the Ben Franklin Circle website onto small slips of paper, folded them and placed them into a bowl at our host’s house. I then invited members to draw one out and read it aloud to the group to prompt our discussion. I also encouraged members to add their own questions.

Franklin’s very own group, on which the BF Circles are based, encouraged a similar involvement from the members of the group as he writes here: “I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year, I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the JUNTO; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute, or desire of victory; and, to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.”

What we discovered during that meeting was that having the members chose the questions at random and read them to the group led to a much deeper level of conversation. I suspect this was because the playing field had been leveled and everyone felt more engaged and involved than when I was the one asking most of the questions. My leadership role softened as I yielded to this more community-based approach. Our trust of each other and our willingness to explore the outer edges of the virtue increased exponentially. Plus, there was almost a palpable feeling of relief among all of us once we shifted into this more egalitarian way of relating to each other. It was clear we’d been seeking it all along.

The lesson for me was a reminder of how important it is to tune into the specific needs of a situation without assumptions, agendas or formulas, but rather an open mind and a willingness to learn.

Though initially my “expertise” proved to be a hindrance, the group process itself became the catalyst that allowed the solution to emerge effortlessly.

Thank you, Ben Franklin.

Victoria Fann is a writer, transformational coach, group facilitator and workshop leader. Her Ben Franklin Circle meets in Weaverville, NC.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at https://benfranklincircles.org/ben-franklin-circle-hosts/the-spirit-of-community.

Stories from Ben Franklin Circles in North Carolina

As you may remember, NCDD teamed up with member org, Ben Franklin Circles and we announced last month that we were going to be sharing stories from Circles. In the article, Tiyo Hallock shares his experience running Circles in North Carolina, and particularly how the value of Silence has played into his life and work.  You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


Circle Spotlight: Ty from Asheville, NC

Name: Tiyo Hallock
Hometown: Asheville, NC
Sponsoring Organization: Creative Facilitators
Date Launched: October 2017

What attracted you to Ben Franklin Circles?
I’ve done a lot of work with various facilitation methods. I was attracted to how the structure allows the participants to explore principles first and foremost, and then sets the groundwork for action in the community. I’ve been a part of many groups. I know you need to work on the underlying platform of trust and then everything else falls into place. Ben Franklin Circles gives you the tools and the people supporting it are awesome.

How did you recruit members for your Circle? Any lessons learned?
I started to put together some flyers and get the word out there. Then I realized that people I already knew would really appreciate this. I basically reverted my strategy to posting on my Facebook page and doing some one-on-one asks. Every single person I showed the video to and talked about the event with came. I’ve tried to invite someone to every meeting to keep it fresh and to try and keep the numbers up, as some folks have not been able to make every meeting. We have a shorter meeting than most because I am catering to busy folks and I feel like a smaller group size is actually much better for a shorter event. Long story short, we probably don’t need to invite anyone else now that our group is perfect.

How has hosting a Ben Franklin Circle impacted you?
I’ve hosted a lot of these things, but I had a profound experience with the principle of Silence. I was really able to bring my full self. I am an introvert and I felt that, when people had permission to be silent and the silence that we practiced was welcomed with open arms, we had more trust and flow in our group.

Which virtue means the most to you personally and why?
I don’t want to answer! Each one has been meaningful—and I am only on number three! However, I was profoundly moved by Silence and the community ideas that came out of that session, so there you go.

What is the last commitment you made to yourself? How’s it going?
I’m committed to having Silence as a principle, as an exercise when I work with other groups where we are growing trust. I’ve also committed to growing Ben Franklin Circles. I’m spreading the word to try to get other folks to start Circles.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at https://benfranklincircles.org/circle-spotlight/circle-spotlight-ty-from-asheville-nc.