Listen to This Webinar on How to Hold a Ben Franklin Circle

Back in the day, Ben Franklin had established a mutual improvement club that he organized for over 40 years, in the spirit of dialogue and self improvement. It is in this vein, that the folks at the 92nd Street Y, created the Ben Franklin Circles (also an NCDD member org) to offer a framework to hold conversations on Franklin’s 13 virtues. NCDD partnered with BFC last year and we are thrilled to find this free webinar recently released that gives the basics on what a Circle entails. You can listen to the webinar below and find the original on BFC’s site here.


Ben Franklin Circles 101

This webinar covers the basics of Ben Franklin Circles – great for anyone looking to start one or brush up on the who, what, when, where and why!

Listen to BFC 101 or read the highlights below. Questions? Email us at benfranklincircles@gmail.com.

What is a Ben Franklin Circle?

  • Small groups of people coming together to talk about how they can do good…in their lives, in their work, in their relationships and in the world.
  • Circles choose one of Franklin’s 13 civic virtues and discuss what that virtue means today.

Where did the idea come from?

  • From Franklin! Franklin wrote about his club for mutual improvement – his junto – in his autobiography.
  • The Ben Franklin Circles team at 92nd Street Y updated Franklin’s structure for the 21st Century and created all the tools for people to host their own Circles.

Who are in the Circles?

  • Circles are for anyone and everyone!
  • Find members by personally inviting 5-10 people, posting on social meeting, creating a MeetUp group…or be brave, and drop some invites in your neighbors’ mailboxes and invite them to get together for a conversation.

Where do people host?

  • Locations vary! Public libraries will often provide space. Some groups meet in peoples’ homes or in cafes or restaurants.
  • You’re looking for a casual space that’s not too loud so you can have intimate conversations.

How often do Circles meet?

  • Some meet monthly, some meet every week, some just meet once to try it out!

What’s next?

  • Check out our toolkit and/or join our Host Facebook Group
  • Set date, invite your members, set a location and you’re ready to go.
  • Let us know when you’ve started so we can add you to our map, social media, host resources list serve and more!

Takeaways

  • Circles are an opportunity to pause, reflect and connect with others around big ideas.
  • Members are encouraged to leave each Circle conversation with one actionable thing they can do for good.
  • Circles are very similar to a salon. The Circle model simply gives you an easy structure/topic to use for your conversations.
  • There’s no wrong way to do this!

You can find the original version of this article on the Ben Franklin Circles’ site at www.benfranklincircles.org/webinar/ben-franklin-circles-101.

Second Round of NCDD2018 Workshop Announced!

Check out the second round of workshops happening at the 2018 National Conference for Dialogue & Deliberation from Friday, November 2nd to Sunday, November 4th! This year’s exciting convening will take place in Colorado at the Sheraton Denver Downtown – which you can book using our discounted room block by clicking here. We encourage folks attending the conference to consider arriving a little early because we have several fantastic pre-conference sessions available on Thursday, November 1st (read more here). Stay tuned to the blog in the coming weeks to learn about the rest of the 60 total sessions that will be offered at #NCDD2018!


NCDD2018 Workshop Sessions

We will continue to announce workshop sessions over the coming weeks to follow!

Respect & Rebellion: Fighting to Preserve a Civic Ecosystem on American Campuses
Like the enormous resources invested to preserve natural ecosystems under threat, it’s time for complementary “species” of dialogue organizations to come together to find creative ways to protect our civic ecosystem under serious threat. Our collaboration brings together premiere student and faculty organizations spanning the sociopolitical divide, with technological innovations that help amplify the work of dialogue. We will also share and gather feedback on our campaign to get “divergent speaker pairs” to model trustworthy rivalry on campuses while inviting students to complete a “subversive friendship” dare.

Liz Joyner
CEO & Founder, The Village Square

Kyle Emile
Founder, Free Intelligent Conversations

Jacob Hess
Co-Founder & Co-Director, Village Square Utah
Board Member, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation

Mannie Ajayi
CEO & Co-Founder, Pnyka

Manu Meel
CEO, BridgeUSA
Junior, UC Berkeley

Andrew Evans
BYU Law School, Center for Conflict Resolution

What Did We Just Talk About? How to Turn Deliberative Talk into Deliverable Data
Deliberative events bring community members together to address public problems, but what happens after the discussion is over? How do we turn participant input into useable information? During this session, we’ll brainstorm ways to build data collection into process design. We’ll think about the different information needs of various partners community organizations, government officials, practitioners, and academics and discuss how to generate data that captures the conversation, highlights citizen decisions, and evaluates the process without straining organizational resources.

Katie Knobloch
Assistant Professor and Associate Director, CSU Center for Public Deliberation

Sara Drury
Director and Associate Professor, Wabash Democracy and Public Discourse

Kalie McMonagle
Program Coordinator, CSU Center for Public Deliberation

Ben Franklin Circles: Small Conversations about Big Ideas
Ben Franklin Circles from the 92nd Street Y are a nationwide initiative to bring together people from different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to discuss how they can improve themselves and the larger community. At monthly meetings, Circles use Franklin’s 13 virtues (moderation, humility, silence, etc.) as discussion prompts and personal growth commitments. In this presentation/workshop, Julie Mashack and Patty Morrissey from 92Y will provide a general overview of the project and then lead a Ben Franklin Circle-style meeting for people to experience the model.

Julie Mashack
Director of Global Programs, Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact, 92nd Street Y

Patty Morrissey
Outreach Consultant, 92nd Street Y

Collective Leadership for Community Change
In an era when community organizations can no longer succeed on their own, shared leadership has ascended as the logical next step toward successful collective action. The co-creators of this session offer a helpful starting point for turning outward toward our communities, explaining how we can harness the collective capacity within and across our organizations to achieve significant and lasting impact. This interactive session will provide an overview of collective leadership and then some case studies how it helps move communities forward by creating sustainable and systemic social change.

Nancy Kranich
Lecturer and Special Projects Librarian, Rutgers University School of Communication and Information

Cassandra O’Neill
CEO, Leadership Alchemy LLC

Voting, Art, and Dialogue: Building Democratic Capacity through Voting Stories
Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy, yet is often shrouded in secrecy. While ballots themselves should remain private, the process of voting can and should be a social activity. This session will share an event that infused art and dialogue to encourage university students and community members to come together and share their stories of democratic participation. Multimedia products of the event will serve as inspiration to attendees as they have the chance to explore their own voting story and plan how to create a dialogue around voting in their own communities.

Marsha Olson
Instructor of Communication, University of Alaska Anchorage

Donna Aguiniga
Associate Professor of Social Work, University of Alaska Anchorage

The Definitive Online Public Engagement Checklist
Online engagement can dovetail powerfully with face to face dialog events to dramatically increase the reach of public engagement. Inspired by an extensive review of case studies that have engaged over 10,000 people online, this session will produce the first ever definitive checklist to prepare engagement professionals for the effective application of online public engagement to support their outreach projects. This checklist will be compiled into an eBook based on the research results and the practical experience of NCDD attendees through a fast-paced interactive exercise.

Dave Biggs
Chief Engagement Officer, MetroQuest

Eileen Barron
Strategic Communications Manager, Utah Department of Transportation

Saying “Yes, and” in a Polarized World
In a polarized world improv has emerged as a tool for bringing people together and transforming conversation. With a focus on ‘yes and’ and ensemble-building, improv helps people create together using everything including disagreements. Participants will be introduced to an approach to development and community building that uses improv to create ensembles with some of the most contentious groups including police/youth, refugees/locals and people across the political spectrum. Participants will perform and lead conversations that embrace differences, encourage risk-taking and meaning-making.

Carrie Lobman
Chair, Department of Learning and Teaching, Rutgers University

Lainie Hodges
Development Specialist, Improv Alchemy

Storytelling, Embodied Cognition and Climate Activism: A Faster Learning Process
Climate campaign organizations typically don’t have time to invest in face-to-face storytelling training for their activists, and climate activists sometimes view storytelling as a gimmick. Former academic and philosopher Maria Talero develops communication interventions based on embodied cognition, a revolutionary area in the scientific study of consciousness. This interactive session will spotlight key practices in speeding up the storytelling learning process for Citizen’s Climate Lobby advocates and lobbyists who work to bridge the partisan climate gap in Congress and around the country.

Maria Talero
Principal, Climate Courage LLC

Thaddeus Cummins
Area Coordinator, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, Colorado
Managing Researcher, Economic GPS

A Road Map to Washington’s Future
Instead of establishing a typical “blue ribbon task force,” the Washington State Legislature asked the William D. Ruckelshaus Center to articulate a vision for a desired future, and identify needed additions, revisions or clarifications to the state’s growth management framework. The Center conducted 50+ dialogue workshops across the state, engaging local leaders and elected officials, and will present a final report in June 2019. This session will engage participants in an interactive conversation on tools, tips, and lessons learned conducting state-wide engagement processes.

Amanda Murphy
Senior Project Lead, William D. Ruckelshaus Center, University of Washington & Washington State University

Molly Stenovec
Project & Program Manager, William D. Ruckelshaus Center, University of Washington & Washington State University

Michael Kern
Director, William D. Ruckelshaus Center, University of Washington & Washington State University

Building Bridges: A Community Collaboration for Culture Change
In November 2017, City of Boulder embarked on a two-year experiment working with the community to change the culture of local civic dialogue. In partnership with University of Colorado’s Center for Communication and Democratic Engagement, city staff engaged more than 400 community members in design-thinking workshops, online forums, and multi-generational programs to discover ideas that could lead to more productive communication. In this session, participants will experience elements of the workshop process first-hand as well as learning about the prototypes that were generated in Boulder.

Brenda Ritenour
Neighborhood Liaison, City Manager’s Office, City of Boulder

Lydia Reinig
Center for Communication and Democratic Engagement, University of Colorado Boulder

More to come soon!

Initial Round of NCDD2018 Workshops Announced!

We are thrilled to share this initial round of workshops for the upcoming 2018 National Conference for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD2018) happening in downtown Denver! This is just a handful of the 60 sessions that will be offered over the three days from Friday, November 2nd to Sunday, November 4th. We will continue to announce the remaining sessions over the following weeks – you can check our workshops page for the latest as well as the blog. We encourage you to check out the pre-conference sessions available at NCDD2018 on Thursday, November 1st – which you can learn about in last week’s blog post here. Looking to use our discounted room block or find a roommate at the conference?? Click here!


NCDD2018 Workshop Sessions

We will continue to announce workshop sessions over the coming weeks to follow!

Democracy’s Hubs: The Role of Local Centers in Building Capacity for D&D
Directors from a variety of centers and institutes dedicated to building capacity for local dialogue and deliberation will share their models and stories. The session will be particularly useful for academics and civic leaders either involved with local organizations or considering developing an organization. Key networks and resources will be discussed, such as the Kettering Foundation’s Centers for Public Life training program and the University Network for Collaborative Governance.

Martin Carcasson
Director, CSU Center for Public Deliberation
Board Member, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation

Lori Britt
Director, Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue, James Madison University

Windy Lawrence
University of Houston-Downtown Center for Public Deliberation

Lisa-Marie Napoli
Indiana University’s Political and Civic Engagement Program

Sara Drury
Director, Wabash College Democracy and Public Discourse

Putting Dialogue Before Deliberation within Polarized Communities
The connection between theory and application of Dialogue and Deliberation becomes clear in this session. Lauren Barthold, a Ph.D. philosopher will share theory from a book she is writing on the best way to weave Dialogue together with Deliberation in highly polarized settings. Robin Teater will cover a real-life project she oversaw at Healthy Democracy in which people on both sides of the political aisle had a chance to Dialogue with each other on challenging issues. Participants will learn a fishbowl form of Dialogue they can use in similar settings.

Linda Ellinor
Founder and Senior Consultant, Action Dialogue Group

Lauren Barthold
Professor/Senior Research Fellow, Endicott College/Essential Partners

Robin Teater
Executive Director, Healthy Democracy

Communicating Civilly with Voters You Disagree with during the Election Cycle
Through both Civil Dialogue and blogging, workshop participants will engage in modeling civility through civil communication and civil listening. Participants will take part in a Civil Dialogue on a provocative topic relevant to the upcoming election by choosing to occupy a range of positions. Then, the developer of the website Clamoring For Change will discuss ways to best express extreme positions with the objective of promoting mutual understanding (not necessarily agreement) rather than persuasion. When understanding is the goal, civility rather than polarization is a likely outcome.

Clark D Olson
President/Professor, Institute for Civil Dialogue and Arizona State University

Guy Nave
Professor, Luther College

Russ Charvonia
Past Grand Master, Masonic Grand Lodge of CA, Masonic Family Civility Project

Jennifer Linde
Senior Lecturer and Artistic Director, Empty Space Theater, Arizona State University

Carl Luna
Institute for Civil and Civic Engagement, University of San Diego

Civic Initiators at Work!
Across the nation, community-based coalitions of “civic initiators” are forming with this goal in mind: to catalyze productive, democratic ways for community members to talk and work together on public issues over time. They are building broad, cross-sector networks of public discussions that reflect the complex, interconnected nature of issues that impact their communities. And they are creating opportunities for people to learn from each other’s work within communities and across the country. Join us in this highly interactive session to explore these practices and to share your insights!

Betty Knighton
Senior Associate, Kettering Foundation
Board Member, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation

Lisa-Marie Napoli
Associate Director, Political and Civic Engagement Program; Director, Voices for Democracy and Civility, Indiana University Bloomington

Cristin F. Brawner
Executive Director, David Mathews Center for Civic Life

Blueprint of We: A Dynamic Document for Increasing Collaboration and Trust
Blueprint of We (BoW) is a dynamic framework that increases the capacity to collaborate in any environment: public engagement, workplaces, families. The results are more trust & creativity for two people, a group, an entire organization or community. Participants learn 5 components for a BoW and how it links to neuroscience to calm and connect, hear stories of BoW’s impact in various settings, & begin the process of writing and sharing their own BoW. The session will be lively, experiential, deep and useful to take forward into today’s challenges. Beginning, intermediate or advanced practitioners.

Rachel Eryn Kalish, M.C.
Partner, Blueprint of We California

Sheella Mierson, Ph.D.
Partner, Blueprint of We California

Difficult Facilitation Experiences: Working through Challenges
Dialogue and deliberation are participatory processes, designed to promote diverse voices and encourage communities to work through differences. Despite laying out productive communication guidelines, sometimes difficulties arise. This session will focus on recognizing and addressing struggles in facilitation, particularly around diversity and identity. Staff and students from Colorado State University and Wabash College will share experiences, and the second half of the session will focus on developing collaborative strategies for addressing such challenges.

Sara Drury
Director and Associate Professor, Wabash Democracy and Public Discourse

Kalie McMonagle
Program Coordinator, CSU Center for Public Deliberation

Katie Knobloch
Assistant Professor and Associate Director, CSU Center for Public Deliberation

Creativity, Complexity, & Comprehension: How Do We Address Affordable Housing?
What forms of dialogue increase our “fluency” on an issue carrying so many meanings, from shelter to wealth? This workshop identifies approaches to a prevailing critical issue, with takeaways applicable to other complex topics. Presenters and participants will share methods for representing all stakeholders, exploring prevailing assumptions, fact-finding for local conditions, and building momentum for long-haul changes in the housing system. We will demonstrate conversation methods grounded in arts and design, and exercise techniques for sustaining attention on an issue that won’t go away.

Donna Schenck-Hamlin
Program Associate/Projects Coordinator, Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy, Kansas State University

Katie Kingery-Page
Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional and Community Planning, Kansas State University

Briana Carrillo
Graduate Assistant, Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy, Kansas State University

Negotiating the Creative Tension between Protest and Deliberation
Utilizing polarity management as a tool to spark productive conversation regarding key tensions, this session will work through the critical tension between social change tactics focuses on protest and those focused on dialogue and deliberation. Participants will work in small groups to complete worksheets mapping the polarity, considering their strengths and limitations, what situations each perspective is best suited or necessary, and how ideally the tension can be transcended to capture the best of both worlds.

Martin Carcasson
Director, CSU Center for Public Deliberation
Board Member, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation

Wendy Willis
Director, Deliberative Democracy Consortium
Board Member, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation

A Journalist & A Deliberative Democrat Walk into a Bar: A Collaboration Story
Healthy Democracy’s Robin Teater will moderate a conversation between Paula Ellis and Wendy Willis, the co-founders of Two Women & a Republic, a weekly correspondence exploring the culture surrounding citizen-centered democracy. Paula is a journalist from South Carolina; Wendy is a democracy practitioner from Oregon; together they have created what they fondly refer to as a Brainpickings for Democracy. They will share what they are learning and then turn to you for a discussion of the issues and trends affecting your work. You never know, you might find yourself showing up in the pages of 2W1R!

Wendy Willis
Executive Director, Deliberative Democracy Consortium
Board Member, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation

Paula Ellis
Senior Associate, Kettering Foundation

Robin Teater
Executive Director, Healthy Democracy

Emerging Roles of Academic Libraries in Dialogue and Deliberation
Academic libraries, like their public cousins, are positioned uniquely within their communities to further dialogue and deliberation. In addition to the commonalities, such as being safe and brave spaces, academic libraries have institutional connections, particularly with campus partners already engaging in dialogue, that allow them to scale beyond their current abilities. The session leaders invite you to an interactive discussion about the ways academic libraries can further the goals of dialogue and deliberation at their institutions and in the broader community.

George J Fowler
University Librarian, Old Dominion University

Nancy Kranich
Lecturer, Rutgers University School of Communication and Information

More to come soon!

NCDD2018 Pre-Conference Sessions Announced for Nov 1!

We are excited to announce the pre-conference sessions for the upcoming 2018 National Conference for Dialogue & Deliberation happening in downtown Denver! While the conference will officially be from Friday, November 2nd through Sunday, November 4th; we also have a full day planned for several pre-conference sessions on Thursday, November 1st! We encourage you to keep these in mind when planning your trip for NCDD2018 and consider joining us the day before to participant in these fantastic pre-conference sessions – which you can check out below.

Stay tuned to the NCDD blog in the coming weeks for information on registering for these pre-conference sessions, and we will begin announcing the workshops next Monday. Friendly reminder to get your tickets for NCDD by clicking here. We have a room block at the Sheraton Downtown Denver (where the conference will be held), and if you are looking for a roommate for the conference – check out our blog post here to coordinate!


Pre-Conference Sessions: Thursday, November 1st

Tackling Wicked Problems in Local Communities: A Workshop for Local Governments, School Districts, and Community Leaders
This workshop is focused on building local capacity to engage difficult issues more collaboratively and productively through the use of deliberative engagement processes. Deliberative engagement involves interactive, often facilitated, small group discussions utilizing materials and processes designed to spark collaborative learning rather than merely the collection of individual opinions. An opening session will examine the concept of “wicked problems” as a framework to better understand difficult issues and then review recent research on social psychology to help explain why traditional engagement processes are often counterproductive to supporting the high quality communication democracy requires. The workshop will then review the key components to deliberative engagement and explore and engage in hands-on practice with a variety of tools and techniques drawn from several dialogue and deliberation traditions. The workshop will be particularly valuable to practitioners focused on their local community working to build capacity across the public, private, and non-profit sectors for higher quality engagement.

All proceeds from the workshop fees are being provided to NCDD to support their ongoing efforts.

Martín Carcasson, Ph.D
Professor of Communication Studies at Colorado State University, the Founder and Director of the CSU Center for Public Deliberation (CPD) (www.cpd.colostate.edu), and the current chair of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation Board of Directors (www.ncdd.org).

We the People Are More Powerful Than We Dare to Believe
The Community Rights movement has helped more than 200 communities in nine states to pass local laws that begin to dismantle corporate rule from the local up. Communities are banning harmful corporate activities, stripping corporations of their corporate personhood, & enshrining local community self-government. Profound culture shift takes place in this transformative process, where residents discover their power & authority as We the People. Learn how YOUR community can join this growing movement of people saying “No!” to corporate interference and “Yes!” to nurturing healthy communities.

Paul Cienfuegos
Founding Director, Community Rights US

Standing Up for Social Justice in Times of Fear & Hatred
When discussing and confronting “heated” racial and/or social justice issues within our communities, utilizing practical facilitation skills that are both culturally-responsive and sensitive to the needs and issues facing minority groups are imperative. In this workshop, we will make use of personal stories, diversity vignettes, and film clip scenarios to encourage participants to authentically address a variety of social justice issues. The group will be taught “Mindful Facilitation Techniques” to support one another to become stronger and more effective allies within our communities.

Lee Mun Wah
Master Diversity Trainer, Founder/CEO, StirFry Seminars & Consulting, Inc.

Transforming Community Spaces: A Workshop for Community Facilitators
Many places around the globe are seeing insistent challenges to monuments, memorials, contaminated sites, and other locations identified with histories of harm. These challenges offer opportunities to foster more complete understandings of history and to take action to remedy deep, systemic inequities, which tend otherwise to be ignored or suppressed. “Transforming Community Spaces” (TCS) is a new, national project led by the Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) at the University of Virginia to help institutions and communities take on these challenges through inclusive, transparent dialogues that uncover hidden histories, advance social justice, and promote collective healing. This training will introduce facilitators to the concepts of problematic community spaces, to cultural humility, to trauma-informed facilitation, and to the Transforming Community Spaces Toolkit that will be provided to community leaders and others working to better their communities. The training will be highly interactive with both exercises and simulations. We anticipate that participants will return to their own institutions and communities with a new appreciation for the issues at stake in these conflicts and new capacity to help those institutions and communities bring people together to address their own problematic spaces.

Frank Dukes, Ph.D
Distinguished Institute Fellow, Institute for Environmental Negotiation
Tanya Denckla Cobb
Director, Institute for Environmental Negotiation
Selena Cozart, PhD
Community Facilitator, Institute for Environmental Negotiation

A Taste of the Theory and Practice of Bohm Dialogue
This one-day pre-conference session will provide participants with a weave of the background, theory, guides, and basic building blocks of Bohm Dialogue together with an experience of being in Dialogue on emergent topics. Bohm Dialogue can play a powerful role within polarized communities. This process is based on the work of the late David Bohm, a quantum physicist who turned to philosophy to move ideas from his quantum worldview into practical ways of resolving complex social problems often rooted in unacknowledged cultural assumptions.

Linda Ellinor
Founder and Sr. Partner, Action Dialogue Group
Beth Macy, Ph.D
Owner and Lead Consultant, Macy Holding Management LLC 

Better Group Experience in Franklin Circles and Beyond

Since we established our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles (BFC), we have been sharing stories from Circles that have been convening. This article from Victoria Fann, who hosts a circle in North Carolina, shared an article on A Better Group Experience, that shares some foundational tips to good group process that can be used for Ben Franklin Circles and beyond this process: the right setting, good guidelines, and gentle facilitation. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


A Better Group Experience

As Ben Franklin discovered hundreds of years ago, something magical happens when a group of people get together to engage in meaningful conversation: that circle of individuals becomes something far greater than the sum of its parts. A powerful, dynamic energy emerges from the group collective and creates access to all the combined energy, tools, inspiration, the information, wisdom, insights and resources of that group of people.

In this context, people are able to share great levels of wisdom, become vulnerable with each other, establish a higher level of trust than they would in a social setting and have a deep level of intimacy with people they barely even know very quickly.

In addition, small groups that connect deeply often facilitate high levels of motivation, honesty, healing, growth, learning that can motivate people to think and behave in ways that they might not have considered before. When someone tells a story or models something new, it opens up a whole new range of possibilities, which ultimately, can foster hope and optimism.

Given what’s happening in our world today, with loneliness becoming an epidemic and suicide rates rising, this is extraordinary. And yet it’s something that isn’t done enough.

Yes, there are thousands of Meetup groups happening around the world based on common interests. But, unless there are certain conditions, those meetings will not yield the same transformative power as a small group having a deep discussion in a quiet environment.

So what are the conditions that open the doors to the extraordinary?

It’s fairly simple really. The right setting, a good set of guidelines and gentle facilitation.

Setting
Let’s talk about the setting first. I’ve run successful groups for close to thirty years, and the majority of those groups took place in my living room or the living room of a group member. Why? Because it’s one of the few places that combines privacy, comfort, quiet, natural lighting, a friendly host, non-public bathroom, occasional adorable pets, etc. If you want a group of people to relax, take off their masks, open up and share their stories, gather them in an environment that is familiar, that is associated with relaxation and ease and feels more like a gathering of friends than a business meeting. No other setting even comes close to this.

Our Ben Franklin Circle initially met in a local café, and while it was nice to be able to buy coffee and baked goods, it ended up being too noisy and not private enough. Plus, we were sitting around tables in wooden chairs with a table between us. Shifting to a living room setting in a member’s home sitting on comfortable chairs and couches, created a totally different experience that immediately allowed us to deepen the discussion. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief.

But setting alone isn’t enough. In fact, when you’re in a less formal setting, the tendency would be to fall back into casual, undirected discussion. This is why there is a strong need for guidelines.

Guidelines
Again, these are simple and not at all inhibiting. Instead, they create an even deeper level of trust and relaxation because the participants know that they will be heard and that conversation will stay on topic, and not degenerate into debates and philosophizing.

Here is the guideline that I created years ago for all the groups I’ve run and am currently using in our Circle:

  • Speak from the heart and from direct experience using “I” statements.
  • Speak without interruption or cross-talk.
  • Respect each other’s need for silence as well as each other’s need to speak and be heard.
  • Listen from the heart and serve as a compassionate witness for other people in the circle. To be an effective witness means paying attention to what’s being said without interpreting, judging, or trying to “fix” or rescue the person speaking.
  • Respect each other’s privacy and keep everything that’s shared confidential.

These guidelines are not new nor are they unique. However, they are incredibly effective creating a group experience that is deeply rewarding.

Gentle Facilitation
Finally, it is important to have someone that is able to lead the group with a gentle hand. Mostly, this person presents conversation-starting questions and quotes (or as I mentioned in a previous blog post allows them to be drawn from a hat), keeps the conversation on topic, makes sure everyone has had an equal opportunity to share and be heard and generally tunes into what is needed by the group. That sounds like it’s a lot, but it’s fairly simple. A good facilitator is one that fades into the background and appears to participate in the same way as other members. This establishes trust and removes any sense of hierarchy.

In my experience, setting, guidelines and gentle facilitation are what makes a good group experience, an extraordinary one.

I will leave you with a little food for thought from Ben Franklin:

“To expect people to be good, to be just, to be temperate, etc., without showing them how they should become so, seems like the ineffectual charity mentioned by the apostle, which consisted in saying to the hungry, the cold and the naked, be ye fed, be ye warmed, be ye clothed, without showing them how they should get food, fire or clothing.”

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at https://benfranklincircles.org/tips-advice/a-better-group-experience.

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.