Join the Online Facilitation Unconference on Oct 15-21

The fifth Online Facilitation Unconference (OFU) is happening on Oct 15-21! This digital gathering is hosted by the Center for Applied Community Engagement LLC, and is a great opportunity for anyone interested in virtual facilitation – no previous experience needed! The early bird tickets are available until Oct 12th, so make sure you register and get your tickets ASAP! Follow OFU on Twitter with the hashtag #OFU18 for more #FacWeek updates. You can read the announcement below for more info or find the original on the OFU Exchange site here.


Online Facilitation Unconference 2018

Your favorite online event on the art and practice of facilitating in virtual environments is back!

Join us October 15-21, 2018. Tickets on sale now!

REGISTER TODAY!

What is the Online Facilitation Unconference (OFU)?
The Online Facilitation Unconference (OFU) is a learning exchange on the art and practice of facilitating in virtual environments. It is a community-driven event that brings together people from the public, private and non-profit sector from around the globe whose work includes, or who have an interest in, facilitating online.

OFU is a place to share, learn, make new connections – and have fun!

What is an unconference & how does it work?
OFU is an unconference. While traditional conferences come with a pre-determined schedule, an unconference allows the participants to create the agenda on the fly based on who shows up and what their interests are. In a nutshell, participants bring their questions and topic ideas and – in collaboration with their peers – suggest, schedule and host the sessions and workshops that meet their needs.

Unconferences require attendees to put in a bit of extra work, but the results can be magical.

How much time is involved as an attendee?
You can spend as much or as little time as you like. Based on past experience, the average participant tends to attend a handful of sessions over the course of the entire week. Sessions can vary in length but usually take anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes.

What do you mean by “virtual environments”?
“Virtual” refers to any process or experience that takes place outside a strictly in-person context. At OFU, we explore the methods for delivering facilitation using any tool, technology or channel that provides virtual venues, for example phone conferences, online chat, video conferencing, virtual reality, augmented or hybrid in-person processes and events.

Who’s organizing the event?
The event is run by the Center for Applied Community Engagement, LLC, a private institute and social enterprise based in San José, CA (USA) serving the growing professional field of community engagement and public participation practitioners from around the globe through market research, content publishing, industry events and other services.

What’s the history behind OFU?

  • In 2013, a group of people took this idea, which had been brewing for a while, and decided to run with it. Within a few short weeks, the first OFU was held.
  • In 2014 and 2015, OFU was organized by San José, CA-based digital engagement consultancy Intellitics, Inc.
  • In 2017, the Online Facilitation Unconference was moved under the ownership of the Center for Applied Community Engagement, LLC.
  • 2018 will be the fifth event.

ABOUT THE 2018 EVENT

When does the event take place?
OFU 2018 will take place October 15–21, 2018 – once again alongside and as part of International Facilitation Week, which is being hosted by the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).

What’s the schedule?
More details will become available the week prior to the event, but here’s a rough overview of how the week will unfold.

From now through October 15, you are welcome to:

  • Read this FAQ page to learn more about the event
  • Tune into the conversation on social media (see links below)
  • Think about topics you’d like to cover (either as a knowledge sharer, or knowledge seeker, or both)
  • Tell your friends and colleagues
  • Find out what areas of interest registrants have on their mind (sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll tell you)
  • Register for the event

Early in the week of October 15-21 (Tuesday through Thursday), you will have an opportunity to:

  • Attend one of several welcome mixers to get any questions answered, meet a first few of your fellow participants etc. (exact times TBD)
  • Join the online forum to introduce yourself, meet fellow participants, and discuss session topics
  • Attend one or more pre-scheduled warm-up sessions to help get your creative juices flowing (details TBD)
  • Add your sessions to the schedule

Later in the week of October 15-21 (Friday and Saturday), we hope you will:

  • Attend the unconference sessions
  • Add more sessions to the schedule (hey, it’s an unconference)

After the week is over, you can:

  • Explore on the session notes
  • Add your own notes and materials to the website
  • Read the conference report
  • Share your feedback and ideas for OFU 2019

We will announce specific times or windows for most of these activities shortly so you can plan ahead. Thank you for your patience!

Are all the sessions delivered in real time? Can I dip in and out or catch up later?
Yes, all sessions tend to be offered live (via some synchronous form of communication, e.g., Zoom, WebEx or the like). In theory, sessions could also be run as an asynchronous conversation (e.g., on the online forum we will set up), though not sure if we have seen too many of those in the past.

We encourage all session hosts to record their sessions and make them available afterwards. However, some sessions won’t get recorded due to various reasons (e.g., because they contain sensitive conversations). In that case, we encourage hosts to at least share a brief write-up or any other notes or materials they can make available that would give others an idea what was covered and help them explore the topic on their own.

Based on our experience, the average unconference attendee will make it to a handful of sessions. We will try our best this year to get participants to

a)  populate the unconference session plan as early in the week as possible, and

b)  stick to the recommended session windows

so as to make it more likely for more participants to be available for more sessions.

TICKETS

How much do tickets cost?
A regular ticket costs $49. Our early bird rate is $29 (good September 24 through October 10).

Students, retirees and other low-income people can attend for only $15.

For everyone else, including people from developing countries, we offer a “pay what you wish” option. We strive to be inclusive and don’t want anyone to miss out on the event due to cost burden.

Members of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) will receive a significant discount. Details to be announced by September 25.

How do I register?

Please go to our Eventbrite page to purchase your ticket.

INTENDED AUDIENCE

Who should attend?
Anyone with an interest in facilitating in virtual environments is invited to join.

Do I have to be a professional facilitator in order to attend? No.

While a good number of our attendees do facilitation for a living, many others come from other backgrounds and perform the functions of convener and facilitator as part of their regular job or event outside their day-to-day work.

Do I have to have prior experience with virtual facilitation or technology? No.

Whether you are a complete newbie or already and expert – anyone with an interest in online or virtual facilitation is welcome.

In the past, OFU has always attracted a broad range of expertise levels (beginner, intermediate, expert, and everything in between). Thanks to the unconference format, everyone can contribute to the best of their capabilities!

Who are the attendees?
The people who show up at OFU wear many hats. Here are just a few of the job titles we saw at OFU 2017 (in alphabetical order):

  • CEO
  • Coach
  • Collaboration engineer
  • Community organizer
  • Community strategist
  • Consultant
  • Director
  • Facilitator
  • Founder
  • Head of school
  • Independent scholar
  • Organizer
  • Planner
  • Program analyst
  • Program coordinator
  • Senior product manager
  • Trainer

You can find the original version on this on the OFU site at www.ofuexchange.net/.

MetroQuest Online Engagement Tips Webinar on 10/17

In two weeks, NCDD member org MetroQuest will be hosting the webinar, 10 Tips for Successful Online Engagement Every Time; which was co-sponsored by NCDD and the American Planning Association (APA). This free webinar on Wednesday, October 17th will offer best practices for online engagement and share stories from successful engagement efforts. You can read the announcement below or find the original on MetroQuest’s site here.


10 Tips for Successful Online Engagement Every Time

Find out how ENR’s #1 transportation planning agency, an MPO, and County consistently engage 1000’s online!

Wednesday, October 17th
11 am Pacific | 12 pm Mountain | 1 pm Central | 2 pm Eastern (1 hour)
Educational Credit Available (APA AICP CM)
Complimentary (FREE)

REGISTER HERE

Navigating public involvement for your transportation plan doesn’t have to feel like a bad commute. In this webinar, ENR’s #1 transportation design firm, an innovative MPO, and creative County will help you find the shortest route to successful participation every time.

Join Jim Meyer, Senior Planner at AECOM, as he shares proven tips for effective online public involvement by exploring how he engaged 12,000+ citizens on three successful transportation projects. He’ll be joined by public outreach experts Amy Elmore from Pasco County and Johnny Wong from Hillsborough MPO to share their real-world journey to success.

Attend this complimentary 1-hour webinar for 10 proven tips! You’ll learn how to:

  • Engage 1,000s online for all planning projects, large and small
  • Integrate online engagement effectively in your process
  • Promote like a pro using innovative multi-media tactics
  • Collect public input that’s both quantifiable and actionable
  • Reach Environmental Justice communities

The session will culminate with answers to your questions in a live Q&A session with Jim, Amy, Johnny, and Dave Biggs, Chief Engagement Officer at MetroQuest.

Speakers
Jim Meyer, AICP – Senior Transportation Planner, AECOM
For over 22 years, Jim has provided mobility solutions for state DOTs, MPOs, counties, and communities across the Country. Jim specializes in long range, multimodal transportation plans, having prepared over 30 long range transportation plans. Jim is actively involved in stakeholder and public outreach activities to ensure the plan recommendations reflect the desired community vision.

Amy Elmore, M.S. – Branch Communications Coordinator, Pasco County
Amy specializes in developing communication strategies and overseeing a variety of proactive marketing, communications, and production activities with the goal of promoting Pasco County, Florida. She has over 10 years of experience in social media marketing for small business and government organizations. Amy used her expertise to aid in county-wide social media efforts throughout Hurricane Irma.

Johnny Wong, PhD – Senior Planner, Hillsborough MPO
Johnny manages the performance measurement program and serves as liaison to the Intelligent Transportation Services committee. He served as project manager for the outreach portion of the 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan update. It was the first time the LRTP produced a tri-county initiative, requiring extensive coordination with the neighboring counties of Pasco and Pinellas.

You can find the original version of this announcement on MetroQuest’s site at http://go.metroquest.com/10-Tips-for-Successful-Online-Engagement-EveryTime.html.

National Week of Conversation from October 5th – 13th

The next National Week of Conversation (NWOC) is October 5th – 13th! During NWOC, folks around the country will be joining conversations, in hopes to better address the intense divisions in our society through dialogue, deepening understanding, and building relationships. We encourage you to join a conversation already going on and/or start your own here! To help support these conversations, resources like conversations guides and helpful background information are provided on the National Conversation Project (NCP) site here, many from the NCDD coalition! And don’t forget to check out the 3k+ resources on the NCDD Resource Center too! You can read more in the post below and on the NCP site here.


National Week of Conversation: October 5-13

Americans of all stripes are stepping up to address the growing cultural crisis of hyper-polarization and animosity across divides. Together we can turn the tide of rising rancor and deepening division with widespread conversations in which we #ListenFirst to understand. Supported by 100+ organizations, National Conversation Project promotes monthly conversation opportunities as well as National Weeks of Conversation.

In April of this year, thousands of Americans took part in the first National Week of Conversation (NWOC). More than 130 schools, libraries, faith communities, activist groups and nonprofits hosted conversations coast to coast in 32 states. These conversations were grounded in a pledge to listen first and seek understanding. The official #ListenFirst hashtag reached millions during NWOC and continues to be promoted by celebrities and journalists to millions more. NWOC events gained media attention across the nation including in the New York Times.

Majorities of NWOC participants walked away feeling more tolerant, understanding, appreciative and curious toward people with different perspectives. Two-thirds rated the value of their conversation as a 9 or 10 out of 10. More than three-quarters now feel better equipped and more likely to listen first to understand, as well as more likely to participate in conversations across divides. A survey of all Americans found 75% willing to set a good example by practicing conversations across divides, and 36%—amounting to more than 100 million people—want to see a national campaign promoting such conversations.

The next National Week of Conversation is October 5th – 13th! Join a conversation already going on or start your own here: www.nationalconversationproject.org/how_to_get_involved

TOPIC OF THE MONTH: Bridging Divides

The United States is facing a cultural crisis. Increasingly in America today, we don’t just disagree; we distrust, dislike, even despise those who see the world differently. Animosity for positions is becoming contempt for the people who hold them. Difference and disagreement are deeply personal as we rage against and recoil from those we see as enemies across widening divides—political, racial, religious, economic and more. Most of us see fewer things that bind Americans together today and have few or no friends from the other side. The rate of loneliness has more than doubled to nearly 50%, creating a public health epidemic. We’re withdrawing from conversations—thereby eroding relationships and understanding—which threatens the foundational fabric of America. 75% of Americans say this problem has reached a crisis level, and 56% believe it will only get worse. Our condition is rapidly deteriorating into what’s now being described as a soft civil war.

There’s nothing wrong with passionate beliefs, disagreement, and protest, but it feels like something more dangerous is taking hold. Do you see it? Personally feel it? What’s changed? What can we do about it together? How we can bridge the divides that threaten our future?

Conversation Guides on Bridging Divides

Background Information to support these conversations:

National Conversation Project Calendar – click here

National Week of Conversation – Fall ‘18: October 5-13, 2018
Listen First Friday – Nov: November 2, 2018
Listen First Friday – Dec: December 7, 2018
Listen First Friday – Jan: January 4, 2019
Listen First Friday – Feb: February 1, 2019
Listen First Friday – Mar: March 1, 2019
National Week of Conversation – Spring ‘19: April 5-13, 2019
Listen First Friday – May: May 3, 2019
Listen First Friday – Jun: June 7, 2019
Listen First Friday – Jul: July 5, 2019
Listen First Friday – Aug: August 2, 2019
Listen First Friday – Sep: September 6, 2019
National Week of Conversation – Fall ‘19: October 4-12, 2019
Listen First Friday – Nov: November 1, 2019
Listen First Friday – Dec: December 6, 2019

You can learn more about the National Week of Conversation at www.nationalconversationproject.org/.

MetroQuest Online Public Engagement Playbook Webinar

Next week, NCDD member org MetroQuest will be hosting the webinar, Online Public Engagement Playbook; co-sponsored by NCDD and the American Planning Association (APA). The free webinar on Wednesday, September 19th will discuss the successful online engagement strategy which engaged over 5100+ Austin residents and led to the development of the city’s first comprehensive transportation plan. You can read the announcement below or find the original on MetroQuest’s site here.


MetroQuest Webinar: Online Public Engagement Playbook

How is America’s #1 boom town planning for the city’s transportation future?

Wednesday, September 19th
11 am Pacific | 12 pm Mountain | 1 pm Central | 2 pm Eastern (1 hour)
Educational Credit Available (APA AICP CM)
Complimentary (FREE)

On September 19th, find out how Austin engaged 5,100+ citizens online to help inform and shape the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, its first locally-focused comprehensive transportation plan.

Join Liane Miller, AICP and Senior Business Process Consultant with Austin’s Transportation Department, as she shares the winning elements of her team’s online public engagement playbook. Learn how they combined a great online engagement experience with the right promotional strategy to involve thousands of people, including communities that have been underrepresented in past processes. Discover which of three transportation scenarios earned the most public support.

Attend this complimentary 1-hour webinar for innovative ways to involve members of your community! You’ll learn how to:

  • Reach more people, even with limited staff
  • Share and collect richer planning information by going online
  • Leverage business partnerships to lower barriers to engagement
  • Mine survey results to build a plan that works for all communities
  • Impress city council with a transportation plan informed by the people

Liane will be joined by MetroQuest Chief Engagement Officer Dave Biggs to share best practices and to answer your questions in a live Q&A session.

Thank you to our sponsors: APA and NCDD! AICP CM credit will be available.

Speakers

Liane Miller – Planning and Policy Manager, City of Austin’s Transportation Department
Liane works on planning initiatives, such as the development of the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, the City’s first multimodal plan. She previously led the citywide capital needs assessment and helped develop the comprehensive plan, Imagine Austin. Liane earned a BS from the University of Texas at Austin and master’s degrees in planning and public administration from the University of Southern California.

Dave Biggs – Chief Engagement Officer, MetroQuest
Dave is a die-hard champion of community engagement and has built a reputation for leading edge community outreach. He is an internationally-recognized speaker, author, and public engagement strategist. Dave is honored to serve as an advisor on best practices for public involvement to many planning agencies such as APA, FHWA, and TRB and public participation organizations such as IAP2 and NCDD.

You can find the original version of this announcement on MetroQuest’s site at http://go.metroquest.com/Online-Public-Engagement-Playbook.html.

Join the #DemocracyChat on Twitter, Monday September 10

We shared a post last week from NCDD member org and sponsor, The Jefferson Center, about their recent partnership with The New York Times to attend the annual New York Times Athens Democracy Forum in September. As part of this, they are hosting a Twitter chat under the hashtag #DemocracyChat on Monday, September 10th at 11 am CT. This will be an opportunity to share your thoughts on the current state of democracy and how to strengthen it moving forward. You can read the announcement below and find the original on Jefferson Center’s site here.


Join Our #DemocracyChat!

Want to share your ideas about how democracy is working today, and the steps individuals, journalists, governments, and companies can take to strengthen it? Join our Twitter chat on Monday, September 10 at 11:00 am CT with the hashtag #DemocracyChat! Add to Google CalendarOutlook, or iCal here.

We’ll discuss topics including…

  • How technology is changing the way politics work
  • How democracies can preserve human rights, while populist movements are on the rise
  • The responsibility of companies to uphold democracy

In just a few weeks, our team is heading to Greece to participate in the New York Times Athens Democracy Forum, “Democracy in Danger: Solutions for a Changing World”. As an official Knowledge Partner, we’ve been working with the New York Times team to bring our Citizens Jury method of deliberation to Athens. We’re moderating a key breakout session, where senior journalists from the NYT will sit down with business leaders, policymakers, and other experts from around the world to discuss democratic solutions.

We know (sadly) that not everybody is able to join our conversation in Athens. We still want to know how you’re thinking about the state of modern democracy.

New to Twitter Chats? Twitter Chats happen when a group of Twitter users meet online at a specific time to discuss a specific topic with a designated hashtag. In our case, that hashtag is #DemocracyChat. As the host, the Jefferson Center (are you following us on Twitter? You should be!) will host questions to guide the discussion marked as Q1, Q2, Q3… and so on. You can answer these directly with A1, A2, and A3 at the beginning of your tweets.

To help keep you organized, you may want to use a website like TweetChat so you only see tweets related to the hashtag, which will make the chat easier to follow. Just type in #DemocracyChat to start, and TweetChat will integrate with your Twitter account.

We’re excited to hear your ideas! See you on Twitter soon.

You can find the original version on this announcement on The Jefferson Center’s site at www.jefferson-center.org/join-our-democracychat/.

Free Webinar Series this Fall on Storytelling for Good

The theme of our upcoming 2018 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation is how to bring dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement work into greater awareness and more widespread practice. There are a lot of components to what that means and we will explore this much deeper at #NCDD2018! One way to expand the reach and impact of the D&D field is through better storytelling of the work being done to deeper engage with each other. The Communications Network is offering a free Storytelling for Good webinar series this fall, and the first webinar on “Strategy” is August 28th 2 – 3 EST. You can read about the webinar line-up in the post below and find more information on The Comms Network site here.


Storytelling for Good Upcoming Webinars

Storytelling for Good connects you to a suite of tools and a growing community that can help you leverage the power of narrative to increase reach, resources and impact for your social impact organization.

Webinar – Storytelling for Good: Strategy
August 28, 2018 2 – 3 pm EST
RSVP HERE

Stories are powerful: Our brains are literally wired to take in and preserve stories. Done well, stories can drive us to take action.

So how do you tell stories well? There have never been more ways to reach an audience, but it’s harder than ever to really get their attention.

We’re happy to introduce Storytelling for Good. It’s a platform designed with you in mind and will help you and your organization plan and execute a storytelling strategy—giving you the tools, resources, and case studies you need to become a storytelling organization from top to bottom.

In this webinar, we’ll focus on Strategy, one of the four pillars of storytelling.

Future webinars:

Webinar – Storytelling for Good: Content
September 18, 2018 2 – 3 pm EST
RSVP HERE

Webinar – Storytelling for Good: Engagement
October 28, 2018 2 – 3 pm EST
RSVP HERE

Webinar – Storytelling for Good: Evalution
November 8, 2018 2 – 3 pm EST
RSVP HERE

You can find the original version of this announcement on The Communications Network site at https://storytelling.comnetwork.org/.

Participatory Budgeting Lessons Over Last 30 Years

Participatory Budgeting has been rapidly growing across the world for the last 30 years, in all levels of government, in organizations, and in schools. There was a report released by the Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network on the current state of PB and its future; and NCDD member org, the Participatory Budgeting Project, recorded a webinar with the report authors, Stephanie McNulty and Brian Wampler. You can listen to the webinar in the article below and find the original on PBP’s site here.


Lessons from 30 years of a global experiment in democracy

The Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network recently funded a major new report on the lessons learned from 30 years of participatory budgeting (PB). In July, we hosted a webinar about the state and future of PB with report authors Stephanie McNulty and Brian Wampler.

Check out the webinar recording, slides, and key takeaways below.

We asked Stephanie and Brian about what it meant to write this report in 2018, a time of great change for PB and for democracy.

Stephanie spoke to how PB has grown since beginning in Brazil in 1989: “It’s sort of exploding, and happening all over the world in places that are very different from Brazil… It’s taking place faster than we can document and analyze.”

Brian shared about experimentation in PB happening with a variety of focus areas and in new contexts. Part of the power of PB is in how adaptable it is. Many folks experiment with how to design PB to best serve their community. And so, PB looks different in the more than 7,000 localities it exists in around the world.

“PB is probably the most widespread public policy tool to undertake what we consider democratizing democracy.”- Stephanie McNulty

In 30 years, PB has created significant impacts. Doing PB and studying it need more investment to further impact democracy. We’re still learning about the ways that PB can transform individuals and communities.

Early research suggests PB strengthens the civic attitudes and practices of participants, elected officials, and civil servants. Beyond changes at the individual level, the report documents changes at the community level. Changes at the community level include greater accountability, stronger civil society, improved transparency, and better well-being.

But, in the end, good PB doesn’t just happen; it has to be built. It requires intentional effort to ensure that PB practice lives up to its promise. It can yield benefits for those who participate in the early stages, but it takes time for those to expand to broader areas. PB is growing faster as more people learn about it’s potential. We need further research to  learn from what advocates on the ground know about PB’s impact—as well as it’s areas for improvement. The future of PB will require effort and sustained resources to support new ways of placing power in the hands of the people.

The report documents key ways PB has transformed over 30 years.

  • Scale. PB started at the municipal level in Brazil, and now exists in every level of government, and even within government agencies. PB is now being done for schools, colleges, cities, districts, states, and nations—places where people are looking for deeper democracy.
  • Secret ballots to consensus-based processes. When we spoke about what was most surprising or unexpected while writing the report, Brian talked about the shift in how communities make decisions in PB often moving from secret ballots to consensus-based processes.
  • Technology. New technologies are used for recruitment, to provide information, and to offer oversight. We don’t fully understand the benefits and limitations of this particular transformation, and look forward to more research on this question.
  • Increased donor interest. More international donors are interested in promoting and supporting PB.
  • A shift away from pro-poor roots. PB in Brazil began as a project of the Workers Party to pursue social justice and give power to marginalized communities and the disenfranchised. This is a core reason why many look to PB to solve deeply entrenched problems of inequity in the democratic process. Unfortunately today, many PB processes around the world do not have an explicit social justice goals.

We’ve learned that focusing on social justice actually makes PB work better. PB processes that seek to include traditionally marginalized voices make it easier for everyone to participate in making better decisions.

To wrap up our webinar, Laura Bacon from Omidyar Network, David Sasaki from the Hewlett Foundation, and our Co-Executive Director at PBP, Josh Lerner shared takeaways for grantmakers.

They discussed what we need to make the transformative impacts of PB be bigger and more widespread.

  • Medium and long term investment is important for PB success. One off investments don’t create the impacts of PB and can lead to a decline in quality.
  • Government support is crucial. PB works best when it complements government—not opposes it.
  • Watch out for participation fatigue. If the conditions for successful PB are not fully in place, residents and advocacy organizations can grow weary of continued involvement.
  • Funders should focus PB grantmaking in areas that have conditions in place for it to be successful. They should look at political, economic, and social contexts before funding the process.

Want more updates on the state and future of PB? Sign up for PBP’s Newsletter

You can find the original version of this article on the Participatory Budgeting Project site at www.participatorybudgeting.org/lessons-from-30-years-of-pb/.

Local Civic Challenge #4: Telling Your Community’s Story

In the final installment of the Local Civic Challenge from by NCDD member, The Jefferson Center, they recommend folks get involved in telling the story of your local community. Last month, the Local Civic Challenge offered a mini-challenge every week to encourage folks to be more civically engaged in your community and local democratic efforts. This fourth edition advises to get to know your neighbors and listen to their stories, as well as, participate in your local newsgathering and share the story of your community. You can read the post below and find the original on the JC site here.


Local Civic Challenge #4: Telling the Story of Your Community

Supporting local storytelling strengthens our relationships and preserves the history of our communities. When we listen to the experiences of our neighbors, we can better understand one another, which makes it easier to work through projects and issues together.

Think about your role in your local news ecosystem–are you subscribed to the local paper? Do you know what the current headlines are? Can you identify a few stories that aren’t being covered, but should be? According to a 2015 Pew survey, Americans are great at sharing news, but we don’t often get involved in actual newsgathering ourselves.

For this week’s civic challenge, we’ve found a few ways you can start collecting stories and amplifying diverse voices in your neighborhood:

1. Meet with people

Find events like garage sales, movies in the park, and clothing swaps where you can sit (or stand) across from someone and get to know them. If these don’t exist already, create your own community gatherings! Share online, and post to community bulletin boards in places like the grocery store and community center.

2. Submit an op-ed or write a blog post

Take stock of the local papers and blogs in your community to see where you could submit a story. Here are a few tips on how to start writing for your community paper.

3. Use technology

Apps and social media pages that connect neighborhoods are becoming more common, such as:

Nextdoor is a “private social network” for your community. While some people use the app to report a break-in or a lost dog, you can also post about upcoming cookouts or garage sales.

Ioby helps kickstart community projects, through crowd-funding, social networks, volunteers, and advocacy. You can find out what projects are happening near you, and if it’s a cause you can get behind, help spread the word.

Patch is a customizable “hyperlocal” news feed with real-time alerts, local articles, and easy social sharing.

Neighborhood Facebook groups are another way to share photos, events, news, and concerns with people who live close to you.

Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat: by following the hashtag and location of your city on these apps, you can see what people are posting about locally.

4. Host a listening booth

Setting up a listening booth is easy: find a spot with some foot traffic, set up a table and two chairs, and make a sign that says “Let’s Chat!” Giving people your undivided attention, instead of focusing on when it’s your turn to talk, will likely open up an incredible conversation about their life experiences.

5. Launch a community history project

Using all the techniques above, you can record stories with tools like the StoryCorps app, which give people a chance to easily record meaningful conversations that are then archived at the Library of Congress. On their website, you’ll find guides to asking questions, resources you need to record, how to prepare for a storyteller interview, and more.

If you like taking photos, you could pair your story collecting with a photo series, like Humans of New York.

This marks the end of the Local Civic Challenge! Do you have other ideas that will help people get engaged with their communities? Let us know below.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at www.jefferson-center.org/telling-story-your-community/.

Public Agenda Exploring Engagement Webinar on July 26th

Looking to strengthen your engagement skills and learn more tools for doing this work? Then we encourage you to check out the upcoming opportunities with NCDD member org, Public Agenda! This week on Thursday, July 26th, they will be offering a free webinar on Exploring Engagement: Cutting-Edge Topics, Trends, and Tools from 3:30 – 4:30pm Eastern, 12:30 – 1:30 Pacific. Later in the fall, PA will host an in-person workshop on October 23rd in Silver Spring, MD, where Matt Leighninger and Nicole Cabral will conduct an all-day training for leaders looking to strengthen their engagement strategies. You can learn about both in the post below and find the original information on PA’s site – here for this week’s webinar and here for the fall workshop.


WEBINAR – Exploring Engagement: Cutting-Edge Topics, Trends, and Tools

Topic: Exploring Engagement: Cutting-edge topics, trends, and tools

Description: What exactly is engagement and why does it matter? How do you make the case that your organization or community should be engaging more? Why are residents expecting (or demanding) different opportunities to engage? What are “thick” and “thin” forms of engagement? How can engagement affect political and social inequities? What are the cutting-edge trends and tools, and the latest success stories? What are the mistakes to avoid?

Join us for a one-hour webinar on Thursday, July 26, where Public Agenda’s engagement team will present some answers to these questions, take questions and suggestions, and introduce resources for further exploration.

Time: July 26, 2018 3:30 p.m.– 4:30 p.m. in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

REGISTER HEREwww.publicagenda.org/pages/webinar-exploring-engagement-cutting-edge-topics-trend-and-tools

WORKSHOP – Public Engagement Strategy in Silver Spring

Who: Leaders looking to revamp or strengthen their engagement strategy
Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Time: 9:00 a.m.– 4:30 p.m. EST
Location: Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Agenda: October 23, 9:00 a.m.– 4:30 p.m. EST — Public Agenda workshop

Looking for assistance with organizing and sustaining productive public engagement? Struggling to decide how to use online engagement tools? Frustrated with the standard “2 minutes at the microphone” public meeting? Need expert advice on bringing together a diverse critical mass of people?

Our Public Engagement team is leading a workshop on how you can hone an effective engagement strategy.

On October 23, Public Agenda’s Matt Leighninger and Nicole Cabral will:

  • Provide an overview of the strengths and limitations of public engagement today;
  • Help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of public engagement in your community;
  • Explore potential benefits of more sustained forms of participation;
  • Demonstrate a mix of small group and large group discussions, interactive exercises, case studies and practical application exercises;
  • Develop skills for planning stronger engagement systems;
  • List existing community assets that can be instrumental for sustained engagement;
  • Anticipate common challenges to planning for stronger systems;
  • Develop an initial set of next steps to pursue.

Learn more about pricing information and how to register in the link below.

REGISTER HEREwww.publicagenda.org/pages/silver-spring-strat-lab-october-23

Making Tech Accessible to Low-Literacy Communities

As our technology continues to flourish and many use it as a major tool for engaging communities, how do we make sure that engagement processes and practices are accessible to those who have limited literacy skills? NCDDer Bang the Table recently shared an article on best practices for engaging with communities online that have low-literacy that we encourage you to read. You can read the article below and find the original on Bang the Table’s site here.


4 key ways to engage with low-literacy communities online

Most online engagement involves text and interactive tools that require, or assume, an ability to write and express opinions. But where does that leave community members who have low levels of literacy?

People with limited literacy levels represent a significant percentage of the community. In Australia, while around 14 per cent of adults – just over 1 in 7 – have limited literacy skills, 1 in 5, or around44 percent of people, lack literary skills required for everyday life.  Alternately, 42 percent of Canadian adults have low literacy skills while, in the USA, some 36 million adults cannot read, write or perform basic maths, which has remained largely unchanged in over ten years. In the UK, 1 in 7 adults in England lack basic literacy skills, while nearly 30 per cent of the workforce in Ireland hold the equivalent of a junior certificate, with 10 per cent only primary level or no formal qualifications at all. Indeed, The Programme for International Assessment for Adult Compentencies (PIACC) Survey of Adult Skills reveals that a considerable number of adults in 40 OECD countries possess only limited literacy and numeracy skills.

Most adults with literacy difficulties can read something but find it hard to understand complex, detailed forms or deal with digital technology. As a result, some are hesitant, or less likely to use technology. For some, barriers may exist around using verbal and non-verbal communications. TheUK’s literacy trust write: “People with low literacy skills may not be able to read a book or newspaper, understand road signs or price labels, make sense of a bus or train timetable, fill out a form, read instructions on medicines or use the internet.”

Difficulties reading, writing, working with numbers and self-expression not only contributes to societal exclusion but is an all-pervasive issue when working in the space of community engagement. Core to the values of community engagement is the ability to ensure that everyone has a say on issues that impact their everyday lives. But, on the flipside, low literacy is often hidden or masked.

Low literacy levels are frequently well camouflaged, making it not only hard to identify, but also hard to reach. This can include: linguistically diverse groups (migrant communities, for instance, have complex literacy profiles); people not wanting to identify as “disabled”; and people with psychological and cognitive disabilities, such as dyslexia – itself referred to as an “invisible disability” (it is estimated to affect 10 to 15 per cent of the population).

These are added to by the “intergenerational cycle”, or family literacy where people who grow up in a family with low literacy, themselves often develop have limited literacy skills. According the UK’s Literacy Trust, this “makes social mobility and a fairer society more difficult”. These “invisible” measures not only make figures of low literacy potentially much higher, but, more importantly, limiting the capacity for civic participation, make engaging with low literacy communities essential.

Without systematic consideration of low literacy communities, it would seem that in efforts to engage people in decisions that affect their everyday lives – to provide equal access for all to ensure everyone has their say – a context for failure and exclusion will be created. Indeed, community members with lower general verbal ability and difficulty with phonetic processing would struggle with most traditional methods of engagement. How would they respond to a survey for instance, or qualitatively rate issues without means to express themselves? How, then, should accessibility in engagement with low-literacy communities work?

While face-to-face engagement can involve advocacy groups, engage people of trust to those with low literacy skills and provide opportunities for support (for example, using signing or braille), there appears little analysis of pragmatic and practical ways to engage low literacy communities online – particularly, in an increasingly digitally-focussed world. How can we translate this inclusive engagement online?

On the other hand, holding online engagement up to the same prism can overlook its unique potential. Online accessibility can suggest real optimism: it emphasises beneficial ways technology and design potentially transform the lives of people with diverse physical, cognitive and sensory abilities and needs. Perhaps the question is, then, what are the opportunities open to online engagement with low literacy communities?

Here are 4 key ways to engage low-literacy communities online:

1. PLAIN TEXT: USE WRITTEN INFORMATION ACCESSIBLY

  • Use everyday language and, where possible, images to assist with meaning.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Be mindful of the nuances of language.

This is particularly salient with “invisible” low literacy communities as not all people use the same terminology – some may not self-identify as experiencing low levels literacy. In addition, diverse groups have differing needs, for example, people with autism would commonly have difficult understanding figures of speech, “raining cats and dogs”.

  • Use inclusive language: avoid labels, generic terms and emotive language.

Inappropriate language can result in feeling excluded, for instance, describing that people “suffer” or are “afflicted with” low literacy. Equally, in the search for equality, it is important not to use language that can be perceived as condescending, for instance, describing low literacy communities as “inspirational” or “brave” etc.

  • Consider written materials in engagement methods and feedback.

Will there be newsletters? How will you publish survey results? How will provide feedback? True inclusivity means that everyone’s views help inform decision-making.

  • Create a checklist.

Is the information as clear, simple and concise as possible?

  • Use consistent style.

Use standard capital and lowercase sentences, especially in headings; use bold for emphasis rather than italics, which are harder to read, and underscore hyperlinks. Many PDF files are incompatible with screen reader software packages, so consider publishing word or HTML versions alongside PDFs.

  • Create easy read versions/translations of all text documents.

NB: In order to access information and engage on the same basis as other people, low level literacy communities may require differing formats. For example, Microsoft Word document’s can be read aloud using a screen reader.

2. VIDEO AND AUDIO

  • Use short engaging videos.

Video imaging can convey key messages on issues or create imaginative calls to action to get involved in an engagement process.

  • Use conversational audio and video

Consider audience literacy, perhaps through conducting conversations/audio, such as podcasts, at a slightly slower pace.

  • Use audible versions of all video and audio files.

3. INFOGRAPHICS AND IMAGES

  • Use images, diagrams and graphs to make information more accessible.
  • Use brief written descriptions to accompany images.
  • Use data visualisation instead of tables.

Tables are notoriously incompatible with screen reader software used by blind people or those with vision impairments. They are also difficult to reproduce in large print.

  • Don’t use text over graphics, patterns or blocks of colour or dark shading
  • Use colour to visually communicate qualitative aspects of issues – ie viewers can form colour analogies to indicate emotive expression (i.e. danger = red).

4. DIGITAL STORYTELLING

Anecdotally, low literacy people rely on their friends and family (with higher literacy levels) to share information with them, often via conversation and talking. Digital storytelling is a simple, creative way where people with little to no online experience can tell a personal story. It provides a means of self-expression and opens up a self-identified way to become involved in engagement issues, provides a respect for the diversity of participants and ensures their voices are heard.

  • Provide a capacity for low literacy people to narrate stories online.

This provides access to self-identifying and an agency for their engagement. While participant testimonials are often essential at feedback stage, they exclude participation by people with low literacy skills. Storytelling provides a great way of capturing the voice of your participants and facilitates a way to demonstrate their views inform decision-making.

  • Draw on different digital formats.

Through the use of photos, online drawings and digital media, a personal or strong emotional connection can be built into the engagement process and centres the experience on the participant. Ensuring a personal connection, this recognises low literacy participants as experts in their own lives and experiences.

You can find the original version of this article on Bang the Table’s site at www.bangthetable.com/4-key-ways-engage-low-literacy-communities-online/.