NCDD Joins Coalition in Launching National Survey on the American Dream

In an era of political divide and confusion, we can learn a lot about what is happening if we slow down and ask people how their thoughts and feelings about the issues that seem to divide us most are changing.

That is why NCDD is proud to announce that we’ve joined a national, nonpartisan coalition that is launching the “What’s Your American Dream?” survey. This survey will ask people across the US to express their values and goals around the issues they see as most vital, and deliver the results to lawmakers. We think that an effort like this can help guide the nation’s leaders – as well as dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement practitioners –  to understand Americans’ goals for this time and then devise the tactics to achieve those goals.

The survey grew out of discussions with former members of Congress and everyday Americans, all frustrated with being out of touch with each other. The coalition rolling out the “What is Your American Dream?” survey – comprised of 25 universities, media outlets, organizations spanning the political spectrum, and spearheaded by the team at TheChisel – has the potential to reach 30 million Americans.

NCDD joined this growing coalition because we believe that the survey is a great tool to help D&D practitioners in our network gain clearer insights on what the people we’re engaging are really thinking and how they’re prioritizing for different issue areas, which will help our field do more impactful work that is responsive to the needs in our communities. That’s why we’re supporting the survey and encouraging our network to participate & share the survey to your own networks!

The seven-week survey is being hosted on TheChisel.com, a unique nonpartisan public discussion platform that encourages people across the US to step beyond political slogans and platforms to share what matters to them, their loved ones, and communities.

Their survey uses elements of public deliberation to help distill Americans’ shared dream in seven important areas: Economy; Social Justice; Liberty and Regulation; Health, Education, and Care; Services; Foreign Affairs; and Governance. One of these themes will be featured each of the seven weeks that the survey is open. Unlike traditional surveys, the American Dream survey allows participants to share their stories with fellow Americans, or even add issues important to them that they think should be part of the conversation. It also features whimsical graphics and game-like navigation, is easy to use and understand, and appeals to all ages – whether they are 18 or 99 year olds.

TheChisel and the coalition will share the survey’s findings with the media and hand-deliver the report to the President, Cabinet, Members of Congress, Supreme Court, and state governors once it’s completed.

The “What’s Your American Dream?” survey launched on May 16 and will be open to the public for free until July 4, 2017, so be sure to participate soon! You can find the survey at www.thechisel.com/americandream. We encourage NCDD members and our broader network to take the survey yourself, share it with your followers, or even consider signing on to the coalition, which already includes other NCDD member orgs!

More about the Coalition
University partners include University of Missouri School of Journalism, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, University of Mary Government and Political Philosophy Department, University of the Pacific Political Science Department.

Other partners include: ALL-IN Campus Democracy Challenge, AllSides, Associated Collegiate Press, Diplomat Books, Future 500, Heartfelt Leadership Institute, Hope Street Group, Independent Voter Network, Inyo County Clerk-Recorder, JGArchitects, Living Room Conversations, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, National Speech and Debate Association, ReConsider Media, The TAI Group, Take Back Our Republic, TheChisel, The Democracy Commitment, The Policy Circle, Wellville, and The Women’s Debate.

More about TheChisel
TheChisel is a nonpartisan website offering citizens a unique platform to engage in a dialogue with experts from both sides of the aisle. It enables citizen voices to be heard over the noise of special interest groups and media spin. On TheChisel’s proprietary discussion platform, every American can engage and help revise public policy proposals related to issues important to America’s future. These proposals are developed by nonpartisan organizations and bipartisan coalitions. With TheChisel’s help, Americans’ views will educate civic leaders and guide their policy-making.

Key Lessons on Community-Police Relations from APV2017

Last week, NCDD member orgs the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute hosted the 2017 “A Public Voice” forum that convened D&D practitioners with congressionl staff to talk about how to improve community-police relations. For those of you who couldn’t tune in to the livestream of the event, we wanted to share this insightful write up of the event’s highlights from our friends at Everyday Democracy below. We encourage you to read their piece below or find the original here. And if you’d like to watch the whole 90-minute recording of APV 2017, you can find links to it here.


A Public Voice 2017: Safety & Justice

EvDem LogoHighly-publicized police shootings, especially of unarmed black boys and men, have highlighted a national crisis of public safety and justice. These devastations lead us to ask how we can reduce crime as well as police violence, and how we can balance security and liberty. The National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) recently published a Safety & Justice guide and is moderating forums throughout the country to help people grapple with these issues and work towards solutions.

“A Public Voice,” the Kettering Foundation and NIFI’s “annual exploration of public thinking on key issues,” held on May 9 in Washington, D.C., provided the opportunity for Kettering to share with policymakers their insights from the 150 Safety & Justice forums held so far. Senior Associate Leslie King represented Everyday Democracy.

In his opening address, David Mathews, President of the Kettering Foundation, declared “There is no one in this city, no matter how important they are, that can answer questions of judgement – we have to do that.” He characterized the event as part of the work to bridge divides between the people and the government of America.

At tabletop discussions, NIFI moderators, deliberative practitioners, Congressional staffers and federal officials discussed how people are thinking and talking about issues of safety and justice. Those watching the livestream of the event had the chance to listen in to one of those discussions. Read on for insights from the conversation.

A policing perspective

“We in policing have to demystify policing,” one participant remarked, and went on to describe a 70 year-old woman who only just learned about the concept of community policing after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown. Part of demystifying the profession, according to him, requires acknowledging when someone has done wrong – otherwise, he said, the public assumes what police are thinking.

Talking about Safety & Justice leads to conversations about, and capacity to address, other issues

Leslie King pointed out that in dialogues about community-police relations, participants invariably end up talking about related issues such as employment, housing, and education. Having dialogues and organizing around community-police relations, she added, ends up building community capacity to deal with other issues. Community members realize they have agency and that government officials can’t simply dictate solutions.

People want to address root causes

In an online Safety & Justice forum, a representative from Kettering shared that the most-agreed-upon point was the need to invest more in education in communities with high rates of crime. He saw this as evidence of people’s desire to address root causes of violence and crime.

Gail Kitch, who serves on the NIFI’s board, reported on common themes from the initial Safety & Justice forums. These included:

  • People feel we urgently need to increase understanding and mutual respect between police and people of color. Popular suggestions for achieving this included police making connections with youth, and police going through cultural and racial bias trainings.
  • Participants took responsibility for the issue. Many identified community building and improving relationships within the community as tools to reduce crime.
  • Many expressed the belief that it is unsustainable for police to deal with mental illness and drug-related issues.
  • People expressed a desire to address root problems such as unemployment, poverty, and inequality.

In closing, Mathews described Kettering’s work as “awakening the capacities of people to deliberate with one another.” He left participants and viewers with a challenge he called daunting, but not hopeless: “to build on what grows” – a quote he credited to J. Herman Blake. Every person has the capacity for good judgement, he said — the job of people in the deliberative field, then, must be to nurture that ability.

You can find the original version of this Everyday Democracy blog post at www.everyday-democracy.org/news/public-voice-2017-safety-justice.

Learn from Iceland’s Deliberative Constitutional Change

We want to encourage our NCDD network, especially those in California, to consider registering to attend an intriguing event this June 3 at UC Berkeley called A Congress on Iceland’s Democracy. This international gathering aims to explore new approaches to democracy inspired by the deliberative process that Iceland used to create its new constitution through a mock legislative process, and we’re sure many NCDDers would take a great deal of inspiration from participating.
You can learn more about the gathering in the invitation letter below sent to the NCDD network from our friends at Wilma’s Wish Productions, whose Blueberry Soup documentary on Iceland’s constitutional transformation we previously posted about on the blog, or learn more at www.law.berkeley.edu/iceland.


A Congress on Iceland’s Democracy

We are writing to extend an invitation to an event we believe would interest you. On June 3rd, 2017, we are hosting a citizen’s gathering at the University of California, Berkeley.

This event will translate participatory discussion into concrete action proposals by organizing as a mock legislative body to develop, debate, and decide on proposals for moving forward with Iceland’s constitutional change process. The event’s structure takes inspiration from the 2010 Icelandic National Assembly and Robert’s Rules of Order.

This powerful summit will revolve around discussions on how to address the current political and social climate in the United States, using Iceland’s constitutional reform process as an example. Iceland’s new constitution was written in perhaps the most democratic way possible and we want to model this methodology and learn how it can be applied in communities across the United States and the world. Our goal is to create a non-partisan environment that will foster new approaches to democracy and a shared vocabulary.

Many prominent political figures from Iceland will be in attendance as well as many of the authors of the new constitution. Furthermore, academics, activists, startups, and journalists from all over the United States and Europe are also coming to participate in this “Icelandic National Assembly” style event.

This gathering of citizens has piqued the interest of people from all around the globe – a mass exodus of Icelanders and Europeans are flying in just to sit at these tables because they know real change is possible through dialogic methodologies. We hope this historic gathering will shape the way Americans think about democracy with a focus on the impact that dialogue can have on the democratic process on a local as well as global scale.

This conference aims to achieve exactly what many of you have dedicated your life to – reimagining democracy and the way we converse with one another about tough issues. Your passion for dialogue and democracy in addition to your excellent facilitation skills makes me believe you would be a valuable asset to this event and an excellent voice for others to engage with.

We want a broad range of perspectives present at this event, so we invite you to register to attend this citizens gathering and participate in history as it is being made.

You can learn more about the Congress on Iceland’s Democracy at www.law.berkeley.edu/iceland.

Lessons on Non-Hierarchical Decision Making from Our Confab with Loomio

On Thursday of last week, NCDD hosted another one of our Confab Call events with over 40 people from our network. The call featured Rich Bartlett and MJ Kaplan of the Loomio cooperative who talked about their experience with decision making in non-hierarchical organizations. If you missed this Confab Call, you missed a great event!

We had a lively conversation on how non-hierarchical organizations can be structured, how decisions are made (spoiler alert: deliberatively!), and how work flows can be managed in ways that don’t require anyone to be “the boss.” Rich and MJ also shared interesting reflections on what they’ve been learning on their US tour in meetings with all kinds of organizations – from government departments to non-profits to grassroots organizations – who are exploring “the democracy question” internally and in civic society.

If you couldn’t participate in the Confab, never fear – we recorded the whole presentation and conversation, and you can hear and see the whole thing again by clicking here. You can also find the slides from MJ and Rich’s presentation by clicking here, and the transcript of the discussion being had in the chat during the call can be found here.

Confab bubble imageWe want to thank Rich, MJ, and the whole Loomio team again for collaborating with us on making this timely conversation happen. We encourage our network to explore how the Loomio tool can help your or other “flat” organizations work together better at www.loomio.org.

To learn more about NCDD’s Confab Calls and hear recordings of others, visit www.ncdd.org/events/confabs.

Tune into “A Public Voice” Safety & Justice Event Tomorrow!

We want to remind the NCDD network – especially those of you focused on community-police dialogue – to tune in live to the 2017 “A Public Voice” event tomorrow, May 9th from 1:30 -3pm Eastern via Facebook Live.

APV2017 Facebook Event

“A Public Voice” is the annual event that the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forums Institute – both NCDD member orgs – host every year to bring public input on policy straight to Washington DC. This year’s APV forum will be a working meeting with Congressional staff about the results of the numerous forums on safety and community-police relationships that NIFI, many NCDD members, and other D&D organizations hosted this year using NIFI’s Safety & Justice issue guide.

They will be streaming the live event tomorrow on Facebook Live, and we encourage our network to join the broadcast, not just to watch, but to send in your questions, comments, and other feedback that will be incorporated directly into the event!

Don’t miss this important discussion! You can sign up for a reminder and find the link to the live feed on May 9th in the APV 2017 Facebook event or learn more at www.apublicvoice.org.

Share Power through Public Participation… Or Else

As NCDD reflects on D&D in “flat” organizations during today’s Confab Call, we found a special appreciation for this insightful blog piece from NCDD member org The Participation Company. In it, TPC leader Debra Duerr writes on how conventional public participation still assumes a top-down model where the regular people address public officials who are really listening. She reflects on how the assumptions of that model are no longer working as power is ever-more concentrated out of the reach of everyday citizens and what might happen if we can’t facilitate, or even force, power sharing through real participation. We encourage you to read her provocative piece below or find the original here.


Revolutionary Conflict Resolution Styles

These are challenging times for us public participation practitioners. Our life’s work is conflict management and dispute resolution, plus adjusting to the various conflict resolution styles. To support this, we’ve built some nice, neat boxes that contain tools for working with people in most of the ‘real world’ situations encountered over the last 40 years. But, boy, the real world has changed. It seems there are no more boxes and no more rules.

The framework developed by the International Association for Public Participation to encompass the range of ways people can impact decisions is our ‘Spectrum’ (IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum). Says the organization, “IAP2’s Spectrum of Public Participation was designed to assist with the selection of the level of participation that defines the public’s role in any public participation process. The Spectrum shows that differing levels of participation are legitimate and depend on the goals, time frames, resources, and levels of concern in the decision to be made.”

Here’s the big But: This whole paradigm, including the ‘empower’ construct, implies that there’s an identifiable decision maker listening to what the public has to say. It’s an entirely top-down model. There are reasons why the top-down approach has worked for a long time, given the way worldwide democracy has developed over the past several decades. And there are reasons why it isn’t working anymore; the challenge is trying to figure out what those reasons are, and how to address them.

Everyone has conflicts that are eventually resolved through a variety of conflict resolution styles. A little history is helping me think about this. The bookends, for me, are the events and political climate of the early 1970s (when public involvement did not exist as a discipline) and the events and political climate of January 2017. So many parallels…

At the beginning of this phase, I wrote my thesis on Structural Constraints on Citizen Participation in Planning. It all had to do with Power: who has it, who doesn’t, how can power-sharing be forced, and what’s the role of professional facilitators in this process. In the intervening years, public participation in government (and even private industry) planning and decision processes has been recognized as not only legitimate, but crucial to implementing anything. To accommodate this, we’ve built structures in which citizens expect to have a voice, know how to make that voice heard, and expect that somebody’s listening – this is the ‘promise to the public’ that IAP2 honors. It’s been a long, slow process of building trust.

Breaking down that trust hasn’t taken nearly as long. It feels like it’s happened overnight – Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring, Brexit, a mind-blowing presidential election, backlash demonstrations in the streets. It’s clear that social movements have a life of their own, and they are certainly not initiated or approved by decision makers.

I believe the common theme, then as now, is still Power. The more power is concentrated within the walls of the citadel, the more citizens will be pounding on the gates. Listen to us! Let us in! We want a piece of this! Off with their heads!

So, what happens when large segments of the population feel that nobody’s listening? When conflict resolution styles and processes are not being followed or addressed? Revolution. I suggest that we put this thought on the table for dialogue and deliberation (as we P2 people are fond of promoting). If we can help create a way to channel the astounding energy and commitment of grassroots movements into the halls of power in a mutually constructive way, we’ll be heroes. We did it once; I think we can do it again … but it’s like eating an elephant.

Here’s some inspiration:

  • from St. Francis of Assisi – “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
  • from the seminal anthropologist of the 20th Century, Margaret Mead – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

You can find the original version of this blog post from The Participation Company at www.theparticipationcompany.com/2017/03/revolutionary-conflict-resolution-styles.

NCDD Members Win Big in Bridge Alliance Grant Competition

In case you missed it, we wanted to highlight the fact the a total of nine different NCDD member organizations were awarded grants as part of first round of the Bridge Alliance‘s Collective Impact competition. We think having so many NCDD members win grants in a competition aimed at helping transpartisan groups “to better collaborate on ways to fix political processes on the local, state, and national levels” is a huge testament to the powerful work that our network does. We invite you to join us in congratulating Bring it to the TableDavenport Institute, Essential Partners, Healthy Democracy, Institute for Local GovernmentLiving Room Conversations, National Institute for Civil DiscoursePublic Agenda, Village Square, and all of the other winners!
You can learn more in the Bridge Alliance’s announcement below (we’ve marked the NCDD member orgs with an asterisk) or find the original here.


The Bridge Alliance Collective Impact $500,000 Grant First-Round Projects, March 2017

Recognizing that organizations cannot effectively bridge the broad political divide alone, the Bridge Alliance is awarding up to $1 million in Collective Impact grants in 2017 to enable our member organizations to better collaborate on ways to fix political processes on the local, state and national levels. We are pleased to announce today the awarding of more than $525,000 in inaugural grants, to be shared by two dozen Bridge Alliance member organizations.

These joint projects will help members implement and test innovative approaches in our Alliance’s three core areas: expanding civic engagement and participation; improving governance; and reforming campaign and election processes. The programs are designed to generate tools, ideas and best practices for all Bridge Alliance members to use and to multiply the impact of each group’s work.

Additional grants will be awarded later this year, financed in partnership with Invest American Fund and others.

GOVERNANCE 

  • Improve the workings of state legislatures nationwide bybringingtogether legislators from across the country to study how to talk with others with opposing views and how to reach policy decisions without or with minimum acrimony.

Collaborating Bridge Alliance members: National Institute for Civil Discourse*; State Legislative Leaders Foundation; National Foundation of Women Legislators.  Grant amount: $50,000 in two phases.

  • Make local government meetings and decision making more effective by distributing a toolkit to make public meetings more productive and guide how people inside and outside of local government perceive and communicate with each other.

Collaborating Bridge Alliance members: Public Agenda*; Cities of Service; Institute of Local Government*. Grant amount: $45,000

CIVIC PARTICIPATION & ENGAGEMENT

  • Help people and groups find opposing forces who are willing to talk and stimulate dialogue between those of differing viewpoints by creating an online “matchmaking site” to help divergent Bridge Association members and others find each other for open conversations on difficult issues.

Collaborating Bridge Alliance members: AllSides, Living Room Conversations*, Digital Citizen. Grant amount: $65,000

  • Find out if voters can make better-informed decisions on initiatives and referenda, by expanding and testing new Citizen Initiative Review Panels’ voter information guides in a California demonstration project.

Collaborating Bridge Alliance members: Public Agenda*, Davenport Institute*, Healthy Democracy*. Grant amount: $60,000

  • Enable open conversation between leaders and groups with diverging views, with a test project in Utah to train civil discourse facilitators who will lead and teach others how to find common ground for discussion.

Collaborating Bridge Alliance members: Essential Partners*, Living Room Conversations*, Village Square*. Grant amount: $45,000

  • Improve government decision making and civic participation by better informing people of government procedures, successes and roadblocks, by creating, testing and distributing a new series of radio, TV and webcasts.

Collaborating Bridge Alliance members: AllSides, Living Room Conversations*, Bring it to the Table*, Coffee Party. Grant amount: $38,000

  • >Harness the power of social media to showcase positive acts of governing instead of just the negative, through research, tests and the participation of social media experts and companies

Collaborating Bridge Alliance members: Civil Politics, Living Room Conversations*, Village Square*. Grant amount: $25,000

  • Create a new model for Americans of different backgrounds and beliefs to come together in face-to-face conversations, with social media tools and guidelines to allow all Bridge Member groups, other organizations, and individuals to organize powerful “circles” and moderated dinners for cross-party dialogue and civil debate.

Collaborating Bridge Alliance members: 92Y, Village Square*. Grant amount: $90,000 in two phases

CAMPAIGNS AND ELECTIONS

  • Educate voters where new election processes are in place or under consideration, such as open primaries and ranked choice voting.

Collaborating Bridge Alliance members: Fair Vote, Open Primaries, Reconsider Media, Independent Voter Project. Grant amount: $35,000

  • Encourage and enable more people to run for public office, with social and other media outreach to potential candidates and the public at large, to foster a more representative, responsive, and functional government.

Collaborating Bridge Alliance members: Centrist Project, Independent Voting.org, Represent.Us. Grant amount: $60,000

You can find the original version of this Bridge Alliance announcement at http://www.bridgealliance.us/collective_impact1.

Phoenix Students Spend $26K in District-Wide PB Process

We are proud to share that the Participatory Budgeting Project – an NCDD member org – recently completed the first-ever school district-wide participatory budgeting in Phoenix, AZ, and it was a huge success. The process empowered over 3,500 students to deliberate and vote on how to spend $26,000 of district money, and the project’s success is already being looked to as a model for more school PB processes in the future. It’s a great win for teaching D&D practices to more young people! We encourage you to read more about how it went in the PBP blog update below or find the original here.


What Happens When Students Lead PB?

“Let’s rock and roll!” shouted Christopher Oglesby, Assistant Principal at Carl Hayden Community High School, to a team huddle of 30 spirited students. The group dispersed in all directions and prepared to welcome over 1,500 student voters to the gym.

This team of student leaders – along with school district staff, nonprofit partners, and volunteers – met just before the Phoenix sunrise to set up thousands of ballots and stickers, 40 voting booths, dozens of blue and gold posters, eight voter check-in stations, three display boards, and two official Maricopa County vote machines.

During this workshop, students, teachers, and staff from five public high schools in the Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) learned about PB, and began planning how students in each school would directly decide on how to spend part of the school district’s budget. Six months ago, in September of 2016, we kicked off  the school year in Phoenix with an introductory workshop on participatory budgeting (PB) – a democratic process in which local people directly decide how to spend part of a public budget.

PUHSD was the first school district in the U.S. to do school PB with district-wide funds. Since their introduction to PB in September, five schools have worked through six months of trainings, outreach efforts, idea collection events, and meetings with district staff to transform ideas about ways to improve their schools into project proposals. These student-led efforts culminated with an entire week of voting – five voting days that each began before the sun came up.

Making history in Phoenix made for deep learning about school PB

As the school district begins implementing winning projects at each school, we’re reflecting on the outcomes we’ve already seen beyond projects themselves. During Vote Week Dr. Chad Gestson, PUHSD Superintendent, said,

“If there are any schools or districts across the country that are thinking about doing school PB, in our opinion it’s a no-brainer.”

Impacts from this district-wide initiative underscore Dr. Gestson’s point, and highlight the potential for PB to create similar outcomes for students, teachers, school district staff, and beyond. When schools or school districts use PB to empower their students to decide how to spend the dollars that impact their daily lives, everyone wins.

Students

PB helped students build friendships across grade levels. Many students talked about the ways being involved in PB increased their own self-confidence and ability to talk with fellow students about how to improve their school.

Teachers

Teachers who stepped up to advise PB at each school developed stronger relationships with students outside their regular classes, and enjoyed seeing students learn and lead with great creativity and compassion throughout the PB process.

School District Staff

The PUHSD Executive Director of Logistics was so excited to see so much student interest in school maintenance and facilities that he’s planning to incorporate student input and participation into school improvement initiatives beyond the winning PB projects – including repainting some of the schools and renovating cafeterias.

Beyond PUHSD

City staff and community organizers from the City of Phoenix and the City of Tempe, and from as far away as Fresno, CA, and Toronto, Ontario attended a vote walkthrough and panel discussion with students, teachers, and staff involved in PB. These staff members and community organizers were excited by the work happening in the school district, and several are already planning for ways to bring PB to their communities!

And the winning projects are…

Drumroll, please!

During Vote Week, 3,854 students in five public high schools – an average of over 80% turnout rate – directly decided how to spend $26,000 in school district funds. Students voted to fund music programs, filtered water stations, shade structures, and a study lounge.


Teamwork made this dream work

In any community, a successful PB process is built on strong collaboration.

PUHSD PB took teamwork to the next level, and established partnerships across Phoenix that have already inspired other school districts and cities to reimagine ways to work together.

During Vote Week, the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office generously partnered with PUHSD; they provided voting booths, official vote machines and ballots, and staff support for each voting day. In doing so, County Recorder Adrian Fontes and his office created a voting experience that embodied real democracy just as an election does – and in some ways did so even better.

Recorder Fontes has confidence that “there are other elected officials around the country just like [him] who would be more than happy to come on out and help support these sorts of elections with staff and equipment.”

“[PB] is part of education that’s not testable” he said, “isn’t this one of the most important aspects of our American democracy?”

Beyond support from an elected official, local partners from across Phoenix came together with commitment and creativity to support this student-driven initiative. This successful Vote Week was due in great part to the time, talent, and remarkable volunteers from the Center for the Future of Arizona, One Arizona, Mi Familia Vota, and Arizona State University.

Telemundo, NPR’s KJZZ, and Arizona PBS each covered Vote Week, and produced compelling news reports linked below:

Cronkite News AZ PBS’s coverage of Phoenix Union High School District PB process goes from 16:00 – 17:45 in this video.
More coverage of the first PB process with school district funds from 91.5 KJZZ.

What’s next for Phoenix?

We’ll wrap up this pilot year in PUHSD with a PB Celebration and Participatory Evaluation Workshop in May – where students, teachers, and staff from all five schools will come together to celebrate their work, reflect on what was challenging and what can be improved, and share ideas and plans for next year.

What’s next for you?

At PBP, we’re excited to see the movement for PB in schools continue to spread across Phoenix, and beyond! Our guide to PB in schools is supporting the growth of PB in schools around the world – download it here to take action.

How can we work together to bring PB to your community?

If you’re interested in more in-depth support from PBP to launch PB in your school, contact Ashley Brennan at ashley@participatorybudgeting.org.

You can find the original version of this Participatory Budgeting Project piece at www.participatorybudgeting.org/what-happens-when-students-lead-pb.

EvDem Offers $10K Award for Leadership in Democracy

We want encourage our network to consider submitting a nomination for the new $10K leadership award being offered by NCDD member organization Everyday Democracy. This new award can be granted to anyone 16 or older whose work embodies the values EvDem’s work reflects, but the deadline for nominations is June 15, so don’t wait too long! You can learn more about the award criteria and how to submit a nomination in the EvDem announcement below or find the original announcement here.


Announcing the Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award

EvDem LogoWe are pleased to announce the first annual Paul and Joyce Aicher Leadership in Democracy Award. This $10,000 award will be given to an individual and/or organization that demonstrates the values on which Everyday Democracy was founded – voice, connection, racial equity, and community change.

For more than 25 years, Everyday Democracy has worked in communities across the country to foster a strong and vibrant democracy – one that is characterized by strong relationships across divides, leadership development, lifting up the voices of all people, and celebrating racial equity.

Paul and Joyce Aicher’s generosity and creative genius have had a profound impact on individuals and organizations in every part of this country. Their passion and diligent effort inspired the dialogue guides, organizing and facilitating training, and community coaching that Everyday Democracy is so well known for delivering.

Through this award, we will recognize the work of individuals and/or organizations across the U.S. for outstanding achievement in creating opportunities for people to talk to and listen to each other, work together for equitable communities, and help create a democracy that works for everyone.

Download an information sheet about the award (PDF).

A brief history of Paul and Joyce Aicher

Paul J. Aicher’s motto, “Don’t just stand there, do something,” marked all that he did. Before founding the Study Circles Resource Center (now called Everyday Democracy) in 1989, he was a model for civic engagement. Shortly after graduating from Penn State, he participated in a discussion course which helped him find his voice in civic life and sparked his lifelong interest in helping others find their own. He saw a direct connection between his early experiences as a participant and a facilitator and his later vision for embedding these kinds of opportunities into American political life and culture.

Throughout his life, he spent his free time volunteering. Early in their marriage, he and his wife Joyce got involved with a refugee resettlement project in Illinois; Paul then served as president of the North Shore Human Relations Council. Back in Pennsylvania in the mid-1960s, he started the World Affairs Council of Berks County and led his neighbors in discussions of the “Great Decisions” guides published by the Foreign Policy Association. Through his long-time work and friendship with Homer Jack, an American Unitarian Universalist clergyman and social activist, Paul developed a passion for racial justice and international peace, both of which would inspire his later social action.

In the 1970s, he devoted his energies to launching his company Technical Materials and raising four children with Joyce. But he always returned to activism. In the early 1980s, after moving to Pomfret, Connecticut, Paul joined the local anti-nuclear freeze movement. In 1982, he formed the Topsfield Foundation, which was renamed The Paul J. Aicher Foundation after Paul’s passing in 2002. It began with making grants to advance a number of causes: affordable housing; educating and engaging the public on international security issues; and networking grass-roots peace and justice groups across the U.S. As it became an operating foundation, it focused all of its efforts on its current mission – to strengthen deliberative democracy and improve the quality of life in the United States. In the past twenty-five years, it has been best known through the work of its primary project, Everyday Democracy, which supports communities across the U.S. in implementing Paul’s vision of public dialogue that enables everyone to have a voice and be heard.

Joyce shared Paul’s commitment to civic engagement, community activism, and social justice. With her quiet strength and humor, she often worked behind the scenes to make the work of the Foundation possible. She also strengthened the local community through her numerous volunteer efforts. She and Paul shared a love of nature, books, and the arts and were self-effacing advocates of democratic values. Joyce passed away in 2016.

Who is eligible for the award?

Individuals 16 years of age and older, coalitions, and organizations conducting projects in the U.S. are eligible to be nominated. Current Everyday Democracy employees and Board members are excluded from being nominated.

Award criteria

The award will honor work that embodies Paul and Joyce Aicher’s values, such as the following:

  • Creating welcoming opportunities for meaningful civic participation for all people
  • Actively including people in civic life who have often been marginalized, and providing ways for them to develop their leadership capacities
  • Building the capacity of existing community leaders to include others in community life
  • Practicing the art of talking to each other and listening to each other
  • Taking action that is grounded in crossing divides, and aimed at meaningful transformation in people, institutions, community culture, and governance
  • Creating opportunities for empowered voice that is truly heard
  • Addressing racial inequities through dialogue and collective action
  • Showing the power of bridging all kinds of divides
  • Making dialogue a regular part of how a community works and, ultimately, of how our democracy works

Nomination process

Anyone may nominate any person or organization that meets the criteria for this award. Click here for the nomination form, which must be received by 5 pm EST on June 15, 2017. You will need to provide contact information for yourself and your nominee, a short summary of their work, and a 500-1,000 word essay describing why you think they should receive the award.

Once Everyday Democracy receives a nomination, we will reach out to the individual or organization to let them know they were nominated and to ask if they would like to supplement the form with additional information for the committee to review. Submissions will be evaluated by a panel put together by Everyday Democracy.

Once a final decision is made, the winner and others will be notified during the month of August. They will be publicly recognized at a reception later in the year.

You can find the original version of this Everyday Democracy announcement at www.everyday-democracy.org/news/announcing-paul-and-joyce-aicher-leadership-democracy-award.

D&D Partnerships with Libraries Can Change Communities

As we hope you’ve heard, NCDD is partnering with the American Library Association to build the capacity of local library staff across the country to host and support dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement gatherings. We know these kinds of D&D-library collaborations can have huge impacts on issues facing any given community, and today we wanted to share a few great examples of what it can look like. NCDD member organization Common Knowledge published the piece below on three library-based dialogues they hosted, and we encourage you to read it below or find the original here.
Have you partnered with a local library? We’d love to hear how it went and what you learned – tell us about it in the comments section!


We Learned it at the Library

Common Knowledge was originally founded to put a more inclusive “public” in public participation. Over the years, we’ve grown to see it’s equally important to put more “unity” in community.

At Common Knowledge, we’ve designed hundreds of programs and trainings that bring people together to listen together and learn together. This cumulative experience leads us to one powerful conclusion: greater inclusion leads to greater innovation. And much of what we’ve learned has resulted from projects based in California public libraries. Libraries today are uniquely positioned to be the neutral “safe space” for inclusive community conversations that let people connect as humans and learn about what is possible when we listen and learn together.

Our cumulative experience leads us to one powerful conclusion: greater inclusion leads to greater innovation.

Here are three examples of library-based dialogues that sparked meaningful outcomes:

Engaging new voters

The “average” voter has higher education and higher income than the U.S. population as a whole. The Key to Community Project worked to close this education gap by inviting adult students to help design their own program for engaging with civic issues and voting. They started by inviting fellow students to help choose topics they were interested in and co-facilitated dialogues on topics such as jobs, criminal justice and education. These discussions led to significant shifts in perspectives, as one student told me: “My whole world opened up.” Thinking went from “it’s too overwhelming and I don’t have a say” to “hey, we could do something about this. At least I can start by voting.”

The discussions created increased demand for fun, hands-on voting workshops, also facilitated by the adult students. The Key to Community Project also led to the creation of the popular Easy Voter Guide, published for each statewide election in five languages, used over the years by 60 newspapers and thousands of organizations and libraries across the state. Ultimately, though, it was these real, personal and engaged dialogues on topics that the community identified that stimulated the most dramatic increases in voter engagement, including a doubling of turnout among audiences least likely to vote.

Bridging social divides

There’s been a lot of publicity and inflamed public commentary about the tech workforce displacing longer-term residents in the Bay Area. Two years ago, a focus group at the San Francisco Public Library invited tech workers and low-income residents to talk together about the challenges of living in San Francisco. Because the discussion was framed as a human-to-human conversation between equals rather than a polarized debate between “haves” and “have-nots,” participants empathized with each other and came to see that they were all struggling with some aspect of the changing city.

The opportunity to trade stories is powerful. Some of the low-income participants were surprised to discover that the young tech employees were having difficulty affording rent too. One tech worker shared that he camps out at least three nights a month so he can rent his apartment on Airbnb to make extra income. That was his solution to making ends meet. One of the participants who lives in a single room occupancy hotel responded: “Geez, at least I know where I’m going to sleep every night.”

The point of the focus group was not to reach a conclusion or solution about the city’s changing demographics. In the spirit of non-partisan community connections, the session led to a later partnership with library literacy students helping local leaders working in the field of civic tech. Together they tested a “co-discovery” process that puts direct contact with city residents at the heart of civic tech development projects.

Making it safe to talk about housing

Outside of the formal policy-making process, the Novato Public Library provided a “safe” space for community members to come together, share their experiences with housing issues, and learn about the current state of housing and transportation in their county. The attendees included a mix of ages and professions: a nurse, teacher, insurance broker, dog walker, health manager, administrative assistant and others. Their commonality is that they were not organized advocates who already had a strong point of view.

When they were invited to help pilot the “What’s Next Marin?” dialogue, a few expressed concerns based on past dialogues they had attended. “Will I need to wear a flak jacket?” one asked. By the end of the evening, however, the group confirmed that it was “informative” and “gave them hope.” They had a better understanding of how everyone was experiencing current conditions and identified some areas of common ground. They discovered more options for things they themselves could do to help the situation along with ways to get involved in the policy process. They thanked the facilitators for making this “a different kind of meeting.” That pilot launched additional forums at other branches, including a recent session specifically for young adults 21–29.

This fall Common Knowledge is pleased to be piloting Libraries Lead the Way, a comprehensive project-based Community Engagement and Facilitation Skills Training program, with public libraries across Northern California. We will keep you posted about the great examples of local leadership and what else we are learning at the library. And we invite you to support public libraries’ efforts to create and sustain community connections.

You can find the original version of this Common Knowledge blog post at www.ckgroup.org/we-learned-it-at-the-library.