Deliberation and How We Use it in Everyday Life

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Participation Company Offers IAP2 Fall Trainings

In case you missed it, NCDD member org The Participation Company, has added additional trainings to their line up to carry out the end of the year, that we encourage NCDDers to check out! TCP offers certification in the International Association for Public Participation‘s model, and dues-paying NCDD members get a discount on registration! You can read more about the trainings in the TCP announcement below and learn more here.


The Participation Company’s 2018 Training Events

If you work in communications, public relations, public affairs, planning, public outreach and understanding, community development, advocacy, or lobbying, this training will help you to increase your skills and to be of even greater value to your employer.

This is your chance to join the many thousands of practitioners worldwide who have completed the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) certificate training.

AICP members can earn Certification Maintenance (CM) credits for these courses.

Foundations in Public Participation (5-Day) Certificate Program:

Planning for Effective Public Participation (3-Days) and/or *Techniques for Effective Public Participation (2-Days)

  • Sep. 24 – 28: Chicago, IL: 5-day Both courses
  • Oct 29 – Nov 2: Ashville, NC: 5-day Both courses
  • Dec 3 – 7: Salt Lake City, UT: 5-day Both courses

*The 3-Day Planning training is a prerequisite to Techniques training

IAP2’s Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation (2-Days) formally Emotion, Outrage – newly revised and renamed

  • Oct. 18-19 in Chicago, IL
  • Nov 29 – 30 in Denver, CO

Register online for these trainings at www.theparticipationcompany.com/training

The Participation Company (TPC) offers discounted rates to NCDD members. 

TPC can also assist you and your organization in other endeavors! Our team of highly experienced professionals help government and business clients manage public issues to accomplish client’s objectives. We can plan and manage your participation project from start to finish. We can provide strategic advice and direction. We can coach and mentor your staff and managers. We help you build agreements and craft durable and defensible decisions.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the TPC site at www.theparticipationcompany.com/training/calendar/.

Updates from the Davenport Institute: Trainings & Certificate

For our NCDDers passionate about public engagement and local government, NCDD member – the Davenport Institute recently sent out their newsletter with opportunities to network and strengthen engagement skills. Read the post below for more information on their trainings, events, and the next professional certificate offering in Advanced Public Engagement for Local Government. To note, the first training is coming up tomorrow, August 9th, for federal agencies to learn more about local-level engagement. This announcement is from the Davenport Institute’s InCommon July newsletter and you can receive these updates by signing up here.


Davenport Institute InCommon July Newsletter

Upcoming Training/Speaking
Local Training for Federal Agencies at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy
Interested in strengthening your cross-sector skills? Pepperdine School of Public Policy Board of Advisors member Kay Ko has invited Davenport Institute local government partners to join a Federal Executive Board training on “Building Effective Relations with Congressional Districts.” You are invited to join the conversation about how federal agencies are thinking about local-level engagement and explore opportunities for collaboration.

The event will be at Pepperdine’s Drescher Graduate Campus in Malibu on Thursday, August 9 from 9 am – 3 pm. Registration is free (lunch is not provided, but is available for purchase at the Pepperdine cafeteria). You can find out more and register here.

September 5-7 – At the IAP2 International Conference in Victoria, BC, Executive Director Ashley Trim and Kit Cole, principal at Kit Cole Consulting, will present on how an era of outrage presents particular challenges to public engagement, and how, at the same time, well-designed, deliberate public participation can help local governments navigate frought politcal waters. You can find out more and register here.

October 11-12 – Ashley will be chairing a panel on preparing leaders to put the “public” back into “public policy” at the NASPAA annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia. NASPAA is the accrediting body for schools of public policy, public affairs and public administration. Panelists include Terry Amsler, Indiana University, Bloomington; Lindsey Lupo, Point Loma Nazarene University; Tina Nabatchi, Syracuse University; and Larry Rosenthal, University of California, Berkeley.

Interested in any of our trainings?
For more information on bringing a Davenport Institute Training to your community, email us.

Save the Date: Pepperdine School of Public Policy to Host Conference on Cross Sector Leadership
On policy issues ranging from economic development to disaster response, it is becoming increasingly obvious that sustainable solutions will only be found through creative engagement of the government, business, and non-profit sectors. The Pepperdine School of Public Policy will be hosing a fast-paced, multi-format educational event here at the Malibu campus exploring what cross sector leadership looks like in local, state, and federal contexts, as very complex challenges are being addressed by these collaborative processes. And as the home of the Davenport Institute, the School of Public Policy will also be exploring how collaborative processes should think about broader public engagement as well.

When: Monday, October 1, 2018
Where: Pepperdine University, Wilburn Auditorium, Malibu, CA 90263
For more information: email the SPP cross sector program.

Stay Posted: Next Professional Certificate Offering
We have already begun receiving requests regarding when our next Professional Certificate in Advanced Public Engagement for Local Government will be offered. Right now we are looking at dates in February 2019 and finalizing details with venue and trainers. We will be announcing dates within the next couple of weeks. This program will be a great way to jumpstart the last year of the second decade of the 21st century!

Stay posted! You can find out more here.

Past happenings
July 26 – Ashley served as a guest-lecturer at Cal Lutheran University’s MPA program, speaking to students about the importance of and best practices for public engagement.

July 12 & 19 – Ashley and a longtime friend of the Davenport Institute, facilitator Natoma Kier, facilitated two separate public conversations for the City of Palos Verdes Estates. If your city has a project or issue that could benefit from outside facilitation, or if you could use technical support with process design, please email the Davenport Institute.

Job Opportunity: SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue

The NCDD community is a vibrant group of individuals dedicated to improving dialogue & deliberation, and is an excellent network to hear about the latest job opportunities and/or find your next fantastic employee!

Which is why were we thrilled to receive the job post below, submitted to the NCDD blog by Brenda Tang of SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue – an NCDD member. They are seeking a full-time Manager, Knowledge and Practice, to work in their Vancouver office. Applications are due Monday, August 6th – so make sure you apply by then!

If you’re looking to hear about the jobs we find ASAP, make sure you sign up here for our Making-A-Living listserv where we post opportunities as we find them. To note, access to the Making-A-Living listserv is part of being an NCDD member, so make sure you join/renew your NCDD membership here to receive this great benefit! Finally, if your organization is hiring, send the details directly to the Making-A-Living listserv or to keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org.


Job Opportunity: Manager, Knowledge and Practice at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue

As our future ambassador for Knowledge and Practice, you have both the analytical chops to identify and spread best practices for dialogue and engagement, as well as the street smarts to lead real-world projects for government clients. You will be a key contributor in articulating the Centre’s methods for citizen engagement, collaborative decision-making and dialogue. Through working with government, engagement practitioners, and stakeholders, you will play a pivotal role in strengthening the democratic process, decreasing polarization and creating positive and enduring social change. You will also have the opportunity to develop professional programs and the internal knowledge base within staff and its programs.

SFU is committed to employment equity, welcomes diversity in the workplace and encourages applications from all qualified individuals including women, members of visible minorities, Aboriginal persons and persons with disabilities. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply, although Canadians and Permanent Residents will be given priority.

Application deadline: August 6, 2018

Full job description and application information: https://trr.tbe.taleo.net/trr01/ats/careers/v2/viewRequisition?org=SIMOFRAS&cws=37&rid=308

Please share with this announcement with your networks and best of luck to all applicants!

NCDD Member Discount Available on weDialogue Events!

We are excited to share that NCDD member Amy Lenzo is offering dues-paying NCDD members a 20% registration discount on their upcoming webinars! They are offering The Art of Online Hosting for four Wednesdays starting August 8th and running until August 29th. On August 14th, there is a free Community World Cafe webinar happening that all are welcome to join. Looking to strengthen your skills around tech hosting? Join the Mastering the Art of Tech Hosting course, a companion series to The Art of Online Hosting, starting August 30th and going every Thursday until October 18th.

If you are not an NCDD member or if your dues have lapsed, now is a great time to [re]join NCDD as an official member to receive this great discount and learn more benefits of NCDD membership! We encourage you to read more in the post below and find the original information on weDialogue’s site here.


The Art of Online Hosting

The Art of Online Hosting is designed for those who are called to gather people together across geographic boundaries and host online courses and events that are everything we know they can be – real, engaging, truly interactive & deeply connected.

Four Wednesdays – August 8th, 15th, 22nd & 29th
10am – 12pm Pacific Time (ONLINE)

The course, experienced in a series of four two-hour online sessions, is both visionary and practical. Visionary in that it awakens new possibilities for how to “be” together in the digital realm, and practical in terms of sharing specific tools and practices that underpin successful online engagements.

We’ll focus on the basics and some of the deeper levels of hosting in the digital realm, using a variety of participatory formats as our entryways – not simply as methods, but as fundamental patterns of engagement.

We will become familiar with the technology of online interaction and together explore how to be fully present and connected – to the collective wisdom in our groups & to the innate wisdom of the earth – as the stance from which we host.

Join us and open the door to a better way to be together online.

Hosted by Amy Lenzo and FireHawk Hulin

For more information – click here
REGISTER HERE

August Community World Cafe

These Cafes are for everyone – whether you have just joined our global community of practice or you’ve been here for years. We’ve found there is something wonderful about connecting with other World Cafe practitioners from all over the world. 

No matter where you live on this beautiful planet, your voice is welcome and needed as we create hospitable space together online.

The idea came from a series of Community Cafes we hosted in September 2016 to find out what is needed to support our extended shared community of practice.
For details, please see the Harvest Report
 
These World Cafe Community Cafes are free of charge & produced entirely on a volunteer basis. AND we warmly invite your contributions.

Please contact us to volunteer your time and expertise, and/or make a financial contribution (everything is helpful) via your registration form or the contributions page on the World Cafe website. 

This is a time in which many of us feel deep divisions in the world. Listening deeply to and with each other is one of these key things that helps us hold the challenges we face together. Join us for this month’s Community Cafe! 

REGISTER HERE

Mastering the Art of Tech Hosting

Announcing the long-awaited companion course to The Art of Online Hosting…

Mastering the Art of Tech Hosting is all about partnering. It’s about being in relationship – with your technology, with the needs of the program design and the hosting team, and with the deeper patterns that support Life (and extraordinary online experiences).

Eight Thursdays – Aug 30th, Sept 6th, Sept 13th & Sept 20th, Sept 27th, Oct 4th, Oct 11th, & Oct 18th
10am – 12pm Pacific Time (ONLINE)

The course is primarily for those who want to focus their attention and skills on the technology of online hosting, working in partnership with an online host. But it’s also for online hosts who want to understand what’s “under the hood” for themselves, at an advanced level of proficiency, whether or not they are working with a tech host.

Completing this course will give you a solid grounding in the art and craft of Tech Hosting & the deeper awareness that will allow you to step confidently into in this exciting new field, knowing you are well prepared.

Hosted by Amy Lenzo and FireHawk Hulin

For more information – click here
REGISTER HERE

For all these events, use the promotional code “GIFT” (all caps) to receive the 20% discount.

You can find the original version of this on the weDialogue site at www.wedialogue.com/events/.

NCL Webinar on How Libraries Serve Vulnerable People, 8/7

As part of their Promising Practices Webinars, a series dedicated to lifting up creative civic engagement projects around the country, NCDD member – the National Civic League is hosting their next one on August 7th! This free webinar will focus on how public libraries are being utilized in DC and Denver to better serve vulnerable people. NCDD knows the possibilities that libraries hold as drivers of civic engagement in their communities, which is why we are in partnership with the American Library Association (ALA), and wanted to lift up this webinar as another important example of how libraries are vital to our society. We encourage you to read more about the webinar in the post below and register on NCL’s Eventbrite site here.


AAC Promising Practices Webinar: Public Libraries Lending Social Work Resources to Vulnerable People

Join the National Civic League to learn about how libraries are serving vulnerable people.

Tuesday August 7th at 9:30 am PST / 10:30 am MST / 11:30 am CST /12:30 pm EST

Public libraries see some of the community’s most pressing problems up close. In this webinar, learn how libraries are assisting people with recovery needs and homelessness. In Denver, a community resource team helps people connect with resources to help them reach their goals. In Washington, D.C., the public library engages customers without homes and facilitates access to social services, medical care, and housing. Learn how these libraries have leveraged community partnerships, trained staff, developed programs and even engaged customers.

About the presenters:

Jean Badalamenti, a licensed social worker with more than 25 years of experience, became the D.C. Public Library’s first health and human services coordinator in 2014. A graduate of Howard University’s master’s in social work program in the late 1980s, she has been living and working in Washington, D.C. ever since, advocating for people without homes or jobs, as well as those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. At the Library, Jean spends roughly half her time focused on customers without homes – including how to manage their needs during the MLK library’s upcoming renovation. In addition, Jean has also coordinated efforts to open a library branch at the D.C. jail, which the City Council recently funded.

Elissa Hardy, LCSW is the Community Resource Manager at the Denver Public Library. This department consists of three other social workers and four peer navigators. Her role also includes providing training for library staff in the areas of trauma-informed services, homelessness, mental health, resiliency, and more. The Community Resource team connects with Denver’s citizens utilizing the library who are experiencing life challenges. The team works to support and build relationships with people and assist them in navigating community resources to achieve their goals and improve quality of life. Elissa also teaches courses on Policy, Mental Health, Substance Use, Trauma and Recovery, and Power, Privilege and Oppression at the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver.

To Join by Computer:

Sign on to the National Civic League’s Webex Meeting Room: https://nationalcivicleague.my.webex.com/meet/ncl 
Access code: 622 739 287

To Join by Phone:

+1-510-338-9438 USA Toll
Access code: 622 739 287

Have questions about AAC Promising Practices Webinar: Public Libraries Lending Social Work Resources to Vulnerable People? Contact National Civic League

All-America City Promising Practices Series
National Civic League is hosting a series of “AAC Promising Practices” webinars to share innovative and impactful AAC projects nationwide. This series will also highlight successful projects around the country with speakers from cities implementing creative strategies for civic engagement. By equipping individuals, institutions, and local governmental bodies through this series with ideas, models and insights that can be adopted/adapted to individual communities NCL hopes to accelerate the pace of change in communities across the country.

All-America City Award

2019 All-America City Application

The All-America City Experience

The All-America City Promising Practices webinars are made possible with support from Southwest Airlines, the official airline of the All-America City Awards.

You can find the original version of this on National Civic League’s site at www.nationalcivicleague.org/resource-center/promising-practices/.

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/.

Local Civic Challenge #3: Getting Ready for Election Season

In the third part of the Local Civic Challenge from by NCDD member, The Jefferson Center, they encourage folks to get ready for election season and offer some great resources to prepare. In June, JC had a mini-challenge every week for folks to be more engaged with their local democracy. This round connected folks about registering to vote and volunteering for elections. You can read the post below and find the original on the JC site here.


Local Civic Challenge #3: Getting Ready for Election Season

Maintaining the integrity of our elections is vital to democracy, so this week we’re challenging you to get more involved with the process. Below, find out where you vote, how to register yourself and help others, volunteer at the polls, and more.

1. Get Registered

First off, make sure you’re registered to vote. A great place to start is vote.gov, where you can find out how to register online, or download a hard copy of the National Mail Voter Registration Form to send in. For information about registering in person, registering in other languages, registration deadlines, voter requirements, and more, check out this voting guide.

2. Find out where you vote

You can find your local election office here. This website will direct you to your state’s voting guide, where you should be able to see your polling place (including maps and directions), districts for your precinct, and candidates and questions that will be on the ballot at the next election. Your state may also have a primary election coming up soon, which determines the candidates that will be on the ballot in the general November election.

3. Know the issues and positions

What issues do you care about? Do you know where candidates stand? Here are a few resources that will help you match your views with your vote:

iCitizen or Vote411: provide voter guides by location

Project Vote Smart: helps you explore not only issues and stances, but voting records and campaign contributions

BallotReady: research every name and issue on the upcoming ballot

iSideWith: working backwards, this matches you with the “perfect” candidate based on your stances on issues

After you find your favorite candidates, see if they could use any help on the campaign trail. Joining a volunteer team is usually as simple as making a quick phone call or sending an email.

4. Help others

Help another person register to vote. Download and share voter outreach materials like these online and at your office, college, or neighborhood centers, and see if your community has a local get-out-the-vote campaign. For teachers, programs like Your Vote Matters can help students learn more about the voting process.

5. Work at the polls

Election judges are temporary, paid employees of local election offices who handle all the aspects of voting day! Your duties would include setting up the polling place, ensuring elections are fair, impartial, and secure, and tabulating the votes for the precinct. Contact your local election office to find out the requirements, like if you have to be a registered voter in that state, of a certain age, or officially affiliated with a political party.

How are you preparing for the upcoming elections? Was it difficult to find information about voting in your community?

Next week, we’ll take a look at the power of supporting local journalism and community storytelling.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at www.jefferson-center.org/getting-ready-for-election-season/.

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/.

Local Civic Challenge #2: Explore Local Leadership Roles

Democracy is all about community members being engaged in their government, and learning more ways on how to deeper connect with your local politics. A great way to do this is to join the Local Civic Challenge started by NCDD member,The Jefferson Center, where during the month of June they offer a mini-challenge every week for folks to learn more about and engage with, their local government. This second installment of the Challenge offers ways to explore local leadership roles (you can read the first installment about getting familiar with your local government here.) We encourage you to learn more about how you can become a more engaged citizen in the post below and you can find the original on the JC site here,


Local Civic Challenge #2: Joining Local Offices, Committees, and Boards

This post is part of our Local Civic Challenge, a chance to complete a few easy tasks each week that will help you become a more engaged citizen! To get the series delivered directly to your inbox, sign up here.

Learning more about the day-to-day work of your local gov, and how community members are thinking about issues, can often segue into taking on a leadership position yourself. We’ve seen this happen a few times throughout our work at the Jefferson Center. Just last week, Erin Buss, a participant in the Minnesota Community Assemblyfiled to run for City Council in Red Wing, Minnesota.

She told the local paper:

“As a participant in the Red Wing Citizens Assembly, I learned a lot about residents’ concerns and the importance of doing the work to keep this city on the right track. People want their government to be responsive, accountable and accessible. I’m excited to bring a fresh viewpoint to City Council — it’s time for Red Wing to move forward.”

Here’s a few ways you can start exploring local leadership roles:

1. See what’s open

It’s an election year, and it’s likely you’ll have some seats in your community up for grabs. Find out which seats these are, and who else is running. While the deadline to file for congressional seats has passed in most states, there may be time to file for city, township, and school district offices.

2. Learn who holds local office

Even if you won’t run yourself, it’s key to know who is. These aren’t always the elections we pay close attention to, especially when the national and state elections take over our newsfeeds. Resources like Common Cause and Ballotpedia make it easy to find your local representatives.

3. Listen to your neighbors

If running for an official title isn’t your thing, check out when your local neighborhood council or community development association meets. This is a great way to find out what issues are important to your neighbors, and where the current gaps are. You could start by listening in at meetings, and eventually move up to a volunteer leadership position.

4. Tune in

Find out when your city council meets, and see if they are streamed online if you can’t attend the meeting in-person. If they aren’t, that might be something to suggest to your city to make the meetings more accessible for everyone.

5. Search

It seems simple, but just googling “get involved in [insert your city] government” will likely bring up a page full of volunteer opportunities! For instance, you might be needed to teach local community ed classes, clean up parks and trails, help out in community gardens, participate in invasive species education, or assist library staff. If your city doesn’t have a dedicated volunteer page, try contacting the department you’d want to work with directly.

Do you hold a leadership position in your community? How did you end up there? If not, what’s holding you back? Let us know in the comments.

Next week, we’ll explore how you can get ready for election season.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at www.jefferson-center.org/local-civic-challenge-2-joining-local-offices-committees-and-boards/.