MetroQuest Webinar on TxDOT Innovative Engagement

Next week, NCDD member org MetroQuest will be hosting the webinar, Public Involvement – How TxDOT Engages Beyond Meetings; co-sponsored by NCDD, IAP2, and the American Planning Association (APA). The webinar on Tuesday, April 17th will feature speakers from the Texas Dept of Transportation on their innovative outreach approaches and how online engagement input is informing transportation decisions in Texas. You can read the announcement below or find the original on MetroQuest’s site here.


MetroQuest Webinar: Public Involvement – How TxDOT Engages Beyond Meetings

Join TxDOT as we explore how the agency extends its public involvement mission via interactive engagement.

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

REGISTER HERE

Getting meaningful public involvement on transportation projects is challenging. The public are not planners … yet they care about local congestion, mobility, and safety. Learn how TxDOT embraces innovation to successfully educate and engage residents on projects at any scale.

Join Jefferson Grimes, Director of Public Involvement, with Amy Redmond and Julie Jerome from TxDOT as they share innovative approaches to reaching an exceedingly busy and diverse public to collect meaningful input on transportation projects. From broader, long-term corridor studies to smaller, more specific projects, input from online engagement is informing transportation decisions in Texas. This team will share strategies and techniques that encourage participation and provides meaningful data in project planning.

Register for this complimentary 1-hour live webinar to learn how to …

  • Educate the public about the planning process
  • Collect informed input to help in decision making
  • Gather input beyond public meetings
  • Engage diverse populations
  • Seating is limited – save your spot today!

Speakers
Jefferson Grimes – Director of Public Involvement, Texas Department of Transportation
Jefferson and his staff serve as the central focus point in ensuring that agency public involvement efforts are meaningful and results-oriented. He is charged with establishing agency policies and procedures governing outreach and the involvement of the public in agency decisions on projects. Jefferson has been solving transportation issues for TxDOT for nearly 30 years in a variety of capacities.

Julie Jerome – Public Involvement Specialist, Texas Department of Transportation
Julie Jerome is one of a team of four supporting and guiding public involvement efforts for transportation projects all over Texas. The team works closely with TxDOT’s 25 districts to ensure effective public involvement strategies and techniques throughout the life of a project—from planning to construction to maintenance—for more than 80,000 miles of road, plus aviation, rail and public transportation.

Amy Redmond – Public Involvement Specialist, Texas Department of Transportation
Amy has civic engagement engraved in her DNA. Her passion for public service has taken her to every corner of the Lone Star State working on projects for TxDOT, Texas Public Broadcasting, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and Texas State University. Working 18 years in public, nonprofit and private entities she employs a diversity of knowledge to output ideas so that the world will understand.

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

The Importance of Civics Education in our Country

While NCDD member org, Everyday Democracy, shared this article on the importance of civics education a while back, we wanted to lift it up because it is still so relevant. The article talks about how education in this country has shifted from preparing students to be more civically engaged, to training students for the workforce. While the latter is important, our democracy suffers when the people are not trained on how to be civic agents. The article stresses that in order for our democracy to thrive and for our communities to be stronger, people needed to have civics a part of modern education. You can read the article below or find the original on Everyday Democracy’s site here.


The Decline of Civic Education and the Effect on our Democracy

EvDem LogoWhen I was five years old, my parents dropped me off at Radnor Elementary School for my first day of Kindergarten. This was the first day of many years of public education for me.

My high school, like so many in our country, steers students towards science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Personally, I was lucky enough to have great teachers who encouraged me to look beyond this narrow focus and find subjects that interested me, but my story is the exception rather than the rule.

In the past few decades, the focus of our public education system has turned sharply toward STEM as part of a broader reconceptualization of the role of public education. Whereas education was once seen as a public good designed to prepare students to participate in our democratic system, it is now seen as a primarily individual pursuit intended to help people develop employable skills and prepare to contribute to the workforce.

A little bit of history on the public education system

To better understand this monumental shift, it is important to understand where our public education system comes from. The history of public education in the U.S. is inseparable from the history of our nation, and I believe that their futures are intertwined as well.

Before the American Revolution, school was primarily for the lower and middle classes. Wealthy families hired tutors for their children, so only parents who could not afford tutors sent their children to school. A few colonies had experimented with state-supported education in the 17th century, but these early public education systems had mostly died out by the middle of the 18th century.

Under British rule, colonists had no reason to care whether or not their neighbors were sufficiently educated. There were plenty of ways for people with very little education to support their families and average colonists had very little political power.

The Revolution changed that: we fought a war for the idea of republican government, and now we needed citizens who could sustain it. In a letter discussing the soon-to-be-held Constitutional Convention, John Adams wrote that “the Whole People must take upon themselves the education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expenses of it.” This belief was widely shared amongst the founding fathers, who recognized that a people transitioning from subjects to citizens would need to be educated in order to serve the many functions required of them in the new republic.

After the Revolution, American citizens would need to decide who would represent them, know when their representatives had violated their trust, serve on juries, and possibly decide on Constitutional Amendments. Education had to reflect this reality by teaching history, rhetoric, and government in addition to literacy and arithmetic.

While some states headed the call of the founding fathers and created state-supported public education systems, most states needed more persuading. This persuading came in the form of widespread demographic changes.

From 1820 to 1860, the percentage of Americans living in cities nearly tripled. Caring for the poor residents of these cities was expensive, and the fact that many of them were Irish and German immigrants bred resentment. To cities looking to reduce poverty, assimilate immigrants into American culture, and keep people out of trouble, institutionalized education systems made a lot of sense. In 1918, Mississippi became the last state to embrace compulsory education; and no state has abolished its public school system since.

Civic education

The rise of public education was motivated by the need to prepare students to participate in American life as citizens, workers, and community members. While the early public education system took all three dimensions of their mandate very seriously, the rhetoric surrounding public education today has a very different focus.

You have probably heard some variation of the argument that American students are falling behind the rest of the world and we need to invest in science and math education so that our economy can stay competitive. You may have seen college majors ranked by post-graduation earning potential, or read about how educational attainment is a “signaling device” to employers, or heard some of the arguments for and against the “Common Core Standards.” These opinions are well-intentioned, but they all focus on a single educational outcome: career success.

To be clear, I believe that education ought to prepare students to participate in the workforce. I recognize that the increased economic opportunity that comes with educational attainment is a primary motivator for many students to attend school, and I am not suggesting that career success is not an important focus of our public education system. Instead, my argument is that our obsession with the economics of education comes at a substantial cost in terms of civic health, which in turn introduces new risks to our economic stability.

According to a 2015 study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, only 31% of Americans can name the three branches of government (and 32% cannot name a single branch). In 2011, when Newsweek administered the United States Citizenship Test to over 1000 American citizens, 38% of Americans failed. This widespread civic illiteracy is not just shameful, it is dangerous.

How can we expect people to hold their representatives accountable when 61% don’t know which party controls the House and 77% can’t name either of their state’s senators? How can we expect Americans to exercise their rights when over one third can’t name any of the five rights protected by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, the press, protest, and petition)?

Our democratic system depends on citizens to take an active interest in the affairs of our government, develop informed opinions about how our government should act, and chose representatives who share their beliefs about the direction our country should take. When legislators know that their constituents do not know or care what they are doing, it gives them an incentive to cater to the lobbyists and special interest groups who are scrutinizing the legislators’ actions. From 1964 to 2012, the percentage of Americans who believed that government is “pretty much run by a few big interests” increased from 29% to 79%, while the percentage of Americans who believed that it was run “for the benefit of the people” decreased from 64% to 19%.

Citizens of a Democracy do not have the luxury of refusing to care about their government. We the People are ultimately responsible for what our representatives do on our behalf using our collective power. Willful ignorance does not absolve us of this responsibility.

Civics education teaches students how to fulfill this essential responsibility, which is why the public pays for it. If education were all about training people for jobs, we would expect employers to pay for the basics and individual students to pay to train for more advanced jobs. Instead, we recognize that citizens need a certain amount of education to carry on our democratic traditions and that it is in the public’s interest to ensure the future stability of our country. Part of that stability is preparing people to get jobs and contribute back to society financially, but the main part is ensuring that people understand the role they play in our system and are able to play that role.

Strong civic health means stronger communities

There is also a growing body of research that suggests that communities with strong civic health have stronger economies, were more resilient during the financial crisis, and have higher rates of employment. When people come together with their neighbors to identify, discuss, and solve community problems, they build relationships and develop skills that ultimately help all of them economically as well as personally.

Nobody will make us be citizens. If we do not want to understand how government works or what it is doing, we can give our political power to someone else. There are plenty of countries who have vested that power in a monarch, party, oligarchy, aristocracy, technocracy, emperor, etc. Subjects in these countries have no need to trouble themselves with public affairs, and we could be like them; but, as Plato once wrote, “the heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.”

In the United States, we the people have decided to take responsibility for governing, and we temporarily delegate some of that responsibility to our elected representatives and the unelected officers they select. We benefit tremendously from living in a democratic republic, but these benefits are not without cost.

For the last several decades, the focus of our education system as shifted from civics to job training, and we have all paid a steep cost. Special interest and lobbying groups have unprecedented power over our political system. A lack of knowledge about public affairs has made citizens more susceptible to political advertising, which has given the wealthy tremendous power to shape politics through campaign contributions and ad spending.  So few Americans trust the political system that nearly half of 2016 primary votes went to candidates promising anti-establishment revolutions.

If we really care about preserving our democracy for future generations, we will stop treating civics education as secondary to math and science instruction and put it back at the core of our school curricula.

You can find the original version of this article on Everyday Democracy’s site at www.everyday-democracy.org/news/decline-civic-education-and-effect-our-democracy.

Webinars and Updates from the Institute for Local Gov’t

Our friends at the Institute for Local Government, an NCDD member org, recently shared with us some updates which we wanted to lift up to the NCDD network! This coming Friday, March 31st from 10am – 11am Pacific, ILG will be hosting a webinar on how local governments can have a more accurate address list for the upcoming 2020 Census through community-based canvassing. You can also watch this short video on the importance of the 2020 Census and the need for partnerships with culturally competent community organizations. ILG has another webinar on Wednesday, April 12th from 11am – 12p Pacific about best practices for holding more effective public meetings. You can read more in the post below or find the original versions on ILG’s site here.


120 Day Deadline: How Local Governments Can Conduct Community-Based Address Canvassing to Ensure Low-Income People Are Counted

Friday, March 30, 2018
10:00 am – 11:00 am PDT

The deadline for cities and counties to submit your LUCA list is looming.  Is your local government’s address list complete? Luca stands for Local Update on Censuses Addresses Operations. Cities that registered for LUCA back in December to participate in updating local address lists that will help with accurate census population count in 2020.  Every household missing means thousands of dollars per year for local governments.  Join us Friday, March 30th from 10am to 11am (Pacific) for this free webinar to learn tips and tools for how you can use community-based address canvassing to avoid an undercount of low-income residents.  ILG’s Sarah Rubin will host and our close colleague Zulma Maciel from the City of San Jose will share her experience along with tips for success and lessons learned.

What you’ll learn:

  • Case Study on how the City of San Jose leveraged nonprofits and volunteers to conduct community-based address canvassing
  • What software and training resources available for community-based address canvassing
  • Sample roll-out schedule
  • Checklist of how to identify unconventional housing

Register Now: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4151792579898674690

For more information, you can visit: https://www.census.gov/about/policies/quality/corrections/luca.html or the California state webpage.

2020 Census

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and ILG’s 2016-17 Board Chair Henry Gardner talk about the coming 2020 US Census, the importance of a complete count and critical need for partnerships with culturally competent local community-based organizations. Read more about the Census here.

Get Your Public Meetings Back on Track! Tips and Tricks for Effective Meetings

Webinar April 12, 2018 – 11:00am – 12:00pm

Description

Tired of public meetings that are disruptive, extend into the long hours of the night or are dominated by the same few people? Learn more about how to get your public meetings functioning effectively and efficiently again. This webinar will highlight best practices for holding effective public meetings, from how to successfully chair a meeting to how to enhance public participation.

Speakers

  • Supervisor Joe Simitian, County of Santa Clara
  • Tom Jex, Attorney of City of Wildomar and Town of Yucca Valley  I  Partner at Burke, Williams and Sorensen

Please register here

You can find the original version of this announcement from ILG at www.ca-ilg.org/webinar/get-your-public-meetings-back-track-tips-and-tricks-effective-meetings.

Opportunity to Host a Jefferson Dinner!

We are excited to announce NCDD is working with NCDD member organization The Village Square to support dialogues across the country using the format of the Jefferson Dinner, which invites people with differences of opinion to discuss an important topic over dinner.  These dinners are compelling experiences that The Village Square wants you to experience firsthand, and so we are letting you all know about an exciting opportunity!

Because they are particularly interested in making this surprisingly powerful tool available to NCDD members, they are offering stipends to at least 15 moderators to organize and facilitate a Jefferson Dinner. And the best part is that you can pick the topic for your dinner from any current political or civic topic around which there is substantial disagreement in the public square.

Some history about this tradition: Jefferson hosted his dinners at a time when prospects weren’t good that our new republic would hold together. Early legislators were described as coming to work “in the spirit of avowed misunderstanding, without the smallest wish to agree.” Sound familiar? Jefferson hosted dinners that were profoundly humanizing for these angry opponents. One dinner – with guests Alexander Hamilton and James Madison – resulted in the Dinner Table Bargain of 1790, widely credited with saving the American experiment.

In the same way that Jefferson mastered the art of these dinners as a way to make things happen that mattered to him, The Village Square would like you to experience how you can do the same.  Your dinner is about what’s in your heart  – whether that’s starting a civic project, running for office, contemplating solutions to a problem that deeply concerns you or imagining the future. By intentionally gathering people with diverse opinions – something that doesn’t happen enough these days – you’re harnessing incredible power toward whatever matters to you.

All that’s really required: 8-12 diverse guests, 1 dinner table and a welcoming environment. Could be your home, a private room at a restaurant, or a picnic table at a park. If you’re feeling inspired, put a modern twist on it & make it a brunch. Live a little!

The Village Square also hosts group Jefferson Dinners (a number of conversations in the same room, as part of a public event) and is delighted to support you in offering this format as well.

Find the Village Square’s Jefferson Dinner project online: www.jeffersondinner.org.  Read a feature piece about a dinner here.

This is a great opportunity for members to use this model to connect people who normally wouldn’t share a meal together and experience its potential to form the basis of unique alliances. NCDD would love to see a whole bunch of our members get involved with Dinners across the country. It’s another great way we can work to strengthen community connections and help people bridge divides, at this particularly divisive time in our nation.

If you are interested and would like to connect with organizers to learn more about how the dinner format can be used to achieve your goals, please fill out this quick form here and they will contact you directly!

For more information about The Village Square please visit https://tlh.villagesquare.us/. The Jefferson Dinner project is funded by a grant from the Bridge Alliance and in partnership with the 92Y’s Ben Franklin Circles project (all NCDD Members!).

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. ”  — Thomas Jefferson

Apply for Technology and Democracy Fellowship by 4/15

As NCDD reflects on the ways in which technology can support face to face D&D in today’s Tech Tuesday, we wanted to share this fellowship opportunity which supports the technological work that enhances democratic governance. [By the way, you can still join the free Tech Tuesday here!] Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, an NCDD member, recently announced they are offering an unpaid, non-resident Technology and Democracy Fellowship; to create space for participants to build relationships, develop their work or research, and have a unique opportunity to dig into the bigger questions behind their practice. The fellowship deadline is April 15th, so apply now if you are interested! Learn more about the details of the fellowship in the post below or find the original here.


Technology and Democracy Fellowship

Applications are now open for 2018 Fellowships. Applications can be found here

The Technology and Democracy Fellowship is part of an Ash Center initiative to explore technology’s role in improving democratic governance—with a focus on connecting to practice and on helping Harvard Kennedy School students develop crucial technology skills.

Over the course of the fellowship, participants design, develop, or refine a substantive project that is salient to their field. This project could entail research, writing, and developing strategy relating to each fellow’s work, or could take the form of a new platform, service, app, or idea.

Technology and Democracy Fellows form a virtual community through which they share ideas and resources, pose questions, offer feedback, and help one another with solving challenges in their projects or other work. The Kennedy School serves as a unique space for these technologists to take a step back from the day-to-day minutia working in the world of practice to discuss, research, and write about the bigger questions their work addresses.

Fellows also help students, staff, faculty, and other members of the HKS community to develop their understanding of major concepts and to build skills related to technology and governance. This knowledge sharing is primarily delivered through a hands-on, skill-building workshop that each fellow designs and leads once during the year on a topic of interest to the fellow (see past workshops here).  Fellows can also develop personal relationships with faculty, staff, and fellows at HKS in the form of consultation and mentoring, event/speaking opportunities, and more.

The Technology and Democracy Fellowship is an unpaid, non-resident fellowship, so Fellows are not expected to reside or work locally. We invite Technology and Democracy Fellows to Cambridge at least twice during the course of the fellowship year (at the Ash Center’s expense) to give workshops, present their work, and meet with members of the HKS community.

Eligibility
The Fellowship welcomes mid-career practitioners with an interest in leveraging technology to improve democratic governance. Each cohort of fellows includes technologists with an interest or background in democratic politics and governance or public and civic leaders with technology expertise.

How to Apply
Applications are now open. Please apply here.  The deadline for completed applications to be submitted is April 15, 2018. For questions, please contact Teresa Acuña at Teresa_Acuna@hks.harvard.edu.

Current Technology and Democracy Fellows
The 2017-18 Technology and Democracy Fellows are below.

Fatima Alam, Researcher on Trust and Safety at Google

Tiffani Ashley Bell, Founder and Executive Director of The Human Utility

Jeff Maher, Software Engineer for CivicActions

Marina Martin, Public Interest Technology Fellow at the New America Foundation

Aaron Ogle, Director of Product for the OpenGov Foundation

Mjumbe Poe, Co-founder and CTO of FixList

You can find the original version of this article on the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation’s site at www.ash.harvard.edu/technology-and-democracy-fellowship.

MetroQuest Webinar on LRTP Engagement Strategy, 3/20

Next week, NCDD member org MetroQuest will be hosting the webinar, A Winning Public Involvement Approach for LRTPs; co-sponsored by NCDD, IAP2, and the American Planning Association (APA). The webinar is on Tuesday, March 20th and will feature the work of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments about best practices for developing an exciting public engagement strategy on long-range transportation planning. You can read the announcement below or find the original on MetroQuest’s site here.


MetroQuest Webinar: A Winning Public Involvement Approach for LRTPs

A winning recipe for public involvement – how to build a LRTP the public will support!

Wednesday, February 28th
11 am Pacific | 12 pm Mountain | 1 pm Central | 2 pm Eastern (1 hour)
Educational Credit Available (CM APA AICP)
Complimentary (FREE)

REGISTER HERE

How can you captivate the public to collect input for your long-range transportation plan? Make it visual. Gamify it. Map it. Learn how on March 20th!

Join Trevor Layton, Christina Ignasiak, and Trevor Brydon from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments for an insider view of their brilliant approach to public outreach. Learn how they identified local issues with map markers, educated citizens with visual preference surveys, and uncovered local priorities with online rankings. They engaged over 4,000 residents! The result? A 2045 Regional Transportation Plan that reflects local values.

Register for this complimentary 1-hour live webinar to learn how to …

  • Reach beyond public meetings to engage 1000s online
  • Pinpoint key issues with online map markers
  • Educate citizens in 5 minutes with visual preferences
  • Substantiate top priorities with online rankings
  • Impress agency officials with definitive, actionable data
  • Seating is limited – save your spot today!

You can find the original version of this announcement on MetroQuest’s site at http://go.metroquest.com/LRTPs-with-SEMCOG.html

Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference Recap

Last week, NCDD Managing Director Courtney Breese and I had the pleasure of attending the Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference in the Phoenix area. The conference was hosted by NCDD member organizations – the Participatory Budgeting Project and the Jefferson Center, as well as, the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Katal Center, the Participatory Governance Initiative at Arizona State University, Phoenix Union High School District, and the Policy Jury Group.

It was three exhilarating days of mixing and mingling and learning with folks from across the world about the innovative practices going on to better engage our communities and improve participatory democracy. Huge shout out to PBP and all the co-hosts for such a great event, we heard from several people that this was one of the most engaging conferences they had attended.

NCDD was well represented at the conference with pre-conference trainings and several folks from the network who presented sessions:

    • Courtney and I presented a session with two fellow NCDD members, Cassie Hemphill (of the IAP2 Federation and University of Montana) and Annie Rappeport (of the University of Maryland), on Using art to explore participatory democracy work and connections.
    • There were two pre-conference trainings by NCDD member orgs: One on participatory budgeting (PB) hosted by the Participatory Budgeting Project, and another training on citizen juries, citizen assemblies, and sortition hosted by the Jefferson Center and the Policy Jury Group.
    • Our upcoming Tech Tuesday speaker, David Fridley of Synaccord, presented the session, Up for deliberation using digital tools, with Amy Lee of Kettering, John Richardson of Ethelo, and several others. [Learn more about Synaccord at our free Tech Tuesday webinar next week on March 20th – register here]
    • Martha McCoy of Everday Democracy held a session on Advancing Racial Equity in Government Planning and Participatory Democracy with Sarita Turner of PolicyLink and John Dobard of the Advancement Project.
    • Matt Leighninger of Public Agenda did a session with Patrick Scully of Participedia and Mark Warren from the University of British Columbia on What can we gain from better documentation of participatory democracy? And how can we do it together?
    • Jim Rough from the Center for Wise Democracy had a session with several others on Dealing with Global Democratic decline: What now?
    • The Participatory Budgeting Project held numerous sessions (too many to list here!) but you can check out the full conference schedule by clicking here.

We had an NCDD meet up on Friday night in Tempe, where we had a great opportunity to connect with folks in our network and those new to NCDD – all of whom are passionate about participatory democracy. It was nice to be able to have a chance to sit down over drinks, get to know each other better, and learn about the work going on in each of our lives.

At the conference, several things stood out:

It was incredible to be able to see the participatory budgeting process going on at Central High School in Phoenix and hear from the students, staff, and administrators themselves about the impact of PB in their school and on the psyche of the student body. This was year two for this PB process and the effort has grown to include all Phoenix high schools. (By the way, have you heard the incredible news that PB will soon be implemented in all NYC high schools – which is over 400 schools! Learn more here about this phenomenal accomplishment.)

It was so rewarding to be in attendance with so many folks from across the world, each bringing exciting experiences of participatory democracy and how to transform the way that people engage. Below are some examples shared at IPDConf and by no means is an extensive list of the incredible individuals in attendance and work being done!

  • Mayor José Ribeiro shared the exciting work going on in Valongo, Portugal to empower community members to be more participatory and some of the democratic policy initiatives that have been implemented in the area. “The job of perfecting democracy is a never-ending job” – Mayor Ribeiro
  • Courtney and I had the pleasure of befriending, Antonio Zavala of Participando por México and we had an opportunity to learn more about his work on participatory budgeting in México City.
  • Hsin-I Lin of Taiwan Reach-Out Association for Democracy shared about her organization’s work bridging intergenerational connections and the participatory budgeting going on in Taiwan.
  • During lunch on the first day, Courtney and I got to talk with Suzanne van der Eerden and Petra Ramakers from the Netherlands and learn about their techniques to make participatory budgeting even more fun with gamification.
  • Willice Onyango who is leading the Coalition for Kenya Youth Manifesto presented the session on Barriers to participatory governance and how we can contribute to international efforts to move the needle, with presenters Carrie O’Neil of Mercy Corps and Malin Svanberg.

The closing panel was an energizing close-out to a powerful conference, featuring a conversation on each of the panelists’ visions for the Future of Democracy led by incoming Co-Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project, Shari Davis, with Sarita Turner of Policy Link, Carlos Menchaca the NYC Council Member for District 38, Ashley Trim of the Davenport Institute, and Josh Lerner, fellow PBP Co-Executive Director. Check out the hashtag #IPDConf2018 on Twitter for more photos, quotes, and participant experiences!

New Job & Internship Opportunities in the D&D Field

NCDD sponsoring organization, Essential Partners, recently shared with us an exciting job opportunity they have on their team and we wanted to lift it up for our fantastic network. Check out some of the details of the job below, as well as, some additional offers we’ve found recently. You may want to follow up with the orgs that we shared in an earlier post that were hiring, in case any of those positions are still open.

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.

Essential Partners seeking a Director of Strategic Communications: Essential Partners (EP), a non-profit whose mission is to equip anyone facing divisive difference with skills for connection through conversation and curiosity, seeks someone smart, creative, and dynamic to help us share our mission far and wide. The DSC will report directly to the Executive Director and work closely with the Director of Development. We’re located in Cambridge, MA, and are looking for someone who can begin as soon as possible. Learn more about the qualifications and benefits of this position here.

NCDD member org Everyday Democracy is seeking an Executive Assistant (part-time). The Executive Assistant will provide high-level support for the efficient and effective operation of the Executive Offices. Learn more about the position and requirement here.

Public Agenda, an NCDD member org, is hiring a Development Director. To learn more about the position, click here.

The Aspen Institute has many job opportunities to check out here.

The Democracy Fund has several job and internship opportunities – learn more here.

Convergence is looking to hire an Executive Assistant, learn more here.

SAM (The Serve America Movement) is looking for a highly motivated Digital Content & Engagement Director to join their team. Please note they are seeking candidates in the Denver area only. Learn more here.

Unite America seeks a full-time Outreach & Fundraising Manager, Operations & Finance Manager, National Political Director, and Colorado Field Manager. Learn more here.

Democracy Works is hiring a Software Developer. They build technology for both voters and election administrators that simplifies the process and ensures that no voter should ever have to miss an election. Learn more here.

JLA Public Involvement is seeking a Public Involvement Coordinator/Communications Specialist. Learn more here.

EnvironIssues is hiring for three positions all for the Seattle region:

  • Public Involvement/Communications Associate – more here.
  • Project Coordinator – more here.
  • Associate – more here.

WSP USA Inc. has an opening for a Communication and Public Involvement Coordinator. This position supports Communications and Public Involvement efforts in the Austin, Texas and Southwest Texas region. Learn more here.

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

Updates from the Deliberative Democracy Consortium

Did you see the recent updates from the Deliberative Democracy Consortium? Our board member, Wendy Willis is the Executive Director of the DDC and they recently sent out a fantastic update on some things going on in the D&D network on their radar – including several notable articles, a review of the new book How Democracies Die, the Knight Foundation/Gallup poll’s survey results, and some upcoming events in the field. We encourage you to read the February updates below or find the original version on the DDC’s site here.


DDC February Bulletin

American Democracy at Risk
There is this report detailing risks to American democracy. Though it takes a fairly partisan stance, it has pretty good (and persuasive) list of six markers of a democracy in decline. You can guess what they are–everything from intentionally undermining independent institutions to delegitimizing immigrants and religious minorities.

And this from Ezra Klein in Vox highlighting the new book from Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies DieAs Klein puts it: “Of the book’s broad lessons, this is the one of most relevance to the United States in 2018: Democracies fend off challenges when participants value the preservation of the system — its norms and ideals and values — over short-term political gain.”

The Knight Foundation teamed up with Gallup on this report about why Americans’ trust in the media is at an all-time low. (Warning the animations are a little intense and potentially migraine-triggering).

Cake Mix, Economics, & Deliberation
Check out this fascinating critique of the use of focus groups and the “culture of consultation.” It’s a good one.

And there is this from the U.K., describing the Citizens’ Economic Council, a two-year program to engage citizens in deliberations on national economic policy.

Poets & Policy
Read this piece by Canada’s former Poet Laureate on “the constitutional assembly” he convened at University of British Columbia to propose amendments to the Constitution.

Better Late than Never
Somehow I missed David Weinberg’s response to Cass Sunstein’s recently updated book, #Republicin the Los Angeles Review of Books. The heart of Weinberg’s disagreement is here: “It may simply be time to give up on the Enlightenment ideal of discourse as the sole model and measure of human conversation.”  He also compellingly argues: “Most of all, we see a persistently noisy self-organizing and self-complicating mess that refuses to resolve, resulting in a web of inconsistent and simultaneous meanings. But this is not noise. It only sounds like noise outside of our own echo chambers.” The whole thing is worth a ready, though.  (Ditto Sunstein’s book!)

Upcoming
Our friends at George Mason University are hosting an event called Public Journalism & Deliberative Democracy: Exploring the Role of Narrative on March 5, 2018. Our very own Carolyn Lukensmeyer will offer the keynote. The event is all day and open to the public.

The peerless Frontiers of Democracy Conference will be held at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts on June 21-23, 2018. Head over to propose a session or reserve your spot!

You can find the original version of this bulletin on the DDC’s site at www.deliberative-democracy.net/2018/02/15/february-bulletin/.

Practicing Democracy from the Inside-out

Democracy is a living entity that requires diligent work both in our external world, as well as, in our inner selves. One of the ways to heal our democracy, NCDD member Mark Gerzon, president of the Mediator’s Foundation offered is, the need to focus on our inner work of engaging democracy with humility, the courage of curiosity, and a commitment to integrity. Many of us in the NCDD network have excellent processes and tools to facilitate good civic practices, and yet ultimately require this inner discipline. You can read the article below or find the original here.


Democracy is an inside job

If you take the medicine prescribed by your doctor and your condition only worsens, you know you need a new prescription — and perhaps a different doctor and diagnosis as well.

The same is true when democracy gets sick. I should know: my colleagues and I are part of a field called by different names including “civic discourse,” “citizen engagement” and “public dialogue.” We are some of the “doctors” who have prescribed cures that have not healed what ails America.

Ever since I co-designed and facilitated the Bipartisan Congressional Retreats in the late 1990s, intended to improved civility and collaboration across the aisle, I have been part of a community of practitioners who advocated a variety of communication techniques and public participation strategies designed to lift the level of public discourse in America. You don’t need a medical degree to know that our medicine hasn’t worked. The disease of incivility and dysfunction is worse now than when we started.

Like a lot of doctors whose treatments fail, we like to point fingers and say it’s not our fault. In our defense, it is true there are many other factors at work. We can blame gerrymandered congressional districts, increasingly toxic social media and talk radio, hyper-partisan primaries or a host of other structural problems that need to be fixed.

But even though there are challenges on the outside, I have come to the conclusion that there are equally serious challenges on the inside — within ourselves. Polishing our communication style or trying out some cutting-edge facilitation strategies simply do not go deep enough. Ultimately, healing our precious democracy is not just about institutions and legislation. It’s also an inside job.

The first shift we all need to make is no secret to the ministers, priests, rabbis, and imams who intimately know the spiritual challenges facing most of their followers. Every faith cautions against the same sin: pride; and every faith preaches the same virtue: humility. In fact, from my perspective, developing a spirit of humility is the first step towards recovering our civic health.

Humility means that no one owns the whole truth; each of us has a piece of it. So bringing our left hand and right hand together, as we do in prayer, is ultimately the attitude we need.

We can’t depend primarily on our elected officials for this quality. Arrogance is almost always part of their personalities. Running for office these days seems to require having a very high opinion of oneself, often bordering on narcissism. Indeed, some highly respected psychiatrists now argue that the problem has become so serious today that they are publicly questioning the mental health of prominent politicians at the national level. So if the spirit of humility is to emerge at all, it must be grounded in the grassroots. We must recognize we are the fertilizer on which the harvest of democracy depends.

The inner job of democracy also requires a second quality that depends on the first: the courage of curiosity. Almost every issue we face today— nuclear threats from North Korea, health care reform, immigrants from Latin America and the Middle East, cybersecurity threats from Russia, climate change controversies — requires innovative solutions that transcend “Left” or “Right.” Most of these did not even exist when the Founding Fathers wrote our Constitution. We must be lifelong learners who have the courage to be curious — even if it means discovering we are in some ways misinformed, misguided, and sometimes simply mistaken.

I call it the courage of curiosity because those who are frozen in either fear or rigidity cannot be truly inquisitive. We are not truly free when we hide behind the barricades of their cast-iron certainties. We are not learners if we only dare to discover information that reinforces our positions. We are not citizens of a democracy if we are trapped in the prisons of our pre-fabricated ideologies. To be truly curious depends on having the guts to talk — and to listen! — to neighbors who oppose our cause, to read writers who disagree with our position, and listen closely to politicians who make us mad. It takes the courage to put our own perspective on the line and learn something that may inspire us to change.

Both of these inner shifts — from arrogance to humility, and from certainty to curiosity — make possible the third aspect of our inner work: a commitment to integrity. By this, I mean something far more than just being honest. Although telling the truth is in itself is of tremendous value, “integrity” here means an inner awareness that makes us seek to understand the whole picture. A major part of disagreement on controversial public issues stems from a failure to look systematically at a problem.

Pointing to an undocumented Mexican in California who commits murder, or to another [undocumented person] in Indiana who creates a thriving business and is a pillar of his community, makes for a moving vignette. But neither provides the grounds for a comprehensive, viable immigration policy. Whatever the hot-button issue be — gun rights, Planned Parenthood, the opioid epidemic, NAFTA —partial views and simplistic anecdotes lead inevitably to partisan dead-ends.

Just as curiosity requires courage, integrity requires commitment. Understanding any of these issues systemically is hard work. But no one, certainly not our Founding Fathers, ever told us that democracy would be easy. A descent into dictatorship, or kneejerk two-party polarization, demands much less from the public than genuine public education, deliberation, and decision-making. Unless we foster in ourselves and in our communities a serious commitment to this kind of integrity, we will continue to behave like the proverbial dog chasing his tail. The left hand will attack the right hand, or vice versa. Nothing will get done. Democracy will flounder. The political arms race will accelerate. And the American dream will slowly but surely die.

So by all means let’s do the outside work. We need to focus on the structural fixes that democracy requires, and also develop communication and civic engagement strategies that are participatory and innovative. But let’s not forget our inner lives and our own personal responsibility. Democracy won’t grow unless we do. That means recognizing that just criticizing the President or our other elected representatives misses the point.

When it comes to this inside job, each of us is commander-in-chief.

You can read the original version of this article on the Mediator’s Foundation site at www.mediatorsfoundation.org/2017/11/14/democracy-is-an-inside-job/.