Sharing Best Practices of D&D – Inspiration for 2019

Great way to start off the new year reading this excellent write-up by NCDDer, Kevin Amirehsani, on the recent 8th National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation. He shares some of the best practices in our field and highlights several gems from the conference. We are proud to work amongst such talented, dedicated, and inspirational individuals, and can’t wait to see the new heights this field will go! We encourage you to read Kevin’s piece below and find the original version on the UNC School of Government Blog here.


Sharing Dialogue and Deliberation Best Practices: NCDD 2018

Within the community engagement community, best practices are sometimes hard to identify.

The context of, say, a small-scale event dealing with restorative justice differs greatly from a packed city council meeting covering zoning permits. The message, audience, program design, and feedback mechanisms can be completely different, which makes standardizing a set of guidelines an oft-impossible task.

Still, there are a few gatherings that bring together enough diverse, experienced, and motivated engagement practitioners that something approaching best practices can be found across many of community engagements’ subfields, from productively navigating race relations to developing responsive digital platforms.

The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) is probably the best example. Lucky for me, Denver (my home), hosted their most recent annual conference in November of last year.

With more than 70 workshops and sessions available to choose from across four days, the hardest part was figuring out where to spend my conference time.

Here are some highlights from three sessions I attended.

Day 1 – D&D for Everyone: How do we get everyone to participate?

I decided to dive right into one of community engagement’s most difficult questions – how on earth do we maximize participation?

This session was relatively unstructured, which allowed small groups to come up with numerous ideas that were then shared with the room. One key takeaway many of us arrived at was on an issue that is often glossed over: language.

Language and Ideology – Who “Welcomes Dialogue”?

Let’s face it: community engagement and D&D initiatives are usually carried out by progressive/liberal practitioners. While this may have something to do with the innate differences between many conservatives and progressives, what it means is that much of the language we use to publicize our events, conduct them, and gather feedback from them may be imbued with a liberal bias.

Terms like “diversity”, “safe space”, or even “dialogue” itself are often viewed in a partisan light, which may skew the demographics of who shows up and who participates more frequently.

Luckily, there are some resources that can help us be more aware of our language, like the online Red Blue Dictionary or a growing number of political dialogue courses offered at universities.

Can we Dialogue with our Passion and Frustrations?

Another issue I found useful to discuss was the degree to which participants are encouraged or expected to check their frustrations and convictions at the door.

On paper, engagement projects often encourage a diversity of viewpoints, but some may be implicitly accepted more than others through, say, the responses that the facilitators choose to emphasize, or even the way a participant who expresses an unpopular opinion is glared at by others.

Many of us have probably witnessed well-intentioned D&D practitioners define numerous topics as “problems,” which implies that somebody’s at fault. This can be at odds with encouraging feedback from participants who may be afraid of being blamed if they speak up.

Day 2 – Don’t Avoid, Don’t Confront: Dialogue Skills for Anti-Racism Allies

I have never been to an anti-racism workshop, so I thought a workshop led by David Campt, the founder of the White Ally Toolkit, would be a great place to start.

As a veteran of the Clinton White House’s Initiative on Race and America Speaks, David knows how to distill a lot of information on how to have effective conversations on race into a short time period while keeping everybody in the room entertained. And he certainly did not disappoint.

While his anti-racism trainings are typically given to white participants, this was a mixed-race crowd that engaged him as he spoke on concepts ranging from the empirical – e.g. racial anxiety – to more practical tools, like the types of icebreakers that can be useful in reducing some of the tension that envelopes meetings on difficult topics (such as race).

One key takeaway that I walked away with was David’s quippy but powerful advice to find the “chocolate in the trail mix” of what a person is saying.

When we’re dealing with community members who have views that may be antithetical to ours, there are almost always remarks they make that we can relate to. For those of us who keep abreast of the literature, the power of small talk should not be a surprise. But David went a step further and emphasized the importance that positive acknowledgement has in ultimately changing people’s views.

Simply pointing out things you agree with by others who share an individual’s race, ethnicity, or politics, for example, markedly increases that person’s willingness to continue talking to you and, ultimately, their openness to gradually changing their views on thorny subjects.

Day 3 – Elevating Voices and Building Bridges: Community Trust and Police Relations

Finally, I capped off an inspiring time at NCDD 2018 with a discussion on police-community relations, in part since I sit on Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen’s Community Advisory Board.

The session saw a pair of practitioners – one from the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the other from Illinois’ Attorney General’s Office – speak in depth about 14 “community roundtables” they organized across Chicago as part of the city police department’s ongoing federal consent decree. They were followed by Chief Pazen and Denver Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) Community Relations Ombudsman Gianina Irlando, who described a novel program breaking down some of the barriers between police officers and youth.

Design – Sharing Ground, Empathy and Feedback Mechanisms

My impression after hearing these success stories was that both sides in some of the most intractable disputes can substantively cede some ground and gain some empathy for the other side if community meetings and the feedback mechanisms which follow them are effectively designed.

In the Chicago example, the meeting organizers spent a considerable amount of time recruiting participants from affected communities, hiring translators for each table, training facilitators, and designing the layout of their World Café-type engagement model so that everybody knew what ideas each table was bringing up, without fears of “problematic” points of view being forgotten.

Closer to home, the Denver collaborative model between law enforcement and their civilian oversight body emphasized how empathy-building can be quantitatively shown to increase if officers are given enough classroom training, local community leaders (and, in this case, a hip hop artist) help conduct the sessions, and youth are encouraged to participate through strategically placing them with officers in a safe environment whom they have had no personal contact with.

You can find the original version of this article on the UNC School of Government Blog at https://cele.sog.unc.edu/sharing-dialogue-and-deliberation-best-practices-ncdd-2018/.

Submit by Jan 18th to Win $50K in Engaged Cities Award!

We love hearing about opportunities to award those doing great engagement work and want to ensure folks heard that the international Engaged Cities Award is now accepting submissions! NCDD member org, Public Agenda, shared on their blog that Cities of Service has recently launched the second annual Engaged Cities Award, given to those cities with successful engagement efforts to address a specific public problem, in order to create a template for other cities to use in their own communities. 3 cities will be chosen as winners and each winning city will be awarded $50,000 and will be announced at the Engaged Cities Award Summit in Fall 2019.

The award is open to cities in the Americas or Europe, with populations above 30,000 – and the submissions are due January 18, 2019. You can read more about the award below and find the original information on the Public Agenda site here.


Cities of Service Launches Second Annual Engaged Cities Award

Cities of Service, a nonprofit organization that helps mayors build stronger cities by changing the way local government and citizens work together, launched the application process for its second annual Engaged Cities Award. The international award program recognizes cities that have actively engaged their citizens to solve a critical public problem.

All over the world, city leaders and citizens are reducing community violence, producing better budgets, creating safer streets and building stronger communities together. The award shines a light on the engagement solutions that have worked for these neighborhoods. Cities of Service creates blueprints, case studies, and other resources that highlight winning cities’ solutions so other cities can replicate their projects and their impact. You can find resources from the 2018 award at engagedcitiesaward.org.

Engaged Cities Award applicants must address a specific problem that directly affects the lives of citizens, such as homelessness, neighborhood safety, or extreme weather, or impacts the city’s ability to deliver vital services to the community.

The Engaged Cities Award is open to cities with populations of 30,000+ in the Americas and Europe. Cities of Service, along with an esteemed group of experts, will choose three winning cities. Each winner will receive a minimum of $50,000 and be announced as part of the Engaged Cities Award Summit in fall 2019.

Are you a city leader engaged in this kind of problem-solving, world-changing work with your citizens? Cities of Service wants to hear from you! Just answer five short questions and submit your application by January 18, 2019.

For more information about the Cities of Service Engaged Cities Award, including guiding philosophy, criteria, eligibility, timeline, and past winners, please visit: engagedcitiesaward.org.

Looking to learn more about last year’s winners? Check out this blog from Cities of Service Award judge and Public Agenda Vice President of Public Engagement Matt Leighninger.

You can read the original announcement of this on Public Agenda’s site at www.publicagenda.org/blogs/cities-of-service-launches-second-annual-engaged-cities-award.

Webinar Roundup Featuring Cities of Service and more!

Another roundup of webinars coming your way! We are thrilled to share the following list of webinars happening this week from the NCDD network, including NCDD members National Civic League and Living Room Conversations, and Cities of Service. We know there is a lot of great work going on in the field, and like we mentioned last week, we will be doing more roundup-style posts of webinars going on in order to keep up with all the great D&D happenings.

NCDD works to strengthen our network by being a resource center and hub for those passionate and working under the wide umbrella of dialogue, deliberation, and engagement work. We strive to support our coalition with posts such as this that elevate our members work and help to keep folks in our field informed on what’s going on.

We have a lot of vision for how NCDD can be of better service for our members, the D&D field, and our society. If you appreciate the work NCDD does and would like to support us (and invest in this vital field!), then please make a tax-deductible donation to NCDD today during our End-of-the-Year Fundraiser!

Do you have a webinar coming up that you’d like to share with the NCDD network? Please let us know by emailing me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org, because we’d love to add it to the list!


Webinar Roundup: Cities of Service, Living Room Conversations, and National Civic League

Cities of Service webinar – “How Tulsa’s Residents Increased the City’s Capacity to Address Public Problems”

Wednesday, December 12th
11am-12pm Pacific, 2-3pm Eastern

This spring, Cities of Service named the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma one of three winners of our Engaged Cities Award. Among several successful strategies to engage citizens, the city established the Urban Data Pioneers program made up of citizens committed to helping solve public problems by analyzing specific data.

This webinar will focus on a new city program called Civic Innovation Fellowship. This program takes citizen engagement in public problem solving even deeper. The program relies on citizens to shape the public problem, collect data around it, prototype solutions, and present the best ones to the city for budget considerations. James Wagner, City of Tulsa’s Chief of Performance Strategy and Innovation will talk through the process of the Civic Innovation Fellowship highlighting lessons and impact to date.

REGISTER: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3077404798140506637

Living Room Conversations webinar – “Media and Polarization”

Thursday, December 13th
3:30-5 pm Pacific, 6:30-8pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Media and Polarization. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • How does the media impact you, your friends, and your family?
  • How often do you talk politics with your friends and family?
  • Has polarization impacted your relationships? What happened?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Lewis G.

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/living-room-conversation-media-and-polarization/

National Civic League Webinar – “Engaging the Public in Fiscal Matters”

Wednesday, December 19th
11:30 am Pacific, 2:30 pm Eastern

Can the public really help local governments make solid budget decisions? Of course!

Two communities – Hampton, Virginia, and Placentia, California – will share how residents have contributed their views on budget matters. In Hampton, City Manager Mary Bunting will discuss the I-Value effort in Hampton. In Placentia, Rosanna Ramirez, the city’s director of administrative services, will talk about the city’s Citizens Fiscal Sustainability Task Force.

This webinar is part of the All-America City Promising Practices series and we shared more information about this offering earlier on the NCDD blog – read it here!

REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/aac-promising-practices-webinar-engaging-the-public-in-fiscal-matters-tickets-53114553058

2019 IAP2 USA Skills Symposium Early Rate Ends Friday!

If you are looking for ways to improve your public participation skills or gain more tools, then we encourage you to check out the upcoming 2019 IAP2 USA Skills Symposium happening February 25 – March 1 in Austin, Texas. Hosted by NCDD member org, the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), the Symposium is a valuable opportunity to dive deep into P2 (public participation), connect with fellow P2 professionals, and experience a variety of methods, techniques, best practices, and more. The Early Bird discount pricing ends this coming Friday, December 14 – so act quickly to take advantage of this great discount! You can read the announcement below and find more information on the IAP2 site here.


2019 IAP2 USA Skills Symposium – Learn. Stay. Connect.

Are you troubleshooting current processes, or looking back, and thinking “there has to be another way?” The 2019 IAP2 USA Skills Symposium is just the place to meet other professionals in your field and acquire applicable tools and techniques to help you glean knowledge from the past, and streamline your processes in the future.

Early Bird pricing ends December 14, 2018!

The 2019 IAP2 USA Skills Symposium will offer a variety of training in public participation processes and methods. Join us in Austin, Texas dive into courses covering a range of topics including: mastering facilitation skills, using social media, and working with an angry public. Other topics include designing for diversity, and evaluating public participation initiatives. 1, 2, and 3 day courses are offered featuring experts in the practice of in community engagement. Attendees will engage in hands-on exploration and leave with many lessons learned on designing and managing effective public participation.

Are you an APA AICP? Did you know that ALL Skills Symposium Courses are eligible for AICP Certification Maintenance Credits? To learn more, check out their website!

Please click here to view the schedule-at-a-Glance, course fees, hotel room block information, and more!

Questions? Comments? Contact amelia@iap2usa.org

You can find this information on the IAP2 site at www.iap2usa.org/2019sksymp.

Webinar Roundup Featuring MetroQuest, Living Room Conversations, and more!

As the NCDD network continues to grow, we are coming across more and more exciting webinars that we are thrilled to share with you! Because we try to only post on the blog once a day, we are going to be doing more weekly roundups of webinars happening in the field in order to keep sharing more D&D events for you to tap into. This roundup includes several NCDDers that we encourage you to check out in the post below and register in the links provided. This week we are featuring MetroQuest (and are proud co-sponsors of this webinar!), PACE (this webinar is co-hosted with Media Impact Funders and includes our NCDD2018 sponsor, the Democracy Fund), Living Room Conversations (register ASAP for this one as the webinar is tomorrow) and the Zehr Institute.

Do you have a webinar coming up that you’d like to share with the NCDD network? Please let us know by emailing me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org, because we’d love to add it to the list!


Webinar Roundup: MetroQuest, Living Room Conversations, and PACE

MetroQuest webinar – “Transforming Public Apathy to Revitalize Engagement”

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

Apathy is all around us. Most people have become disengaged not only from politics, but also from the government agencies that make decisions that directly affect their quality of life. Increasingly, leaders are asking themselves “How do we boost public participation?”

Join TED Talk celebrity, Dave Meslin and MetroQuest Chief Engagement Officer, Dave Biggs as they explore proven techniques for building a culture of engagement. They encourage us to recognize apathy as a web of barriers that reinforce disengagement – and show us how we can work together to dismantle the obstacles to revitalize public engagement.

This in-depth journey will combine humour with many examples of best-practices. The strongest cities have learned how to tap into the collective creativity, passion, and knowledge of their constituents. This webinar will chart the course.

REGISTER: http://go.metroquest.com/Transforming-Public-Apathy-to-Revitalize-Engagement.html

Living Room Conversations webinar – “Peace Building in the United States”

Friday, December 7th
2-3:30 pm Pacific, 5-6:30 Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Peace Building in the United States. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • How do the “us and them” divisions impact you?
  • Who is us and who is them?
  • How many friends do you have in other groups?
  • What should we expect from our leaders in terms of healing divisions?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Shakira M.

REGISTER: www.livingroomconversations.org/event/online-living-room-conversation-peace-building-in-the-united-states

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement – “Re-Envisioning America’s Public Square”

PACE LogoMonday, December 10th
9 am Pacific, 12 pm Eastern

America’s public square–the institutions, networks, and spaces where Americans engage in the critical issues facing our democracy–is facing a paradigm shift. #Infogagement–a term that describes the recent collision of media, technology, and civic engagement–is fundamental to that shift. A combination of economic impacts, advances in technology, and social change are re-shaping how we access and engage with the information that connects us to civic life. To respond, we must come together to re-envision and rebuild our public square so it serves all members of our democracy.

This webinar will bring together thought leaders from across the Infogagement landscape to engage with participants in answering several questions:

  • What are some of the institutions and spaces that created our public square?
  • What caused the paradigm shift we’re experiencing today?
  • What kind of public square best serves all members of our democracy?
  • How can we reconfigure existing institutions and build new infrastructure to rebuild our public square to serve all members of our democracy?

Speakers:

  • Ashley Alvarado, Director of Community Engagement at KPCC
  • Sarah Alvarez, Founder and Lead Reporter, Outlier Media
  • Kristen Cambell, Executive Director, PACE =
  • Eli Pariser, Founder and CEO, Upworthy
  • Josh Stearns, Director, Public Square Program, Democracy Fund

REGISTER: www.pacefunders.org/webinar-re-envisioning-americas-public-square/

Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice – “Transforming Violence: Restorative Justice, Violent Crime, and an End to Mass Incarceration”

Wednesday, December 12th
1:30pm – 3:30pm Pacific, 4:30pm – 6:30pm Eastern
Guest: Danielle Sered
Host: Howard Zehr

Sered will discuss the use of restorative justice in cases of serious violent crime such as robbery and assault. Common Justice, the organization she leads, operates a restorative justice program that serves as an alternative to prison in the adult criminal justice system. Sered proposes that responses to violence should be survivor-centered, accountability-based, safety-driven, and racially equitable. She will explore the potential of restorative justice applications through each of those lenses, discuss the program’s partnership with the district attorney’s office, describe the violence intervention model the program employs, and invite conversation regarding the potential for more diversion of violence in the movement as a whole.

REGISTER: www.zehr-institute.org/webinars/transforming-violence.html

Join Free Webinar on NY Public Library Community Conversations Program, 12/5

Last year, we announced a two-year partnership with the American Library Association on a new initiative, Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change, which sought to train librarians in dialogue and deliberation processes with the goal of turning libraries into spaces of civic engagement and community discussions. We invite you to join a free one hour webinar on December 5th on how the New York Public Library created their Community Conversations series pilot to support the community in addressing important issues. In this webinar, you’ll learn how they developed the 11-month training program for librarians in 16 branches, tailored the conversation series to what the community needed, and implemented the series to deepen the libraries’ role as civic centers. You can read the announcement below and sign up to join the webinar here.


Community Conversations Across Neighborhoods: Dialogue-Driven Programming

Libraries have the potential to inspire local dialogue on timely issues across communities, positioning library staff as trusted facilitators. Join us for this free one-hour webinar to hear how New York Public Library created a conversation series on important issues in the diverse communities they serve.

In February 2017, the New York Public Library (NYPL) launched a Community Conversations pilot with the goal of further establishing branch libraries as key civic convening centers, providing space, information and quality discussion for communities to better understand and problem-solve around local issues.

Aligning with the ALA Public Programs Office’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, NYPL’s Adult Programming and Outreach Services (ORS) Office developed an original 11-month training program with staff from 16 branch libraries that resulted in a series of unique, community-led programs.

Program boundaries were kept flexible enough for branch staff to be able to design programs with their own diverse neighborhood communities in mind. Branches experimented with a variety of tactics to ensure community focus, including community issue voting boards, a public planning committee, community-mapping and final program sessions that invited attendees to discuss next steps.

Participants of this session will learn:

  • Best practices and lessons learned from NYPL’s Community Conversations programming
  • How to launch successful location-based Community Conversations initiatives that build partnerships and engage staff in new ways
  • Specific dialogue-driven program models that can be used as templates for programs in libraries across geographic locations

Presenters
Alexandra Kelly Berman is the manager of adult programming and outreach services at the New York Public Library, where she works with library staff across 88 neighborhood branches to introduce programs for local adult communities, including the recent Community Conversations pilot. Alexandra began at NYPL by developing and leading the successful multi-branch Community Oral History Project. Before working at NYPL, she was a facilitator at StoryCorps and received an M.A. from the School of Media Studies at The New School, where she also acted as director of student services + engagement. She has also launched several youth media projects around New York City, including an oral history project in Crown Heights, The Engage Media Lab program at The New School, and a documentary filmmaking project at Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

Andrew Fairweather is a librarian at the New York Public Library’s Seward Park branch in the Lower East Side. He is fervent in his belief that the library can serve as a unique platform for discussion about tricky issues and current events. He enjoys painting and drawing when not occupied with library work. Andrew’s interest in any one subject is incredibly unfaithful — he will read (most) anything as a result.

Nancy Aravecz is a senior adult librarian at the Jefferson Market branch of The New York Public Library. In this role, she focuses on providing top-notch discussion-based programming to the Greenwich Village community, centered around information literacy, technology, current events and classic works of literature. She is a recent graduate of Kent State University’s MLIS program, where she studied digital libraries. She also holds a previous MA degree in English Language and Letters from New York University, where her studies centered around literary theory and criticism, postcolonial studies and the digital humanities.

Related Learning Opportunities:

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Programming Librarian website (part of the American Library Association Public Programs Office) at www.programminglibrarian.org/learn/community-conversations-across-neighborhoods-dialogue-driven-programming.

NCL Webinar on Public Engagement in Fiscal Matters, 12/19

On Wednesday, December 19th, the National Civic League – an NCDD member and partner, will be offering the free webinar, “Engaging the Public in Fiscal Matters”, as part of their AAC Promising Practices Webinar series. The webinar will feature residents from two All-America Cities who will share how the public contributed to budget decisions in each of their cities. 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: Engaging the Public in Fiscal Matters

Can the public really help local governments make solid budget decisions? Of course!

Two communities – Hampton, Virginia, and Placentia, California – will share how residents have contributed their views on budget matters. In Hampton, City Manager Mary Bunting will discuss the I-Value effort in Hampton. In Placentia, Rosanna Ramirez, the city’s director of administrative services, will talk about the city’s Citizens Fiscal Sustainability Task Force.

Join the National Civic League for this free webinar on Wednesday, December 19th at 11:30 am PST/12:30 pm MST/1:30 pm CST/2:30 pm EST

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

If you missed the November AAC Promising Practices Webinar: Community-Wide Visioning with an Equity Lens – click here to listen to the recording! Learn more about how two All-America Cities underwent a community-wide visioning process with a specific focus on engagement and equity.

2019 All-America City Key Dates:

  • November 14, 2018 – Letter of Intent due for interested communities (LOI not required to apply)
  • March 5, 2019 – Application Due
  • April 2019 – Finalists Announced
  • June 21-23, 2019 – Awards competition and learning event in Denver, Colorado

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.

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 announcement on the National Civic League’s site at www.nationalcivicleague.org/resource-center/promising-practices/.

Exciting New Book on 30 Years of Participatory Budgeting

For our participatory budgeting enthusiasts out there (and we know there are a lot of you!), NCDD member org – the Participatory Budgeting Project, recently shared the exciting new book, Hope for Democracy: 30 years of participatory budgeting worldwide. The 600-page volume, edited by Nelson Dias, features over 60 authors on their experiences with PB across the world over the last 30 years and offers great insights for how to further grow the PB movement. We are thrilled to note that folks are able to download this book for free! You can read more about it in the post below and find the original announcement on the PBP site here.


Hope for Democracy: A New Book Reflects on 30 Years of Participatory Budgeting

An expansive new volume edited by Nelson Dias features dispatches by more than 60 authors from the frontlines of participatory budgeting’s (PB) growth around the world. This book, Hope for Democracy, could not have come out at a better time for PB supporters in North America. Next year will mark 10 years of PB in the US and new opportunities to take PB to the next level: a big citywide process approved in NYC, hundreds of new school PB processes, and growing political interest in strengthening democracy.

To make the most of these great opportunities to revitalize democracy, we need to first learn from PB’s growth internationally. Dias and his collaborators deliver countless insights in their 600-page panorama. (Download the book for free here.)

We lift up the biggest lessons below…

Why have Hope for Democracy?
Dias begins with an overview of key trends in PB as it spread from Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 to over 7,000 localities around the world. PB experts Brian Wampler, Stephanie McNulty, and Michael Touchton note how in Brazil during the 1990s, leftist politicians and activists championed PB as a radical project to “broaden the confines of representative democracy, mobilize followers, and achieve greater social justice” (p. 55); over time, it attracted support from a wide range of actors, including international organizations like the World Bank, because of its potential to improve governance and promote civic engagement. Giovanni Allegretti and Kalinca Copello discuss how, as PB spread internationally, new processes often committed fewer funds, whether measured as lower PB spending per person or as a smaller share of PB in the overall budgets (p. 45).

Benjamin Goldfrank and Katherine Landes examine how this trend has played out in the U.S. and Canada. They report that PB has expanded more slowly than other regions in terms of the number of cities implementing it, the amount of participants, and the volume of funds (p. 161). Yet, Goldfrank and Landes demonstrate this is not due to a lack of public interest: “we find that where PB allocates larger pots of money, the rate of participation tends to be higher” (p. 172). In other words, the more dollars that a PB process allocates, the more people care about it. Moreover, two bright spots on the horizon indicate that PB may grow faster in coming years: its mounting presence in schools and its rising appeal among progressive activists and politicians.

In the light of the recent victories in NYC—PB in all public high schools and citywide PB approved into the city charter—this watershed may be closer than the Goldfrank and Landes anticipated. Chapters on Paris, Russia, and Portugal offer additional insights on how to scale up PB in North America.

Paris offers a model of PB going big
Paris currently runs the largest PB process in the world. Similar to NYC’s coming city-wide process, PB in Paris was championed by a progressive mayor, Anne Hidalgo, who successfully campaigned on bringing PB to Paris in her 2014 election. Mayor Hidalgo wasted no time in implementing her plan of dedicating 5% of the city’s capital budget to PB over the first five years (That’s roughly 500 million euros!). Tiago Peixoto and colleagues use the Paris case to study large-scale issues, like whether online voting improves the process or biases it towards more privileged residents. Their research finds that voting patterns between online voters and those who vote in person are remarkably similar.

PB in Russia innovates, expands rapidly
In 2015, Russia experienced a turning point after which the number of PB processes grew surprisingly fast. This occurred when the Ministry of Finance noted the positive outcomes in regional PB processes and created a framework known as Initiative Financing. The next year, 8,732 PB projects were implemented. By 2018, half of all regional governments in the country (the equivalent of U.S. states) decided to set up PB programs.

Why did so many regions begin PB so quickly, when the federal government did not provide financial incentives to do so? Ivan Shulga and Vladimir Vagin emphasize how the central framework and technical assistance provided by the Ministry of Finance and the World Bank made regional implementation much easier. These processes also made use of some innovative institutional designs. In some programs, municipalities, businesses, organizations, and citizens pledged to co-finance projects, increasing their chance of receiving regional funding. Another program used a form of sortition or citizen jury, in which a cohort of volunteer budget delegates was randomly selected, to work with experts to turn project ideas into full-fledged and feasible proposals.

Portugal leads the way with national PB
Portugal was the first country to run nation-wide PB. While the process is not particularly large in terms of public participation or budget, it does provide one model of a large-scale institutional design that bridges disparate regions.

Roberto Falanga outlines how the process collected nearly 1,000 ideas from each part of the country in 50 assemblies and winnowed them down into viable proposals for a vote. The process did not use budget delegates to revise the proposals. While this may streamline the process, it runs the risk of giving experts and officials more power than public participants. However, an effort was made to minimize this danger by requiring detailed reasons for rejecting proposals and re-including ones that could be revised and made feasible. Still, proposals that were backed by informal social networks may have received undue prominence. For example a bullfighting project won funding even though a majority of the Portuguese public believes that the practice should be banned.

Reflecting on what’s been done, ready for more
It’s an exciting moment to get involved with PB. And it’s an important time to reflect on how far different regions have taken PB. While there are currently around 100 active processes in the U.S. and Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean hosts around 2,500 processes and Europe 3,500. We have some catching up to do.

Donate here to help PB grow.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Participatory Budgeting Project’s site at www.participatorybudgeting.org/hope-for-democracy-a-new-book-reflects-on-30-years-of-participatory-budgeting/.

Democracy Fund Creates New Team to Support Strategic Investment in our Democracy

Hot off the digital press! Democracy Fund, an NCDD 2018 sponsor, announced this morning they are building a new team dedicated to being a better resource for donors and the field; in order to support strategic efforts to invest in our country’s democracy. Currently, there is very little funding given to those working to improve our democracy, and it is vital to invest resources to those doing this work if our democracy is to survive. Democracy Fund is seeking a Director of Partnerships to lead this newly created team and stay tuned for the program rollout which will offer investment strategy resources, educational events, and joint funding opportunities.

On a related note, if you are looking to support an organization working to further democracy then consider donating to NCDD! We are one of the leading organizations that work to foster the D&D field and support those working to actualize a truer democracy. This Giving Tuesday, Facebook will match your donations – so double your impact and donate tomorrow through our NCDD FB page here! We encourage you to read the announcement below and find the original on Democracy Fund’s site here.


Building a Team to Invest in Democracy

Following the 2016 election, Democracy Fund heard from many philanthropists seeking advice on what they can do to respond to the threats facing our political system. For some, the last two years have brought a newly pervasive sense that our democracy is under threat and that our political system is far more fragile than most of us assumed. We feel the same way, and we are humbled that interested donors and their advisors are turning to us and to our peers for guidance.

Through our efforts to support these new partners, we discovered that Democracy Fund can play a helpful role in providing advice and connections to philanthropists who are learning about the field. To that end, I am delighted to share that we are building a new team at Democracy Fund to help us be a better resource to philanthropists, advisors, and our peers. The team will be led by a newly created position, the Director of Partnerships. (Read and share the job description here.)

This swell in philanthropic interest comes at a pivotal time. Despite a clear and pressing need, the level of philanthropic support for this field remains critically low. Whether you look at voting, journalism, or civic education, many of the most capable and innovative organizations in the space have struggled through multiple cycles of feast and famine and need more resources to meet the challenges at hand.

To make progress on issues that are important to the American people and to ensure the health of our democracy for future generations, the United States needs deep investment by philanthropists and advocates. Policy reforms ranging from the future of affordable housing to climate change depend on a political system that is responsive to the public. A more equitable society requires eliminating barriers to voting and reducing the influence of money on politics. And improving the ability of individuals and communities to thrive rests on a functioning government, fair enforcement of the rule of law, and stability in our politics. Despite the reality that progress hinges on a healthy democracy, the field receives less than two percent of overall philanthropic giving.

Building a healthier democracy together

Working with our peer funders, we hope the Democracy Fund Partnerships team can be a resource to donors and to the field. Our goal is to make the expert capacity of our staff and our collaborative approach available to interested philanthropists. We believe that enlisting greater philanthropic energy, ideas, and resources to the fields in which we work is one of the most effective ways for us to meet the scale of the challenge.

Our new team will educate and engage philanthropists who are new to democracy with the goal of helping them to enter the field. Led by the Director of Partnerships, the team will help donors and their advisors make strategic decisions to invest in our country’s democracy. It will take some time and experimentation to build this program, but there are a few things you should expect to see:

  • Resources: Democracy Fund will work with our peers to develop resources that help new donors to better understand the space, including investment guides highlighting the most innovative and high-impact strategies and organizations in the field. The Foundation Center’s data tool for the democracy field is an excellent example of the kind of resource we have helped create in the past that can help philanthropists understand the existing landscape.
  • Educational Events: Over the past 18 months, Democracy Fund has partnered with the Giving Pledge to educate members of that network about opportunities to strengthen democracy in the United States. We expect to organize more briefings and workshops like those we organized with Giving Pledge to inform new donors.
  • Joint Funds: Democracy Fund participates in and has created several collaborative funds that enable donors to easily contribute to vetted, highly effective grantees working to protect the health of our government, elections, and free press. Our Public Square program, for example, works with other journalism funders through NewsMatch, the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund, and the Community Listening and Engagement Fund. We aim to work with our peers to develop other similar funds that make it easier for new donors to enter the space.

Our Commitment to the Field

Our new efforts to build philanthropic partnerships will not slow our existing efforts to deploy our resources to support the field. Since Democracy Fund began, we have committed more than $100 million in grants and built a team of more than 45 people with deep expertise on issues ranging from journalism and elections to Congress and government accountability. Thanks to the generosity and leadership of Pierre Omidyar we intend to continue to invest at a similar level in the coming years.

At the same time, our commitment to our existing grantees will not limit our advice to new donors – we hope to help philanthropists find their own path into the field, whether or not it mirrors the path that we have chosen.

We are grateful for the mentorship and ongoing partnership of many foundations who have supported this field for decades, including the Knight Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund. At such a deeply important moment for our country, we are excited to begin this important work and will continue to share our progress as the team grows and the program develops.

You can find the original version of this announcement on Democracy Fund’s site at www.democracyfund.org/blog/entry/building-a-team-to-invest-in-democracy.

Moving Past Couch-Potato Democracy to Engagement

In the sixth installment of their series, democracy around the world, NCDD sponsoring member, the Jefferson Center, wrote this piece on how Americans can be more civically engaged and address our challenging issues. Many of the states in the U.S. are designed to give the people even more power to shape legislation through initiatives and referendums. The article challenges for people to push more into civic life and participate in government, especially when their elected officials are not. You can read the article below and find the original version of it on the Jefferson Center site https://jefferson-center.org/2018/09/initiate-democracy-across-the-united-states/here.


It’s Time to Initiate Democracy Across the United States

This is the sixth post in our blog series exploring democracy around the world, submitted by a diverse group of people interested in using deliberation, participation, and civic tech to solve challenges we face today. The following does not necessarily represent the views of the Jefferson Center or Jefferson Center staff.

John Hakes is a freelance writer and Certified Public Accountant who has worked with the U.S. Census Bureau and Questar Assessment Inc. He earned his Master’s Degree in Advocacy and Political Leadership from the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. – First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

In the opening blog of this series, guest blogger Ross Busch suggested a national assembly model recently employed by the country of Ireland– on an agenda of climate change leadership, aging population and abortion– might be used to address the seemingly intractable issue of gun control in the United States.

If Ireland, a nation with a centuries-long entrenched position on the sensitive abortion issue can use informed reasoning to assess the will of the people through assembly— the Busch reasoning goes– there is hope people could do likewise on other emotionally-charged issues.

We will now ‘wait ‘n see’ whether Busch’s clarion call takes root around the world. But meanwhile, in November, the twin ‘people power’ petition mechanism afforded to American citizens by the First Amendment will be exercised on the issue of gun control. That’s when Washington citizens will decide whether they wish to add parameters to the use of firearms through a vote of the people via Initiative I-1639.

The Initiative Tool

Should you call states like Hawaii, New Mexico, Iowa, North Carolina, Maryland, or around 20 others home, you may not be not familiar with the initiative process.

Unlike a referendum, where a question must come from a given jurisdiction’s legislative body, a citizen initiative is typically created when a certain number of ‘registered voter’ signatures are gathered on a question proposed to become law.  Initiatives can either be direct (where potential new law is decided on by voters) or indirect (where the affirmed petition question is handed to a Legislature for it to decide on).

The state of Washington’s citizen initiative process was enacted in 1897. The I-1639 effort began when the gun measure petition received the requisite number of signatures from across the state.  Naturally, the road from ‘obtaining a verifiable set of signatures’ to ‘Secretary of State approval’ to ‘finalized question on the November ballot’ has been met by significant counter challenges. But on August 24, 2018, a ruling of the Washington Supreme Court officially permitted the existence of the ‘gun measures’ question to be included on the November 6th ballot .

Initiative and Referendum in the U.S.

Less than half of the U.S. states allow their citizens to raise & legally install the answer to a question through the initiative process. More western than eastern states have this process in place.

At least partly due to the continually shifting voting preferences over time in a given electorate, states currently deemed ‘red’ and ‘blue’ both offer legislation-by-initiative. Washington & California are examples of so-called blue states while North Dakota and Arizona are counted among ‘red’ states that utilize initiatives.

Unsurprisingly, voter turnout in these states has historically been 5 to 7 percent higher than in states without initiative and referendum (states with one typically offer the other). The reason for this is simple: voters feel that their vote for or against a grassroots-raised issue on the ballot does make a difference.

Despite being a state that frequently leads the nation in voter turnout,  Minnesota–also well-known for possessing a strong political and civic culture–features neither an Initiative or Referendum component in its democratic procedural toolkit.

Like every other state, Minnesota does allow questions pertaining to  legislatively-referred, state constitutional amendments to be decided on by voters.  There have been three periods in which the right to decide by Initiative has been seriously considered in Minnesota, with the last push led by MN House Representative Erik Paulsen during the Jesse Ventura administration of the early 2000s.

Looking ahead

Although it’s true that social media has the power to amplify voices and mobilize people to achieve ‘a’ form of grassroots push on a given issue, such sentiments too often blow away with the wind of the next incoming news cycle.  Rather than focusing only on the  couch-potato democracy by electronic device, Americans in half of the U.S. states should exercise the legal levers they already have to permanently alter the law when their elected representatives don’t seem up to the task.

To quote the Busch piece again: “Conversations between ordinary citizens on complex topics are perhaps the greatest defense against the degradation of modern politics.”

What better way to begin stepping across the street for face-to-face conversation than to create outcomes on even an incredibly divisive issue through an Initiative provision, like approximately half of our country’s people have the legal luxury of doing?

And though founders like James Madison would likely be one to equate the Initiative process with ill-advisedly caving to the passions of the people, perhaps even our celebrated ‘Father of the Constitution’ might see the diligence and organization required of Initiative efforts as preferable to the Rule by Retweet method that regularly influences the course of events today.

Thanks to efforts like those who’ve advanced the I-1639 in Washington, political pockets of our country are arguably “deliberating, even when it’s difficult,” on important issues, as writer Ross Busch recommends.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at www.jefferson-center.org/2018/09/initiate-democracy-across-the-united-states/.