Catching up (again!) on DemocracySpot

cover-bookIt’s been a while since the last post here. In compensation, it’s not been a bad year in terms of getting some research out there. First, we finally managed to publish “Civic Tech in the Global South: Assessing Technology for the Public Good.” With a foreword by Beth Noveck, the book is edited by Micah Sifry and myself, with contributions by Evangelia Berdou, Martin Belcher, Jonathan Fox, Matt Haikin, Claudia Lopes, Jonathan Mellon and Fredrik Sjoberg.

The book is comprised of one study and three field evaluations of civic tech initiatives in developing countries. The study reviews evidence on the use of twenty-three information and communication technology (ICT) platforms designed to amplify citizen voices to improve service delivery. Focusing on empirical studies of initiatives in the global south, the authors highlight both citizen uptake (yelp) and the degree to which public service providers respond to expressions of citizen voice (teeth). The first evaluation looks at U-Report in Uganda, a mobile platform that runs weekly large-scale polls with young Ugandans on a number of issues, ranging from access to education to early childhood development. The following evaluation takes a closer look at MajiVoice, an initiative that allows Kenyan citizens to report, through multiple channels, complaints with regard to water services. The third evaluation examines the case of Rio Grande do Sul’s participatory budgeting – the world’s largest participatory budgeting system – which allows citizens to participate either online or offline in defining the state’s yearly spending priorities. While the comparative study has a clear focus on the dimension of government responsiveness, the evaluations examine civic technology initiatives using five distinct dimensions, or lenses. The choice of these lenses is the result of an effort bringing together researchers and practitioners to develop an evaluation framework suitable to civic technology initiatives.

The book was a joint publication by The World Bank and Personal Democracy Press. You can download the book for free here.

Women create fewer online petitions than men — but they’re more successful

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Another recent publication was a collaboration between Hollie R. Gilman, Jonathan Mellon, Fredrik Sjoberg and myself. By examining a dataset covering Change.org online petitions from 132 countries, we assess whether online petitions may help close the gap in participation and representation between women and men. Tony Saich, director of Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Innovation (publisher of the study), puts our research into context nicely:

The growing access to digital technologies has been considered by democratic scholars and practitioners as a unique opportunity to promote participatory governance. Yet, if the last two decades is the period in which connectivity has increased exponentially, it is also the moment in recent history that democratic growth has stalled and civic spaces have shrunk. While the full potential of “civic technologies” remains largely unfulfilled, understanding the extent to which they may further democratic goals is more pressing than ever. This is precisely the task undertaken in this original and methodologically innovative research. The authors examine online petitions which, albeit understudied, are one of the fastest growing types of political participation across the globe. Drawing from an impressive dataset of 3.9 million signers of online petitions from 132 countries, the authors assess the extent to which online participation replicates or changes the gaps commonly found in offline participation, not only with regards to who participates (and how), but also with regards to which petitions are more likely to be successful. The findings, at times counter-intuitive, provide several insights for democracy scholars and practitioners alike. The authors hope this research will contribute to the larger conversation on the need of citizen participation beyond electoral cycles, and the role that technology can play in addressing both new and persisting challenges to democratic inclusiveness.

But what do we find? Among other interesting things, we find that while women create fewer online petitions than men, they’re more successful at it! This article in the Washington Post summarizes some of our findings, and you can download the full study here.

Other studies that were recently published include:

The Effect of Bureaucratic Responsiveness on Citizen Participation (Public Administration Review)

Abstract:

What effect does bureaucratic responsiveness have on citizen participation? Since the 1940s, attitudinal measures of perceived efficacy have been used to explain participation. The authors develop a “calculus of participation” that incorporates objective efficacy—the extent to which an individual’s participation actually has an impact—and test the model against behavioral data from the online application Fix My Street (n = 399,364). A successful first experience using Fix My Street is associated with a 57 percent increase in the probability of an individual submitting a second report, and the experience of bureaucratic responsiveness to the first report submitted has predictive power over all future report submissions. The findings highlight the importance of responsiveness for fostering an active citizenry while demonstrating the value of incidentally collected data to examine participatory behavior at the individual level.

Does online voting change the outcome? Evidence from a multi-mode public policy referendum (Electoral Studies)

Abstract:

Do online and offline voters differ in terms of policy preferences? The growth of Internet voting in recent years has opened up new channels of participation. Whether or not political outcomes change as a consequence of new modes of voting is an open question. Here we analyze all the votes cast both offline (n = 5.7 million) and online (n = 1.3 million) and compare the actual vote choices in a public policy referendum, the world’s largest participatory budgeting process, in Rio Grande do Sul in June 2014. In addition to examining aggregate outcomes, we also conducted two surveys to better understand the demographic profiles of who chooses to vote online and offline. We find that policy preferences of online and offline voters are no different, even though our data suggest important demographic differences between offline and online voters.

We still plan to publish a few more studies this year, one looking at digitally-enabled get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts, and two others examining the effects of participatory governance on citizens’ willingness to pay taxes (including a fun experiment in 50 countries across all continents).

In the meantime, if you are interested in a quick summary of some of our recent research findings, this 30 minutes video of my keynote at the last TicTEC Conference in Florence should be helpful.

 

 


Transpartisan Review Issue #2 Now Available

I’m excited to announce the latest issue of a project produced by a handful of members and friends of NCDD – The Transpartisan Review #2. Originally introduced to the NCDD community last fall at our NCDD 2016 conferenceThe Transpartisan Review is a new digital journal dedicated to sharing thoughts and insights from the growing transpartisan community.

In our second issue, The Transpartisan Review takes an introspective look at the state of politics in the US and examines the potential transpartisan engagement has in finding solutions for this troubled time. Executive editors Lawrence Chickering and James Turner explore the effect the transpartisan impulse has on political engagement, taking a comprehensive look at the current political climate in the United States through the lens of their “Transpartisan Matrix”.

This issue of The Transpartisan Review also includes several articles on a variety of topics, including contributions from distinguished NCDD members Pete Peterson & Michael Briand (who also served as managing editor), and shares an account of a Living Room Conversation focused on transpartisan issues. Not only are they effective conversation starters, but these features represent the continuation of a dialogue the editors of the journal are encouraging with and between its readership.

You can read the entire issue online or download it for free at the journal’s website, www.transpartisanreview.com, and while you’re there, we invite you to read Chickering and Turner’s Transpartisan Notes, a series of short-form articles on current issues written with a transpartisan perspective.

You can look forward to more critical contributions to the work of bridging our nation’s divides in future issues of The Transpartisan Review and from this great team of NCDDers and transpartisan leaders in the coming months.

Summer Resources from the NCDD Community

There have been several new resources recently released in the D&D field that have crossed the path of NCDD staff and we wanted to share a few of the key resources with you here on the blog. These resources will also be catalogued in the NCDD Resource Center and you can learn more about them over there. We know there are many more resources in the NCDD network out there, so let us know what else you are hearing about in the comments below!

NCDDers John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch, along with Justin Reedy, Mark Henkels, and Katherine Cramer wrote the recently published research article, Assessing the Electoral Impact of the 2010 Oregon Citizens’ Initiative ReviewThe report of how the Oregon’s CIR has impacted the electoral politics and voter behavior since it became part of the process in 2010. You can read the article here.

We are excited to let you know the Center for Public Deliberation at Colorado State University recently published the report, Inclusion Around the Cyclewritten by Samantha Maldonado a grad student of NCDD Board Member Martín Carcasson. The report offers strategies for inclusivity of non-dominant voices before, during, and after deliberative processes. You can read Samantha’s report here.

The book, Deliberative Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning for Democratic Engagement was edited by Timothy Shaffer, Nicholas Longo, Idit Manosevitch, and Maxine Thomas. This volume is written for faculty members and academic professionals involved in curricular, co-curricular, and community settings, as well as administrators who seek to support faculty, staff, and students in such efforts. The authors build upon contemporary research on participatory approaches to teaching and learning while simultaneously offering a robust introduction to the theory and practice of deliberative pedagogy as a new educational model for civic life. The book is available on AmazonSmile here and remember when you shop AmazonSmile, they will donate to NCDD on your behalf when you select for donations to go to “The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, Inc”!

National Civic League released their All-America Conversations Toolkit. All-America Conversations are designed to help cities and other groups understand residents’ aspirations for the community, the divisions facing the community and, most importantly, the small, specific actions that give people a sense of confidence that we can work across dividing lines. The toolkit can be found at: www.nationalcivicleague.org/all-america-conversations/.

We hope you will check out these great resources as part of your summer reading! We’re always impressed with the rich content coming from the D&D community.

Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments what other resources, reports, books, articles, etc. you are reading this summer, or anything you have published recently!

 

DDPE Graduate Certificate Offers NCDD Member Discount

We are pleased to share that the Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement (DDPE) Graduate Certificate program at Kansas State University will offer NCDD members a 10% discount! [Fun fact: the price of your annual NCDD membership pays for itself with JUST this discount and there are so many more benefits!] The DDPE program is an opportunity to strengthen skills and understanding around theory and practice of leading groups in collaborative decision-making. The deadline for registration is August 21st, so make sure you register ASAP before it’s too late. Please feel free to contact Timothy J. Shaffer, PhD at tjshaffer[at]ksu[dot]edu with any questions.

You can learn more about the K-State DDPE program below or find the original on KSU’s site here.


Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement Graduate Certificate

Designed to be a transformative experience for graduate students and professionals, this program covers the practice and theory of leading groups through collaborative decision-making. Through a series of four courses, students will learn:

  • approaches to participatory planning and collaborative decision-making that are supported by sound scholarship
  • communication and leadership skills for designing and leading productive meetings
  • dialogic practices for developing and maintaining constructive working relationships and managing conflict
  • proven frameworks selecting or designing engagement processes for organizations, stakeholders, or whole communities
  • a wide range of tools and techniques for engaging small and large groups to address conflicts, explore alternatives and inform policy
  • principles and practices that move groups toward sustainable action that changes lives

Courses are presented in a hybrid format, with some offered completely online and others having face to face interaction. Students will interact regularly with each other and leaders in the field, who serve as collaborating guest faculty. A capstone engagement project concludes the certificate. Recognized as one of the most valued parts of the program, it provides opportunities for coached practice with faculty and seasoned practitioners.

Students in the program may pursue a 12-hour graduate certificate by enrolling in the courses for credit. The DDPE program is also designed for individuals who desire noncredit professional development instead of academic credit.

Noncredit Registration Information
The information below is intended for those who do not wish to receive academic credit for DDPE courses. Program fees do not cover potential travel costs associated with the face-to-face components of the Process Models and Capstone Experience courses. A 10 percent discount is available for National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation members. Registrants who do not have a Kansas State University eID will be required to obtain one after registering for the program. Instructions for requesting an eID will be provided in the registration confirmation email.

Full program fee: $3,800.00

Individual course fees (courses must be taken in sequence):

  • Theoretical Foundations (online): $1,000
  • Process Models (online and face to face): $1,000
  • Core Skills and Strategies (online): $1,000
  • Capstone Experience (online and face to face): $1,000

REGISTER NOW

For questions about registering for noncredit, please contact the Conferences and Noncredit Programs registration office at 785-532-5569 or 800-432-8222. Business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT Monday through Friday.

Careers in Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement
The DDPE prepares graduate students and professionals to better serve communities through effective facilitation, communication, and leadership. Those in the following careers will be well-served by the program:

– city managers
– mediators
– Extension professionals
– community and organizational development specialists
– conflict resolution professionals
– county and city planners
– public servants
– elected officials

Accreditation
Kansas State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The graduate certificate in Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement is offered through the Department of Communication Studies in the K-State College of Arts and Sciences.

Informed by the growing field of academic research dedicated to improving public deliberation, this practice-oriented certificate answers a demand from practitioners for an in-depth, graduate-level treatment of public engagement. The longstanding noncredit version of the program was created collaboratively with the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, the Kettering Foundation, the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy, University of Western Sydney, and the Public Dialogue Consortium. Designed and championed by the late Barnett Pearce, the program has an international alumni base representing the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Denmark, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia and Haiti.

The original version of the DDPE program information at http://global.k-state.edu/artsci/ddpe/.

NCDD Joins Coalition in Launching National Survey on the American Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addressing the Problem of Separation through Dialogue

In these divided times, we wanted to share an encouraging piece that NCDD member organization Public Agenda recently posted on their blog. It summarizes insights gained from focus groups PA convened which demonstrated something our field knows – when people from different perspectives engage in dialogue, they realize they aren’t so different or separate after all. We encourage you to read PA’s piece below or find the original version here.


What Discussing Polarizing Topics Like Inequality Exposes

After a divisive election season we continue to see stark evidence of polarization and conflict in our society. But also – and this is less frequently reported on – we see a desire to bridge gaps and find common ground.

Polarization is about more than simply holding differing or even opposing views. These days, it is also about how people with a certain view are, by choice or circumstance, increasingly isolated from those who think differently. The interaction of diverse views is valuable, but the trend of increasing separation of and decreasing interaction between those who hold opposing views is troubling and potentially consequential. The less we interact with those who think differently, the more hardened our views tend to become, and the more apt we are to vilify one another and rely on stereotypes, which in turn further divide us.

Such political polarization is on the rise. While this is much more extreme among political leaders, there are also troubling signs that it is becoming more true among the public. According to a 2014 Pew survey of over 10,000 Americans, Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the past two decades. And, among those who hold “consistently liberal” or “consistently conservative” views, the majority of each group report that most of their close friends hold their same views.

However, it is important to not gloss over the rest of the story. According to the same study:

These sentiments are not shared by all – or even most – Americans. The majority do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views. Most do not see either party as a threat to the nation. And more believe their representatives in government should meet halfway to resolve contentious disputes rather than hold out for more of what they want.

And while those with more “consistently held” ideological views are more likely than others to say it is important to them to live in a place where most people share their political views, still only 28% of Americans overall say this is important to them. Growing numbers of Americans also say racial diversity in the United States is important to them: in another Pew survey from this month, 64% of Americans said an increasing number of people from different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in the U.S. makes the country a better place to live, an increase from 56% who said so in August 2016.

When we convened groups of ideologically, racially, and socioeconomically diverse Americans in six large and small urban centers across the country to discuss the economy, inequality, and opportunity, people were clearly grateful for the exposure to different viewpoints and people.

Sitting in on each of these groups, I knew that the participants were a diverse yet accurate cross-section of their surrounding community. I knew there were Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; wealthy and unemployed people; and people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds sitting together at the table. Some of these differences were evident to our participants, others less so.

This meant that participants had many valuable moments of listening to, and learning from, people with very different backgrounds and experiences from their own. And it meant that when consensus emerged within the group, despite the diversity of views, it could be revelatory and important.

One example of learning from others’ experiences involved conversations about race and prejudice. In our Cincinnati group, there was an exchange about whether racial prejudice that limited people’s job prospects was more problematic than other forms of prejudice, such as gender or age discrimination. While there was no clear resolution to the discussion, white respondents were clearly deeply affected by the following story told by a black woman:

Female: My first name is [considered typically black], and I got out of my master’s program and I looked for a job for months, and months, and months…. I redid my résumé and instead of putting my full name, I just put my first initial, then my last name. Voilà.

Moderator: How do you feel about that?

Female: It’s sad. It’s sad. I personally named my daughter a white-sounding name so that in the future, when she gets old enough to get a job, she can get a job because her name sounds white.

Male: Wow.

Female: I considered that when I named her. It’s sad.

Cincinnati-area resident; in her 30s; black; upper-income; Democrat

In our follow-up interviews with respondents several days after the group, a number of people said this story stayed with them, including two white males. To me, it seemed that if they had not been brought together for this research focus group, they might not have ever had such exposure to an experience like the one this woman shared.

A good example of the importance of finding consensus also came from a participant in our Cincinnati group, who was surprised to find he had common ground with another participant who was different from him on numerous counts:

Now, you know, she’s a young African American female and I’m a more senior white male and she’s working and I’m retired, and we still came out thinking the same way. I think that’s kinda cool. That doesn’t mean her and I were right or wrong it just means we thought the same on that. I tend to be a conservative person and this made me think other ways, you know, whether I agreed or not but it made me come up with other ways to look at things. And I liked that.

Cincinnati-area resident; in his 70s; white; upper-income; Republican

Diversity of viewpoints and experience is not the problem we are faced with, but rather the separation we have between those who hold those different views and have had those different experiences, and the lack of ways to bring people of differing views together to gain perspective from one another. You can read more about these focus groups and the conversations between participants in the research report, The Fix We’re In.

You can find the original version of this Public Agenda blog piece at www.publicagenda.org/blogs/what-discussing-polarizing-topics-like-inequality-exposes.

Learn from Iceland’s Deliberative Constitutional Change

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


A Congress on Iceland’s Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join Kettering’s “A Public Voice” Event on Safety & Justice

In case you haven’t heard about it already, we want to encourage all of you in the NCDD network to mark your calendars for A Public Voice 2017 (APV) on Tuesday, May 9th from 1:30-3pm Eastern.

APV 2017 is the annual event hosted by NCDD member organizations the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute that brings together Congressional and agency staffers in Washington DC for a working meeting on the results of the deliberative forums that KF and NIFI have hosted across the nation on pressing public policy issues.

This year’s APV forum will focus on what was learned about the public’s feelings on community-police relations during the Safety & Justice forums held this year in communities across the country. And KF and NIFI will be livestreaming the Washington event via Facebook Live, so you are invited to particiapte by sending your comments on social media directly into the program.

Here’s how they describe the event:

At this year’s A Public Voice event in Washington, we’re trying something new. We will introduce congressional staffers to NIF forum convenors from their districts, and those convenors will explain the most unique and transformational moments from the deliberative forums in their communities. Our aim is to illustrate the unique value of these forums and the breadth of the network.

Which means, WE NEED YOU. Put May 9 from 1:30 to 3:00 pm on your calendar, because we’ll be livestreaming the Washington event via Facebook Live.

We encourage our network to join the APV event on Facebook to get updates as the event nears and share about it with your networks. You can learn more about A Public Voice 2017 by visiting www.apublicvoice.org and checking out NIFI’s Safety & Justice deliberative forum discussion guide here.

Deepening D&D’s Impact by Connecting Politicians to Theorists through Practitioners

We recently came across an article that frames a key issue in our field so well that we had to share it. The piece is by Lucy Parry, a researcher with NCDD member org Participedia, and Wendy Russell of the Canberra Center for Deliberative Democracy, both of whom are contributors for The Policy Space blog. In it, they describe the gaps and similarities between D&D theorists and practitioners, and the power of their synergy. They propose that in order for our field to influence policy outcomes and ultimately help our democratic systems become more deliberative, we have to connect politicians and elected officials meaningfully to our field’s theoretical grounding, and that D&D practitioners might be the right bridge for that connection.
What do you think? How should D&D theorists and practitioners work together? How should they not? We encourage you to read the excerpt below from the Lucy’s great piece and read the full version here.


Bridging the Gap: why deliberative democracy needs theorists and practitioners to work together

…[O]ne of the obstacles for successful use of deliberative approaches is the challenge of bringing the normative ideals of deliberative democratic theory – what it should look like and what functions it should serve – to the reality of political decision-making contexts. This raises a potential ‘gap’ between deliberative academics and practitioners, given the constraints of translating normative theory into workable political reality….

In general, practitioners work at the coalface, adapting to political constraints and timeframes, and doing what works in these contexts. Researchers tend to stand back, describe how best practice should look, and critique attempts to achieve it. In bringing a critical eye they play an important function, but collaboration between theory and practice is clearly important…

In some ways, practitioners of deliberative democracy are uniquely placed at the interface between theory and policy worlds and can act as mediators between the two. On the one hand, they work within the constraints of policymaking, familiar with the day-to-day rigmarole. On the other, they have the most experience of real-life deliberative democracy: they see it, they do it. Practitioners know what deliberative processes can achieve, in empowering citizens and improving the quality and legitimacy of political decisions. They also know how deliberative approaches can fail.

It is arguably the case that despite the different work that theorists and practitioners do, they park their cars in the same garage; sharing a commitment to enhancing inclusiveness and public reasoning in political decision-making. What’s more, practitioners are uniquely placed to bridge a much wider gulf: between theorists and policymakers….

We encourage you to read the full original version by Lucy Parry and Wendy Russell of The Policy Space at www.thepolicyspace.com.au/2016/17/125-bridging-the-gap-why-deliberative-democracy-needs-theorists-and-practitioners-to-work-together.

The Wise Democracy Project

The Wise Democracy Project was initiated by Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute with impetus and tremendous help from Martin Rausch in Switzerland, between July 2016 and March 2017.

The Wise Democracy Project has been created to inspire the formation of a community of practice around approaches and innovations that can further the development of a democratic system capable of generating wise public policy and collective activities. “Wise” in this context means taking into account what needs to be taken into account for long-term broad benefit. D&D – and conversation and generative interaction generally – are central to this worldview and are contextualized for their gifts among many other dimensions of a wise democracy.

The project includes both broad theory and, in particular, an initial “pattern language” of 70 design guidelines, each of which can be applied through many different modes and approaches, using different tools and resources. The pattern language site (and its accompanying set of freely downloadable modular cards) provides a space for the gathering of additional examples and resources in each design category – and the analysis of any given case of democratic practice or vision, clarifying its specific gifts and improvable shortcomings.

The Wise Democracy Pattern Language was inspired by – and is a large-system companion to – the GroupWorksDeck.org pattern language for group process, which is familiar to many NCDD members. In fact, there is a parallel project underway linking the two pattern languages into a more coherent whole.

The relevance of the Wise Democracy Project to NCDD is that it adds a larger dimension to the work of D&D professionals, a vision of a civilization capable of generating actual collective wisdom. D&D practitioners can, if they choose, view their work as part of that larger civilizational mission and, using the models, patterns and networks associated with the Wise Democracy Project, focus their efforts in ways that empower that larger undertaking.

About The Co-Intelligence Institute
The nonprofit Co-Intelligence Institute (CII) promotes awareness of co-intelligence and of the many existing tools and ideas that can be used to increase it. The CII embraces all such ideas and methods, and explores and catalyzes their integrated application to democratic renewal, community problems, organizational transformation, national and global crises and the creation of just, vibrant, sustainable cultures. The goal of the CII is the conscious evolution of culture in harmony with nature and with the highest human potentials.We research, network, advocate, and help organize leading-edge experiments and conversations in order to weave what is possible into new, wiser forms of civilization.

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This resource was submitted by Tom Atlee, co-founder of The Co-Intelligence Institute via the Add-a-Resource form.