Prepare to Act Naturally! …

Or, Be Nice, Not Machiavellian, in Professional Networking

Today, I led a discussion for the department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation’s Lunch & Connect series, which we run to keep people connected despite the pandemic. My meeting was titled: “Prepare to Act Naturally! … Or, Be Nice, Not Machiavellian, in Professional Networking.”

For the talk, I created a handout, which is available here: etw.li/networking.

We recorded today’s talk, which you can watch here:

If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here.

If you enjoyed this video, consider sharing it with anyone looking for thoughts about professional networking in higher education.

In the video, Dr. Kelly Bradley mentioned a resource that I may get ahold of and be able to share with you here, updating this post.

The post Prepare to Act Naturally! … first appeared on Eric Thomas Weber.

Read Winter Edition and Contribute to National Civic Review!

With Presidents’ Day this coming Monday, we have some great reading for our network to dig into over this holiday weekend! The National Civic League, an NCDD member organization, released the 2020 Winter Edition of the National Civic Review (NCR) and  NCDD members receive a digital copy of NCR for free! (Find the access code below.). This esteemed quarterly journal offers insights and examples of civic engagement and deliberative governance from around the country.

Friendly reminder that the League is always seeking articles for NCR on community-based examples of civic engagement, public deliberation, co-production, and democratic innovation – more info here! Submissions for the Spring 2021 edition of NCR are due March 15th, and Summer edition submissions are due by July 15th. You can read about NCR in the post below and find it on NCL’s site here.


National Civic Review Winter Edition — Access Code: NCDD21

With a deadly pandemic, an economic crisis, events highlighting racial inequity and a political crisis, 2020 was a year of hardship and turmoil for America’s communities. As we begin a new year, the National Civic Review offers these unique perspectives on how the public, private, and nonprofit sectors can work together on innovative strategies to promote civic renewal, community resilience, and individual well-being.

You can access this edition by going directly to the table of contents and entering your access code (NCDD21) when prompted.

One of the Nation’s Oldest and Most Respected Journals of Civic Affairs

Its cases studies, reports, interviews and essays help communities learn about the latest developments in collaborative problem-solving, civic engagement, local government innovation and democratic governance. Some of the country’s leading doers and thinkers have contributed articles to this invaluable resource for elected officials, public managers, nonprofit leaders, grassroots activists, and public administration scholars seeking to make America’s communities more inclusive, participatory, innovative and successful.

JAMS and NACFM Offer Grants to Community Mediators!

The JAMS Foundation and NCDD’s partner the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) are accepting submissions for their 2021-2023 Community Mediation Mini- Grant Program. This opportunity is extended to those interested in offering a new or enhanced process to how their organization currently serves their communities, with a focus on healing an ongoing or long standing community divide towards a path of re-connection.

The Program is designed to encourage creativity and variation based on research. Service strategies will be developed through the implementation of the “Listening for Action” Leadership Process and strengthened by at least one policy or procedure change developed and locally implemented over a two-year period. Program recipients will work together throughout the grant period anchored in the Learning Community. The Learning Community is a structured and collaborative peer working group facilitated by NAFCM.  Written materials developed through these grants will be shared with community mediation centers and mediators across the continent and even internationally to support the mediation community.

Five organizations will be awarded yearly $12,000 grants for the 2021-2023 cycle. Applications must be submitted electronically by 11:59 p.m., local time of applicant on March 15, 2021 to admin@nafcm.org.Read more information on this exciting program below or find the original posting here.


NAFCM/JAMS Foundation Mini-Grant Bidders Conference

The JAMS Foundation and National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) are pleased to announce the 2021-2023 funding track of the Community Mediation Mini-Grant Program (“Program”).

Strengthening Community Connections: This is an opportunity to assist one or more of the communities you serve by helping this community to develop a long-term process focused on healing their current or long-standing community divide. The proposed project should expand how your organization currently serves your communities (through mediation, restorative justice practices, conflict coaching, conflict management training or dialogue processes), by offering a new or enhanced process to help people, institutions, and the community as a whole on their path toward re-connection.

Systemic changes developed as part of this process should be able to be replicated by community mediation centers as a path for sustainability and growth for the field of community mediation, as well as to inform the development of training, evidence-based strategies, policy, and research at the national level as well.

The Program is designed to encourage creativity and variation based on research. Service strategies will be developed through the implementation of the “Listening for Action” Leadership Process and strengthened by at least one policy or procedure change developed and locally implemented over a two-year period. Program recipients will work together throughout the grant period anchored in the Learning Community. The Learning Community is a structured and collaborative peer working group facilitated by NAFCM. This structure serves as an incubator for innovation by aiding in the development of “good practices.” Written materials developed through these grants will be shared with community mediation centers and mediators across the continent. By distributing these materials, sharing programmatic resources, providing training, and developing national partnerships, NAFCM supports the replication of these service models and ensures the Program’s impact on an international level.

The Learning Community will meet twice a month for the first five months, and monthly thereafter using a specified on-line meeting platform. This community will follow the “Listening for Action” structured guidance offered by NAFCM that is intended to strengthen the unique work of each project as well as create an executive learning environment that allows the members to grow both individually and professionally.

2021 Solicitation of Interest (SI) Overview

The 2021 Program selection process has two distinct phases.

Phase 1 begins with the release of this 2021 Solicitation of Interest (SI) protocol. This phase is open to any organization which works to incorporate the 9 NAFCM Hallmarks of Community Mediation and believes that this funding and technical assistance support opportunity is a good fit for the needs of their work and those with whom they work.

A community mediation center is an entity that works to achieve the following nine hallmarks of a community mediation center:

  1. A private non-profit or public agency or program thereof, with mediators, staff and governing/advisory board representative of the diversity of the community served.
  2. The use of trained community volunteers as providers of mediation services; the practice of mediation is open to all persons.
  3. Providing direct access to the public through self-referral and striving to reduce barriers to service including physical, linguistic, cultural, programmatic and economic.
  4. Providing service to clients regardless of their ability to pay.
  5. Providing service and hiring without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, age, disabilities, national origin, marital status, personal appearance, gender orientation, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income.
    Providing a forum for dispute resolution at the earliest stage of conflict.
    Providing an alternative to the judicial system at any stage of a conflict.
  6. Initiating, facilitating and educating for collaborative community relationships to effect positive systemic change.
  7. Engaging in public awareness and educational activities about the values and practices of mediation.

Phase 2 begins in April 2021 and is open only to those who submitted a response to the SI during the prior phase and have been invited to submit a full proposal.

This 2021 Program is for those Community Mediation Centers wishing to embed the core values identified by community mediators and recorded in the 2019 State of Community Mediation Report: Fairness, Peacemaking and Violence Prevention.

Funding Project Process Step 1 – Open to all now until March 15th, 2021

  • Interested organizations are required to submit a 1-3-page response to the Solicitation of Interest (SI) (using the guidelines on the following page) to NAFCM no later than 11:59 PM local time of the organization’s legal/main location, March 15, 2021 to siminigrant2020@gmail.com
  • An informational conference call will be held on Monday February 8, 2021- 4:30 PM Eastern Time. There is a limited number of spaces for this teleconference and you must be registered no later Friday February 5, 2021. To obtain the link for the conference please send a notice of interest to NAFCM at siminigrant2020@gmail.com

Funding Project Process Step 2 – By invitation only

  • The NAFCM Grant review committee will notify applicants if they have been selected to develop a full proposal by April 1st, 2021. For selected applicants a review webinar will be offered on Tuesday April 16, 2021 at 12:00 PM Eastern Time. The link for attendance will be sent to those applicants who are invited to submit a full proposal.
  • Full proposals (with a required application protocol provided upon notification) will be due to the NAFCM Grant review committee no later than 11:59 PM local time of the organization’s legal/main location on Monday, June 15th, 2021.
  • Notifications of the final decision will be made by August 31st, 2021.

Please address questions about grant program to D.G. Mawn, President, NAFCM, at siminigrant2020@gmail.com.

You can find the original version on the National Association for Community Mediation at www.nafcm.org/news/546106/NAFCMJAMS-Foundation-Mini-Grant-Bidders-Conference.htm.

Post Election Community Conversation Reveals Concerns

Days following the election, an online community conversation hosted and facilitated by NCDD member org The Interactivity Foundation, together with IONA Senior Services took place. During this convening,  exploratory questions about our society and the prospect for forming a more perfect union were asked. The outcome is compiled in this article as a list of concerns in various sectors: the elections and health of our democracy, polarization and the role of the media.We look forward to Interactivity Foundations’ decision to further follow this topic in 2021 as part of their #WeavingCommunity Initiative.

Below you  will find the entire resume of key points and for the original post here.


Toward a More Perfect Union? A Community Conversation about the 2020 Election

Toward a More Perfect Union? Exploring the 2020 US Elections
What did the 2020 US elections mean to you? What did they say to you about our prospects for forming a more perfect union? What lessons might we draw for reweaving our society after the elections, revitalizing our democracy, and moving toward a more perfect union?
These were the key questions we explored in a November 5, 2020 online community conversation, convened and facilitated by the Interactivity Foundation in partnership with IONA Senior Services. This was an exploratory discussion, one where participants were asked not only to bring forward their own perspectives, but also to help each other delve into divergent perspectives in a spirit of generosity. You’ll find a summary of some of the key points below. In light of the rich material we discussed, the Interactivity Foundation may move forward with this topic as a new online community conversation series in the new year (watch this space). This Community Conversation was part of the #WeavingCommunity initiativeWhat concerns rose to the surface surrounding the election and about our prospects for forming a more perfect union?

Concerns about elections and the health of our democracy

  • Voter suppression is going on in our country
  • Our electoral process is dysfunctional
  • The election process revealed how weak and fragile our democratic system is
  • The election mechanics actually worked
  • It’s a victory that there was no violence at the polls
  • Locally lots of apparent voter engagement—with lots of participation via early voting
  • It’s an illusion that our democracy is working
  • We have structural problems in our system that weaken our representative democracy
  • We always say, “it’s the most important election” or “democracy hangs in the balance,” but are those just exaggerations?
  • We have governmental leadership with no moral compass—as long as they win, they can do whatever they want—and our democracy can’t survive more of that
  • Another real threat to democracy: politicizing the federal civil service, turning government agencies to partisan purposes
  • People in government should be public servants, not pursuing their own gain

Concerns about polarization

  • We are divided more than ever, with high degrees of polarization and antipathy toward one another
  • The division has become more extreme in the last few years
  • We live in bubbles and don’t understand people outside of our bubble
  • This high degree of polarization threatens our ability to self-govern
  • We have always been polarized, so it’s not worse than before
  • We have powerful myths of a national unity that never existed and we use this to cover up our history of exploitation
  • We mostly ignore divisions because they often only impacted others (if we’re protected by our race or class, we can ignore the history of oppression of targeted groups within our country)
  • We have to remember that America was built on exploiting others
  • If you don’t live in middle class white America, you are more at risk and don’t want to reach out to those who want to keep you down, especially if you’ve been a victim of a hate crime
  • If a major political party has become a party of white nationalism, how can you ask people to come together with them or split the difference by compromise?
  • We have divisions, but most people are reasonable and just trying to get on with their lives
  • Lately it has become riskier to have political discussions across partisan divides—it used to be fun, but now you risk losing relationships if you discuss politics
  • Our divisions are so strong, it is hard to believe we can come together as one nation
  • Our divisions are so fraught, they can’t even have discussions about the election in school
  • We are a country divided on values
  • Our divisions have religious roots, part of the evangelical right taking over the Republican party
  • Religion can also be a source of values that can unite us and help us to bridge divides
  • There’s a strong political movement to disregard facts, evidence, or science, which makes governance lose touch with reality
  • You can’t come together with people who are being dishonest or hateful
  • We have urban-rural divides
  • In urban areas, people often have more experience with diversity and are more accepting of differences
  • Trump and Trumpism seem like both cause and effect—a symptom of a widespread illness in our body politic
  • Some people are behaving like spoiled children

Concerns about the role of media

  • We live in different media bubbles, so we don’t know how others see the world
  • Media shapes reality—we can’t understand the reality perceived by those in the other camp
  • One branch of media presents an “alternate reality” that is not clearly connected to ascertainable facts, which makes it difficult, or nearly impossible, to reason with its devotees
  • One political party regularly attacks the news media and other evidence-based approaches, like science
  • We need to be wary of the outsized role that social media plays in our public discourse
  • Popular media are driven by controversy and sensationalism rather than focusing on what’s essential
  • The news media focuses more on entertainment than on genuinely informing the public
  • We live in a celebrity culture, where everybody wants a chance to be a celebrity, to be popular

How might we move toward a more perfect union?

  • We need democratic reform to make policy responsive and accountable to the broad public will
  • If government responds to the public will and does good things to improve people’s lives, then polarization will lessen and people will have greater trust in government
  • The election of a new government is a start—but we need to update our constitution to bolster our democracy and make it more representative of the popular will
  • We need leadership from the top to advocate unity with our political opponents
  • We should celebrate genuine public servants—those truly acting in the public interest (not their private interests)
  • We need to restore or embody greater civility at all levels of governance and society
  • We need to find opportunities for conversation with people from the other side (it’s not important to agree, but to talk with people with whom we disagree)
  • We need to teach the value of having discussions across our divides
  • We need to learn how to listen first to each other—not to talk first, but to listen first to others
  • We need to get past labels and attend to the substance of what people are saying
  • We need to strive to find the good in what opponents say or do
  • We need to recognize the universal needs that we share: we are all equally human
  • We need to find shared values to connect across differences
  • It’s not a matter of having the right facts, it’s about finding shared values to connect better with others
  • It’s best to avoid direct confrontation on hot issues—seek conversations about values
  • We need to be honest with one another and truthful in our words and actions—we can’t just rely on happy talk and fake politeness
  • We need to recognize that people on the other side are not all the same and are not all so hostile
  • We should educate our children for a civic spirit that is bigger than our divisions, whether this starts in our families, in community organizations, or within schools
  • We should raise the next generation to be more open to diversity—including diversity of viewpoints
  • We need education to help make us antiracist
  • We need to flip the media from entertainment to education
  • We need education for media literacy
  • We should change our media diet—to expose ourselves to different sides
  • We need to reform or disband social media, because it just aggravates divisions and spreads disinformation
  • What if we come together as one—to fight fascism?
  • Time can heal us

You can find the original version on The Interactivity Foundation site at www.interactivityfoundation.org/toward-a-more-perfect-union-a-community-conversation-about-the-2020-election/.

National Civic Review Fall Edition Recently Released with Kettering Foundation

NCDD member org, The National Civic League released the 2020 Fall Edition of the National Civic Review, published in collaboration with NCDD member, the Kettering Foundation. This esteemed quarterly journal offers insights and examples of civic engagement and deliberative governance from around the country. Friendly reminder that NCDD members receive the digital copy of the National Civic Review for free! (Find the access code below.) We strongly encourage our members to check out this great resource and there is an open invite for NCDD members to contribute to the NCR. You can read about NCR in the post below and find it on NCL’s site here.


National Civic Review Fall Edition 2020 – Access Code: NCDD20

As this edition of the National Civic Review goes out, our nation is approaching a crucial presidential election, dealing with a terrible pandemic and grappling with vexing racial disparities. An article by Martín Carcasson discusses approaching the challenge of public deliberation as a “wicked problem,” in other words, an issue or challenge with conflicting underlying values and no technical solution. Perhaps at this juncture we are in a wicked time, a period with similar attributes of conflicting values and complexity. This edition of the Review was published in collaboration with  Charles F. Kettering Foundation. We hope the articles in the edition will provide some ideas and tools to rally communities across the country to address complex issues and thrive.

You can access this edition by going directly to the table of contents and entering your access code (NCDD20) when prompted.

One of the Nation’s Oldest and Most Respected Journals of Civic Affairs

Its cases studies, reports, interviews and essays help communities learn about the latest developments in collaborative problem-solving, civic engagement, local government innovation and democratic governance. Some of the country’s leading doers and thinkers have contributed articles to this invaluable resource for elected officials, public managers, nonprofit leaders, grassroots activists, and public administration scholars seeking to make America’s communities more inclusive, participatory, innovative and successful.

Research Trajectories, Big & Small

Handout from a talk delivered in the Lunch & Connect Series for the Ed Policy & Evaluation department

Click here for the handout.Today I led the department of Educational Policy Studies & Evaluation‘s Lunch & Connect meeting on Zoom, focusing on the topic: “Research Trajectories: From Idea to Presentation, to Journal Article, to Book.” I had intended to record the meeting, but due to some of the complication of starting a zoom meeting, making sure people had the link to the virtual handout, etc., I managed not to hit record before starting… Oh well. For today’s session, I made a handout and outline for the meeting I facilitated and led. That outline and handout are available here or by clicking on the Adobe logo on left.

Image of a rocket's trajectory.

I’m grateful to SpaceX-Imagery for permission to use this image.

The EPE department’s Lunch & Connect series is meant to help us stay in touch with each other during the time of COVID-19. Today, October 16th, was the day for which I signed up and weeks ago I had reached out to graduate students who participate in the Agraphia writing meeting that I run weekly, to ask what they’d like to hear about. This was one of the options that I had thrown out and that received the most votes.

John Dewey, standing.

John Dewey.

While the subtitle of my talk reads “From Idea to Presentation, to Journal Article, to Book,” actually it all starts before those smaller matters, with the big picture of one’s aims and career research trajectory. By “career,” I don’t particularly mean to refer to employment, but to the life of one’s research aims. Connecting to the big picture in this way and to who each researcher is represents an outgrowth of John Dewey’s philosophy of education, which calls for recognizing persons’ varied inclinations, interests, and selectivity of attention, as well as their powers, abilities, and attitudes. The big picture need not lead a person to exclude all else, but can allow healthy breaks for divergent projects, while also giving us reasons to watch out for what we often call “rabbit holes.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if I were to give this talk again. If I do so, I’ll be sure to record it. For now, at least, I can share the handout I made for the sake of facilitating today’s meeting. I hope it’s useful.

P.S. If you are interested in studying philosophical issues in education, check out the Philosophical and Cultural Inquiry (PCI) track of the University of Kentucky College of Education’s Ph.D. in Educational Sciences. There aren’t many programs like ours in the country. If you want to learn more, reach out: eric.t.weber@uky.edu

The post Research Trajectories, Big & Small first appeared on Eric Thomas Weber.

Undergraduate Research Beyond the Classroom

A Presentation for the Lewis Honors College & for EPE 301 Students at the University of Kentucky

Click here for the handout.On Tuesday, October 13th, 2020, I was invited to give a talk for the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky on “Undergraduate Research Beyond the Classroom.” This talk is also potentially of interest to students in my EPE 301 course on Education in American Culture. Really, this talk is for any undergraduate who might be interested in taking advantage of opportunities to engage in research or its dissemination beyond the classroom. The handout I used can be opened here or by clicking on the Adobe logo on the right.

If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here.

Students in EPE 301 can use this video as 1 hour of their field experience observations. The dangers of COVID-19 prompted the creation of this option. Most students are probably not studying the subject of this talk for their papers, but all are working on research in their undergraduate coursework. In that context, students might find the content of this video useful for taking their work beyond the classroom. In addition, students interested in an issue about which they suspect that I could offer some useful thoughts can email me with their questions or comments as part of their field experience work: eric.t.weber@uky.edu.

In the talk, I reference three texts that aren’t mentioned on the handout. Those books were:

Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (New York: Penguin Books, 2015).

Brewer, Robert Lee. Writer’s Market 2020 (New York: Penguin Random House, 2019).

Brewer, Robert Lee. Writer’s Market Guide to Literary Agents 2020 (New York: Penguin Random House, 2019).

The post Undergraduate Research Beyond the Classroom first appeared on Eric Thomas Weber.

Join in on the AllSides Connect “Hackathon” Starting Today!

All are invited to test drive the freshly renamed civil discourse digital platform, AllSides Connect, and give your feedback! For the next three days, August 18th, 19th, and 20th –  NCDDers AllSides and Living Room Conversations are hosting the AllSides Connect “Hackathon”, and we encourage you to check it out! Folks may remember the platform by its’ former name, “Mismatch”. This platform is an opportunity to build connections and share conversation, which many of us are greatly in need of during these times of increased physical distancing due to the coronavirus. Read more in the post below and sign up here! Thank you so much to Kristin Hansen, Director of AllSides Connect, for sharing this announcement with us!


AllSides Connect “Hackathon!”

AllSides and Living Room Conversations request your help! Please sign up for the AllSides Connect “Hackathon,” taking place this week – August 18th, 19th, and 20th.
 
What is AllSides Connect?
A realtime video platform that is purpose-built to foster civil discourse and dialogue across geographic distance and political, racial, faith-based, and other divides in America. AllSides Connect has been built collaboratively by Living Room ConversationsAllSides, and Bridge the Divide. AllSides Connect is intended to broadly serve and scale the bridging/dialogue/civil discourse field. (You might know the platform by its prior name, “Mismatch.”)

What’s the Hackathon, and how do I sign up?
Join the hackathon to experience online civil discourse, test drive the realtime video platform, and give the AllSides Connect team your feedback on the experience … all in 30 minutes or less!

Best of all, you don’t need to be a techie to “hack” AllSides Connect … non-techies needed!

All you need to do is sign up for one 30-minute slot on Tues Aug 18, Wed Aug 19, or Thurs Aug 20. Up to six people can sign up for each time slot.

Here’s the link to sign up: AllSides Connect Hackathon – Sign Up Form – Aug 18, 19, 20

What happens next?
Next, you’ll receive a calendar invite, a URL link, and some basic instructions about how to join your scheduled conversation. You’ll be joined with one or more other “hackers” to hold a short online conversation, with a built-in guide.

Thank you for helping these organizations to scale civil discourse, respectful dialogue, and empathetic listening across America!

Kettering and NIFI Release Publications on Developing Deliberation Materials


Kettering and NIFI: Developing Materials for Deliberation

The Kettering Foundation researches and develops issue guides, and the National Issues Forums Institute (NIF) shares the materials across the country along with the deliberative practices on which they are based.

How Kettering and NIFI think about developing materials that support public deliberation is freely available in two publications: Naming and Framing Difficult Issues to Make Sound Decisions, which outlines the conceptual foundations of this approach, and Developing Materials for Deliberative Forums, which is aimed at people in communities who might want to do this work themselves, in their own contexts on their own issues. When KF and NIFI work on national materials, we use the same approach. There are many ways to do this, and the more one does it the more readily it comes. In this way, this work is a “practice,” learned and improved upon by doing, yet accessible to all. It does not take experts. (Another resource, a little more schematic, is this two-page overview.)

This is not necessarily the best way to develop such materials, but it is the one that we have developed and used over decades. Other innovations are most welcome, and we are always interested to hear about them.

What we mean by “public deliberation” is simple: people deciding together about how they should address a shared problem by weighing options for action against the things they hold valuable. It is particularly useful, and some might even say it is needed, on certain kinds of problems, including when the cause of the problem is in dispute, people from all walks of life will need to act, there is no objectively correct solution, and any potential path forward brings with it drawbacks that affect things that are held deeply valuable. Some call such problems “wicked.” The main idea is that they don’t have a correct solution, but the problems are pressing, so we must still decide how to move forward in the absence of complete agreement. NIF issue guides are designed to be a support to deliberation by people in communities on a range of these kinds of issues. People deliberate all the time in their personal and professional lives. It is not a new skill that needs to be learned. The NIF issue guides are simply designed to prompt the process. (Some people use them for educational purposes, but their main intended use is to support direction-setting that leads to public decision-making.)

The challenge for anyone trying to develop a document that supports people deliberating on such a problem is to 1) describe the problem in such a way that it is universally recognized as a problem that merits discussion and 2) present options for action that lay bare the tensions between the things that we might do. The first item is called naming, and the second framing.

All of this work starts with research. It is not work suited to just one or two researchers who go off and write—it is collective work aimed to be useful to collectivities of people. In terms of “desk” research, the chief areas of inquiry are: What arguments are being made about this issue? By whom? How do they differ? What solutions are being proposed? The public research is the most important aspect of developing these materials.

This public research starts with gathering concerns of people. This is usually done in small groups, as people share their concerns about a topic. The name of the issue is not yet known—it will develop and emerge iteratively throughout the process. We are trying to learn two things: What is the question that people feel we must grapple with? How does this issue relate to the fundamental things that everyone holds valuable, but in differing degree? By talking about their concerns, people lay bare these things. We typically try to have broad-based concern gathering sessions, eliciting input from many groups, across difference. The broader the better.

Once there is a good, broad set of concerns (usually hundreds), we begin to “cluster” them according to things that are held deeply valuable that appear to be driving them. They typically will readily narrow down to a handful of main driving concerns such as collective safety, equity and being treated fairly, having freedom to act, having control over one’s future, and so forth. It is useful to get down to three or four main groupings. These clusters will become the options of the resulting issue framework, and three or four options is about as many as one can get through in one discussion.

What emerges from this clustering work is a name for the issue and the beginnings of a framework of options (each a major direction for addressing the problem). To give a sense of specificity to the options, it is useful to have examples of specific actions that each option suggests. The result of all this work is the “grid” format that you can see at the back of most NIF issue guides: a description of the problem, three options for action, each with a set of actions. Each of these options will have a trade off—the downside will be unpalatable, or it will pull against one of the other options, or both.

At this point, we develop a draft of such a framework and test it by holding deliberative forums with groups of people. We are looking for how well it sparks deliberation.

We have learned that a useful framework will:

  • Name the problem in such a way that people immediately respond
  • Include a range of options that are in tension with one another
  • Give voice to marginal and sometimes unwelcome views
  • Clearly and fairly show the downsides of any suggested course of action
  • Shake up the dominant left/right polarized discourse
  • Often leave people stewing as they consider ideas they may not have encountered

In my own experience in doing this work, this testing almost always results in improvements and sometimes major revisions. Sometimes an option needs a complete rework. Sometimes the name is clearly wrong. For instance, once we thought we were framing an issue related to “campaign finance,” and people in concern gathering sessions literally laughed at how narrowly that was drawn and insisted that the problem was almost the entire political system.

One of the challenges of doing this work is that it works best if one approaches it with openness and a willingness to alter course based on what is learned. It makes it difficult to create hard-and-fast timelines and to provide early specificity.

Once the overall framework is working, we develop a full-length issue guide. These are all reviewed anonymously by people who are familiar with the topic at hand before publication. At this point, we are looking for balance between major viewpoints and major gaps or errors.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Kettering Foundation site at www.kettering.org/blogs/kf-and-nifi-developing-materials-deliberation.

Read New 2020 Summer Edition of National Civic Review

If you are looking to get some more civic reading under your belt, NCDD member org, The National Civic League, announced the release of the 2020 Summer Edition of the National Civic Review. This esteemed quarterly journal offers insights and examples of civic engagement and deliberative governance from around the country. Friendly reminder that NCDD members receive the digital copy of the National Civic Review for free! (Find the access code below.) We strongly encourage our members to check out this great resource and there is an open invite for NCDD members to contribute to the NCR. You can read about NCR in the post below and find it on NCL’s site here.


National Civic Review Summer Edition 2020 – Access Code: NCDD20

2020 is turning out to be a year of sudden, unexpected crises and angry civil unrest. The need for people to distance themselves from one another has led to feelings of anxiety, loss and social isolation. Anger over police brutality and racial inequity is making this a time of tough conversations but also increased civic activism. In this issue of the National Civic Review we learn about efforts to engage the public in collaborative efforts to make our communities more sustainable, resilient, age-friendly, democratic and healthy. We also take a look at some examples in history where civic leaders and members of the public have faced tough challenges and risen to the occasion by experimenting with new ideas and practices.

To access this edition, go to the table of contents where you will be prompted to enter your unique access code: NCDD20.

One of the Nation’s Oldest and Most Respected Journals of Civic Affairs
Its cases studies, reports, interviews and essays help communities learn about the latest developments in collaborative problem-solving, civic engagement, local government innovation and democratic governance. Some of the country’s leading doers and thinkers have contributed articles to this invaluable resource for elected officials, public managers, nonprofit leaders, grassroots activists, and public administration scholars seeking to make America’s communities more inclusive, participatory, innovative and successful.