Public Square Academy Seeking Program Collaborators

The Public Square Academy (PSA) is looking to develop educational and civic online programs. NCDD member Michael Freedman shared the announcement that they are looking for those with civic and educational expertise to develop programs across broad topics areas of education, community engagement, government, and more. There is an opportunity for free 4-weeks training while developing the program, which you can learn more about in the post below and find the original on PSA’s site here.


The Public Square Academy Program Designers

The Public Square Academy (PSA) is building a catalog of civic and consumer education programs. These programs differ from typical online programs in that they will emphasize student interaction, cohesive group learning, and active mentoring. This model results in deeper learning and a more rewarding experience for the participants.

We are looking for designers, teachers, subject matter experts (SMEs), authors, and influencers who have civic or consumer education expertise and passion, to develop programs for the Academy. These will be narrow topics in a broad area of programs: from policy and advocacy to government structure and operations, personal and community development, school and workplace engagement, consumer training in financial literacy, healthcare, and consumer rights.  Come on. Rise up!

Programs are remote, based on an LMS, and use video conferencing. We offer the following program models:

Classes – Led by teachers

  • Synchronous Class – These are group-based courses for complex learning with a focus on interactivity: discussions, case studies, and projects. This is our primary course model and provides the best learning experience by using active mentoring, dynamic groups, and interactive learning experiences. Synchronous courses have scheduled group meetings using video conference or in person.
  • Asynchronous Class. Short DIY courses for foundational knowledge. These are equivalent to typical online programs. These programs are good as short courses for a basic introduction to a content area but do not provide deep learning. These programs are not group-based but will include active mentoring.

Workshops – Supported by Guides / SMEs

  • Workshops are supported, content-rich skill or capacity-building programs where individuals or groups work on guided, but self-directed projects to learn and develop specific skills to develop actionable results. Workshops are a good follow up to a course where new skills can be put right into practice.

Forums – Guided by Moderators

  • Topic-focused program with rich background material and guidance focused on generating solutions to problems. These may be continuous learning communities or time / event-bounded.

Candidates will receive 4-weeks training in program design at no charge while they refine their program proposal.

Compensation will be royalties based on revenue earned when a mentor uses your program (you will retain the I.P. rights to the programs you build). If you mentor your program directly, then you earn a greater share of the revenue. So, if you have a great program and/or are an exceptional teacher, you will be able to earn a respectable income. To be clear, income is based on student revenue, so won’t be earned until the programs are up and running. Here are some program ideas we think are worthwhile.

For starters, please send a short – one-page proposal for a program(s) you want to build/offer along with a resume. Include a brief outline/description, identify the target audience/participants and the program’s learning goals.

Here are design guidelines to work with:

  • Select one or more program models from the above list, define your audience (be as defined and narrow as you can be) and learning objectives.
  • Our programs are for adult learners (individuals, groups, or within schools or organizations)
  • Incorporate highly interactive elements: discussions, projects, collaborations, scripted role plays, simulations, and games/competitions.
  • Optionally, develop a turnkey curriculum for students and mentors, make it customizable and localizable. This option enables program owners to scale their programs and income.
  • Commercially viable: people will want to participate because it’s meaningful and enjoyable. It will provide participants with a transformative experience.
  • Proposed programs must be in alignment with the Academy’s mission.

Please feel free to ask questions or ask for a phone call or video chat. This program emphasizes relationships, so why not start with a conversation.

For more information, contact Michael Freedman at: Michael (at) ThePublicSquare (dot) Academy

You can find the original version of this announcement on PSA’s at www.thepublicsquare.academy/program-designers/.

Democratic Learning Exchanges with NCL and Kettering

NCDD member and partner – the National Civic League has been working with the Kettering Foundation on “learning exchanges” with city managers. The two organizations have a long working history over the last several decades, which has sought to explore how to further democratic practices, particularly within local government. This is the most recent effort in this work to continue to shift deeper government collaboration with the community. You can read the article in the post below or find the original on NCL’s site here.


Learning About Democratic Practices with City Managers

The National Civic League is working with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation to organize “learning exchanges” to explore the ways professional city managers engage with members of the public to foster democratic practices in communities.

These twice-a-year exchanges, which have been held at the foundation’s campus in Dayton, Ohio, have facilitated wide-ranging conversations about civic engagement efforts and examples of complementary public action—everything from an experiment in participatory budgeting in Chicago’s 49th ward to dialogues about community-police relations in a small southern city.

The participants have also explored issues such as assets-based community development, relational organizing, social media and technology and the role of public deliberation in addressing “wicked problems,” that is, persistent problems for which there are no obvious technical solutions.

In many of the exchanges, participants have identified tensions between the job of professional manager and the idea of public engagement and democratic governance. Traditionally, managers have been trained to view themselves as technical problem-solvers who advise elected officials and manage city departments to implement the policies adopted during public meetings.

In effect, local elected and appointed officials made the tough decisions and handled the strategizing, prioritizing and long-range planning efforts that allowed municipalities and counties to flourish.

But managers are in some ways uniquely positioned to foster collective problem-solving efforts and grassroots community initiatives, especially when there is a continuity of effort by public managers over a period of years. Some city governments, in fact, have developed detailed protocols to help staff-members think about how and when to engage the public in decision-making and public deliberation.

The National Civic League’s involvement with the Kettering Foundation goes back many years. In the early 1970s, the two organizations worked together to conduct research on what was then described as “citizen participation.” With support from the foundation, the League developed a series of books and videos, highlighting how winners of the All-America City Awards had come together to address pressing issues.

The Kettering Foundation’s primary research question is, “What does it take to make democracy work as it should?” For Kettering, one aspect of this mission is to look at ways professionals can “align their work” with the work of ordinary members of communities.

The League’s various research agreements with the Kettering Foundation have offered unique opportunities over the years to develop new ideas and new relationships with individuals and organizations, some of which have led to other initiatives and projects.

The city manager exchange, for example, led to the development of the Richard S. Childs Fellowship, a project that offers editorial assistance and guidance to working city managers seeking to write about their experiences with democratic practices in their communities. Some of these writings have already appeared in the National Civic Review as case studies and essays.

The fellowship was named for the political reformer and long-serving member of the National Civic League board of directors who played a leading role in developing the 1915 Model City Charter, the original blueprint for the city council-city manager plan for local government.

These research exchanges have become an important part of the League’s efforts to learn more about community-based efforts and address challenging issues. They also serve as a bridge between the organization’s historic mission of promoting professionalism in local government with its more modern focus on civic engagement, collaborative problem-solving and social equity.

You can find the original version of this on National Civic League’s site at www.nationalcivicleague.org/learning-about-democratic-practices-with-city-managers/.

IAP2 Seeks Input for National Dialogue Effort on P2

The International Association for Public Participation launched their 2018 IAP2 USA National Dialogue at the Skills Symposium in Austin, Texas, earlier this year on engaging the public in highly technical and complex projects. They are seeking input on how public participation (P2) is currently being used on these complex engagement efforts and what are some techniques for better engaging the public in the future. Learn more about what they have found so far and check out the toolkit IAP2 created for organizing an event in your community. They are looking to compile the responses for this and share it at the upcoming 2019 Skills Symposium next year. You can read some of the highlights below and find even more information on the IAP2 site here.


2018 IAP2 USA National Dialogue

How and Why the Public Should be Engaged in Highly Technical and Complex Projects

At a time when highly technical and complex projects such as natural gas pipelines, electricity transmission projects and multimodal transportation developments are on the rise, more stakeholder groups are clamoring for a greater role in planning, problem-solving and decision-making. In the 2018 IAP2 USA National Dialogue, we hope to learn what P2 practitioners and other community engagement professionals say about the P2 practices currently being used in these projects and how the public can be engaged more successfully in the future.

IAP2 USA kicked off its 2018 National Dialogue in Austin, Texas, this past February. Over the coming year, we want to learn how the revived spirit of “localism” in large and small communities across the country is impacting decision-making where we live and work. What ideas and suggestions can P2 practitioners and others make to better understand and respond to the growing tension among individual stakeholders, advocacy groups and project managers?

Get the conversation started in your area!

To help IAP2 USA chapters, member organizations and others hold national dialogue discussion in your community, IAP2 USA has created a toolkit to make it easy. Everything you need to plan and organize an event is right here at your disposal, including thought-provoking conversation starters such as a YouTube video documenting a real-life project and an online survey about how project managers engage the public. The ideas generated during these discussions will be collected and shared across IAP2 USA’s network of over 2,000 members and friends, as well as wrap-up discussion at the 2019 Skills Symposium in Austin, Texas. We also plan to share the practitioner knowledge and expertise with our government regulators and IAP2 affiliates around the globe.

At-a-glance: 2018 National Dialogue Kick-off Summary
The 2018 National Dialogue began at the Skills Symposium in Austin, Texas, with an introduction by IAP2 USA President Leah Jaramillo and emerging Lone Star Chapter representative Tina Geiselbrecht. Event sponsor and Outreach Experts CEO Jay Vincent then opened the discussion on the role of the public in highly technical, complex projects. Sharing his experience in the energy industry, Vincent highlighted the growing tension between the regulatory agencies responsible for approving energy development projects and the public.

Using card storming and focused conversations, participants were led through a series of tabletop exercises on the following questions:

  • What are the barriers to engaging the public in highly technical and/or complex projects?
  • Why are regulators/project sponsors/clients/internal staff afraid (fear) of engaging the public in highly technical and/or complex projects?

Table reps posted each group’s tops ideas to a sticky wall and grouped the responses into subthemes. After reviewing the subthemes group members returned to their tables for a focused conversation on two follow up discussion questions.

  • DQ1: Discussion How might we overcome these challenges?
  • DQ2: What might IAP2 USA do to help? (have a volunteer take notes on the flip chart

Major Themes

  • Diversity of agency processes
  • Inability to understand community interests
  • Lack of understanding
  • Diversity of stakeholders
  • Lack of clarity around expectations
  • Time (whose frame of reference is relevant to setting time boundaries)
  • Preparing technical challenges
  • Managing technical information
  • Managing resources

Before closing, some participants completed a short survey on the role of state and federal regulatory agencies in project permitting processes. The results begin to help us understand what experts think of the overall effectiveness of the three levels of government in relation to IAP2 Core Values and how these entities interact with the public in relation to the P2 spectrum. A civic engagement and demographic battery provided insight on the civic and community engagement practices of participating P2 professionals.

Now it’s your turn to host a National Dialogue discussion in your community. The carefully planned toolkit will make event planning quick and easy.

You can find the original version on this announcement on the International Association for Public Participation at www.iap2usa.org/2018nationaldialogue.

Participatory Budgeting Lessons Over Last 30 Years

Participatory Budgeting has been rapidly growing across the world for the last 30 years, in all levels of government, in organizations, and in schools. There was a report released by the Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network on the current state of PB and its future; and NCDD member org, the Participatory Budgeting Project, recorded a webinar with the report authors, Stephanie McNulty and Brian Wampler. You can listen to the webinar in the article below and find the original on PBP’s site here.


Lessons from 30 years of a global experiment in democracy

The Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network recently funded a major new report on the lessons learned from 30 years of participatory budgeting (PB). In July, we hosted a webinar about the state and future of PB with report authors Stephanie McNulty and Brian Wampler.

Check out the webinar recording, slides, and key takeaways below.

We asked Stephanie and Brian about what it meant to write this report in 2018, a time of great change for PB and for democracy.

Stephanie spoke to how PB has grown since beginning in Brazil in 1989: “It’s sort of exploding, and happening all over the world in places that are very different from Brazil… It’s taking place faster than we can document and analyze.”

Brian shared about experimentation in PB happening with a variety of focus areas and in new contexts. Part of the power of PB is in how adaptable it is. Many folks experiment with how to design PB to best serve their community. And so, PB looks different in the more than 7,000 localities it exists in around the world.

“PB is probably the most widespread public policy tool to undertake what we consider democratizing democracy.”- Stephanie McNulty

In 30 years, PB has created significant impacts. Doing PB and studying it need more investment to further impact democracy. We’re still learning about the ways that PB can transform individuals and communities.

Early research suggests PB strengthens the civic attitudes and practices of participants, elected officials, and civil servants. Beyond changes at the individual level, the report documents changes at the community level. Changes at the community level include greater accountability, stronger civil society, improved transparency, and better well-being.

But, in the end, good PB doesn’t just happen; it has to be built. It requires intentional effort to ensure that PB practice lives up to its promise. It can yield benefits for those who participate in the early stages, but it takes time for those to expand to broader areas. PB is growing faster as more people learn about it’s potential. We need further research to  learn from what advocates on the ground know about PB’s impact—as well as it’s areas for improvement. The future of PB will require effort and sustained resources to support new ways of placing power in the hands of the people.

The report documents key ways PB has transformed over 30 years.

  • Scale. PB started at the municipal level in Brazil, and now exists in every level of government, and even within government agencies. PB is now being done for schools, colleges, cities, districts, states, and nations—places where people are looking for deeper democracy.
  • Secret ballots to consensus-based processes. When we spoke about what was most surprising or unexpected while writing the report, Brian talked about the shift in how communities make decisions in PB often moving from secret ballots to consensus-based processes.
  • Technology. New technologies are used for recruitment, to provide information, and to offer oversight. We don’t fully understand the benefits and limitations of this particular transformation, and look forward to more research on this question.
  • Increased donor interest. More international donors are interested in promoting and supporting PB.
  • A shift away from pro-poor roots. PB in Brazil began as a project of the Workers Party to pursue social justice and give power to marginalized communities and the disenfranchised. This is a core reason why many look to PB to solve deeply entrenched problems of inequity in the democratic process. Unfortunately today, many PB processes around the world do not have an explicit social justice goals.

We’ve learned that focusing on social justice actually makes PB work better. PB processes that seek to include traditionally marginalized voices make it easier for everyone to participate in making better decisions.

To wrap up our webinar, Laura Bacon from Omidyar Network, David Sasaki from the Hewlett Foundation, and our Co-Executive Director at PBP, Josh Lerner shared takeaways for grantmakers.

They discussed what we need to make the transformative impacts of PB be bigger and more widespread.

  • Medium and long term investment is important for PB success. One off investments don’t create the impacts of PB and can lead to a decline in quality.
  • Government support is crucial. PB works best when it complements government—not opposes it.
  • Watch out for participation fatigue. If the conditions for successful PB are not fully in place, residents and advocacy organizations can grow weary of continued involvement.
  • Funders should focus PB grantmaking in areas that have conditions in place for it to be successful. They should look at political, economic, and social contexts before funding the process.

Want more updates on the state and future of PB? Sign up for PBP’s Newsletter

You can find the original version of this article on the Participatory Budgeting Project site at www.participatorybudgeting.org/lessons-from-30-years-of-pb/.

Local Civic Challenge #3: Getting Ready for Election Season

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


Local Civic Challenge #3: Getting Ready for Election Season

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

1. Get Registered

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

2. Find out where you vote

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

3. Know the issues and positions

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

iCitizen or Vote411: provide voter guides by location

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

BallotReady: research every name and issue on the upcoming ballot

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

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

4. Help others

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

5. Work at the polls

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

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

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

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

Local Civic Challenge #2: Explore Local Leadership Roles

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


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

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

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

She told the local paper:

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

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

1. See what’s open

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

2. Learn who holds local office

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

3. Listen to your neighbors

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

4. Tune in

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

5. Search

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

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

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

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

Local Civic Challenge #1: Learn More About Your Local Gov

As a fantastic way to help folks further strengthen civic muscles, our friends at The Jefferson Center – an NCDD member org recently began offering a Local Civic Challenge. Every week they have a mini challenge for becoming more engaged with your local government and we will be lifting them up here on the NCDD blog. The first challenge is to get familiar with your local gov! Let us know in the comments below if you have additional great tips for getting familiar with our own city governments. We encourage you to flex those civic skills by checking out the post below, which you can find the original on the JC site here, and sign up to get it delivered to your email!


Local Civic Challenge #1: Get Familiar With Your Local Gov

To kick off the first week of the Local Civic Challenge, we want you to learn more about the ins and outs of your city government! That includes how it operates, who’s involved, and ways you can give feedback. Once you’re done, you’ll be more familiar with how the system works, and you might even have some ideas on the ways things could be improved.

Do you want the Local Civic Challenges delivered directly to your inbox? Sign up here.

1. Locate your city’s charter

In the United States, city charters usually define the organization, power, functions, and procedures of local government. Not all states allow local governments to create their own charters, so double check this list before your search.

2. Find out if your mayor is strong or weak

This isn’t a comment on your mayor’s effectiveness (that’s a different conversation), but their level of authority on local issues. In a “strong mayor” system, mayors are directly elected, and can make appointments and veto legislation. Meanwhile, most “weak mayors” are elected from within the city council, and do not have veto powers or executive authority on most matters. Yours may not be entirely one or the other, either!

3. Give some feedback

What’s one thing you think your local government is doing well? What could they improve on, and do you have any suggestions for them? Make a list, then head to your city’s website to find who to contact. Most have phone numbers and email addresses for different departments, from parks & rec to public works, so you can reach out to the right people.

4. Save the dates

If you don’t want to miss upcoming upcoming public meetings, see if your city has an upcoming events calendar or schedule published online.

5. Follow and like

Does your city or county use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? If you follow them, you can just catch important projects updates and events as you scroll! Plus, you can easily give feedback by messaging, liking, or commenting.

6. Get familiar with the voting system

Local elections in the US vary widely, but the most common are first-past-the-post voting and instant-runoff voting (often called ranked-choice voting). In first-past-the-post, the candidate with the most votes wins the election. In instant-runoff, voters rank the candidates in order of preference rather than voting for a single candidate. Ballots are counted and each voter’s top choice is recorded, and losing candidates (those with the lowest votes) are eliminated, and their ballots are redistributed until one candidate remains as the top choice of the majority of voters.

Was it difficult to find information about your city? Could your local government be more accessible? Let us know in the comments below!

Next week, we’ll explore how to join local offices, committees, and boards.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at www.jefferson-center.org/local-civic-challenge-1-get-familiar-with-your-local-gov/.

Watch Recording of the 2018 A Public Voice Event in DC

In case you missed it, the recording was released for last month’s A Public Voice, held May 9th in Washington DC. The annual event hosted by NCDD member orgs – the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute, brought together policymakers, their staffers, and folks from the D&D field to discuss outcomes from the forums on immigration that were held throughout the year. You can read the announcement and watch the APV2018 recording in the post below, and find the original on NIFI’s site here.


Watch – A Public Voice 2018, Recorded May 9, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC

A Public Voice, the Kettering Foundation‘s annual event that brings together policymakers and practitioners of deliberative democracy from around the country, was held on May 9, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The two-hour panel discussion and audience questions were recorded (the program begins at about 14 minutes, 20 seconds into the recording) and can be viewed at  https://tinyurl.com/APublicVoice2018.

Gary Paul, a National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director and professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University; and John Doble, Kettering Foundation senior associate and contributing editor of the Coming to America issue guide, moderated the exchange among members of a panel that included:

  • Jean Johnson, National Issues Forums Institute, Vice President for moderator development and communications and contributor to the Coming to America report
  • Alberto Olivas, Executive Director, Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service, Arizona State University
  • Virginia York, National Issues Forums moderator, Panama City, Florida
  • Oliver Schwab, chief of staff, Rep. David S. Schweickert
  • Mischa Thompson, senior policy advisor, US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
  • Adam Hunter, former director, immigration and the states project, Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Betsy Wright Hawkings, program director, governance initiative, Democracy Fund

You can find the original version of this announcement on the National Issues Forums Institute’s blog at www.nifi.org/en/watch-public-voice-2018-recorded-may-9-2018-national-press-club-washington-dc.

Hidden Common Ground Initiative Findings on Health Care

The second report of the Hidden Common Ground Initiative has been recently released by NCDD member org, Public Agenda, in collaboration with fellow NCDDer the Kettering Foundation. This report focuses on how people in the US feel towards health care; and it shows that while people seemed to be divided over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there was much common ground to be found over health care, in general. Explore the public’s view on this issue by checking out the full report here. You can read the announcement from Public Agenda below and find more information on the Hidden Common Ground Initiative here.


Where Americans See Eye to Eye on Health Care

This report from the Hidden Common Ground Initiative focuses on hidden or otherwise underappreciated common ground in health care. How do people talk across party lines about the problems facing our health care system? What do people think should be done to make progress?

Finding Common Ground on Health Care

Health care has long been controversial and is certainly among the more partisan problems in American politics today—at least among political leaders. In 2017 alone, the American public witnessed endless debate among leaders over whether and how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and also witnessed Republicans’ inability to devise and pass new health care legislation—all part of leaders’ age-old ideological disagreements about how health care should work in this country.

Despite such a bleak picture, does the intense partisan division over health care among elected officials and pundits actually reflect partisan divisions among the public at large? Survey research does indicate continuing partisan divisions among the public on the favorability of the ACA. But despite these and other divisions along party lines on the direction we should go to improve health care in the United States, Public Agenda’s research and engagement experience over the past 40 years indicates that even seemingly divided groups may share or be able to find significant common ground.

When people from different walks of life sit down and talk about health care, how do they process the problem and think about solutions? Our approach to exploring the public’s views on the topic began with a review of existing survey data and proceeded to three focus groups in diverse locations with ordinary Americans, with roughly equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and Independents in each group. This report concludes with implications and reflections on the solutions that are most and least likely to garner public support and with ideas for productively engaging the public on the topic of health care.

About the Hidden Common Ground Initiative

It’s taken decades for our national politics to become as ideologically polarized and gridlocked as they are today, but it’s only recently that pundits and pollsters have started to converge on a narrative that blames the general public, instead of a flawed political system and culture, for this state of affairs. Especially since the 2016 election, a storyline has taken hold that portrays our dysfunctional national politics as a reflection of our profound divisions as a people. In this account, we’re an alienated society with no ability to understand one another, let alone find common ground or work together toward common ends.

For example, a 2016 series published by the Associated Press, Divided America, argued:

It’s no longer just Republican vs. Democrat, or liberal vs. conservative. It’s the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent, rural vs. urban, white men against the world. Climate doubters clash with believers. Bathrooms have become battlefields, borders are battle lines. Sex and race, faith and ethnicity…the melting pot seems to be boiling over.

Such rhetoric about divisions among the public has proliferated, and surely it captures something important about the contemporary United States. We are fragmented in many ways, with consequential differences, divides and disagreements that are important to acknowledge and address. But our divisions are hardly the whole story, and this rhetoric can be dangerously self-reinforcing, exacerbating the divisions it chronicles, stunting our political imagination and playing into the hands of those who would manipulate and intensify our differences to their own advantage.

The Hidden Common Ground Initiative explores a different hypothesis and possibility— namely, that as far as the broader public is concerned, there is often enough common ground to at least begin forging progress on many of the problems we face. Moreover, with some nurturing quite a bit more common ground can emerge. The initiative is concerned with locating the common ground that exists on tough issues and giving it greater voice and currency in public conversations and policy debates. And it is concerned with generating insight into how more democratically meaningful common ground can be achieved.

We believe that dispelling the myth that we are inescapably divided on practically everything can not only help fuel progress on a host of issues, but also help us better navigate our real, enduring divisions, from differing philosophies of governance to racial tensions. Hidden Common Ground aspires to tell the story of what unites us by way of concrete, actionable solutions that can make a difference in people’s lives and the fate of their communities—and eventually, perhaps, in our national politics as well.

You can read more about the Hidden Common Ground Initiative on Public Agenda’s site at www.publicagenda.org/pages/hidden-common-ground-where-americans-see-eye-to-eye-on-health-care.

Calling All D&D Showcase Presenters for NCDD2018

NCDD is excited to announce that we’ll once again be holding our popular “D&D Showcase” during the 2018 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, and we are looking for presenters!

The D&D Showcase is a lively cocktail networking event that provides an opportunity for select individuals and organizations in our field to share some of the leading ideas, tools, projects, and initiatives in dialogue & deliberation with conference participants all in one space. It’s a fun way for conference-goers to meet some of the movers-and-shakers in D&D and hear about the projects, programs, and tools that are making waves in our work.

How the Showcase will work

Showcase presenters display simple “posters” about their work, tools, or projects and bring handouts and business cards to share with participants who are interested in learning more or following up. Showcase presenters will be ready to succinctly express what’s important for conference participants to know about their resource, method, research, program, etc. and to elaborate and answer any questions people may have.

During the 90-minute Showcase event, conference participants will stroll around the ballroom, chatting with presenters, and checking out their displays and picking up handouts. We’ll also have finger foods and beverages available as well as a cash bar, adding to the social atmosphere of the session.

The Showcase is a great chance to strike up conversations with leaders in the field and other conference participants who are strolling around the room, perusing the “wares.”

You can get a good sense of what the Showcase is like by watching this slideshow from our 2012 conference in Seattle.

You can also see Janette Hartz-Karp and Brian Sullivan presenting at the 2008 Showcase event here (back when we called it the “D&D Marketplace”), and check out the video of Noam Shore, Lucas Cioffi, and Wayne Burke presenting their online tools here.

Becoming a Showcase Presenter

The conference planning team is hard at work planning NCDD 2018, and one of our upcoming steps includes selecting people and organizations who are passionate about sharing tools and programs we know will interest our attendees as presenters during the Showcase. If you are interested in having your tool, project, idea, or work being featured in the Showcase, please email our conference manager Keiva Hummel at keiva@ncdd.org and include: what it is you would like to showcase, a brief description of it, any links to where more information can be found, and any questions you have.

Please note that these slots are very competitive, and we will be favoring Showcase presentations that relate to the conference theme, Connecting and Strengthening Civic InnovatorsSo if your work, project, or tool focuses on helping to better bring the work of the dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement into greater visibility and widespread practice – we definitely want to hear from you!

If you are selected as a D&D Showcase presenter, you’ll be expected to:

  • Register for NCDD 2018 and attend the conference.
  • Prepare a quick spiel or “elevator speech” about your Showcase topic that will get people interested in learning more. Practice it until it comes out naturally. We suggest you prepare several introductions of different lengths (30 seconds, 1 minute, etc.) so you can adjust quickly to different circumstances during the Showcase.
  • Prepare a simple, visually interesting poster and bring it with you to the conference.
  • Bring handouts about your program, method, online tool, publication, etc. that include further details.
  • Have any laptop-dependent pieces of your Showcase presentation finished, functional, and ready to share (you’ll need to bring your own computer).
  • Show up for the Showcase session about 20 minutes early so we have time to make sure everyone is set up and has everything they need.

You can find more information and advice for Showcase presenters on our Conference FAQ page here.

We are looking forward to having another informative and inspirational D&D Showcase this year, so we hope you’ll consider applying to be a presenter or urging your colleagues who are doing ground-breaking and critical work in the field to do so. We can’t wait to see all of the cutting-edge projects showcased in November!