Democracy Fund Revamps Their Engaged Journalism Lab

Over the last couple years, NCDD has been working to grow and strengthen the partnership between the D&D and journalism fields (which you can learn about from our NCDD2016 conf panel, our D&D-journalism podcast, and Confab call).  Journalism is vital to both a functioning democracy and the engagement field – because without journalists, the important stories from the community don’t get shared in the same way and thus have a less powerful impact. We have been especially excited for efforts around engaged journalism, which is why we wanted to share the recent announcement from the Democracy Fund – an NCDD2018 conference sponsor org, about their Engaged Journalism Lab, a resource for audience-driven journalism. You can read the article written by Josh Stearns below and find the original on the Democracy Fund’s Medium site here.


Welcome to the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab

The Engaged Journalism Lab is a resource for building and supporting trusted, inclusive, and audience-driven journalism.

The ability of journalism to serve as our Fourth Estate — to be a check and balance on government and powerful interests — is under increasing threat. Journalism today faces multiple challenges: a faltering business model with shrinking resources; a political environment in which they find themselves under attack; and a climate of deep distrust by the American people.

In a 2017 survey, the Poynter Institute, a Democracy Fund grantee, found that only 49% of Americans have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the media. We believe this distrust is connected to another problem: journalism’s lack of deep engagement with its audiences, exacerbated by news organizations whose staff and coverage do not represent the communities they serve.

At Democracy Fund, one of our goals is to ensure that every American citizen has access to audience-centered, trusted, resilient journalism. To meet this goal, we are working to build a media landscape that truly serves the public interest.Through our Public Square Program, we support projects and organizations that enable newsrooms to build meaningful, trusted relationships with their communities through audience-driven storytelling, inclusion, and transparency. We call this work “Engaged Journalism,” and have seen firsthand how practical investments in these organizations and ideas can have a transformative effect on newsrooms.

As a part of this effort, we’re re-launching this Medium publication as the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab. The Engaged Journalism Lab will focus, not on how to get a grant from Democracy Fund, but rather on what our grantees and partners are doing and learning. We’ll also discuss the big ideas shaping the field and shine a spotlight on the people helping to make journalism more inclusive and engaged with its community. We hope it will serve as a resource for those working at the intersection of media and democracy.

The Local News Lab’s work exploring bold ideas for the future of local news continues at LocalNewsLab.org and through the weekly Local Fix newsletter. And you can find out more about Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation created by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to ensure our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people, at democracyfund.org.

Managed by Paul Waters and Lea Trusty, the Engaged Journalism Lab will feature content on a variety of subjects, including how newsrooms can better:

  • Engage their communities in content generation, production, dissemination, and discussion;
  • Address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within journalism through inclusive newsroom policies and practices, including recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse staff and supporting minority ownership of independent media properties;
  • Experiment with new tools and technology that aim to help the public and news distribution platforms identify quality, trusted news; and
  • Rebuild and fortify trust between the media and Americans.

We recognize that these are not small goals — and we know we can’t do it alone. Democracy Fund believes that collaboration is the only way we can begin to solve journalism’s most pressing challenges, and as a systems change organization, we are committed to learning, iterating, and partnering in ways that strengthen both our work and the field at large.

It is our hope the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab becomes a place to highlight new ideas and uncover new solutions that we haven’t thought of yet. If you have a question or a thought, please share it. If there’s an idea or project that we should know about, please let us know. You can reach us at EJLab[at]democracyfund[dot]org. We don’t pretend to have all answers to journalism’s problems, but we hope this will be a place where we can work through some of the questions together.

You can find the original version from Democracy Fund on their Medium site at www.medium.com/the-engaged-journalism-lab/welcome-to-the-democracy-fund-engaged-journalism-lab-95e56a5bc08a

PBP Announces PBNYC Results and Launches Data Tool

There are some exciting updates from NCDD member org – The Participatory Budgeting Project, who recently completed another successful round of participatory budgeting in NYC (PBNYC) and announced the launch of their new data tool, myPB. Over the last 7 years, the PBNYC process has allowed residents to decide on how to spend $210 million on 706 community projects. As part of a pilot program in NYC, PBP announced their new data tool, myPB, which allows residents to research their districts, find out if PB is in their communities, the status of PB projects, and more. We encourage you to read the post below and find the original version on PBP’s site here.


Participatory Budgeting in NYC: $210 million for 706 community projects

For the 7th straight year, New Yorkers just decided part of the city budget. We’re excited to share the impressive results from 2018 – and a new tool that brings past results of Participatory Budgeting in New York City (PBNYC) to your fingertips!

2018 Vote Results

More than 99,250 residents age 11 and older participated in the largest local civic engagement program in the US, deciding how to spend $36,618,553 across NYC. They developed hundreds of spending proposals and funded 124 community improvement projects for schools, parks, libraries, public housing, streets, and other public spaces.

The impacts of PB are even greater over time. Since 2012, New Yorkers have decided how to spend $210 million on 706 projects. PBNYC has also sparked over $180 million in additional spending on city-wide improvements such as school air conditioning and bathroom repairs.

PB is building the governing power of hundreds of thousands of everyday New Yorkers. As Council Member Carlos Menchaca reflected,“PB isn’t just about choosing winning projects, it is also about creating opportunities for civic participation and building stronger communities. New Yorkers are eager to lead the decision processes on topics that directly affect them.”

For more information on PBNYC Cycle 7 see the full results here and this video of highlights from the results announcement and celebration:

myPB – A New PB Data Tool

We’re thrilled to share not only 2018 vote results, but also a tool – myPB – that we’ve created to keep you updated on the status of projects and the impacts of PB.

Deciding how to spend public dollars through PB can be refreshing and exciting. Implementing the winning projects, however, can be frustratingly slow. Although staff share occasional updates about funded projects on the district level, there is no comprehensive, city-wide view of the status of PB-funded projects.

Now we have an exciting new data tool for tracking PB projects and outcomes: myPB.community. So far it includes all project data through 2017. We’re piloting it in NYC, with plans to include many more cities in the future—maybe yours?

Powered by NYC Open Data, community members can now use their smartphone or computer to:

  • find their district,
  • see if their district has participated—or is participating in—PB,
  • contact their district office,
  • search, sort, and filter PB projects that made it to the ballot
  • share information on PB projects on social media,
  • and see how much money has been allocated to various city agencies and issues.

This award-winning data platform tells lots of stories, revealing city-wide and district-specific priorities.

In June 2018, myPB.community won awards in Mayor’s Civics and Open Data from NYC Open Data, for its use of open data to support civic work, like how policy groups and advocates across the city can use mypb.community to understand community needs.

Sorting projects by category indicates what people prioritize when it comes to improving their city.

Since 2012, the NYC School Construction Authority has implemented an overwhelming majority of PBNYC projects, followed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Community groups can get more specific information about needs and priorities in their district, to better advocate for specific neighborhood needs.

For example, of the 982 projects for libraries and schools on NYC ballots since 2012,

  • 236 mention ‘tech’
  • 61 mention ‘library’
  • 56 mention ‘bathroom’
  • 50 mention ‘air conditioning’
  • 41 mention ‘electric’
  • 20 mention ‘security’
  • 13 mention ‘ADA’
  • 11 mention ‘music’
  • 10 mention ‘water’

This breakdown lifts up top priorities for improving schools and libraries across the city.

You can find the original version of this blog post on The Participatory Budgeting Project’s site at www.participatorybudgeting.org/participatory-budgeting-in-nyc/.

NCDD Member with Tips to Expand Your Information Bubble

The engagement field knows the value of folks being able to reach outside of their usual information bubble in order to understand other perspectives, build empathy, and expand your mind. Which is why we wanted to share this piece by Annie Pottorff of The Jefferson Center – an NCDD member organization, which shared some excellent tips for bursting your info bubble. We encourage you to share your additional ideas in the comments section below. You can read the article below and find the original on The Jefferson Center’s site here.


How to Burst Your Information Bubble

If you’re reading this, we’d bet that you care about the future of democracy, the forces that damage it, and the work that strengthens it. If you do, then chances are also good that you’ve heard the phrases “information bubble” and/or “filter bubble” as topics of concern. To provide a (very) brief overview: as humans in the digital age, we tend to seek out people and publications with similar opinions to ours, which is a pretty good way to avoid conflict. When we can get our news feed tailored exactly to our tastes, providing only information we’ll appreciate and relate to, why would we want anything else?

These bubbles can also be dangerous: when we remain inside, we don’t interact with those who disagree with us or with the information they consume. That may sound great on the surface, but this makes it easier for us to dismiss opposing opinions as being in the minority (even though that may not be the case), since we aren’t seeing them on a daily basis. Making things worse, actually escaping the bubble is pretty difficult. Our social media algorithms have been programmed specifically to show us stories we’ll generally like and agree with. Plus, we’ve all seen (or maybe even gotten involved with), political Facebook fights with distant relatives, or stumbled down the rabbit hole of our local newspaper comments section. Seeing these extreme views from people on the internet can make it difficult to even want to listen to anyone who may have different thoughts than us.

But at the Jefferson Center, we’ve found that when people have their beliefs challenged, it can be a good thing. We host Citizens Juries–deliberative events where a group of randomly-selected citizens are given the knowledge, resources, and time they need to create solutions to community issues. People often find themselves sitting across from complete strangers, and quickly realize that not everyone from “the other side” is as extreme as the pundits we see on TV and the trolls in the comment section. Instead, many people have a spectrum of beliefs, shaped by their own experiences, and aren’t easily labelled. Especially when it comes to local issues, participants find that partisan politics disappear when it comes to things like improving city government communication. As one citizen said “It’s really refreshing to sit down with a bunch of community members and realize you share the same core values and are united.”

If we choose to burst our information bubbles and listen to each other, we will let in not only new information, but new people, ideas, and experiences. Here are a few easy ways you can start:

1. Visit websites that present different takes

On allsides.com, you’ll find today’s biggest headlines and coverage from the left, center, and right. They also provide media bias ratings and a “balanced dictionary”, because certain news terms have come to mean different things to different people.

If you’re a reddit user, you can also submit and post in r/change my view. It’s pretty much what it sounds like–you submit an opinion, and ask people to present other viewpoints. The page is focused on having respectful, engaged discourse, rather than fighting.

2. Sign up for a well-rounded news digest

The Echo Chamber Club newsletter delivers a variety of viewpoints and contrary opinions on relevant news. Their goal is to offer an alternative to the personalized articles we see via social media algorithms, and instead showcase the nuances in today’s tough issues.

3. Curate a well-rounded list of reputable news sources

Here’s a great starter list of well-regarded news sites across the political spectrum, curated by Patrick Kulp at Mashable:

Conservative-leaning prestige media:

  • The National Review
  • The Weekly Standard
  • The American Conservative

Conservative-leaning new media:

  • Independent Journal Review
  • Heat Street
  • The Daily Caller

Liberal-leaning prestige media:

  • The New Yorker
  • The Nation
  • Mother Jones

Liberal-leaning new media:

  • Salon
  • AlterNet
  • Talking Points Memo

International Perspective:

  • Al Jazeera
  • The Economist
  • Der Spiegel

4. Analyze your social media and browsing settings

Did you know you can adjust your news feed preferences on Facebook? Just click on the drop down arrow in the upper right corner of your homepage, select “news feed preferences”, and choose a variety of news sources to appear at the top of your feed.

There are also browser extensions you can download that pop your information bubble for you! Escape Your Bubble, available on Chrome, automatically inserts articles and issues that may challenge your current political views into your feed, after taking time to learn your personal news consumption habits and preferences.

5. Read your local newspaper, including the editorials!

Checking out your local op-ed section will give you good insight into what your neighbors are thinking about local and national issues. Plus, if you disagree, you can shake things up and provide a few counterpoints in the next edition.

6. Be critical

Learn how to identify fake news sites and bots before you share, like, or comment. Sometimes these fake articles can travel around Facebook or Twitter for days, because people don’t investigate beyond the headline. Here are a few ways to root them out:

  • Fake articles usually use all caps, and are hyperbolic. Most legitimate news sites don’t write headlines like this.
  • Actually click the article–if the page doesn’t exist or is unavailable, it’s probably fake.
  • Double check the URL. Fake news sites thrive off of having almost legitimate names, like cnn-news.com.co
  • Skim the article. If it seems unprofessional, is riddled with errors, or presents information on a topic completely different from what the headline promised, you should move on.
  • It’s also important to be critical of your favorite news sources. Recognize when your go-to sites use clickbait tactics or present their partisan opinions as fact.

7. Attend community meetings

Because of TV shows like Parks & Rec, we’re inclined to picture community meetings as full of impassioned people yelling about pretty mundane issues.
But what if more and more people began to show up? We’d probably have a more diverse approach to many community issues and understand our neighbors a little better.

8. Have a few uncomfortable conversations

On Mismatch.org, you answer a few questions about yourself and your views, and they automatically match you with someone across the country with different views for a guided video conversation.

Living Room Conversations provides a local model for respectful discourse: you find someone to act as your co-host that has a different perspective than you on a given topic. Both of you find two other people to join. Then you meet for a guided conversation in a living room, church, school, or other community meeting place.

Did you notice anything missing from this list? Let us know so we can add it!

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center’s site at www.jefferson-center.org/how-to-burst-your-information-bubble/.

Announcing NCDD June Confab Call with Undivided Nation!

NCDD is excited to announce our June Confab Call featuring Undivided Nation! This FREE call will take place Thursday, June 28th from 2-3pm Eastern/11am-Noon Pacific. Make sure you register today to secure your spot!

David and Erin Leaverton are the founders of Undivided Nation, which aims to serve as a catalyst for reconciliation and unity in America. David, following a career in partisan politics, felt a calling to work to repair the divides in our nation, and to connect with people who he has seen as an opponent, or as a stereotype. David and Erin decided to sell their house, quit their jobs, and spend 2018 traveling the country with their three children, spending a week in each state and learning more about those they once recognized as “other,” as well as exploring what divides us, and what can bring us together.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out their road trip blog and their Facebook page for updates on their journey and reflections on the experience and the people they’ve met so far. David also wrote a piece for NCDD’s blog, which we highly recommend. You can also check out the video of their story below!

David and Erin will join us to discuss their journey, and what they have been learning along the way. They are two wonderful people and they have some powerful stories to tell, so this is sure to be a great call to learn more about their journey and connect with them! You may even have some ideas for them about folks to connect with when they come to your state!

Don’t miss out – register for our call today!

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

Confab bubble imageNCDD’s Confab Calls are opportunities for members (and potential members) of NCDD to talk with and hear from innovators in our field about the work they’re doing and to connect with fellow members around shared interests. Membership in NCDD is encouraged but not required for participation. Confabs are free and open to all. Register today if you’d like to join us!

NCDD Member Creates Racial Dialogues White Ally Toolkit

We are thrilled to share this excellent write-up by the Richmond-Times Dispatch on long-time NCDD member David Campt and his most recent racial dialogue work. Campt travels across the U.S. holding racial dialogue trainings using his White Ally Toolkit Workbook, which offers strategies for engaging in these conversations (learn more about the toolkit and purchase here). He speaks on the importance of white people having these conversations with fellow white people and emphasizes the need to communicate in a way that doesn’t attack but instead genuinely seeks to engage with each other. We encourage you to read the full article below or find the original version on the Richmond-Times Dispatch site here.


Williams: Racial dialogue is his specialty. His book details how white people should talk to each other about racism.

This post was shared with the permission of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Written by Michael Paul Williams

Coming of age in a polarized Detroit as black and white communities disengaged, David Campt became engrossed in the nature of conversation.

His hometown’s 1970s power struggle fueled his interest in terms of engagement as the outspoken Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor, presided over a riot-torn city experiencing massive white flight to the suburbs. But his curiosity was also nurtured by a white teacher named Nathan Fine, who taught his students that people are far more alike than different.

“What he was trying to do is to get us to not replicate the kind of conflicts that we were watching on the news as fourth-graders,” Campt recalled. “The city’s in a certain amount of turmoil. And he’s trying to have a different kind of message, trying to get us to see the common humanity.”

Helping people find common humanity through dialogue would become a vocation for Campt, 56, a civic engagement specialist affiliated with the Richmond-based nonprofit Hope in the Cities. He put his tools to work last week moderating a meeting of Mayor Levar Stoney’s Monument Avenue Commission.

Issues don’t get much more contentious than the question of what to do with our Confederate statues.

“I have always thought about the monuments the same way I think about reparations, which is, what’s really important is the conversation about it,” Campt said during an interview Friday. “Where that lands has some significance, but what’s really important is how do institutions put the public in the position to engage each other. That’s what’s really important in these kind of big, divisive things.

“People are very focused on, ‘What’s the outcome?’ But my focus is, ‘What is the process? … What’s the engagement that you’re trying to foster?”

The tranquil commission meeting last week bore no resemblance to the verbal Molotov cocktails hurled about during a town hall-style meeting of the panel last August at the Virginia Historical Society, now called the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

“He did a superb job helping focus the meeting while providing ample opportunities for those attending to engage in a variety of ways,” said Christy Coleman, the commission’s co-chair and CEO of the American Civil War Museum.

On Thursday, Campt — a faculty member with Hope in the Cities’ Community Trustbuilding Fellowship — will read from his new book, ”The White Ally Toolkit Workbook: Using Active Listening, Empathy, and Personal Storytelling to Promote Racial Equity,” at the Downtown YMCA.

Campt, a gregarious and towering presence at 6 feet 5 inches tall, promises that the event will be interactive and entertaining with a minimum of white guilt.

“A lot of people who do this kind of race work, they think that it is important that white people feel bad about themselves and bad about the history. I’m not sure that that’s the best strategy for having people learn.”

The toolkit seeks to dismantle the notion that “racial dialogue” in America involves a conversation between white people and people of color. It argues that some progress on race relations is best achieved when white people talk to one another.

This is imperative for several reasons. Campt cites 2017 public opinion polls in which 55 percent of white respondents said they face discrimination.

If we’re going to advance the conversation, “part of our arsenal has to be white folks talking to each other about race when there are no people of color in the room.”

There’s another reason whites must more effectively engage race matters: People of color have grown increasingly weary of the task.

Campt’s book states that it would be “neither fair nor feasible” for people of color to carry the burden of these conversations. Their ranks are too few and they “are increasingly fatigued by educating white people; they are already dealing with the additional burden of actually coping with racism.”

He said Friday that white allies of people of color have several built-in advantages in talking to fellow whites about race: racially biased whites might be more receptive and can’t legitimately accuse the “allies” of arguing their point out of self-interest.

But all of this will require a sharpening of their engagement tools.

“Part of what has happened is that allies have come to think that the way to talk to skeptics is to berate them, to call them names, to inundate them with facts — to basically use strategies that are not effective, that we know from science are not effective,” he said.

These inappropriate tactics have helped fuel a backlash. “We have given our allies bad advice about how to engage people.”

Campt said we must learn to talk across our divisions. As residents of the former capital of the Confederacy should know all too well, “different groups have had very different histories and senses of the history. And part of what the monuments represent is contention over what’s going to be our collective history.

“Well, our histories are very divergent,” Campt said. “Every group thinks its version of history is the right version. If we’re going to create a democracy that works, then what’s important is we try to come up with a collective history.”

The history that landed Campt in his role as a dialogue leader was circuitous.

He studied computer science on a scholarship at Princeton, but hated it. At age 20, with a degree at hand, he edited a magazine in New York and grappled with racism in all its contradictions.

“I’m afraid on the subway and people are afraid of me,” he recalled.

He moved to the West Coast to attend graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. During his second year, he began working as a dialogue facilitator.

“I think I was a natural at that because of my obsession with how people talk to each other,” he said.

After earning a Ph.D. in city planning, he was chosen for the staff of President Bill Clinton’s Initiative on Race.

“It was a fantastic opportunity and a horrible experience,” Campt recalled.

Whatever ambitions Clinton had about racially progressive public policy weren’t shared by some of his staff members, who were more intent on campaign-style messaging than on fostering engagement, Campt said.

Then the Monica Lewinsky scandal exploded in 1998, with the race initiative as collateral damage.

“The extent to which he had any moral authority was diminished,” Campt said.

It’s difficult to imagine, but 20 years later, we’re even more divided. On many fronts, we have lost the capacity to engage each other.

If his book’s tools can encourage productive dialogue on race, “the toughest issue in American engagement, maybe we can talk to each other across ideological lines on other issues,” Campt said.

Our current breach is not only corrosive to democracy, it’s also eroding families.

“People don’t want to go home for Thanksgiving because they don’t want to be with their relatives, or they don’t want to have those encounters. That’s ridiculous.”

Too often, when white individuals hear something racist from a family member or friend, they stare at their shoes. That’s an understandable response, Campt says.

“You don’t want to damage that relationship. So you’re stuck in a quandary. You don’t know what to do. You don’t want to attack the person so you don’t do anything.”

He’s seeking to empower people to respond with practical conversation strategies.

“This is about a third choice,” he said. “Don’t attack. Don’t avoid. Engage. This is about how you engage.”

– Michael Paul Williams, mwilliams@timesdispatch.com, published May 14, 2018

This post was shared with the permission of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. You can find the original version of this article on the Richmond Times-Dispatch site at www.richmond.com/news/plus/williams-racial-dialogue-is-his-specialty-his-book-details-how/article_7d086bdd-4b7f-5c7d-9947-8f66af2bf287.html.

Ben Franklin Circle Reflections on Moderation in Politics

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles (BFC), we are continuing to share stories coming from the Circles. In this most recent BFC post, Micah Towery lifts up reflections from the discussion that took place in the Circle he runs when they explored moderation; and how this virtue can play a role in our political lives. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


Moderation as a Political Virtue

“Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”

Didn’t we already cover this idea with temperance? That was my first thought as I prepared to lead our Circle on the topic of moderation.

I read it again. Resentment? Injuries? That sounded pretty different from “Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.” Clearly, Franklin thought of this term differently than I was used to, but as a leader, I struggled to understand the difference between moderation and temperance.

Thankfully, facilitating a Ben Franklin Circle doesn’t mean having all the answers, and my own Circle helped me realize that Franklin is talking about this term as a particularly political virtue.

Here are some things I discovered about this virtue from our discussions.

1. Avoid extremes

Does being moderate mean being wishy-washy? Does it mean always taking the political middle ground? Certainly not. Some in our group brought up the great social reformers, especially those who used non-violence as a tactic. The Civil Rights movement was certainly not in the political ‘middle,’ and many people died for that cause. Clearly, there were strong convictions at work, but the Civil Rights movement still embodies Franklin’s virtue of moderation.

Another example of moderation that our Circle discussed were Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. These examples demonstrate the power of checking resentment without watering down conviction or pretending “I’m OK, you’re OK.”

2. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve

In contemporary society, we’re often taught that strong feelings guide the way to our inner convictions. Indeed, a deep passion to set things right is a positive thing. It energizes us and can embolden us to make sacrifices or speak up when we are afraid. But what if strong feelings aren’t always a reliable guide? What if instead, they are passions that could turn destructive and blind us to self-examination?

I think Franklin’s virtue of moderation also requires us to examine our own positions soberly. What’s the line between resentment for personal slights and a deep passion to set things right?

It’s not always easy to see. As the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has argued, our feelings often come first and rationalization comes later. Haidt says we’re caught in a kind of “moral matrix” and there is a deep and pleasurable tendency to join “teams” with similar matrices (cheering for your favorite sports team is a great example of this). In this sense, our deepest feelings, even those we share with others who we admire, could be blinding us from open dialogue across values systems.

We will always have disagreements with others, sometimes irreconcilable ones. Yet we must live together and confront mutual problems, as well.

Moderation is about honoring the general norm that civic engagement–necessary for our life together–cannot continue without our ability to check and examine our own strong feelings. Cultivating this virtue, then, means listening to others better and seeing ourselves more truly.

3. Practical civility

Going through Franklin’s 13 virtues, I have come to realize that these civic virtues are not puritanical rules. They are norms we must apply practically, but not obsessively enforce. They are habits of mind and body we should try to cultivate in ourselves and encourage in others.

If you visited Micah Towery in South Bend, you’d probably find him hanging out with neighbors or engaged in a side hustle. He formed and lead the first Ben Franklin Circle in South Bend. He teaches occasionally at Notre Dame and Goshen College. He has a book of poetry called Whale of Desire.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at https://benfranklincircles.org/moderation/moderation-as-a-political-virtue.

Improving Employee Engagement and Morale with PB

One of the best ways to both empower people to be more engaged and improve the level of trust in democratic practices is participatory budgeting (PB), and it works in sectors across the board. Another successful example of PB is when it is implemented within business, as NCDD member org, the Participatory Budgeting Project, recently shared on their blog. We encourage you to read more on how PB was utilized in the company, Justworks, and the powerful results that followed. You can read the original version of this article below and on PBP’s site here.


Participatory Budgeting for Businesses: It Justworks

Last April, Isaac Oates was leaving his local library when a stranger asked him to vote. At first he politely declined, but when the volunteer said it was about the budget and would just take a minute, Isaac took a ballot, and learned about participatory budgeting (PB).

Six months later, Oates was leading a PB vote for his business’s budget. Standing in front of a company-wide all-hands meeting, he invited Justworks’ 300 employees to decide how to spend $250,000. The end result was a powerful team-building experience, which led to greater staff understanding and a better workplace.

Justworks is an HR platform that helps employers run their business by simplifying and supporting payroll, benefits, HR, and compliance. After rapid growth forced its employees to overflow into multiple offices, Justworks decided to move to a larger office on the far west side of Manhattan, 15 minutes from mass transit. To compensate for the worse commute, Oates, the company’s founder and CEO, committed an additional $250,000 to make Justworks a better place to work. And he asked employees to decide how to spend it.

Over a couple months last fall, Justworks held brainstorming sessions with facilitators, where dozens of employees identified initial ideas. Staff teams developed these ideas into proposals, and then sent a survey on the top proposals to all staff, to give feedback and prioritize which proposals should go to a vote.

Based on this feedback, Justworks narrowed down the list to six finalists. The staff teams prepared budgets and final proposals for each project, and then presented them to hundreds of staff at the all-hands meeting.

Each presenter delivered a tightly rehearsed pitch, with slides and a few jokes on the side. (Why vote for healthier snacks? “You’ve all had times where you go to grab a snack at 4pm and all that’s left are some bags of Hot Cheetos.”)

After a few vigorous rounds of questions, Oates thanked the project champions. “That was the most fun I’ve had in awhile!”

All staff then had a day to vote online, by casting up to three votes per person. 226 staff voted – 75% turnout!

The top four projects received enough votes to win funding: enhanced healthier snacks, a calm zen space for relaxing at the office, new office decor and art, and more comfortable office chairs. Justworks donated the remaining funds to a local soup kitchen.

Oates was impressed with the results of this new approach to employee engagement. “People learned about the budget. I always expect them to understand it, but they don’t really have the chance.”

During a challenging transition for Justworks, PB showed employees that the company was listening to their needs and investing in their priorities.

And at a difficult time for our democracy, Justworks also showed how PB can inspire a new wave of civic power. Over 100,000 people voted last year in PBNYC, learning first hand a better way to decide together. Oates was one of many who took this experience to heart, launching PB in his own community. Are you next?

You can find the original version of the article on the Participatory Budgeting Project’s site at www.participatorybudgeting.org/participatory-budgeting-for-businesses-it-justworks/.

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!

NCDDer Gives Transforming Communication Tedx Talk

We are thrilled to share that Katie Hyten of NCDD member org, Essential Partners, recently gave a Tedx Talk on Designing Communication: Moving Beyond Habit. It is always so exciting to see the work of the NCDD network and have important communication skills being shared like the ones she recommended!

The talk was given at TedxTufts just a few weeks back, in which, Katie talked about the need to transform the way that we communicate at every level. She shared how defensiveness and survival mechanisms can kick in during challenging conversations, even those with whom we have close personal relationships. She offered several tactics in order to listen better, be more intentional, and ultimately more effective when communicating with each other. Like she highlighted in her talk, when we transform the way we communicate, we transform our relationships.

Great work on this TedTalk, Katie! We encourage you to watch the video below.

Tuning in and Shifting Strategy with Ben Franklin Circles

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles, we have been sharing stories from those participating in the circles and some of the key learning that has taken place during the process. Read the remarkable change that happened in Victoria Fann’s BF Circle when she decided to step back from facilitating and have the circle members take the rein. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


The Spirit of Community

My Ben Franklin Circle in Weaverville, NC has been meeting since November 2017. Since I have been facilitating groups of various kinds since 1989, stepping into the role of facilitator for this group was easy for me. We met for the first four months with me asking most of the questions, reading the quotes and gently steering the conversation if we strayed away from the topic.

This seemed to work well, but something was missing. I had a gnawing feeling that there was a better way to structure our little group. Based on some words from his autobiography, I knew that Ben Franklin would heartily agree. For example, he writes, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Involvement was precisely what we needed!

The first small step in this direction took place at our February meeting. Instead of discussing the virtues in the order listed on the Ben Franklin Circle website, I decided to write each one of the remaining virtues on small slips of paper and fold them up. I brought those papers to the meeting and placed them in a hat. At the end or our discussion, I asked a member to draw out one of the slips of paper, saying that we would discuss whatever virtue was chosen.

This felt good—so good, in fact, that at the March meeting, I decided to take this idea a step further. Prior to the meeting, I wrote out that month’s virtue questions and quotes provided by the Ben Franklin Circle website onto small slips of paper, folded them and placed them into a bowl at our host’s house. I then invited members to draw one out and read it aloud to the group to prompt our discussion. I also encouraged members to add their own questions.

Franklin’s very own group, on which the BF Circles are based, encouraged a similar involvement from the members of the group as he writes here: “I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year, I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the JUNTO; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute, or desire of victory; and, to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.”

What we discovered during that meeting was that having the members chose the questions at random and read them to the group led to a much deeper level of conversation. I suspect this was because the playing field had been leveled and everyone felt more engaged and involved than when I was the one asking most of the questions. My leadership role softened as I yielded to this more community-based approach. Our trust of each other and our willingness to explore the outer edges of the virtue increased exponentially. Plus, there was almost a palpable feeling of relief among all of us once we shifted into this more egalitarian way of relating to each other. It was clear we’d been seeking it all along.

The lesson for me was a reminder of how important it is to tune into the specific needs of a situation without assumptions, agendas or formulas, but rather an open mind and a willingness to learn.

Though initially my “expertise” proved to be a hindrance, the group process itself became the catalyst that allowed the solution to emerge effortlessly.

Thank you, Ben Franklin.

Victoria Fann is a writer, transformational coach, group facilitator and workshop leader. Her Ben Franklin Circle meets in Weaverville, NC.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at https://benfranklincircles.org/ben-franklin-circle-hosts/the-spirit-of-community.