Join NCDD Confab on Non-Hierarchical Orgs with Loomio, May 4th

We are excited to invite the NCDD network to register to join us for our next Confab Call on Thursday, May 4th from 3-4pm Eastern/12-1pm Pacific. This one-hour webinar event will feature a conversation with staff of Loomio, a collaborative online decision making tool and a worker-owned cooperative based in New Zealand.

Some of you may remember that NCDD hosted a Tech Tuesday webinar on Loomio a couple years ago where we showcased the features of Loomio’s decision making tool. But during this Confab, the discussion will focus on Loomio’s organizational dynamics, philosophy, and what lessons the dialogue and deliberation field can learn from – and offer to – non-hierarchical cooperatives like theirs.

Loomio is part of Enspiral – a global network that is also a lab for new ways distributed innovators can collaborate. Their team recognizes that there’s a need and opportunity for new ways of working for diverse groups to become more nimble, creative and productive. Loomio recently made an open source handbook that teaches others to use their cooperative work processes, and a few of their staff have been on a US tour this month to host discussions with different organizations who want to share and reflect on “the challenges and delights of non-hierarchical, inclusive, intersectional, collaborative, horizontal organising.” We are inviting Loomio to share and reflect with the NCDD network as a “virtual stop” on their tour, and we hope you will join us!

We will be joined on the Confab by Rich Bartlett, one of the co-founders of both Loomio and Enspiral, and NCDD member MJ Kaplan, also a Loomio co-founder and social innovator in her own right. Rich and MJ will help us learn more about the unconventional, non-hierarchical approaches that their networks apply to shared work and collaborative workplaces, and engage in dialogue with participants about how these approaches apply to, intersect with, and diverge from the work of the D&D field.

You won’t want to miss this great discussion, so to register today to be part of it!

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

Confab bubble imageNCDD’s Confab Calls are opportunities for members (and potential members) of NCDD to talk withand 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!

About Our Guests

Rich Bartlett is co-founder and Director of Autonomy at Loomio, as well asa software developer, activist, and open source hardware hacker. He is also a co-founder of the Enspiral Network, a “DIY” social enterprise support network of companies and professionals brought together by a set of shared values and a passion for positive social impact. Rich believes in the boundless potential of small self-organising groups to reshape society in a way that works for the planet.

MJ Kaplan is a social entrepreneur and consultant who weaves across sectors and industries to enable groups to align purpose and operationalize innovative collaborative practices. She splits her time working with Loomio, Kaplan Consulting, teaching/coaching at Brown University and serving on Social Enterprise Greenhouse and Commerce RI boards. She founded Kaplan Consulting in 2000, a networked consulting group that works globally with groups to gain clarity about shared purpose and to design innovative approaches to work that are deeply human-centered, agile and adaptive. In 2013, MJ was Ian Axford Fulbright Fellow in New Zealand. MJ was awarded the Cordes Innovation Fellowship by Ashoka U and honored as The Outstanding Mentor for RI Business Women Awards. MJ earned her M.Ed. from Harvard University and B.A. Brown University.

D&D Partnerships with Libraries Can Change Communities

As we hope you’ve heard, NCDD is partnering with the American Library Association to build the capacity of local library staff across the country to host and support dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement gatherings. We know these kinds of D&D-library collaborations can have huge impacts on issues facing any given community, and today we wanted to share a few great examples of what it can look like. NCDD member organization Common Knowledge published the piece below on three library-based dialogues they hosted, and we encourage you to read it below or find the original here.
Have you partnered with a local library? We’d love to hear how it went and what you learned – tell us about it in the comments section!


We Learned it at the Library

Common Knowledge was originally founded to put a more inclusive “public” in public participation. Over the years, we’ve grown to see it’s equally important to put more “unity” in community.

At Common Knowledge, we’ve designed hundreds of programs and trainings that bring people together to listen together and learn together. This cumulative experience leads us to one powerful conclusion: greater inclusion leads to greater innovation. And much of what we’ve learned has resulted from projects based in California public libraries. Libraries today are uniquely positioned to be the neutral “safe space” for inclusive community conversations that let people connect as humans and learn about what is possible when we listen and learn together.

Our cumulative experience leads us to one powerful conclusion: greater inclusion leads to greater innovation.

Here are three examples of library-based dialogues that sparked meaningful outcomes:

Engaging new voters

The “average” voter has higher education and higher income than the U.S. population as a whole. The Key to Community Project worked to close this education gap by inviting adult students to help design their own program for engaging with civic issues and voting. They started by inviting fellow students to help choose topics they were interested in and co-facilitated dialogues on topics such as jobs, criminal justice and education. These discussions led to significant shifts in perspectives, as one student told me: “My whole world opened up.” Thinking went from “it’s too overwhelming and I don’t have a say” to “hey, we could do something about this. At least I can start by voting.”

The discussions created increased demand for fun, hands-on voting workshops, also facilitated by the adult students. The Key to Community Project also led to the creation of the popular Easy Voter Guide, published for each statewide election in five languages, used over the years by 60 newspapers and thousands of organizations and libraries across the state. Ultimately, though, it was these real, personal and engaged dialogues on topics that the community identified that stimulated the most dramatic increases in voter engagement, including a doubling of turnout among audiences least likely to vote.

Bridging social divides

There’s been a lot of publicity and inflamed public commentary about the tech workforce displacing longer-term residents in the Bay Area. Two years ago, a focus group at the San Francisco Public Library invited tech workers and low-income residents to talk together about the challenges of living in San Francisco. Because the discussion was framed as a human-to-human conversation between equals rather than a polarized debate between “haves” and “have-nots,” participants empathized with each other and came to see that they were all struggling with some aspect of the changing city.

The opportunity to trade stories is powerful. Some of the low-income participants were surprised to discover that the young tech employees were having difficulty affording rent too. One tech worker shared that he camps out at least three nights a month so he can rent his apartment on Airbnb to make extra income. That was his solution to making ends meet. One of the participants who lives in a single room occupancy hotel responded: “Geez, at least I know where I’m going to sleep every night.”

The point of the focus group was not to reach a conclusion or solution about the city’s changing demographics. In the spirit of non-partisan community connections, the session led to a later partnership with library literacy students helping local leaders working in the field of civic tech. Together they tested a “co-discovery” process that puts direct contact with city residents at the heart of civic tech development projects.

Making it safe to talk about housing

Outside of the formal policy-making process, the Novato Public Library provided a “safe” space for community members to come together, share their experiences with housing issues, and learn about the current state of housing and transportation in their county. The attendees included a mix of ages and professions: a nurse, teacher, insurance broker, dog walker, health manager, administrative assistant and others. Their commonality is that they were not organized advocates who already had a strong point of view.

When they were invited to help pilot the “What’s Next Marin?” dialogue, a few expressed concerns based on past dialogues they had attended. “Will I need to wear a flak jacket?” one asked. By the end of the evening, however, the group confirmed that it was “informative” and “gave them hope.” They had a better understanding of how everyone was experiencing current conditions and identified some areas of common ground. They discovered more options for things they themselves could do to help the situation along with ways to get involved in the policy process. They thanked the facilitators for making this “a different kind of meeting.” That pilot launched additional forums at other branches, including a recent session specifically for young adults 21–29.

This fall Common Knowledge is pleased to be piloting Libraries Lead the Way, a comprehensive project-based Community Engagement and Facilitation Skills Training program, with public libraries across Northern California. We will keep you posted about the great examples of local leadership and what else we are learning at the library. And we invite you to support public libraries’ efforts to create and sustain community connections.

You can find the original version of this Common Knowledge blog post at www.ckgroup.org/we-learned-it-at-the-library.

New NCDD Podcast Episode Featuring Bring it to the Table!

The latest episode of the NCDD Podcast is now live! You can find this on iTunes, SoundCloud and Google Play.

In this episode, NCDD Managing Director Courtney Breese speaks with Julie Winokur of Bring it to the Table. Julie is Producer and Director of Bring it to the Table, a project seeking to bridge political divides and break down partisanship through a documentary, webisodes, online platform and community engagement campaign. Julie speaks about her experiences filming the original documentary in 2012 (some of you saw the documentary at NCDD 2014!), as well as her more recent work bringing the film and table talks to college campuses. She also shares her reflections on the state of U.S. politics today and the opportunities she sees for us to come together through dialogue.

The NCDD podcast is a new format for leaders and practitioners from the D&D field to share their stories and ideas, as well as discuss opportunities and challenges in this work. The podcast will also help us to continue our conversation from the NCDD 2016 Conference about #BridgingOurDivides.

We invite you to listen to this episode and share your thoughts here, particularly about the opportunities you see for dialogue across political and other divides. In light of Julie’s story, what more can we be doing as individuals and dialogue & deliberation practitioners to bring people together across our differences? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Our thanks to Ryan Spenser for his continued help recording and editing these podcast episodes.

Please share this episode and the podcast links with others – and let Courtney (courtney@ncdd.org) know if you have any ideas for future episodes!

Capturing Lessons from the Journalism-D&D Confab Call

Last week, NCDD and Journalism That Matters (JTM) co-hosted a special Confab Call between journalists and public engagement practitioners, and it was an incredible discussion. We had just shy of 70 practitioners, journalists, and others from our network who participated, along with some distinguished guests.

Confab bubble imagePeggy Holman and Michelle Ferrier of JTM kicked us off with a discussion of some of the amazing potential of more meaningful collaboration between the D&D world and journalism professionals, then we launched into examples of what’s already been happening. Kyle Bozentko of the Jefferson Center and 45-year journalism veteran Doug Oplinger shared stories of how they collaborate to help Ohio journalists rebuild public trust in the press. Betty Knighton shared about how the W. Virginia Center for Civic Life has partnered with public broadcasting groups to help regular people explore the interconnections between hot current issues. We also discussed how journalists can provide a much-needed “community listening infrastructure” for public officials and many other critical topics in our break out group discussions.

If you missed the call, you missed an exciting and thought-provoking conversation. But don’t worry – we recorded it, and you can hear (and see) the whole thing again by checking out the recording below or here. You can also follow along with what was happening in the live chat during the call by downloading the saved conversation here.

We know that we only scratched the surface on this call, and that the conversation about how we can strengthen our field’s connection to the power of the media world will continue to percolate over the coming months and years.

If you want to delve deeper into this topic, we highly encourage you to register to attend JTM’s Elevate Engagement Un-Conference this May 18th-21st in Portland, OR where journalists and public engagement/D&D practitioners will all come together in person to take this collaboration to new heights. We also recommend checking out the recent NCDD podcast on the same topic here, or revisiting the D&D-journalism panel discussion that we hosted during NCDD 2016 here.

Thanks again to Journalism That Matters, all of our featured speakers, and the participants for helping make this a great conversation. We look forward to continuing it in the future and seeing the fruits of where it can lead our work!

Don’t Miss the Special Journalism-D&D Confab Call on Wed.

As we announced last month, NCDD is co-hosting a very special Confab Call along with member org Journalism That Matters (JTM) on deepening collaboration between the world of journalism and the field of dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement this Wednesday, March 15th from 1-2:30pm Eastern / 10-11:30am Pacific. It’s going to be one our most engaging Confabs yet, so we encourage you to register todayConfab bubble image

During the call, we’ll continue the conversation that we began during NCDD 2016 about how journalists and public engagement practitioners are needed now more than ever to help our communities in #BridgingOurDivides, enhance the impact D&D practitioners’ work, and find new ways to change the narrative about whether and how our country can overcome our bitter partisanship and political disfunction.

How can we bring our skill sets together to do this? How do community engagement practitioners and journalists work together to share stories? We’ll have in-depth conversations about these questions and more, hear from case studies of successful D&D-journalist partnerships, and even host special region-based small group discussions using Zoom technology to allow for more concrete opportunities to move from conversation to action.

We are excited to have NCDD’s Managing Director Courtney Breese co-hosting this call with JTM Executive Director and NCDD member Peggy Holman. We’ll also be featuring insights and stories from JTM President Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Kyle Bozentko of the Jefferson Center, Doug Oplinger of the Akron Beacon Journal, and Betty Knighton of the West Virginia Center for Civic Life. You can find more info about the details of the call and our speakers in our original announcement here.

Don’t miss this highly interactive discussion about an exciting new direction emerging in our field! Be sure to register today!

Join Us at the Elevate Engagement Un-Conference on Journalism & Public Engagement

We are excited to invite the NCDD network to register today to join us at the Elevate Engagement gathering this May 18-21 in Portland – a sequel to the 2015 Experience Engagement un-conference that will continue the exploration of how the journalism world and the dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement field can amplify and deepen each other’s work. Elevate Engagement is being hosted by the Agora Journalism Center and Journalism That Matters – an NCDD organizational member.
This un-conference will continue the exciting, field-wide conversation that we launched with the journalism-D&D panel during NCDD 2016 and will be continuing with our March 15th Confab Call. We encourage our members to learn more about Elevate Engagement in the announcement below and visit the conference website here to save your spot!


Elevate Engagement Un-Conference 2017

The 2016 election was a wake-up call. Trust in media is at an all-time low. Political polarization has taken a sometimes ugly turn. For some, it may feel as though the health of our democracy is in question. We must embrace this moment as an opportunity to consider how conversation, storytelling, journalism, and the arts, can better engage communities to thrive.

It is time to Elevate Engagement.

On May 18-21, 2017, the Agora Journalism Center at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication in Portland will host:

“Elevate Engagement: Listen. Connect. Trust.
How to take your engagement to the next level.”

We are delighted to partner with Journalism That Matters, which brings expertise in designing “un-conference” gatherings that maximize interaction and creative engagement among participants.

Who’s Coming?

This open-space gathering is made possible by a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It is designed to welcome a diverse group of people who care about journalism, storytelling, and communication in civic life. Included among them are: journalists, public engagement practitioners, academics and students, funders, public servants, and other engagement pioneers and community members. We also seek to welcome diversity that reaches across race, class, gender, generation, political ideology, and geography.

Our Focus

How can the public engage, not as an audience, consumers or marketplace, but as participants, with journalists, in creating civic structures for engagement and storytelling?

In addition, how must news organizations and journalists evolve so they are seen by diverse communities as trustworthy and culturally competent enough to tell their stories?

To mend and strengthen our civic fabric, we are connecting the diverse people who care about journalism and civic communication to elevate knowledge and practices of engagement that

  • build trust;
  • adapt to shifting power dynamics among politicians, people, and media;
  • promote dialogue and democratic values;
  • broaden diversity of participation;
  • build community capacity for telling their own stories;
  • clarify truth and understanding;
  • explore how engagement can lead to more authentic portrayals of communities of color

Anticipated Outcomes 

Our goal: to strengthen the capacity of journalists and communities to listen—and to tell stories that inform and inspire courageous actions.

Participants will

  • Discover insights that generate new ways to build engagement
  • Develop stronger relationships among the diverse people who care about civic communications
  • Help grow a community of practice among communications professionals that supports communities and democracy
  • Generate ideas on how to bolster engagement practitioners to be nimble when urgency is called for
  • Contribute to inclusive communications strategies that engage communities and   support thriving civic life in an era of change and challenge for democracy

We hope you will join practitioners on the leading edge of engaging with communities to learn from one another and to develop more practical, actionable ideas that can be shared and used beyond the gathering.

Interested? Here’s more information. Ready? Space is limited: register now.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Experience Engagement website at http://pdxengage17.uoregon.edu.

Treating Tension Across Difference as a Positive

As the week closes, we wanted to share an piece from the New Directions Collaborative, one of our NCDD member organizations. In it, NDC shared some useful insights into how they have changed their practices to make differences among participants in their programs and meetings into assets for learning in the face of discomfort. We hope you’ll check out their piece below or find the original blog post here.


Engaging Across Differences

Many of us are working hard to generate solutions to today’s complex and interrelated challenges in ways that are resilient and beneficial for all. This requires new and creative ways to bring people together who have not traditionally worked together.

This is hard work. As a facilitator, I had multiple experiences with groups where not everyone felt heard and the group did not reach its potential. This set me on a journey to understand how we can engage with difference and create spaces where difference can be generative and creative.

Critical to this work is creating environments where different perspectives and experiences within a system can be openly shared and all are equally valid and valued. It requires us to develop our capacity to respond to difference with curiosity, not defensiveness, and to respond to the discomfort that may result with a learning orientation, not withdrawal. When groups come together with this stance, new insight and possibilities almost always emerge.

Building relationships across difference is a necessary foundation. In our work, one way we explore difference is from the inside out beginning with engaging across internal differences in how we learn, process and communicate. Through experiential exercises we invite participants to engage in self-reflection about individual internal differences (such as our sense of time, or our patterns for processing new information). The purpose of this starting point is to establish an environment where everyone can participate in the conversation while shifting the entry point to one that is less charged.

We also introduce the Power and Privilege Progression to help us understand how internal differences are “preferenced” in systems and how power and privilege accrue as a result. Participants can begin to recognize systemic archetypes of power and privilege and build capacity to engage with the tensions around difference for the more emotionally and socially charged conversations around race, culture, class, gender, and historical oppression.

While difference and tension around difference can be thought of as negative, as something that slows us down and gets in the way of progress, our experience has been just the opposite. Acknowledging tension and getting curious about it can help us ask questions about whether an action we are considering has the potential to perpetuate negative aspects of the old system or to be transformative and create a better future for all.

You can find the original version of this New Directions Collaborative blog piece at www.ndcollaborative.com/difference.

Lessons on Turning Deliberation into Action from Alabama

The David Mathews Center – an NCDD member org – recently completed a great deliberative process focused on helping Alabama communities take action together to improve their town, and we think many in our network could learn a thing or two from it, so we’re sharing about it here. The DMC team wrote an insightful piece on their three-stage process of moving the town of Cullman from talk to collaborative action, and we encourage you to read it below or find the original version on their blog here.


What’s Next, Cullman? Pilot Program Wraps Up

The DMC recently wrapped up its pilot forum series for What’s Next, Alabama? in the city of Cullman, with promising results.

What’s Next, Alabama? (WNAL) is shaping up to be the Mathew Center’s largest programmatic undertaking to date. WNAL is a part of the DMC’s flagship program, Alabama Issues Forums (AIF), and will feature three deliberative forums in each community, focused broadly on issues of community, economic, and workforce development.

The first forum will ask, “Where are we now?” How did your community get to where it is today? What has been working well, and what hasn’t? What are the assets already have at your disposal? The second forum will ask, “Where do we want to go?” What would you like to change about your community? What would you live to preserve? What issue(s) would you like to tackle? What are your priorities? The third forum will ask, “How do we get there?” Using the resources you have, what is most doable? What are the next steps? How can you move from talk to action? Partnering with local conveners including the LINK of Cullman County and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, we were able to launch What’s Next, Cullman? as a pilot program and our first WNAL community.

The first forum gave the community an opportunity for deep reflection on the changes Cullman has seen through the years. Attendees crafted an exhaustive list of what they loved about their community and what assets they could leverage, before moving on to discuss the challenges that face their community. The second forum allowed the community to take the challenges identified, and craft them into opportunities for action. Of all the issued discussed, two rose to the surface, and were identified as priorities for the community: developing “soft skills” in the community’s young people, and expanding options for public transportation.

In the final forum, attendees really prioritized the lack of public transportation options, and began to make a plan to move toward action. After much deliberation, the community came to an ingenious, asset-based plan for creating more options for transportation: tapping into the vast network of churches in the community, they could create an inter-congregational ride share program. With each church operating on a neighborhood-wide level, and with the cooperation of the many other churches in the city, even the tiniest effort by an individual church could have a huge impact, when combined with the efforts of other churches.

This is a prime example of how ordinary citizens, in no official “position of power” are able to leverage their inherent power and expertise as members of a community in order to take a fresh look at the assets of their community, and build a local solution to address a local challenge. This is the kind of locally-grown civic action that the DMC hopes to cultivate with the WNAL forum series.

As we have worked towards launching this forum series, we are invariably heartened by the care and dedication exhibited by Alabamians for the place they live. We are incredibly grateful for our conveners in Cullman, and the community at large, for embracing us and giving us the opportunity to work with them. We are confident that as WNAL evolves, and more resources become available, the potential for Alabamians to build civic infrastructure in their own communities will increase exponentially.

You can find the original version of this David Mathews Center blog post at www.mathewscenter.org/wnal-cullman-pilot.

What You Missed on the Confab Call with Not In Our Town

NCDD was happy to host a very special Confab Call earlier this week featuring NCDD member organization Not In Our Town (NIOT). Over 50 people from our network joined us for a conversation with Patrice O’Neill, NIOT’s executive director, about how the history of NIOT’s history, its work, and how the dialogue events that NIOT hosts have helped catalyze broad civic engagement and stop the spread of hate in communities across the country.

We recorded the Confab as always, so if you missed it, we highly encourage you to list to the recording of the webinar by clicking here. You can also click here to read the transcript of the chat from the webinar where we shared a number of resources, links, and answers to questions posed during the call.

One of the most exciting possibilities that came out of the call was the clear opportunity for dialogue practitioners from NCDD’s network to support the towns and communities that NIOT works with in their dialogue events on hate and bullying. NIOT and NCDD are discussing ways to bring dialogue partners and a framework to local NIOT groups working long term to prevent hate and foster inclusion, but we want you to be part of the discussion too!

We’ve created a quick 5-question survey that we are asking our network to fill out so that we can find out who is interested in continuing conversations about NCDD-NIOT collaborations and collect your ideas about what that could look like. Please take just a couple minutes to complete the brief survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/KRVC252 if you’re interested. We will have more on these collaboration opportunities soon.

In the meantime, if you want to connect with Not In Our Town’s work, here’s are some suggestions from Patrice for ways  you can get involved:

  • Host a NIOT screening in your community. Choose a NIOT film, convene key leaders and community members  to view the film and hold a dialogue about who is vulnerable to hate in your community and how people can work together to respond. The screening can lead to a more formal way to engage with NIOT. If your community has capacity, Patrice O’Neill or another NIOT representative can come to your town to present the film, ideas and help convene a NIOT group.
  • Engage with NIOT on social media. You can share stories and films of communities responding to hate with via NIOT’s on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Sign up for the NIOT e-newsletter. You can stay in the NIOT network loop and sign up for the occasional newsletter by clicking here.
  • Start a NIOT group in your community. If you have had incidents of hate or bullying in your town and you’re moved to take action, you can also work on helping start a NIOT group yourself. Learn more about how it works and what it takes by clicking here.

Confab bubble imageThanks again to Patrice and all of those who participated for a great Confab Call. We look forward to exploring the potentials for partnership and will keep you all updated on how it goes.

To learn more about NCDD’s Confab Calls and hear recordings of others, visit www.ncdd.org/events/confabs.

NCDD Podcast on Connecting Journalism & Public Engagement is Live!

The fourth episode of the NCDD Podcast is now live! You can find this on iTunes, SoundCloud and Google Play.

In this episode, Journalism that Matters Executive Director Peggy Holman and Board President Michelle Ferrier discuss their thoughts about connecting journalists and public engagement practitioners. They reflect on the opportunities they see for these fields to collaborate and complement one another.

This conversation is one that NCDD and Journalism That Matters will continue to have with our members in the coming months. In March, NCDD will hold a Confab Call with Journalism That Matters – look for an announcement of that event next week! And Journalism That Matters will look to also continue the conversation at their conference this May. More information on the conference in coming soon as well.

This first series of episodes in the NCDD Podcast were recorded at the NCDD 2016 Conference, where we asked leaders and practitioners from the D&D field to share their stories and ideas, as well as discuss opportunities and challenges in our audio room. These episodes are being released as we continue our conversation from the conference about #BridgingOurDivides.

We invite you to listen to this episode and share your thoughts here, particularly about the opportunities for journalists and public engagement practitioners to support one another and collaborate. Do you have experience working with journalists? Do you have ideas for how our fields can partner? Share them in the comments below!

Our thanks to Ryan Spenser for recording and editing these podcast episodes, to Barb Simonetti for her financial support of this initial series, and to everyone who participated at the conference.

Please continue to tune in and share the podcast with your networks!