Journalists Empower Citizens’ View of Role in Democracy

NCDD member org the Kettering Foundation recently shared some takeaways from journalists at the last Deliberative Democracy Exchange (DDEx). The journalists despite being from five different countries shared similar concerns about the growing global polarization and were united in their desire to both inform readers and empower people to engage in working toward solutions. You can read the article below and find the original on Kettering’s site here.


Journalists at DDEx Grapple with Helping Citizens See Themselves in Public Issues

The journalists from five different countries who gathered at the Deliberative Democracy Exchange (DDEx) had many things in common, but most of all, they were worried.

Over the past year, headlines around the world have called out the deepening of divisions, “populist” revolts, and growing polarization. What concerned these journalists was how these divisions were impeding people’s ability to make progress on issues, not just in a single country, but around the globe. And what was more, they suspected that standard journalistic practices were contributing to the deepening divisions and wanted to do something about it, but they weren’t sure how.

The journalists came from Colombia, Israel, Italy, Kenya, and South Africa. They shared experiences and frustrations in trying to encourage citizens to see issues as shared public problems instead of dilemmas to be solved by experts alone.

Each saw polarization, but acknowledged that in each country the fractures emerge in different ways. In the United States, for example, polarization is often defined in political terms, such as Democrats versus Republicans or liberal versus conservative.

Yet in South Africa, class and race emerge as dividing lines.

In Colombia, class, land ownership, and the experiences of decades-long civil war—and the challenges of negotiating a recent, fragile peace—have left citizens polarized.

In Israel, religious differences both between faiths and within them, and the societal power associated with different group identifications, divide people.

In Italy, Kettering Fanning resident Federica Marangio said that politics has become so contentious that people just walk away. They see no clear role for themselves and so become apathetic.

In Kenya, where there are numerous tribes but only a few that typically gain political power, government corruption and tribal identification are both issues that split people and groups.

The journalists at DDEx want to cover the issues, but do so in a way that people see a role for themselves in democracy and in making progress on shared public problems. The journalists all had the same question: How could they help both inform people and encourage them to see their own power?

The answers are a little different for each journalist—and each country.

In South Africa, where three-quarters of fourth graders cannot read for meaning, the answer is not simply to write another story emphasizing the need for parents to use libraries or demand more from schools. Instead, Rod Amner, a former Fanning resident and journalism professor at Rhodes University, is helping to build a network of parents, learners, teachers, NGOs, and government officials to help families become more literate and help others to do the same. Then those who have undergone literacy training will be involved in writing the stories.

In Kenya, three journalists are holding meetings with other journalists in their country about the need to go beyond daily stories of corruption that increase the feelings of apathy among readers and radio listeners. Instead, they want to discuss ways journalists can write stories that help people see what they can do. They hope to hold meetings to discuss the practices of naming and framing issues for journalists for whom those concepts are new.

In Colombia, journalists decided to take a different approach when covering the recent presidential election. They noted that the country has been divided for 50 years, between political parties and between right-wing and left-wing armed militants. Political divisions in peacetime are still prevalent, and they wanted to avoid contributing to those divisions. They tried to cover stories in a way that showed people what they have in common, even if they have different views. They gathered citizens ahead of the race to ask them what questions they wanted candidates to answer and involved officeholders who seemed most interested in a community-oriented approach.

In Israel, journalists wrote about an issue that a Jewish woman spoke about in a way that made both Jewish and Muslim women see what they all shared in common. It involved a husband withholding from his wife a blessing over a meal, done in such a way that made it impossible for her to eat without suffering public shame. Both groups saw that the use of religion to harass or abuse a spouse was not relegated to one religion alone; they coined the term, “spiritual violence” for such acts and have made it a public issue. In such stories, the journalists said, they could show people a problem that very different religions share.

And in Italy, Marangio discovered for herself that how journalists frame stories will make it more or less likely that people will respond and get involved. She first tried to hold a public forum to hear people’s general concerns, but nobody came. Then she wrote a story on increased levels of illness in areas located near factories, and then held a forum, inviting both citizens and politicians. This time, 100 people came because she had written about an issue in a way in which her readers could “see” themselves—and see the issue—as a shared public problem. The way she framed the story mattered.

The steps each journalist took were often small, but important, and contribute to their shared recognition that ordinary citizens have a role in democracy in grappling every day with issues of concern. Journalists who are open to change and who question their professional routines and the way they go about reporting stories may find that they are embarking on interesting and even exciting experiments that change the way they report the news. It might even change how those who read and hear their stories think about, and perhaps even trust, the media.

You can find the original version of this on Kettering’s site at www.kettering.org/blogs/journalists-ddex.

Ben Franklin Skills for Commitments and Virtues

We love gems of wisdom like the ones below on commitments and virtues, shared by Ben Franklin Circles, an NCDD member org and presenter at NCDD2018. Last year NCDD partnered with BFC and we’ve shared many stories about the powerful way that Circles bring people together and inspire change. For those attending NCDD2018, we encourage you to participate in the BFC workshop happening during the first session block from 1-2:30 pm on Friday, November 2nd. You can listen to the webinar below and find the original on BFC’s site here.


BFC Circle Host Forum – Commitments and Virtues

For this Ben Franklin Circle Host Forum, we interviewed BFC Host, Ryan Cooke to discuss the virtues and making commitments.

For review, the basic structure of a Ben Franklin Circle meeting is as follows:

  • Welcome/ review group guidelines
  • Discuss virtue
  • Make commitments

Virtues are aspirational and are not easily defined. We may never fully reach our aspirations towards these virtues which give us something to continuously work on.

After each meeting, Ryan sends a recap of the discussion and the commitments made. Halfway between meetings, he sends a reminder of the commitments to check in with the group as well as a preview of next virtue.

Here are some of the best practices we discussed for making 30-day commitments around the virtues:

  1. Make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relatable, Time-Bound)
  2. Take inspiration from other hosts and the sample commitments provided in the Meeting Guides
  3. Start small by making micro commitments. Check out tinyhabits.com for inspiration.
  4. Track your progress. Use a paper calendar or an app track Streaks, like Jerry Seinfeld’s one joke a day habit
  5. Make the commitment appropriate to your readiness for change (see Stages of Change model)
  6. Work with others who can provide accountability
  7. Consider shared group commitments to work on together

You can find the original version of this article on the Ben Franklin Circles’ site at www.benfranklincircles.org/webinar/bfc-circle-host-forum-commitments-and-virtues.

National Week of Conversation from October 5th – 13th

The next National Week of Conversation (NWOC) is October 5th – 13th! During NWOC, folks around the country will be joining conversations, in hopes to better address the intense divisions in our society through dialogue, deepening understanding, and building relationships. We encourage you to join a conversation already going on and/or start your own here! To help support these conversations, resources like conversations guides and helpful background information are provided on the National Conversation Project (NCP) site here, many from the NCDD coalition! And don’t forget to check out the 3k+ resources on the NCDD Resource Center too! You can read more in the post below and on the NCP site here.


National Week of Conversation: October 5-13

Americans of all stripes are stepping up to address the growing cultural crisis of hyper-polarization and animosity across divides. Together we can turn the tide of rising rancor and deepening division with widespread conversations in which we #ListenFirst to understand. Supported by 100+ organizations, National Conversation Project promotes monthly conversation opportunities as well as National Weeks of Conversation.

In April of this year, thousands of Americans took part in the first National Week of Conversation (NWOC). More than 130 schools, libraries, faith communities, activist groups and nonprofits hosted conversations coast to coast in 32 states. These conversations were grounded in a pledge to listen first and seek understanding. The official #ListenFirst hashtag reached millions during NWOC and continues to be promoted by celebrities and journalists to millions more. NWOC events gained media attention across the nation including in the New York Times.

Majorities of NWOC participants walked away feeling more tolerant, understanding, appreciative and curious toward people with different perspectives. Two-thirds rated the value of their conversation as a 9 or 10 out of 10. More than three-quarters now feel better equipped and more likely to listen first to understand, as well as more likely to participate in conversations across divides. A survey of all Americans found 75% willing to set a good example by practicing conversations across divides, and 36%—amounting to more than 100 million people—want to see a national campaign promoting such conversations.

The next National Week of Conversation is October 5th – 13th! Join a conversation already going on or start your own here: www.nationalconversationproject.org/how_to_get_involved

TOPIC OF THE MONTH: Bridging Divides

The United States is facing a cultural crisis. Increasingly in America today, we don’t just disagree; we distrust, dislike, even despise those who see the world differently. Animosity for positions is becoming contempt for the people who hold them. Difference and disagreement are deeply personal as we rage against and recoil from those we see as enemies across widening divides—political, racial, religious, economic and more. Most of us see fewer things that bind Americans together today and have few or no friends from the other side. The rate of loneliness has more than doubled to nearly 50%, creating a public health epidemic. We’re withdrawing from conversations—thereby eroding relationships and understanding—which threatens the foundational fabric of America. 75% of Americans say this problem has reached a crisis level, and 56% believe it will only get worse. Our condition is rapidly deteriorating into what’s now being described as a soft civil war.

There’s nothing wrong with passionate beliefs, disagreement, and protest, but it feels like something more dangerous is taking hold. Do you see it? Personally feel it? What’s changed? What can we do about it together? How we can bridge the divides that threaten our future?

Conversation Guides on Bridging Divides

Background Information to support these conversations:

National Conversation Project Calendar – click here

National Week of Conversation – Fall ‘18: October 5-13, 2018
Listen First Friday – Nov: November 2, 2018
Listen First Friday – Dec: December 7, 2018
Listen First Friday – Jan: January 4, 2019
Listen First Friday – Feb: February 1, 2019
Listen First Friday – Mar: March 1, 2019
National Week of Conversation – Spring ‘19: April 5-13, 2019
Listen First Friday – May: May 3, 2019
Listen First Friday – Jun: June 7, 2019
Listen First Friday – Jul: July 5, 2019
Listen First Friday – Aug: August 2, 2019
Listen First Friday – Sep: September 6, 2019
National Week of Conversation – Fall ‘19: October 4-12, 2019
Listen First Friday – Nov: November 1, 2019
Listen First Friday – Dec: December 6, 2019

You can learn more about the National Week of Conversation at www.nationalconversationproject.org/.

Essential Partners Fall Workshops & NCDD Member Disc

If you are looking to strengthen your dialogue skills, make sure you check out the workshops this coming fall from Essential Partners, an NCDD member and a sponsor of NCDD2018. They will be offering: Introduction to Dialogue Across Differences, The Power of Dialogue: Constructive Conversations on Divisive Issues, and The Power of Stories: Moving Beyond “Them” and “Us”. Learn more about the discount available to NCDD members! You can more information about these workshops on Essential Partners’ site here.


Our Workshops

Introduction to Dialogue Across Differences
September 20, 2018

This one-day workshop uses real-world case studies to introduce participants to the theory and practice of EP’s Reflective Structured Dialogue framework. For three decades, our unique approach has transformed conflicts across the country and the world—but the basic principles of EP’s framework are applicable to local community issues, organizational development, congregations, and everyday conversations.

Intentional communication helps individuals, organizations, and communities build trust, enhance resilience, and engage in constructive conversations despite deeply-held differences of value, belief, opinion, or identity. This workshop provides a set of simple tools to achieve those goals.

Learn more and register: www.whatisessential.org/workshop/introduction-dialogue-across-differences

The Power of Dialogue: Constructive Conversations on Divisive Issues**
October 11 – 13, 2018

The Power of Dialogue is our flagship workshop. This is a comprehensive “deep dive” into our time-tested approach for transforming conflicted conversations about divisive issues. It begins with the theory of our framework and solidifies that with immersive experiential learning. Even within the most contentious issues or fraught situations, the right tools enable a community to foster understanding, restore relationships, and move forward.

The Power of Dialogue is a highly interactive workshop that offers a widely applicable skill set for those with a range of experience levels. As a facilitator, you will learn how to create conversations that foster mutual understanding between groups and individuals divided by deep differences. Hundreds of facilitators, peacebuilders, mediators, and other community leaders from the US and 18 other countries have taken this workshop since its inception in 1996 and are implementing its lessons worldwide. **Discount available for NCDD members

Learn more and register: www.whatisessential.org/workshop/power-dialogue-constructive-conversations-divisive-issues

The Power of Stories: Moving Beyond “Them” and “Us”
November 8, 2018

What are the stories we hold most dear about ourselves? What stories do we tell about others, and how do those stories take shape? Research indicates that we make sense of the world through stories. But stories – particularly the ones we tell about other people – can sometimes deepen the rifts that come between us, creating a feared other; a caricatured “Them”.

This workshop offers tools and structures for harnessing the power of stories to move beyond stereotypes and fear, bringing “Us” and “Them” into relationship through understanding.

Learn more and register: www.whatisessential.org/workshop/power-stories-moving-beyond-them-and-us

You can find more information about these workshops and future ones at Essential Partners’ site at www.whatisessential.org/workshops.

Practicing Vital Life Skills in Ben Franklin Circles

It’s not often enough that there are dedicated times to practicing a vital life skill like active listening, but Ben Franklin Circles are just the opportunity. This recent article, written by Danyel Addes – one of the NCDD2018 planning team members, talks about the valuable space that BFCs offer to strengthen our listening skills and truly hear another person out. Make sure you check out the free upcoming webinar on August 30th at 2pm EST, “Sharing Airtime: Current BFC hosts share advice for balancing participation and encouraging deep listening.” We encourage you to read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


Ben Franklin Circles: Creating the world by listening

In her June 2018 Host Profile, Kim Crowley a BFC Host from Connecticut wrote that some of her circle group members had “mentioned difficulties with listening while others in the group are talking.” She explained that as a host, “It made me realize that providing support around listening skills may be important for every group I facilitate.”

Sometimes our efforts to nod attentively and assure people we are listening is a purposeful strategy that we employ in the service of efficiency and multitasking. But what about the times that we genuinely want to listen but find it unexpectedly difficult? How long are you able to listen to someone without thinking about your own opinions, how you want to respond, or what you are going to say next? Why is this so hard to do?

These questions feel particularly relevant to Ben Franklin Circles. At least once a month, circle members make a concerted effort to go somewhere specifically to listen to others. The last time I paid attention to how much time I spent listing vs. how much time I spent thinking about what I wanted to say, I realized I was missing out on many of the contributions of my peers, contributions I had come to hear. Ben Franklin Circles have helped me realize that I have far less control over my ability to listen then I had assumed.

short article by Eric Westervelt from 2014 provides some context for this experience. Westervelt spoke with writer Julian Treasure, whose observations I think about often while in conversation with fellow BFC group members (yes, sometimes while they are speaking).

Treasure observes that “it would be some sort of shock horror story if a child left school unable to read or write. But we do not teach explicitly, or test in the main, either speaking or — much more importantly — listening…. Listening is a skill. This is not something that is just natural that we can expect everyone to be brilliant at just because we are human. It is something we have to work out. Listening is an activity. It’s not passive. We are creating the world by listening all the time.”

Professor Laura Janusik adds, “There’s this assumption that, just because we can hear, that means we can listen effectively. That’s like suggesting that just because we can speak we can speak effectively. And we all know that is absolutely not the case.”

When I catch myself “failing” to be able to listen, it helps to remember that this is a difficult skill that I’ve never really had a chance to practice.

Most of us can imagine how we would practice an athletic skill like a jump shot or an artistic pursuit like ceramics. It can be hard to imagine what that looks like when it comes to listening. Luckily, there are creative ways to do this.

A few years ago in a workshop, I was told that the facilitator would time us and we would each have 2 minutes to speak. I expected the following conversation to be stressful and awkward. But soon after we started I realized that knowing exactly when my turn was coming and how long it would last, freed me up from thinking about those things and allowed me to do a better job of listening as each person spoke. It made the whole conversation more fun and more enjoyable.

In a brief TED talk, Julian Treasure offers suggestions for individuals who want to improve their ability to listen. His first suggestion, Silence, will be familiar to members of Ben Franklin Circles, who know that Silence is one of Franklin’s virtues.

For years, I didn’t realize I was missing out on a life skill that now feels incredibly vital and valuable. I am thankful that (for those of us looking for them) Ben Franklin Circles can offer many opportunities to develop a listening practice, as individuals and as a community.

Danyel Addes is a Program Manager at the Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y in NYC.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at www.benfranklincircles.org/ben-franklin-circle-hosts/ben-franklin-circles-creating-the-world-by-listening.

Free Webinar Series this Fall on Storytelling for Good

The theme of our upcoming 2018 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation is how to bring dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement work into greater awareness and more widespread practice. There are a lot of components to what that means and we will explore this much deeper at #NCDD2018! One way to expand the reach and impact of the D&D field is through better storytelling of the work being done to deeper engage with each other. The Communications Network is offering a free Storytelling for Good webinar series this fall, and the first webinar on “Strategy” is August 28th 2 – 3 EST. You can read about the webinar line-up in the post below and find more information on The Comms Network site here.


Storytelling for Good Upcoming Webinars

Storytelling for Good connects you to a suite of tools and a growing community that can help you leverage the power of narrative to increase reach, resources and impact for your social impact organization.

Webinar – Storytelling for Good: Strategy
August 28, 2018 2 – 3 pm EST
RSVP HERE

Stories are powerful: Our brains are literally wired to take in and preserve stories. Done well, stories can drive us to take action.

So how do you tell stories well? There have never been more ways to reach an audience, but it’s harder than ever to really get their attention.

We’re happy to introduce Storytelling for Good. It’s a platform designed with you in mind and will help you and your organization plan and execute a storytelling strategy—giving you the tools, resources, and case studies you need to become a storytelling organization from top to bottom.

In this webinar, we’ll focus on Strategy, one of the four pillars of storytelling.

Future webinars:

Webinar – Storytelling for Good: Content
September 18, 2018 2 – 3 pm EST
RSVP HERE

Webinar – Storytelling for Good: Engagement
October 28, 2018 2 – 3 pm EST
RSVP HERE

Webinar – Storytelling for Good: Evalution
November 8, 2018 2 – 3 pm EST
RSVP HERE

You can find the original version of this announcement on The Communications Network site at https://storytelling.comnetwork.org/.

Join the NCL Webinar on Sept 20th for All-America City Tips

Are you interested to learn what it takes to be named an All-America City? Then check out this free webinar from NCDD member and partner – the National Civic League on September 20th called, “So you want to be an All-America City” part of their AAC Promising Practices Webinar series.  We encourage you to read more about the webinar in the post below and register on NCL’s Eventbrite site here.


AAC Promising Practices Webinar: So you want to be an All-America City?

Join the National Civic League to learn more about the 2019 All-America City Award Program: Creating Healthy Communities Through Inclusive Civic Engagement

Thursday September 20th at 10 am PST / 11 am MST / 12 pm CST / 1 pm EST

2018 All-America City winners, Kershaw County, SC and Las Vegas, NC, will be presenting on their All-America City journey with tips for applying, the types of projects they submitted and an update on the benefits they have seen from winning the award.

Presenting Communities:

2018 All-America City Kershaw County, South Carolina
– Laurey Carpenter, Executive Director of the PLAY Foundation in Kershaw County

2018 All-America City (2016 Finalist) Las Vegas, Nevada
– Jordan More, Assistant to the Director, Youth Development & Social Innovation, City of Las Vegas

Webinar Description: Previous winning communities will be presenting on their All-America City journey with tips for applying, the types of projects they submitted and an update on the benefits they have seen from winning the award. You can download the application and learn more about the presenting communities below.

2019 All-America City Key Dates:

  • November 14, 2018 – Letter of Intent due for interested communities (LOI not required to apply)
  • March 5, 2019 – Application Due
  • April 2019 – Finalists Announced
  • June 21-23, 2019 – Awards competition and learning event in Denver, Colorado

To Join by Computer:
Sign on to the National Civic League’s Webex Meeting Room:
https://nationalcivicleague.my.webex.com/meet/ncl 
Access code: 622 739 287

To Join by Phone:
+1-510-338-9438 USA Toll
Access code: 622 739 287

All-America City Promising Practices Series
National Civic League is hosting a series of “AAC Promising Practices” webinars to share innovative and impactful AAC projects nationwide. This series will also highlight successful projects around the country with speakers from cities implementing creative strategies for civic engagement. By equipping individuals, institutions, and local governmental bodies through this series with ideas, models and insights that can be adopted/adapted to individual communities NCL hopes to accelerate the pace of change in communities across the country.

The All-America City Promising Practices webinars are made possible with support from Southwest Airlines, the official airline of the All-America City Awards.

You can find the original version of this on National Civic League’s site at www.nationalcivicleague.org/resource-center/promising-practices/.

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.

Listen to This Webinar on How to Hold a Ben Franklin Circle

Back in the day, Ben Franklin had established a mutual improvement club that he organized for over 40 years, in the spirit of dialogue and self improvement. It is in this vein, that the folks at the 92nd Street Y, created the Ben Franklin Circles (also an NCDD member org) to offer a framework to hold conversations on Franklin’s 13 virtues. NCDD partnered with BFC last year and we are thrilled to find this free webinar recently released that gives the basics on what a Circle entails. You can listen to the webinar below and find the original on BFC’s site here.


Ben Franklin Circles 101

This webinar covers the basics of Ben Franklin Circles – great for anyone looking to start one or brush up on the who, what, when, where and why!

Listen to BFC 101 or read the highlights below. Questions? Email us at benfranklincircles@gmail.com.

What is a Ben Franklin Circle?

  • Small groups of people coming together to talk about how they can do good…in their lives, in their work, in their relationships and in the world.
  • Circles choose one of Franklin’s 13 civic virtues and discuss what that virtue means today.

Where did the idea come from?

  • From Franklin! Franklin wrote about his club for mutual improvement – his junto – in his autobiography.
  • The Ben Franklin Circles team at 92nd Street Y updated Franklin’s structure for the 21st Century and created all the tools for people to host their own Circles.

Who are in the Circles?

  • Circles are for anyone and everyone!
  • Find members by personally inviting 5-10 people, posting on social meeting, creating a MeetUp group…or be brave, and drop some invites in your neighbors’ mailboxes and invite them to get together for a conversation.

Where do people host?

  • Locations vary! Public libraries will often provide space. Some groups meet in peoples’ homes or in cafes or restaurants.
  • You’re looking for a casual space that’s not too loud so you can have intimate conversations.

How often do Circles meet?

  • Some meet monthly, some meet every week, some just meet once to try it out!

What’s next?

  • Check out our toolkit and/or join our Host Facebook Group
  • Set date, invite your members, set a location and you’re ready to go.
  • Let us know when you’ve started so we can add you to our map, social media, host resources list serve and more!

Takeaways

  • Circles are an opportunity to pause, reflect and connect with others around big ideas.
  • Members are encouraged to leave each Circle conversation with one actionable thing they can do for good.
  • Circles are very similar to a salon. The Circle model simply gives you an easy structure/topic to use for your conversations.
  • There’s no wrong way to do this!

You can find the original version of this article on the Ben Franklin Circles’ site at www.benfranklincircles.org/webinar/ben-franklin-circles-101.

Deliberation and How We Use it in Everyday Life

The National Issues Forums Institute – an NCDD member and NCDD2018 sponsor org, recently shared an update on the work that the Kettering Foundation has found on the nature of public deliberation. While process and design are important parts of engagement work, the reality is that deliberation happens every day, both inside of ourselves and in our casual interactions. Having a structure is immensely helpful in bringing our reactions and decisions into more concrete reality, and yet even outside of the more formal spaces of forums, we are still going through the experience of weighing our options and deciding on next action steps in our everyday life. You can read the article below and find the original version on the NIFI site here.


Deliberation Every Day – An Update on Kettering Foundation Research on Public Deliberation

Two of the most-often-used words in describing public decision-making are deliberation and forums. All forums aren’t deliberative and all deliberations aren’t carried out informally organized forums. However, in this instance, the subject is deliberative forums. These forums serve several purposes. One is to remind people of their own ability to deliberate and to show what distinguishes deliberation from other forms of speech. When people become aware of their innate power to deliberate, it is self-empowering. Another function of deliberative forums is to help move public thinking from first opinions to more shared and reflective judgments. And still another is not just to inspire more forums but to bring deliberation into all the places and occasions where people are talking about the decisions they have to make as citizens.

There are some common misunderstandings that stand in the way of deliberative forums doing what they need to do in order to make democracy work as it should. One is that it is a magical process or technique that will produce a stable and lasting democracy. But, as has been said, democracy is a journey, not a destination. Deliberation helps people keep moving in a positive direction. Democracy does not produce perfect governments (if there are such things), yet it does foster governments that are able to recover from their inevitable mistakes. Another misperception is that only the well-educated and economically well-off citizenry can deliberate. That just isn’t true. Still another error is thinking that public deliberation will only be significant if it gets “up to scale.” Deliberating is difficult sometimes but it is naturally occurring; there are elements of it in everyday speech.[1]In that sense, it is already up to scale. The difficulty is that it is often interrupted by partisan diatribes, blaming, wish-listing, and other common maladies of public talk. Recognizing what deliberation is like and what it can do are the antidotes.

The choices citizens make about what should be done to solve their problems or set policies need to be sound choices. That is the role of deliberation. Without deliberation, discussions easily degenerate into personal pleadings, sound bites, and partisan rancor. Peoples’ first opinions may be store-bought, prepackaged, and unreflective. Originally the word meant to weigh carefully, as was done on the ancient balancing scales used to determine the value of goods sold in the marketplace. Weighing means exercising good judgment, which has also been called moral reasoning. Moral reasoning or judgment is required when decisions have to be made about what is best for all or, in an ethical sense, what should bedone. There are no experts on such normative questions, and in a democracy there is no authority to give answers other than the people themselves.

The most distinctive characteristic of deliberation is giving a “fair trial” to unpopular views. That is difficult, which is why deliberation has been called “choice work.” Deliberation recognizes that our most challenging decisions aren’t between options that are good and those that are evil. Rather they are between options that are both good yet are in tension in given situations. For instance, doing something that will make us more secure may well restrict our freedom. In a democracy, there is no one authority everyone accepts who can tell us what is most valuable to us. We are the only ones who can do that. However, different people, being in different situations and having different experiences, will have different priorities. And these differences, which won’t go away, can only be harmonized or made less polarizing by the collective exercise of judgment. And that is the purpose of public deliberation.

Deliberation is intertwined with acting and isn’t a separate process; the experience of acting continually shapes the decision-making, just as the decision-making shapes the action.[2]It makes no sense to think of deliberation as separate from action. In fact, past actions or experiences, when filtered through the things people consider most valuable, often become the “facts” most relevant in making decisions. The public deliberation that Kettering has seen uses expert and professional knowledge but adds the information people create as they look at their experiences through the lenses of what they hold dear.

Although deliberation is difficult, it is a natural act. The human brain is wired for deliberation. And ancient languages around the world have a term for collective decision-making because it is essential to collective survival. The purpose of forums isn’t to introduce a new methodology, “deliberation,” but rather to make people more aware of a natural faculty. That recognition is empowering—self-empowering.

In daily conversations, people talk about the problems that concern them, what action should be taken to respond, and who is needed to act. Yet their casual conversations may not sound very deliberative. Deliberation isn’t something apart from ordinary speech but goes on in multiple layers of talk. At times people may just be complaining or posturing or looking for someone to blame. Carefully weighing alternatives may be interspersed with comments that don’t appear to have anything to do with deliberating. People may start conversations by telling a story about some troubling experience and then move on to explaining who they are in order to establish their identity. “Don’t think I am heartless when I say. . . .”

Everyday deliberation often begins to take shape over backyard fences, during coffee breaks, and at the grocery store. People start by talking to those they live and work with—sometimes including even those who aren’t of a like mind. (People who look alike don’t necessarily think alike.) And while people often take comfort in opinions they like, they may also be curious about contrary views, provided those views aren’t being advanced in an offensive manner. People certainly try to persuade one another as they hold on to cherished beliefs. Yet they may do more; they may begin to weigh the options they like best more carefully.

Although found in many neighborhood conversations, deliberation can’t always be heard because much of the careful weighing of options for action goes on inside people’s heads. Still, deliberation involves listening as much as it does speaking. By listening attentively, we can take in the experiences of others without necessarily agreeing with what they are advocating.

One of the main contributions of formally organized forums is to help people recognize ways they can move informal, top-of-the-head chatter in a deliberative direction. There, one may hear helpful questions like, “How does what we are seeing affect you personally or your family?” This gets at what people hold dear. Or a question like, “What else do people consider valuable?” broadens the focus beyond things purely individualistic. “Do you know of anybody else who is concerned but might have a different opinion?” expands the focus, as does the follow-up question, “Why do you think they care?” And asking, “If that is what bothers you, what would you do about it?” moves the conversation to options for action. That opens the door to a follow-up, “If we did what you propose but it had negative consequences for what you said you cared about, would you still favor your proposal?” This kind of question brings out tensions among all that people consider valuable. And it encourages careful weighing of options. Note that these deliberative-friendly questions are quite ordinary. There isn’t anything that they require before asking them.

The citizens’ briefing books that NIF uses follow the same basic line of conversation. They describe the things people consider valuable, present options for action that follow from these concerns, and then show the tensions or trade-offs that people have to work through in order to reach shared and reflective decisions about what they are or aren’t willing to do.

I should be clear that I am not suggesting that organized forums use these questions as a script for a moderator to follow. Nothing would be more likely to inhibit the exchange that must go on in order for people to deliberate with one another. These are just illustrations of what “working through” sounds like.

[1]See Jane Mansbridge, “Everyday Talk in the Deliberative System,” in Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement, ed. Stephen Macedo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). Her concept of a “system” helps locate deliberative forums in the larger context of political speech.
[2]Daniel Yankelovich, Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1991), 95-96

You can find the original version of this post on the National Issues Forums Institute blog at www.nifi.org/en/deliberation-every-day-update-kettering-foundation-research-public-deliberation.