Community-Police Relations Confab Call Lessons with PCRC

In case you missed it, we had another fantastic Confab call with NCDD member org, the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center (PCRC) in December. We were joined by roughly 60 participants to learn more about PCRC’s work over the last 20 years coordinating community-police relations and their best practices for how they have brought people together. Listen to the recording if you weren’t able to make it, because it was a great call!

On the call, we were joined by PCRC Executive Director Michelle Vilchez and Engaging Communities Initiative Director Malissa Netane who shared with participants some of the tenets of PCRC and strategies they’ve used to bridge divides between the community and police in San Mateo County, CA. A big part of the work that PCRC does is done collaboratively and before any engagement effort immense pre-work must be done, especially for more contentious issues. They are diligent to go to the community they are working with and personally get to know folks, ensure that people have a space to share their stories before gathering together in a larger group, and build relationships through dialogue. PCRC is mindful of the communities they are working with and are sensitive of the particular needs of each group, they emphasized the vital need to work with cultural humility when dealing with communities. – “When engaging any group that’s outside your own, you don’t have to be an expert in someone else’s culture. Have a commitment to learn and know there are culturally appropriate ways to communicate.”

“What a great call. I was struck particularly by how dialogue is one element in their larger strategy for community building: in many ways, they’re engaging in culture change as much as anything else. It makes me wonder how many dialogue efforts are tied into larger strategies in this way.” – John Backman, Confab participant

We want to thank Michelle, Malissa, and all the Confab participants for contributing to this important conversation! To learn more about NCDD’s Confab Calls and hear recordings of others, visit www.ncdd.org/events/confabs.

Confab bubble imageNo worries if you couldn’t participate in the Confab – we recorded the whole presentation, which you can find on the archives page by clicking here. Access to the archives is a benefit of being an NCDD member, so make sure your membership is up-to-date (or click here to join). We had several excellent contributions on the chat, which you can find the transcript of here.

Finally, we love holding these events and we want to continue to elevate the work of our field with Confab Calls and Tech Tuesdays. It is through your generous contributions to NCDD that we can keep doing this work! That’s why we want to encourage you to support NCDD by making a donation or becoming an NCDD member today (you can also renew your membership by clicking here).

NCDD Board Member on Protecting our Civic Ecosystem

Our NCDD board member, Jacob Hess recently wrote a piece in which he correlates the increasing call to protect our threatened natural ecosystems with the need to also protect our democratic ecosystem. In the article, he shares his experience adapting Living Room Conversations in Utah by collaborating with individuals and organizations already doing civic engagement work, of which developed into a thriving network of civically-engaged folks. We encourage you to read Jacob’s piece below or find the original here.


Preserving and Protecting Our Precious Civic Ecosystem

Lots of attention is going today to physical habitat under siege (and for good reason): without more attention, many of these beautiful areas might go away, or be irreparably damaged. For that reason, many believe that energy invested in this protection and preservation is well spent.

Far less attention, however, goes to the way our civic ecosystem remains under increasing siege. What began as occasional concern for the hostility in the U.S. media and elected leaders, has become widespread trepidation regarding public animosities deepening in every direction, on nearly every issue.

Some believe that without more attention, this precious civic ecosystem could go away or likewise become irreparably damaged, thus prompting similar calls for additional investment to protect and preserve this fragile democratic habitat.

A case study in Utah. Starting in 2014, I had the opportunity to work for Living Room Conversations in a Utah experiment to help cultivate the civic ecosystem there. Rather than plowing up the roots already in place (or riding into town with the “newfangled solutions”), it felt important to build upon and leverage whatever rich habitat already existed.

Thus we began with a local reconnaissance reaching out to 20 different civics organizations to find out what had already been done (it turns out, a lot, as you can see here in a general summary and here in a more recent success in LGBT-religious conservative dialogue). After meeting with a number of leaders in the past work, including John Kesler (Salt Lake Civil Network), Michele Straube (Environmental Dispute Resolution, U of U) and David Derezotes (Peace & Conflict Studies, U of U), I was struck at how underrecognized and little known their efforts were, compared to much louder initiatives that captured the public eye.

Given the lack of recognition and continuing suspicion this kind of bridge-building elicited from many, we have experimented with different ways to connect more people to the possibility of vibrant and productive “disagreement practice”, as defined in the AllSides Dictionary.

Small is big. Perhaps the most obvious way to do so is meeting people where they are – in their own homes and communities. From my own early experiences, I quickly became mesmerized by the almost magical power of small group gatherings to bring people together across divides (see Eating Hummus With the ‘Enemy’: From Aversion to Affection).

We subsequently experimented with different ways to introduce people in Utah to this Living Room Conversation practice, from a local press release with offers of free consultation, to highlights of a filmed conversation, to even going door to door with invitations in my own neighborhood. Our conversations ranged from gun rights and evolution, to women’s rights and same-sex marriage/religious freedom. Everyone who participated came away feeling uplifted and encouraged. Out of all these efforts, two additional lessons became clear: (1) The pervasive busyness of American culture remained the largest barrier to involvement: why should I take away time from other things to do this? (2) As simple as these conversations seem, they elicit some visceral fears in some people of political confrontation or dangerous exposures. That explains another parallel dialogue “gateway” that we attempted.

Easing concerns with a PARTY! Alongside direct invitations to try it in your own home, we also organized larger community events where people could come have some food, laugh and watch a high-quality conversation take place on stage. This was possible due to the critical support of our key partner, Utah Humanities, in two different “seasons” of dialogue events. As you can see in the highlights from our inaugural Village Square event, we intentionally aimed to make the atmosphere light and social.

After repeating this approach in a dialogue on the secular/religious divide in Utah, we got feedback that people wanted more of a chance to explore the issue on their own, rather than just listen to a panel explore it. So in each event since – immigration, policing, climate change, racial bias – we have done a hybrid Village Square / Living Room Conversation model, where we begin with small table conversations over a meal before turning to a panel and then ending with small debriefing conversations.

The success of these efforts over time led to a larger, day-long gathering, that we called the Utah Citizen Summit. Sponsored by nearly 15 prominent Utah organizations, this event brought together local citizens and national speakers to first, learn how and practice dialogue, and then celebrate positive steps being taken. That event expanded our network to include the Salt Lake Public Library system, The Deseret News (the largest newspaper in the state), Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams’ office, the Governor’s Office of Civic & Character Education, the NAACP, and the conservative Sutherland Institute.

Equipping citizen leaders. Even with all this, however, we noticed most people were hesitant and not confident in their own capacity to make any difference. Thanks to a grant from the Bridge Alliance, we’ve started an ongoing series of training for citizens who want to grow in their capacity to lead conversations, using the Essential Partners “Power of Dialogue” trainings as a vehicle.

Each participant comes away from these trainings with a new awareness of the many approaches they might use in their own community.

Building a practice network. One single event or training is not enough, though. As with most any craft, real time and work is needed to hone and develop the practice.For that reason, we have been deliberate about developing a network of dialogue practitioners throughout the state. This includes in-person and zoom meetings, as well as ongoing coordination in how to support each other’s work.

Like those who gather who practice meditation and gather with others for ongoing support and training, we aim to be a community of like-minded folks who support each other in “honing the craft.” Part of this “practice network” approach is helping each other make space and time for the practice, much like a meditation network encourages each other to “keep practicing.”

Why do we make time for this?

Because it’s worth prioritizing. Rather than waiting for national leaders to figure out how to talk across differences, our network of Utah citizens are committed to do whatever we can cultivate and preserve the civic ecosystem in our own communities. Once again, instead of advocating one technique, one organization or one practice as holding the singular capacity to “save” us from our current political atrophy, our overriding focus is on the complex and multiform civic ecosystem needed in order for communities to thrive. Just as, in nature, no single species in an ecosystem can thrive without a degree of interdependence on other forms of life, so too must efforts toward constructive dialogue draw strength from a web of other existing efforts. In this way, we envision Utah becoming a national model of what it takes to fight to protect a robust ecosystem for civic engagement, and in this way, strengthen our democracy.

You can find the original version of Jacob Hess’ article at: www.livingroomconversations.org/preserving-and-protecting-our-precious-civic-ecosystem/.

Civil Conversation Transforms Holiday Experiences

While the holiday season is now behind us, we wanted to pass along this reflection shared with us from NCDDer Ellen Geisler on their transformative holiday experience bringing facilitated dialogue to her family. In the article, she talks about how a civic engagement series at a public library opened up space for community dialogue (similar to the NCDD partnership with ALA). Geisler then brought civil dialogue home for the holidays and shares a key takeaway as we move into the New Year – that we can strongly disagree and still hear each other out. You can read the article below or find the original here.


Helping Families Learn How To Disagree About Tough Topics Over The Holidays

Every year, my large, extended family gathers for the entire week of Thanksgiving, which also coincides with deer hunting season in Wisconsin. While we agree to get along, we also rarely talk about controversial topics and the underlying values we hold that shape our perspectives on them. This Thanksgiving, though, inspired by my work as a community development educator for University of Wisconsin-Extension Marinette County, I brought one work project home to my family gathering.

Civility Speaks was a series of discussions held at the Stephenson Public Library in Marinette from June 2016 to June 2017. The series began when a patron asked if the library could organize events for visitors to learn and talk about controversial issues in a non-threatening environment in the lead up to the 2016 presidential elections. Working with UW-Extension, the library hosted community discussions that gave participants an opportunity to talk about controversial issues.

The goals of such discussions are that as participants learn about issues, they learn how to transform conflict, take individual and collective action, and improve institutional decision making. In turn, these changes can lead to increased civic capacity and improved community problem solving.

The series included discussions on a variety of topics throughout the year. For example, one was co-facilitated by Amy Reddinger, director of the LGBT Center at UW-Marinette, which serves Marinette and Oconto counties in Wisconsin and Menominee County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  More than 30 people gathered at the library to learn and talk about transgender youth. One participant attended “to learn more about LGBT communities and how I could be more open-minded toward LGBT people,” and another asked, “what cultural issues can address these issues for our children and take away fear and [stigma] that may exist?”

It was surprising to hear transgender youth who attended the discussion describe their experiences with teachers and school administrators. The youth said they felt unsupported and in some cases threatened by classmates and adults. The LGBT Center, which opened in February 2017, continues to host events about transgender-related topics and other issues to build awareness and fulfill needs of the region’s LGBT community and their family and friends.

Prior to Thanksgiving this year, my uncle invited me to share with our family what I do for work — I suggested we organize a facilitated discussion about the use of technology. Politics, religion and agricultural production methods were all topics that hit close to home, so I proposed we start with an easier topic that wouldn’t necessarily feel so personal.  We all needed practice disagreeing with each other and talking about our values, as we rarely reach that area of conversation within our family.

After supper the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, my uncle introduced me as the guest facilitator for our family’s discussion, which would include 25 people ranging from age 8 to 65. We started by establishing ground rules as a group, and to my surprise everyone agreed to stay and participate instead of moving to another table to play cards. Everyone worked in groups of three or four responding to questions I offered. Every 10 minutes, they rearranged into new groups and I gave another prompt.

When the family came back to a large group to debrief, the most pleasing feedback was two adults, ages 65 and 35, saying they were impressed and excited by the thoughtful responses and participation from the youngest members of the family.

Our family comes from a dozen households, each with differing set of rules about what can or cannot be talked about in polite company. However, because this discussion started with established ground rules, everyone was on the same playing field.

During our family discussion, it was surprising to notice the kids seemed more at ease than the adults. When probed with questions like, “What about that is important to you?” the younger family members were eager to expound. The fact that so many relatives could listen to each other encouragingly suggests that we can disagree openly and continue to get along.

The day after our family discussion, it was revealed that four cousins in their 20s stayed up well into the night, prompted by one cousin who expressed an interest in discussing “something that matters, like abortion or euthanasia.” In another unanticipated outcome, a cousin and I slowly worked our way into discussing our perspectives about a topic about which we very strongly disagree.

My family is making progress in ways I could never have imagined. My optimistic five-year plan is to encourage family members who don’t want to ruffle feathers to talk about more contentious topics like reproductive rights, gender and sexuality, or immigration. It was exciting to take civil dialogue home for the holidays.

WisContext produced this article as a service of Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and Cooperative Extension.

You can find the original article on the WisContext site at www.wiscontext.org/helping-families-learn-how-disagree-about-tough-topics-over-holidays.

Connecting Outside of our Filter Bubbles

Have you seen the recent Ted talk featuring two prominent folks from the NCDD network? NCDD member Joan Blades of Living Room Conversations and John Gable of AllSides, recently did the Ted talk at the TEDWomen 2017 conference in November. The two talk about the power of breaking outside of your filter bubbles by holding authentic conversations with people that are different than yourself and that by building relationships with people we tend to “listen differently to people we care about”. They share how their friendship has formed despite coming from very different ideological backgrounds and experiences, and how that has transformed the work they do. You can listen to their Ted talk below or find the original here.


Free Yourself from your Filter Bubbles

Joan Blades and John Gable want you to make friends with people who vote differently than you do. A pair of political opposites, the two longtime pals know the value of engaging in honest conversations with people you don’t immediately agree with. Join them as they explain how to bridge the gaps in understanding between people on opposite sides of the political spectrum — and create opportunities for mutual listening and consideration (and, maybe, lasting friendships).

You can find this Ted talk at www.ted.com/talks/joan_blades_and_john_gable_free_yourself_from_your_filter_bubbles.

Making Difficult People Disappear… in a Way

We wanted to share this piece from the Essential Partners’ blog written by NCDD member Parisa Parsa, on making difficult people seemingly disappear. In the article, she talks about how each of us can be difficult people under certain circumstances, but how this can be minimized by well-designed process where folks speak their truth anchored by their beliefs. She also elaborates how often we miss the nuance of each other’s understanding and ultimately humanity, when we generalize that someone is “difficult”. You can read the Essential Partner’s article below or find the original version here.


Difficult People

Earlier this year, a dialogue participant helped us with an amazing discovery:

We can make difficult people disappear.

Let me explain.

Our climate of public discourse is toxic, inundating us with the message that folks who believe differently must be pitied or feared. They are difficult. Intractable. Irrational. Naive. These stereotypes have different shapes when viewed from the left or the right, but the effect is just as stifling. And yet, many of us have real people in our lives — family members, neighbors, co-workers — who believe, vote, and live differently than we do.

Recently we included a dialogue about guns in schools in one of our trainings. Participants held widely divergent views on the subject, and the dialogue circles were composed of individuals who held a range of beliefs. Strong gun rights activists and fervent gun control advocates engaged in deep conversations about their relationship with firearms. As we debriefed, people were amazed that they found so many points of identification with “the others” in the room, so much understanding and shared experience.

Finally, someone said: “This was all fine, but where were all the difficult people?”

This landed for me on two levels:

First, of course, when we are feeling fearful, mistrustful, threatened, and under siege, any of us — all of us — are capable of being difficult people. The careful work of preparation we do with participants before dialogues and to shape agreements and structure for conversation is designed to help speak their deepest truths. Which turns out to be much more interesting than our well-rehearsed diatribes. When we speak and listen from where our beliefs and values are anchored, we let go of the defensive/offensive behavior of difficult people. We become, simply, people.

On yet another level, that question, “where were all the difficult people?” also spoke to another toxic factor in our public life. We have become accustomed to equating disagreeing with being difficult to such an extent that it is hard to believe we really had a conversation across difference if we didn’t cause or experience offensive behavior. We have stopped trusting our own experience of our neighbors as nuanced, full people, and instead are on alert for the jerks. Yet it turns out that the handful of really intractable people on any side of an issue are just that: a minority. They get a lot of airtime that distances the rest of us from each other out of fear and anxiety that everyone who believes differently is at the far extreme. This robs us of the experience of knowing each other all across the middle of the continuum. And it tells us that our experience of genuine compassion, of real stories and humanity in the people right in front of us somehow can’t be trusted.

The work of careful engagement in structured conversation helps us reclaim our own experience. It gives us an opportunity to see ourselves and others more clearly, in deeper, richer light. We give up nothing but our outdated assumptions and stereotypes. And we gain a window into a more abundant truth: that we can be both utterly committed to each other’s humanity and in disagreement about one – or many – issues.

After we can see each other as people, we also can claim and name how we are passionate people who want to stand up for what we believe is right. We become compassionate people who need one another to live out our values and navigate our personal and community struggles. We become committed people working toward solutions to our community’s and our nation’s problems.

When we make difficult people disappear, we set our sights on the new horizons of possibility in our connection, in our compassion and in our collaboration.

You can find the original version of this Essential Partner’s blog piece at www.whatisessential.org/blog/difficult-people.

Register for Tomorrow’s NCDD Confab on Community-Police Relations with PCRC!

We wanted to remind everyone to register for the next NCDD Confab Call on community-police relations taking place tomorrow Tuesday December 19th from 1:00-2:30pm Eastern/10:00-11:30am Pacific. This FREE call will feature the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, an NCDD Organizational Member who will share with us their experience with community-police relations work in San Mateo County, California.

We will be joined by PCRC Executive Director Michelle Vilchez and Engaging Communities Initiative Director Malissa Netane on the call, who will share the story of their work, and the lessons they have learned. Be sure to register for this call to learn more!

From PCRC:

Silicon Valley is one of the most unique, diverse, exciting, and enlivening regions on earth, with seemingly abundant opportunities for achieving a high quality of life. Despite these unique characteristics, there are stark social and economic divides among us that sometimes lead to interpersonal misunderstandings and feelings of disconnectedness and disenfranchisement.

Many recent events across our nation involving racial tensions between communities of color and law enforcement (Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, and others) and the associated uncivil manner of discourse appear to be amplifying ideological and political differences, making this an uneasy time in our community and nation. In this region, we are extremely fortunate that we have not experienced such extreme incidents, yet we should never consider ourselves immune. Such tragedies, no matter how geographically distant, affect us all at some level, and our thoughts, reactions and emotions come with us when we go to school, or work, or out in the community.

For the past 20 plus years, PCRC has drawn from their foundation of mediation, training, facilitation and conflict coaching to bridge the divides between many different communities and law enforcement agencies. The success of this work depends on building and sustaining respectful and mutually beneficial working relationships among all of the participating partners, which is PCRC’s area of expertise. The vision of PCRC is a future where all members of society engage and collaborate to create a strong, vibrant community. Our mission is to partner with individuals, groups and institutions to empower people, build relationships, and reduce violence through collaborative and innovative processes.

PCRC has over 30 years of providing conflict resolution, mediation, violence prevention and community building services. By engaging in authentic dialogue, building capacity through leadership development, and focusing on action that lends itself to personal and collective transformation, the targeted five communities will have stronger relations inside the community and with other groups and institutions.

Time is running out! So make sure you register to join this exciting call!

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 Confab on Community-Police Relations 12/19

NCDD is excited to announce our next Confab Call will take place December 19, 2017 1:00-2:30pm Eastern/10:00-11:30am Pacific. Register today to join us for this exciting call with the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, an NCDD Organizational Member who will share with us their experience with community-police relations work in San Mateo County, California.

We will be joined by PCRC Executive Director Michelle Vilchez and Engaging Communities Initiative Director Malissa Netane on the call, who will share the story of their work, and the lessons they have learned. Be sure to register for this call to learn more!

From PCRC:

Silicon Valley is one of the most unique, diverse, exciting, and enlivening regions on earth, with seemingly abundant opportunities for achieving a high quality of life. Despite these unique characteristics, there are stark social and economic divides among us that sometimes lead to interpersonal misunderstandings and feelings of disconnectedness and disenfranchisement.

Many recent events across our nation involving racial tensions between communities of color and law enforcement (Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, and others) and the associated uncivil manner of discourse appear to be amplifying ideological and political differences, making this an uneasy time in our community and nation. In this region, we are extremely fortunate that we have not experienced such extreme incidents, yet we should never consider ourselves immune. Such tragedies, no matter how geographically distant, affect us all at some level, and our thoughts, reactions and emotions come with us when we go to school, or work, or out in the community.

For the past 20 plus years, PCRC has drawn from their foundation of mediation, training, facilitation and conflict coaching to bridge the divides between many different communities and law enforcement agencies. The success of this work depends on building and sustaining respectful and mutually beneficial working relationships among all of the participating partners, which is PCRC’s area of expertise. The vision of PCRC is a future where all members of society engage and collaborate to create a strong, vibrant community. Our mission is to partner with individuals, groups and institutions to empower people, build relationships, and reduce violence through collaborative and innovative processes.

PCRC has over 30 years of providing conflict resolution, mediation, violence prevention and community building services. By engaging in authentic dialogue, building capacity through leadership development, and focusing on action that lends itself to personal and collective transformation, the targeted five communities will have stronger relations inside the community and with other groups and institutions.

Don’t miss out – register today to learn more about this important work!

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!

Turning to Eachother During Unwelcome Conversations

As tragic events seem to constantly fill our lives and newsfeeds, we wanted to lift up a poignant piece from NCDD member org Essential Partners‘ blog in response to the Las Vegas tragedy. Parisa Parsa, Executive Director of EP, writes about the tendency to jump to assessing a situation and pinning down the blame, and that while this helps us cope with tragedy, often limits our ability to grieve and genuinely process. She reminds us to hold space for these painful storytelling opportunities and how these conversations can allow us the chance to come together in community, in order to find understanding and a collective way to move forward. We encourage you to read the piece below or you can find the original on Essential Partners’ blog here.


Unwelcome Conversations

“I can’t even get my mind around Las Vegas” the woman next to me exclaimed. We were both staring at the TV blasting the news while waiting to board our flight last week. As ever, the media was already flooded with analysis to explain what had happened, while we struggled again to understand why it happened. The world rushed to the usual rallying cries: gun control, mental health, male violence…the list goes on.

A typical media pundit or post usually includes some phrase critical of what others are talking about. “It’s not about [what the last commenter said], it’s about [my deepest conviction].” And with great assuredness, folks far from the situation quickly move to assert their go-to explanation. A mad dash to do this kind of assessment of a crisis offers a great coping mechanism. When we can put an unspeakably tragic event into some frame of meaning, our bearings return and panic is reduced. Because the truth is, we don’t want to be talking about terrible moments at all. We don’t want it to have happened, and we most definitely don’t want it to happen again. Having someone or something to blame, especially if it is singular, definite and not ourselves, help us detach ourselves from these horrible acts of violence and hate. Yet so far, collectively, retracting and finger pointing has not helped us prevent the unspeakable from happening again, and again, and again.

Venturing away from defining it as “all about” mental health or guns or testosterone opens up a whole new world. In the midst of our shock and horror, listening to our grief can provide answers. When we sit with the many explanations, hear the cries of those who feel misunderstood, hold one another in our pain, sorrow and anger, we begin to connect to another story. Many voices, conflicting views, and multiple understandings arise. Those stories forge a new way out of the mire, lets our pain and our hope speak to one another, and begins to carve a path to creative solutions.

Turning to one another in community to share our responses, our meaning-making and our experiences can create another possible future. Let’s talk and listen more deeply, and see what happens.

You can find the original version of this on Essential Partners’ blog at www.whatisessential.org/blog/unwelcome-conversations.

NICD Explores Civility on Listen to America Tour

In case you haven’t heard, the ‘Listen to America’ tour kicked off last month and has been traveling from city to city to hold conversations with folks on their hopes, fears, and what it means to be American. The listening tour, a project by Huffpost and NCDD member org the National Institute for Civil Discourse, is seeking the voices often unheard and to facilitate conversations around civility while building the capacity to listen with each other. Read the full schedule to find out where the tour has gone so far and below you can read where the upcoming stops are going to be.

Below is an excerpt from the article written by long time NCDD member Carolyn Lukensmeyer of NICD and you can find the full original version at Huffpost’s site here.


Seeking Civility: The ‘Listen To America’ Tour

This week, HuffPost journalists embark on something normally reserved for politicians and presidential candidates. Over the course of the 25-city “Listen to America” tour, journalists at HuffPost will seek out voices from individuals and families of all ages and backgrounds to share their hopes, dreams and fears.

Listening tours provide an opportunity for political candidates to reach out and connect with everyday Americans and clear an important leadership hurdle: the ability to show that they care about people.

It’s not every day journalists adopt a tactic used by political candidates. But in our tumultuous times, empathy appears to be a skill that is lacking across society. As Americans continue to grow further apart, they seem to have stopped listening and resorted to shouting down people who might disagree with them.

Americans may not agree on very much these days, but we can recognize the divisions in front of us. A Pew Research Center poll from January found that 86 percent of Americans believe we’re more divided today than in the past. It’s only through listening, understanding, and respecting one another can we start to bridge this divide.

You can read the full article on Huffpost’s site here

Upcoming Tour Schedule 

Oct. 3 – Detroit + Dearborn
Oct. 4 + 5 – Fort Wayne, Ind.
Oct. 6 – Milwaukee, Wis.
Oct. 9 – Des Moines
Oct. 10 – Kansas City
Oct. 11 – Lincoln, Neb.
Oct. 13 – Casper, Wyo.
Oct. 16 – Livingston, Mont.
Oct. 18 – Provo, Utah
Oct. 20 – Tucson, Ariz.
Oct. 23 – Albuquerque, N.M.
Oct. 25 – Odessa, Texas
Oct. 27 – Houston
Oct. 29 + 30 – New Orleans

You can find the full original version of this article by Carolyn Lukensmeyer of NICD on Huffpost’s site at www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/seeking-civility-the-listen-to-america-tour_us_59b7213ee4b0883782dec284?

Opportunity to Facilitate Ben Franklin Circles

We are excited to announce that NCDD is working with New York’s 92nd Street Y to support, The Ben Franklin Circles (BFC), a project in collaboration with Citizen University and the Hoover Institution. BFC – an NCDD member org, could use some facilitation support and that’s where NCDD comes in –  we have an exciting opportunity for you!

The Circles are inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s junto or “mutual improvement club,” – a sort of civic engagement support group the founding father started and ran for over 40 years.  In this 21st Century reboot, small groups of people get together once a month to reflect on big themes that Franklin identified as key to living a good life and creating a good society – topics like Industry/Work; Justice; Moderation; Thrift/Frugality and more.  There are 13 total.  Participants are encouraged to think about how these principles impact their own lives and how they shape our society, using the conversations as a way to create empathy and strengthen community bonds. Read more about the Circles in our Resource Center.

Here is the opportunity: 92Y has created a platform and toolkit and is offering limited stipends for facilitators to help lead these conversations in their communities. Circles meet once a month for 13 months for about 90 minutes each session. Meetings can be scheduled based on the facilitator’s schedule. 

This is a great opportunity for you to utilize this model, connect with groups in your community, and get paid for your time as well! NCDD would love to see a whole bunch of you get involved with Circles across the country. It’s another great way we can work to strengthen community connections and help people bridge divides, at this particularly divisive time in our nation. And many of you have the networks with interest in these kinds of conversations!

If you are interested in this opportunity and would like to connect with organizers to learn more, please fill out this quick form here and they will contact you to discuss this opportunity further! 

For more information, please visit: benfranklincircles.org. You can follow BFC on Facebook, Instagram, and on Twitter at @BFCircles as well as the hashtag #BenFranklinCircles.