Reminder to Join This Week’s Confab with Nat’l Civic League

Last week, we announced that NCDD has teamed up with the National Civic League to offer the next exciting Confab call, happening later this week! Join us, Wednesday, February 13th at 3-4pm Eastern/12-1pm Pacific, as we discuss the upcoming All-America City Award and share tips for winning this prestigious award. This free call will offer space to learn more about the award, hear from past awardees, and ask questions. The award deadline is March 6th, so make sure you take advantage of this opportunity and register today to secure your spot on the call!

Since 1949, the National Civic League has recognized and celebrated the best in American civic innovation with the All-America City Award. The Award, bestowed yearly on 10 communities (more than 500 in all) recognizes the work of communities in using inclusive civic engagement to address critical issues and create stronger connections among residents, businesses and nonprofit and government leaders. The 2019 All-America City theme is “Creating Healthy Communities Through Inclusive Civic Engagement”. The 2019 All-America City Award is focused on celebrating examples of civic engagement practices that advance health equity in local communities.

Representatives from the award-winning cities, Las Vegas, NV and Decatur, GA will join us on the call to speak about their experiences winning the All-America City Award in 2018. Las Vegas was recognized as an All-America City because they provide residents, stakeholders, staff and elected officials with a collective vision for a future of income equality and economic mobility, building programs and services that remove barriers and address challenges faced by their most vulnerable youth. Decatur, GA was recognized as a 2018 All-America City for its commitment to civic engagement. Through their projects, Decatur showed that it is actively seeking to build an equitable and inclusive experience for its residents and visitors, focusing on racially-just community policing and building diverse and affordable housing.

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

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

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

Announcing Co-Hosted Confab Call with Nat’l Civic League!

We are thrilled to announce that NCDD has teamed up with the National Civic League to offer the next exciting Confab call happening in February! Join us, February 13th at 3-4pm Eastern/12-1pm Pacific, as we discuss the upcoming All-America City Award and share tips for winning this prestigious award. This free call will offer space to learn more about the award, hear from past awardees, and ask questions. The award deadline is March 6th, so make sure you take advantage of this opportunity and register today to secure your spot on the call!

Since 1949, the National Civic League has recognized and celebrated the best in American civic innovation with the All-America City Award. The Award, bestowed yearly on 10 communities (more than 500 in all) recognizes the work of communities in using inclusive civic engagement to address critical issues and create stronger connections among residents, businesses and nonprofit and government leaders. The 2019 All-America City theme is “Creating Healthy Communities Through Inclusive Civic Engagement”. The 2019 All-America City Award is focused on celebrating examples of civic engagement practices that advance health equity in local communities.

Representatives from the award-winning cities, Las Vegas, NV and Decatur, GA will join us on the call to speak about their experiences winning the All-America City Award in 2018. Las Vegas was recognized as an All-America City because they provide residents, stakeholders, staff and elected officials with a collective vision for a future of income equality and economic mobility, building programs and services that remove barriers and address challenges faced by their most vulnerable youth. Decatur, GA was recognized as a 2018 All-America City for its commitment to civic engagement. Through their projects, Decatur showed that it is actively seeking to build an equitable and inclusive experience for its residents and visitors, focusing on racially-just community policing and building diverse and affordable housing.

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

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

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

NCL Offers Free National Civic Review to NCDD Members!

As part of our new partnership with NCDD member org, The National Civic League, we are thrilled to announce that NCDD members will now have free access to the digital version of NCL’s National Civic Review! NCL is one of the longest running organizations in the dialogue, deliberation, and engagement world – celebrating their 125th year! This esteemed quarterly journal offers insights and examples on civic engagement and deliberative governance from around the country. We strongly encourage our members to check out this great resource and there is an open invite for NCDD members to contribute to the NCR! You can read about NCR in the post below and find it on NCL’s site here.


National Civic Review: Winter 2019 – 125th Anniversary Edition — Access Code: NCDD19

The focus of this edition is the capacity of communities to address difficult challenges by tapping the potential of an engaged public. Whether it is a “wicked problem” such as gentrification or an effort to improve local health outcomes, towns, cities and regions with ample “civic capital” find ways of bringing together diverse groups of associations and individuals in collaborative, community improvement initiatives.

To access this edition, go to the table of contents where you will be prompted to enter your unique access code: NCDD19

One of the Nation’s Oldest and Most Respected Journals of Civic Affairs
Its cases studies, reports, interviews and essays help communities learn about the latest developments in collaborative problem-solving, civic engagement, local government innovation and democratic governance. Some of the country’s leading doers and thinkers have contributed articles to this invaluable resource for elected officials, public managers, nonprofit leaders, grassroots activists, and public administration scholars seeking to make America’s communities more inclusive, participatory, innovative and successful.

Don’t Miss the Confab Recording with Senator Unger!

Last week, we had a fantastic Confab call featuring Senator Unger who discussed how he engaged with his community during his recent campaign and how that ultimately lead to his re-election. If you weren’t able to join the call, never fear, we recorded the whole event and you can listen to it here!

On the call, Senator Unger shared how he focused on the community during his recent re-election campaign against a well-funded opponent who utilized negative attack tactics. Unger, instead of retaliating these attacks, stayed engaged with the community by asking them what they needed and explored with the community their solution recommendations. The senator emphasized the need to engage with community in a relational way, seeing peoples’ humanity and valuing their unique contributions, as opposed to a transactional, de-personalized way. Unger is part of the National Issues Forums Institute board and utilized the NIF discussion guides to explore community needs, perspectives, and values. He held various deliberative dialogue forums with the community, and even the debates were designed in a more deliberative manner.

It was incredibly inspiring to hear an elected official engage the community the way he did and bring in these D&D practices.  Here are some of our favorite quotes during the Confab:

  • During debates when my opponent would attack me on positions and issues…. and then the solutions the community had come up with, he wasn’t only attacking me, he was attacking the community because they had come up with these solutions deliberatively.
  • I used the NIF guides to guide the discussions, but mostly what I did was sit down and ask the basic questions – “what’s bothering you?”, “how does this problem affect you and your family?”, “what should we do about it?”.
  • Many assume that when you’re an elected official you have to have a five-point plan or plan of action (and many elected officials feel compelled to have one), but instead I asked [the community] “what do you think we should do about it?” and look at both the negative and the positives of a proposal.
  • I wanted to make it a campaign focused in on community empowerment. Where so often elected officials and political systems treat people like objects, they do things TO people. Or treat people like RECIPIENTS, like it’s transactional, “I get your vote, I do something for you”.
  • But what I wanted to do is to change the dynamic, to not treat people like objects or recipients, but instead treat people like resources, empower them, “What can we do together? What can I do WITH you?” This attitude shift was a game-changer.
  • If you look at why Americans are so angry, Americans feel like they don’t have control of their life anymore, they don’t have control over how to help their families or their communities, they feel the situation is out of their control… By working with people and doing things with people versus TO or FOR, you give people agency and you address that anger by giving people control over their life.
  • The moral of the story [of the Wizard of Oz] is the group had everything they needed, but they needed to come together to get it it was collectively when they came together and took this journey to demand these things that they discovered they already had these things in themselves.
  • As an elected official, if we look at people we serve as part of that journey, we all have different talents and roles, but collectively we come together, we discover those and we enhance and help each other – that’s the ultimate aspect of community capacity building and empowerment, and that’s where deliberative dialogue is an essential component, that will allow that to happen.

We recorded the whole presentation in case you weren’t able to join us, which you can access 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).

Confab bubble image

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

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). Thank you!

Featured D&D Story: KRIA The Icelandic Constitution Archives

Today we’d like to feature a great example of dialogue and deliberation in action, KRIA The Icelandic Constitution Archives. This mini case study was submitted by Eileen Jerrett via NCDD’s Dialogue Storytelling Tool. Do you have a dialogue story that our network could learn from? Add your dialogue story today!


ShareYourStory-sidebarimageTitle of Project:
KRIA The Icelandic Constitution Archives

Description:
At the end of September, Build Up joined constitutional and legal scholars, government ministers, and democratic activists from around the world at the conference on Democratic Constitutional Design (DCD) at the University of Iceland hosted by EDDA Research Center in Reykjavik. We presented a tool, in partnership with the Center for Democratic Constitutional Design (CDCD) and the University of Washington, to support the continued process of constitutional reform in Iceland.

Iceland may seem like a strange destination, possibly far from the characteristics we’ve come to expect for peacebuilding processes. Build Up staff collectively have decades of experience supporting efforts by peacebuilders all around the world, but mostly in non-Western and global South conflict contexts. We don’t think Iceland sees itself as a conflict or post-conflict country — but as we learned more about Iceland’s citizen-driven constitutional reform process, we recognized that what Icelanders are doing around their constitution process is relevant to all of us.

We came to know this process in 2014 at our first Build Peace conference at MIT in Boston, where Eileen Jerrett presented her documentary Blueberry Soup, a beautiful film that introduced all of us to Iceland’s remarkable constitutional reform process.

Being able to amplify and broaden participation in peacebuilding processes, which often times including constitution making, is critical. Build Up feels there is a lot to learn from the organic process that Icelanders have gone through and continue to pursue in the aftermath of their 2008 economic crash.

The entire history of this process, including crowd-sourced inputs from common citizens and the innovative process employed by its authors… are in danger of being lost.

We are profoundly moved by Icelanders efforts to re-imagine their constitution, by truly making it a people driven social contract. Too often, the legalistic and technical complexities of a modern constitution makes it inaccessible to the people it’s intended to protect; it’s not a government’s document, it’s a people’s document. At the DCD conference, there were some wonderfully provocative discussions on a variety of forms of engaging and convening people, both online and offline — whether through new forms of digitally connected conversations and crowd-sourcing, or mini-publics and deliberative processes.

At this point, the core drafting process of the proposed Icelandic constitution is complete. The Icelandic people approved the draft Constitution in a non-binding referendum in 2012, but a filibuster by the opposition party prevented it from being voted on by the Parliament in that year and it has been stalled ever since. There are a number of political parties that remain committed to the passage of draft Constitution, however, and citizen’s groups have worked hard to keep the issue of citizen-centered constitutional reform on the national agenda.

What’s at risk in this process is more than just the success or failure of a unique and forward-thinking citizen-driven constitution. Writing a constitution is a society’s statement of values and purpose. Imagine it as the core social and legal contract that holds a nation together. This would be the backbone of stewardship of public resources, spaces, rights, and laws, should the constitution, or even parts of it, be enacted.

Yet, the new draft of the Icelandic constitution faces other dire problems through this stagnation. Over a decade’s worth of documentation critical to the reform process, including interviews, drafting notes, analysis, films, photos, and other electronic and physical evidence remains scattered across the island on the computers and in the homes of many who participated. The entire history of this process, including crowd-sourced inputs from common citizens and the innovative process employed by its authors in drafting the reformed constitution are not easily accessible to Icelanders, and are in danger of being lost. The memory of the process, of what mattered to Icelanders in their difficult four-year struggle after the 2008 economic crisis, is in danger of fading away.

Given the resistance by some of the political elite to put that people-driven constitutional reform process behind them, losing this history could ultimately close the door on a process that still shows signs of life.

In collaboration with the Icelandic Constitutional Society, the CDCD, and the University of Washington, Build Up envisioned a portal to access an archive of the history. A well designed and well presented interactive analysis of events important to the constitutional process could help Icelanders stay connected to its relevance.

Through an ongoing process of input from Icelandic stakeholders, Build Up worked closely with Eileen Jerrett (CDCD) and Cricket Keating (University of Washington) to develop a portal prototype— a proof-of-concept that gives us an idea of what’s possible when it comes to preserving the history and telling the story of an active constitutional reform process.

Our initial presentation of the tool was met with overwhelming positivity. There is clearly a strong desire for this kind of resource, not only by those central to the Icelandic process but many conference participants from around the world were equally excited about having access to this important process and its history.

Build Up will continue to support this important process. Following the conference, we are now working with CDCD and the Icelandic Constitution Society to bring more Icelanders on board. While thousands of documents and electronic files have been collected, there are likely thousands more uncollected across the island. Icelanders will also need to play a central role in determining the proper framing for the resources as they’re presented through the portal, ensuring the material is relevant and usable. Ideally, this portal not only preserves the history, but also catalyzes new energy among those Icelanders who were central to the effort, as well as a new generation of reformers who were too young to participate in a process that started over a decade ago.

What Icelanders are doing around their constitutional process is relevant to all of us.

While we see many learning opportunities beyond Iceland in making this process accessible, we also appreciate that its universal lessons must first and foremost be focused inward on a process of change within the country. Build Up is excited to play a small but, we believe, important role in supporting Icelanders efforts to present and preserve their recent history while continuing to reform their constitution for a more just and equitable future.

Which dialogue and deliberation approaches did you use or borrow heavily from?

  • Essential Partners dialogue
  • Technology of Participation approaches
  • Deliberative Polling
  • Council / Circle process

What was your role in the project?
Creative Director

What issues did the project primarily address?
Human rights

Where to learn more about the project:
www.medium.com/@howtobuildup/we-the-people-of-iceland-ab29e6e670bc

Sharing Best Practices of D&D – Inspiration for 2019

Great way to start off the new year reading this excellent write-up by NCDDer, Kevin Amirehsani, on the recent 8th National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation. He shares some of the best practices in our field and highlights several gems from the conference. We are proud to work amongst such talented, dedicated, and inspirational individuals, and can’t wait to see the new heights this field will go! We encourage you to read Kevin’s piece below and find the original version on the UNC School of Government Blog here.


Sharing Dialogue and Deliberation Best Practices: NCDD 2018

Within the community engagement community, best practices are sometimes hard to identify.

The context of, say, a small-scale event dealing with restorative justice differs greatly from a packed city council meeting covering zoning permits. The message, audience, program design, and feedback mechanisms can be completely different, which makes standardizing a set of guidelines an oft-impossible task.

Still, there are a few gatherings that bring together enough diverse, experienced, and motivated engagement practitioners that something approaching best practices can be found across many of community engagements’ subfields, from productively navigating race relations to developing responsive digital platforms.

The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) is probably the best example. Lucky for me, Denver (my home), hosted their most recent annual conference in November of last year.

With more than 70 workshops and sessions available to choose from across four days, the hardest part was figuring out where to spend my conference time.

Here are some highlights from three sessions I attended.

Day 1 – D&D for Everyone: How do we get everyone to participate?

I decided to dive right into one of community engagement’s most difficult questions – how on earth do we maximize participation?

This session was relatively unstructured, which allowed small groups to come up with numerous ideas that were then shared with the room. One key takeaway many of us arrived at was on an issue that is often glossed over: language.

Language and Ideology – Who “Welcomes Dialogue”?

Let’s face it: community engagement and D&D initiatives are usually carried out by progressive/liberal practitioners. While this may have something to do with the innate differences between many conservatives and progressives, what it means is that much of the language we use to publicize our events, conduct them, and gather feedback from them may be imbued with a liberal bias.

Terms like “diversity”, “safe space”, or even “dialogue” itself are often viewed in a partisan light, which may skew the demographics of who shows up and who participates more frequently.

Luckily, there are some resources that can help us be more aware of our language, like the online Red Blue Dictionary or a growing number of political dialogue courses offered at universities.

Can we Dialogue with our Passion and Frustrations?

Another issue I found useful to discuss was the degree to which participants are encouraged or expected to check their frustrations and convictions at the door.

On paper, engagement projects often encourage a diversity of viewpoints, but some may be implicitly accepted more than others through, say, the responses that the facilitators choose to emphasize, or even the way a participant who expresses an unpopular opinion is glared at by others.

Many of us have probably witnessed well-intentioned D&D practitioners define numerous topics as “problems,” which implies that somebody’s at fault. This can be at odds with encouraging feedback from participants who may be afraid of being blamed if they speak up.

Day 2 – Don’t Avoid, Don’t Confront: Dialogue Skills for Anti-Racism Allies

I have never been to an anti-racism workshop, so I thought a workshop led by David Campt, the founder of the White Ally Toolkit, would be a great place to start.

As a veteran of the Clinton White House’s Initiative on Race and America Speaks, David knows how to distill a lot of information on how to have effective conversations on race into a short time period while keeping everybody in the room entertained. And he certainly did not disappoint.

While his anti-racism trainings are typically given to white participants, this was a mixed-race crowd that engaged him as he spoke on concepts ranging from the empirical – e.g. racial anxiety – to more practical tools, like the types of icebreakers that can be useful in reducing some of the tension that envelopes meetings on difficult topics (such as race).

One key takeaway that I walked away with was David’s quippy but powerful advice to find the “chocolate in the trail mix” of what a person is saying.

When we’re dealing with community members who have views that may be antithetical to ours, there are almost always remarks they make that we can relate to. For those of us who keep abreast of the literature, the power of small talk should not be a surprise. But David went a step further and emphasized the importance that positive acknowledgement has in ultimately changing people’s views.

Simply pointing out things you agree with by others who share an individual’s race, ethnicity, or politics, for example, markedly increases that person’s willingness to continue talking to you and, ultimately, their openness to gradually changing their views on thorny subjects.

Day 3 – Elevating Voices and Building Bridges: Community Trust and Police Relations

Finally, I capped off an inspiring time at NCDD 2018 with a discussion on police-community relations, in part since I sit on Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen’s Community Advisory Board.

The session saw a pair of practitioners – one from the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the other from Illinois’ Attorney General’s Office – speak in depth about 14 “community roundtables” they organized across Chicago as part of the city police department’s ongoing federal consent decree. They were followed by Chief Pazen and Denver Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) Community Relations Ombudsman Gianina Irlando, who described a novel program breaking down some of the barriers between police officers and youth.

Design – Sharing Ground, Empathy and Feedback Mechanisms

My impression after hearing these success stories was that both sides in some of the most intractable disputes can substantively cede some ground and gain some empathy for the other side if community meetings and the feedback mechanisms which follow them are effectively designed.

In the Chicago example, the meeting organizers spent a considerable amount of time recruiting participants from affected communities, hiring translators for each table, training facilitators, and designing the layout of their World Café-type engagement model so that everybody knew what ideas each table was bringing up, without fears of “problematic” points of view being forgotten.

Closer to home, the Denver collaborative model between law enforcement and their civilian oversight body emphasized how empathy-building can be quantitatively shown to increase if officers are given enough classroom training, local community leaders (and, in this case, a hip hop artist) help conduct the sessions, and youth are encouraged to participate through strategically placing them with officers in a safe environment whom they have had no personal contact with.

You can find the original version of this article on the UNC School of Government Blog at https://cele.sog.unc.edu/sharing-dialogue-and-deliberation-best-practices-ncdd-2018/.

Join Free Webinar on NY Public Library Community Conversations Program, 12/5

Last year, we announced a two-year partnership with the American Library Association on a new initiative, Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change, which sought to train librarians in dialogue and deliberation processes with the goal of turning libraries into spaces of civic engagement and community discussions. We invite you to join a free one hour webinar on December 5th on how the New York Public Library created their Community Conversations series pilot to support the community in addressing important issues. In this webinar, you’ll learn how they developed the 11-month training program for librarians in 16 branches, tailored the conversation series to what the community needed, and implemented the series to deepen the libraries’ role as civic centers. You can read the announcement below and sign up to join the webinar here.


Community Conversations Across Neighborhoods: Dialogue-Driven Programming

Libraries have the potential to inspire local dialogue on timely issues across communities, positioning library staff as trusted facilitators. Join us for this free one-hour webinar to hear how New York Public Library created a conversation series on important issues in the diverse communities they serve.

In February 2017, the New York Public Library (NYPL) launched a Community Conversations pilot with the goal of further establishing branch libraries as key civic convening centers, providing space, information and quality discussion for communities to better understand and problem-solve around local issues.

Aligning with the ALA Public Programs Office’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, NYPL’s Adult Programming and Outreach Services (ORS) Office developed an original 11-month training program with staff from 16 branch libraries that resulted in a series of unique, community-led programs.

Program boundaries were kept flexible enough for branch staff to be able to design programs with their own diverse neighborhood communities in mind. Branches experimented with a variety of tactics to ensure community focus, including community issue voting boards, a public planning committee, community-mapping and final program sessions that invited attendees to discuss next steps.

Participants of this session will learn:

  • Best practices and lessons learned from NYPL’s Community Conversations programming
  • How to launch successful location-based Community Conversations initiatives that build partnerships and engage staff in new ways
  • Specific dialogue-driven program models that can be used as templates for programs in libraries across geographic locations

Presenters
Alexandra Kelly Berman is the manager of adult programming and outreach services at the New York Public Library, where she works with library staff across 88 neighborhood branches to introduce programs for local adult communities, including the recent Community Conversations pilot. Alexandra began at NYPL by developing and leading the successful multi-branch Community Oral History Project. Before working at NYPL, she was a facilitator at StoryCorps and received an M.A. from the School of Media Studies at The New School, where she also acted as director of student services + engagement. She has also launched several youth media projects around New York City, including an oral history project in Crown Heights, The Engage Media Lab program at The New School, and a documentary filmmaking project at Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

Andrew Fairweather is a librarian at the New York Public Library’s Seward Park branch in the Lower East Side. He is fervent in his belief that the library can serve as a unique platform for discussion about tricky issues and current events. He enjoys painting and drawing when not occupied with library work. Andrew’s interest in any one subject is incredibly unfaithful — he will read (most) anything as a result.

Nancy Aravecz is a senior adult librarian at the Jefferson Market branch of The New York Public Library. In this role, she focuses on providing top-notch discussion-based programming to the Greenwich Village community, centered around information literacy, technology, current events and classic works of literature. She is a recent graduate of Kent State University’s MLIS program, where she studied digital libraries. She also holds a previous MA degree in English Language and Letters from New York University, where her studies centered around literary theory and criticism, postcolonial studies and the digital humanities.

Related Learning Opportunities:

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Programming Librarian website (part of the American Library Association Public Programs Office) at www.programminglibrarian.org/learn/community-conversations-across-neighborhoods-dialogue-driven-programming.

NCL Webinar on Public Engagement in Fiscal Matters, 12/19

On Wednesday, December 19th, the National Civic League – an NCDD member and partner, will be offering the free webinar, “Engaging the Public in Fiscal Matters”, as part of their AAC Promising Practices Webinar series. The webinar will feature residents from two All-America Cities who will share how the public contributed to budget decisions in each of their cities. 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: Engaging the Public in Fiscal Matters

Can the public really help local governments make solid budget decisions? Of course!

Two communities – Hampton, Virginia, and Placentia, California – will share how residents have contributed their views on budget matters. In Hampton, City Manager Mary Bunting will discuss the I-Value effort in Hampton. In Placentia, Rosanna Ramirez, the city’s director of administrative services, will talk about the city’s Citizens Fiscal Sustainability Task Force.

Join the National Civic League for this free webinar on Wednesday, December 19th at 11:30 am PST/12:30 pm MST/1:30 pm CST/2:30 pm EST

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

If you missed the November AAC Promising Practices Webinar: Community-Wide Visioning with an Equity Lens – click here to listen to the recording! Learn more about how two All-America Cities underwent a community-wide visioning process with a specific focus on engagement and equity.

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

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 announcement on the National Civic League’s site at www.nationalcivicleague.org/resource-center/promising-practices/.

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.