Recap of our NCDD Confab Featuring Undivided Nation

We had great Confab call last week featuring NCDD members David and Erin Leaverton of Undivided Nation – and you missed an excellent call if weren’t able to join! The Leavertons shared with the 40 participants on the call, about their experience traveling to every state in the US to listen to folks throughout the country and find ways where people can be united. We strongly encourage you to check out the recording to hear about their transformative adventure and learn of the powerful takeaways.

With the beautiful Lake Champlain in the background, David and Erin joined us via video call during their stop in Vermont, to share about their journey so far and some of the humbling learning opportunities they ‘ve experienced. Just before the beginning of the year, the Leavertons sold their house, bought an RV, and have been traveling state-to-state with their three children. Spurred by the fierce partisanship David experienced while working in politics, they sought to talk with folks from all parts of the US and better understand the roots of this country, in order to hopefully find ways to unify the deep divisions. Initially, they began their journey thinking people would be focused on the political divisions in this country, and yet they found that most have shared about the deep racial and socio-economic divisions they experience.

Halfway through their trip, the Leavertons have already had profound learning and said that every person they’ve connected with has impacted them. With humility, they shared how their understanding of the racial realities in this country has shifted and recognized how much more complex the issues in the US are than they previously believed. As their understanding has grown of the deep inequities some folks in this country experience, they noted the need to genuinely address these inequalities in order to work toward a country that is just and provides the constitutional ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – to all people.

We were live tweeting during the call and here are some of our favorites from the Confab:

  • “We wanted to help bring unity…My heart was breaking about what was going on in the country and I had a desire to be part of the change I wanted to see, that’s what set off this journey.”
  • “We asked ourselves – how can you begin to bring unity to people you’ve never met before? So we sold our house, got an RV to travel to every state and talk to people.”
  • “We invite people to come along with us and share what we’re learning, it’s too good not to share. It’s radically changed our understanding of our county and it was important for us to do it this way.”
  • “We’re traveling to a new state every Mon, we started the journey thinking ppl would focus on political divisions, but people have been more focused on racial and social-economic divisions.”
  • “Many people have a fear of other people… on some level… and have to get past this fear of people to be able to listen. You don’t have to sacrifice your truth to understand another.”
  • “To tell people who have experienced violence to forgive or be civil, it’s not just civility and while forgiveness is a part of it, we need to understand the reality before we preach forgiveness.”
  • “We need a candid conversation about the history of this country and when we come to terms with our true story, there’ll be a day of mourning – we need to come clean and acknowledge, before we, as a country, can move forward.”
  • “You can’t force people to interact… but you can invite people. Curiosity is the key ingredient, and it will help get you through the face of fear”

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. We had several insightful contributions to the chat, which you can find the transcript of 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 David, Erin, 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!

Exploring Civility in America through Ben Franklin’s Wisdom

As part of our partnership with NCDD member org, Ben Franklin Circles (BFC), we have been sharing stories from BFC. Because of the vitriol of the US political climate these last few years, there has been an increased call for civility. The article offers the views of Ben Franklin and Dale Carnegie as thought fodder for bringing more civility to America. You can read the post below and find the original post on BFC’s site here.


Ben Franklin & Civility

“The only way to win an argument is to avoid it.”

Dale Carnegie’s famous remark was preceded by Benjamin Franklin’s own formulation of this axiom, which he describes in his Autobiography as the “habit of modest diffidence.” Franklin explains that this practice banishes the categorical from his vocabulary, ascribing to this habit much of his success “when [he] had occasion to inculcate [his] opinion and persuade men into measures.”

Gone were words such as “Certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give air to the positives to an opinion,” and welcomed were such phrases as “I conceived,” “I apprehend,” and “I imagine it to be so.”

At bottom, Carnegie and Franklin offer the same bit of advice: to persuade people to your point of view, you must appear to not disagree with them at all.

If you are now thinking, “How are you supposed to have a conversation without appearing to say anything different from one’s interlocutor?” I know what you mean. It is also fair to ask whether it is patronizing—or even dishonest—to smile and nod at your conversation partner for the sake of personal gain or social ease.

Indeed, Carnegie and Franklin may well be accused by one Tom Scocca of being purveyors of “smarm,” a disposition he scathingly condemned in a 4,000 word treatise.

“Smarm,” says Scocca, “is a kind of performance — an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance.” Smarm, he says, is the tool of self-aggrandizers and the death of public discourse and intellectual honesty. It was when BuzzFeed assumed Thumper’s motto, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”—which sounds vaguely reminiscent of Carnegie’s and Franklin’s advice—that Scocca could no longer stay silent. “The evasion of disputes is a defining tactic of smarm. Smarm, whether political or literary, insists that the audience accept the priors it has been given. Debate begins where the important parts of the debate have ended.” Smarm refuses to engage with ideas by instead “smoothing over” disagreement for the sake of social comfort or personal gain. This, for Scocca, is what makes smarm dishonest and worthy of contempt.

Writer Leon Wieseltier concurs: “In intellectual and literary life, where the stakes may be quite high, manners must never be the primary consideration. People who advance controversial notions should be prepared for controversy. Questions of truth, meaning, goodness, justice and beauty are bigger than Bambi.”

I quite agree.

But that does not mean we should wholly discard Carnegie’s and Franklin’s admonitions. It is possible to disagree with someone without permanently rupturing the relationship, and they point us how to do that.

By encouraging us to be sensitive to how our interlocutor will hear our words, Carnegie and Franklin direct us toward true civility, a mode that respects the inherent dignity of each person with whom one interacts

By placing people at the center, true civility provides a framework for understanding not just when to criticize and when to focus on social ease but, perhaps more importantly, how.

True civility is more than “niceness” because it respects people enough to take them and their ideas seriously. The truly civil person is one who is teachable, who is willing to be wrong, and willing to place a relationship before being right.

Oscar Wilde wrote, “A gentleman is one who never gives offense… unintentionally.” There is, contrary to Carnegie and Franklin’s position, a time to take a strong stance that perhaps even gives offense. We also are not always in control of when others are offended by us. But by plumbing with reinvigorated rigor the foundation to our souls, examining if our values and priorities are reflected in our words and deeds, and be part of re claiming a more authentic, and truly civil, America.

You can find the original version of this post on Ben Franklin Circles’ site at www.benfranklincircles.org/virtues/ben-franklin-civility.

Watch Recording of the 2018 A Public Voice Event in DC

In case you missed it, the recording was released for last month’s A Public Voice, held May 9th in Washington DC. The annual event hosted by NCDD member orgs – the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute, brought together policymakers, their staffers, and folks from the D&D field to discuss outcomes from the forums on immigration that were held throughout the year. You can read the announcement and watch the APV2018 recording in the post below, and find the original on NIFI’s site here.


Watch – A Public Voice 2018, Recorded May 9, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC

A Public Voice, the Kettering Foundation‘s annual event that brings together policymakers and practitioners of deliberative democracy from around the country, was held on May 9, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The two-hour panel discussion and audience questions were recorded (the program begins at about 14 minutes, 20 seconds into the recording) and can be viewed at  https://tinyurl.com/APublicVoice2018.

Gary Paul, a National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director and professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University; and John Doble, Kettering Foundation senior associate and contributing editor of the Coming to America issue guide, moderated the exchange among members of a panel that included:

  • Jean Johnson, National Issues Forums Institute, Vice President for moderator development and communications and contributor to the Coming to America report
  • Alberto Olivas, Executive Director, Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service, Arizona State University
  • Virginia York, National Issues Forums moderator, Panama City, Florida
  • Oliver Schwab, chief of staff, Rep. David S. Schweickert
  • Mischa Thompson, senior policy advisor, US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
  • Adam Hunter, former director, immigration and the states project, Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Betsy Wright Hawkings, program director, governance initiative, Democracy Fund

You can find the original version of this announcement on the National Issues Forums Institute’s blog at www.nifi.org/en/watch-public-voice-2018-recorded-may-9-2018-national-press-club-washington-dc.

Evdem with Undivided Nation & Join NCDD Confab Tomo

Leading up to our NCDD Confab call tomorrow featuring NCDD member org Undivided Nation, we wanted to share this piece from fellow NCDD member org, Everyday Democracy. Written by Sandy Rodriguez, the piece shares the story of the Leavertons’ journey to every state across the US to listen to folks’ stories, better understand our Nation’s history, and ultimately help bring people together across divides.

We are thrilled to talk with the Leavertons’ on our Confab call tomorrow, Thursday, June 28th from 2-3pm Eastern/11am-Noon Pacific. Register to join us for this free call by clicking here! You can read the post below and find the original on EvDem’s site here.


The Road to an Undivided Nation—Discovering How Race Divides Us

EvDem LogoImagine quitting your job, selling your home and taking your three small children on the road for a year in an RV to visit all 50 states in our nation, with the goal of understanding our current divides and finding ways to bridge them toward an undivided nation.

This is the Leaverton’s American Dream and they are living it, state by state, from south, to north, east to west, community by community on a yearlong, enlightening and heartfelt listening tour. Since January 2018, the family of five has embarked on a cross-country tour, meeting with American people, from all walks of life in the nation’s cities and towns. The purpose of their meetings is three-fold: First, it is to listen to them to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges in each community. Second, it is to collectively explore the roots of the nation’s divides. And last, it is to search for ways that can connect us all, across the many divides. They were 18 states into their journey, when they visited, learned from and shared their story with the Everyday Democracy team in Hartford, Connecticut.

“We were led to take on this journey after the 2016 Presidential election,” said David Leaverton when the issues that were dividing our country became front and center. “We started in Tulsa, Oklahoma expecting to hear about and talk about the political divisions that exist between liberals and conservatives. It was then, that we began to discover a deeper division, more foundational than our political differences that run along racial lines. Injustice and inequality was the key issue that so many people wanted to talk about. Conversations with people across the country have taught us so many things that we weren’t taught in our history books. We got more than we bargained for in these conversations, and that continued as a theme as we moved into Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania before landing in Connecticut.

In almost every community we have visited, when we opened the conversation on what is dividing our nation, unilaterally, people often wanted to talk about racism. They wanted to share stories related to justice and inequality relating to skin color. They wanted to talk about race.”

“The challenge is,” said David Leaverton, “reaching the white moderates like us. White moderates who believe more in order than in justice, as so poignantly put by Martin Luther King in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”

Here is an excerpt:
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Martin Luther King, Letter From a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963
http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/undecided/630416-019.pdf

Erin and David provided many examples of how racism is alive and well in our country, gathered from their listening sessions so far. Erin talked about Mechelle, a pregnant black woman in her early 20s who was ignored and mistreated when she went to the local hospital to deliver her baby. Mechelle lost her baby and almost lost her own life. You can read more about Mechelle and her story here.

You can read many more stories on the Leaverton’s blog:
https://undividednation.us/road-trip/.

In the intimate community conversation in Hartford, Connecticut hosted by Everyday Democracy one person asked, “Why can’t we just all be one race, and get past this? Just take the race and ethnicity question off the census?” David Leaverton responded. “I believe that before we “get past” the racial labels that have divided our population, we first need to acknowledge what has happened historically and what is still going on today.” Only after recognition and a true effort for reconciliation has occurred, can we, as a people, move forward in a way that will transform our culture to one of inclusion and equity for all.

The Leavertons are hoping that through the simple act of listening and sharing stories, that diverse opinions, backgrounds and viewpoints that have kept Americans so deeply divided can give way to cross-cultural understanding, authentic forgiveness, and an unprecedented level of justice and unity in America. They are inspired by the people they are meeting and organizations, like Everyday Democracy, that are working tirelessly to bridge the divides, toward a truly united nation.

Don’t Miss Out on Undivided Nation Confab Call Thurs 6/28

Remember to register for our upcoming June Confab Call featuring Undivided Nation happening this Thursday, June 28th! This free call will be from 2-3pm Eastern/11am-Noon Pacific. Make sure you register today to secure your spot for this exciting call!

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

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

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

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

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

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

Democracy Fund Revamps Their Engaged Journalism Lab

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


Welcome to the Democracy Fund Engaged Journalism Lab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find the original version on the Democracy Fund site at www.democracyfund.org/blog/entry/introducing-the-engaged-journalism-lab.

PBP Announces PBNYC Results and Launches Data Tool

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


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

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

2018 Vote Results

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

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

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

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

myPB – A New PB Data Tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCDD Member with Tips to Expand Your Information Bubble

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


How to Burst Your Information Bubble

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

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

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

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

1. Visit websites that present different takes

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

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

2. Sign up for a well-rounded news digest

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

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

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

Conservative-leaning prestige media:

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

Conservative-leaning new media:

  • Independent Journal Review
  • Heat Street
  • The Daily Caller

Liberal-leaning prestige media:

  • The New Yorker
  • The Nation
  • Mother Jones

Liberal-leaning new media:

  • Salon
  • AlterNet
  • Talking Points Memo

International Perspective:

  • Al Jazeera
  • The Economist
  • Der Spiegel

4. Analyze your social media and browsing settings

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

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

5. Read your local newspaper, including the editorials!

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

6. Be critical

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

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

7. Attend community meetings

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

8. Have a few uncomfortable conversations

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

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

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

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

Announcing NCDD June Confab Call with Undivided Nation!

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

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

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

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

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

About NCDD’s Confab Calls

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

NCDD Member Creates Racial Dialogues White Ally Toolkit

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


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

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

Written by Michael Paul Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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