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/.

NCDD Teams Up for Bridging the Divides Workshop in CO

Several weeks back, I was invited by Colorado Common Cause to give a workshop at their monthly membership meeting in Denver, Colorado, on Bridging the Divide: or How to Have a “Productive” Political Conversation. This was an exciting opportunity to connect with this fantastic organization and share some of the best practices from the NCDD network on how to navigate emotionally-heated conversations.

Huge thank you to all the participants who attended the event and made it an engaging experience! Another big thank you to Caroline Fry from Colorado Common Cause for inviting NCDD to come speak with their members and share some of the tools and wisdom from our network to help better bridge divides.

Caroline kicked off the meeting with a brief intro to Colorado Common Cause –  an org that has been working for over four decades to improve democratic processes by reducing barriers to voting, working to ensure that elections are run fairly, reducing the influence of money in politics, and that our government is being held accountable through more transparent practices.

During the workshop, I shared the transformative work being done in the NCDD network to enable people to connect more authentically with each other, build deeper relationships, and engage in challenging conversations- specifically around heated political issues. I spoke on the importance of humanizing each other and finding common ground by connecting to our shared values; and how this work is possible in even the most painful conflicts (though it is by no means easy). I lifted up examples from our NCDD members of tools that help facilitate having challenging conversations and shared some deliberative processes that hold space for these conversations while contributing toward policy-making.

Finally, I shared a couple of upcoming events with participants, that I encourage you to join in!

  • National Week of Conversation is going on right now until this Saturday, April 28th – join this national movement to improve listening, deepen our connections through conversation, and better heal the divisiveness in our society. Join an event already planned on the National Week of Conversation site here or create your own, maybe using the resources provided on NWOC or right here on the NCDD Resource Center.
  • Our upcoming National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation is being held this November 2-4 in Downtown Denver. Our conferences are an exciting mingling of enthusiasts and practitioners in dialogue, deliberation, and engagement work and we encourage you to learn more here.
    • “Super Early Bird” tickets are now available for a limited time, so make sure you act fast to utilize this great low rate by clicking here.
    • The theme for this year’s conference is “Connecting and Strengthening Civic Innovators”, and our intention is to focus on how we can further uplift dialogue, deliberation, and engagement work; learn more details on the theme here.
    • For folks interested in presenting a session at NCDD2018, the call for proposals is currently open for concurrent sessions – learn more here.

You can watch the full live stream of the workshop in the video below. I’ve also included a link to the resource doc I shared which has the exercises we did, as well as, the resources I referenced – which you can find here.

If you like what you see – NCDD staff would love to come hold a workshop with your group, organization, or event!  We are happy to tailor the workshop to your needs for navigating challenging conversations. I am located in Denver, Managing Director Courtney Breese is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Co-Founder Sandy Heierbacher is in Boston; all of us can travel to our respective surrounding areas to hold workshops. For folks that are located outside of these places, contact us and let’s see if we can coordinate logistics with travel or technology to make a workshop happen for you! Please contact me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org for workshop inquiries. 

About Colorado Common Cause
Colorado Common Cause is a non-profit organization fighting for open, honest and accountable government. We work to strengthen public participation and to ensure that government and the political process serve the public interest, rather than the special interests.

We believe the serious issues that confront our society – problems like lack of affordable health care and quality education, poverty, discrimination, and global warming – will only be solved when government is responsive to the needs and the voices of its citizens, and not to the pressures of special interests. Partnering with groups representing diverse constituencies, we campaign to break down barriers to voting, ensure every vote is counted as cast, reduce the impact of special interest money in the political process, and promote open government and high ethical standards.

Follow on Twitter at @CommonCauseCO
Connect on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ColoradoCommonCause

Unrig the System Summit in NOLA Next Week

If you’re tired of political corruption and looking to improve our democracy, then check out what’s being convened next week! If you hadn’t heard already, Debilyn Molineaux, Co-Founder and Director of the Bridge Alliance – an NCDD member org – will be speaking at the upcoming Unrig the System Summit. The summit is February 2-4 in New Orleans, and is being hosted by BA member, Represent.Us. Convening folks from across the political spectrum, this conference will be an excellent opportunity to network and collaborate on next steps to improving our democratic environment. You can read the announcement in post below or find more information on BA’s site here.


Join us at Unrig The System Summit in NOLA!

We are thrilled to announce that Debilyn Molineaux, our Co-Founder & Director, will be a speaker at the Unrig The System Summit hosted by Bridge Alliance member Represent.Us in New Orleans on February 2-4.

Convening the Brightest Minds from the Right and Left to Fix American Politics…and Party in New Orleans

Unrig The System Summit is no ordinary conference. No endless panels and speeches. It’s fast-paced and fun, with plenty of time to self-organize as you mingle with top advocacy leaders, academics, comedians, musicians, celebrities, activists, philanthropists and journalists. This is about crossing partisan and ideological divides and working together on concrete solutions to unrig America’s political system…. with plenty of New Orleans fun mixed in. The Summit runs from Friday, February 2nd, 1pm through Sunday, February 4th, 2pm CT. Key programming will take place all 3 days, so plan on being in attendance for the entire event.

Click here to register – We hope to see you there!

Program tracks for Advocacy, Policy and One Helluva Good Time 
Shape the future of: Money in Politics, Gerrymandering, Citizens United, Voting Reform, Transparency and more. See the hour-by-hour agenda here, or get the Unrig Summit App to plan your personal agenda.

Advocacy Track Sneak Peek:

  • The Power of Storytelling – Learn the narrative skills that power winning campaigns from the experts who have organized some of the best. From gaining new recruits to getting press coverage, so much of what we do relies on our ability to tell a compelling story about our work and ourselves.
  • Fighting Big Money While Running for Office – If you’re running for office, thinking about running for office, supporting a candidate, or just interested in any of the above, come learn about how candidates can embrace a pro-democracy agenda on the campaign trail. You will learn about how to use the right language, how to raise money, how to run a winning campaign and build the next generation of elected champions who will fight to end the influence of big money.
  • Campaign Design Lab – In this interactive training, you’ll join a team to create a campaign live at the summit. You will be guided through a campaign planning 0simulation, and walk away with the recipe for designing and building groundbreaking new campaigns! After the workshop you may continue by participating in one of several follow-up workshops during the Summit. Build something great and it may even be showcased live from stage on Sunday!

Policy Track Sneak Peek:

  • At Our Whit(ford)’s End With Gerrymandering? – Join the lawyer who argued on behalf of Wisconsin’s voters in the Supreme Court’s recent Gill v. Whitford gerrymandering case and other redistricting experts to find out how the Court might rule, and how to prepare for next steps in each possible scenario. Gill v. Whitford is a potential blockbuster case to decide whether partisan gerrymandering is constitutional — and we expect a decision soon after the Summit.
  • From Russia, with Facebook: Foreign Influence in American Elections – Join leading experts in a discussion on how we can limit the influence of people who are beyond the reach of our laws — and if we should. The 2016 presidential cycle showed how vulnerable our elections are to foreign influence.
  • What to Do About Citizens United? – Hear from the best legal minds in the country about how we can fight Citizens United, super PACs, dark money, and more. What are the most promising avenues for legal reform, and where should we be focusing our efforts? What’s the near- and long-term game?

Entertainment

  • Friday Night Welcome Party – Join us for a night on the town, and meet the movement at one of New Orleans’ most prolific venues: The Howlin’ Wolf, featuring local live music from Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, and Brass-A-Holics. Make sure to arrive on time to catch the open bar happy hour sponsored by Center for Secure and Modern Elections. This mixer is designed to help you meet new allies. Don’t be shy! 
  • Saturday Night Live Performance – Saturday night is the marquee event of the Summit: an inspiring evening of live music, stand-up comedy, and short speeches in a 1,800-seat historic New Orleans theater. The evening will be hosted by Jennifer Lawrence and Adam McKay and will be livestreamed on multiple platforms. Speakers include Represent.Us Director Josh Silver; Professor Richard Painter; comedians Nikki Glaser, and Adam Yenser; astronaut Ron Garan; former State Senator and Our Revolution President Nina Turner and more, with live music from HoneyHoney, and the legendary New Orleans-based Preservation All-Stars. 

Remember to follow the #UnrigTheSystem hashtag on Twitter for more in-the-moment happenings!

You can find the original version of this announcement on Bridge Alliance’s site at www.bridgealliance.us/unrig_the_system_summit.

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.

2017 Civvy Award Winners Announced

We are excited to share NCDD member org, the Bridge Alliance, recently announced the winners for the 2017 Civvy Awards! Congratulations to all the awardees and special shout-out to the fellow NCDD member orgs, New Hampshire Listens and National Institute for Civil Discourse! The American Civic Collaboration Awards (aka the Civvys), co-sponsored with Big Tent Nation, are the first ever national awards that honor individuals and organizations doing work around collective action to improve communities, beyond partisanship and divisive ideology. We invite you to join us in celebrating the winners of the Civvys and learn more about their important work in the post below or find the original on the Bridge Alliance’s blog here.


Announcing The 2017 Civvys Winners!

This last Friday at the National Conference on Citizenship the winners of The 2017 American Civic Collaboration Awards were announced!

New Hampshire Listens is a winner in the regional category for their work facilitating civil conversation in the state of New Hampshire on controversial public challenges. They also train others to facilitate such productive dialogues. Bruce Mallory and Michele Holt-Shannon have developed programs to elevate the state’s problem-solving capabilities, modeling a respectful and inclusive approach that many hope will be replicated nationwide. As the person who nominated them put it, “People feel relieved and respected when Bruce and Michele enter the room.”

Nationally, a partnership between the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, the National Institute for Civil Discourse and the National Foundation for Women Legislators has resulted in a new leadership program designed to deliver insight, inspiration and techniques to legislative leaders working to improve public policy discussion in their states. With NICD’s expertise in training community leaders and legislatures, SLLF’s success in providing state legislators with nonpartisan information and a forum for discussion, and NFWL’s work in empowering leaders, this partnership aims to replace gridlock with progress and criticism with compassion. In the words of their nominator, “since many of our federal leaders begIn their political service in state legislatures, success in this program will eventually improve our federal government.”

In the youth category, the Student Public Interest Research Groups from several college campuses were nominated for their work supporting voter education, voter registration and creating safe spaces for dialogue between students with diverse perspectives. Student PIRGs promote learning and understanding about a host of current issues, while providing a forum for students to become politically active and effective. As one elected official put it, “the work PIRGs do is vitally important in a democracy and serves as such a great role model as a set of engaged citizens so necessary to building effective public policy.”

Thank you to all those who submitted nominations and helped take part in recognizing organizations doing great collaborative work. A special thanks to our judges Peter Levine, Betsy Wright Hawkins and David Sawyer as well as our co-sponsor Big Tent Nation.

Here is to another year of innovation and collaboration!

You can find the original version of this on the Bridge Alliance’s blog at www.bridgealliance.us/blog.

Don’t Miss the Sept. 20th Nevins Fellowship Confab Call

As we announced last month, NCDD is hosting a special Confab Call with the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and Healthy Democracy next Wednesday, September 20th from 1-2pm Eastern / 10-11am Pacific. The call is the best place to learn more about this incredible opportunity to have a D&D trained student come work with your organization at no-cost, so we strongly encourage the NCDD network to register today!

Confab bubble image

During the call, NCDD Member and McCourtney’s Managing Director Christopher Beem will provide an overview of the Nevins Democracy Leaders Program and its aims, discuss the training that the future fellows are going through, and share more about how your organization can take advantage of this great chance to help cultivate the next generation of D&D leaders while getting more support for your work – all for FREE! We’ll also be joined by NCDD Member Robin Teater of Healthy Democracy, who will share her experiences hosting a fellow this summer.

NCDD is proud to have partnered the last couple years with the McCourtney Institute to help identify organizations in the field that can host Nevins fellows, and we’re continuing the exciting partnership this year. You can get a better sense of what the program experience is like by checking out this blog post from a 2017 Nevins Fellow about their summer fellowship with NCDD Sponsoring Member The Jefferson Center.

This is a rare and competitive opportunity for leading organizations in our field, and this Confab Call will be one of the best ways to find out more about how your group can take advantage of this program, so make sure to register today to save your spot on the call! We look forward to talking with you more then!

Using Thick and Thin Engagement to Improve Politics

The NCDD network specializes in structures and processes for better civic engagement, which is why we wanted to share an insightful piece written by Matt Leighninger from Public Agenda, an NCDD member org. In the article, he gives concrete ways to improve politics from the ground up, by strengthening networks using both thin and thick ways of engagement. We encourage you to read Leighninger’s article below or find the original on Public Agenda’s blog here.


Fixing Politics by Strengthening Networks for Engagement

As David Brooks pointed out in his column on “How to Fix Politics,” our political system has reached a perilous state of dysfunction and distrust, and it is unlikely that any solutions to this crisis will come from the political parties or their presidential candidates.

Brooks is also right that the partisanship and incivility that plague our politics are not just due to poor manners or bad process skills. They are based in much deeper structural flaws in how leaders and communities engage each other around important issues and resulting strains in the relationship between citizens and government.

Brooks argues that strong community networks are essential for successful politics, and uses a 1981 quote from one of our founders, Daniel Yankelovich, to illustrate how long the weakening of those networks has been going on. “If we’re going to salvage our politics,” Brooks says, we’ll have to “nurture the thick local membership web that politics rests within.”

This kind of argument is often dismissed as a sentimental notion, or a lament over our lack of civic virtue, but it shouldn’t be. There are specific proposals and measures that can accomplish it.

Strengthening networks for engagement should be one of our top public priorities, and there are in fact a number of concrete ways to move forward on it. Much of our work at Public Agenda centers on these challenges, and we are part of a field of other organizations and leaders – from neighborhood organizers to innovative public officials – who have pioneered more productive formats and structures for democratic politics.

There are two kinds of communication that need to be happening for those networks to strengthen and grow. One kind, as Brooks references, is “thick” engagement that is intensive, informed and deliberative. In these kinds of settings, people are able to share their experiences, learn more about public problems, consider a range of solutions or policy options and decide how they want to act.

Other tactics produce “thin” engagement, which is faster, easier and potentially viral. It encompasses a range of activities that allow people to express their opinions, learn about other people’s views and affiliate themselves with a particular group or cause.

When thick and thin engagement activities are common and interwoven in community life, they can:

  • Facilitate faster, more far-reaching dissemination of information from governments, school systems and other public bodies.
  • Allow citizens to provide information back to the institutions, in ways that are convenient for people.
  • Foster discussion and connection, and the strengthening of personal relationships, among different groups of citizens, and among citizens, public officials and public employees.
  • Provide choices for people to make at the level of the family and neighborhood;
  • Create deliberative processes in which people can make informed public policy choices;
  • Encourage and support citizens to contribute their energy, ideas and volunteer time to improving their communities.

By understanding what thick and thin engagement look like, and what they can accomplish, communities can assess and improve their systems of engagement, or “civic infrastructure,” defined as “the laws, processes, institutions, and associations that support regular opportunities for people to connect with each other, solve problems, make decisions and celebrate community.”

Stronger civic infrastructure could include more productive and participatory public meetings, revitalized neighborhood and school associations, and vibrant local online forums. Overall, it should establish a better “ground floor of democracy” that fosters new leaders, creates social connections and helps people work together on common concerns like ensuring public safety and improving the quality of education for our young people.

The structural elements that support these activities can include:

  • new laws and ordinances on public engagement;
  • tools for engaging residents for neighborhoods and schools;
  • annual participatory budgeting processes;
  • public engagement commissions;
  • tools for measuring engagement and the strength of networks;
  • citizen advisory boards that engage rather than just trying to represent residents; and
  • protocols, job descriptions and professional development that help public employees understand how to support productive engagement.

While some of these elements are clearly the province of governments and school systems, many other components are ones that should be supported by neighborhood groups, nonprofits, businesses, faith communities, universities, foundations and other stakeholders.

David Brooks is right that strengthening the web of community networks can help fix politics, at every level of government. There are practical ways to do this – this is a matter for policy, law, cross-sector collaboration, and long-term planning. We should be proactive, and think constructively, about how we want our democracy to work.

You can find the original version of this article on Public Agenda’s blog at www.publicagenda.org/blogs/fixing-politics-by-strengthening-networks-for-engagement.

Rich Discussion on NCDD Listserv about Charlottesville

We’ve been having a rich, active conversation on the main NCDD Discussion list since the tragedy in Charlottesville took place a few weeks ago.  One of our members, Lucas Cioffi, a resident of Charlottesville, queried listserve subscribers about what next steps might be possible for the city, and the conversation expanded and deepened from there.

Archives of the NCDD Discussion list (going all the way back to 2006!) are available online, and we encourage you to check them out and subscribe to the list to be part of future such discussions.

One message I wanted to lift up in particular was sent in by Joseph McIntyre, Principle Facilitator of Ag Innovations and Founding Member of the Academy for Systemic Change. In it, he uses a disaster metaphor to outline four steps communities can take to heal from traumatic events, and how dialogue and deliberation fit into those steps.

Dear Lucas and my Fellow NCDD’rs—

One of the things I love about NCDD is how we as a community can rally to offer friendship and experience at key moments like this. Already some wonderful suggestions have come forward.

It might be helpful to use a disaster metaphor when thinking about how a community responds and heals from a traumatic event such as what happened in Charlottesville. In that metaphor—

1) Step one: triage. This is about providing support and succor to those most impacted by the events. The families of those who lost their lives, people close to the front line of the violence, anyone who feels emotionally scarred from the experience. The goal of triage is individual healing. Since we work in communal space, the focus of our offerings are about honoring the experiences of those who are impacted. We construct venues where we can listen to each other deeply, experience the pain of the moment, and begin to put ourselves back together. This is definitely not about finding solutions and it is not a moment to do conflict resolution, mediation, or bringing opposing views together.

2) Step two: understanding. This is about developing a much more sophisticated understanding of the events—what drives extremists, what drives counter-protests. What the context is. This is what Scharmer et al describe as descending the U. There are a number of methods to do this and I think each of us uses those methods we are most comfortable with. What matters more is our intention. Here the intention is clearly on understanding what happened from a systems, historical, social, political, racial (and on…) perspective. Here we construct venues where the community can think together…

3) Step three: bridging. This is about exploring where there may be opportunities to build bridges between those willing to see from the whole. One of the most painful lessons I have learned as a facilitator is that one can find middle ground only between those willing to move from their entrenched positions. The challenge of our time is that we are being encouraged to dig in and not move. This renders many of our best tools impotent because they are premised on an inherent drive to wholeness. Some of the best work in the world around building these bridges, particularly when the parties have a history of violence and animosity is from Adam Kahane—his latest book Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust is very helpful. Still we can do bridging and here we construct venues where the community can aspire together.

4) Step four: building. This is about making decisions together about how we want to act and be together. It is the last step (although we all too often want to skip ahead and make it the first). It comes after we have healed, have created shared understanding, attempted to build bridges, and is entirely about tapping community wisdom and values. The venues we construct here are about the future we are trying to create. This is Future Search, vision quests, wisdom circles, and deep dialogue.

I am of the belief that we have a historic opportunity to put hate back in its proper box. Democracy can not run on hate. Dialogue can not run on hate. But again as Adam Kahane writes in Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change, we have to create venues where we as a community can learn to balance the impulse to love and to power. Neither alone is sufficient.

 

Transpartisan Review Issue #2 Now Available

I’m excited to announce the latest issue of a project produced by a handful of members and friends of NCDD – The Transpartisan Review #2. Originally introduced to the NCDD community last fall at our NCDD 2016 conferenceThe Transpartisan Review is a new digital journal dedicated to sharing thoughts and insights from the growing transpartisan community.

In our second issue, The Transpartisan Review takes an introspective look at the state of politics in the US and examines the potential transpartisan engagement has in finding solutions for this troubled time. Executive editors Lawrence Chickering and James Turner explore the effect the transpartisan impulse has on political engagement, taking a comprehensive look at the current political climate in the United States through the lens of their “Transpartisan Matrix”.

This issue of The Transpartisan Review also includes several articles on a variety of topics, including contributions from distinguished NCDD members Pete Peterson & Michael Briand (who also served as managing editor), and shares an account of a Living Room Conversation focused on transpartisan issues. Not only are they effective conversation starters, but these features represent the continuation of a dialogue the editors of the journal are encouraging with and between its readership.

You can read the entire issue online or download it for free at the journal’s website, www.transpartisanreview.com, and while you’re there, we invite you to read Chickering and Turner’s Transpartisan Notes, a series of short-form articles on current issues written with a transpartisan perspective.

You can look forward to more critical contributions to the work of bridging our nation’s divides in future issues of The Transpartisan Review and from this great team of NCDDers and transpartisan leaders in the coming months.

NCDD Sponsor Shares Nevins Fellow Experience

NCDD has been part of the ongoing effort by Penn State’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy, to connect students from their Nevins Democracy Leaders Program to internships with individuals and organizations in the D&D, public engagement field. Which is why we are excited to share this blog piece from NCDD sponsor org The Jefferson Center about their recent intern’s experience working on the Minnesota Community Assembly Project. The Nevins Democracy Leaders Program is an incredible opportunity to host a D&D-trained student at no cost for two months during the summer.  You can learn more about the Nevins Democracy Leaders Program by checking out our earlier write-ups on the blog here and by listening to the Confab Call recording here.

We encourage you to read the Jefferson Center blog post below and you can find the original version on their site here.


The Minnesota Community Assemblies: Red Wing

This June and July the Jefferson Center hosted a Penn State student, Emma Rohan, made possible by Penn State’s Nevins Fellows program. Emma’s academic work focuses on education policy, and she came to us with experience in the field of deliberative democracy. While she was here, we were grateful for Emma’s support in the first of three Minnesota Community Assemblies — Red Wing. Below is Emma’s reflection on the experience.

It’s been an exciting and engaging start to the Minnesota Community Assembly Project (MNCAP)! This project, part of our Democratic Innovation Program, began in Red Wing over the course of three weekends. On Friday, June 9, participants gathered in the Red Wing Ignite event room, brimming with expectation and more than a little caffeine.

Eight full days of deliberation is a lot of work and commitment, but the thirty-six Red Wing citizens were in it for the long haul. Before they got down to business, participants had the chance to introduce themselves to their neighbors by sharing what they are sacrificing in order to be present at the Citizens Assembly. Taking care of children, enjoying free weekends with family, and going to work are just a few of the activities that participants agreed to forgo for this eight-day project, acknowledging that engaging in citizen-led democracy sometimes involves personal sacrifice.

These participants, randomly selected to reflect the demographics of their community, set out to learn about local government, discuss strengths and areas for improvement, identify the values underpinning good local government, and explore and recommend opportunities to ensure their local government reflects these values.

Participants learned about local government structures from experts around the globe – from Minnesota to Australia. Each equipped with a tablet, participants could vote on their preferred alternatives while visual representations of the results revealed themselves on the big screen. Bonds were forged as citizens helped each other navigate the digital voting system on their tablets.

During the second weekend, June 23-25, two guests joined the assembly in Red Wing to observe, though neither were new to the process. In the case of Ned Crosby, the founder of the Jefferson Center, this was an opportunity to see old processes in a new setting. As the creator of the Citizens Jury process in the United States, Dr. Crosby took the backseat this time, taking note of participation dynamics and exchanging ideas with our other guest observer, Neall Ireland.

A participant in a Canadian province-wide Citizens Assembly in British Columbia in 2004, Neil was captivated by the experience and makes it a habit to seek out opportunities to watch other assemblies in action around the globe: “I really enjoyed observing the Citizen’s Jury; found it particularly interesting to see how there is a common theme for in this type of process for the participants. It is my thought when educated to the issues and empowered, citizen participation truly is the most effective method of engagement and means to making impactful decisions for a constituency. I admire each of the individuals who have come forward to donate their time and contribute to their communities in a meaningful way. I am certain that each of the three communities engaged in the this process will move forward from it in a positive way and be a great example for other communities in the future.”

As the process moved along, time revealed that even cohesive and unified communities carry underlying tension. Discussions on participation responsibilities and representation in local government sparked contention, and the facilitated conversation unearthed divergent expectations and assumptions between community members. With careful attention paid to group dynamics and how a deliberation space may advantage some and silence others, it was refreshing to notice participants sort out their disagreements themselves over a snack break.

Citizens Juries aimed at the prospect of equipping people to evaluate the structure of their local governments and the platform to recommend changes is an undertaking which requires special consideration toward the role of the facilitator. As outsiders in a tight-knit community, the Jefferson Center team realizes the value of presentation of unbiased materials, giving participants space to share and respond to each other, and knowing when to step in to move the conversation along. Even so, navigating uncharted territory comes with miscalculations and oversights. End-of-the-day surveys gave participants the opportunity to share their feedback on the content and process of the event from a facilitation standpoint, and changes were incorporated in order to steer the group in the right direction.

The final weekend in Red Wing presented some of the largest challenges yet, while simultaneously inspiring some of the greatest displays of individual hard work and collective responsibility. With the deadline for the final recommendation by the Community Assembly fast approaching, participants worked together to craft their final recommendations and supporting statements, the report representing the culmination of their work together. Decisions about the presentation of the report were far from unanimous, and even after eight-hour days of deliberation, citizens in Red Wing stayed overtime to continue the discussion.

The Red Wing Community Assembly’s vision statement highlights some of the qualities of local government participants agreed were indispensable: “Our community needs a clear strategic vision, with leadership committed to working toward that vision. We’d like to see broad community participation, engagement, and communication – all aspects of transparency – to ensure community members are informed and engaged in developing and implementing our strategic vision and holding leadership accountable.” To accomplish this vision, the assembly advocated for a few alternatives to the status quo, such as ranked-choice voting, stronger financial disclosure requirements , better public meetings, and digital public engagement. It is important to note that support for these recommendations was not unanimous, and citizens had the opportunity to express their personal dissent or further recommendations by submitting a personal statement attached to the final report. See the final report in its entirety here.

By the end of our time in Red Wing, we couldn’t help but notice a renewed sense of ownership and personal stake in many of the citizens toward the governance of their communities. Several people shared new commitments they have undertaken since the Community Assembly got underway: people described their conversations with family and friends about the work they’ve done, several participants mentioned applying for local boards and commissions for the first time, and one participant even wrote a Letter to the Editor in the local newspaper. Regardless of the outcome, the value of forging these types of relationships between communities and their local governments cannot be overstated.

We are enthusiastic about the ways Red Wing will carry on this work beyond the formal process of the Community Assembly and into the community as a whole. One down, with Willmar and Brooklyn Park on deck!

You can find the original version of the Jefferson Center blog post at www.jefferson-center.org/red-wing-summary/.