Join us! Giving Tuesday Donations Matched Today and December Confab This Thursday

Friendly reminder about our December Confab Call this coming Thursday, December 5th from noon-1:30 pm Eastern/9 am-10:30 am Pacific. The call will be an opportunity for participants to learn about several resources for talking about guns and violence. We encourage you to join this free call and register today to secure your spot.

Before we go further and in case you missed our post yesterday, today is Giving Tuesday! If you appreciate our Confabs and Tech Tuesdays, conferences and the work we do to build up this vibrant network and the field of dialogue and deliberation – then we would love your support. Today there is a special offer, for folks who donate via our Facebook page, your donations will be matched! If you would prefer to not use social media, you are welcome to donate directly to NCDD right here. We know there are a lot of incredible organizations out there to support today and whether it is $5 or $50; we appreciate any contributions you can provide! Finally, on this note, we encourage folks who are not already NCDD members to check out the member benefits and join the Coalition!

So back to this Confab coming up… it has become an increasing norm in our society to experience mass shootings and this last summer our communities and nations grappled with another wave of violence. As often happens in these moments, people want a space to process what’s happened, and/or talk about what to do to prevent future tragedy. On Thursday, we’ll be featuring three organizations in the NCDD network and the resources they have developed for talking about this topic, learn more below.

National Issues Forums has developed materials several times on the topic. The most recent is their Issue Advisory, How Should We Prevent Mass Shootings in Our Communities?  From the advisory: “Overall, the United States has become safer in recent years. Yet mass shooters target innocent people indiscriminately, often in places where people should feel safe—movie theaters, shopping centers, schools. Many believe these attacks are nothing short of terrorism. How can we stop mass shootings and ensure that people feel safe in their homes and communities?” The issue advisory outlines three potential options for addressing this issue and encourages the public to deliberate on these and potentially other options.

Living Room Conversations‘ Conversation Guide on Guns and Responsibility seeks to help people come together across political or ideological differences to discuss this challenging topic. From the guide: “This conversation focuses on our own personal experience with guns and how these experiences have shaped our opinions. This conversation seeks to help us develop a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges surrounding gun ownership.” The guide offers a format for talking about guns in a way that helps community members hear one another’s experiences and how those impact their views about guns.

Essential Partners, the global leader in building trust and understanding across divisive differences, has led both regional and national projects around the role of guns in American life​ for over five years​. In 2018, EP convened participants from across the United States for a two-day training in dialogue design and community building, followed by an experiment in digital peer dialogue facilitation. A partnership with TIME Magazine, Spaceship Media, and Advance Local, the in-person event took place in Washington, DC, during the March for Our Lives. Watch the TIME Magazine video, read the media coverage, ​view resources, ​and find out more about Essential Partners’ approach to this issue on their website.

On this call, we’ll be joined by presenters from each of these three organizations, who will share with us the resources and how they can be used to discuss the challenging topic of guns. Join us to hear more and have your questions answered about how to convene a conversation in your community.

This free call will take place on Thursday, December 5th from noon-1:30 pm Eastern, 9 am-10:30 am PacificRegister today so you don’t miss out on this event!

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About NCDD’s Confab Calls

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

Announcing NCDD’s December Confab: Resources for Talking about Guns & Violence

We are excited announce the December Confab Call, which offers participants the chance to learn about several resources for talking about guns and violence. This free call takes place Thursday, December 5th from noon-1:30 pm Eastern/9 am-10:30 am Pacific. Register today to secure your spot.

This summer had our communities and nation again on edge after multiple mass shootings. As often happens in these moments, people want a space to process what’s happened, and/or talk about what to do to prevent future tragedy. We’ll be featuring three organizations in the NCDD network and the resources they have developed for talking about this topic:

National Issues Forums has developed materials several times on the topic. The most recent is their Issue Advisory, How Should We Prevent Mass Shootings in Our Communities?  From the advisory: “Overall, the United States has become safer in recent years. Yet mass shooters target innocent people indiscriminately, often in places where people should feel safe—movie theaters, shopping centers, schools. Many believe these attacks are nothing short of terrorism. How can we stop mass shootings and ensure that people feel safe in their homes and communities?” The issue advisory outlines three potential options for addressing this issue and encourages the public to deliberate on these and potentially other options.

Living Room Conversations‘ Conversation Guide on Guns and Responsibility seeks to help people come together across political or ideological differences to discuss this challenging topic. From the guide: “This conversation focuses on our own personal experience with guns and how these experiences have shaped our opinions. This conversation seeks to help us develop a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges surrounding gun ownership.” The guide offers a format for talking about guns in a way that helps community members hear one another’s experiences and how those impact their views about guns.

Essential Partners, the global leader in building trust and understanding across divisive differences, has led both regional and national projects around the role of guns in American life​ for over five years​. In 2018, EP convened participants from across the United States for a two-day training in dialogue design and community building, followed by an experiment in digital peer dialogue facilitation. A partnership with TIME Magazine, Spaceship Media, and Advance Local, the in-person event took place in Washington, DC, during the March for Our Lives. Watch the TIME Magazine video, read the media coverage, ​view resources, ​and find out more about Essential Partners’ approach to this issue on their website.

On this call, we’ll be joined by presenters from each of these three organizations, who will share with us the resources and how they can be used to discuss the challenging topic of guns. Join us to hear more and have your questions answered about how to convene a conversation in your community.

This free call will take place on Thursday, December 5th from noon-1:30 pm Eastern, 9 am-10:30 am PacificRegister today so you don’t miss out on this event!

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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!

Join Confab TODAY Feat Purple Project for Democracy

Join us in just a few hours for our September Confab call featuring the new initiative about to launch called Purple Project for Democracy. Purple is a non-partisan coalition, campaign and movement to rediscover and recommit to democratic values and institutions.  The folks behind the project are building momentum for their November launch, and on this Confab we’ll learn more about how dialogue and deliberation can play a role in it.

This free call will be today, September 30th from 1-2 pm Eastern, 10-11 am PacificRegister today so you don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity!

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Purple is aiming to help people recommit to democratic values, but also to stimulate civic engagement. This is where the dialogue and deliberation field might be able to help most!

It begins this November with a media and education campaign that will “illuminate and dramatize the many glories of American democracy.” Participants in this campaign will include media outlets, schools, libraries, and other organizations committed to sharing the message of the importance of democracy and our participation in it. Their vision is to gain visibility and build a movement for civic participation and democracy across differences, that then leads to increased action, including volunteering, voting, serving, and participating in civic life.

During the month of November, Purple hopes to have local conversations which can help to stimulate the national effort. The hope of the organizers is that members of NCDD will participate in this effort by hosting conversations in their communities. To learn more about this aspect of the project, please take a look at this document from Purple.

On the call, we will be joined by Bob Garfield, one of the key organizers for this movement. Bob is co-host of public radio’s On the Media. He is also the founding co-host of Slate’s podcast on language, Lexicon Valley, and Amazon Channels’ The Genius Dialogues. Bob will share with us the vision for Purple, and discuss opportunities for the dialogue and deliberation field to contribute to the November campaign and the next phases following this launch.

Please be sure to check out the Purple Project for Democracy website, and bring your questions and ideas for how dialogue & deliberation can contribute to this effort. Make sure you register ASAP  to secure your spot!

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 ASAP if you’d like to join us!

Join September Confab about Purple Project for Democracy

We are excited to announce our September Confab Call, featuring a new initiative that is preparing for  November launch – Purple Project for Democracy. Purple is a non-partisan coalition, campaign and movement to rediscover and recommit to democratic values and institutions.  The folks behind the project are building momentum for their November launch, and on this Confab we’ll learn more about how dialogue and deliberation can play a role in it.

This free call will be on Monday, September 30th from 1-2 pm Eastern, 10- 11 am Pacific. Register today so you don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity!

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Purple is aiming to help people recommit to democratic values, but also to stimulate civic engagement. This is where the dialogue and deliberation field might be able to help most!

It begins this November with a media and education campaign that will “illuminate and dramatize the many glories of American democracy.” Participants in this campaign will include media outlets, schools, libraries, and other organizations committed to sharing the message of the importance of democracy and our participation in it. Their vision is to gain visibility and build a movement for civic participation and democracy across differences, that then leads to increased action, including volunteering, voting, serving, and participating in civic life.

During the month of November, Purple hopes to have local conversations which can help to stimulate the national effort. The hope of the organizers is that members of NCDD will participate in this effort by hosting conversations in their communities. To learn more about this aspect of the project, please take a look at this document from Purple.

On the call, we will be joined by Bob Garfield, one of the key organizers for this movement. Bob is co-host of public radio’s On the Media. He is also the founding co-host of Slate’s podcast on language, Lexicon Valley, and Amazon Channels’ The Genius Dialogues. Bob will share with us the vision for Purple, and discuss opportunities for the dialogue and deliberation field to contribute to the November campaign and the next phases following this launch.

Please be sure to check out the Purple Project for Democracy website, and bring your questions and ideas for how dialogue & deliberation can contribute to this effort. Make sure you register today to secure your spot!

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!

Listen to Confab Recording on Using Slack for Democratic Movement Building

We had a wonderfully engaging call last Thursday to learn more about the capabilities of using the collaborative platform, Slack, to further connect the D&D field and growing Democracy Movement. The call was co-hosted with our friends at the Bridge Alliance who discussed a new effort launched recently on the platform called the Democracy Movement Slack Forum and gave us a preview of the new space. If you weren’t able to join the call, we encourage you to listen to it now!

We were joined by Walt Roberts who gave the 45 participants on the call a quick tour of Slack and how the platform streamlines communication by bringing text, email, and direct messaging altogether. The way the platform is designed lends itself well to the growing Democracy Movement Slack Forum (DMFS), in how it offers space for participants to self-organize and create action together. Walt shared with us how this space was developed; growing from the Unrig the Summit 2018 conference and catalyzed by the desire to fix our broken and rigged political system. He discussed the evolution of the working title, the Democracy Movement, and how it is really a movement of many movements, across the spectrum of ideologies.

Phase two is currently in progress, in which the organizers of the Slack space are looking to bring in those groups and leaders who are doing Democracy building work. It’s meant to be a collaborative space for people to work together in nonpartisan ways and co-develop this growing Democracy Movement. If you are interested in participating in the DMFS, please reach out to keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org for the information on how to join! We’ve set up a channel on the DMFS called #group_ncdd_forum that we encourage you to join if you’re already onboard the Slack space!

Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the Confab call:

  • Slack brings an “open space” like way of self-organizing conversations and helps bring order to the chaos of multiple streams, threads, and branches of conversation.
  • The Democracy Movement is a broad term that encompasses all efforts to get our country back on track and spans the ideological spectrum.
  • The Democracy Movement Slack Forum is a collaborative work, conversation, & community space for those who seek to work together in nonpartisan ways to co-develop a big democracy movement, reduce silos & build a shared infrastructure.

We had an engaging conversation in the chat discussion and you can view saved the transcript of  it here. We recorded the whole presentation in case you weren’t able to join us, which you can access by clicking here. While access to the Confab recordings is usually a benefit of being an NCDD member, we have made an exception with this one in order for more folks to join the DMSF and co-create this movement. If you like what you experience, we’d love for you to join as an NCDD member (if you haven’t already!) and learn more about the sweet benefits of being part of the NCDD Coalition here!

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We want to thank Walt, Jeremy and the Bridge Alliance team, for making this call happen! And an equally large thank you to all the Confab participants for contributing to this 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!

See you on Slack!

Don’t Miss Confab Call on Using Slack for D&D Movement Building

Friendly reminder about our upcoming Confab Call happening this Thursday with our friends at the Bridge Alliance to explore the use of the collaboration tool, Slack! We learn more about the development of the Bridge Alliance’s new joint project, the Democracy Movement Slack Forum, and discuss some best practices of the platform for movement building around civic action.

This free call will be on Thursday, June 6th from 2-3 pm Eastern, 11 am-12 pm PacificRegister today so you don’t miss out on this engaging call!reg-button-2

Slack is a collaboration platform that streamlines communication amongst members by consolidating text, email, group and instant messaging into one app. For the last few years, the platform has quickly grown in popularity as a great tool for connecting individuals and driving action.

For this Confab, we hope to explore how can Slack be used to further reduce silos amongst people doing dialogue and deliberation work and better cultivate connections to facilitate change. Our hope is that all of us who drive civic change can learn from other’s experiences with the platform to help our collective efforts thrive.

We will be joined by the Bridge Alliance and their partners, who will share more about the new Democracy Movement Slack being developed and how the experience has been so far. We’ll also ask others on the call to share their experiences or questions. The Confab will be an opportunity for those on the call who are also Bridge Alliance members to learn more about how to join the Slack group.

We’d love for folks who have used Slack or are still currently using it to join the call and share their experience. What are some of the benefits of using it and are there any challenges? This conversation will offer insight for a new effort underway on Slack by the Bridge Alliance, called the Democracy Movement Slack Forum; a co-creation with the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers, RepresentUS, and Unite America. This new project is in its developing stages now and is intended to be a transpartisan space for those in the Democracy Movement to communicate and collaborate.

Make sure you register today to secure your spot!

About Our Confab Co-Hosts 

Bridge Alliance is a coalition of over 90 organizations dedicated to rejuvenating America. With each organization focusing on a different sector of the movement, our members represent a combined three million supporters in the burgeoning field of civic reform and civil discourse.

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!

June Confab on Using Slack for D&D Movement Building

We are excited to co-host another Confab Call at the beginning of June, this time with our friends at the Bridge Alliance to explore the use of the collaboration tool, Slack. We will discuss the capabilities of the platform for movement building around civic action and learn more about the development of Bridge Alliance’s new joint project, the Democracy Movement Slack Forum.

This free call will be on Thursday, June 6th from 2-3 pm Eastern, 11 am-12 pm Pacific. Register today so you don’t miss out on this engaging call!

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Slack is a collaboration platform that streamlines communication amongst members by consolidating text, email, group and instant messaging into one app. For the last few years, the platform has quickly grown in popularity as a great tool for connecting individuals and driving action. For this Confab, we hope to explore how can Slack be used to further reduce silos amongst people doing dialogue and deliberation work and better cultivate connections to facilitate change. Our hope is that all of us who drive civic change can learn from other’s experiences with the platform to help our collective efforts thrive.

We’d love for folks who have used Slack or are still currently using it to join the call and share their experience. What are some of the benefits of using it and are there any challenges? This conversation will offer insight for a new effort underway on Slack by the Bridge Alliance, called the Democracy Movement Slack Forum; a co-creation with the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers, RepresentUS, and Unite America. This new project is in its developing stages now and is intended to be a transpartisan space for those in the Democracy Movement to communicate and collaborate.

We will be joined by the Bridge Alliance and their partners, who will share more about the new Democracy Movement Slack being developed and how the experience has been so far. We’ll also ask others on the call to share their experiences or questions. The Confab will be an opportunity for those on the call who are also Bridge Alliance members to learn more about how to join the Slack group.

Make sure you register today to secure your spot!

About Our Confab Co-Hosts 

Bridge Alliance is a coalition of over 90 organizations dedicated to rejuvenating America. With each organization focusing on a different sector of the movement, our members represent a combined three million supporters in the burgeoning field of civic reform and civil discourse.

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!

New Website Launches Called weDialogue – Test it Now!

The new website, weDialogue, recently launched and the creators are currently looking for folks to experiment with the site and provide feedback. weDialogue is a participatory, citizen-driven platform designed to facilitate better online news commentary and be a space for improved online discussions. The creators are testing between two platforms right now, so check out the site ASAP to join this exploratory phase! You can read about the website in the post below and find the original website here.


weDialogue – A Space for Real Debate

What is weDialogue?
weDialogue is a global experiment to test new solutions for commenting on news online. The objective of weDialogue is to promote humility in public discourse and prevent digital harassment and trolling.

What am I expected to do?
The task is simple. You are asked to fill out a survey, then wait until the experiment begins. You will then be given a login for your platform. There you will be able to read and comment on news as if it was a normal online newspaper or blog. We would like people to comment as much as possible, but you are free to contribute as much as you want. At the end of the experiment we would be very grateful if you could fill in a final survey and provide us with feedback on the overall experience.

Why is important to test new platforms for news comments?
We know the problems of harassment and trolling (see our video), but the solution is not obvious. Developers have proposed new platforms, but these have not been tested rigorously. weDialogue is a participatory action research project that aims to combine academic expertise and citizens’ knowledge and experience to test potential solutions.

How much does weDialogue cost? Who is financing weDialogue?
weDialogue is funded by Humility and Conviction in Public Life, a project of the University of Connecticut, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. The grant is for USD 250,000. The real cost of weDialogue is significantly higher. Most members of the project team are volunteering a significant amount of time because they believe the objectives of the project are so important.

Do you have a political agenda? Is weDialogue a conservative or liberal project? Are you linked to a political organization?
weDialogue is not linked to any political organization. It is a non-partisan research project led by university researchers. Our political agenda is to improve online discussions so that they become more civil, safe and meaningful.

What are you going to do with the research?
All our research and data will be publicly available so that others can build upon it. Both the Deliberatorium and Pol.is are free software that can be reused. The data we will create and the resulting publications will be released in an open access environment.

Who is weDialogue?
weDialogue is an action research project led by a team of academics at the University of Westminster (UK) and the University of Connecticut (USA).  For more information about the academic project see our academic project website.

Timeline

weDialogue is divided into 3 phases:

Phase 1: Enrollment
In this phase you will be asked to fill out a survey and provide your email. Based on the survey data, we will create similar groups of participants to take part in the experiment. We aim to start the enrollment in the third week of November 2018.

Phase 2: Experiment
In this phase your group will be assigned to an online platform where you can comment on news items. You will receive an anonymous login and a password to access the platform. Groups will use different commenting platforms so that we can compare their impact on the discussion. We designed the experiment to last 3 weeks.

Phase 3: Exit survey and debriefing
At the end of the experiment, we will ask you to complete a final survey. We will then open all the discussion groups of weDialogue so that you can explore and compare the different platforms. You will have an opportunity to provide open feedback on the experience. We designed the debriefing to last 2 weeks.

You can check out the original weDialogue website at www.wedialogue.world/.

Democracy Fund Revamps electiononline Website

If you are looking for unbiased news and information on US elections, then check out the newly revamped electionline website! The Democracy Fund – a sponsor of NCDD2018, recently redeveloped the platform, which is a resource for our nation’s elections and offers tools and best practices for improving the voter experience. The site has daily news, an elections calendar, training resources, jobs marketplace – and is a great space for civic organizations, elected officials, or anyone interested in learning more about US elections. You can read the announcement below and find the original version here.


Democracy Fund Relaunches electionline

Today we are pleased to unveil a new and improved electionline — America’s only politics-free source for election administration news and information.

In January 2018, we announced that electionline had become a project of Democracy Fund’s Elections program. We felt then, as we do now, that it is a vital platform for finding trusted news and information about the people and processes that guide our nation’s elections, and for sharing tools, best practices, and innovative ideas for improving the voting experience. Our simple goals for redeveloping the site were to enhance its capabilities and expand content — but our long-term plans are to create a place where readers are exposed to new ideas, opportunities for continuing education, and relationship building.

To do this, we started by thinking long and hard about the site’s current audience and their needs. Starting today, election administrators, academics, voting advocates and other regular readers of electionline will find new items of interest on the site, including:

  • A calendar of national, state and other field-relevant events;
  • A directory of organizations and their areas of expertise;
  • Reports, trainings, tools, guides, and other materials;
  • A marketplace featuring job openings in the elections field and information on used election equipment for sale; and
  • Better search functionality throughout

Electionline remains the only place on the internet to find state-by-state curation of daily election administration news. In addition to publishing the classic electionline Weekly newsletter, we will also begin sharing original reports and exclusive content from leaders and experts in the field — making the site a must-read for local election officials, civic organizations, and journalists who cover elections.

While redeveloping the site, we learned two really insightful lessons that might be helpful for others who are developing virtual spaces for information sharing and engagement.

First, collaborate with your audiences and include some “outsider” perspective. As our team weighed important decisions about the look and feel of the website, we were grateful to receive insight and direction from many readers who already trust and rely on electionline.

Second, reflect your values. Redeveloping or creating a new platform is an opportunity to reinforce essential characteristics that inform readers who your organization is, and what they care about. For us it meant focusing on authenticity (even if it means publishing unflattering stories about ourselves or our partners); transparency about who we support with resources in the field; and cultivating greater interest for under-covered areas of importance like voting trends for overlooked communities.

Through this process, we hope we were able to successfully incorporate the feedback we heard from current readers. We also hope that the new electionline website more deeply resonates with all those who are interested in elections in America. We’re excited to hear your thoughts and reactions as you explore the new website. Please visit www.electionline.org and let us know what you think!

You can find the original version of this announcement on the Democracy Fund site at www.democracyfund.org/blog/entry/democracy-fund-relaunches-electionline.

Our Responsibility to Safeguard Our Democracy

NCDD member org, the Bridge Alliance, recently shared this article on their blog from Dr. Thom Little of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF). In the article, he speaks on the tenets at the core of our democracy and the need for the people and the representatives to protect and uphold these principles if this nation is to be able to continue. You can read the article below and find the original on the Bridge Alliance site here.


Protecting Our Democracy: The Obligation of Leadership

More than two centuries ago, fifty-five men from across thirteen American colonies established a government like none other before, a government where power was bestowed not by birth right or by armed might, but by consent. A democracy. The governed had, by the power of their voice and their vote, the right to determine who would govern them and accordingly, the right to remove them as necessary. Thus began what Alexis de Tocqueville described as “the great experiment” to see if man was truly capable of self government.

With a lot of hard work, good leadership and not a little bit of luck, this government has endured- it has survived some less than competent and noble leaders and irrational decisions made out of fear, racism, sexism, partisanship and just plain ignorance. It has survived wars internal and external. It has, although not without pain, hardship and some serious missteps, integrated peoples of different races, ethnicities, identities and philosophies. The nation has moved forward in fits and starts, but it has moved forward.

And yet, the success of America’s democracy is not preordained, based on destiny or providence. What has been so long maintained can easily be lost if we as a people and our leaders lose sight of the institutions that have allowed it to prosper and served us well for so long: free and fair elections; an independent press; three autonomous branches of government and strong and effective state governments. While not perfect, these four institutions have been the bedrock of democracy and must be maintained if this experiment is to continue.

Free and Fair Elections. A government that derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed can only stand if the governed have faith in the process by which they lend that consent: the elections. That faith has been tested from time to time, especially when no candidate for the US Presidency earned a majority of the electoral votes. Further, electoral reforms such as voter registration, primary elections, campaign finance regulations and limitations and the elimination of numerous obstacles to voting have been implemented to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. In addition, the right to vote has been extended to Americans of all races, genders over the age of seventeen fulfilling the revolutionary vision of the founders that indeed all are created equal.

An Independent and Trusted Press. While the relationship between public officials and the press has always been a tense one, the authors of the United States Constitution understood that for the infant government to thrive, freedom of the press, even the very partisan papers, pamphlets and fliers of the time, would have to be protected. The founders so valued freedom of the press that they codified it in the very first amendment to the new Constitution. Ideologically driven journalism is nothing new, but the rise of electronic media, cable news, talk radio and social media have made it so difficult to determine what sources are to be trusted that faith in the press is being severely tested.

Autonomous Branches of Government. Separation of powers. Checks and balances. Power spread across three independent units of government? Preposterous- at least to most in the eighteenth century when power was given by God or taken by might. Kings or dictators made the laws, administered the laws and interpreted the laws. In America, each of those decisions are to be made by an independent branch (legislative, judicial and executive), with some oversight from each of the others to keep any one branch from getting out of hand. However, for this system to work, each independently elected branch must be strong enough to do their jobs and willing to stand against the others when they step beyond their bounds.

Strong and Capable State Governments. Perhaps the most unique contribution to the American system of the governed is federalism, a system by which power is shared. While the thirteen states were all part of a larger nation, each also retained significant rights by which they would govern themselves and, perhaps more importantly, address important issues when the national government is unwilling or incapable of doing so. Strong, capable state governments, led by informed and independent legislatures are as critical today (maybe even moreso in light of the gridlock and bitterness that has gripped Washington, DC) as it was more than two hundred years ago.

The responsibility to maintain this gift of democracy has, and always will be, in the hands of the people and the representatives they elect to serve and govern them. If we do not protect and honor these institutions, the government that has for so long been a beacon to the world could easily be lost like others before it. So, I challenge you and all of us to work diligently to make sure that the democracy that has served us so well for so long will stand for our children and their children and their children’s children. And SLLF stands ready, willing and able to help in any way we can!

You can find the original version of this article on the Bridge Alliance site at www.bridgealliance.us/protecting_our_democracy_the_obligation_of_leadership.