NCL Offers Free National Civic Review to NCDD Members!

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Opportunities at Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life

NCDDer Peter Levine shared this on the NCDD Main Discussion listserv yesterday and we wanted to lift it up here for the larger network. There are a lot of fantastic opportunities happening at Tisch College this year that we encourage you to check out! Some highlights – proposals are now being accepted for 2019 Frontiers of Democracy (June 20-22), applications are also being accepted for The Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tisch and an opportunity to receive a postdoctoral fellowship, and more!

The NCDD Main Discussion listserv is a great place for engaging with folks passionate about dialogue, deliberation, and engagement! Learn how to join this list here.

Opportunities at Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life for Summer 2019

Please consider applying or submitting proposals for one or more of these 2019 opportunities

insights from the k-12 civic education System Map

For CivXNow, we recently created a System Map of k-12 civics. Perhaps the greatest value of the map is that we didn’t decide what was on it or how things fit together. More than 7,500 people co-created it by answering survey questions. We didn’t ask them what strategy they favored but whether they thought that various specific factors influenced other specific factors, and we built a network from the results. More about the method and its rationale is here.

In this post, I would like to derive some substantive results from the map.

First, look at what is connected to two different possible outcomes of civic education: youth knowledge (on the left) and youth civic engagement (on the right). Almost the whole map has direct connections to knowledge; very little is connected to youth engagement. Of the causes of youth engagement, one is knowledge–which sends us back to the diagram on the left. Another cause is “schools are [generally] effective institutions,” which may seem beyond the power of the civic education community.

Overall, it appears that we have created much more of a “system” for generating youth knowledge than for empowering youth to act. To the extent that people are working on the latter goal, their efforts are not nearly as visible to our 7,500 respondents.

Second, compare two factors that have to do with the content and pedagogy of civics. On the left is whether civics addresses complex and current issues and controversies. On the right is whether teachers are able to present civics without bias and withstand a polarized political environment outside the classroom

Either goal may be very important. You might reasonably consider either (or both) to be your main concern. But the one on the left is highly leveraged, affecting many other outcomes. The one on the right has virtually no leverage at all. Our community doubts that if civics avoided problems of bias, then anything else would improve.

Third, take a look at funding. This was linked to more other factors than any other node on the map. I assume that is because it is relatively easy to envision that having more money would change a whole range of outcomes. We all know that money has value. (That’s why they call it “money.”)

The Role of Funding

But how would we get more money? This map rightly portrays funding as a “midstream” issue. Yes, money would help, but other factors–notably, including civics in accountability systems and making civic engagement more of a public priority–are what would yield more funding. The map suggests that even if money is an important means, it is likely not the best target for advocacy.

Now take a look at how people connected “Teachers are Well Prepared to Teach Civics” to other nodes. This is the factor that captures pre-service education, professional development, etc. Respondents did see it as a driver of more engaging pedagogy and of more current issue-discussions. But the ultimate outcome they expected was better knowledge, not more civic engagement.

How People View Professional Development

This could mean that most teacher education and PD presents student knowledge as the explicit goal, and engaging pedagogy as a means. Should it be otherwise?

Finally, let’s zoom in for greater detail. This is a screenshot from the version of the map that displays 75 components clustered into larger factors. I have highlighted the components that may reflect a concern with history and classic texts (often coded as conservative) and those that reflect a desire for students to take action (sometimes seen as progressive).

Components Involving Action Civics and Historical Texts

The point I would like to emphasize is that these goals are not in conflict. They light up different parts of the map. It’s possible to work on both goals at once.

Another Fantastic D&D Online Event Roundup

There is a great variety of webinars and online events happening in the D&D world that we don’t want you to miss out on! Last week we mentioned, NCDDer Chris Santos-Lang has an upcoming webinar on making research transparent that we encourage you to check out. As well as, webinars from NCDD member orgs, MetroQuestBridge AllianceLiving Room Conversations, National Issues Forums Institute, and New Directions Collaborative!

Do you have a webinar or other event coming up that you’d like to share with the NCDD network? Please let us know in the comments section below or by emailing me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org, because we’d love to add it to the list!

Online Roundup: MetroQuest, Bridge Alliance, CSA’s Ethics Working Group, Living Room Conversations, NIFI, New Directions

MetroQuest webinar – “Public Engagement at All Scales | CMAP’s Winning Recipe”

Wednesday, January 30th
11 am Pacific | 12 pm Mountain | 1 pm Central | 2 pm Eastern (1 hour)
Educational Credit Available (APA AICP CM)
Complimentary (FREE)

For the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, award-winning comprehensive plans involve public engagement at all scales, collaboration with 284 communities, and a Local Technical Assistance program that’s admired nationally. Join us January 30th to get inspired!

CMAP Deputy Executive Director of Planning Stephane Phifer, Associate Outreach Planner Katanya Raby, and Senior Planner Lindsay Bayley will take you inside their local approach to online engagement for OnTo2050 – their comprehensive regional plan to improve quality of life and economic prosperity for 8.5 million people.

Public feedback was essential to exploring alternative futures for innovative transportation, climate change, walkable communities, a transformed economy, and constrained resources. You’ll learn how CMAP used a multi-phased approach to online engagement for a variety of local plans, including the downtown Aurora Master Plan.

Attend this complimentary 1-hour webinar to explore effective ways to:

  • Engage inclusively to build inclusive plans
  • Uncover the ideas, hopes, and concerns of residents
  • Take a multi-phase approach to online engagement
  • Think both locally and regionally for collaborative planning

This webinar will include a live Q&A session to help you prepare for 2019. Bring your public engagement questions for Stephane, Katanya, Lindsay, and Dave Biggs, Chief Engagement Officer at MetroQuest.


Bridge Alliance webinar – BridgeUSA Peer Learning Session – Achieving Diversity: An Example *this webinar is for Bridge Alliance members only – learn more here

Wednesday, January 30th
12 pm Pacific, 3 pm Eastern

Manu Meel will discuss how the Bridge Alliance and its members can achieve greater diversity in the revitalization movement. Specifically, he will present on:

  1. BridgeUSA’s lack of diverse leadership.
  2. The importance of diversity.
  3. How BridgeUSA is prioritizing diversity within its organization.
  4. What lessons other Bridge Alliance organizations can draw from its example.

We are very excited to host this event for Bridge Alliance member organizations through Zoom Video Conference, and we hope you will be able to join us.

If you wish to attend this event, please RSVP by January 24th.

Ethics Working Group of the Citizen Science Association webinar – How to Make Your Research Transparent
* shared via NCDD member Chris Santos-Lang

Thursday, January 31st
9-10 am Pacific, 12-1 pm Eastern

A Webinar from CSA’s Ethics Working Group, presented by Chris Santos-Lang (Ethics Working Group Co-Chair)

This webinar is a practical how-to demonstrating some of the latest technologies developed to satisfy the transparency principles in the European Citizen Science Association’s Ten Principles of Citizen Science and the DIYbio Codes of Ethics. It will demonstrate two free solutions as examples: One is the Open Science Framework and the other is a homespun mixture of Google Drive, Google Docs, and FigShare. Both solutions leverage PubPeer, Creative Commons licenses, and research standards. This webinar also introduces the “APRICOT” mnemonic to map the range of transparency failures, and discusses the concerns that drive current negotiations between transparency and privacy.

About Chris: Chris Santos-Lang co-chairs the Ethics Working Group of the Citizen Science Association. He applies citizen science to ethics (e.g. studying moral psychology, machine ethics, and the sociology and political science of ethics).

If you experience any issues in registration, please email:


Training (free): The Nuts & Bolts of Living Room Conversations

Thursday, January 31st
This event begins at 1pm (PT); 2pm (MT); 3pm (CT); 4pm (ET)

Join us for 60 minutes online to learn about Living Room Conversations. We’ll cover what a Living Room Conversation is, why we have them, and everything you need to know to get started hosting and/or participating in Living Room Conversations. This training is not required for participating in our conversations – we simply offer it for people who want to learn more about the Living Room Conversations practice.

Space is limited to 12 people so that we can offer a more interactive experience.

Please only RSVP if you are 100% certain that you can attend.

This training will take place using Zoom video conferencing. A link to join the conversation will be sent to participants by Thurs 10am (PT) / 1pm (ET).

Questions and RSVP to

Living Room Conversations webinar – Mental Health

Thursday, January 31st
1:30-3 pm Pacific, 4:30-6 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Mental Health. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • What experiences in your life, your work or your family inform your thinking about mental health?
  • Is mental health an important issue in your community, and if so, why?
  • In your experience, how are mental health issues affecting young people? (If you are a young person, how do mental health issues affect you and your peers?)

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Lewis G.


National Issues Forums Institute – “A House Divided: Issue Guide Moderator Training

Friday, February 1st
9:30 am Pacific, 12:30 pm Eastern

Join us on Friday February 1st at 12:30p Eastern/9:30am Pacific time for an online workshop on how to moderate a NIF forum using the new issue guide on politics in America, “A House Divided: How Do We Get The Political System We Want? What Would We Have To Give Up To Get It?”

We will discuss each of the three options in depth, outline key deliberative questions you as the moderator could ask of participants to encourage quality dialogue, as well as ways to help your participants reflect on this controversial topic. We will also discuss the upcoming A Public Voice program NIFI collaboratively holds each year in Washington DC to share with policymakers how people are thinking about wicked issues. There will be additional time for any questions you may have about how to host a forum, how to encourage students to participate, and tips and hacks for moderating face-to-face and online with Common Ground for Action.


Living Room Conversations webinar – Status & Privilege

Friday, February 1st
2-3:30 pm Pacific, 5-6:30 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Status & Privilege. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • What status do you enjoy? Education, wealth, gender, race, etc?
  • What are the privileges of your status?
  • What do you value and how is that connected to your status or privilege?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Shay M.


Living Room Conversations webinar – Women and Political Leadership

Monday, February 4th
1-2:30 pm Pacific, 4-5:30 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Women & Political Leadership. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • Do you believe that having women in political leadership provides a different kind of voice? Why or why not?
  • Describe a powerful woman politician’s leadership moment you’ve experienced.
  • Are there issues around women’s political leadership that concern you?
  • What is your hope or aspiration for women in politics?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Steve F.


Bridge Alliance #DemocracyChat [on Twitter]

Tuesday, February 5th
5 – 7 pm Eastern

On February 5th, @BrdgAllianceUS will ask supporters four questions about civic engagement. The event, titled #DemocracyChat, will give you and anybody else who is interested in the revitalization field the opportunity to connect with Bridge Alliance leaders and become part of the conversation. So make sure to follow @BrdgAllianceUS and use the hashtag #DemocracyChat once the questions are revealed next Tuesday.

New Directions Collaborative webinar  – Meetings That Do More

Wednesday, February 6
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT

Imagine leaving a meeting feeling inspired, energized by new ideas, with enhanced goodwill toward your colleagues and a shared sense of clarity on where to go next. In this interactive on-line workshop, you will learn practical tools for creating meetings that deliver multiple benefits. Key topics include:

  • How to clarify the strategic context and range of outcomes for a meeting
  • How to frame strategic questions for the group to explore
  • An introduction to, and experience of, participatory meeting methods that can also work on-line
  • How to structure an agenda with samples of agenda designs

The workshop will be held on Zoom video conferencing where you will experience how to host effective meetings virtually, including with small group conversations. You will receive several handouts full of resources and guidance to help you design and facilitate future meetings.

Beth Tener of New Directions Collaborative will facilitate, sharing methods she has practiced in work with over 150 organizations and collaborative initiatives, concerning socially responsible business, sustainability, local food systems, education, climate action, racial equity, and transportation.

This workshop is the first in a series. You can attend one or the series.

Workshop fee is $70. Please click below to register.

If this fee is a barrier to participating, please contact Beth at – discounts are available to make this accessible to all interested.


Living Room Conversations webinar – Free Speech, Fighting Words, and Violence

Wednesday, February 6th
4:30-6 pm Pacific, 4-5:30 pm Eastern

Join us for a free online (using Zoom) Living Room Conversation on the topic of Free Speech, Fighting Words, & Violence. Please see the conversation guide for this topic. Some of the questions explored include:

  • How do we protect free speech and ensure public safety despite ongoing threats of violence?
  • Have you had a personal experience where free speech was inhibited? Or have you ever felt harmed by the speech of others?
  • How do we decide what our collective, social morality is? What is the federal government’s role?

You will need a device with a webcam to participate (preferably a computer or tablet rather than a cell phone).

Please only sign up for a place in this conversation if you are 100% certain that you can join – and thank you – we have many folks waiting to have Living Room Conversations and hope to have 100% attendance. If you need to cancel please return to Eventbrite to cancel your ticket so someone on the waitlist may attend.

A link to join the conversation and additional details will be sent to you by no later than the day before the conversation. The conversation host is Beth R.


The American Political Science Association Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) at Tisch College this summer

June 17-22, 2019

Background and Purpose

Scholars in many disciplines are grappling with how to produce rigorous scholarship that addresses significant social challenges in collaboration with communities, organizations, and agencies. They strive to learn from non-academics, to benefit from the research capacity of all kinds of groups and institutions, and to give back to communities rather than extract value from them. Although political scientists offer models of excellence in civically engaged research, relevant methods and strategies are not yet widely taught in the discipline’s graduate programs or sufficiently valued in the profession as a whole. 

Therefore, the American Political Science Association (APSA) Council has authorized an annual APSA Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) to begin in summer 2019. ICER is intended for advanced graduate students in political science and political scientists at any stage of their careers who wish to shift to using civically engaged research. It is not meant for scholars who are already experienced in that approach.

Content of the Institute 

The Institute will address topics such as: 

  • Expertise: what do political scientists contribute? What are the limitations of scholarly expertise? What expertise do others have?
  • The needs of scholars as compared to community groups or political actors. Tensions and ways of addressing them.
  • The ethics of collaboration: sharing of credit, funds and overhead, IRB issues, sharing results, dealing with disagreements.
  • Communicating results: to partners, communities, the press, directly to the broad public. Dealing with controversy.
  • How to define and honor values of like neutrality, objectivity, and rigor.
  • Career issues:  publication and credit, tenure and promotion, fundraising.
  • Mapping the different and varied ways that political scientists engage.

We will explore these issues by discussing relevant readings, by analyzing specific examples of civically engaged political science research, and by considering the research plans and ideas of the participants in the Institute.

The Institute will take place on the campus of Tufts University, in the Boston area, from June 17-22, 2019. Approximately twenty participants will meet each day from June 17-20 for intensive discussions. Participants are expected to attend the Frontiers of Democracy conference with approximately 120 other scholars and practitioners from the evening of June 20 until noon on June 22 in downtown Boston.

How to Apply

Thanks to support from the APSA, participation in the Institute and the conference is free, and scholarships are available to defray costs of travel, food, and housing in dormitories on the Tufts campus. Applicants are expected to seek financial support from their home institution, but admission to the Institute for Civically Engaged Research will not be affected by financial need.

To apply, please complete this form. It will ask for 1) your name, your institution, and program of study or current employment; 2) your reasons for interest in the Institute; 3) your background in political science research and in civically engaged research; 4) your areas of special research interest; and 5) your demographics. You are also asked to upload your CV and your unofficial academic transcript if you are a current graduate student or earned a PhD within the last five years.


Confirmed speakers and visitors include: Valeria Sinclair Chapman (Purdue), Archon Fung (Harvard), Taeku Lee (Berkeley), Robert Lieberman (Johns Hopkins), Jamila Michener (Cornell), Amy Cabrera Rasmussen (Cal State-Long Beach), Pearl Robinson (Tufts), and Rogers Smith (University of Pennsylvania). 

Also involved with the Institute are: Amanda Grigg (APSA) and Hahrie Han (University of California Santa Barbara)

The organizer and Principal Investigator on the project is Peter Levine (Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life and Department of Political Science). 

Related Opportunities 

  • The 11th annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies will take place at Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life from June 23-28, 2019, following ICER. It is highly interdisciplinary and focused on a set of readings about how people work together to improve the world, how people reason together about what is right to do, and what practices and institutional structures promote these kinds of citizenship. Applications are due on March 30, 2019.
  • The Center on Democracy and Organizing (CDO) is seeking applications from advanced Ph.D. students and early career researchers and organizers for participation in an interdisciplinary institute focused on the study of democracy and organizing. This institute will be held from July 31 to August 2 at the University of California, Berkeley. Political scientists are encouraged to apply. The organizers of the APSA/Tufts Institute and the CDO institute will ensure that the content does not overlap substantially. 
  • The fifth annual European Institute of Civic Studies will take place in Herrsching, near Munich, Germany, from July 14-27, 2019. It is open to graduate students and scholars in any discipline who are citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, or Uzbekistan. To apply, send a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, and an academic transcript (if applicable) to Prof. Kloubert at by March 15, 2019, for best consideration
  • Postdoctoral Fellowships at Tisch College:
  1. Tufts University will award a Post-Doctoral Fellowship to a scholar with expertise in American political behavior and survey data analysis for the 2019-20 academic year. The Fellowship is partly funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and will be awarded to a scholar with a Ph.D. in Political Science or a related discipline with research interests that intersect with the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Applicants should have completed the requirements for their Ph.D. by the time of appointment, which is planned for August 1, 2019. The post-doc will be located at Tufts University in the Department of Political Science and in the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. More information and application materials are here.
  2. Tisch College will award a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Civic Science for the 2019-20 academic year (June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020). This postdoctoral fellowship is offered in partnership with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation in Dayton, OH, and involves some work at Kettering’s offices in Dayton as well as full-time employment at Tufts in the Boston area. The Tisch College Civic Science initiative, led by Dr. Jonathan Garlick, aims to reframe how key participants—scientists, the public, the media, institutions of higher education, and other stakeholders engage the national dialogue about science issues. Civic Science is interdisciplinary, and this fellowship is open to a PhD in any relevant field. The Fellow will conduct research related to Civic Science, both independently and in collaboration with Prof. Garlick and the Kettering Foundation. He or she will teach one course to undergraduates in the Civic Studies Major. The Fellow will attend orientation and research meetings at the Kettering Foundation as requested. More information and application materials are here.

Both Postdoctoral Fellows will attend and participate in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tisch College.

The Lou Frey Institute is Looking for a New Executive Director

Dr. Doug Dobson, our incredible Executive Director, is moving into a well deserved retirement. He has long been an advocate for K-12 civic education, and has provided a vision for the Lou Frey Institute that continues to influence the work we do at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship. His leadership on civic education policy and research is well known within our little civic education community. And now, we are seeking someone to fill his shoes. Come, and make a difference in civic education. Check out the job ad here. 

The Lou Frey Institute is situated in the Political Science department in UCF’s College of Sciences and promotes the development of enlightened, responsible, and actively engaged citizens. Over the past decade, the Institute has developed an extensive portfolio of successful work in civic education and engagement that includes policy analysis and development, the provision of instructional support for teachers in Florida and other states, the provision of civic learning support tools for students, research and data analysis to support continuous improvement of student achievement in civics and support for communities seeking to enhance citizen engagement. Through various online platforms, the Institute currently provides support to about 7,000 teachers and over 100,000 students each school year. The significance of the Institute’s work has been recognized nationally. More information about the Lou Frey Institute is available at

Building on the current record of accomplishment, the Executive Director, in collaboration with Institute staff, will provide vision and leadership to shape and strengthen existing programs and to develop new initiatives that fulfill the Institute’s mission. The successful candidate will also work with partners across the university, in the state, and throughout the country to continue to expand the scale and scope of the Institute’s impact. To accomplish these broad objectives, the Executive Director will also provide leadership in external funding from both public and private sources.

Applicants must have (1) a terminal degree from an accredited institution; (2) demonstrated knowledge of current issues and literature related to civic learning, assessment, and engagement, or in a related field; (3) strong leadership and managerial experience in organizations and program development; (4) a record of relevant scholarship and/or writing in their professional practice; and (5) demonstrated success in external funding from public and/or private sources.

In addition, experience in an academic setting, experience in applied empirical research and evaluation, and experience with distance learning, educational technologies, and working with public officials is strongly preferred.

UCF requires all applications and supporting documents to be submitted electronically through the Human Resources website, In addition to the online application, interested candidates must upload the following: 1) a cover letter that includes a statement of interest; 2) a current CV; 3) a vision statement; and 4) the names and contact information for three references.  

The application deadline is March 29th, 2019. Please direct all questions to Dr. Tosha Dupras, search committee chair, at

Don’t Miss the Confab Recording with Senator Unger!

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

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

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

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

We recorded the whole presentation in case you weren’t able to join us, which you can access on the archives page by clicking here. Access to the archives is a benefit of being an NCDD member, so make sure your membership is up-to-date (or click here to join).

Confab bubble image

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

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!

Brag, Cave and Crow: a contribution to game theory

Game theory models interactions by presenting the “players” as people (or organizations) who face choices, and the outcome as the result of how they each choose. In conflictual circumstances, the players can choose between the option that their opponent would prefer (cooperate) or the one that their opponent would not prefer (defect). In certain unpleasant circumstances, such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, every player is better off defecting even though that outcome is worst for all.

Donald Trump has faced a set of conflictual games as president, with North Korea, Mexico and Canada, China, and Chuck & Nancy (among others) on the opposite side of the table. He has frequently applied the novel strategy of Brag, Cave, and Crow (Trump, DJ et al. 2019). It works like this: First declare very loudly that you will defect and the other side will be forced to cooperate, then cooperate, and then declare very loudly that the other side was the one that cooperated.

This is not as dumb as it sounds.

First, assume that you can convince yourself that you did win. Payers seek to achieve their own preferences or maximize their own satisfaction. If you talk yourself into the idea that you won even though someone might see you as having folded, your subjective feelings are fine. That’s a win. Meanwhile, the conflict is gone and does you no more damage.

Second, if you are Donald Trump, you are always more interested in another game, a popularity contest. You are appealing to an audience of consumers or voters. Insofar as you can persuade them that you won even though you folded, you do win what you wanted most. And in a world of echo chambers and partisan heuristics, often this is exactly what happens. For instance, settle for the substance of NAFTA with minor tweaks, but rename it with an acronym that has “US … A” in it, and you can Brag, Cave, and Crow (BCC) for the win.

In the immediate circumstances, it’s good that BCC pays off for Donald Trump. It’s much better that he should brag about having solved the North Korean nuclear standoff than convince himself that he must actually force North Korea to denuclearize. Likewise, if he can claim he built a wall on the southern border when he didn’t, that will save us all some money, preserve the Constitution, offend Mexico less than a physical wall would, and leave nature and landowners alone.

At this juncture, Trump’s choice is either to Crow or to go back to the Brag stage. In other words, he can declare that he won or else threaten to win in the future with a veto or a declaration of emergency. I don’t think he can both Brag and Crow at the same moment about the same thing, although the echo chamber may be hermetic enough to allow that to work to some degree.

Alas, the incentive to BCC is yet another blow to responsible and accountable governance and public deliberation.

See also game theory and the shutdown; the emperor’s new wall; and why learn game theory?

Thank You to Susan Stuart Clark!

After five years on the NCDD Board of Directors, Susan Stuart Clark in exiting her role to focus on new priorities. The NCDD Staff and Board want to extend our gratitude and appreciation for Susan’s work to help support and sustain NCDD. Susan has been a key contributor to NCDD Conference planning over the years (including before her role on the Board), and as a board member she was a leader in growing and sustaining membership. She is also a huge proponent of libraries as hubs for engagement, and was a helpful sounding board for NCDD Staff in our work to introduce librarians to D&D. We’ll miss getting to work with her on a regular basis!

In case you’re not familiar, Susan is the founder of Common Knowledge Group, an organization with the mission of exploring and demonstrating more inclusive and innovative approaches to achieving sustainable social change. She works with state and local government agencies, nonprofits, foundations and businesses, often facilitating multi-sector collaboratives.  New insights and possibilities generated by dialogue are the core of the work.  Susan and her colleagues gravitate to projects that debunk the myth that the public is apathetic, that identify common ground on contentious issues and discover new resources hidden in plain sight in our communities. Check out their work at

We wish Susan the best of luck with her important work. We look forward to watching what’s to come, and sharing this work with the NCDD community. Thanks again for your years of service to the Coalition!


a public university as civic anchor

I’ve been at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, subjecting a substantial group of faculty to not one, but two, keynote talks during their professional development conference just before their semester starts.

In the first talk, I drew a link between the decline of everyday civic life and the poor state of American politics. As I noted, this is a nonpartisan framing and one that somewhat bypasses highly contested issues, such as race and class. In other contexts, I endorse more partisan and divisive diagnoses. In fact, the last time I was in Wisconsin, it was to talk to an #Indivisible group, and that meeting found its way into a Washington Post story about “turn[ing] Wisconsin back to blue.” But I also believe in the framing I gave today, and it has two major advantages for a public university. It is relatively neutral about the kinds of issues about which students and other citizens disagree, and it assigns a significant role to the university itself, as a community anchor that can support the everyday civic work of deliberation, collaboration, and forming civic relationships.

Here is the Prezi for that talk:

The second talk was about the intellectual work we need in classrooms and research programs. Just as citizens must ask “What should we do?”, so scholars should study and teach that question. But it tends to slip between the tessellation of our academic disciplines, which focus more on how and why things happen, what opinions we should form, what governments should do, or what constitutes justice. What we should actually do is constantly sidestepped.

Remedying that problem is the impetus behind Civic Studies, a small but international movement with a space in the Tufts curriculum as a major. UW Green Bay already offers a remarkable array of interdisciplinary degree programs. But those might take some inspiration and insights from the content of Civic Studies.

Here is the Prezi for that one: