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If you’re in the DC area or interested in relocating, this would be a very cool job!

Director of Online Engagement and Participation, AmericaSpeaks

The Director of Online Engagement and Participation will lead AmericaSpeaks’ initiatives to design, facilitate and organize online participatory processes that provide citizens and stakeholders with a greater voice in governance processes. The Director will be responsible for generating new projects through which AmericaSpeaks may engage the public online, representing AmericaSpeaks in discussions with federal agencies about how to use online methods to create a more open government, managing a group of online associates and partners to deliver online engagement programs, and forming and nurturing partnerships with other online innovators. The Director will also oversee the organization’s online and social media presence.

AmericaSpeaks seeks a candidate with deep experience in the field of online engagement and participation. Candidates should have a proven track record of leading online participatory processes.

AmericaSpeaks is a world leader in the field of citizen engagement and public deliberation. For more than fifteen years, AmericaSpeaks has helped citizens influence many of the most pressing issues facing the public, including the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site after 9/11, the creation of regional plans for the greater Chicago and Cleveland regions, and the development of a recovery plan for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. AmericaSpeaks’ mission is to reinvigorate democracy; we are doing this by developing innovative tools and a rich infrastructure for engaging citizens in our nation’s policy making process. For more information about AmericaSpeaks, visit http://www.facebook.com/l/25ce2;www.americaspeaks.org.

The Director will report to the Vice President of Citizen Engagement. Salary will be commensurate with experience.

Duties and Responsibilities

* Lead AmericaSpeaks’ initiatives to engage citizens and stakeholders in online participatory processes
* Work with other AmericaSpeaks’ staff to attract and develop new projects to engage citizens and stakeholders online, especially with federal agencies
* Form and nurture partnerships with other leaders in the field of online engagement to deliver projects and develop new innovations
* Form and manage a group of consultants who can assist AmericaSpeaks in delivering online engagement projects and online aspects of other engagement projects
* Oversee the content of the AmericaSpeaks website and social media presence, and work with AmericaSpeaks’ communications associate and interns to ensure that content remains dynamic and fresh
* Develop and manage an online innovations agenda for AmericaSpeaks to ensure that the organization remains a leader in the field
* Develop programmatic and budget protocols for the delivery of online deliberations and engagement processes to support business development and the delivery of programs by associates and other partners
* Work with the organization’s communications cluster on the marketing and branding of the organization

Knowledge and Skills Preferred for the Position

* Demonstrated track record of organizing, designing and facilitating online efforts to engage people in crowdsourcing, dialogue or other related online activities
* Familiarity with online current online platforms for engaging the public, like IdeaScale, User Voice, etc. and social media tools
* Familiarity with online organizing practices, including social network and blogger outreach
* Entrepreneurial skills and the ability to develop new business
* Strong preference for candidates who live in or are willing to move to the Washington, DC area
* A commitment and passion for increasing the voice of citizens in policy making and realizing AmericaSpeaks vision
* Excellent oral and written communication skills
* Strong interpersonal and communication skills
* Experience with directing large, complex campaigns or initiatives
* Strong management skills
* Willingness to adjust hours according to the demands of the job and travel
* Proven ability to meet multiple deadlines and balance numerous projects while maintaining a perspective on long-term goals
* Strategic thinking
* Basic web skills such as basic HTML, CSS and image manipulation preferred
* Familiarity with Salsa is preferred
* Familiarity with the field of deliberative democracy is preferred

To Apply
Resumes with a cover letter should be submitted to Joe Goldman at jgoldman [at] americaspeaks [dot] org with “Director of Online Engagement” in the subject line. All attachments should be in PDF or Microsoft Word format and titled as follows “Lastname_Firstname_
documentype”.

For more information about AmericaSpeaks, visit: http://www.facebook.com/l/25ce2;www.americaspeaks.org.

AmericaSpeaks is an equal opportunity employer. We encourage and value a diverse work force, and we seek diversity among applicants for this position.

In an earlier post, I proposed that the upcoming AmericaSpeaks Town Meeting on the federal debt in Dallas on June 26 was a chance to facilitate a part of history. I can now report that it will be even easier to participate than I earlier reported. Some of you have expressed an interest, but the mandatory on-site training in Dallas on Friday afternoon before our big Saturday event was almost a deal breaker.

Well, good news!

We have the good fortune of living in just the right time zone which means that Dallas facilitators can get their dose of on-site training on June 26, the day of the event at 8:30 a.m.! Of course, that makes for a very early wake-up call for the Austinites who volunteer, but if you leave comments here looking for shared ride opportunities, you can alternate driving and sleeping on the way.

Here is a complete list of the training times. There are three sessions and each session has a couple of options to make it easy on your schedule. All session are conducted via telephone and all times below are in CENTRAL.

Session 1: Telephone (Choose ONE of the following)

  • Sun, June 13, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR
  • Mon, June 14, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR
  • Tue, June 15, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR

Session 2: Telephone (Choose ONE of the following)

  • Sun, June 20,  5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR
  • Mon, June 21, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR
  • Tue, June 22, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR

Session 3 Conducted on-site at the Dallas Convention Center (Choose ONE of the following)

  • Fri, June 25, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR
  • Sat, June 26, 8:30 a.m.

I’m still working on securing host housing in Dallas if you’re interested in coming in on Friday. It will make for a much more relaxing experience, but I wanted you to know that there are options for the early birds.

If you want to be a facilitator, you must apply here.

Participants can register here.

BTW, check out the Facebook event page for more info and tidbits related to the Dallas experience (again, you can register on the Facebook page, but this is NOT the same as registering for the event! To make life even more confusing, we have a Dallas newsletter. Sign up for our Dallas Newsletter updates.

OK, I know I’m prone to hyperbole, but when thousands of people connected by satellite and webcast join simultaneously across a country as large as the US to deliberate our economic future, being one of a select group of facilitators making it happen sounds like a pretty memorable opportunity.

You have that opportunity on June 26.

I am the site manager for the Dallas gathering of the AmericaSpeaks: Our Budget, Our Economy so naturally I’m strongly encouraging the Texas Forums network to participate, but many of you are outside of Texas and can also help the good citizens in your own community make some tough choices about how to reduce the federal debt.

We are currently recruiting table facilitators for the following Town Meeting locations:

Albuquerque, NM
Augusta, ME
Casper, WY
Chicago, IL
Columbia, SC
Dallas, TX
Des Moines, IA
Detroit, MI
Grand Forks, ND
Jackson, MS
Louisville, KY
Missoula, MT
Overland Park, KS
Philadelphia, PA
Portland, OR
Portsmouth, NH
Redlands, CA
Richmond, VA
San Jose, CA

AmericaSpeaks will provide a 90 minute training on the content – I’m assuming none of us are experts on the federal debt – and you will need to be on-site on June 25 for a few hours to become familiar with the venue and participate in the facilitator training. If you are bilingual, (Spanish, in particular in Dallas) your skills are definitely in need.

A National Advisory Committee is providing guidance to the project and a National Content Team is making sure that the materials are accurate, fair, balanced and easy-to-understand. The materials are still in development, but the day will involve presentations streamed to multiple site, interspersed with facilitated dialogue about policy options to reduce the nation’s debt, culminating in participant-determined priorities using hand held keypads.

At the end of the day, every participant will walk out of the Town Hall Meeting with a brief report on the day and the decisions that they made.

But the reporting doesn’t stop there. (And here’s where it really gets historic.)

The results will also be shared with the President’s Bipartisan Fiscal Commission (Texas’ 5th District Congressional Representative Jeb Hensarling serves on this commission) and with other members of Congress (I’ve also been coordinating with Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson’s staff) and Organizations and Government offices that focus on the budget.

I know that many of you live in Austin, but this would be such a wonderful experience that it would be worth the trip, particularly if you’ve got friends in Dallas willing to put you up. Or, you might double up and share accommodations with other Austinites. I’ve been staying in Dallas about once a week and have found reasonable hotels.

AmericaSpeaks will provide a $100 stipend, thanks to the generosity of the project funders. It isn’t much, but since so many of you do this work as your passion, it’s nice to be able to offset the costs.

Plus, look at how much you’ll learn and what a treat it will be to say you had a hand in this unprecedented National Town Meeting about an issue that will determine so much of this country’s future.

For more information and to apply, click here!

How many of us really spend a significant amount of our time thinking about the federal budget, in particular the escalating federal debt? It’s certainly been in the news lately. And I don’t think I’m just taking notice because of my new assignment working on this issue.

I’m noticing. I’m getting worried. I’m getting involved. And you can too.

Here’s why you should:

Unless we do something about it, America will be facing a fiscal train wreck over the next decade. Driven by rising health care costs, an aging population, and a habit of spending more than we have, our national debt is projected to reach unprecedented levels in the coming years that cannot be sustained.

If nothing is done:

  • uncontrolled deficit spending could lead to inflation, a collapsing dollar and even more debt,
  • rising interest rates could make it harder for young people to get student loans or for families to get a mortgage for a new home,
  • large and small companies might find it more difficult to hire workers without access to new investments,
  • other national priorities will go unfunded as we pay back the interest we owe.

So what can we do?

On June 26th, thousands of Americans who represent every walk of life will sit together at tables in communities across the country simultaneously talking about the values and priorities important to us as Americans.

AmericaSpeaks: Our Budget, Our Economy will be a national discussion to find common ground on tough choices about our federal budget. Americans from across the country will come together to weigh-in on strategies to ensure a sustainable fiscal future and a strong economic recovery.

This non-partisan discussion about our federal budget will lead to solutions developed by thousands of people that will be shared with leaders in Washington.

If that’s not cool enough…(and this is for my Texas Friends)…

Texas (Dallas to be specific) is one of six sites hosting the largest of the forums, each of which will be linked together by satellite and the Internet for a truly national conversation!

I have been hired as the Site Manager for this event which means that I am working with a team (Public Relations, Event Logistics, Outreach, Facilitator Recruiters, Production Managers, and a Local Engagement Team) to assemble 500 people who are demographically representative of the Dallas region for a five hour discussion on June 26 at the Dallas Convention Center. Whew!

But when I’m not feeling overwhelmed by this daunting task, I am invigorated by the scope, breadth and potential impact.

This will be an unprecedented national town meeting in which every geographic region will be represented in the conversation at the same time. Not only that, but we will be recruiting a diverse group of participants that reflect the demographic make-up of their communities so each site will be a microcosm of the community and collectively we will reflect the tremendously rich diversity of our nation.

During the day, participants will deliberate this issue, set priorities with hand-held keypads, and make recommendations that will go to the President and Congress. Participants will look at the tough realities and propose solutions to the President’s Commission on Financial and Fiscal Responsibility. (If you are so inclined, check out the three hour video of their first meeting held on April 27.)

We are in conversation with members of Congress. I’ve had the good fortune to work with the staff of Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson and Jeb Hensarling who also serves as one of 18 member of the President’s bi-partisan commission.

And the Washington staff of AmericaSpeaks are also working with the Obama administration.

This is an amazing opportunity for the public to make a clear statement about the values that should drive tough fiscal decisions.

So how can you get involved?

I’d love to hear what you decide to do. Keep me posted!

NOTE: For more information about this project, check out the following:

Earlier this week I participated in a Kettering symposium at the National Press Club to discuss the findings of their recent report, Helping Students Succeed: Communities Confront the Achievement Gap. A prestigious panel with students, a parent, school administrators and teachers, researchers and a mayor were on hand to share their response to this report that documented what happened in ten communities around the country when people came together to deliberate what they could do to help close the Achievement Gaps. Our own Dr. Patty Shafer, San Marcos School Superintendent was on hand to talk about the impact that the community dialogues have had on how people in her community now work together to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population.

Over the years I have written in this blog about this project in Central Texas and Texas Forums’ fruitful partnership with E3 Alliance and the many school districts and community members that have pledged time, energy and resources to work together on education with an eye toward regional solutions. My next step in this venture will be to work with the Blueprint Team for Goal 4: Central Texas as a community prepares children to succeed. Stay tuned for more postings about community engagement and evaluating progress toward this hard to measure goal.

But back to the DC symposium…

I was proud to represent Central Texas at this symposium and even more proud that our work is prominently featured in a forthcoming documentary about this project. We had a chance to preview the trailer for this documentary at a working luncheon following the symposium.

During the working luncheon following the symposium, I was charged to lead a discussion about the Achievement Gaps and to take notes for the Kettering Foundation. Below are snippets from our conversation.

What in your judgment is the most significant finding from the study? Did anything surprise you?

Several of the participants were surprised that so few people were familiar with the achievement gap issue. One participant wondered what this meant for the way the issue was named and framed. In other words, perhaps the public has a different perspective on what is really at issue when it comes to disparities in educational accomplishment. The project researcher noted that, based on his experience, those within the system hesitate to raise the issue of achievement gaps even to the extent of presenting data about the gaps in unfriendly, inaccessible formats so that the School Board would not readily detect the seriousness of the issue. Our superintendent countered that her annual performance review is heavily dependent upon being able to demonstrate strides toward closing the gaps. While many districts may be less than transparent about the data and may be reluctant to confront the issue, the ability to hide the seriousness of the issue may vary according to state reporting requirements. However, it is still clear that there is a huge disparity in the student achievement across the country as well as disparity in how much we know. One participant asked, “who is looking at this closest?”

One lunch guest commended the forum participants for their insight and willingness to confront the complexity of the issue and not grab at easy fixes. Instead, the forum participants rejected these easy fixes and moved beyond their pet cause or, as one participant described it, they gave up being “one trick pony advocates” and opened up to a range of possible actions. We briefly discussed how this shift occurred and concurred that the structure helps people bypass their firm notions about what should be done and makes it comfortable for them to entertain other options. The structure also creates the space for parents who have never been asked to realize “we can be part of the solution.” One participant cautioned that we must be diligent about the language that we use and aware of how language can keep people out of seeing themselves as part of the solution.

Since one of our participants had traveled to several sites to interview forums participants in depth for a documentary she is producing, we asked her to compare how different communities were defining he cause of the achievement gaps. In Central Texas, the primary driver (San Marcos community in particular) was the changing demographic and rapid growth of the ELL population.

She reported that poverty was also an issue in San Marcos, but not in the same widespread way it was expressed in Helena where poverty seems to be fueling a sense of hopelessness. The hopelessness is exacerbated by the concern that an improvement in the school and in the outcomes for children would lead to youth flight and the demise of the community. And yet, the community seems stymied from making the kind of improvements (renovating old buildings, attracting new business) that would be necessary to attract employers that could provide stimulating economic opportunities for new graduates. As one Helena participant noted in the documentary trailing, “the running joke is, ‘the last person out of Helena, turn out the light.’”

The gaps in Bridgeport are caused not just by poverty, but by the allocation of resources. While many in the community are poor, participants identified the disparity in resources between schools as an important consideration. Students feel safe while at school, but they don’t have the same level of security in their communities.

Because we were fortunate to have three young scholars in our group, I asked them how these conversations about the achievement gaps relate to their recent (more so than the rest of us at the table) high school experiences.

Astonishingly, one young woman raised in New Mexico responded, “It would have been great if someone had cared about this at my school.” She then relayed a story about being bused to a school south of town where there was a “mish-mash” of kids, what could have been a rewarding multi-cultural learning experience, but was really a holding place for kids who were given no direction, incentives, or experiences. It was the opposite of what Dr. Edmund Gordon (a panelist at the National Press Club) described as a community dedicated to education that included a school. Instead, the picture she painted was of a walled-in school in the middle of rich cultural opportunities that the students never experienced. [Ed. Note: Dr. Gordon is a brilliant thinker with remarkably diverse and deep scholarship and I felt blessed to be in attendance for his comments. Check out his biography and this brief video tribute from EdLab – Teachers College, Columbia University to him for more information.] Of her school of approximately 400 students, only100 students graduated (admittedly some moved away, and a meager 5 ventured out of state to pursue higher education opportunities. Other participants noted that even in the shadow of our nation’s capitol, there are entire school districts whose students have never visited the Smithsonian.

The experience of a young woman who went to high school in Denver was equally as dismal. She described multiple gaps – the number who did or did not complete high school, those who held high grade marks vs. those who did not, and those who pursued academic studies. She remembers having these conversations as she speculated on what it meant and why it occurred that she was only one out of two Black students in the Advanced Placement track at her high school, but she doesn’t remember that any of these conversations were intended to uncover the reason nor did they result in any changes.

A third young scholar did not remember any conversations about this topic in her school and was impressed to learn that students in the forum wanted adults to have high expectations of them. She reflected on how the naming of the problem indicates who will be involved in “fixing” the problem. The issues of education and youth seem so personal and so local that there is a danger of losing this when the issue becomes national or global.

Returning to the earlier challenges in Helena one participant summarized the tension facing communities, particularly the rural and declining communities: How do you preserve a local way of life while exposing kids to the world beyond? Some piece of the solution may be found in examining communities like York PA which has become a multi-ethnic community where kids grow up and go to college, but after they graduate, marry and start a family, many of them return to York because it offers a way of life that they want to give to their children.

Ultimately, our table agreed that education must be more broadly defined as an ongoing activity that occurs in lots of places, not just in school and that the over-riding question we must seek to answer is:

How can we make sure that
every student has every opportunity to succeed that they need?

Date: November 14
Time: 9:00 – noon
Place: LBJ Presidential Library (meet in the lobby)
Topic: What is the 21st Century Mission for Our Public Schools?

The nation has long prided itself on a public school system that successfully educates its children to be productive citizens of a flourishing democracy. And, by many measures, that continues to be the case. But there is increasing evidence that U.S. schools have failed to keep pace in a rapidly changing world.

Public education for all children is a foundation stone of this nation’s success. But changing times bring changing challenges. We can agree that children should learn basic skills, but what else do they need? What central purpose do we want our schools to serve today?

In our forum on November 14 at the LBJ library from 9-noon, we will explore three different perspectives on the mission of public schools.

Approach one:  Prepare Students to be Successful in the Workplace

There are alarming signs that the United States is losing its competitive edge in a burgeoning global economy.  If we are to continue to prosper as a nation, the guiding purpose of our public schools must be to prepare students for an increasingly complex workplace.

 

Approach two: Prepare Students to be Active and Responsible Citizens

Public schools were founded to foster the skills and behaviors citizens need to govern themselves and contribute to the public good.  A 40-year decline in civic education has taken its toll on the citizen participation our democracy depends on.  Instilling civic values is the most important contribution public schools make to society.

 

Approach three: Help Students Discover and Develop their Talents

A one-size-fits-all model does not serve our children or our society.  The mission of public schools should be to help each child make the most of his or her abilities and inclinations.  Schools must be able to respond to the variety of ways children learn.

At the core are these three questions:

  • Should schools focus on preparing students to be successful in the workplace?
  • Is the purpose of public schools to prepare students to be active and responsible citizens?
  • Should we invest more of our energy in helping each student make the most of his or her abilities?

Together we will consider the advantages of each approach as well as any costs or consequences. The results of our forum will be reported to the Kettering Foundation, a public policy research organization that reports on the public forums conducted by organizations like Texas Forums.

 

This forum, a project of the LBJ Presidential Library was one of dozens of forums being held by all twelve presidential libraries across the country, and made possible with funding from the National Archives and Records Administration and the National Issues Forums.



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