Posted in Announcements, Training Ideas, tagged community engagement, E3 Alliance, education, Forums, kettering foundation, NIFI, Texas Forums, uiuc on February 27, 2009 |
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The Vice-Chancellor’s Office for Public Engagement at the University of Illinois will be hosting a Public Engagement and Technology Symposium on March 9. Since I will be in Illinois for my on-campus session with students in my online Community Engagement class, I’ve signed up to present the Texas Forums collaboration with E3 Alliance.
Just in case any of you are planning to be in Urbana-Champaign on March 9, here’s what you can expect from this gathering:
Your participation will provide faculty, staff, student, and community partners the opportunity to share innovative ideas and approaches to engagement activities in and outside the classroom.
THEMES OF THE SYMPOSIUM
Through a free flowing, open forum atmosphere, poster/resource table sessions, participant idea exchanges, 20-minute presentations and 50-minute panel discussions, participants will be engaged in the following themes:
- Strategies in public engagement; Carnegie Community Engagement Classification Overview
- Sustainability: Economic, Social, and Environmental
- Dialogs with Communities
- Learning through the Ages
- New Ways with Technology
That “Dialogs with Communities” bullet dot is Texas Forums! Below is the description of the session I will be leading:
Texas Forums is a network of individuals and organizations that use dialogue and deliberation to tackle difficult community problems like health care and education. E3 Alliance, a regional collaborative to increase economic outcomes by aligning education systems in Central Texas worked with Texas Forums to develop community-led action plans to close the education gaps and increase economic outcomes for individuals and the region. As a research partner with the Kettering Foundation, E3 and Texas Forums adapted the National Issues Forums deliberative framework and developed a process to move people through a structured dialogue about potential strategies for closing the education gaps.
It will be a jam-packed day with over 70 sessions to choose from. HMMMM, wonder if we could do the same thing in Texas and partner with universities in Central Texas?
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The recent Public Library Association Conference featured a session titled, “The Dangerous Ideas”. The idea behind the session was to stimulate a conversation about adaptation and change by posing the question, “What if…?”
The presenters began by introducing Ten Dangerous Ideas:
1. What if we stopped cataloging?
2. What if we participated fully with the FBI in all criminal investigations that involved the use of library resources?
3. What if librarians individually and as a profession promoted, used and helped to develop Wikipedia?
4. What if we accepted open source software as a way of being more in control of the customer experience?
5. What if we embraced our iner geek and created immersive games that prompted cults of library junkies?
6. What if we required all library staff to have expertise using technology?
7. What if mistakes were expected and embraced and all librarians became mistake masters?
8. What if we didn’t make decisions based on fear or scarcity?
9. What if we stopped being passive/aggressive?
10. What if we didn’t make our customers work so hard?
I did not attend this session, but have been following the aftermath on the Transforming Texas Libraries Blog and the Web Junction Blog. Some of the provocative questions raised and documented on the Web Junction Blog are:
What if librarians would promote and participate in the development of Wikipedia?
What if we made decisions that are not based on scarcity?
What if libraries large and small invest together to adopt open source solutions?
What if teens in the library were our partners instead of our problem?
What if we learned to advertise the allure of libraries as successfully as soft drinks and junk food?
This discussion is continuing on “whatiflibs” wiki posted on wetpaint, a very easy to use wiki.
The question, “What if?” calls upon us to use our imagination and to push our thinking into uncomfortable territory.
Recognizing this, the presenters had follow-up questions for the workshop participants:
- Why does this thought make me uncomfortable?
- What are the opportunities in this idea?
- What actions can be taken to pursue the opportunities?
I teach Change Management and Civic Entrepreneurship to graduate library students. I thrive on uncomfortable thoughts because that is where opportunities hide. Too many people retreat when confronted with uncomfortable thoughts. We don’t like ambiguity. We may feel threatened. We may feel insecure about what change will demand from us. But all of these are just the flip side of opportunity.
I’m sorry I missed this workshop. I would love to see this thinking brought into the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Conference taking place in Austin, TX October 3-5, 2008. The conversation starter could be a “What if…” related to the D&D community or democracy itself and how D&D impacts democracy.
How about it D&D-ers? Are we ready for some Dangerous Ideas?
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[This report is being filed by Erin Kreeger, a member of Texas Forums, graduate of the Fielding Graduate University's Certification in Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement and an adviser to the University of Houston Downtown's Center for Public Deliberation. Erin will be an ongoing guest blogger for Texas Forums so check back often to hear her insights!]
On April 4th and 5th around 25 incredible people gathered at The University of Houston – Downtown Center for Public Deliberation for a powerful workshop on moderating and recording public deliberation forums. These forums are opportunities for people to join together with others to talk about difficult issues, gain new insights on ways to approach those issues and to choose ways to work towards creating powerful individual and group action, including influencing public policy. The workshop provided an opportunity for people who may not have done something like this before to learn from some seasoned experts, to learn from each other, to practice participating in two deliberative forums (one on the achievement gap in education and one of the energy problem), to moderate a forum, to record insights and themes from the forums and to begin building a community of practice. How great is that!
Though two day workshops can be challenging to design in a way that’s flexible enough to adapt to people’s needs and questions yet structured enough to end on time, this planning team did that brilliantly – keeping us engaged for the entire 2 days – including 7 hours of Saturday time. Here’s what participants had to say about what worked really well and what could be done differently next time.
What I’m taking with me/Keep It!
- Role playing/Practice moderating forums
- Intentional prep activities – not arbitrary
- I was engaged
- Power of communication
- The workshop kept moving
- Good to have to jump into activities
- Having multiple instructors
- The printed materials to read later instead of being read to
- Applicable – can apply ideas right away
- Great modeling of practices
- Strength of moderators and their stories
What I’m leaving behind/Drop it
- Need clearer directions to get to the center
- More vegetarian food options/easy to identify veggie food
- More signs in building directing to room
- Want video of the practice forum
At the end of the workshop, one participant said that she felt she had found her public deliberation family. I find that feeling of community is inspiring and happens a lot in this line of work. But what’s especially exciting to me about this particular workshop is that The University of Houston Downtown Center for Public Deliberation in partnership with Texas Forums has the skill, desire and dedication to provide those family member with the resources they need to stay connected and to convene, moderate and record public deliberation forums so that community members of all backgrounds have the opportunity to meet with each other in a public dialogue, to identify the concerns they hold in common and to create action on issues that are important to them. That’s something I’m excited to be a part of. It’s a great example of inviting change.
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During our training session at UHD, several participants suggested additional resources and web sites of interest to our moderators. Here’s a smattering:
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I’ve asked Virginia York to take notes here of the debrief of the Everyday Deliberation exercise we are doing at UHD where people tell stories of a time when they had to make a difficult decision and deliberated personally. The participants work in triads. One person tells their story, another person is the questioner who listens carefully and asks questions to help the storyteller reveal the reason why the decision was difficult and the third person serves as the observer.
Here’s Virginia’s notes of the debrief of this exercise…
Stories of every day deliberation dealt with divorce, real estate purchases, elderly parents, illness, etc.
What made this decision difficult:
- there were bad things on both sides
- values were in tension
- I had to consider other people
- goals can be uncertain
What values were in conflict:
- reason vs emotion was an example of tension
- other examples were to lay out potential outcomes
- more reasoned risks
- values can be in conflict,
- long range goals and short term needs,
- my values may not be the same as others,
- what I want to do vs what I should do,
- duty vs pleasure,
- are all of the options being explored?
- are there too many options,
What images of deliberation come to mind?
- Controlled passion
- Never actually seen deliberation happen because there is always an element of persuasion. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time at the capitol.
- Deliberation always brings up the term “calm”.
- Recently was part of a jury where we deliberated very well. We listened to the three dissenters and came to a common ground and both parties were happy with our final decision.
- Togas! The Greek Columns. The Socratic approach of knowledge for its own sake where the answer emerges.
- Barbara Jordan was the most deliberate person – slow, calm, thoughtful
- Trying to reach a destination – there is a commitment to reach that destination through the dialogue process where everyone is engaged
Now on to a forum on Too Many Children Left Behind: How Can We Close the Achievement Gap?
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I am writing this from the University of Houston Downtown’s Center for Public Deliberation training for new moderators. For the past two months, I have been working with Windy Lawrence and Tom Workman, the co-directors of this new endeavor. We are finally doing our first training session for moderators in Houston. We have 25 participants with a significant representation from the Houston Public Library. We are also joined by a representative from the Clinton and Bush Presidential Libraries.
We just introduced the participants to the cast of characters involved in public deliberation and the work we will be doing with Texas Forums and UHD Center for Public Deliberation. We also introduced them to the key areas that the partners will work on independently and in collaboration.
Texas Forums and the University of Houston Downtown will collaborate and work on the following key areas:
- Research and Development
- Training and Professional Development
- Support Local Initiatives by Building Capacity
- Develop and Support Statewide Issues
- Communication and Public Information
We invited the participants asked questions about the partners, but they immediately jumped into offering ideas about who else should be involved. Very exciting energy!!!!
Can’t wait to post more, but it’s time for me to lead my session on Everyday Deliberation.
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Skillful moderating is a key to any successful forum, and as community dialogues on the achievement gap come together around the nation, organizers are grappling with two critical questions: Who will moderate? And what kind of training should we provide?
Answers appear to be arising organically, based on how much experience organizers have with forums, existing community politics, and partners’ budgets and ambitions.
Building Civic Capacity
In Bridgeport, Connecticut, for example, where Marge Hiller’s Bridgeport Public
Education Fund has helped nurture community engagement for the past decade, teaching students and teachers to moderate is intrinsic to her philosophy and project.
“You can’t do anything top down anymore,” Hiller said. “It has to be something that comes from the people affected…One group we haven’t had enough information from is students.”
Her group has been working with the city’s most troubled high school, Harding High, to increase involvement from the community. The model they’ve used features discussions led by teachers and students. She called the dialogue model a success and said it’ll continue at Harding and will be duplicated at the district’s two other high schools this year.
Taylor Willingham, the founder and head of Texas Forums, an initiative of the LBJ Library in Austin, trained 120 moderators for dialogues on the achievement gap in six Central Texas communities last fall. She agrees that it’s important to nurture grassroots interest in deliberation.
“I really want to build the civic capacity of a community,” she said. “We see the moderating role as another way of exercising citizenship…We wanted to have a large group of volunteers that organizations can call upon in the future.”
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[cross-posted from the personal blog of Taylor Willingham]
I’ve been in a writer’s funk for over two weeks now, which is causing great headaches since I’m responsible for rewriting the Achievement Gap discussion guide here in Central Texas. I’m basing the framework on the National Issues Forums guide, but incorporating Texas data from E3 Alliance. I’m using Study Circles Resource Center guides as the stylistic model. Nance Bell did the hard work of wading through the data and put language around it for me and Rick Olmos helped outline the big chunks so it should be easy to do, right?
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Well I posted a diagram of an NIF framework earlier, but then someone with a good eye for design revised it to this. Much better
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