Archive for the ‘deliberate’ Category

I’m not much of a graphic designer, but pictures appeal to my learning style. So, I thought I’d share a couple of more graphics I use to help me think about the process of framing issues.

This is a graphic of the process of framing the privacy issue that I’ve been using with some colleagues from American Library Association. I drew this on a napkin in a diner in Champaign, IL to explain framing to a team of students who were developing a c-wiki for Texas Forums as part of their class on Digitally Mediated information Systems at the Grad Library School at UIUC.


issue framing process


It’s rather messy, but it starts with people recognizing that they have a problem and they need a better way to talk about it and decide what to do about it. In the case of the ALA Privacy Framing, a handful of people are going out and talking with others from diverse experiences and perspectives to understand their concerns. This research will result in a long list of concerns that we will cluster according to the dominant value or motive behind that cluster. This will lead to 3-4 approaches about what might be done and why, AND what might be the consequences of that approach. When the guide for deliberation is written, it tends to follow the format of the graphic below:


(I usually show this in a power point presentation with the arrows flying in demonstrating that it is possible to find common ground because the same values may show up in different approaches or even be in the “likes” and “concerns” within an approach.)

In the top drawing, I didn’t include the deliberative forum because I was focusing on a specific application of technology. The last two phases are the reporting out on the forums and consolidating those findings into overarching themes that reflect how people across a number of forums are thinking about the issue when they deliberate.

Carolyn Caywood, a librarian at Virginia Beach Public Library drew up a map of issue framing for the ALA Privacy Framing experiment currently taking place online.

framing drawing

Do these pictures tell a thousand words? How can we make them clearer? What have we omitted? How might you use these?

I’d love to get your feedback!

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I’m working with E3 Alliance and Austin Voices for Education and Youth on community-wide deliberations on the Achievement Gap. (More details later.) In preparing our slides to explain this project to the school superintendents who are joining with us, Rick Olmos at E3 created a graphic that shows how the issues are framed around three approaches and what the product (a fourth approach) of deliberation might look like.

Framework Diagram

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Reflections on the election

[I wrote this last November, but just now let it go. I’m not sure why I held on to it…not sure it’s even worth sharing! But here it is. It’s still timely.]

I live in a rural, upper middle-class community composed primarily of retired, religious republicans. It’s a stark contrast to many of the people I’ve met in Austin, the city that wears its “weirdness” with pride. So I pay attention to the voices I hear when I walk in these two diverse worlds. Today I was listening to the post-election comments in my local beauty salon where women who were not happy with the results of the election were at least pleased with my new hair color! But I digress…

What struck me in listening to them was not the way they talked about the winners and losers, but how the election was cast in terms of “my side” vs. “your side”. Elections have always been horse races, but I seem to recall that the horses were the individual candidates NOT a political party’s control of the house. I pretended to thumb through old issues of Time Magazine while the weekly “wash and curl” set (you know, the silver-haired, grandmotherly ladies that “get their hair fixed on Friday so it will look presentable on Sunday) disagreed about whether or not it was better to have both sides of the house and the executive branch from the same party. Some expressed concern about “what the Democrats will do to us”. Others were glad to “get rid of the lying Republicans.” I wondered if any of them considered whether or not the best people for the job were elected regardless of party affiliation.

This sent me back to the book, The Broken Branch by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein. Not being a political scientist or historian, I appreciate their highly accessible and interesting description of the history and operation of the House, Senate, Judiciary, and Executive branch. If I understand Ornstein and Mann, our nation’s founders were deeply concerned about balancing power and ensuring governance in the interest of the public’s common good. This drove their thinking about term lengths and limits and authority. Even the electoral college was part of the grand scheme to ensure adequate controls to limit abuse of power. Here are some of the quotes I highlighted from the first couple of chapters.

  • “The Constitution…does build an institutional edifice in which Congress is seen as a powerful, independent body, one expected to represent a large and diverse republic, to deliberate on important policy questions, and to check and balance the other branches. In the words of Nelson Polsby, the framers intended Congress to be a transformative legislature, not simply an arena in which external forces work their will.”
  • “The president, chosen for a four-year term by electors appointed by the states, would lack the political muscle provided by popular election.”
  • “the framers tried to design Congress in a way that would attract people of ability to work for the common good.”
  • “The key was building governmental institutions that channeled the ambitions of elected officials to serve broad public interests.”

I wonder if Congress is well-suited to serve broad interests and common public good or if they are hang-tied by their political party. Can we as citizens move beyond the political party horse race and the red-blue narrative and demand that our elected officials stand up for broad public interests. My friend, Susan Clark told me earlier tonight that she thinks the recent election is a sign that we want more balance and dialogue about the direction our country is going. I’m unusually skeptical, but I hope she’s right. I hope that we approach 2008 more thoughtfully and deliberatively. So what do we do to make that happen?

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I posted this on my Graduate Library and Information Sciences course site for the Change Management course I teach online for the University of Illinois. It sparked quite a discussion so I offer it here on a non-password protected site. I thought I would bring it forward for additional consideration.

This article from the Austin-American Statesman describes the “difficult decision” Edwards had to make when it was revealed that two bloggers he hired had previously posted offensive material on their blogs. It certainly raises a lot of questions and points for discussion that the article never raises, namely, how much control should a candidate exert over a staffer’s speech? Or conversely, can we as voters separate a candidate from the speech of his/her staff? Are there unique limits to free speech in this circumstance?

“He (Edwards) said that no one on his campaign would be allowed to use such intolerant language, even if intended as satire.” Do we praise him for holding them to high standards? Or do we criticize him for controlling speech?

“He also said that he would not allow his campaign to be hijacked by religious conservatives who had pointed out the bloggers’ most provocative comments and demanded their removal.” Do we praise him for taking control of his campaign? Or do we criticize for squelching debate?

“Both frequently used sexually explicit profanity to describe their ideological opponents.” Does the use of this kind of language change the debate?

“”This is all being made up as we go along,” said Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network, which tries to serve as a bridge between traditional politics and the Wild West world of the Internet. “It is difficult to apply the old ways campaigns were run in late 20th century to this new wide-open citizen-led politics.”” It certainly is. So what is the role of information specialist in this ever evolving, Wild West world?

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Texas Forums on Social Security

Originally uploaded by TexasTaylor.
[This is one of a series of postings featuring the history of Texas Forums prior to November 2006. These photos were retrieved for the NIF 25th anniversary celebration and are being posted here for those who are new to Texas Forums and want to know more about us. For more entries about our history, go to our History Category Page.]

On April 21, 2005, volunteers from Texas Forums moderated simultaneous forums on “The Medicare Burden: how can we ensure health care coverage for older Americans?” for the Big Choices Symposium hosted by the LBJ Library, the UT Center for Health and Social Policy and LBJ Future Forum.

The organizers recruited people from:

  • Third Age, part of the University of Texas at Austin’s Continuing Education Program for senior adults (over 60 years of age).
  • Young professionals
  • Members of the three informal continuing education programs operating out of the Thompson Conference Center (SAGE, LAMP, and Quest.
  • Representatives of the local AARP office
  • Future Forum, an LBJ affiliate that seeks to expand the involvement of young Texans with the LBJ Library and to foster greater civic involvement within the community (typically ranging in age from 25 to 45).s

During the planning time of the Big Choices Social Security symposium, the symposium organizers learned that the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) was developing a 32-page discussion guide based on three different approaches to social security:

• Reaffirming Social Security: The Promise of Protection
• Reconstructing Social Security: The Case for Personal Accounts
• Renewing Social Security: Revising the Contract for a New Generation

Working closely with the author of the discussion guide, members of the Texas Forums network distilled the three approaches in the draft issue book into a tri-fold brochure rather than attempting to frame the issue from scratch.

In preparation for the forums, participants heard presentations from leading experts in the field including commentary from Kenneth S. Apfel, former U.S. Social Security Commissioner and founder of the Center for Health and Social Policy and Dalmer Hoskins who provided an international perspective as the Secretary General of the International Social Security Association. Additional participants in the roundtable discussion were:

  • John Rother, Director of Policy and Strategy, AARP
  • Maya MacGuineas, President, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, New America Foundation
  • Barbara Kennelly, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
  • Stuart Butler, Vice President, Domestic and Economic Policy Studies, Heritage Foundation
  • Peter Orszag, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
  • Thomas Saving, Director, Private Enterprise Research Center; Jeff Montgomery Professor of Economics, Texas A&M University; Public Trustee, Social Security Board of Trustees

Following a dinner hosted by the LBJ Library, the participants reconvened in the library’s atrium and were joined by members of the LBJ Library Future Forum. In break out groups, volunteers from Texas Forums moderated simultaneous deliberative forums using content based on the NIFI discussion guide.

  • Participants were adamant that Social Security should be preserved, but were willing to be flexible and explore minor changes to the system.
  • Social Security is not a substitute for retirement savings, but should be seen as a supplement.
  • While some people were concerned that the working poor are paying into a system that is benefiting wealthier retirees, participants were concerned that allowing people to opt out of the system could weaken support for it.
  • Several participants expressed a willingness to accept trade-offs in order to preserve the current system – those with higher incomes were willing to pay more in and take less out.
  • Raising the age of retirement was an option participants were willing to explore, but they wanted to preserve the individual’s right to choose their own retirement age and were concerned that forcing the retirement age upwards would unduly impact laborers.
  • Incentives to increase personal savings were well-received, but participants were concerned that personal accounts were impractical for lower wage earners and the majority of people who are not knowledgeable about how to manage their own investments.

The full report can be viewed here.

To see more photos from this event, go to our Flickr site for Social Security photos.

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“What does it mean to be a citizen – of a community, of a country of a world?
If all those who called themselves Americans were in one room, what would we have in common?
What is our vision of the future?

These are just some of the questions being explored by the America Project & the 51st (dream) state, a major new music theater work produced and directed by Sekou Sundiata. The author of a May/June 1994 issue of American theatre once said of this New York-based artist and activist, an African-American poet, performer, and musician, “If Homer were a black man born in the projects, he would be this tall, fearsome-looking poet.” But, like many Americans, 9/11 spurred Sundiata to new thinking about what it means to be an American. He was troubled by the estrangement between American Civic ideals and American civic practice. Through the America Project, he takes on his civic responsibility to think out loud about America’s national identity and his own “blind spot” when it comes to his vision of himself as an American. He lives out this civic responsibility in the ritualized form of theater and public dialogue.

I met Sundiata last Monday when I participated in a Citizenship Potluck he led. Well, it wasn’t really a potluck since the meal was catered by Rosemary’s at the UT Alumni Center. Sponsored by the UT Humanities Institute and the UT College of Fine Arts, the purpose of the event was to encourage potential partners from the arts, the university, community organizations and faith-based institutions to engage Austinites in “honest and critical conversations about post-9/11 citizenship and civic consciousness.”

So he led us gently in just such a conversation.

Sundiata set the stage for our storytelling by sharing the impact that 9/11 had on him. Laid up in a hospital bed in Brooklyn, the television was his only source of information about his beloved city. It wasn’t until several days later that he was able to make his way to his university office that once lay in the shadow the twin towers. Compelled to exit the train a stop early in order to walk past the site that would eventually be called “Ground Zero”, Sundiata numbly walked past hundreds of 8*10 hurriedly photocopied candid shots of people plastered on every available surface. Amidst the sadness, Sundiata also felt an overwhelming sense of love. The kind of love that led him on a journey, “an adventure, a quest to find a vision of what it means to be both a citizen and an individual in a deeply complex, hyper-kinetic society.” According to Sundiata, artists are called to witness, citizens are called to witness.

Sundiata engaged us — about thirty people seated at three round tables — in part of that journey by asking us to tell a story of when we became aware of ourselves as citizens or civic beings. The stories people told evoked powerful images:

  • A nine-year old girl writes a postcard to President Johnson asking why we are at war in Vietnam
  • A seven year old girl travels to the National Women’s Political Caucus meeting with her mother, meets the likes of Steinem and Friedan, and breaks her piggy bank to pay dues to join her local chapter.
  • A 62 year old black woman who grew up with the protection of a Black College is baffled when, as a young child on a family vacation in the south, her mother forbids her to use a certain water fountain or restroom. Years later, she weeps through a performance of the Lion King at a historic theatre in San Antonio, not because of the performance, but because she finally entered through the front door after years of climbing the back stairs entrance for the “coloreds”.
  • A young man called home from a fellowship abroad to fulfill his draft obligations for a war he does not support, meets the woman he eventually marries, finds purpose in Soul on Ice, hope in the production of Hair and overwhelming love for his country.
  • A young man accompanies his elderly Jewish great-grandparents on a tour back to their home country in the Soviet Union and convinces the young female tour guide to take him out on the town after curfew not realizing that she was subject to greater risk than he for his lark.

Out of these stories, we began to identify themes. Some people found their “civic soul” when they were subjected to or witnessed social injustice. For some, it was a tragic event while for others, it was the subtle influence of a respected mentor.

Sundiata then directed us to think about our vision for America and what it would take to move us in that direction. One woman spoke for the first time and echoed what we often hear at the end of our deliberative forums. “We need more opportunities and places to connect authentically with others, to see others as humans.” That is our charge over the next few months…creating those opportunities leading up to Sundiata’s return in mid-February to perform his production, America Project & the 51st (dream) state.

I believe these are the questions we need to be asking leading up to the 2008 elections and will keep you posted on opportunities to engage others in this exploration.

If you want to learn more about this project and other Texas Forums events, subscribe to our newsletter and I’ll keep you posted!

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In November, Texas Forums hosted two online events -a workshop on Civic Reflection and a discussion with the author of the report on Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role forums.

These and other online workshops are archived on the new Opal Online Civic Engagement Archive Page! You can watch and hear the entire presentation including the slides we used (you WILL need a PC with Internet Explorer) or you can download the audio to your MP3 player and take us to your exercise class! We’ve also provided a link to the slides for your use.

If you have suggestions for future online events or speakers, or if you would like to hold a book discussion online, let me know. I’ll be holding in-person and virtual presentations on how to access and use this resource that the LBJ Foundation has made possible.

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Dr. David Matthews explained that politics began when a village faced a problem of a flood and the public decided “to move the damn village”. Today, politics has been construed as a system outside of the public’s hand: it is elite, exclusive, ineffective, untrustworthy, divisive and to be avoided in public discussion at the dinner table. RECLAIMING the original understanding of politics as a community-owned engagement with public issues does begin with dialogue. I reflect on my campus life and undeniably find passion, engagement and collaboration. However, it is limited to segmented, alienated, homogenous groups feeling unrepresented and in competition with other communities on campus. What would it look like for these dialogues to happen across diverse communities on campus, nation, and international issues? Students often feel disheartened by ‘just talk’ but without collaborative decisions and working through the issues- we have already forfeited our ability to unite toward collaborative action. What opportunities we have yet to explore! What would it look like for faculty, school boards, and student governments to support and encourage and move based on deliberative democracy and issue forums? What would it take to unite students to move forward as their own advocates to reclaim democracy? I have hope for alienated individuals to become valued assets in community politics.

My name is Christina Marie Hisel. I attend University of California, Berkeley as a senior in Sociology. I am currently starting public service programs to engage students with neighborhood community issues.

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