Archive for the ‘Dialogue and Deliberation Models’ Category

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!

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In July, the Secretary of Health and Human Services announced that the federal government expects to initiate a voluntary fall vaccination program against the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. The CDC will help state and local health organizations develop the vaccination program and are working to decide the scope of the program for vaccinating Americans against the novel H1N1 pandemic influenza virus.

In this web-based dialogue the public will discuss, deliberate, and offer input as the CDC considers whether to take a “full-throttle” or a “go-easy” approach to mass vaccination, or a moderate approach somewhere in-between?

WebDialogue registrants are expected to participate on both days of the two-day dialogue. They must be willing to complete a pre- and post-knowledge survey, respond to a poll on the second day, and provide feedback through an evaluation at the conclusion of the dialogue.

Register to participate! Select a dialogue and click on the link below:

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On July 16, 2009 I participated in a virtual conference on Stakeholder Engagement co-sponsored by Public Decisions and Learning Times and held in Second Life on Squirrel Island. Here is the schedule of the day. The session included a small group deliberation on the topic, “Facing the Challenges of Climate Change: A Guide for Citizen Thought and Action” using a discussion guide prepared by Public Agenda. I was one of the “deliberators” on stage.

I have to admit that I was rather surprised at how smoothly the day went. My head has been spinning with possibilities.

One idea is to use Second Life to demonstrate a deliberative forum.

It is almost universally accepted in the National Issues Forums world that people attending the training sessions (called Public Policy Institutes) have to experience a forum to really understand deliberation. But the experience isn’t always a smashing success. Participants (because they are all attending the training to learn about public deliberation) are likely to be pre-disposed to speak more civilly, hold similar values and perspectives, and be less likely to engage in bad behavior than a passionate, strong-willed, opinionated, closed-minded person. (I haven’t actually seen a lot of bad behavior in the forums that I have moderated, but the Gadfly Hall of Fame – compliments of Pete Peterson of Common Sense California – would indicate that it is possible!)

Role playing different parts usually comes off silly and rarely adds to the experience. The role player usually finds it difficult to remain in character and their performance becomes a parody of different perspectives. They state opinions that they don’t really hold and then giggle or engage in some other behavior that lets you know they are not being authentic. Plus, they become labeled as “that guy” and spend the remainder of the training session overcoming the impression.  But Second Life could actually provide an opportunity for a staged deliberative forum. People could literally take on a different avatar that they could discard after the forum. The limited body language could actually be a benefit. It’s something I’m playing with.

In the meantime, I’m in conversation with Learning Times and Public Decisions about an international Stakeholder Engagement Online Conference.

Save the date and stay tuned.

2-4 March 2010
Presented by PublicDecisions and Learning Times

Showcasing best practices for stakeholder engagement . . . Demonstrating leading edge tools . . . Highlighting emerging technologies.

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I am currently in this session at the No Better Time Conference.

Community organizing and deliberative democracy: How do they relate?

Description: From the beginning, deliberation projects borrowed a number of tactics from the field of community organizing. Meanwhile, community organizing has evolved and diversified tremendously. The line between these two approaches to social change seems increasingly blurry. What are the similarities and differences? In what ways can they compliment each other and learn from one another?

  • Mark Linder, City of Cupertino, California, and vice chair, Democratic Governance Panel of the National League of Cities
  • Ian Bautista, United Neighborhood Centers of America
  • Wendy Willis, Policy Consensus Initiative
  • Alma Couverthie, Lawrence CommunityWorks

The session began with stories from field that were inspiring to hear.

Danielle Atkinson with Michigan Voices described the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan (ROC-MI) that is dedicated to winning improved conditions and raising industry standards for all Detroit metro restaurant workers.

Paul Alexander, Director of the Institute on the Common Ground at Regis University: When we began holding community dialogues, no one would come so we had to get into the community and engage in community organizing. Getting people to the table was only part of the issue; we also had to address power to make dialogue work.

Heidi Klein at the Snelling Center for Government in VT: We are doing deliberation first and then organizing later. In Vermont, several organizations are interested in transportation – providers, user, environmental concerns. We are using deliberation to help them develop principles for transporting the public – to find some agreement. They have 10 principles that they can use to organize. For example, environmentalists have their own talking points, but they go into the community to organize with an understanding of the needs and difficulties that seniors face in transportation.


There are tools that the deliberative democracy and community organizing field need to share – we are two tools in the same belt.


Community Organizing: Capacity and community leadership building in a community. Very action-oriented, short or long-term and includes stakeholders. In society there are three forces at work market, government and civic. Per Mark Linder, we need to civic side because the other two sides are running amok. We have an imperfect union by becoming consumers rather than citizens. Bringing the resources, talents and skills of people together to transform their world.

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Earlier this semester, students in my Library School course on Community Engagement gathered tools for online engagement that I, along with Charles Knickerbocker and Silona Bonewald presented to the National Association of Planning Councils conference. I’m summarizing some of these tools here for the benefit of Patricia Wilson’s Commmunity Engagement Course at UT and anyone else who might be interested. (Also, I’ve thrown my back out and can’t present to her class in person so I hope this will suffice.) Since Patricia will be moving through this material in a one hour class, I’ve added a * after the web sites that should be opened and explored during the class. I’ve also set them to open in a new window which can be obnoxious, but is useful if you are clicking through web sites in front of a room full of students.


Before adopting any technology, it is important to think about what are you trying to accomplish. Keeping that in mind, my class created some scenarios, then recommended a tool and possible applications. These scenarios were inspired by a webinar we attended that was led by Steve Clift, an early adopter of technology for public engagement, founder of e-democracy and an Ashoka Fellow. We also used the IAP2 model to determine if the tool was best suited to 1) inform, 2) consult, 3) involve, 4) collaborate, and/or 5) empower. Read through the scenarios below.  As you think about these scenarios, consider:

  1. What are some likely tools address the challenge posed by the scenario?
  2. What are some possible applications of the tool?
  3. Who might use the tool?
  4. What are the strengths?
  5. What are the weaknesses?
  6. What is the level of public engagement as defined by the IAP2 spectrum?

Scenario 1: New to the community

You have just moved to a new community. You are unfamiliar with every aspect of the community but, in your old community, you were an active member. You helped plan the annual fair each year, volunteered at the hospital, tutored school children, and taught Sunday school. It is only your first week in this new community but you’re itching to get involved. You grab your computer and start searching online for some ideas. Where might you start? What technology tools will you use?

Scenario 2: Combating vandalism

You enjoying jogging through the local park every morning but lately have noticed an increase in vandalism along the trails. You have already contacted several individuals in the local government…Nothing has been done. Weeks have past and the situation is getting worse. You seek a public arena in which to voice your deepening concern. You would like to reach as wide an audience as possible. How might you utilize different tools from the technology tools list to reach the large audience you seek?

Scenario 3: Environmental hazard

You live in a small industrial town whose main employer is a large factory. However, you’re concerned that the factory’s chemical runoff is endangering local wildlife and, potentially worse, affecting the local water supply. What tools can best assist you to gather support, document any evidence/effects and subsequently present your case to a governing body?

Scenario 4: Tolerance and enlightenment

A group of students in a conservative town wants to form a Gay/Straight Alliance at their local high school, but are afraid to go public without a plan for presenting relevant facts & figures, involving fellow students, and getting the administration on board to approve. What are some tools the students can utilize to achieve their aims?

The basics about possible technologies

There are two great resources for a snappy introduction to the various technologies that communities might use to collaborate and form connections. Tim Davies, a UK blogger about e-democracy has created some terrific one-pagers that he freely shares through scribd* and Common Craft* has a number of short, light and informative videos. I suggest that you print out the one-pager for the technology that interests you and then watch the companion video.

Here’s an example of one of Tim’s one-pagers on blogging with wordpress, the tool I’m using to write this post.

One Page Guide to Blogging with WordPress*

EXERCISE: While you’re checking out Tim’s one-pagers on Scribd, sign up for your own scribd account. Scribd lets you share documents online. You can add tags, invite others to view. Viewers can easily download the document, share it with others through e-mail or over a dozen social networking sites, or even embed the document in their web site. They can even add it as a favorite so that they can easily find it later. The site even recommends similar documents that might be of interest to you. When would this be a useful tool? How might you use this as a student?

And here’s the Common Craft video about Blogs.

EXERCISE: Break into pairs and each pair take a different tool to explore. Download the one-pager here and see if there is a Common Craft video that correlates with the tool by doing a search here. What are some potential applications of the tool?

Hyperlocal Blogging or Placeblogging

Speaking of blogging, here’s our first application of a technology – hyperlocal or placeblogging. Sometimes the things that we care about, the things that affect us most directly in our own home town and our own block are not reported in the newspaper, but they are still important to us. At my parent’s neighborhood meeting the other day, the Chief of our volunteer fire department explained how they would respond to a fire in the neighborhood and how the scant number of fire hydrants puts the neighborhood in a vulnerable position. That’s pretty important news if you’re more than 500′ from a hydrant as 90% of the neighborhood is. It wouldn’t be reported in the newspaper – even in a small town like Salado. But some industrious civic-minded soul could set up a blog for free that would only report on things that people in the neighborhood care about. But don’t just take it from me. Here’s a video by Placeblogger’s Lisa Williams who also blogs about her community at H2oTown.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Lisa Williams on placeblogging on Vimeo”, posted with vodpod

“A Zogby survey released in February 2008 foujnd that 70 percent of Americans say journalism is important to maintaining community quality of life, but that nearly as high a number – 67 percent – say the traditional media are out of touch with what citizens want out of their news.” (See Fanselow, Julie. “Community Blogging: The New Wave of Citizen Journalism.” National Civic Review Winter(2008): 24-29.)

So why not give ordinary citizens the opportunity to report on what’s happening in their community?

The NY Times has their reporters hyperlocal blogging about the communities where they live. Here’s one example from Maplewood.

Another interesting use of hyperlocal blogging is for communities and grantors to share information with each other. The Northwest Area Foundation uses blogs as a key component of its Horizons program*. The Foundation gets a front row seat learning about what is working and what the communities need help with, and the communities in the Horizon Project share information with each other. They provide a grid of ways that people in communities can report on the progress they are making in their community and about a dozen screencasts on how to blog, why to blog and wordpress basics. Here’s one on why to blog by Griff Wigley, the founder of a community blog called Locally Growh Northfield whose early foray into community blogging has landed him a career as a blog coach.

EXERCISE: Check out some of the local blogs. What kind of stories do you see? How are they organized – one or more authors, groundrules for comments? What territory do they cover?

Social Networks for Participation and Collaboration

What if you wanted to enable people to set up their own blog, have conversations, share videos and photos. Two easy to use sites are NING.com* and Wetpaint.com*. I’ve used wetpaint for Texas Forums* several years. I call it my sandbox. It’s where I can dump things that I am working on and easily share them with others without worrying about it looking nice. I use it as a “not ready for prime time” website.

A couple of years ago I set up a wet paint site for a group of people in the American Library Association to see if we could frame Privacy as an issue for public deliberation using the National Issues Forums model online. They used the Privacy Framing site* to upload materials on how to frame issues, developed core questions to ask stakeholders, posted the results of their interviews, clustered their results into three approaches and created a discussion map that they will be testing at ALA this summer. COOL!

Ning is another option with lots of bells and whistles, and is very easy to set up. In just a few minutes in one of my classes online, a student set up a Ning site for librarians interested in community engagement* as a demonstration.

EXERCISE: Divide the class into two groups. Have one group set up a wetpaint site and have the other group set up a Ning site. Populate the sites and explore the tools. What are the relative advantages and disadvantages to each?

Where else to go…

Since my back is giving out and it’s time to find food, I’ll send you to a couple of other resources (i.e., really smart people who really know this stuff).

The social media game:* This game was first developed for a workshop led by Beth Kanter and David Wilcox in the UK in 2007. As is the nature of social media gurus, they are very generous with their creations so the game has been remixed. Check out the non-profit game* – lots of how-to videos and links to additional resources that will probably fit your interests.

Beth Kanter is one to follow.

Ok, sorry to poop out on you, but most anything I’ve left out will be in the social media game. I’ve got more resources I didn’t have time to post, but I’ll be back.

Look back over the scenarios. What tools could you use to help address some of the concerns and interests expressed in those scenarios?

Hope you had a great class, sorry I couldn’t be with you, but I look forward to hearing from you.



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I just received notice of a Director of Citizen Engagement position from my friend Joe Goldman over at AmericaSpeaks. AmericaSpeaks has engaged thousands of citizens in large-scale projects on participatory budgeting, rebuilding New Orleans, the New York Listening to the City project, the arts, and health care in California just to name a few. The tools in their toolbox include keypad voting, online deliberation, research, community conversations and webcast meetings.

With an administration that is promoting transparency, participation and collaboration, this is an exciting time to be involved in citizen engagement. So send Joe a line if you are interested in working in D.C. with a dynamic organization doing important work!

Director of Citizen Engagement


The Director of Citizen Engagement will play a critical leadership position for AmericaSpeaks and its major citizen engagement initiatives. The Director of Citizen Engagement will be responsible for representing AmericaSpeaks with its clients and directing large project teams to develop, plan and carry out initiatives to engage the public in the policy making process.

AmericaSpeaks is a world leader in the field of citizen engagement and public deliberation. For more than a decade, 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’ vision is to create a new institution that will link citizens to our nation’s policy making process. For more information about AmericaSpeaks, visit http://www.americaspeaks.org.

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

Duties and Responsibilities

Providing overall leadership for major citizen engagement initiatives independently or in conjunction with AmericaSpeaks’ President
Direct project teams for major citizen engagement initiatives
Represent AmericaSpeaks with current and prospective clients
Attract new projects and design new citizen engagement initiatives for AmericaSpeaks
Write foundation grant proposals to secure funds for citizen engagement initiatives
Lead the organization’s Citizen Engagement Cluster to develop AmericaSpeaks’ resources and infrastructure to support its programming
Exhibit leadership in the field of democracy reform and public deliberation through public speaking, networking, writing, presentations, and other efforts
Develop new innovations to increase the impact and reach of the organization’s citizen engagement efforts and to advance the field of practice
Forge new organizational partnerships, relationships and initiatives in order to support the organization in reaching its goal of creating new national mechanisms for linking citizen voice to governance

Knowledge and Skills Preferred for the Position

  • Must live in 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 facilitation and program design skills
  • Significant experience with managing outreach and communications campaigns
  • 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
  • At least 7 years of experience in the field of citizen engagement, conflict resolution, campaign management, community organizing, public affairs, urban planning, disaster recovery, or other related fields
  • Familiarity with new trends in online engagement tools is preferred
  • Familiarity with the field of deliberative democracy is preferred


Send application to Joe Goldman at jgoldman [at] americaspeaks [dot] org. Please include a resume and a letter describing why you are interested in this work, summarizing why you should be considered for this job, and identifying your salary history and current salary requirements. All attachments should be in PDF or Microsoft Word format and titled as follows “Lastname_Firstname_documentype”.

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

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I just watched the webcast of Open the Door hosted by Openthegovernment.org. The panelists were:

  • Dan Chenok, a member of President Obama’s “Technology, Innovation and Government Reform” transition team, former branch chief for information policy and technology in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and currently senior vice president and general manager of Pragmatics;
  • Vivek Kundra, newly-appointed federal Chief Information Officer (CIO);
  • Katherine McFate, a Program Officer for Government Performance and Accountability in the Ford Foundation’s Governance Unit; and
  • Beth Noveck, a professor of law and director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School and author of Wiki Government (Brookings 2009).

This was the Sunshine Week 2009 National Dialogue sponsore by the American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Center for American Progress, League of Women Voters,National Freedom of Information Coalition, OpenTheGovernment.org, Public Citizen, Special Libraries Association, Sunshine Week, and the Sunlight Foundation.

As far as I know, there were no hashtags and I didn’t know if anyone else was twittering, but I posted my share and now I’ve been asked to re-post them for my non-twittering friends, so here they are along with additional notes I took. No offense to host Patrice McDermott, director of OpenTheGovernment.org who did a fabulous job moderating, but I posted a tiny tweetplaint (OMG, now I’m making up tweet words) about her chewing gum.

My Chicken Scratch:
More important than ever to get data into hands because of huge expenses going out the door for recovery and stimulus.
Have to look at this as an ecosystem. When data is democratized, we can hold officials  and ourselves accountable.

Vivek (Obama CIO) pointed to two examples of how transparency and open source have been effective tools for the federal government:

1) The NIH Human Genome project. They opened up the data to anyone, led to massive explosion in the number of people working on the Genome project. For a quick history and to see some of the amazing results of this open source research, check out this two-page fact sheet from the NIH: www.nih.gov/about/researchresultsforthepublic/HumanGenomeProject.pdf
2) DOD and satellites when they released coordinates, led to geospatial data.

But we have to remember that it is not just technology for technology’s sake. We have to be focused on what the technology will enable us to do.

Connect people to services rather than to government agencies. Each agency has a separate web site. The services are organized according to the bureaucracy not according to the services that people need and not in a way that can be easily accessed.

Technology is just one element of transparency. It’s not the solution. It has to be embedded in the C.I.O.’s DNA. They have to come to favor solutions that make it easier for citizens to access and understand how their government works.

Driven by three values outlined in Obama’s memorandum

  • Transparency
  • Participation
  • Collaboration

When people understand the basis for a decision and are able to participate in the decision-making process they are more ready to live with the decision even if they don’t agree.
Accountable Recovery Resources:

What can you do to monitor the Recovery money? Do it at your state level.
Look at what states and localities are doing. Do they have web sites? What is on them? Is it helpful? If they aren’t good, tell them, write op-eds. Check out resources at http://accountablerecovery.net/ and tell accountable Recovery if you find good things that are working!

This is a special moment to reshape the way democracy works. We have a president committed to hearing what people have to say.
This is our moment to change the structures so that everyone can be engaged. This is about reinvigorating democracy.

Models from other countries: Singapore has a very open electronic gov’t platform. UK has a government gateway that they run transactions through. There is a huge e-government movement internationally.

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This is a perfect opportunity for people who are concerned about how information is collected, disseminated and used (particularly in the context of healthcare) to get involved and share their ideas.


Please log on today to register your opinions on how we can use information technology to improve healthcare, while safeguarding privacy. Thousands of experts, advocates and citizens are participating. Ensure your voice is heard too. The results of this online dialogue will be compiled into a report to the Federal CIO Council and the incoming Administration.

More about the project:

Beginning today and through Nov. 3, just before a critical presidential election, you can join a unique experiment in 21st century democracy. The National Academy of Public Administration, on behalf of the Federal CIO Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and the General Services Administration, will host an online national dialogue that demonstrates a fundamentally different approach to the work of government.

This national discussion will engage a diverse group of voices in tackling one of the key issues confronting the nation’s health care system: How can we use information technology to improve the way patients interact with the healthcare system, while safeguarding their right to privacy? Participants will have an opportunity to discuss challenges, generate breakthrough ideas, and recommend principles that will be presented to the next Administration.

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