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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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Over the past three years, the E3 Alliance and Texas Forums have joined forces to engage communities across Central Texas in deliberating education issues and implementing changes that will align our educational system, close education gaps, enlist the talents and energy of the entire community, and provide our students with a foundation for ongoing educational and career success. This has been a remarkable endeavor involving thousands of parents, educators, business leaders, students, policy-makers, school administrators, university presidents, non-profit organizations and policy think tanks.

This effort has even been recognized by the Kettering Foundation research organization that explores what it takes to make democracy work as it should. Headed by Dr. David Mathews, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and author of several books about the public’s role in public education, the Kettering Foundation invited us to be part of their research project on how people in communities are talking about education. We prepared a report to the Kettering Foundation in December 2007 and continue to address questions jointly prepared by us and their research team. This post is a brief description of the project with links to some of the resources we created over the past three years.

In the fall of 2007, Texas Forums trained 120 moderators to work in six communities. To ensure that we had involvement from young people both as participants and as community engagement leaders, we worked with Austin Voices for Education and Youth to recruit and train students to serve as co-moderators. Over 600 people in six communities – Bastrop, Manor, San Marcos, Eanes, Austin and Round Rock – spent three evenings discussing how to close the education gaps within our school districts and across the region. All of the forums were organized by local community champions. At the end of the series of forums in each community, participants signed up to work on action items.

In November 2007, delegates from the community forums met at the LBJ Presidential Library atrium to refine their community action plans and combine their ideas into a regional map using a graphic template. Meanwhile community leaders met in the Brown Room of the LBJ Library to learn about the deliberative forum process these delegates had experienced. The two groups were then combined for a large group discussion that was graphically recorded.

Eleven regional goals emerged from this conversation:

  1. Children Enter Kindergarten School Ready
  2. Every 5th grader has mastered reading and math at or above grade level
  3. Central Texas schools foster a culture of learning through high expectations and strong leadership
  4. Central Texas closes Achievement Gaps for all students while improving overall performance
  5. English Language Learners reach their highest potential in education regardless of when they come to Central Texas
  6. Central Texas Students Set the Standard for Excellence in Math & Science
  7. Students graduate high school and are prepared to succeed in life
  8. 20,010 more high school graduates are prepared for and enroll in college by 2010
  9. Central Texas Higher Education Institutions increase regional success rate by 50% by 2015
  10. Central Texas is world-renowned in target fields, both in higher education and in industry
  11. Central Texas as a community works with regional educators to prepare all children to succeed in life

We prepared a handout (available here) describing each of these goals along with additional data about each goal and how it applies to Central Texas.

While all eleven of these goals will be needed for systemic and sustainable change in how we think about and approach education in Central Texas, we knew that it would be important to establish priorities and recruit volunteers to act on the most important goals. In January 2008, we convened a Summit of business leaders, community representatives, non-profits and policy-makers to deliberate and further refine these eleven goals. They prioritized the top four goals that became known as The Blueprint for Educational Change.

The top four goals are:

  1. All children enter kindergarten school ready.
  2. We eliminate achievement gaps while improving overall student performance.
  3. All students graduate college-and-career ready and prepared for a lifetime of learning.
  4. Central Texas as a community prepares children to succeed.

Participants at the 2008 Summit (cajoled by Senator Kirk Watson known for inspiring people to act!) signed up to be Blueprint Champions. There definitely was a sense at the Summit that real educational change was possible as it had never been before. The Blueprint Champions worked through 2008 to prove it!

In the fall of 2008, we continued engaging new communities in educational dialogues. At the request of three communities not included in the first year – Pflugerville, Hutto and Leander – we organized a second round of dialogues in the fall of 2008. Recognizing that The Blueprint for Educational Change is dynamic, ambitious and will evolve over time, we engaged members of these communities in a dialogue about what The Blueprint for Educational Change would look like in their community. They also spent an evening using the discussion guide “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs” that we adapted from the National Issues Forums book. Each community developed action plans based on common themes that they heard in their deliberations.

Here are some ideas from the Hutto team working on the theme, “Make learning relevant to the real world.”

(For more action items from the Hutto community, see our YouTube stream on Education in Hutto)

pflugerville-education-clappingOnce again, delegates from the community dialogues (including a large representation of enthusiastic students) community leaders and The Blueprint Champions came to a Summit in February 2009. At the Summit, we updated and refined The Blueprint Action Plans, launched The Blueprint for Educational Change website, and the delegates met over lunch to work on their community action plans and to share their plans with each other. We are continuing to meet with the local community champions and superintendents as they work to implement their community action plans.

There was much to celebrate at the second Summit. The Blueprint for Educational action teams had scores of items that they could cross of their “to do list” even as we added more actions and volunteers to work on each of the four goals. Now it’s time to go back to work on the regional plan as we continue to support the community-driven plans. I’ll be meeting with the Hutto School Board on March 31st to help them set priorities for their community. We met with Leander last month and did the same. In addition, E3 is connecting teachers and superintendents to resources they are developing in partnership with UT.

The Blueprint for Educational change aims to address the needs across the entire educational continuum from kindergarten through post-secondary and on to career and lifelong success across Central Texas. The scope is ambitious, but achievable if we all roll up our sleeves and contribute our time and talents. To make a formal commitment, Join the Blueprint for Educational Change and download these ideas for ways you can support the four goals!

President Johnson was an educator long before he was President and some of his proudest accomplishments were programs like Head Start, a nation-wide effort to give pre-schoolers from poor families the nutritional and other attentions they need to begin first grade on a par with other children – an early effort to meet our own Blueprint Goal #1. So it is appropriate that the LBJ Library’s initiative, Texas Forums has been involved in the project with E3 Alliance. We are proud to be their featured partner and look forward to another year of collaborating to align regional education efforts and strengthen community involvement to meet the needs of our youth in Central Texas.

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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

Overview

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

Applications

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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New Social Inquiry is a brand new academic journal, but they aren’t just any academic journal. Right on the front page they claim that they will be a different kind of academic journal. They will be publishing social research essays and relative works that are accessible to a wide audience, engaging and relevant for non-specialists, yet sophisticated and complex enough to push scholarship forward.

If the look and feel of their web site is any indication, I believe that they WILL be a different kind of academic journal!

New Social Inquiry

(BTW, what the heck is that thingy called anyway? I can’t remember, but the first person to post answer as a response here will get an LBJ 100 coffee mug.)

Their first publication will focus on public dialogue. Hey, “public dialogue”? That’s something that the readers of this blog (all three of you-I’m not counting the “guy” from Russia who keeps making offers I can definitely refuse!) are interested in. Here’s an excerpt from the guidelines for submission:

Is there such a thing as public dialogue, now or in the past? If so, who participates, who leads, and what forms does it take? If not, how can it realistically be realized? What are the main challenges to
establishing/maintaining public dialogue? What are good examples of public dialogue working in the world today?
What is/are the relationship(s) between public dialogue(s) and social inquiry(ies)?

Shotgun essays should be no longer than 1000 words–we said “short”, and we mean it.

The deadline is January 19, 2009.

So I’m mulling article ideas. Wouldn’t it be exciting to be published in the very first publication? Anyone want to co-author? Any story angles we should explore?

For more information, check out: http://www.newsocialinquiry.org/

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The loose-knit, recently formed network of D&D practitioners in Central Texas now have a group in Facebook. It’s not actually a group yet since I’m the only member so far, but it’s only been five minutes. I’m sure the other thirty people who gathered at the LBJ Library last April 19 will want to join so that we can maintain the energy and momentum from that meeting.

If you are in Central Texas and interested in dialogue and deliberation, community engagement, civic discourse, public leadership and civic entrepreneurship, join our Central Texas D&D Network Facebook Group to stay apprised of upcoming events and activities.

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OK, Cesar has been at it again. He’s working his magic to give us a new look.

Here’s his latest version of a website / blog look:

texas forums branding

Here’s the logo by itself:

logo

 

 

There are lots of meanings you can derive from the logo.

It’s a dialogue box

The star is crawling (thinking? deliberating?) outside of the box

What other meanings do you see in here?

What do you think about this look for Texas Forms?

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