Archive for the ‘Idea Exchange’ Category

From July 8-11, 2009, I am attending the Democracy Imperative and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, a  national conference at the University of New Hampshire.

Background of the Democracy Imperative:

A couple of years ago, Bruce Mallory and Nancy Thomas convened a meeting of higher education folks to address the question: Is there a need for those of us concerned with the role of higher education in deliberative democracy to join forces and share knowledge and resources? The answer has been a resounding YES as is evident by the number of people participating here this week – 270 antitipated and judging from the limited number of open seats. The guest list reads like a who’s who in higher education and deliberation / service learning / community development & organizing. In addition, there are a number of representatives from non-profits.

To get a really good idea of who is here, David Campt is leading us through a keypad poll using Turning Point keypads. Here are the results:

  • 1/3 have used keypads, and 1/3 are new.
  • 60% are female
  • 41% are 40-55, but we do have 7% below 24 years and hopeful for more in the future!
  • 73% white again confirming that diversity is an ongoing challenge for this field
  • we are primarily from U.S., but we have 20% from outside of North America representing important perspectives for us to have in the room.
  • very good representation from around the country with the bulk (38%) from the northeast where the conference is taking place.
  • As far as the two issues that drew people to the field:
    • collaborative governance
    • justice and equity issues
  • Given lots of options about who we wanted to meet at this conference, the bulk answered “the person sitting next to me” (although Sarah Palin’s media advisor got a few hits proving that even academics have a sense of humor and, like me I will confess, can’t take their eyes off a train wreck!)

In just a couple of hours, I will be co-facilitiating a session with colleague John Stephens from the University of North Carolina on: Tech Ethics: The Values questions raised in a digital democracy.

I’ll check in throughout the week as I get time and have something worthwhile to say – or not!

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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:




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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It would be interesting if they said something we hadn’t heard. Barack makes a joke about “No Child Left Behind” and talks about the money left behind but doesn’t get a big response here. Bonnie observes that most of the people here are taking it all blandly and no one is getting up and cheering. That’s the plight of this kind of crowd.

And Dennis Kucinich can get cheers from the crowd at the forum but little response from these folks. Mike Gravel has the freedom to talk truth because nobody takes him seriously.

So let’s talk about this event, as Yours Unruly plans to jet, and what the overview should be: the crowd should have been larger certainly, there should have been more journalists here to get the opinions of the average person – most of whose concerns are really about the economy, health care and having a government that isn’t riddled with corruption. I heard that tonight, walking from one table to another. I watched the people sitting here, Black, Asian, Latino and White and most them – as mentioned – had no idea about the “Covenant” but had serious ideas about what they wanted for this country. Many of them expressed their desire for common ground. This Blogger was happy to hear that.

At the same time, as a long-time journalist, I would rather have attended an event where more of the people got to speak instead of watch, an event where there was involvement and interaction instead of observation. Passivity is not what is needed now. Action is what is needed now.

The next stage of politics is involving the polity.

This was certainly worth doing but more is needed, more conversation.

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28 June 2007: This evening I’m reporting from the LBJ Library at the University of Texas (UT) on Tavis Smiley’s Public Broadcasting System (PBS) forum with the candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States. Like many other Bloggers here tonight, I’m suppose to be an ear to what our community thinks about the pols and their policies. The difference, at least for me, from some of the other Bloggers is that I’m a working journalist and a former political hack. I know this game. So I’ll try to share with you what is meant by what is being said, instead of being a parrot.

In the process, I’ve brought along a few friends, included my Gen Y Personal Assistant, to look over my shoulder, take some digital photos of this crowd, and correct my impressions when I tend to act like an old curmudgeon.

The citizens at the each table were asked to have a Blogger like me write write about what they think. Live blogging is an interesting exercise in that we, the bloggers, should act as the ears of the people.

What I find interesting is that people at my particular table are talking about Dick Cheney, global corporations and corporate greed – compared to personal sacrifice – and nothing NOTHING about Tavis Smiley’s “Covenant for African-Americans” which is about what this forum was set up to look at. This Reporter walks around to a few of the tables at this meeting to ask if anyone had heard about Smiley’s initiative. Even the few Black people here have ever heard about it.

My Personal Assistant, Bonnie, is snapping people in the crowd right now. We’ll upload them later.

The issue is being brought up that most people didn’t know, in the pre-forum discussion that most of the attendants were ignorant to the fact there was a “Convenant to Black America.” So we have an audience who doesn’t know why they came here. They are learning that during this discussion.

7:47 p.m.: It’s gettting touchy-feely now. People are talking about how the even here in Austin we are becoming a *very* segregated community, all acknowledged. Now we’re going to hear from the Democratic Presidential candidates and Tavis Smiley.

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I’ve been thinking about how we can use youtube, innertoob (see example posted on this blog), OPAL (See examples in our archive), and other technologies to distribute content for moderators, reporters, recorders, and conveners to use to brush up on their skills or describe what these deliberative forums are all about.

So the other day, I was doing scholarly research about deliberation on youtube. Ok, I probably can’t get away with that line…

So the other day I was goofing off watching some silly videos sent by a friend I should probably block from my in-box when I’ve got work to do, when I stumbled on a really great video describing good questions for encouraging deliberation! (That kind of serendipity happens just often enough for me to justify youtube play time, and keep me from banning my friend’s e-mail address.)

This is an excellent video done by a high school student in Hawaii named Sarah. She goes by the handle aloha on youtube and legothenego on Flickr. Her videos and photos are worth a look! (Hey Dolores, if aloha is not already in your network, you might send her a flickrmail. I sure am!)

Anyway, this video might be a good model. It’s bound to appeal to a lot more young people than anything I’ve ever done in a workshop on deliberation. (Marla, should this be part of our citizen journalism work?)

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[On January 29, 2007 Texas Forums conducted an open house / idea exchange. We shared the upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, and asked participants to write ideas down on notecards. To read more ideas from this and other events, go to our Idea Exchange Category.]

The following suggestions are from Kevin Koym, founder of Enterprise Teaming.

“Drive more traffic to website from your newsletters instead of the whole article in the e-mail. Pull us into the website. This will create community.”

Response from Taylor:

Kevin – well d’oh! What was I thinking? I guess I was just lazy slapping everything into the newsletter instead of linking to our web site. Actually, Elaine is working diligently to get us a new site because our current content management system is 18 months old and you know (better than most) what that means in the world of technology. It means that it is clunky and I try to avoid using it. That’s also why more and more of my time is spent updating information on our blog.

Also from Kevin:

“Leveraging your entrepreneurs. My idea – have a place perhaps a blog) on texas forums where citizens can present problems that might be solved by our network of entrepreneurs – bootstrappers.”

Response from Taylor:

I love this idea. I’ve enjoyed the nonprofit bootstrap meetings that Shawn Thomas organizes and listening to Boot Rap: The Voice of the Bootstrap Network on Hearthis.com.

Three ideas:

I have a Help Page on the blog, but it only lets you add one posting and I don’t know how to set up RSS feeds for comments.

I have a category on our blog for Civic Entrepreneurship that I’ll use for updates on my fellowship from the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Illinois. Again, it would be easier to involve the Bootstrap network if I could get the RSS feeds set up right.

I also have a collaborative web site set up (it’s actually a very user-friendly wiki) to keep track of research projects and ideas. We could take one project to start and see who is interested. I think you will be interested in the University of Illinois research project with students in the Designing Digitally Mediated Information Services class. They are working on technology projects listed on our blog. Perhaps some of your entrepreneurs would be interested in working on something that could also have benefit to them.

I’d love to explore this idea with you and your bootstrap buddies. We just need to talk about how to make it work logistically! If anyone can make it work, it’s you and the bootstrap network. (BTW for those of you who don’t know about Bootstrappers, this following audio presentation
by Bootstrap Founder Bijoy Goswami to the Austin American Society for Training and Development is a good introduction.)

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[On January 29, 2007 Texas Forums conducted an open house / idea exchange. We shared the upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, and asked participants to write ideas down on notecards. To read more ideas from this and other events, go to our Idea Exchange Category.]

Martha Koock Ward submitted this idea in response our report about the issue Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation. In partnership with Study Circles Resource Center, Texas Forums is offering an orientation / organizing clinic on February 21 at the LBJ Library from 10 – 3.

Austin Area Interreligious Ministries has been sponsoring InterRacial dialogues monthly ˆ 1st Sat at St. James Episcopal Church on East MLK from 9:oo a.m. – 11:30, all are welcome to attend. For info prior to the session, contact AAIM Board Member Mike Manor and put “BEAT” in the subject line.

Response from Taylor:

Martha – thanks for this lead. I’m on the AAIM mailing list so I was aware of these dialogues, but not the main contact. Glad to know about Mike and I will extend an invitation to him and to the AAIM Executive Director Emilee Whitehurst. Of course, we hope that you will be able to join us and urge your colleagues to register here! One of your board members has also been in contact with me about the Study Circles project, so I have high hopes that AAIM will be on board.

An advantage of working with SCRC – in addition to the excellent materials – is that they focus not only on the dialogues, but the changes that can come out of the racism dialogues. One condition they have identified as crucial to change is the intra-agency / organization dialogues. They emphasize community-wide dialogues and even provide free materials and technical assistance to those engaged in community dialogues. While it is important for organizations to have internal dialogues, real community change comes when we reach out across our normal . In addition, by pooling resources across agencies, we can share cost to train the discussion leaders. (In an earlier posting, I included training as a free service of SCRC, but I was mistaken. There is a small charge, but it is is not cost-prohibitive.)

We are excited about the work that AAIM is doing and hope that they will join organizations at this organizing clinic to discuss ways to leverage the various race dialogues into community action. Register here.

Thanks for your contribution!


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