Archive for the ‘NIF’ Category

On November 4, twenty-five students, faculty, and administrators at St. Edward’s University (SEU) participated in a deliberative forum on Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role. Organized by the SEU New College, the university’s program for working adults, the goal of the forum was to explore different ways that students can learn and practice their roles as citizens.

During the two and a half hour forum, participants explored the role of higher education in helping students to recognize their own unique contribution to our democracy and discussed ways to inspire them to become engaged citizens. Using a discussion guide prepared by the National Issues Forums Institute, participants considered three perspectives of what it would take to reclaim the public’s role in democracy.

Even though participants agreed the the university needs to provide students with opportunities for citizen engagement, the group recognized various barriers within educational institutions and within society that can prevent people from participating fully.

The lack of trust in government, the disconnect people feel with the process, the inability to talk about tough issues without polarizing around the differences, the loss of our public spaces used for public deliberation – all of these items were explored with a spirit of curiosity and respect. One of the most compelling ideas to come out of the discussion was an awareness that civic engagement in the future might look very different than what it has looked like in the past.

While it wasn’t immediately clear how dialogue and deliberation could be used more fully on campus, there seemed to be agreement that the skills would be important for SEU graduates, and that students could use these skills out in the community as they talk about issues that matter to them. New College is also considering whether or not to use this process in their required mission courses that every student takes upon entering New College. The university has already scheduled a follow up to the forum, which will be a two day Moderator Training on Jan. 8-9 on the St. Edward’s campus.

Following the event, Vicki Totten, who helped organize the event for New College faculty and students, said

I am excited about the potential of using dialogue and deliberation to help students talk about difficult issues in the classroom.

She added that deliberation might be an important foundation for any student, since in order to work on difficult issues, it is important to be able to know how to move a discussion from a debate toward true dialogue.

Another important aspect of the deliberative model is that it emphasizes the need to understand the important role that values play in forming our perspectives, an important hallmark of a St. Edward’s education.

This forum, a project of the LBJ Presidential Library was one of dozens of forums being held by all twelve presidential libraries across the country, and made possible with funding from the National Archives and Records Administration and the National Issues Forums.

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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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We are only nine days away from the 100th celebration of the birthday of President Johnson next Wednesday, August 27. During this countdown, I have been monitoring the important events of his life as documented by the LBJ 100th Centennial Celebration. On this day in 1964, President Johnson signed the Hill-Burton Act which provided resources to build hospitals, mental health facilities, medical and dental schools and to support the education of future doctors, nurses and dentists.

As I read his comments at the signing, I am struck by how the same issues he tried to address in 1964 are still with us in 2008.

On this day in August 1964, President Johnson signed a bill extending the Hill-Burton Act.

The President said,

We have many new hospitals today in cities that are large and small. But many of our most important hospitals are too old. The hospitals which serve more than two-thirds of our population in nearly 200 metropolitan areas are obsolete, are out of date, are desperately in need of modernization. This legislation that I am signing today will help us get started on that long overdue job. …

The Hill-Burton hospital construction program has been extended another 5 years, but Congress has also provided assistance for constructing mental health facilities, mental retardation facilities, the medical and dental schools that we need.

And Congress has helped to meet our health manpower needs by a program to overcome our critical shortage of nurses, a program to train more graduate public health personnel, and by providing assistance to students attending medical and dental and nursing schools.

We are supporting, as no nation on earth has ever supported, the strength of our medical profession. We are supporting them with modern facilities, with more and better trained manpower, and productive research in more and more fields. I believe that we are pursuing a sensible and yet a most responsible course.

Texas Forums will host forums on The Cost of Health Care on October 7, 2008 at the LBJ Library Atrium on the 10th floor from 6:00 – 8:30. We will be using the National Issues Forums discussion guide, Coping with the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need? From 6:00 – 6:30 our partners will be on hand with information about health care in Texas. So far, we are partnering with the following organizations and our list is growing:

Our colleagues at the University of Houston Downtown Center for Public Deliberation will be holding forums on this same issue on September 18, 2008 giving us a glimpse into how Texans in two different communities are thinking about the cost of health care and possible remedies that they would be willing to support. This will provide talking points that our partners can use to inform the Texas Legislature about the concerns of Texans who come together to deliberate this critical issue.

On the national front, dozens of Public Policy Institutes in the National Issues Forums network and all twelve Presidential Libraries will also be hosting forums on Coping with the Cost of Health Care. The results of these forums will be reported in a national report commissioned by the Kettering Foundation and prepared by Public Agenda.

If you would like more information about these upcoming forums or about partnering with us to encourage public forums on this critical issue, contact Taylor L. Willingham at taylor [at] austin-pacific. [dot] com or leave a comment here.

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split classroom

Join us on June 21 from 6-7 p.m. in the Brown Room at the LBJ Library, to learn how you can get involved and how you can organize forums in your own community. (See map to the library.)

E3 Alliance will present the results of an in-depth analysis of education in Central Texas. (See Central Texas Education Snapshot.) Here are just two findings that indicate that we must act now to close the gap.

  • The Texas State Data Center expects the percentage of Texans without a high school diploma to rise from 18.8% in 2000 to 30.1% in 2040 unless we succeed in educating those populations who traditionally have not performed well in our school system.
    • If we don’t systemically reform our educational system, our state could lose $80 billion per year in wages by 2040 due to this increased educational gap.

    Using the National Issues Forums framework rewritten with data and stories from local communities, parents, teachers, students, senior citizens, community leaders – everyone who has a stake in improving our education system – will be invited to meet in small groups to learn about the issues and to deliberate possible actions for ensuring an education system that works for us all.

    A widening achievement gap will impact the economic vitality of our region and we will all feel the effect – even those without children in the education system. But we can act now AND we can be a model for the rest of the country.

    Please join us!


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    Steve Long (Long’s Graphics in Dayton, OH) provided me with the graphics he created for the Kettering Foundation framing, “Too Many Children Left Behind“. As noted in an earlier posting, Texas Forums will be assisting with the community engagement initiative to close the achievement gap in Central Texas. Partners on this project thus far include E3 Alliance, Austin Voices for Education and Youth and the United Way Capital Area. (I say “thus far” because, based on the enthusiastic response we are getting from the school superintendents, grass roots organizers, university presidents and local nonprofits, the list of partners is about to explode!)

    I uploaded these graphics to the Texas Forums flickr site. This will make it easier for us to access these gaphics AND to make comments about which ones are and are not appropriate for us to use in our own local framing. Steve offered these for fellow National Issues Forums colleagues and anyone around the country who is holding forums on this issue. Thanks Steve!

    Here’s a sample:

    Split Classroom Pulling Statues Teacher in Classroom Too many kids

    There are also some graphics in black and white for those of us on a budget!

    Later I’ll post some of the graphs and charts that Susan Dawson and the E3 Alliance team have collected. It’s a wealth of information and surprisingly, it’s information about the state of education in Central Texas that is not readily available.

    Susan uses this data and slides to tell an inconvenient truth about education that should be made into a documentary.

    Hey, there’s an idea!

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    ag coverTexas Forums will join with E3 Alliance and Austin Voices for Education and Youth to convene community-wide deliberative forums about the Achievement Gap in Education in seven communities across the Central Texas region. These deliberations, involving hundreds of business and community leaders, parents, students, and other stakeholders, will not only form a plan for closing the Achievement Gap in Central Texas, but also create a basis for region-wide consensus on over-arching educational system goals.

    This is a critical issue for our state and our nation. The Texas state demographer has determined that there can be a $300B annual benefit by 2040 to the economy of Texas if we can close the gaps to college while continuing to raise expectations.

    The seven communities that will participate in these deliberative forums are: Austin, Bastrop, Del Valle, Eanes, Manor, San Marcos, Round Rock. These districts were selected for their diversity and their projected rate of growth.


    growth rate

    The goals of this project are to:
    1. Draft a plan to close achievement gaps across the region and develop the capacity for people within local communities to work together to address the gaps within their own communities.
    2. Create a basis for region-wide consensus on over-arching educational system goals.
    3. Develop a self-sustaining infrastructure of volunteers in local communities able to bring people together to deliberate and decide how to act together on other community issues.
    The objectives of this project are:
    To strengthen the capacity for communities to engage in deliberative forums on education policy and possible actions, and to move from individual opinions to sound and reasoned public judgment that supports systemic change.
    To collect the hopes and concerns that people express when they consider the costs and consequences of education policies, and provide information that the public, the media, experts and policy-makers can use to make decisions and set policy on education issues.
    To identify, based on the deliberative forums, additional opportunities to support communities in planning for and addressing local or regional issues.

    About the Forums
    The forums will be based on a national guide developed by the Kettering Foundation and distributed by the National Issues Forums network that will be localized using data collected by E3 Alliance.


    Each forum will be small (10-15 people) and will be co-moderated by an adult and a student and will be recruited from the current Texas Forums and Austin Voices volunteers and newly-trained community members. Delegates from these forums will participate in a regional meeting to begin developing a plan for closing the gap across the region. While centered on school districts, these forums may be hosted through community groups, higher education partners, or other venues. We anticipate that 60-80 people of various backgrounds will participate in small group forums in each of seven communities, for total regional participation of approximately 500 people. These local forums will culminate in a regional forum attended by at least 10 representatives of each community and approximately 30 “thought leaders”.


    As always in these forums, we know that we must take into account all aspects of each of these approaches and craft our own approach rooted in the values and priorities that emerge through deliberating each approach just as this diagram indicates.

    The role of Texas Forums is to:
    Lead adaptation of discussion materials developed by the Kettering Foundation for local context
    Recruit moderators
    Lead training for additional moderators to be recruited from each of the seven communities
    Assist with orientation for planning teams (Community Champions)
    Act as liaison to the Kettering Foundation for national engagement, support, and research tracking

    “How Can I Get Involved?” You Must be Asking!
    If you would like to participate in this project as a moderator, organizer, supporter (financial or expertise), reporter or any other role I might not have considered, please contact me (Taylor Willingham) or leave a comment here on this blog. If you live in a community that is not in the seven districts we are targeting and would like to hold forums in your district, Texas Forums can provide technical support and online access to the materials we are developing. I’ll be posting updates on this blog. To follow this project, just click on Achievement Gap under the Categories section on the right hand side of this page. Materials that are in development will posted in the Achievement Gap section of the Texas Forums Sandbox and when they are ready for public use, they will be posted on the Texas Forums web site.

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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

    new framework

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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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    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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    [cross posted from http://www.austin-pacific.com/2007/05/managing-organizational-change-in.html

    I am attending a conference called LOEX. This is a group of library instructors and the theme “Uncharted Waters: Tapping the Depths of Our Community to Enhance Learning” was perfectly aligned with my interests in libraries and community engagement.

    The 11:15 – 12:15 time slot on the LOEX Conference Schedule in San Diego posed a real challenge for me. First, it is tough to be inside for a workshop at a beachside resort.

    Second, there were two excellent presentations that both apply to my interest area and research.

    • The Role of the Library in Achieving Co-Curricular Activites in Civic Engagement on College Campuses, and
    • Sailing off the Map: Managing Organizational Change in the Library

    I teach Change Management for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but I’m also researching civic engagement of libraries. Fortunately, they were both on board the William D. Evans Sternwheeler so I could bounce between the two and my colleague, Ann Bishop attended the civic engagement workshop. I introduced myself to Mary Reddick, CSU Sacramento and Susan Metcalf, University of S. Indiana who invited me to join them at the end of their presentation and collect e-mail addresses and introduce myself to their attendees.

    So off to learn about Organizational Change from Wendy Holliday, University of Southern Utah and Kristen Bullard, University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

    Wendy and Kristen used a conflicting values assessment tool to evaluate the organizational cultures at UTK and USU. This Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (free!) was developed by Kim S. Cameron and Robert E. Quinn in Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture. Through a series of questions, the tool measures organizations according to four quadrants or dominant characteristics with each quadrant given a numeric ranking for a total of 100 points:

    • Clan Culture: very friendly place like an extended family where teamwork, participation and consensus are the dominant modes of decision-making.
    • Adhocracy Cuture: places an emphasis on entrepreneurship and creativity. People are encouraged to stick their necks out and take risks. The organization encourages individual initiative and freedom.
    • Market Culture: the focus is on results and getting the job done. Leaders are drivers, tough and demanding. The organizational style is hard-driving competitiveness.
    • Hierarchy Culture: formal and structured, this culture emphasizes procedures and managers are good organizers who focus on efficiency.

    They asked members of each organization to respond to the questions two times – first assessing what is and secondly responding with what they would like for the organization to be. Not surprisingly, both organizations leaned heavily toward the clan or adhocracy culture and the primary difference between the current state and the preferred state was less hierarchy even when hierarchy ranked lower than either clan or adhocracy.

    But the real value of the tool is not the picture of the current culture or even the preferred culture, but the conversation that takes place about what factors of each culture speak to their core values for the organization and what they reject from each cultural characteristic. For example, a discussion at the workshop revealed a bias against the Market Culture because of the competitive nature, and yet everyone valued the idea of getting the job done and focus on achieving goals. Although the description provided by the workshop leaders did not include “response to the market demands” I can imagine this is an element of the Market Culture and one that library instructors who are concerned about meeting the information needs of students would certainly support.

    So the value is not in where the lines get drawn, but in the conversation about why the lines are drawn such…what elements fall within the box of acceptable behaviors within our culture and what elements fall outside of what we are willing to tolerate.

    I can imagine that the skills a moderator uses in deliberative forums would be extremely useful in moderating a group reflection of this tool and its results. Essentially, the four quadrants represent four different ways of managing an organization and conducting business. They are each driven by a different set of values that take priority. No one method is the right answer. Elements of each are appealing, but too much of one over another may lead to unintended consequences. These are all criteria used by National Issues Forums in framing an issue for deliberation. Here are some generic questions we use to train deliberative forum moderators that could be useful in leading a discussion of this organizational culture tool:

    • Why does this particular approach appeal to you?
    • What might be the consequence of following this approach completely?
    • I know that you resist approach X, but what do you imagine is important to those who support it?
    • Can you make the best case for the approach you like the least?
    • What would it take to make this approach more palatable to you?

    It would be interesting to use this tool and my experience in deliberation together! Perhaps I will find a way to integrate this tool into the course I teach at the University of Illinois Graduate LIbrary and Information Sciences program.

    The presenters did an excellent job and I’m sorry I had to duck out early, but it was well worth it to connect with the civic engagement contingent on the top level of the William D. Evans Sternwheeler.

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