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Archive for the ‘Research Resources’ Category

[edited 8.7.09 to correct typos I made to Carolyn’s letter. Sorry, Carolyn!]

Carolyn Lipka from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School, North, in New Jersey, one of our researchers who worked with Barbara Cline, received 1st place in the National History Day senior individual documentary category for her documentary:  “Legislation By Johnson:  Man and Moment.”  She received a gold medal and the History Channel Prize of $5,000.00; she has sent us a DVD of her documentary.

It’s easy to see why she won! Unfortunately, copyright laws prohibit me from posting her winning video, but trust me when I say that her documentary is a testimony to the importance of this event and the LBJ Library’s annual participation every February. Check out the extensive resources made available by the LBJ Library’s Education Specialist who does a yeoman’s job every year as host of the Central Texas Region History Day Competition!

Here are some snippets from her letter to LBJ Library Archivist Barbara Cline notifying her about winning the prize.

In my time at the LBJ Library I learned more than in the entirety of my other research.  I was afforded the opportunity to interview Luci Johnson; I was granted access to innumerable boxes of original archives, including daily diaries and oral histories.  One of my favorite things to do while I was there was looking through the extensive collection of political cartoons…”

“The taped conversations of Lyndon Johnson are a truly unique resource, but one which can be overwhelming.  Your assistance, in particular, helped me make sense of the voluminous recordings.  They wound up forming a vital part of my documentary.  My experience working with a generous and extremely knowledgeable staff of dedicated archivists such as your self gave me a great appreciation for the work of the LBJ Library…

“Because I am now aware of the great and important work of the Library, I plan on making a contribution to the LBJ Library.  I have used many research facilities over the past several years, and I came away from the LBJ Library with a feeling of gratitude that I was able to experience it.”

“I really appreciate all that you have done for my project, and I hope you enjoy ten minutes all about the immensely complex, fascinating giant that was Lyndon Johnson.”

Congratulations Carolyn. Please come back anytime and keep making those documentaries. We expect to hear more great things from you in the future!

Anyone else out there want to use our resources to tell a story? Check out our resources for researchers.

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The Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin offers funding for non-profit staff members to take a “paid time-out” to research an issue or question of value to their work.

Three individuals will receive grants of $5000, be paired with UT Austin faculty who will guide them in their research, receive full access to UT Austin library resources, and participate in an intellectual community of other independent scholars, non-profit professionals, and UT faculty and staff. Applications are now available for the 2008-9 academic year at www.humanitiesinstitute.utexas.edu.

The deadline for applications is Friday, May 30. Please email Kritika Agarwal at community@humanitiesinstitute.utexas.edu

or call the Humanities Institute at 471-2654 for more information.

If you are interested in researching issues of interest such as, public deliberation, community engagement, civic entrepreneurship, social networking tools for civic engagement, contact Taylor Willingham about your research interests and we’ll explore partnership opportunities.

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The Project on Civic Reflection is hosting a scholarly examination of the meaning and value of reflective discourse. In October, they will bring together 15 scholar-practitioners to examine the nature and significance of reflective discourse in a democracy, with special attention to emerging models that use the arts and humanities to provoke reflection.

As one of the invitees, I have been asked to prepare a 2500 word essay exploring one of the questions below.

Central questions to be addressed

  1. How is reflective discourse similar to or different from individual acts of reflection? In what sense can both activities still be called ‘reflection’? What do we mean by ‘reflection’?
  2. Can we usefully talk about reflective discourse as something distinct from dialogue or deliberation? What are the differences?
  3. What is the role of reflection in a democracy?
  4. Can the arts and humanities play a special role in enabling reflection in a democracy? Have they played this role in American democracy?
  5. Does the practice of text-based discussion enable reflective discourse in especially useful or valuable ways?

I am thrilled to be included in this project and look forward to contributing to this research. The symposium will produce an anthology of essays, a companion webpage, and of course, connections with other scholar-practitioners. I welcome your thoughts about the above questions. See the complete symposium overview here.

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During our training session at UHD, several participants suggested additional resources and web sites of interest to our moderators. Here’s a smattering:

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[This was posted from the Kettering Foundation meeting on September 20-21, 2007 with 12 sites working on the project, “Too Many Children Left Behind”. For more information about the project visit the Project Home Page.]

We will be using the document published by West Virginia Center for Civic Life, “Capturing Public Thinking: Developing Authentic Reports on Public Forums” written by Julie Pratt. Another resource is the outline of interpreting forums that I used on the U.S. Russia Dialogues. Here is a sample report from Panama City, “Reporting on the Superintendent’s Community Forum: Too Many Children Left Behind” held on Thursday July 19, 2007.

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Today I received notice from Chan-Gon Kim, Vice Mayor of Guro District in Seoul, South Korea and PhD from Rutgers on e-democracy that he had read my posting about his work in e-democracy. We exchanged a couple of e-mails and he sent me his power point presentation and his dissertation from Rutgers. (Pretty cool when you can spend your Saturday morning in electronic dialogue with a Vice Mayor in South Korea!)

I’ve uploaded his dissertation, PUBLIC ADMINISTRATORS’ ACCEPTANCE OF THE PRACTICES OF DIGITAL DEMOCRACY: A MODEL EXPLAINING THE UTILIZATION OF ONLINE POLICY FORUMS IN SOUTH KOREA for your review. The power point slides need some formatting and I think they’ll look better as a quicktime movie or some other format. Any ideas???

In the meantime, his dissertation (I’ve only read the exec summary and a review by Steven Clift at DoWire) will be my reading material for the flight to San Francisco tomorrow. I’m working with Don Means of Digital Village Associates on the Community TeleStructure Initiative, Fiber to the Library. We have a very interesting array of people coming, many I know from a past life!
I’ll be home in time for the fourth of July festivities. I’m working on a report about our fabulous Presidential Forum Watch Party. You may have noticed some blog postings from some unknown characters. They were our citizen bloggers writing during the Tavis Smiley moderated forum on June 28. But this is just a tease. More later…

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In our virtual workshop tonight, Patty Dineen asked this question:

What would you say in the main purpose of a report?

What would make a report useful for: policymmakers, other members of the public, members of the media?

What would be the very best thin that could happen as a resut of a report about deliberative forums?

How should we be using reports that have been already published?

So??? Let’s talk!

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The Harvard Family Research Project publishes The Evaluation Exchange, a periodical on emerging strategies in evaluation. The Spring 2007 issue (volume XIII Number 1) is the first of several issues they will publish covering “Hard to Measure” evaluations. Their first issue dealing with evaluating advocacy efforts has several ideas relevant to evaluating public engagement in public policy. (Future issues focusing on community organizing and participatory democracy promise to be even more relevant to our work.)

In her introduction to this issue, Julia Coffman discusses how evaluation of advocacy differs from evaluation of other programs and services. The differences that she cites applies to the work that we do in engaging people in deliberating public policy issues.

Advocacy strategy typically evolves over time
Certainly deliberation as a strategy for engaging the public in working through complex and divisive issues has changed during the seventeen years I have been involved in this work. In my early days of doing this work, people’s eyes would glaze over when I invited them to participate in a forum. (My first forum, Growing up at Risk was a notable exception attracting an overflowing roomful of participants and the evening newsreporter, much to the alarm of this “then wet behind the ears moderator.”) Over the past five years, I’ve noticed that I can barely get through my second sentence before people interrupt me with, “That’s exactly what we need in this country – a better way to talk about these issues!”

Activities and desired outcomes can shift quickly
I see this happening with public deliberation in three ways. People are increasingly framing their own issues locally, there is a greater emphasis within the NIF network for forums to lead to action, and forums are no longer stand-alone events, but part of a larger strategy for solving problems. One shift I am introducing to the work of Texas Forums is to embed deliberation into the everyday thinking and work of nonprofit organizations and communities. For example, we are partnering with E3 Alliance and Austin Voices for Education and Youth to conduct forums on the Achievement Gap in seven communities in Austin. Rather than “ride into town and hold a forum” Austin Voices will work closely with each community to develop a planning team that will provide the infrastructure for future community engagement efforts of E3 on other aspects related to education.

The policy process itself is unique
We have much to learn in this area. I fear that we have not done a good job of telling the story of what people want policy-makers to think about and how we want them to think. Just last evening, As a result, they are often stymied in their understanding of what the public will support because they are stuck with unstable opinion polls. I saw this last night in the public forum I attended in my little village. People panicked when the mayor suggested that properties in the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (part of the Village, but not in the village limits) could be transferred to an encroaching city “if it made sense.” During the Q&A, I suggested that perhaps the mayor and aldermen could allay our fears if they could describe the criteria they use when deciding what “makes sense.” In other words, I wanted to know what their priorities are…what motives and values would drive their decision-making. Although I think I eloquently phrased my question (did you expect me to say otherwise?) they were unable to answer it beyond, “There’s no way we can tell you what decision we will make in every circumstance.” We need to consider the current policy process and develop better ways of communicating the results of our forums. (For a start, we are offering an online workshop on “Reporting on Your Forums” on April 5.)

Most advocacy organizations are small in terms of their size and their capacity to manage evaluation
Much of the dialogue and deliberation work across the country is being driven by volunteers, people within organizations who also have other responsibilities, or small nonprofits.

I would also note that a lack of transparency in public policy and the nightmarish task of deconstructing the federal budget are two other challenges to advocacy evaluation. Bill Bradley, in his “just released today” book, The New American Story calls for greater transparency in the federal budget. He (how could I not agree) calls for the budget to be on the Internet with keyword accessibility so that users could easily navigate the quagmire to find how money is being spent for various purposes. The impact of advocacy efforts would become even more easily identified if you take it a step further and include the technology that enables a user to receive e-mail alerts whenever there are changes related to their key issues. We aren’t there, yet, but there are efforts coming together around that very issue. (But I digress!)

The rest of The Evaluation Exchange is devoted to evaluations to watch, best practices and expert advice. Good stuff here for airplane reading! I’ll add comments here as I learn new ways for us to apply advocacy evaluation to our own work.

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