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Get involved in the Public Engagement Principles project, a collaborative effort to see if our broad field can present a united front to the Obama administration. We are starting by developing and describing a set of core principles or criteria for quality public engagement that are broad enough yet meaningful enough that we can all endorse. Help us get there!

NCDD Discount on NYC Dialogue Conference    

I hope to see many NCDDers at the Network for Peace through Dialogue conference this summer in New York City.  I’ll be there, speaking during the opening evening plenary (along with Geraldine Ferraro!) and giving a workshop the next day on moving from dialogue to action.

The conference, which takes place June 12th and 13th at Marymount Manhattan College, is designed for community groups, peace workers, practitioners, researchers, teachers, students and anyone who struggles to bring people with different viewpoints together. Registration is now open, and there is a special $150 registration rate for NCDD members (the regular rate is $200). Students with valid ID’s pay only $75.

Click here for more info on the conference or to register.  You can also call 212-426-5818 or email [email protected] if you have questions.

This year’s conference theme is “Dialogue In/As Action,” and the event will focus on the rich intersections of the methods, processes, and actions of dialogue that lead to change. The 2009 conference will explore the ground rules for practicing good dialogue, as well as the parameters for putting constructive dialogue into action. The goals of the 2009 conference are to provide a forum for addressing and discussing the following issues:

  • Change generated through dialogue
  • The preconditions of dialogue and how they can be fostered
  • Cases of dialogue IN ACTION, AS ACTION
  • Cases of dialogue across ethnicities, nationalities, and religious beliefs
  • Using technology to facilitate dialogue
  • Voices of youth making change (presentations by youth)

Let me know if you plan to attend!  We’ll plan a little NCDD gathering if a good number of members plan to be there.

Early Bird Rate for No Better Time Conference Ends on 30th    

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you in New Hampshire this July for the No Better Time conference!  I wanted to make sure people know that the registration rate increases from $250 to $300 on April 30th.  The student rate is only $200 until April 30th.

Co-hosted by NCDD members The Democracy Imperative and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the national conference, “No Better Time: Promising Opportunities in Deliberative Democracy for Educators and Practitioners” will take place this July 8-11 at the University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH).

The conference will be centered around “Learning Exchanges” - thoughtful discussions about key challenges in deliberative democracy hosted by leading scholars and practitioners (it’s a VERY exciting list, both of topics and presenters; take a look). I’ll be co-hosting a Learning Exchange with Martin Carcasson and Jim Fishkin on choosing, mixing, and adapting deliberation models and methods.

Here’s how the conference is described on the website:

Deliberative democracy has reached a critical point in its development. Over the last fifteen years, shifts in citizen capacities and attitudes have led to a dramatic proliferation of citizen participation and deliberative practices, and in 2008 they helped to produce an historic presidential election. On the heels of these changes, new opportunities for educators and practitioners are emerging in communities, in government, and on campuses. The primary goal of No Better Time is to take stock of these developments and to consider future directions for educators and practitioners in teaching, research, and in citizen-centered initiatives.

Free eDemocracy Gathering This Weekend in D.C.    

This Sunday, April 19, there will be a one-day eDemocracyCamp with a particular focus on e-participation (using the internet to support public participation) at George Washington University, The Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet (IPDI) and The Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM), Media and Public Affairs Building, 805 21st Street, NW / Washington, DC 20052 (USA). The goal of the gathering is to connect government officials, researchers, developers, practitioners, and regular citizens for a day of intense collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Co-sponsored by NCDD, this event is free to attend, but the organizers request an RSVP prior to the event (which you can do at the event’s wiki page at Sandy and I will be attending, and we hope to see a lot of NCDD members there!

Here are a few of the topics that may be addressed at eDemocracyCamp2

  • Use of online tools for public involvement, citizen participation or citizen engagement in government planning and decision making (e-participation)
  • E-participation (using technology — especially the Internet — to broaden and deepen political participation by helping citizens to connect with one another and with their elected representatives and governments)
  • Collaborative problem solving, consensus building and decision making
  • Online voting or e-voting
  • Online dialogue, deliberation and debate
  • etc…

Sign up or learn more…

Sign up on the wiki:
Spread the word on Facebook:
Join the mailing list:
Follow eDemocracyCamp on Twitter:

NCDD Discount on Leadership in a Self-Organizing World Conference    

Here is a special message for NCDD members from Peggy Holman about the extraordinary upcoming conference, Leadership in a Self-Organizing World

With so much upheaval happening today, there are many exciting experiments underway that shed light on new forms of organizing.  On May 14-17, we are bringing together people from a variety of sectors including corporations, nonprofits, education, government, communities, and the arts.  We have much to learn from each other.  And as practitioners with conversational forms, NCDD members are at the heart of this type of this work.

Harrison Owen, creator of Open Space Technology, will offer us a starting place based on his most recent book, Wave Riders: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-Organizing World.  Because the gathering is primarily in Open Space, it is a co-creative learning laboratory for sharing stories and learning from each other about leadership and self-organization.  We welcome NCDD members who have not already registered for the conference with a $150 discount off the corporate, non-profit and government rates or $100 off the individual rate. (more…)

Federal Agency Managers and Staff Weigh-In on Open Govt Agenda    

Here’s an important announcement Joe Goldman sent me last week.  Joe is Vice President of Citizen Engagement at AmericaSpeaks. Four leading organizations in our field very recently convened a two-day meeting with 34 Federal Managers from 23 different agencies and offices across the federal government.  The meeting, called the Champions of Participation conference, focused on what can be done to increase and improve the use of face-to-face participation and collaboration by federal agencies.

Here is Joe’s introduction, followed by the official announcement.  It is hoped that this report will inform Obama’s open governance directive. (more…)

Job Opening: Director of Academic Initiatives at Campus Compact    

Received an email this morning from Juliet Feibel at Campus Compact, announcing a great position opening.  Campus Compact-a national coalition of over 1,100 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education-is looking for a Director of Academic Initiatives. (more…)

Conversative Voices Silenced by Students at UMass-Amherst    

Here’s a great op-ed by Robert Shibley that can also be found here on the Boston Globe website. Thanks, John Cavanaugh, for letting us know about this article, which has a number of implications for our field.

Why no one should be silenced on campus

By Robert L. Shibley  |  April 9, 2009

WHEN CONSERVATIVE columnist Don Feder spoke at UMass-Amherst last month, his speech was cut short by a large group of students whose noisy and disruptive antics drove Feder off the lectern midway through his speech. As one UMass student wrote after the event, “I am embarrassed of the way my fellow classmates have chosen to express their discontent.” She should be - but she should also know that she is not the only one who is due for some embarrassment.

America’s campuses are seeing a growing movement by students to shut off debate by organized groups and silence speakers with whom they disagree. Rather than engage in the give-and-take that should be characteristic of the university as a “marketplace of ideas,” these students have decided that opposing views don’t even bear hearing. And all too often they are aided by administrators whose policies reward hecklers rather than students who wish to engage in civil debate and dialogue. (more…)

Update on PEP Project & What You Can Do Now    

As many of you know, NCDD has been hosting a collaborative online conversation aimed at developing a set of Core Principles for Public Engagement that most people and organizations in this field can get behind. We’ve been working on this as transparently as possible at and many of you have participated. I’ve found it to be a fascinating, fun, and challenging process — but it’s not over yet.

We are doing this, in part, to influence Obama’s Open Governance Directive, which will instruct executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to implement the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration set forth in one of three memoranda President Obama signed on his first day on the job ( ). We feel that presenting a united front to the administration on basic principles for quality public engagement will increase our chances of being heard in the crafting of this directive. Beth Noveck, the woman in charge of crafting the directive, recently acknowledged and commended our collective effort in a nationally broadcast webinar.

At this point, we invite and encourage all of you to do several things…

1. Determine whether your organization would be interested in endorsing the latest version (”version 3.0″) of the basic principles and their one-sentence descriptions, as attached. Let Sandy Heierbacher ([email protected]) know if your organization is likely to endorse the principles (we’ll send you the final version on April 27th to make sure your endorsement is official). OR, let us know (by emailing Sandy or adding comments to the QuickTopic doc posted at ), what would need to be changed in order for your organization to endorse the principles.

2. Provide feedback on the longer document posted at (the basic principles plus explanatory text about what to strive for and what to avoid). You can also post your feedback on version 3.0 on the PEP forum as you have in the past, but QuickTopic allows people to comment on specific text, and to comment on each other’s comments more clearly, so we’d prefer you use QuickTopic if you’re willing (it’s super-easy; just click on the little “c” to the left of what you want to comment on (you don’t even need to log in or register!).

3. Send email about this post/project to your colleagues, networks, organization leaders, etc. that you think should get involved in endorsing - or further honing - the principles!

For more info about the project, our timeline, and next steps, see the detailed post titled “4-1-09 PEP Project Update and Timeline” up on the PEP forum at

Hope to see most of you involved in this project, in one way or another!

Congratulations, Harris and Svetlana!    

NCDD member Harris Sussman, of Somerville, Massachusetts, recently won an award with his wife Svetlana.  Harris and Svetlana won the Bay State Council of the Blind Outstanding Service Award “in recognition of their determination and dedication to providing materials and opportunities for people who are blind in Russia through their establishment of the M.N. Adamov Memorial Fund and their personal commitment to independence for people who are blind.” Congratulations, you two! (more…)

AmericaSpeaks Seeks a “Director of Citizen Engagement”    

Steve Brigham of AmericaSpeaks just dropped me an email asking that we pass the following job announcement on to our members and friends…

AmericaSpeaks is a world leader in the field of citizen engagement and public deliberation. The organization is currently recruiting for a Director of Citizen Engagement who will play a critical leadership role for the organization and in its major citizen engagement initiatives. The Director 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. The Director will also attract new projects and design new citizen engagement initiatives for the organization, while exhibiting leadership in the field of democracy reform and public deliberation through public speaking, networking, writing, presentations, and other efforts.

AmericaSpeaks is also looking for an Online Communications Director to lead and manage its online and mobile communications efforts. You can find the full job descriptions for both positions at

Write-Up from Patricia Wilson on the American Citizens Summit    

UT professor and NCDD member Patricia Wilson sent me a brief write-up on the Transpartisan Alliance’s American Citizens Summit.  NCDD was one of the official co-sponsors of the Summit, but I wasn’t able to make it to the event.  If you were there, feel free to send us your take on the Summit as well for the blog! (email it to [email protected])

As a reminder, the American Citizens’ Summit, which took place February 11-15 in Denver, was a unique “town hall meeting” aimed at bringing together a mix of voices from all political parties and social movements to focus on three key questions:  (1) What is Transpartisanship? (2) What are the issues that unite and divide us? and (3) What are the strategies to confront these issues?

Thanks, Patricia, for sharing these tidbits with us!

- Sandy

From Patricia Wilson…

Gosh, the American Citizens’ Summit was intense.  I hadn’t been in dialogue with Libertarians, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, etc, etc, like I was during those four days. It was small – 82 people - and  over half were liberals. Only 6% Republicans. Lots of open space style break-outs. Interactive plenaries, lots of relationship-building methods. Creative use of key pads in plenaries to identify minority issues, build consensus, prioritize, evaluate, etc. Much of that is up on the website ( Upshot was building a base, small as it was, for a transpartisan movement and  building consensus around transpartisan values (dialogue across difference, transparency in governance, etc).

Interesting tidbits:

- Joseph McCormick (the main organizer, a former Republican congressman) said that many of his conservative colleagues had turned against him for ‘consorting with evil’ (i.e. liberals), as one of them had said, and refused to come to the event.

- And one Green Party member said he had been facing much resistance to introducing non-violent communication and dialogue skills into his party to reduce the fractious debates, and came to this event as an individual because his party wouldn’t endorse the event.

The most touching thing:
- One of the conspiracy theorists said at the end that she recognized through the keypad voting that she was one of the last two people to keep staunchly prioritizing her one issue, that others had let go and begun to think about the needs and concerns of the whole. She realized that not everyone wanted to talk about the shadow side of things all the time. So she decided it was time for her to soften as well, and she vowed to use some of the interactive communication skills she had learned during the event.

Janette Hartz-Karp looking for info on youth engagement in climate change    

NCDD member Janette Hartz-Karp asked me to share this with the network…

I’ve been asked to write a chapter for the UN World Youth Report 2009 on youth engagement with climate change. It needs to be completed in a month so I’m trying to get any help I can.

The chapter is to include a) Positioning youth for adaptation and mitigation - the role of civil society (identifying best practices in youth participation in activities to address climate change, and examining the potential contribution of youth-led organizations to advancing action on climate change). And b) Moving Forward - placing youth at the centre of the response to climate change (A policy section which will highlight the key messages and address the question: - “Who does what?”)

In addition, I was asked to add any specific ideas/information relating to policies on youth and climate change, particularly in the context of developing countries.

Susanna Haas Lyons from AmericaSpeaks has pointed out some US web sites:


If you have any additional information on ‘best practice’ youth engagement initiatives on climate change and/or policies you know about/suggest, particularly in developing countries, but also world-wide, please let me know ASAP.

Janette Hartz-Karp
Professor at Australia’s Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute and Director of 21st Century Dialogue

[email protected]

Summary of Listening Session with Obama’s Open Government Initiative    

I was invited by Beth Noveck, the director of Obama’s open government initiative, to attend a meeting last Wednesday (March 11) at the White House Conference Center.  The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy was the official convener of this “informal listening session on the implementation of the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.”  According to the email inviting me to attend, the session would focus “on the process of crafting the recommendations called for in the Memorandum.   Specifically, we invite you to talk about how your organizations can contribute to fostering civic engagement in connection with crafting the recommendations and to supporting the goals of transparency, participation, and collaboration.”

There were only about 12 organizations represented at this meeting, so it was quite the honor to be there.  Demos, the Personal Democracy Forum, the Cato Institute, AmericaSpeaks, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, IAP2, the Partnership for Public Service, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), the National Civic League, the League of Women Voters and the National Academy of Public Administration all had representatives there. (more…)

New ILG Publication on Civic Participation in California    

I organized an NCDD networking dinner in San Francisco earlier this month, and one of the attendees, Terry Amsler (Director of the League of California Cities’ Institute for Local Governance) gave me a copy of a wonderful new publication called “Civic Participation in California: How Local Agencies are Involving the Public, Building Trust and Making Better Decisions.”

It’s a compendium of articles originally published last year as a series in Western City, the monthly magazine of the League of California Cities. The League is an association of California’s city officials who work together to enhance their knowledge and skills, exchange information and combine resources so they may positively influence policy decisions that affect cities.

The staff of Terry’s Collaborative Governance Initiative coordinated the Civic Participation series, contributing articles and working with local officials and experts to develop content. The series is designed to provide information, stimulate discussion and build on existing efforts to connect with residents and increase public trust in local government.

Download the full PDF document at, or visit the Institute for Local Government website.

New Zealand Gov’t Seeks YOUR Feedback    

Crispin Butteriss posted this to NCDD’s FaceBook group a couple of weeks ago:

The New Zealand government (Office for the Community & Voluntary Sector) is looking for feedback from community engagement professionals on the its discussion paper, “It’s More than Talk.” An online forum can be found at

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