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What D&D programs are addressing the red/blue divide?    

I got an email the other day from Tamra Pearson d’Estrée from the University of Denver’s Conflict Resolution Institute. Tamra is interested in knowing about programs that address the partisan divide in the U.S. through dialogue, deliberation, and conflict resolution.

I sent her info on a couple of great programs, but I’m curious about what others in the NCDD community know about that I may not be aware of. I’d like to compile a list of programs addressing the red/blue divide (past, present, and developing) so we can easily share it with people like Tamra. If you are involved in such a program or are aware of one, please use the comment field to let us know about it. If you can, please include the project name, a contact person (name and email, at a minimum), a URL for more detail, and a short description.

Here's What 7 People Had To Say...

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  1. Comment added by Jeff Weissglass on May 3, 2010:


    The Illinois Humanities Council is developing a civil discourse program series. The contact person is Dimitra Tasiouras. Her email address is [email protected]. (I’m on the advisory board for the project.)

    Several other projects come to mind that you probably already know about:

    Convergence; Transpartisan Alliance; the Red/Blue project that the Public Conversation Project did a couple of years ago; Michael Ostrolenk’s work, some of which builds on the Transpartisan Voice book by Jim Turner and Lawry Chickering; and the Rodel Fellowship program at the Aspen Institute.

    I’d be interested in hearing what else you’ve identified and what others may know about (or be developing.)


  2. Comment added by John Spady on May 3, 2010:

    Hi Sandy,
    I would second the reference to the Transpartisan Alliance and the work of Joseph McCormick. Joseph now lives in the Seattle area too.
    Here is a web reference:

    And our own work with Countywide Community Forums (CCF) is about building up and strengthening the civic structures that allow people to more easily communicate together about important issues. We are focused at the county level presently here in King County, Washington (includes the greater-Seattle area) but the same distributed process we use (like voting itself) could easily lend itself to national dialogues about any subject.
    Here is our web reference:

    And here is a recent testimonial about CCF that is from one of the participants:

    -John Spady

  3. Comment added by Lucas Cioffi on May 3, 2010:

    During the TEA Party rally against health care reform on September 12, 2009 and during the progressive rally in favor of health care on September 13, 2009, we held the non-partisan American Townhall on Health Care:

    We explored the feasibility of walking people through a three stage dialogue process when they only came for a rally (strategy: meet the people where they are).

    Three stages were
    1. Write down your opinions
    2. Read your opinions in front of a politically mixed audience and receive questions for clarification
    3. Small group, facilitated dialogue for 20-30 minutes.

    We had over 300 participants and we had great fun. We learned enough to do this right (and big) the next time.

  4. Comment added by Dennis Boyer on May 3, 2010:

    I’m not sure if you are looking mostly at conflict resolution or at open dialogue. I like to think that our focus on development of “contrasting possibilities” at IF encourages participation by a variety of perspectives.

    Now if you’re asking if it’s a process that draws social conservatives, I’d say we have a ways to go there. But we have had some success with participation by libertarians and economic conservations.

  5. Comment added by Kai Degner on May 4, 2010:

    The Fairfield Center been developing a few programs that address this divide:

    Fairfield Summits - Applied first in Harrisonburg, VA, these are large Open Space Technology events focused on themes that cut across political ideologies (e.g. health and wellness, strengthening local business, etc). Six summits brought together over 800 people in less than a year in day-long forums that foster relationships, understanding, and working partnerships that focus on shared goals and complementary resources rather than only differences.

    Listening 101 - This is a one-month course that groups can take together to build their listening skills. Teams, groups, and families can take it together remotely (via email and conference call). The content, applied practice, and reflections can focus on how political differences can shut down our listening - and we can choose to listen anyway!

    The OrangeBand Initiative - a community dialogue project emphasizing conversations between people about issues they care about, in the context of inviting disagreement as opportunities to learn

  6. Comment added by Jim Rough on May 5, 2010:

    At the Center for Wise Democracy we have developed a set of social innovations— “Dynamic Facilitation,” the “Wisdom Council Process,” and the “Creative Insight Council”— we believe will dramatically affect the Red/Blue divide in this nation: Together these processes promise to restructure our public conversation so it becomes creative and collaborative. A book describing the theory is “Society’s Breakthrough! Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People” (

    The most important experiments with these processes are in Austria, where the Office of Future Related Issues (Great title!) of the State of Vorarlberg is so excited about their successes that, as a department, they have asked the governor of the state for a pay DECREASE! This is because they want to support government agencies in the region (in Germany and Switzerland and other parts of Austria) to begin using Wisdom Councils. They don’t feel right about taking this much time away from their regular jobs. The governor has said “yes.” This department has also hired the European Institute for Public Participation to assess the impact of these Wise Democracy processes in different cities. Non profit organizations and government agencies in other countries are paying close attention.

    An article of explanation is posted on our web site at
    “WISE DEMOCRACY: A strategy for involving the citizens, transcending partisanship, and solving impossible public issues”

    An audio interview describing the Wise Democracy overview is “The Next Step Podcast” at


  7. Comment added by Sandy Heierbacher on June 3, 2010:

    The Public Conversations Project’s Maggie Herzig sent this via email a couple of weeks ago in response to this request:

    I attach a mini-guide that we created at the Public Conversations Project for reaching across the red-blue divide - one person at a time. For group conversations, our longer guide, “Fostering Dialogue Across Divides: A Nuts and Bolts Guide from the Public Conversations Project,” should be helpful to people planning and facilitating group dialogue across ideological divides. That guide, which is downloadable for free from our website and available to order in book form, includes an appendix (B2) that has sample questions for dialogue about the Red-Blue Divide

    Hope these resources are helpful. As for specific programs, I’d echo what others have said about the Transpartisan Alliance. Constructive conversations and collaboration across the Red-Blue divide is at the core of their mission.

    Maggie Herzig
    Senior Associate
    Public Conversations Project
    Watertown, MA
    Home Office: 781-862-4795

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