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Member Contributions

Issue Framing: Issue Books and Implications for Community Action

by Christopher Kelley, Program Associate, the Kettering Foundation

The Kettering Foundation long ago identified a disconnect between the 'public' and 'politics.' People in communities all over the country felt estranged from their elected representatives, from their public institutions, and most importantly, from each other. A significant portion of this disconnect focused on how issues in communities got named and framed. Kettering surmised, correctly, that if a public issue was named in such a way that the public could not identify with it, then the public would have a difficult time supporting it. However, if the public could identify a public problem together (naming) and then discuss choices on how to solve the particular problem (framing), then the likelihood of greater community action increased ten-fold.

So the Kettering Foundation wrote a short book on how to name and frame problems in public terms. The Kettering Foundation has also been instrumental in framing issues across a whole spectrum of public problems so that the public could come together to deliberate over the value tensions and trade-offs in the issue. Hence, Kettering has a number of issue books that have been used through the National Issues Forums and other organizations/institutions all over the country for a number of years. Recently, the Foundation sought to explore why some issue books spark the vital insight for a public to come to see public problems and why some do not. What we found was striking.

Read more...
 

Deliberative Citizens' Forums and Interest Groups: Roles, Tensions and Incentives

by Carolyn Hendriks, Social and Political Theory Program, Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University

Introduction
Citizens are being called to play a greater role in policy making and tensions are arising between pluralist and deliberative democratic models of public participation. On the one hand, pluralists and neo-corporatists maintain that interest groups provide a focal point for defining public interest and that the role of the state is to co-ordinate between competing groups. On the other hand, those advocating for innovative deliberative democratic processes such as citizens juries and consensus conferences seek to include a broad cross section of lay citizens.

Advocates of these processes, referred to collectively in this paper as citizens forums, argue that these politically unorganised citizens bring important perspectives to the debate and help reframe policy problems.

The application of citizens forums in policy development is still a relatively novel endeavour. To date these deliberative institutions have been applied in Europe and North America and more recently in Australia. These participatory processes are advocated in terms of their advisory capacity to policy development, rather than as a means to replace existing decision-making processes or representative forms of government.

The tensions between institutions of deliberative democracy such as citizens forums and interest group pluralism have been given little attention in both theory and practice. This paper contributes to this relatively neglected area of deliberative democracy by exploring a few reasons why citizens forums might challenge certain interest groups. The full version of the paper draws on an Australian Citizen Jury in which some interest groups chose to strategically circumvent the process. 

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Deliberative Approaches to Governance in Latin America

by Andrew Selee, Woodrow Wilson Center

Throughout Latin America, municipal governments have been experimenting with participatory approaches to democratic governance that have significant deliberative components. Once thought of as an exercise reserved for small groups with shared interests or small towns with a degree of social cohesion, deliberative democracy is being applied albeit unevenly to formal government structures in towns and cities of different sizes throughout the region in new and innovative ways.

Many of the best-known cases have emerged in cities governed by political parties of the left that have included some form of participatory democracy in their electoral platform. However, a review of experiences in three countries--Mexico, Guatemala, and Brazil--suggests that governments run by political parties of widely different ideological stripes are experimenting with participatory approaches to local governance that have deliberative components. Surprisingly, the reasons for implementing participatory and deliberative forms of governance often have very little to do with a conviction that this sort of approach is the right thing to do, and much more to do with the need to shore up the legitimacy of governments before an increasingly mobilized and skeptical citizenry. Whatever the motivations, these experiments have much to tell us about the potential and limitations of deliberative democracy in complex, pluralistic, and often fragmented municipalities.

Read more...

DDC Resources

Resources for Elected Officials

Principles of Regional Stewardship
A framework that brings together conversations about livable communities, collaborative governance, social inclusion and innovative economies (January, 2005)

Public Works
Program overview for the Demos Center for the Public Sector: strategies to change perceptions of government and build support for its essential tasks, engaging national and state leaders and beginning a new public conversation (December 5, 2005)

The Rise of Democratic Governance
This publication from the National League of Cities describes the changing conditions facing local officials, and how they are pioneering new deliberative strategies.

Success Factors for Public Engagement
Planning public engagement that works well for all concerned (February 3, 2005)

Ten Public Involvement "Hot Spots"
From the Collaborative Governance Initiative: In designing public involvement, extra attention to these ten points can help assure an effective and successful process (November 17, 2005)

Using the Power to Convene
A "how to" for legislative leaders

DDC Materials

Building a Deliberation Measurement Toolbox
Report to the Deliberative Democracy Consortium by Peter Muhlberger.

The Deliberative Agency (PDF)
Discussion paper prepared by the Link to Government Work Group

Matrix of face-to-face methods for deliberation (PDF)
Prepared by the staff of AmericaSpeaks

Matrix of online methods to support consultation and deliberation (PDF)
Prepared by the staff of AmericaSpeaks

Webliography (Excel XLS)
An inventory of materials published on the web. Includes academic articles, "grey literature," and practical guides on a range of topics – deliberation to social capital. Includes article abstracts. Find articles using Google search by author and title.

If you have resources that would be valued by the field, and are willing to share them, please let us know!

Contributed

Deliberative Approaches to Governance in Latin America
by Andrew Selee, Woodrow Wilson Center (August, 2003)
Throughout Latin America, municipal governments have been experimenting with participatory approaches to democratic governance that have significant deliberative components. Once thought of as an exercise reserved for small groups with shared interests or small towns with a degree of social cohesion, deliberative democracy is being applied albeit unevenly to formal government structures in towns and cities of different sizes throughout the region in new and innovative ways.

Deliberative Citizens' Forums and Interest Groups: Roles, Tensions and Incentives
by Carolyn Hendriks, Social and Political Theory Program Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University (December, 2002)
Citizens are being called to play a greater role in policy making and tensions are arising between pluralist and deliberative democratic models of public participation. On the one hand, pluralists and neo-corporatists maintain that interest groups provide a focal point for defining public interest and that the role of the state is to co-ordinate between competing groups. On the other hand, those advocating for innovative deliberative democratic processes such as citizens juries and consensus conferences seek to include a broad cross section of lay citizens.

Issue Framing: Issue Books and Implications for Community Action
by Chris Kelley, the Kettering Foundation (September, 2002)
The Kettering Foundation long ago identified a disconnect between the public and politics. People in communities all over the country felt estranged from their elected representatives, from their public institutions, and most importantly, from each other. A significant portion of this disconnect focused on how issues in communities got named and framed. Kettering surmised, correctly, that if a public issue was named in such a way that the public could not identify with it, then the public would have a difficult time supporting it.

Thrilling Show of People Power
by Pete Hamill, New York Daily News (July, 2002)
'We came to the vast hangar at the Javits Center expecting the worst. Put 5,000 New Yorkers in a room, charge them with planning a hunk of the New York future, and the result would be a lunatic asylum. We would erupt in waves of mega-kvetch. Shouts, curses, tantrums, hurled objects, nets hurled to make mass arrests. All laced together with self-righteous sound and obsessive fury.'

AmericaSpeaks: Taking Democracy to Scale (Trip Report)
by Chris Kelley, the Kettering Foundation (May, 2002)
On May 8-10, 2002, I attended the conference hosted by AmericaSpeaks on 'Taking Democracy to Scale.' The goal of the conference was to take deliberative dialogue, using all advanced technologies, to the national scale.

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JPD

JPD logoThe Journal of Public Deliberation is a collaboration between the DDC, the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), and the Center for Civic Discourse and Democracy at Kansas State University. An online, refereed journal, JPD is the flagship publication in its field, and an important catalyst for the rapid growth of interest in democracy, citizenship, and participation. Find it at http://services.bepress.com/jpd.

 

DDC eBulletin

  • Want training in public participation? Choose the courses you want to see at the IAP2 Skills Symposium in late May – http://ow.ly/KctPx Trainers include Matt Leighninger, Tina Nabatchi, Steve Clift, Anne Carroll, Kyle Bozentko, and Marty Rozelle.
  • If we gave citizens more ways to measure democracy, they would have more ways to improve it – http://ow.ly/JHmLn @TechPresident
  • Nonprofits that take advantage of new thick and thin forms of engagement can thrive – http://ow.ly/JKfdR @GatesSunlight
  • “If forms of government can be likened to operating systems, current variants of democracy are like early, primitive versions of Windows.” http://ow.ly/KQ0dg “They are neither optimally functional nor user-friendly – they are buggy, susceptible to malware, and lack desired features.”
  • The “People’s Lobby,” which allows people to generate legislation for City Council consideration, and includes a deliberative phase, starts up in Provo, Utah – http://ow.ly/L32e2
  • “Morris Engaged,” which combines education, deliberation, and citizen-led action on climate change in rural Minnesota, has been named a finalist in the Environmental Initiative awards – http://ow.ly/L2WIU @JeffersonCtr
  • The National Civic League has announced the finalists for the 2015 All-America City Award – http://ow.ly/L0AbM @allamericacity
  • Can we fix voting, a part of democracy, without strengthening the other aspects of democracy? Probably not. http://ow.ly/Krz2N And why would we, when the more participatory aspects of democracy offer so many other benefits? Unfortunately, none of those are mentioned in this piece, which is another example of why conflating “democracy” with voting doesn’t help.
  • “Rather than blame our leaders for the dysfunction, we need to change the game.” http://ow.ly/KsHDx This article includes some examples of how engaging citizens in participatory ways – and treating democracy as more than just voting – can tackle problems like climate change that seem politically impossible to address.

DDC on social media

For news, resources, and updates on deliberation, participation, and democratic governance around the world, like DDC on Facebook, follow @mattleighninger on Twitter, or connect with mattleighninger on LinkedIn.

The Next Form of Democracy

Beneath the national radar, the relationship between citizens and government is undergoing a dramatic shift. The stories of civic experiments in "The Next Form of Democracy: How Expert Rule Is Giving Way to Shared Governance -- and Why Politics Will Never Be the Same" by DDC Executive Director Matt Leighninger show us the realpolitik of deliberative democracy, and illustrate how the evolution of democracy is already reshaping politics. Learn more...

Deliberative Democracy Handbook

The Deliberative Democracy Handbook is the first book to bring together the best practices and thinkin on deliberative citizen participation processes. Deliberative democracy is the nationwide movement to make citizen participation meaningful and effective. Learn more...

Deliberative Democracy Handbook Cover

Journal of Public Deliberation
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