Convening Leading Scholars and Practitioners

AmericaSpeaks regularly convenes leaders from a range of sectors to promote networking and knowledge-sharing across diverse and complimentary fields.  Our knowledge building activities are renowned and respected around the world.

Strengthening Our Nation’s Democracy II

An impressive group of American experts and advocates of democracy reform came together in summer 2009 to create new momentum and plans for strengthening democracy by engaging all citizens in the selection of their leaders, influencing laws and regulations, and taking public action. Participants of Strengthening Our Nation’s Democracy developed detailed recommendations and action steps for both the Administration and the democracy reform movement itself to address the increasing loss of peoples’ trust in – and sense of connection to – our systems of politics and governance.

Champions of Participation III

Nineteen senior leaders from 13 federal agencies and departments came together on May 12, 2009, at the headquarters of the Transportation Security Administration to offer ideas to the Open Government Directive. During the three-hour discussion, participants shared their hopes and concerns for the directive, discussed the most important things that the directive should accomplish, and what is needed for the directive to be successfully implemented. Beth Noveck, the director of the White House task force responsible for creating the Directive, participated in the discussion and responded to participant questions and ideas.

Champions of Participation II

In March 2009, federal managers and staff from 23 different agencies and offices across the federal government came together for Champions of Participation II in Washington, D.C. They recommended that the President’s Open Government Directive create a new government-wide structure that will transform how the government involves citizens in key decision making. While most conversation about the President’s commitment to open government has focused on transparency and technology, federal managers urged the taskforce spearheading the effort to incorporate reforms that enable meaningful face-to-face participation and collaboration in addition to online involvement.

Strengthening Democracy Agenda

The Agenda for Strengthening Our Nation’s Democracy was developed by a diverse group of thinkers, advocates, and academics, who came together during the Summer of 2008, to outline a broad agenda for improving democracy in the United States. The Agenda is comprised of a set of recommendations to strengthen democracy. It was presented to the presidential candidates, lawmakers, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, think tanks, and individual citizens for endorsement.

New Governance Mechanisms

In July 2006 the Democracy Lab convened, Designing 21st Century Governance Mechanisms, a learning conference in which 25 leading scholars and practitioners discussed what it would take to design a new mechanism at the national level that would facilitate the involvement of citizens in decision-making. Five concrete proposals to create a new mechanism were developed by the end of the meeting.

Champions of Participation I

This conference brought together nearly two dozen federal managers and staff involved in public engagement work within their agency. Held at Aspen Wye River in June 2006, participants worked to identify ways federal officials can, collectively and individually, advance good citizen engagement practice at the local and national levels. They also explored best practices to cultivate an inter-agency community of practice that will build knowledge and advance the practice of public participation at the federal level.

Deliberative Democracy Consortium

In 2002 AmericaSpeaks convened, “Taking Democracy to Scale,” a gathering of leading researchers and practitioners in the emerging field of deliberative democracy. The aim of the conference was to build a movement for deliberative democracy at the national level.  The result was the creation of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, a network of practitioners and researchers representing more than 30 organizations and universities, collaborating to strengthen the field of deliberative democracy. Through its principal activities, the Consortium seeks to support research activities and to advance practice at all levels of government, in North America and around the world.

Millions of Voices

In response to federal legislation that called for a national conversation on health care reform, AmericaSpeaks convened more than a dozen leading citizen engagement practitioners to develop a plan for making it happen: to figure out how to involve more than a million Americans in deliberations that would identify shared priorities for reforming the nation’s troubled health care system – or any other matter of pressing national importance. Millions of Voices is an articulation of the plan that emerged. The strategies developed represent some of the best collaborative thinking in the citizen engagement field, and offer a blueprint for holding National Discussions on issues of great importance to us all.

Designing for Democracy

In 1997, AmericaSpeaks convened civic innovators from three regions – Snohomish County, WA, the 14-county region around Charlotte, NC, and a state-wide group from Kentucky, along with a national resource team made up of the nation’s leaders in public deliberation and the use of technology for civic engagement. Conference participants at the Johnson Foundation’s Wingspread facility in Racine, WI, sought to develop sustained plans for engaging the public in the regions, while develop a set of national principles for a healthy democracy.

A Conference on Governance, 1995, Airlie, VA

AmericaSpeaks convened a diverse group of 60 elected officials, community leaders, corporate officers, scholars, technology experts, journalists and young people on November 19-21, 1995, in Airlie, VA, in order to explore new innovations in governance and identify what break thoughs will be needed to  generate new models for national governance as America approaches the next millennium. The Conference on Governance was co-sponsored by the Council for Excellence in Government, the Institute for State and Local Government of Harvard University, and the National Civic League.

The national network represented at the Conference engaged a 2-day process structured by some of the best thinkers in social systems to generate visions for new models of governance. From these collective and individual visions AmericaSpeaks derived a set of criteria for creating a new architecture for democracy—more authentic ways of ensuring that citizen voices prevail in our national life. These criteria comprise a systems approach which includes governance, the institution of government, and the political process, and which operates at multiple levels of society.