AmericaSpeaks: Capacity Building and Strategy Workshop

National Policy, Stakeholder Summit
Landsdowne, Virginia
November 2010

Teams from 19 communities across the country came together to learn from AmericaSpeaks about how to more effectively convene public deliberations in their respective cities, regions and states.

These local leaders, most of whom played a key role in hosting a town meeting site as part of the national discussion on the nation’s fiscal challenges, were joined by the leaders of several organizations with national networks dedicated to civic engagement, including the American Library Association, the National Issues Forums, the League of Women Voters, the Democracy Imperative, and the University Network for Collaborative Governance.

Nearly 100 participants attended skill-building sessions on an array of topics, including outreach, communications, linking deliberation to action, use of social media, online tools, content framing, and more.

Additionally, each local team worked with a group of “coaches” from AmericaSpeaks to develop strategies for engaging the public on key issues over the next year.

For example, teams from Casper, WY, and the Bay Area in California focused on how to best engage the public in the development of regional land-use plans. Other teams from Kentucky, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Illinois considered strategies for convening state-wide deliberations about state budget challenges. Other topics included increasing literacy rates in Columbia, SC, and building a new library in Grand Forks, ND.

Culminating the two-and-a-half day workshop was a discussion about how local communities could build infrastructure to support ongoing deliberations at the local and national level. Participants departed with a new wealth of knowledge, connections to others working across the country, and an energy to engage citizens around a variety of issues.

AmericaSpeaks will continue to work with these local leaders to deepen their capacities and commitment to engaging their communities, and to strengthen a nation-wide infrastructure for public deliberation. We hope that this opportunity will launch a new chapter in AmericaSpeaks history as we continue to grow the movement and foundations for a stronger democracy.