Collaborating on Deliberation

By Steve Brigham

For the last eight months, it has been my privilege to participate with a gracious, talented, and veteran team on Creating Community Solutions, a part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health that was initiated by President Obama, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Education.

What has been unique about this endeavor is that is has allowed leaders from deliberative democracy organizations across the U.S. to collaborate on an initiative in a way they have not been able to do before.

We have three organizations – AmericaSpeaks, Everyday Democracy, and National Issues Forum Institute – who are leading the way to help 10 cities convene large-scale community conversations in 2013 that will result in a community-wide action plans; but other organizations – specifically the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation – are playing as instrumental a role by developing materials to be used by any community around the country that wants to participate on a smaller scale, as well as recruiting national and local partners to organize dialogues of their own.

As a result, five cities have already held or are organizing a large-scale community conversation – Albuquerque, Sacramento, Kansas City, Washington, DC, and Birmingham – and several others are testing the waters. More importantly, many cities and community groups have already initiated their own dialogues and many national organizations have strongly encouraged their members to convene events using materials we provide.

This initiative is being spearheaded by the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD), led by Carolyn Lukensmeyer, AmericaSpeaks’ founder. NICD hosts the website for the initiative at www.creatingcommunitysolutions.org.

For years, our organizations have, with good intentions, expressed a desire to find ways to collaborate more actively, especially on issues and projects that really matter. Now, we’re having our chance, and I believe it is deepening the field’s own sense of itself and will ultimately lead to even greater collaborations in the future.

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