Word Clouds – Before and After a Moderator Training Workshop

(From Alberto Olivas, alberto.olivas@domail.maricopa.edu)

I recently conducted a workshop on public dialogue processes and moderator training for a conference of environmental educators. I thought you would be interested in this striking graphic representation of the participants’ views about public deliberation before and after the training (see below). If you’re unfamiliar with Wordle, the size and prominence of the word indicates how often it came up; large words were repetitively used, and small words may be single instances or uncommonly used words.

On the evaluation form for the moderator training we asked two questions at the very end:

“Think about your understanding of public deliberation BEFORE you attended this workshop. Please provide five words or phrases that you would have used to describe public deliberation.”

Here’s the Wordle of their BEFORE responses:


“Now, think about your understanding of public deliberation AFTER attending this workshop. Please provide five words or phrases that you would use to describe public deliberation.”

Wordle of their AFTER responses:



In Panama City, Florida – A Forum on U.S. Federal Budget Priorities

(From Jean Johnson, jjohnson@publicagenda.org)

NIF in Panama City_100914_Group 3

Citizens from the Panama City, Florida area gathered to consider priorities for the U.S. federal budget at a National Issues Forum on held on October 9, 2014.

The forum was convened by Gulf Coast State College and the Panama City chapters of the League of Women Voters, and Daughters of the American Revolution. Participants weighed the pros and cons of the sequester, options for reining in defense spending, and the future of Social Security and Medicare in a lively conversation moderated by Virginia York, Terry Jack, and Liz Trentanelli.

NIF in Panama City_100914_Group 1


Gulf Coast State College president John Holdnak welcomed the forum participants, encouraging them to remember–as they met to exchange views on our country’s problems and challenges–that this is an opportunity that simply doesn’t exist in many parts of the world today.

National Issues Forums Caucus at Upcoming NCDD Conference, Reston, Virginia

(From Nancy Gansneder, nancyg@virginia.edu):

A National Issues Forums (NIF) Caucus at the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) in Reston, Virginia, October 17-19, 2014.

Are you a National Issues Forums (NIF) moderator/facilitator? Are you part of the NIF network, past or present? Do you remember the Public Policy Institutes (PPIs), or are you part of its successors, Centers for Civic Life?

Can we talk? Let’s do so over dinner, Friday, October 17 at the NCDD conference. Let’s share our common past, and build on our rich experience and chart a bright future.

Conveners: Patty Dineen, Craig Paterson, and Nancy Gansneder

Want to join us? Shoot Nancy an e-mail at nancyg@virginia.edu so we can make reservations.

“Whom Do You Trust?” – Article by Frank Fear

Frank Fear

The following is excerpted from the article titled Whom Can You Trust? by Frank Fear. You can also read the entire article that was published in the LA Progressive.

It’s anybody’s guess when the public’s trust began eroding. There were instances, here and there, starting years ago. For many in my generation it began with the Nixon Years, especially “Watergate.” Today there’s a clear pattern of trust being debased…

Citizens need a way to consider public issues responsibly, collectively, and systematically. A time-tested strategy is available through The National Issues Forum Institute. It’s a structured and disciplined approach that begins with reliable background information about an issue—information that’s presented in nonpartisan form. Action options are then offered based on the background analysis. Citizens can use this information to engage in dialogue, then deliberation, to select an actionable solution that makes sense to them. The protocol can be used at multiple levels (organization, community, and beyond) and for a variety of purposes (e.g., for public policy and institutional goal-setting).

Citizens can’t do it all by themselves, though. The kind of progress we need requires changing how social institutions engage citizens, particularly in terms of how public sector and nonprofit professionals go about their work…

From Harry Boyte – “Civic Science – Renewing the link between science and democracy”

The following is excerpted from an October 8, 2014,  Huffington Post article by Harry Boyte, Director, Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College. Contact Harry Boyte at boyte001@umn.edu. Click here to read the entire post.

Science is not value neutral. It depends on democratic values of cooperation, free inquiry, and a commonwealth of knowledge. Before World War II, a broad group of “scientific democrats” including John Dewey and thousands of other scientists, described in Andrew Jarrett’s recent book, Science, Democracy, and the American University, helped to lead the movement for deepening democracy in America.

It is crucial to renew the explicit ties between democracy and science, declared Gerald Taylor, one of the nation’s leading community organizers, on October 2, to a diverse audience at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. Otherwise science can become a tool of oppression in extreme cases. The Nazis, after all, conducted first class scientific experiments – on human beings. So did the U.S. government, in the infamous Tuskegee experiment. Between 1932 and 1972 the U.S. Public Health Service intentionally infected a group of rural African American men with syphilis, who thought they were receiving free health care, to study the disease’s untreated progression.

Taylor spoke at a workshop on civic science at the National Science Foundation, October 2-3. The meeting brought together a diverse group of scientists, community organizers, political theorists, social scientists, humanities scholars, graduate students, leaders in cooperative extension, humanity centers and science museum directors, federal administrators, program directors from the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Health, and others. For two days the group discussed the relevance of science to the complex problems of our time and the future of democracy…

To read the entire post.


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