Welcome to ABA Mediation Week 2012! You are invited to join us at a celebration of mediation and civil public discourse at the University Missouri law school on Friday October 19 at 5:30 p.m. The ABA’s Mediation Week Tool-kit features several resources on civic engagement, including this blog.
We have been busy over the past few months promoting civil public discourse. Just last week Dave was in Seattle, Washington presenting our paper “Conflict Clues That Help You Navigate To Resolution” at the Civil Discourse to Resolve Governmental Crises conference that was co-sponsored by the Evergreen Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration and the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs of the University of Washington.
Sarah was a chapter moderator for the NCCD’s first-ever book club, helping lead the discussion on the Aristotelian model of public deliberation. Sarah also spoke again on managing conflict at the Missouri Municipal League’s Elected Officials Training in June and recruited some members there for a pilot project we are running with our new workbook, “The Civic Health Diagnostic Workbook”. You can order copies of our workbook ($80.00) by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several post series from this blog continue to be actively accessed resources. Most popular series currently include the series on working through hate, structuring engagement, and using evaluation to strengthen dialogue efforts. We welcome your ongoing review and comment and thank you for your work!
Posted in Announcements, democracy, dialogue, government, Dialogue, Our Tools, Our Work, Working With Conflict
Tagged civil discourse, civility, Dialogue, mediation, political discourse, politics, research, working with conflict
Next week is the American Bar Association’s “Mediation Week” and the theme this year is Civility and Civil Discourse, reflecting the adoption of Resolution 108 in August. Many of the skills we have talked about on this blog are skills used by mediators to resolve disputes. Skills like reflective listening, using open-ended questions, and sharing new information without debating can be used by citizens to promote more civil discourse. We will be sponsoring a set of 5 video interviews and will post the links on this blog. We hope you watch and share your thoughts. If enough of us act to promote civil discourse, we can help to heal our political systems and improve our country’s problem solving capacity.
On August 8, 2011 Resolution 108, which reaffirms the principle of civility as a foundation for democracy and the rule of law, was unanimously adopted at the American Bar Association’s Annual Meeting. Although directed towards lawyers, it summarizes much of what is needed to turn our civic conversations toward productive dialogue and away from rancorous partisan contests. In the words of the supporting text,
“Words matter. How we treat each other matters. In our public discourse, it is time to begin talking to each other with mutual respect.”
The resolution urges all those involved in government, as well as citizens,
“to strive toward a more civil public discourse in the conduct of political activities and in the administration of the affairs of government.”
The supporting text sets forth some concrete steps that will be familiar to most dialogue proponents — tone down the rhetoric; demonstrate respect for opposing views; listen to the needs, interests and concerns that underlie those views; try to identify common ground on which a mutually acceptable solution might be built; and try to actually engage on issues rather than merely score political points (p. 7). “To actually engage on issues”, we believe, includes a willingness to work with data (and to fairly report the context, assumptions and methods behind that data), to analyze consequences and results, and to acknowledge what is working or has worked.
As the text supporting the resolution notes (pp. 2-3), “acrimony and venom” in public discourse endangers the quality of decision-making on complex issues, limits the potential for problem-solving, and undermines the trust needed for effective governance. In the long term, holding each other accountable for how decisions are made can improve our quality of governance.
Sarah spoke last Friday at the Missouri Municipal League’s elected officials training on Parliamentary Procedure, Conflict Resolution, and Citizen Dialogue. Parliamentary procedure can, of course, be very helpful in ensuring an orderly decision-making process. It also has its limitations. Some chairs use parliamentary procedure to limit input, rather than taking their facilitative role seriously. Often participants don’t know the right motion to make to make sure they get heard. In addition to providing information on parliamentary procedure, we provided meeting guides to help the chair and participants work together to ensure an effective meeting. These guides have been posted on our resources page. Formal meetings that use parliamentary procedure are also often not very useful ways to engage citizens. We will write more on that topic next week.
Pundits, media hosts, and average citizens have all expressed dismay when looking at our contemporary political landscape, yet there are many signs that positive change is occurring. For example, the Open Government Directive has been in place for a little over a year and as a result, every federal department published an open government plan, over 300,000 new data sets were made available to the public, and hundreds of new ideas have been shared. Progress at the federal level has inspired progress elsewhere. Leaders at the local, state, national, and international level are exploring new ways to connect their communities with the process of governance. As of December 22, 10 other nations, 22 American states, and 9 American cities have created open data portals as a result of the open government initiative. By continuing to share ideas and resources we can improve the ways in which we live and work together. We wish you the best in making the world a better place.