As our text in the Public Policy class, I used a very good and recent book – Civic Fusion: Mediating Polarized Public Disputes by Susan Podziba. She defines “civic fusion” as occurring when “people bond, even as they sustain deep value differences, to solve a common public problem”. The book analyzes how this “civic fusion” occurred in three very different situations :(i) a community process used to develop a city charter, (ii) a negotiated rule-making on crane safety, and (iii) facilitated dialogue among pro and antiabortion leaders following a murder at a health clinic in Massachusetts. The author details the process used for each situation at various stages –assessment, convening, working through, and follow through. She also shares tools like process maps, ground rules, and ways of opening up the conversation when participants fall into either hopelessness or the typical partisan divides. Throughout she discusses how facilitators can focus the energy that lies within the components of “passion, power and conflict” to promote productive dialogue, option generation, and ultimately, deliberative negotiations and decision-making. This book is an excellent resource for anyone looking to understand how we might better approach our civic lives.
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