So a grasshopper walks into this bar and the bartender says, “Hey, we’ve got a drink named after you…”
And the grasshopper says, “Is that right? Why would anyone name a drink Bob?”
It’s been an incredibly busy couple of months and I’ve been remiss in getting this blog updated in a very timely fashion. I started writing this on vacation last week. OK, mostly on vacation but doing this mailer is more fun than work and I was doing a lot of goof-off reading including Garrison Keillor’s latest ‘Prairie Home Companion – Pretty Good Joke Book’ from which the previous oldie-but-goodie comes from. I also read ‘The Unthinkable’ by Amanda Ripley which I really like and want to talk about in a future issue, and I’m still working on Michener’s Hawaii which I should’ve read a long time ago.
And by the way, I’m booking dates for a terrific new class:
Outrage Management and Public Participation is a new 2 day course developed as a joint venture between IAP2 and Dr. Peter Sandman, one of the foremost experts in risk communication. When you take this class you’ll:
· Learn to predict and identify outrage and know its causes
· Know how outrage hinders public participation programs, and manage it
· Understand the principles, approaches and strategies for dealing with emotion and outrage
· Practice the principles, strategies and techniques and be prepared for upcoming challenges
If you work in public participation or stakeholder relations, or work on projects that are controversial, emotional or that result in public anger this course will be right up your alley. It’ll help you understand and deal with the emotion so that you can build meaningful, effective public participation and consensus. If you’ve completed the IAP2 Certificate course this is the next obvious step, but it can certainly be taken without having had the Certificate program. The course will likely be offered in Phoenix and Tucson this fall, or if you’d like to discuss bringing the class to your group I’d be happy to talk with you about it.
Call 602-266-5556 or email me @ jdg@GodecRandall.com for more details.
Here’s an assortment of stories that I thought you’d like.
I had a unique perspective of events on September 11, 2001. I was in Albany NY speaking at a national conference on security and emergency response, and subsequently sequestered for several days staffing a backup NY State emergency operations center with some of the world’s foremost security and intelligence thinkers. I learned from these folks early on about the profound sense of hopelessness and humiliation by young people in parts of the Middle East.
Nonverbal communication (context) is often more important than the content of what you’re trying to communicate. Here’s a quick recent take on western versus eastern cultural differences .
Real Public Involvement
In early August about 100 people were invited to meet with White House representatives to outline an agenda for improving democracy in the United States. I was fortunate to be part of this group as a representative of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2). In light of the recent ‘town halls’ conducted for the health care debate the following op-ed was first drafted by some of my colleagues in that group and customized by me.
As noted in a recent New York Times story, “Joe the Citizen” is feeling squeezed out of the current health care debate. Health care is a complex issue, and there are many reasons that people across the political spectrum are feeling fearful or hopeful, confused or angry. As is evident in Arizona’s Town Halls last week the arguments are heating up.
This polarized debate reveals deeper problems with our democracy, particularly what’s missing from it. While partisans who already have strong views on one side or another have ample opportunities to tell us what they think, we lack spaces where people with honest questions can explore tough policy issues, hear one another, and productively work things through to find common ground and solutions.
The democratic ideal of a “town hall” has been co-opted by campaigns over the last decade, and in most places has become more a myth than a reality. The current “town halls” on health care provide opportunities for people who support the President’s plan to sell their program and for those who oppose it to shout them down. But they don’t offer much to the millions of Americans who see the tough trade-offs that need to be addressed, or who are simply confused and want an open, fair discussion to help make up their minds.
Adding to this mix is increasing polarization of the media, campaigns that deliberately spread false information, and the viral nature of social media. In this atmosphere, where we lack trust and genuine opportunities for civil disagreement and discourse, misinformation and discord spread across our nation like wildfire.
A key founding principle of our democracy is that the voice of the people should have an influence on public policy, at elections and in between them. We honor the rights to speak up and dissent as fundamental to our democracy.
Beyond simply having a voice, people should have a chance to be informed, to hear each other, to work through tough decisions with each other and their elected officials, and to use democratic processes to figure out how to solve the problems that face us. At a bare minimum, efforts to spread misinformation and to insult people who have different views and concerns harm our social fabric and weaken our democracy. We must find ways to move beyond stereotyping and preconceived notions of what “the others” believe and care about.
As critical as this is, we need to go further than encouraging more civil behavior. What we urgently need is a vibrant, inclusive democracy where people from different views and backgrounds can routinely meet, hear each other out in productive ways, and find ways to move forward.
Recently about 100 scholars and leaders in electoral reform, deliberative democracy, community organizing, collaborative governance, and advocacy advocates, and leaders in the democracy reform field were convened to outline an agenda for improving democracy in the United States. I had an opportunity to be part of this group, as a representative of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).
Today, we call for a strong democracy, a democracy that reclaims the promise and potential of the New England Town Meeting and creates an authentic place for our communities to come together in rich deliberation and community problem solving. We know that these kinds of meetings are possible. For two decades, growing networks of people and organizations around the country such as IAP2 have been bringing all kinds of people into meaningful discussions on contentious public issues. Based on hundreds of these experiences – taking place in neighborhoods, cities, and states – we know that it is possible to have conversations where every voice is heard, where emotions don’t have to be checked at the door, and where elected officials agree to listen and say what they think about what they are hearing.
When these kinds of opportunities exist, people have the chance to understand their own deep concerns and those of others. They learn to stop fearing and stereotyping one another. They come to a deeper understanding of the issues at hand, and figure out necessary tradeoffs. They find areas of common ground, and sometimes they agree to disagree. Most importantly, when these kinds of opportunities become part of our governance, we get better solutions. Public policy can reflect the values and considerations of real, everyday people, and ordinary people of all backgrounds and views can work together on the solutions they themselves have created. When they do so, government becomes a thing they own rather than a spectacle they watch. When laws and policies result from narrow partisan victories, they easily topple when political winds shift. But when they are rooted in broad public deliberation and participation, they are far more likely to grow strong and true in the decades to come.
There is no better time for all of us to raise our voices and actions in support of what our democracy can be. Not only meaningful health care reform, but the health of our democracy is at stake.