Friday, October 24, 2014

Book Recommendations

The singing neanderthals : the origins of music, language, mind, and body /
by Mithen, Steven J . This is a very interesting look at how human language and thinking evolved in "musical" ways.

The righteous mind : why good people are divided by politics and religion /
by Haidt, Jonathan .  If you've ever wondered why factual research and well-reasoned arguments don't seem to change people's minds about political or religious issues, this is the book for you. His key point is that we decide what we believe based on "gut" emotions, and then we build arguments to support what we believe. This is well researched but also well written and accessible.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

6 Key Questions to Ask for Successful Online Public Engagement

This article, posted on the blog Community Matters, offers some worthwhile tips for engaging in online public deliberation and engagement processes:

What do you think? Are there other questions we should be asking that are unique to online engagement processes?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Blog review

The Artful Manager: This is a blog written by my former advisor, Andrew Taylor. He writes about the business of managing arts organizations, and his posts always provoke a lot of food for thought (and are likely relevant outside the sphere of arts management). Here's a great example of a great post, where he really spells out how and why a good question is a great tool:

You can subscribe to get weekly digests of his posts.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Storytelling and Placemaking

I enjoyed our first meeting of the new year, and I'm excited about exploring the role of storytelling in public dialogue, change making and engagement.   We also talked about the current buzz around Placemaking in Madison.

Here are a few resources I can offer --

Let us know if you have other resources to share, and see you at our next meeting on October 24th.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Keeping this Blog Relevant

It has been quite a while (two years) since we have posted to our Blog, but we recently decided that we want to make it relevant again to our efforts. The Public Participation Learning Community (PPLC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison continues to thrive as a community of practice. Our monthly meetings inform all of us about 'best practices' in convening deliberative processes, with our contexts ranging from small work and project teams to large-scale public meetings and complex policy deliberation processes. We come from across the University and our community, each bringing gifts and experiences that we generously and enthusiastically share with one another.

This past year, our sixth year, we started a new approach, creating three-month cycles around a specific topic: "First meeting" invites us to share what we know (or wonder about) regarding the topic, eliciting meaningful questions upon which to build. "Second meeting" closely examines a case study related to the topic, from which some questions are answered and others emerge. "Third meeting" synthesizes our insights and invites us to share tools and processes we have used in addressing the questions that have emerged.

My hope is that we now return to using this Blog to document our learning, invite readers to comment and share about their experiences addressing similar questions, and truly use this vehicle as an integral aspect to our learning together as a community. In addition, we agreed at this month's meeting to pull together some of the resources, articles, and books that we tend to cite in our discussions in a single, easily accessible manner that allows us to comment, recommend, and direct one another to them more easily. We invite readers to add their "two cents" in this area, as well... look for these later this summer.

Finally, we will use this Blog to help publicize workshops, reading groups, and other meetings we find relevant to our continued growth and learning. Again, since readers may live anywhere in the country (or around the world?), they may offer additional ideas.

With any of these comments or suggestions, please contact me directly at so we can be sure your ideas are received. If you join the Blog as a 'friend,' you may comment... if you seek a greater challenge and wish to write Posts, just let me know!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Next Meeting -- August 15th on the Terrace

Our summer meeting schedule continues... on the Memorial Union Terrace (weather permitting, otherwise go into the Lakefront Cafe)... Monday, 1-3pm per usual. Our last discussion focussed on issues related to public participation in the WI political environment, a promised 'revisit' of this issue six months after things got thoroughly stirred up in our State Capitol. Several excellent points were made by the 8 PPLC members in attendence... here are a few:
* People tend to come out to participate when they feel threatened... it needs to be a shared crisis, it seems, to be a primary motivator for sustained engagement. People would not have come out over the health care provisions of the 'budget repair bill' or most of the other elements, though threatening to their interests. But the collective impact of the threat, most directly felt in the right to organize and bargain across all sectors of public employment, led to this huge response. How do we, as facilitators, tap into such energy and transform it into a constructive force?

* The concept of the 'Network of Criticality,' a small force, properly applied, can cause big changes with a disproportionately small amount of energy expended... We have many people invested in the issues here, with long histories of engagement at very personal levels... but where should the force be best applied? It appears that the Governor's allies have been masters of this approach thus far.

* The dispute has not transformed into meaningful negotiations, it appears, because it has not yet been RIPE to do so... the drama of the political story still needs to play itself out in the Recall process and pending court cases before there is readiness for any effort at a paradigm shift. It also remains questionable whether the Republicans would view it in their interests to negotiate and reach collaborative solutions...

* There is a long history of antagonism here between certain sectors, such as b/w School Boards and teachers unions, so the underlying narrative of the situation varies significantly across WI. Thus, we are not witnessing a muddy middle that looks 'purple' in polling, but a polarized set of core stories with long histories. Rhetoric simplifies the message, and elections thrive on rhetoric. To transform this situation into one of deliberation and engagement requires a willingness to accept that the current system and paradigm are broken... perhaps the national debt debate and debacle can serve as such a driver.

*The Wisconsin Idea is a pwoerful resource for the UW to become engaged as a resource here... either in hosting deliberative processes, cultivating capacity for such dialogues (as we do as PPLC members), or in other vehicles not yet explored. Our group felt this capacity should be tapped, and the 100th anniversary of the WI Idea offers a special opportunity in that regard.

Join us as the conversation continues! See you Monday... or comment here to add to the depth of our insights...


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Next Public Participation LC Meeting - July 18th on the Terrace

We are meeting on the Terrace this summer… and it sounds like several of us will be there:

Next meeting is Monday, July 18th, 1-3pm

Focus (anticipated): Follow-up from our February 21st meeting in which we discussed events at the Capitol in light of public participation and engagement challenges (see below for details):
  • How do we create spaces of engagement and dialogue in the midst of highly polarized debate?
  • How do we facilitate within such spaces in light of our own biases, responses, and interests in the outcomes?
  • Are there ways to support constructive dialogue and deliberation outside of the ‘main spaces’ of the formal process (we can look at Track III Diplomacy for some examples here)?
Join us for the discussion! If you can't be there in person, please comment on the Blog!