At the National Conference in Citizenship in Washington, D.C. this October, six inspiring initiatives were honored as winners of the 2018 American Civic Collaboration or "Civvys" awards. We're interviewing all of the winners on our blog to learn more about their work, their hopes for the future and their message for America.
This week, meet one of the (tied!) winners in the Local Category, Colorado State University's Center for Public Deliberation.
The CPD's Kalie McMonagle accepts the Local award on behalf of the Center for Public Deliberation.
As a pioneering model adopted by other universities, the Colorado State University Center for Public Deliberation operates under the belief that universities play a key role in not just providing quality information or training informed citizens, but in elevating the quality of communication in their communities. They provide forums for citizen engagement, connection and empowerment – improving outcomes for the students involved, the local community, the faculty bringing together theory and practice, and the university as a convener.
Here's what they had to tell us!
What are your hopes for the upcoming year?
We are excited to continue to build our capacity. This fall, we added a new member to our team, Dr. Elizabeth Parks, an expert in listening across differences. We are excited to see how she can improve the training for the students and expand the reach of our work. We are working on some long term changes which include being able to charge for our more professional services, which will allow us to expand our staff and improve our projects. We continue to work on how to reach more diverse audiences, and are excited to build on a new partnership with the CSU Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, working with a Spanish professor and Spanish majors to assist with translation and interpretation at our events. We are constantly developing new techniques to improve our notetaking and data management, in an effort to pull as much wisdom and insight as possible from our events.
Why is collaboration important in today's politics -- and daily life?
The most difficult problems we face have no clear technical solutions, and cannot be solved by government alone. They require us to work together across multiple perspectives and sectors (public, private, and nonprofit). We have to be able to talk and engage each other to even understand the problems, and then again to come up with useful, sustainable solutions, and finally again to implement those solutions. Unfortunately, our current political system does not spark this sort of collaboration or the communication it requires at all. Indeed, it inherently does the opposite, primarily producing distrust and partisanship. That is why bridging organizations that can bring people together and build capacity for authentic engagement are so critical for our communities.
What do you wish people who have lost hope knew?
That many of us that focus on engaging people through quality deliberative process at the local level agree that with a good process, most people can engage each other productively. The frustration, cynicism, and polarization is actually pretty exaggerated and often rather thin, and when given a chance to have an authentic conversation, much of the damage can be undone and lead to new possibilities. As more and more communities develop capacity to support this sort of work, more people will be exposed to an alternative and realize we can expect more than what we are currently getting from our dysfunctional national system.
What does winning a Civvys award mean to you?
It is a great honor to be recognized, and we are most excited that it will help us reach even more universities, municipalities, and communities with our message of the need to build local capacity for deliberative engagement. Our experience with the CPD has solidified our belief that if every college and university in the country had a similar program, it would have an immeasurable impact our the quality of our democracy. Many organizations and individuals are focused on changing the conversation around national politics, and certainly those efforts are worth supporting, but we believe efforts at the local level are a particularly critical to build the skills, equip our leaders, and reinvigorate our democratic traditions.
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