Theo Brown America Speaks

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					                                  Engaging Citizens in
            AMERICASPEAKS         Governance




Libraries: Making a Difference in the
      Future of Our Democracy
     Florida Public Library Directors Meeting



                                                Theo Brown
                                            Senior Associate
                                            AmericaSpeaks
                Crisis of Democracy

 • Political paralysis and hyper-partisanship

 • Little or no progress on the big systemic issues

 • High public distrust and disengagement
 • 21st century problems can’t be solved by
   government alone; and often don’t align with
   government jurisdictions



AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
       Lack of Trust in Government
  • Just 22 percent of Americans say they can trust the
    government in Washington almost always or most of
    the time. This is among the lowest measures in fifty
    years.

  • Favorable ratings for both major parties, as well as
    Congress, have reached record lows.

  • The proportion of Americans who say they are
    “angry with the federal government has doubled
    since 2000, from 10% to 20%.
                       Source: Pew Research Center
AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
          Promising Opportunities

 • “Profound brokenness” of the system leads to
   willingness to try new approaches
 • New powerful technologies and large-scale
   change methodologies
 • Untapped common ground that crosses
   traditional divides
 • All of these can lead to building public
   constituency

AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
         So, Why Engage the Public?

  • Create a stronger public constituency and mandate
    for change
  • Educate the electorate about the challenges facing
    government officials
  • Involve the public in being part of the solution and
    taking action
  • Gain unique insight and new options


AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
                An Organizer’s Credo


 • To be an organizer, one must believe one thing and
   one thing only and it is this: “the people will, if given
   enough information, most of the time, make the right
   decision.”
          – Saul Alinsky




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
     Belief in American Democracy

 • With all of our problems, we still have a system that
   works if we use it
 • Churchill on democracy “worst system ever
   invented. . . . “
 • Belief in the American system
 • Trust in the American people
 • History of progressive social change
           – MLK and his belief in America
           – Constantly expanding involvement
AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
  Building Public Involvement




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
        Building Public Involvement

   •   Mass communication efforts
   •   Active interface with the public
   •   Basic civic education
   •   Projects that give citizens a real voice
   •   Promotion of “active citizenship”




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
  “There is not such a
  cradle of democracy
  upon the earth as the
  Free Public Library, this
  republic of letters,
  where neither rank,
  office, nor wealth
  receives the slightest
  consideration.“

            ~Andrew Carnegie



AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
      Deliberative Democracy Field




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
            AmericaSpeaks’ Purpose

   AmericaSpeaks’ mission is to reinvigorate American
      democracy by engaging citizens in the public
          decisions that most impact their lives




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
Finding Common Ground on
     Our Fiscal Future
        Diverse Group of 3,500 Americans Across 57
         Cities Weigh In on Nation’s Fiscal Challenges




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
19 Town Meeting Sites
Albuquerque
Augusta
                                                3,500 People
Casper
Chicago
Columbia                                     Across 57 Cities
Dallas
Des Moines
Detroit
Grand Forks
Jackson
Los Angeles County
Louisville
Missoula
Overland Park
Philadelphia
Portland
Portsmouth
Richmond
Silicon Valley
  AMERICASPEAKS      www.americaspeaks.org
Video: America Speaks: Our Budget, Our
               Economy




                www.usabudgetdiscussion.org

AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
           Principles for Effective Citizen
                    Engagement

       •   Linked to Decision Makers
       •   Demographic Diversity
       •   Informed Participation
       •   Facilitated Deliberation
       •   Discover Shared Priorities
       •   Clear Recommendations for Action
       •   Sustaining Citizen Engagement


AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
    What infrastructure is needed for a
           healthy democracy?
                   •Legislative
                   •Human
                   •Organizational
                   •Physical
                   •Technological
                   •Media
                   •Educational

AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
  A Legislative Mandate for Participation

Governing body actively promotes public participation,
  funds it, and receives and acts on citizen input




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
  The Human Infrastructure to Undergird
                it, and…

                                  • Skills: process facilitation,
                                    conflict resolution,
                                    deliberative democracy

                                  • Network of facilitators
                                    needed in every
                                    community




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
    The Organizational Infrastructure to
               Undergird it
 • Mediating organizations needed
 • Must have trust and confidence of the public




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
    Safe, Accessible Physical Spaces
                               • Space in community where
                                 everyone feels safe
                               • No one party dominates the
                                 space
                               • Common or public square




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
           The Necessary Technology

 • Commitment from nation or
   region to provide every
   person with broadband
   Internet access

 • Commit as a society to
   imparting skills necessary
   to use the Web



AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
      A Trustworthy, Fact-based Media

• Free flow of information is critical to the core of
  democracy
• Need to teach media literacy
• Technology, especially broadband, is changing the
  ways people access and process information
                      The Knight Commission Report
                      on the Information Needs of
                      Communities in a Democracy
                      www.knightcomm.org




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
            Robust Civic Education

                               • One must learn to be a good
                                 citizen
                               • Counteract damaging effects
                                 of political campaigning,
                                 ineffective media




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
             Libraries’ Natural Assets

 •   Accessible to the whole community
 •   Respected source of factual information
 •   Trusted as a neutral convener
 •   Ability to attract partners and create alliances
 •   Talented, committed staff
 •   RENEWED commitment to building community and
     playing a leading role in community life



AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
                Rethinking Libraries

 • Innovative and exciting ideas about libraries of the
   future
 • David Lankes and others--”new librarianship”
 • Knowledge is created through conversation and
   therefore libraries are in the conversation business
 • Libraries enrich, capture, store and disseminate the
   conversations of a community




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
 Challenges to Libraries Playing a Strong
           Role in this Arena




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
         To meet the challenges of the 21st
        century, we have to learn new ways
         of meaningfully linking public will
         and political will to take action on
            the major problems we face.




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
  “A popular government
  without popular
  information, or the means
  of acquiring it, is but a
  prologue to a farce or a
  tragedy, or perhaps both.
  Knowledge will forever
  govern ignorance, and a
  people who mean to be
  their own governors must
  arm themselves with the
  power which knowledge
  gives.”

                ~Andrew Carnegie

AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
 “..and although the
 practical problem of
 revitalizing citizenship is
 enormous, it is challenging
 rather than insuperable.”

       ~Wilson Carey McWilliams
        Redeeming Democracy in
                       America




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org
                       Thank You!

         www.americaspeaks.org




AMERICASPEAKS   www.americaspeaks.org

				
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