This past week, I spent four days at the Kettering Foundation’s Deliberative Democracy Exchange. This is a series of workshops where a number of people working on democratic participation issues come together to share what they are learning and struggling with.

I participated as a member of one 2-day workshop where we discussed what kinds of things ought to go into how we think about training people to moderate or lead deliberative conversations, and what kinds of thinking ought to go into how and what we report about those same conversations.

I also served as a co-leader for another workshop where a number of libraries housing government papers are looking at ways to bring deliberative practices into their work.

One of the highlights of the conference was that my friend Craig Patterson asked me to cut a short video as a part of a series he was working on. He was asking a handful of participants to respond to the question: “How can we come together as a community to rebuild our community?”

Here is my brief response:

As you can see, my main answer is that the way we can come together as a community is to foster a habit of coming together. This takes people who have the habit of holding deliberative conversations. It is not rocket science, but it takes people who have a knack. This is not about there being one particular facilitator or organization who can convene, but of there being people all throughout the community who have experienced what it is like to be a part of a conversation where people respectfully weight the trade offs and drawbacks of differing ideas.

It is accessible to all, it only takes a handful of people to begin to spark it.