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I’m delighted to report that, as of February 1, 2013 I’ll be a full-time staff member of the Kettering Foundation, a research foundation that studies democracy. I have had a relationship with the Foundation since 1998, and have been an Associate of theirs since 2005.

As a consequence of this, I am shutting down my firm, The Mannakee Circle Group. I’ve had wonderful clients over these years since 2003 when I struck out on my own – not only including Kettering but United Way Worldwide, The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, the Case Foundation, the Omidyar Network, Everyday Democracy, the Northwest Area Foundation, the Darden School of Business and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership both at the University of Virginia, and more.

It’s with glad heart yet with a certain amount of wistfulness that I say “farewell” to these close friends.

I will remain an active participant in the dialogue and deliberation community, and I look forward to continuing my relationships with individuals and organizations throughout this field.

Here’s the bio that they are posting at their site (won’t be live until 2/1), which gives a sense of my duties:

Photo by Melinda Gilmore

Photo by Melinda Gilmore

Brad Rourke is a program officer at the Kettering Foundation. His work includes studies of naming and framing issues in public terms and how people make decisions and work together on shared challenges in communities. Rourke is executive editor of the National Issues Forums issue books as well as other issue books produced for public deliberation.

Rourke has written and cowritten a number of articles and op-ed pieces, appearing in print publications such as The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Foundation News and Commentary, Campaigns & Elections, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He contributed a chapter on the ethics of citizenship to Shades of Gray (Brookings Institution, 2002). He has spoken at the National Press Club, the Brookings Institution, and the Chautauqua Institution. He is listed in Who’s Who in America.

Rourke has been a Kettering Associate since 2005. Prior to joining the foundation, Rourke was president of the Mannakee Circle Group, a public issues firm with clients from a cross section of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. He was founder and publisher of Rockville Central, a hyperlocal news source he began in June 2007 that became the second most-read local blog in Maryland. He helped design and regularly participated as a lecturer in the bipartisan candidate training program of the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. Rourke was senior project manager and then director of external initiatives at The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation and vice president for public policy at the Institute for Global Ethics. He has served on the staffs of then-controller of California Gray Davis and Congresswoman Jane Harman and as deputy California campaign manager for the National Health Care Campaign.

Rourke received his BA in comparative literature from UC Berkeley.

I’m pleased to announce that the Case Foundation has released a new report co-authored by me (with Cynthia Gibson) titled To Be Fearless.

The report, commissioned for the Case Foundation’s fifteenth anniversary, is an exploration of what it means for organizations in the social sector to be fearless. It is rooted in five key principles:

  1. Make Big Bets and Make History. Set audacious, not incremental, goals.
  2. Experiment Early and Often. Don’t be afraid to go first.
  3. Make Failure Matter. Failure teaches. learn from it.
  4. Reach Beyond Your Bubble. It’s comfortable to go it alone. But innovation happens at intersections.
  5. Let Urgency Conquer Fear. Don’t overthink and overanalyze. Do.

The To Be Fearless Report lays out the framework for a wide-ranging initiative by the Case Foundation to spark a conversation about fearlessness across the social sector. It was released at an event streamed live on Ustream featuring Jean and Steve Case, Sen. Mark Warner, Walter Isaacson (CEO of the Aspen Institute and Steve Jobs’ biographer), and many notable social sector leaders.

The full report is available for free download at the Case Foundation’s web site.

Steve Case, Jean Case, Walter Isaacson

I am delighted to announce the release a new report I co-authored for United Way Worldwide with my friend and colleague Mike Wood at UWW.

From my announcement at the Mannakee Circle Group site:

Last week at a national conference held in Nashville, TN, United Way Worldwide released its latest report, Voices for the Common Good: The World Speaks Out on Opportunity.

This report is based on more than 120 community conversations in a dozen countries. In these conversations, people from all walks of life talked about their aspirations for and challenges facing their communities, along with what it would take form them to see real progress in the areas central to a good life – education, income, and health.

Mannakee Circle Group president Brad Rourke reviewed notes and transcripts from the conversations and, with United Way vice president for field engagement Mike Wood, wrote the core elements of the report.

I appreciate the chance to work on this terrific project!

 

I am delighted to announce a new issue book developed by the Kettering Foundation for the National Issues Forums titled: Immigration in America: How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?

This issue guide, authored by my good friend and colleague Scott London, is the latest in the Kettering Foundation issue book library of which I am executive editor.

Immigration In America: How Do We Fix A System In Crisis?

The new guide is available to purchase for download or as a hardcopy at the National Issues Forums Institute website.

From the issue guide:

Immigration in America: How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?

Most Americans agree that our immigration system needs an overhaul. Too many immigrants slip across our borders undetected and too many are here on expired temporary visas. Backlogs and bureaucracy prevent high-skilled foreign workers from getting the permits they need and hinder family members from being reunited with their loved ones in the United States.

Tackling the immigration issue requires that we take a fresh look at it and get beyond the polarized debates that too often divide the country rather than bringing it together. Our challenge today is to build a system that reflects our essential values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. This issue guide explores three different options for doing that.

Option One: Welcome New Arrivals

America is a nation of immigrants, a people welded from many nations and races, bound together by a common vision of opportunity and freedom. That diversity has always been the backbone of America’s strength. A 21st -century immigration system must reflect these characteristic values along with a humanitarian commitment to refuges and those seeking freedom from persecution.

Option Two: Protect Our Borders

Some of America’s most serious social and economic problems are exacerbated by the influx of unauthorized immigrants. By failing to control illegal immigration, we’ve undermined our national security, stiffened competition for scarce jobs, and strained the public purse. This option argues for tighter control of our borders, tougher enforcement of our immigration laws, and stricter limits on the number of immigrants legally accepted into the country.

Option Three: Promote Economic Prosperity

Protecting American jobs while at the same time increasing economic competitiveness requires a multi-faceted immigration strategy, one that acknowledges the important contributions made by high-and low-skilled immigrants alike, but does not depress the wages of disadvantaged American workers or drain our public resources, especially during economic hard times.

Get the full issue guide here at the NIFI website.

I am delighted to announce a new issue book developed by the Kettering Foundation for the National Issues Forums titled: A Nation In Debt: How Do We Pay The Bills? This issue guide, authored by my good friends and colleagues Tony Wharton and Noelle McAfee, is the latest in the issue book library of which I am Executive Editor.

Click to download from the NIFI website

We worked very hard getting this guide finished — researching, writing, testing and re-testing. I am really proud of it.

The new guide is available to purchase for download or as a hardcopy at the National Issues Forums Institute website.

The following is from the introduction to A Nation in Debt: How Can We Pay the Bills?

It’s become apparent to many Americans that if we do not act decisively on the nation’s debt soon, our economy will be seriously hobbled and we will dump an unsustainable burden on our children and grandchildren.

“What’s decided (or not decided) over the next few years will spell big changes for the way we live our daily lives,” write Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson in Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis. “How the country solves or doesn’t solve this problem will affect our paychecks, our investments, our mortgages, our kids’ prospects in life, what kind of health care we’ll get, our chances of ever getting to retire-even whether we live in a country that’s fair, stable and prosperous.”

This 12-page issue guide presents an overview of the problem and three options for deliberation.

Option One: Agree to Make Sacrifices Now – We need to compromise on our differences and act now to reduce the national debt.  If this generation doesn’t make needed sacrifices, we’re simply passing the burden to the next generation. It’s time to face this urgent problem.  We need to raise taxes and cut spending; neither will get the job done alone.

Option Two: Strengthen Checks and Balances – We cannot just hope that personal discipline and basic legislative safeguards will control the urge to spend.  Citizens willingly accept more benefits than government can afford and leaders are too willing to help us dig this hole.  Our top priority should be to make systemic changes to increase fiscal responsibility.

Option Three: Invest in Growth First – We need to encourage economic growth and invest in research, development, infrastructure, and science education.  Growing the economy will boost tax revenues, make the debt more manageable, and will be better for the country in the long run.  Drastic cost-cutting measures would likely harm the economy as it tries to recover.

I am proud to let you know about a new report released today by United Way Worldwide at an important Town Hall event in DC where United Way announced its pledge to generate 1,000,000 new volunteers in mentoring and tutoring for education. (United Way’s pledge is a great example of the level of educational leadership I wish we could see more of now a days.) I was fortunate enough to be asked to write and do the chief research and focus group work for the report.

I’ve posted an announcement of the report at my company’s site, the Mannakee Circle Group.  Here is the piece I posted there:

Soledad O’Brien talks to Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha at the Town Hall

Today at a National Town Hall event at Trinity Washington University moderated by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and featuring Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Corporation for National and Community Service head Patrick Corvington, and White House Domestic Policy Adviser Melody BarnesUnited Way Worldwide releasedVoices For The Common Good: America Speaks Out On Education.

Mannakee Circle Group president Brad Rourke conducted focus group research, reviewed notes from the field, and did the principal writing for this report. (Available here.)

The national report is the result of extensive work by United Way listening to community members talk about their aspirations and concerns when it comes to their communities and education. It is based on more than 150 community conversations with thousands of participants, held by local United Ways in 17 cities — along with six focus groups in Billings, MT; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Los Angeles, CA; New York City, NY; and Washington, DC.

Key findings in the report include:

    • When you improve schools, you improve communities — and vice versa
    • People feel disconnected from schools
    • Instilling values is just as important to people as teaching academics
    • We’ve reached a turning point in education
    • People want to work together but aren’t sure what to do

The community conversations were conducted using a framework developed by my friend and colleague Rich Harwood. Special thanks to another good friend and colleague, Mike Wood, vice president of field engagement at United Way, for bringing me in to this project.

For more about the report, visit United Way.

Click for Full Report (pdf)

Friends, I am delighted to announce the imminent release of a project I have been working hard on for the better part of the year. My company (The Mannakee Circle Group) has been lead partner on the first-ever Maryland Civic Health Index. This report was developed as a partnership between The Mannakee Circle Group, the Maryland Commission on Civic Literacy, Common Cause Maryland,  and the National Conference on Citizenship. It was funded in part by the Center for Civic Education.

The Civic Health Index is developed using data from the U.S. Census, and is mandated by the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009. The National Conference on Citizenship developed a national report, and partnered with a variety of local organizations in developing a number of state and local reports.

I am proud to say I was the chief author of the report. My very good friends at CIRCLE did the core data analysis and I am deeply indebted to them.

In addition to the census data, the Maryland partners convened a number of community conversations throughout the state and culminated this listening effort with a Civic Literacy Summit held on October 23 where workgroups made recommendations for moving forward.

All this is given in detail in the report. I will release a link to the report after it is made public on December 8 in Annapolis. The report can be found here.

Below is the event announcement:

ANNAPOLIS, Md.  – A coalition next week will release the first-ever report on the civic health of Maryland, evaluating in numerous areas how Marylanders work together in society for the common good, and how their level of work and engagement compares to residents of other states.

To evaluate the Free State’s civic health, the first-ever Maryland Civic Health Index looked at indicators that include volunteerism, social connections, voting habits and political engagement, among others. The report sketches a picture of Marylanders engaged in their communities more than residents of many other states. But it also suggests that given its higher than average median income and education levels and proximity to Washington DC, it is not as high as expected.

The report will be released at a press conference, details below.

Press Conference Details

What:   Release of Maryland Civic Health Index 2010

When: Wednesday, Dec. 8, 9 am

Where: Miller Senate Building

Who:

  • Judge Robert Bell, Chief Judge, Maryland Court of Appeals
  • Dr. Nancy Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools
  • Barbara Reynolds, Director, Governor’s Office on Service and Volunterism
  • Senator Allan Kittleman, Chair, Commission on Civic Literacy
  • Marcie Taylor-Thoma, Vice-chair, Commission on Civic Literacy
  • Dr. Stephen Frantzich, Professor of Political Science, USNA
  • Wanda Speede, Maryland Higher Education Commission
  • Brad Rourke, The Mannakee Circle Group, report author
  • Susan Schreiber, Common Cause Maryland

The 31-page report was prepared by the Mannakee Circle Group, the Maryland Commission on Civic Literacy, Common Cause Maryland, and the National Conference on Citizenship. It is based on analysis of state data from the National Conference on Citizenship’s America’s Civic Health Index, and conversations with Marylanders throughout the state in summer and early fall of this year.

I am delighted to announce that the Case Foundation has just released a new report that I wrote about a recent White House / Case Foundation conference. The report is called Promoting Innovation: Prizes, Challenges and Open Grantmaking. Here’s the Foundation’s description:

Promoting Innovation: Prizes, Challenges and Open Grantmaking

In spring 2010, the Case Foundation together with the White House Domestic Policy Council and the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy teamed up to host a daylong public-private strategy session focused on promoting innovation through the use of prizes, challenges and open grantmaking. . . . This report is a summary of the lessons, learnings and findings discussed at the conference, and highlights some of the shining examples of the power and pitfalls of crowdsourcing ideas and innovation.

Case Foundation CEO Jean Case wrote a blog post introducing the report, in which she says:

We’re proud today to release a new report as part of our “Case Studies” from the spring gathering, Promoting Innovation: Prizes, Challenges and Open Grantmaking, a daylong strategy session we co-hosted along with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Domestic Policy Council. This event brought together over 200 individuals representing more than 35 government agencies and 35 private sector and nonprofit organizations to discuss lessons and strategies from experiments in prizes, challenges and open grantmaking.

The Promoting Innovation report is meant for anyone who may have missed the conference, or wants to share some of the chief learnings with colleagues who weren’t able to attend.

The White House has posted a piece on the report, too, on the blog of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. That blog bost calls the meeting “groundbreaking” (it was) and points out the section of the report that contains five dos and don’ts of using prizes and challenges for leveraging resources and driving change.

I could not be more pleased about this report, and I am grateful to the Case Foundation and to the White House for making it possible.

As many friends and colleagues know, I have enjoyed a long association with the Kettering Foundation. When I first came to know the Foundation while I was working at the Institute for Global Ethics, I felt I had discovered an intellectual and philosophical home. And I was right.

Over the years, the good people at Kettering have become more than colleagues — they are friends and family. For some years, I have been proud to say I am an Associate of the Foundation. (This means I am not an employee but an independent professional working on a range of learning projects.)

KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a research foundation (not a grant making foundation) that studies the question: What does it take to make democracy work as it should? A fundamental part of that is to study public deliberation — how people make choices in communities. An excellent overview of Kettering research is in this brochure.

To further its research, the Foundation supports the development of issue books on various topics and makes them available to organizations throughout the National Issues Forums and to others. These issue books can serve as the basis of public deliberative forums where people wrestle with the difficult issues of the day such as energy, health care, economic security, the national debt, and more. I have written some of these issue books over the years.

I am thrilled and humbled to report that I’ve taken on a deeper role as a Kettering Associate, serving as executive editor of the issue book library. (I’ll still be working on all my other projects too, with other clients and collaborators.)

I’ll be doing this work closely with my friend Ilse Tebbetts, a longtime Kettering colleague, who will be serving as managing editor.

The announcement Kettering issued is below:

Two familiar names have recently taken on new duties in producing the deliberative issue guides that have long been key parts of the Kettering Foundation’s work.

Brad Rourke has taken the role of executive editor of the issue guide library. As executive editor, Rourke will have overall responsibility for the issue guide series, overseeing the writing of new books and the updating of earlier guides. He will work with David Holwerk, Kettering’s director of communications, to oversee the work of writing and updating issue guides.

Rourke has been associated with the work of the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums since 1997. His first learning agreement with the foundation was in 1999, when he worked on framing the issue of election ethics and campaign conduct for public deliberation. Since then, he has been closely involved with Kettering’s work and has written a number of issue guides and reports for the foundation, including The Energy Problem: Choices for an Uncertain Future and Coping with the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need?

Ilse Tebbetts will work with Rourke as the managing editor of the issue book series. In that role, she will have primary responsibility for editing the text of new and revised books and will work with Holwerk to oversee the design and production of the books in both print and digital formats.

Tebbetts, a freelance editor and writer, has worked on a variety of projects with the Kettering Foundation for more than 30 years. She has edited and written portions of many of the issue guides published by the foundation and has written and edited abridged versions for new readers. Tebbetts has also edited a number of the books published by Kettering Foundation Press, as well as a variety of occasional papers and KF reports. She was one of the principal editors of Selected Writings of Li Shenzhi, published this month by Kettering Foundation Press.

Thank you to Kettering for this unique opportunity.

Report available from PACE

Click image for the report (pdf)

I’m excited to announce the release of a new report I wrote for Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), an important group of funders who do grantmaking in the civic participation and dialogue field.

Titled An Evolving Relationship – Executive Branch Approaches to Civic Engagement and Philanthropy, it is based on a briefing paper I wrote for a White House meeting earlier this year between leaders of the philanthropic community and Executive Branch officials. I want to thank PACE for the opportunity to work on this report, and for choosing to publish it.

This from the PACE press release:

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) is pleased to announce the release of its latest publication, “An Evolving Relationship: Executive Branch Approaches to Civic Engagement and Philanthropy.”  This white paper is based on a briefing memo prepared for a White House meeting earlier this year between leaders of the philanthropic community and Executive Branch officials.  The meeting focused on the topics of service, civic engagement, social innovation and public participation and where there might be shared interests between the two groups. . . .

“We are at a moment that many in the civic engagement field see as a threshold. Fundamental changes are taking place in the way that citizens interact with institutions, demanding new and more creative approaches to civic engagement,” said PACE executive director Chris Gates. “The new Administration and the field of philanthropy have both made it clear that they want to be a part of the conversation about how our nation can craft a new kind of relationship between citizens, civil society and government.”

An Evolving Relationship was prepared for PACE by Brad Rourke of The Mannakee Circle Group. The paper provides a broad overview of Executive Branch approaches to civic engagement, participation, and service over the past two decades. It also describes how philanthropy has worked with the federal government on these issues over the same time frame.

The paper argues that a number of key trends in White House approaches to civic engagement are now intersecting and suggest a great deal of possibility for moving forward in the near future. Civic engagement is a clear priority for this administration and has becoming increasingly embedded in the policies and practices of a number of Federal agencies.  At the same time, key philanthropic institutions are making increasing commitments to the fields of deliberative dialogue, civic engagement and democratic practice.

For more information about PACE or this paper contact:

-Chris Gates, Executive Director of PACE at cgates@pacefunders.org

-Brad Rourke, Mannakee Circle Group at rourke@mannakeecircle.com