Collaborative Public Conversations Focused on Finding Common Ground Between Local Residents and Decision Makers
When it comes to politics we can often pinpoint precisely where two candidates clash with each other. As the arena grows more issue-centric, people may tend to tuck themselves inside information silos unknowingly, becoming inflexible or even unwilling to view other opinions or facts. The political current may be full of discontent and partisan division, but instead of focusing on this, why not concentrate on more meaningful public conversations that can move us forward? Is knowing where we agree a better place to start a conversation?
Case Study: Washington State
Enter the Community Forums Network for Washington state, seeking out the prime spot for agreement. This new citizen network will bring people together to talk about important statewide issues and to discover consensus. CFN maintains that communities are less likely to demonize our differences when we acknowledge and understand those places where we actually agree. If the dissension is great, then we need to understand that too. CFN is a privately funded organization as part of the Dick Spady Legacy Project and an organizational member of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation.
According to public engagement strategist John Spady, “CFN has created a new framework for expanded civic engagement in the state of Washington that offers all residents the opportunity to weigh in on important societal issues as part of an evolving ‘National Dialogue Network.’” As communities begin to engage in order to move forward, it is the common ground and use of unfiltered dialogue where we can meet a consensus that helps us arrive at true collaboration.
In essence, it’s the people that citizens elect for local, county, and state offices that really need to know where the public agrees and what they are thinking. To make this happen, CFN prepares a “Where’s The Consensus?” report that is shared with decision makers, media partners and with citizens. This amplifies the voice of the individual citizen and follows the notion that an open communicant can build a better democracy.
Through CFN one can attend a forum in their community, share ideas and feedback on important topics through surveys, and support local charities or nonprofits just by participating. In addition, nonprofit or community organizations can earn up to $4,000 in grant money by becoming a Grant Partner with Community Forums Network. Grants are earned based on the number of survey responses attributed to an organization during a “topic round” of forums. The grants are offered as an acknowledgement of their continuous efforts to enhance Washington communities.
What does the future hold for CFN?
Carrie Shaw, executive director, will be encouraging thought leaders and individuals from community groups and nonprofit organizations to share the human stories and impact behind the issues such as job creation, homelessness, education, and the environment.
She will ask media partners and community bloggers to weigh-in with their own opinions and insights as it relates to CFN findings and its “Where’s the consensus?” report. There’s a place to agree or disagree with the commentary — and it’s welcome and expected. CFN has purposely designed this space to serve the overall mission to create deeper connections to communities and to discover collective wisdom on important topics.