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    Written by Luke Hohmann
    on March 14, 2016


    It pains me when billionaires who are trying to make America better face the same challenges as ordinary citizens creating high-impact results that improve outcomes, especially when Conteneo and our community of Certified Collaboration Architects have developed solutions to these challenges through Deliberative Decision Making, Participatory Budgeting and other forms of scalable civic engagement.

    Which is why I'm asking for your help in sending this post to Michael Bloomberg, Howard Schultz, George Soros, Rupert Murdoch, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and any other billionaire you know who seeks to increase civic engagement and high-impact, non-partisan collaborative problem solving. Let's let them know that we've created the platforms they need to create the better world of our collective dreams.

    Michael Bloomberg Wants a Better Government

    On Mar 7, 2016, Michael Bloomberg published this essay outlining why he will not be running for President. In his article Mr. Bloomberg outlined several goals, including:

    I’ve always been drawn to impossible challenges, and none today is greater or more important than ending the partisan war in Washington and making government work for the American people -- not lobbyists and campaign donors.

    "Making government work for the American people" is at the core of our philanthropic work at Every Voice Engaged Foundation, so I immediately emailed David Shipley, the editor listed at the bottom of the article. I shared  Conteneo's partnership with The Kettering Foundation in creating the first platform for scalable deliberative decision making modeled on the process pioneered by Kettering. Given that Brendan Greeley had previously written about our efforts implementing Participatory Budgeting in San José, CA, I thought David would reply to my email. A week later I've not heard from David, which motivated this post, and my hopes that the global Conteneo community can help us reach David (my original email is contained at the end of this post).

    Howard Schultz Wants Us to Deliberate

    The momentum for better government keeps growing! The Mar 21, 2016 (print) issue of Forbes has this article about Howard Schultz Howard Schultz's Stormy Crusades: The Starbucks Boss Opens UpThe article has this to say about Howard's ambitions:

    Now he wants Starbucks to be the place where people can get excited about voting again, where people can courteously discuss tough issues such as gun rights and race relations–and where “ we can elevate citizenship and humanity.”

     

    The challenge facing Mr. Schultz is that simply asking people to "courteously discuss tough issues" is doomed to failure. The vast majority of people are not formally trained in the art and process of deliberation. It isn't that they aren't willing to engage. It is that they don't know how. Putting this in terms Mr. Schultz can embrace, I might love a skinny Grande extra hot latte, but unless I have the right materials (coffee, milk), the right machine and the right process I'm not going to enjoy my steaming cup of goodness.

    CGAEngaging citizens in tough issues is exactly the same: We need the right materials (a discussion guide framing the issue being discussed), the right machine (Common Ground for Action, our software platform to support deliberative decision making) and the right process (the deliberation process captured within the software). With these in place Mr. Schultz can turn Starbucks into a destination for deliberation!

    We Need to Reform How We're Approaching Immigration Reform

    It is really sad that I'm likely to put the success of my company at risk by stating that we need to reform how we're approaching immigration reform, but our corporate values of serving the world through advanced decision-making gives me strength.

    We need to reform how we're approaching immigration reform.

    We need to adopt deliberative decision making as the foundation for exploring the complex challenges of immigration reform. We need to do this at a scale that is unprecedented. Since you can't engage in deliberation on Facebook, we need to do this on Conteneo's platforms (sorry, Mark).

    And notice that I didn't say that we need to be non-partisan, inclusive and all of those other platitudes that pundits like to spout. That's because deliberative decision making and a properly framed issue guide includes, by design, a range of possible actions motivated by things that are held valuable among all of us. Kinda like saying that a good cup of coffee starts with a good coffee bean, right Mr. Schultz?

    What You Can Do?

    Help me reach your favorite billionaire. Tweet a link to this article. Forward the email I wrote to David Shipley from your account. Let's make a small amount of collaborative noise so that we can enjoy, as Mr. Bloomberg suggests, the government we deserve.

    Original email to David Shipley, 7-Mar-2016

    David -
    Like many Americans, I share Michael Bloomberg's concerns about the terrific challenges facing our country (outlined here). At the heart of these challenges is the inability to deliberate on the wicked problems we're facing.

    Unlike most other Americans, I've done something about it. Working with The Kettering Foundation my company has created Common Ground for Action, the first platform for Deliberative Decision Making. This work builds upon the ground-breaking work I've done in Participatory Budgeting, a story covered by Brendan Greeley a few years ago (here).

    The purpose of this email is to share this amazing platform with you in the hopes that we can use it to engage America in the kinds of discussions we must have in order to found common ground for action.

    Start by watching this video produced by our development partner, The Kettering Foundation: https://vimeo.com/m/99290801. Really. Just 5 minutes. It provides you with an amazing overview of the platform.

    Here is the rest of the story :-).

    The Kettering Foundation frames wicked social problems for public debate and problem solving. They've got an in-person process for deliberation that they deliver through www.nifi.org. To frame an issue they create an issue guide which identifies three or 4 unique options or strategies for solving the problem (not just "yes" or "no" - but truly different perspectives). The scope of Kettering's focus is quite impressive: They've built more than hundreds of issue guides on immigration reform, healthcare reform, education reform, resolving the national debt to name just a few of the categories that exist.

    I've attached a few issue guides for your review [note: these are available at www.nifi.org]. I believe the format of these issue guides could provide a good model for some of the problems Mr. Bloomberg wants us to tackle.

    But of course reading an issue guide isn't building common ground. For this, you need a deliberative forum, a carefully controlled process in which a group of people consider an issue by reviewing different options (or strategies) as to how it could be solved.

    Each strategy, in turn, is framed in terms of a set of actions that could be taken that are congruent or supportive of the strategy. Each action, in turn, has a set of drawbacks that must be considered if enacted. By thoughtfully - through deliberation - considering options, actions and drawbacks - participants develop an understanding of where common ground exists within a group for concerted action.

    We've put the process into a scalable web based collaboration platform that embodies and leverages this process in the context of our proven techniques for collaboration at scale. As participants progress through the platform we give them visualizations of where common ground exists within the group. As opinions change through deliberation we update these visualizations in real-time.

    When finished, the group has a clear understanding of where common ground exists for taking action on a complex issue - an excellent approach to managing wicked problems.

    As you can imagine, identifying where common ground exists within a group of people, and at scale, helps create far better decisions and faster, more thorough execution.

    I hope you found this email useful enough to share with Mr. Bloomberg in an effort to help us scale deliberation and identify the common ground for action so sorely needed in our country.

    Let us know what you think. 

    Add your comment below.

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