Common Ground for Action - How It Works

CGA is the only enterprise-level small-group deliberation-focused civic software geared for citizen, community, and government use.

If you're familiar with the National Issues Forums model of small-group deliberation, you'll understand how CGA works from a moderator and participant perspective. A moderator or convener schedules a forum and send the forum link to participants. Participants then login to the forum at the start time. 

Common Ground for Action has the potential to transform the lives of citizens while encouraging more engagement in the civic-political life of their neighborhoods and communities. We're continually working on enhancing the current platform and building new features, including making the platform more accessible to diverse audiences including non-English first language speakers, improving the quality of participation and deliberation, and to improve the reflection and reporting across large numbers of CGA forums. After years of experimenting with CGA deliberative forums on issues like the opioid crisis, health care, and immigration, research has shown that citizens are more likely to be less polarized and more willing to see the “other side” after participating, see their elected officials and government as trustworthy, and find value in civic participation. CGA has been used by several research, civic organizations, and foundations as well as by major universities, making CGA an established, highly credible online deliberation platform.

Near-Term CGA Development Roadmap: 

Additional funding will enhance current features and build in new ones, allowing more participants, better deliberation, and easier use for communities. Specifically, these Image result for common ground for action conteneoimprovements and new features are focused on:

  • Increase the number of new participants.
  • Encouraging participants who join a forum on one topic to join other forums on other topics.
  • Increase participation reliability by making it easier for them to register and sending them reminders.
  • Expanding our network of moderators with more people who want to moderate.
  • Integrate audio/video capability into CGA so participants can see and hear each other in addition to chat.

Keep reading if you want further details on how we intend to accomplish these objectives – or just skip ahead to learn more about our long-term roadmap.


How We Will Improve Participation

To understand how we will improve participation, it helps to understand the current process for leveraging CGA. 


  • A CGA Moderator schedules a forum.
  • The Moderator contacts Kettering who lists the forum at
  • The Moderator promotes the event. This is typically to a small number of participants known by the Moderators.
  • Participants register for the forum, typically through a site like 
  • We have found that reminding participants to attend significantly improves participation. Moderators establish an ongoing notification process, typically though Constant Contact. They typically use Constant Contact because it provides legally required email “Opt-Out” functionality.

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I’m willing to bet you can identify a number of challenges in this process! Here are few we’re planning to fix.

  • There is no means of promoting new forums to participants in previous forums.
  • Participants cannot easily share their intentions to participate within social media or invite others.
  • Moderators have to manage three systems: CGA, Eventbrite and Constant Contact!
  • Moderators who are producing large numbers of forums (we call this type of an event a Gala) can’t easily find or recruit other Moderators.
  • Participants who want to find other forums can’t find them easily.

Our near-term roadmap will address these issues. Simply put:

  1. We’ll remove the need to use Eventbrite by providing a means for participants to register for forums.
  2. We’ll remove the need to use Constant Contact by providing moderators a means to keep participants informed of their event. We’ll make sure that this honors requirements for opt-out.
  3. We’ll add some nice additional capabilities like allowing both Moderators and Participants to register their interest in forums and an automated, easily accessible calendar of forums.
  4. Time permitting, we’ll do some other cool stuff!

Note: This is NOT designed to be disparaging to Eventbrite or Constant Contact. These are fine systems. They’re just not what we need for CGA and scalable civic engagement.



Long-Term CGA Development Roadmap:

We have a number of long-term plans for CGA. As we acquire more funding we’ll focus on the following areas:Image result for common ground for action conteneo

  • Mobile friendly. Redesigning CGA to work on mobile devices.
  • Internationalization. We can reach more participants and host more forums if we support more languages. We’re targeting the UN6 and then hope to expand to ultimate support between 12 and 20 languages.
  • Helping Participants Prepare for Forums. There are a number of things that Participants do within a forum that consume a fair amount of time: writing a personal story and creating a baseline assessment. We want to adjust the flow of forums so that participants can complete these activities before the forum begins.
  • Making CGA forums even more deliberative.
    • Allowing participants to adjust their answers during the final reflection.
    • Enabling participants to create and consider new action/tradeoff pairs when considering a strategy.
    • Making adjustments to certain aspects of the layout to emphasize deliberation.
  • Making CGA forums more useful to researchers and the people commissioning forums, such as allowing moderators to flag important or otherwise notable exchanges among participants.