Research with CGA

Common Ground for Action (CGA) has been utilized as a tool in wide variety of award winning scholarly research projects across academic disciplines.

Christelle, A., Dillard, K. & Lindaman, K. (2017). Common Ground for Action Software and Professional Development to Support Online Deliberation in Classrooms. Journal of Political Science Education.  

ABSTRACT: The Common Ground for Action (CGA) online deliberation platform is a dynamic tool designed to encourage diverse group members to identify collective responses to deeply controversial or “wicked” public problems that have no simple solution. The program promotes authentic deliberation, while minimizing the tactics of horse-trading and negotiating. We detail the structure of the CGA platform, including how deliberative talk is encouraged, outline a sample assignment that can be used with CGA, and professional training offered to faculty and Teaching Assistants.

Lee, A. (2019). The New Town Hall: Deliberating Online to Connect Constituents and Lawmakers. National Civic Review.

Gastil, J., & Meinrath, S. (2018). Bringing Citizens and Policymakers Together Online: Imagining the Possiblilities and Taking Stock of Privacy and Transparency Hazards. Computer.

ABSTRACT: The authors make the case for creating a common architecture that interconnects otherwise disparate civic portals. They distinguish among core functions, complementary tools, and future features that could go into such a system, and consider its potential to create positive feedback loops that boost civic capacity and public legitimacy.

Kennedy, R., et al. (2020). Demographics and (Equal?) Voice: Assessing Participation in Online Deliberative Sessions. Political Studies. 

ABSTRACT: Critics of deliberative democracy have worried that deliberation may mirror (or even exacerbate) inequalities in participation across categories such as gender, race, and age. Accordingly, we investigate the potential for technology and design to ameliorate these concerns, looking at the extent to which online deliberative sessions facilitate inclusive participation. In a large study of online deliberation (over 1600 participants nested in hundreds of online sessions), we examine differences in the amount and nature of participation across demographic categories, as well as the effect of forum characteristics on such differences. Though our results are mixed, we read them with cautious optimism: the online format is not immune to inequalities in participation and satisfaction, but we do not observe differences across some demographics, and most observed differences are substantively minor. Moreover, features of online deliberation environments show promise for addressing some of the problems plaguing in-person designs.

Dillard, K. (2020). Common Ground for Action (CGA): A Case Study in Design-Build Innovations in Online Deliberation. Presentation at the European Consortium for Political Research annual (virtual) conference.

ABSTRACT: Understanding how online deliberation platform designs interact with their citizen-users in ways that shape democratic practice and talk is critical to advancing the field of deliberative democracy. The scholarly trend of exploring questions of design impact on online citizen deliberation has fielded a wide variety of results. Online deliberation positivists argue that such spaces encourage more politically indifferent people to participate and that talk will be free and equal, whereas cyber-pessimists posit barriers like access, speed, and anonymity make online deliberation problematic. At the microlevel, explanations of deliberative talk online has mainly fallen into two categories: Shoehorning different online talk into deliberative frameworks or ideals; and taking the Habermasian ideals of deliberative talk and assessing whether online talk matches those ideals. All of these overarching strategies of assessing online deliberation often ignore the software design and features that enable and constrain deliberation in these spaces. As many studies have argued, design matters, but much of what we know about online deliberation stems from platforms not intentionally designed to encourage deliberation. This essay explores the development, innovative features, and uses of the online deliberation platform Common Ground for Action (CGA). CGA’s design was created using agile methodology, a coding practice common among software developers, with iterations developed in consultation with a wide range of deliberation practitioners, public issues facilitators, and serious game designers to create a platform specific and exclusive to small group public deliberation. Two animating questions based on deliberative theory drove the game-design process, making CGA a unique study that challenges previously supported hypotheses and hallmarks of online deliberation: (1) how can we best ensure citizens talk and adopt deliberative attitudes in a space where they can’t see or hear each other; (2) how can we encourage and make visible the choicework process that is at the heart of deliberation. Using three meta-case studies of major projects utilizing Common Ground for Action as the primary deliberation treatment this essay examines the utility and function of the deliberation theory-based design features of CGA as well as the drawbacks and constraints of game design as they relate to promoting deliberative talk and choicework. Results show that deliberating participants were less likely to use uncivil and outrage language when dialoguing and more likely to adopt deliberative attitudes such as empathy, reflexivity, political efficacy, and finding agreement as well as promoting high quality civic behavioral outcomes such as increased voting rates. This research offers a new way to think about online deliberation design methodology, a new methodological assessment of talk and forum structure, and as a result, advance new lines research for online deliberation.