Who’s Using It?

In the decade that Every Voice Engaged Foundation’s Common Ground for Action has been in use, nearly one thousand deliberative forums have been convened. The sheer number of forums held over the past ten years indicates the positive reception by community groups, libraries, legislator’s offices, and K-12 and university campuses.

Below are some examples of groups and organizations using the software to engage their communities in democratic deliberation.

Nearly 200 students from 26 colleges and universities joined in during the October 2020 Common Ground for Action Cross-College Campus forums, an annual event convened by the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI).  Students spent a week deliberating on issues like policing, free speech and the inclusive campus and voting as part of NIFI’s With the People Initiative.

At the end of each forum, students shared their thoughts about participating in a online deliberative forum. “I think that I was able to learn a lot more and see different perspectives I wasn’t aware of. A real eye opening experience!” remarked a student. Another student noted, “I actually think a chat room is better because it makes people feel less vulnerable and allows them to express their opinions more.”  Not lost on this year’s participants is the role deliberative forums play in helping democracy work as it should, as one student put it, “I agree politics is too polarized and individuals are forgetting the most important part of democracy: talking respectfully with individuals with opposing views to meet in the middle.”

USATODAY and the Gannett News Network

Hidden Common Ground 2020 »

Hidden Common Ground is a continuing examination of issues that divide America along with potential solutions. Launched in 2019 by USA TODAY, Hidden Common Ground features a unique partnership with the National Issues Forums Institute, which hosted a series of moderated, online forums on political polarization, health care reform, climate change and voting reform using the Common Ground for Action online deliberation platform.

This initiative is part of Gannett’s commitment to provide the most comprehensive coverage of the 2020 election and beyond, fueled by the company’s footprint in more than 260 communities across the U.S. Gannett’s effort includes industry-leading innovation in augmented reality, audio and video storytelling, interactive experiences and in-person events.

David Mathews, president of the Kettering Foundation, authored an opinion piece titled “How Americans an learn once again to solve our nation’s problems together,” reflecting on how American’s can learn to solve problems together using in-person and Every Voice Engaged Foundation’s online deliberative software.

Ohio State University

First Year Experience Program »

Over the past five years, the Institute for Democratic Engagement and Accountability made extensive use of Every Voice Engaged Foundation’s online deliberation software to host deliberative forums for OSU’s students on a variety of salient political issues. For example, as part of the First-Year Success Series, which provides resources for first-year students to integrate into college life smoothly, IDEA holds two dozen forums each academic year on topics like economic inequality to provide an opportunity for students to learn how to cope with the transitional challenge of participation in and engagement with a new and diverse community. Read about their efforts as part of OSU’s Conversations on Morality, Politics and Society here.

“Compelled by what we saw in happen in Waynesboro City Council meetings this January where over 400 people, mostly on the same side of the issue, demanded the city become a Second Amendment sanctuary without debate, we wanted to know if there was a better way to have a conversation on guns, rights, and security…

Not every online forum is deliberative, and often more online discussions are frustrating than productive. Instead, we use a online deliberation platform developed by the Every Voice Engaged Foundation that encourages citizens to weigh and make choices together. In these forums, participants can visually identify where the group has consensus to act, where there’s still some questions or concerns that need further deliberation, or where there’s agreement to not act… Read more from The Harrisonburg Citizen‘s coverage of the online deliberative forum series.

Homeless Solutions convened 11 online deliberative forums on how to best address the homeless crisis in Montgomery County. These forums were moderated by professional facilitators. The forums found stable, highly supportive actions that the county could pursue to address homelessness that would have the buy-in of Montgomery County residents.

Actionable Insights – California Water Crisis

Every Voice Engaged launched the 2015 Common Ground for California Water project to collaboratively engage the citizens of California in substantive discussions around creating and implementing sustainable water policy. Our goal is to engage people throughout the state, from tech gurus in Silicon Valley to farmers in the Central Valley, to work together to find a solution.

The CA Water Pilot Project convened with committed California citizens who were ready to help prove that small-group, online forums focused on solutions to our water crisis are extremely informative, rewarding, engaging and ultimately scalable.

This project generated an unprecedented amount of information directly from citizens who will be engaged in carefully moderated forums — data that is not traditionally collected in a collaborative manner.

The data produced in this method gives policymakers a clear understanding of California residents needs and wants. Residents will also gain a better understanding of each other’s positions, and a personal and macro-level understanding of the drought’s effect on the state.

Participatory Budgeting – City of San José

Our participatory budget programs including Budget Games, Zero-Based Budgeting, and Community Decides have been successfully implemented in cities around the world and over many years by San Jose, CA starting in 2011. We used serious, social, collaborative games and techniques, including early iterations of Common Ground for Action, to bring ordinary citizens into the conversation with governments, nonprofits and industry to solve intractable problems.

The 2015-2016 District 3 Participatory Budgeting project emphasized citizen input by soliciting ideas from residents using an open-source mapping application for crowdsourced info-gathering, “Shareabouts“, shaping these ideas into projects, and then using Decision Engine to allow residents to directly prioritize how the city will spend $100K.

The Citywide Budget Engagement project of 2016 enabled San Jose residents to collaboratively prioritize how the city should invest the portion of its budget devoted to programs and services that affect San José’s neighborhoods. This was “zero-based” budgeting opportunity in which the budget allocation from the prior fiscal year stayed the same, but the set of programs and services were changeable based on resident feedback. We ran the biggest in-person session attended by over 200 residents and invited residents to participate online the week of Feb 22, 2016.