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Deliberative Civic Engagement:

The Talloires Network’s Ongoing Collaboration with the Kettering Foundation

The Kettering Foundation and the Talloires Network acknowledge that many societies are characterized by political conflict and division, dysfunctional public discourse, cultural and religious differences, and differences of race, class, and polarized ideologies. In turn, we began a series of exchanges on the topic of dialogue and deliberation approaches to civic engagement that are led by universities around the world. These exchanges, we believe, are vital to develop approaches for addressing the numerous complex challenges that confront societies – from climate change and international terror to persistent socioeconomic inequalities and fear of the other. At the heart of our effort, dubbed Deliberative Civic Engagement or DCE is the idea that citizens must be able to come together across differences to name and frame “wicked problems,” discuss options and tradeoffs, and understand different points of view, and, in some instances, make collective decisions and take action.

Our ongoing exchange seeks to bring leaders in Deliberative Civic Engagement around the world together to produce collaborative research using a common framework and methodology. In working to achieve this goal, we are also beginning with individual campus experiments.

Building on DCE 2016, a group of 11 university faculty, staff and students from 8 countries (United States, Egypt, South Africa, Canada, Israel, Brazil, Kenya, Ghana) convened in Dayton, Ohio in July 2017.

  • Hlekani Muchazotida Kabiti, Walter Sisulu University (continuing from DCE 2016)
  • Martin Ocholi, University of Nairobi, Kenya
  • Paul Yeboah, University of Mines and Technology, Ghana
  • Dassi Postan-Aizik, University of Haifa, Israel
  • Sebastian Merz, Simon Fraser University, Canada
  • Zainab Akef, American University in Cairo, Egypt

The group mentors remained the same (mentors: Martin Carcasson, Colorado State University in United States; Telma Jimenez, State University of Londrina, in Brazil; Idit Manosevitch, Netanya Academic College, in Israel).

About the DCE 2017 participants

  • Hlekani Muchazotida Kabiti (continuing from DCE 2016) holds a Doctoral degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Venda in South Africa. Since 2010, Kabiti has been an integral participant in the Amplifying Community Voices (ACV) program, which supports deliberation platforms for people in rural community communities. She was one of the pioneering leaders and is former Chairperson of the Amplifying Community Voices Students Association (ACVoSA). Dr. Kabiti is now a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Center for Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Science (RVSC) at Walter Sisulu University.
  • Martin Ocholi is in the School of Journalism at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He has worked with Kettering since 2005. He is working to infuse deliberation into news programs and wants to elevate voices of students within the university, and involve them in conversations and decision-making. The country’s constitution requires public participation in all public processes. For Martin, deliberation is a vehicle for public participation that moves beyond an argument with a winner and a loser. This is critical for Kenya where discussion on important issues often becomes polarized. It is a process of “collecting all of the ideas and all the small parts” that need to be considered. It is a basic understanding that “we are in a mess” and asking, “How do we all contribute so we can get out of this mess?”
  • Paul Yeboah is Head of University Relations at the University of Mines and Technology (UMAT) in Ghana. His area of expertise is policy/planning, economics, and social entrepreneurship. In 1998, the university founded an FM radio station to distribute information about environmental issues, public hygiene and HIV/AIDS prevention. Broadcasts are presented by university experts and students but, after each airing, listeners phone in to ask questions, comment and share information. The radio station offers a valuable opportunity not only for the university to share knowledge, but for listeners to add to that knowledge base. The program places an emphasis on data collection and monitoring, and students assist in implementing opinion polls. The rate of HIV/AIDS infection has gone down. The primary issue now is that young people are involved in illegal mining.
  • Dassi Postan-Aizik is Director of University Community Partnership at the University of Haifa (flagship program in Rector’s office) for combating exclusion and promoting social solidarity. She is also a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Social Work and lecturer at YVC (Yeezrael Valley College). The work she does is not called “deliberation” although it has many shared elements. The elements include: bringing people together, making a commitment to collaborate, valuing people’s knowledge, creating an environment where all knowledge is equal, building very close bonds between diverse communities, and taking responsibility for your own participation.
  • Sebastian Merz works in the Center for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, focusing on social impact in the community. His background is in peace and conflict; he sees deliberation as a method. The work he does for the Canadian government via Civic Engage is similar to National Issues Forum. He is responsible for scoping, framing, designing, delivering and evaluating their deliberative dialogue initiatives. He has found that deliberation works well at the local level and that people want to focus there; however, problems are global and the challenge is to address issues at a larger scale too. 
  • Zainab Akef is an undergraduate student at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, focusing on entrepreneurship and anthropology. She is a member of a student-run club, Alashanek Ya Balady (AYB). AYB works with children, teaching ethics, morals, and literacy. They ask: what does it mean to be a citizen? AYB is dedicated to addressing the root causes of poverty by empowering communities to take control over their social and economic futures. Students take primary responsibility for planning and leadership. 

About the DCE Mentors

  • Idit Manosevitch has been working with the Kettering Foundation for 10 years. She is in communications at Netanya Academic College in Israel where she has developed a program that teaches students deliberative theory and practice. She is working with the Prime Minister’s Office to help citizens and others understand the value of deliberation and to develop a “deliberative mindset,” which she sees as a way of talking together for the purpose of solving problems collectively.
  • Telma Jimenez has been associated with the Kettering Foundation for 20 years. She is currently working in the State University of Londrina in Brazil. She has focused on the development of student-centered reflective pedagogy. Now she is in the International Relations Office and interested in institutional change. There are many questions around the issue of internationalization that she aims to explore with the community.
  • Martin Carcasson is a Communications Professor at Colorado State University in the United States. The Center for Public Deliberation is a major leader in the dialogue and deliberation scene, and has helped Kettering introduce deliberation to faculty across the United States. Martin sees the Center as an “impartial resource” helping to raise quality of public arguments. The approach begins with acknowledging that the local community has power to address “wicked problems,” which involve underlying values that do not fit together well. The Center focuses on creating a culture of deliberation to address societal issues.

Written by Lorlene Hoyt, Executive Director of the Talloires Network