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Conferees Speak Up to Foster Better Civic Engagement

by Leanne Nurse, NCEI

21st Century Town Meeting Culls Future Strategies at National Conference on Citizenship

For the first time in its 52-year history, the National Conference on Citizenship took a leap into the future of public involvement technology.  On September 19 in Washington, DC, America Speaks used its unique 21st Century Town Meeting process to help more than 300 attendees at NCoC’s 2005 meeting consider the following questions:

For three hours, trained facilitators supported conversations with approximately ten people at each table discussing the questions above.  Conferees used hand held electronic voting devices to specify their preferences.  These responses were, in turn, compiled by tech-savvy staff who projected the summaries onto large screens so that all participants could see each other’s ideas. 

Based on the dynamic dialogue and voting, some of the highest priority strategies are: 

America Speaks is an organization that develops innovative deliberative tools for citizens and decision makers.  They specialize in large-scale citizen assemblies using integrated technology, such as the “Listening to the City” sessions in New York after 9/11.

The nonprofit NCoC was chartered by the US Congress to: hold an annual conference on or around September 17, Citizenship Day; develop strategies to encourage, promote and facilitate citizen participation in communities, states and the nation; and to help organizations contribute more concretely to the development of “a more active, alert, enlightened, conscientious and progressive citizenry in the country.”

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