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We’ve got some thoughts on what members might do on their own campuses.

You might want to start with an analysis of (1) where teaching and learning in the theory and practice of deliberative democracy can happen across the curriculum and (2) how your institution models democratic decision and policy making in its day-to-day operations. We developed two mapping graphics that we think will help campus leaders engage a variety of stakeholders in dialogue and planning about this work, one on Teaching and Learning Deliberative Democracy and one on Democratic Leadership and Decision Making.

We’ll host conferences, run workshops, provide tailored assistance, and post resources on our web site, but it’s up to individuals on campuses to make change happen. Where to start? There are lots of ways to come at this, but this is one possible approach:

  1. Form a steering committee or working group of people who have fire in their bellies about the need for systemic social and political change in public life. Members of this group do not need to have positional authority or a mandate from the administration, although that helps. Think beyond the institution’s physical boundaries and include civic leaders, citizens, and policy makers. Faculty members and senior staff members are critical to this group, but also be as inclusive as possible – reach out to nooks and crannies on campus that are often excluded, such those not represented in the faculty senate (diversity, civic engagement, interdisciplinary programs), outreach centers and institutes, administrative staff, HR, and campus security.
  2. Read TDI’s Statement of Principles and Practices. What resonates with the group? Where are areas of disagreement? Consider how this document can serve as a catalyst for dialogue and change on campus.
  3. Frame a question and/or use TDI’s framing paper or other publications (we recommend the AACU issue of Peer Review on political engagement, with the accompanying discussion guide). Also, take a look at TDI’s FAQ.
  4. Map what’s already happening on campus. Consider (1) where teaching and learning in the theory and practice of democracy can happen across the curriculum and (2) how your institution models democratic decision and policy making in its day-to-day operations. We developed two mapping graphics that we think will help organizers engage a variety of stakeholders in dialogue and planning about this work: Teaching and Learning Deliberative Democracy and Democratic Leadership and Decision Making.
  5. Organize campus dialogue-to-change forums on the results of the mapping exercise. Another approach is to tackle a pressing public issue – poverty, social and political inequities, free speech and civility, the role of religion in public life – and design a campus-wide dialogue-to-change program. In the process, consider, what is this institution’s role and responsibility in addressing this issue? What more can it do?

TDI is available to brainstorm ideas and, for a fee, provide campuses with ongoing assistance. Contact Nancy Thomas for more information.