What We Do

Working Groups

TDI supports informal working groups, people who share an interest or a concern and who want to work together to learn more or take action together. TDI can support working groups by connecting people with common interests, hosting on-line meetings, and helping groups create Wiki spaces or workspace on the TDI web site.

The No Better Time conference generated a lot of interest in specific issues. Many are captured in the conference sessions and people are forming groups to keep the momentum. We encourage TDI members to join working groups as they form, and to propose new ones. You can do that by sending an email to Nancy Thomas.

Democracy and Diversity: Aligning Campus Programs

Campus diversity. Intercultural learning. Inclusion. Educating for democracy. Civic learning. We hear these terms on college campuses, but often not together. Indeed, on too many campuses, offices of diversity, programs in intergroup dialogue, civic engagement, and interdisciplinary academic programs are disconnected from each other and from core programs on campus. The purpose of this working group is to share ideas and resources for "connecting these dots" on campus. What existing structures, such as offices of diversity or multicultural learning, can facilitate collaboration between these programs? How can we "map" our campuses to identify other enclaves for learning for a diverse democracy? Depending on the interests of the group, there are opportunities to develop a list of resources (such as books, paper, syllabi, presentations, speakers), document and collect case studies, and find other ways to support one another and the work that we do.

Organizers: Stephan Hiroshi Gilchrist and William Lewis
Start-up date: Nov. 1, 2009
Duration: On-Going
Products: To be determined by the group

Conservatives, Liberals, Dialogue, and Justice

In this working group, we’ll consider the claims that more conservative perspectives are chilled on college campuses – as well as related claims about the political inclinations of deliberative democracy advocates and practitioners more broadly. We can probably all agree that we want to create neutral, welcoming spaces for all voices and perspectives, both in the classroom and in public life, but are we realizing that goal? Is it true that, for example, the term “social justice” implies a liberal agenda? How problematic is that – or are we just getting stuck in semantics? We’ll consider how we frame and manage matters for classroom and public discussion, particularly when those matters have implications for social and political equity and other core democratic values.

Organizers: Bob Stains, Public Conversations Project, and Nancy Thomas, TDI
Start-up date: Nov. 1, 2009
Duration and product: to be determined by the group
Means of communication: teleconferences, email, wiki, and Webinars

Brain Research and Citizenship

According to brain researchers, when it comes to politics, people use their emotional brain more than their rational brain. We are inclined to seek out and find merit in presentations that fit our pre-existing beliefs and reject those that do not. And when we confront ideas and data that conflict with our pre-existing beliefs, we feel distress. The brain then comes up with ways to preserve our beliefs and make the distress go away.

Westen, Lakoff and others have argued that partisans should exploit this knowledge to win elections. But this new information is also relevant to those who are concerned with our democratic institutions. How does this knowledge alter our expectations regarding deliberative democracy? What about the way we structure political debates? Is there a way to ‘discipline’ our brain such that we can more genuinely hear and evaluate opposing arguments? And can we convey that discipline through civic education?

Organizer: Christopher Beem
Start-up Date: As soon as we have a few interested people
Duration: To be determined by the group
Purpose and Outcomes: To create a forum for these and other questions. Perhaps a conference with Westen and other researchers

Democratic Leadership and Shared Governance in Higher Education

The purpose of the working group is to share our own writing and ideas as well as published essays, articles, reports, web sites, blogs, etc. focused on the role of deliberative and democratic forms of shared (collegial) governance in higher education. We will identify common obstacles to democratic forms of governance, frame the key questions and issues that need to addressed relative to governance practices, and propose effective strategies for increasing democratic deliberation on campuses, including in faculty senates, strategic planning, and other typical structures and tasks. The catalyst paper currently posted on the TDI website on "Leading in the UNH Community: Achieving Common Goals through Shared Leadership" can serve as one starting point for the group. We will also review and discuss notes from the various No Better Time learning exchanges that considered matters of shared governance.

Organizers: Bruce Mallory and Paul Markham
Start date: October 19, 2009
Duration and product: to be determined by the group