Beyond the Town Hall: How Online Tools Are Changing Conversations in the Civic Sphere
Forum Framing Statement:
Undoubtedly, more and more members of the public are using online platforms to discuss issues in the civic realm—from local to international politics. What makes an online tool useful both to citizens, elected officials, and public administrators in building or rebuilding trust or involving in the public in policymaking? We’ll examine a variety of tools being used for that purpose, what makes them effective, what are their limitations, and what the ODR field should do to help the field of public policy dispute resolution enter the digital age.
Larry Schooler is a mediator, facilitator, and the manager of the public engagement division for the city of Austin, Texas. He teaches public policy dispute resolution at Southern Methodist University and public engagement at the University of Texas, where he serves as senior fellow at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life. He has also provided training and consulting for other cities, including Louisville, Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Worth. Larry is the former U.S. affiliate president for the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) and serves in leadership roles within the Association for Conflict Resolution and the American Bar Association. He holds a master’s degree in conflict analysis and resolution from Nova Southeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University.
Greetings Larry and colleagues. So glad we are exploring civic participation issues as part of Cyberweek 2016. I have to admit that I'm feeling weary of the harsh and polarizing conversations happening as result of our national presidential election. Hopefully this tone and rapid "othering" won't bleed over too much into other civic forums. Perhaps well-management civic participation processes will be the tonic we need to rebuild people's faith in government?
Bill, so great to reconnect with you. I certainly agree that these have been trying times for those of us who care about getting people into the civic conversational space. My feeling is that we have seen lots of good examples of civil civic dialogue (face-to-face and online) that, as it spreads, has the potential to revolutionize our overall public discourse. But I think it would be very interesting both to explore tools helping with this paradigm shift and to consider what considerations we should include for the use of cyberspace should have in this context.