The Washington State University Vancouver -- Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service’s Initiative for Public Deliberation (IPD) was established in Spring, 2015. Its goal is "to strengthen democratic government by replacing rigid partisanship with listening and conversation." It serves as an impartial resource for the Southwest Washington community to assist in community problem-solving. We analyze issues, design public participation events, host forums that students facilitate, and write reports on key issues while working with a wide variety of local institutions, including local and state government, school districts and community organizations. Deliberation requires safe places for citizens to come together, good and fair information to help structure the conversation, and skilled facilitators to guide the process, and IPD is dedicated to providing these three key ingredients to Southwest Washington.
Students are at the center of the Initiative’s work. They acquire a wide range of critical 21st century skills and experiences that are applicable to many contexts, including facilitating collaborative problem-solving, issue analysis, convening, community organizing, meeting design and reporting. Student associates are treated as colleagues and collaborators. Students are involved in all aspects of IPD, and have ample opportunities to take on significant responsibilities.
The Initiative for Public Deliberation currently consists of a network of 20-30 trained associates. Each spring, 15 students are brought into the program. These students are introduced to the underlying democratic theories and participation processes that serve as a foundation for IPD’s work. They are trained in facilitation techniques and they practice all of the different aspects of the deliberative process. Program alumni are asked to return as “Senior Research Associates” who participate in training, research, and hosting public events, and who serve as mentors to incoming facilitators. IPD has partnered with a variety of community organizations in Washington. We work directly with the Fort Vancouver Regional Library to produce the Forum at the Library, a quarterly speaker and deliberative program that engages the community. IPD has also worked with the Community Foundation, Identity Clark County (ICC), and the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) to foster community dialogue on a variety of issues, including affordable housing and economic development. This past year IPD worked with the YMCA to host a conference for high school student leaders to introduce them to our work and train them in facilitation techniques so they can use these skills to achieve democratic ideals. IPD also held training sessions at the Restoring Civility to Civic Dialogue conference at the University of San Diego and the Summer Institute for the Washington Campus Compact.
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