Unit Six: Deliberating in our Communities

In the last assignment, our “This I Believe” podcasts, we explored where our beliefs came from—experience, inheritance, tradition, resistance—and we crafted our philosophies into a lyrical monologue. With careful attention to ornament and arrangement, we delivered our stance on how best to live, each of us offering one instructive lesson among the millions that make up our civic life, our search for the good. Next, we will put our beliefs, values, and stories in play with others, focusing on dialogue more than monologue, listening more than expressing, and understanding more than asserting, all to discover the greatest good for the community.

For this assignment, our class will divide into two “SuperTeams,” each of which will devise and lead a certain kind of civic discussion: a formal public deliberation event. A deliberation is a directed discussion focused on tough choices that confront the community. Its goal is to foster a deeper understanding of the issue and to discover the values that should guide the community in deciding its future. Each team will facilitate one two-hour-long deliberation session during a weeklong RCL-wide public event, “50 Deliberations,” sponsored by Penn State’s Center for Democratic Deliberation. Teams will also be in charge of inviting members of the community to participate.

Within each SuperTeam, we will form several MiniTeams, each with a specific role and set of responsibilities.

We will schedule this out-of-class event as soon as possible. Each SuperTeam will work to promote their deliberation to the Penn State community and public at large.

Primary Assignment Goals

  • Research and frame “tough choices” associated with a civic issue so as to foster reflective discussion
  • Introduce, facilitate, and moderate deliberation among the public on your team’s chosen issue
  • Reflect on how your behaviors affected the outcome of the presentation and deliberation and evaluate the emergent themes in the deliberation.

Overview of Evaluation Components 

MiniTeam Introductory Presentation at Event                  50%

  • Based on content, organization, delivery, bibliography, discussion guide, and post-                  deliberation questionnaire, and/or publicity efforts.

MiniTeam Deliberative Discussion at Event                       25%

  • Based on moderation and recording during event

MiniTeam Post-Deliberation Report                                     25%

  • A 750-1000-word miniteam-written overview of the deliberation, directed toward policy-makers, which elucidates the discussion’s emergent themes, values, points of                   consensus and impasses.

Team Member and Self Evaluation

  • Evaluation based on provided form, submitted in ANGEL. -5% for missing or late form.

In addition to attending your deliberation event, students are required to attend one other event and write a 500-word reflection (which will stand in for your Civic Issues Blog for week five, six, or seven). 

Breakdown of Mini-Team Roles:

Team Overview (2-3) people): Prepare the 5-to-7-minute welcome and introduction to the deliberation topic, moderate and record for the Personal Stake section of the deliberation event, write a brief overview of the topic for the issue guide, assemble the issue guide from the approach teams.

Team 1 (2 people): Research Approach 1 and write issue guide section for Approach 1, prepare three-to-five-minute introduction to Approach 1 for deliberation event, moderate and record during Approach 1 for event.

Team 2 (2 people): Research Approach 2 and write issue guide section for Approach 2, prepare three-to-five-minute introduction to Approach 1 for deliberation event, moderate and record during Approach 2 for event.

Team 3 (2 people): Research Approach 3 and write issue guide section for Approach 3, prepare three-to-five-minute introduction to Approach 3 for deliberation event, moderate and record during Approach 3 for event.

Team Summary and Outreach (2-3 people) Moderate the conclusion, develop and hand out the post-deliberation questionnaire, invite at least three local organizations who may care about your deliberation topic (save the evidence of that invitation), create social media campaign for the event.

Preparing for your Deliberation Event

SuperTeams pick a complex Type 2 problem (or a less complex Type 3 problem).  This needs to be a researchable, open-ended, ongoing problem.  It also needs to be something where multiple approaches could be suggested.  (We will discuss in class the distinction between an approach and a solution.)  The selected issue may emerge from your civic issue blog topics or could be new for your group.

Research the topic using credible sources.  Consider using the list of civic issue sources, the libraries’ resources, or research from public policy institutes (think tanks).  At least six sources should be cited aloud in your presentation.  At least one source must be cited by each team member (except Team Summary). These, plus additional sources should all be listed on your bibliography, which will be submitted on ANGEL.

Identify the “tough choices” faced by stakeholders in this issue.  Select three possible approaches, in accordance with the principles discussed in class for framing deliberative choices. For each possible approach you will need to identify the benefits and trade-offs that would need to be made if the approach were selected.  You also will need to identify the primary value informing the approach.

Prepare a introductory presentation for your mini-team’s section of the event (all but Team Summary) that clarifies the problem and cohesively, fairly, and accurately presents the possible approaches presented in your discussion guide (see below). Equally strong arguments and trade-offs need to be constructed for all approaches; the audience shouldn’t have a sense of which option you prefer, either individually or as a group. Depending on your chosen issue, you might include a discussion of context, causes, consequences, scope, severity, and key stakeholders.  Whatever you include, be sure that it prepares the group to deliberate on the problem, rather than simply running through a list of data.

Each group member should deliver their remarks extemporaneously (from notes, not manuscripts) and should speak for roughly equal portions of the presentation. Be mindful, too, that each member should cite at least one source aloud during the presentation (except Team Summary). The overall content will be graded collectively, but delivery and clarity, if particularly strong or poor, could impact an individual’s overall grade on this portion of the assignment.  Adhering to time constraints is largely a group issue, so be sure you collectively rehearse the presentation and strategically plan the deliberative discussion.

Develop a discussion guide for discussants to refer to when participating in the deliberation. Your identified three approaches should reflect the criteria outlined in the Identify the “tough choices” section above, as well as criteria established in class. This guide should be one page (front and back) at maximum, and should clearly and succinctly lay out the problem and the three main approaches you’re exploring (sometimes deliberation experts call discussion guides “placemats”). Consider using white space and smart layout and design choices to make this easily skimmable by the discussants.  Bring 30 printed copies to the event and submit a digital copy on ANGEL.

Prepare discussion questions to help guide your mini-team’s section the deliberation, although you’ll need to be flexible in adapting to comments offered by the discussants.  Team members should equally divide the tasks of moderating and recording discussion. Effective discussion moderation should be in keeping with the principles outlined in class and in our readings.

Prepare a post-deliberation questionnaire (Team Summary’s job) that asks participants questions about changed perspectives, preferred approaches, values, and sticking points. Print and bring 30 copies to the event and submit in an ANGEL dropbox. This questionnaire can be used to generate additional evidence for your team’s post-deliberation report.

Structure of the Deliberation

  • Welcome and Introduction Presentation: 5 minutes
  • Personal Stake 10 minutes
  • Approach 1: 20 minutes
  • Approach 2: 20 minutes
  • Approach 3: 20 minutes
  • Review of notes and conclusion discussion: 20 minutes
  • Post-Deliberation Questionnaire: 5-10 minutes

Additional Key Points for the Deliberation

  • Superteams should wrap up the entire event with five minutes to spare in the 90-minute allotment. That means paying close attention to time!
  • Each part of the deliberation from the Personal Stake to the Conclusion should have a pre-designated moderator and recorder, who will be taking notes of the discussion on poster board.
  • After finishing the three approaches, the recorder for Team Summary should tape all the notes on the walls/or otherwise share/review with the group. After allowing the discussants a few minutes to digest the notes, the moderator for the Conclusions section should guide the discussion.(It’s ok if no consensus has been reached yet.)
  • Team Summary must ask the group to fill out individual questionnaires before leaving.
  • Thank participants and direct them to the class website for the post-deliberation report.
  • Keep the notes for evidence for your post-deliberation report.

After the Deliberation

As a mini-group, write a 750-1000 word post-deliberation report directed toward policymakers who are interested in understanding the public perspective on the issue. This report will be published on our course website.  Team Overview and Summary can report on the entire deliberation; Teams 1, 2, and 3 on their specific approaches. After briefly presenting the issue at hand (perhaps drawing on material from your introductory presentation), your report should highlight the emergent themes and oft-cited values in the deliberation (in total or your approach), perhaps quoting directly from key moments of discussion or questionnaires as evidence. Your report should also note points of consensus and discuss tensions or unresolved issues. The report should make policy recommendations based on the consensus of the participants, although it may also recommend further research for some parts of the issue if only a tentative recommendation can be reached. Reports should be professionally written, visually appealing and formatted well (subtitles could be useful), and should include a Works Cited page.

Group members also need to submit a Team Member and Self Evaluation to via ANGEL dropbox by the named due date.