Making Democracy Work

Civil Engagement Resources

Why Does the League Need a Civil Discourse Interest Group?

What is Civil Engagement?

A dialogue in which all participants have a right to speak and to be heard. Such dialogue is characterized by:

  • Respectful participation

  • Sharing the time equitably

  • Attentive listening

  • Balanced discussion

League's role in Civil Engagement

  • To study the current climate of civility(and incivility) and the League's historic role as one of the most trusted organizations in America.

  • To check our own practices.

  • To promote civility in an increasingly partisan world.

Our most recent Facilitation Training

The League offered a free training on facilitating community deliberations on Saturday, February 3rd at the Carlsbad Library.

Working in small groups during the 3-hour session, workshop participants brainstormed and deliberated on three possible options to the critical, timely question of What Should We Do About the Opioid Epidemic? outlined in an issue advisory by the National Issues Forum.

The League's Civil Engagement group led participants using the League's Facilitation Training Handbook. Click HERE for a free copy.

What Kind of Talk Does Democracy Need?

Dr. Martin Carcasson spoke to us a on a hot July day. His presentation was illuminating and energizing for the assemblage of academics from local colleges and Leaguers from as far away as Orange County. A huge "shout out" and thanks to Dr. Carcasson who waived his usual fee to be with us. Another "shout out" to our fantastic collaborative partner, Dr. Carl Luna, Political Science Professor at Mesa College and co-founder of Restoring Respect. This is just the beginning of a continuing conversation. You will want to stay tuned.

A reporter from the Independent Voters Network, Jane Susskind, was in the audience and posted this article about the event.

In addition, we were invited to write an Op-Ed piece for the Voice of San Diego. Find it here.

Many of you asked for copies of Dr. Carcasson's slides. Click here for those.

Also, a video of a previous talk by Dr. Carcasson can be found at this link.

Our conversation is far from over. We hope you will be part of it by sharing your thoughts and ideas and joining us in future events.

Putting Civility into Action - Participatory Democracy

We're in this together

The League of Women Voters' mission is to promote active, informed citizen participation at all levels of government through education and advocacy. Our focus is that our hands-on work will safeguard democracy leading to civic improvement.

- After the January 2011 Tucson shootings, we undertook a study of the roots and causes of incivility and gave presentations to community groups.

- In September 2012, we joined with Mira Costa College to present DEMOCRACY IN THE BALANCE? Getting Beyond the Shouting, a 2-day free community event that featured Patriocracy, a documentary film about the dysfunction in Washington. The standing-room only crowds convinced us that the public is interested in getting beyond the shouting.

Where we are going

After study and community presentations, we see our next steps engaged in promoting dialogues in our communities. We think the deliberative dialogue process, where diverse groups come together to discuss difficult, usually value-laden issues, will generate meaningful conversations and with it, greater civic engagement.

Our collaborators

Check out this website from one of our collaborators, the San Diego Deliberation Network. Several of our members are actively involved in this innovative group. Might it be something that inspires you?

Resources for additional information on Civil Engagement


Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, Sam Kaner et al, 2007, Jossey-Bass (the `go to' resource on facilitation)

American Nations: A History of the 11 Rival Regional Cultures of North America - Colin Woodard

Big Sort, The - Bill Bishop

Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America - Jim Webb

Ecology of Democracy, The - David Matthews

Freedom for the Thought We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment - Anthony Lewis

Hillbilly Elegy - J.D. Vance

Next Form of Democracy, The - Matt Leighninger

Parties vs. the People, The - Mickey Edwards

Reunited States of America, The - Mark Gerzon

Strangers in their Own Land - Arlie Russell Hochschild

True Enough - Farhad Manjoo

un*Spun - Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson (founders of

We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For - Peter Levine

Additional Resources

Beyond Business as Usual: Leaders of California's Civic Organizations Seek New Ways to Engage the Public in Local Governance * A report from Public Agenda by John Immerwahr, Carolin Hagelskamp, Christoper DiStasi and Jeremy Hess, 2013.

Center for Public Deliberation CPD is dedicated to enhancing local democracy through improved public communication and community problem solving. Working with students trained in small group facilitation, the CPD assists the community by researching issues and developing useful background material, and then designs, facilitates, and reports on innovative public events. The Center is based at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.

Civility in America * An Annual Report by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, in partnership with KRC Research.

Developing Democracy's Hubs: Building Local Capacity for Deliberative Practice through Passionate Impartiality * Martin Carcasson, Connections - The Kettering Foundation's Annual Newsletter, pages 9-11, 2010.

"Kettering Foundation"<>
An independent, nonpartisan research organization rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Everything Kettering researches relates to one central question: what does it take for democracy to work as it should?

"National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation"<> Network of practitioners, researchers, activists, artists, students and others who are committed to giving people a voice and making sure that each voice counts. Resource Guide for Public Engagement * National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, 2010. Additional NCDD resources found here.

"National Institute for Civil Discourse"<> NICD integrates research, practice and policy to support and engage elected officials, media and the public. The Institute is based at the University of Arizona and was established in 2011 following the tragic Tucson shootings.

"National Issues Forums"<>

"Revitalizing K-12 Civic Learning in California: A Blueprint for Action * A Report by the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning, August 2014.

Teaching Tolerance: Test Yourself for Hidden Bias * Southern Poverty Law Center

Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America * Harvard Business Review, Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter, September 2017