Pages tagged "Featured Blog"

Make Sure Your (Mail-in) Ballot Counts

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This will be an election like none other, but rest assured, it will go on. Thankfully, our democracy is resilient. We’ve held elections in wartime, during the Great Depression, and amidst the 2018 flu pandemic. We can do this! We will do this. However, central to holding a representative election safely amidst this pandemic is the dramatic expansion of mail-in voting. 

To be clear, this is not a new, untested voting method. Our nation has allowed mail-in voting since the Civil War. As recently as the record-breaking 2018 election, 25% of all ballots cast nationwide were cast by mail. Many of these mail-in ballots came from Vote-at-Home (aka Vote by Mail) states like Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, and more recently California and Utah. But it also came from states across the nation where absentee mail-in voting is just common, such as Florida where a third of votes cast in 2018 were cast by mail.

As states expand use of mail-in ballots amid COVID-19, we could see well over half of all votes cast this year being cast by mail. So, if you’re a voter new to this method of voting, how do you make sure your mail-in ballot counts? If you’re a nonprofit, library, college, or civically-minded business, how do you make sure your staff and community can make their voice heard?

Breakthrough Facilitation

By Jack Byrd Jr., President of the Interactivity Foundation. Reposted from:

How can we help students become breakthrough facilitators?

Cathy began her office hour visit with some hesitation, “Dr. Sperios, I didn’t want to sound like I’m grade-grubbing, but I don’t understand my latest discussion facilitation grade. You wrote on the evaluation sheet that I did much better, but my grade was lower than the first time.”

“Cathy, do you have your syllabus? Let’s take a look, so I can explain,” responded Sperios. “See the grade section. I made a point that your facilitation grades will be progressive. Notice that the round one facilitation is based on what I refer to as facilitation mechanics. You’ll see those listed as:

  • Note taking
  • Involving everyone
  • Managing the discussion time
  • Managing the flow

“You did much better on these aspects of facilitation this time.

“Now look at the round two criteria:

  • Framing the discussion questions
  • Elevating the discussion through your discussion interactions
  • Having a discussion strategy that goes beyond the obvious
  • Helping the group achieve breakthrough insights

“You’re a gymnast. What kind of score would you get if you were perfect on a low difficulty routine?”

Why Nonprofits Must Remember the March on Washington

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August 28, 1963 was 57 years ago.

However, as we watch the news and look out our windows at untold thousands filling the streets, arm-in-arm for racial justice, that date and the famous March on Washington that it commemorates, feels like yesterday, or maybe even tomorrow.

It’s easy to look at the black-and-white footage from that day, seeing younger versions of John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr.,Daisy Bates, and mistake it for ancient history. It’s easy to forget what America truly looked like on that day for millions of its citizens.

In 1963, it was still normal to disenfranchise Black people looking to have their voices heard at the ballot box. Through poll taxes, literacy tests and basic intimidation, the voices of Black America were routinely suppressed and undercounted at the local, state and federal level. 

In 1963, a woman could be denied service at a bar; a lesbian could be fired if her sexuality was revealed; a Sikh man could be turned away at the local store — all within legal bounds. In 1963, Whites-Only spaces were still legal.  

This is the year Michael Jordan was born. This is the year “Doctor Who” premiered.       

So what happened in 1963 to cause the nation to reflect upon its nature?

There is certainly no one thing that sparked the flame. What we understand as “The Civil Rights Movement” —the series of local demonstrations by thousands of unknown activists to verify the promise of the constitutional amendments 

passed in the wake of the Civil War, was already decades old in the 1960s. We’d already seen (some) women gain the right to vote and the legal inclusion of Black people as citizens, though not yet equipped with all their unalienable rights.

How the COVID-19 Response Nearly Tore My Family Apart

By Logan Albright, Head Writer and Sound Engineer at Free the People. Reposted from: 

In their eagerness to “do something” and appear to be taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, politicians, pundits, and ordinary citizens alike have stubbornly refused to admit to any costs or tradeoffs resulting from the government’s policy response to the virus. As all thinking people know, every policy has a downside, and sensible governing should involve weighing those downsides carefully against any potential or actual benefits. But in the case of lockdowns, we’re expected to believe that if everyone will just do as they’re told, everything will be fine, and that there’s no other option besides that which has been aggressively pursued by mayors and governors across the nation.

But these downsides do exist, and they can be extremely serious, as I recently learned through personal experience.

Recognizing the limits of anecdotes, I’d nevertheless like to share a story from my own life to illustrate a few of the ways in which sweeping, reflexive lockdowns can negatively impact real people.

They’re Back!

When COVID-19 upended the world in late March and sent America into lockdown, we asked ourselves how we could best serve our members and supporters during these tumultuous times. We decided that the best course of action was to focus on informing our supporters of the various coronavirus-related resources being produced by Bridge Alliance members.

To do this, we turned “The Weekly Update” into “The Daily Resource” so that Bridge Alliance supporters would have access to new resources and information on a timely basis. We also created the COVID-19 Resource Packet (now the Crisis Recovery Guide) so that supporters could find the resources they needed to learn about the novel coronavirus, take advantage of the CARES Act, adjust their family/work/school life, continue to strengthen democracy, etc.

Additionally, we ramped up our efforts to encourage diversity in the healthy self-governance movement. Those efforts included a labor and time-intensive report on diversity in the movement, which examined diversity among Bridge Alliance member leaders and identified areas for growth.

To Stop Coronavirus, We Must Set Aside Partisanship. Here's How We Can Do It.

By Erik Olsen, Co-Founder, CFO, Board Chair and Bruce Bond Co-Founder, CEO, Board Chair. Reposted from: Originally Posted on:

This USA Today piece by CGC Co-Founders Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen calls for citizens and politicians to stop using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to push partisan politics and cites cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians as an example we can follow. Three of the Common Grounder Attributes are used to show how we can put our differences aside.

We need to put political views on the back burner and focus on doing what is necessary to help ourselves and others make it through this pandemic

Something extraordinary happened in the Middle East. In the wake of this global pandemic, Palestinians and Israelis put aside their differences and pledged to work together to stop the spread of COVID-19.

It should be a lesson to all of us: if these two adversaries can find a way to stop fighting, why can’t Americans?

Three Things Families Can Do Together

Written by Sally Tannen, Director, 92Y Parenting Center. Reposted from

Families are going to be spending a lot of time together, and our Parenting Center will be offering suggestions for all kinds of activities to keep young children active and engaged in the days ahead. Most important is that parents maintain routines - or create new ones - whether it’s the time children have breakfast and brush teeth or help with daily household chores (now is the perfect time to involve them more!). Routines help ground us. Embrace them!

Here are a few suggestions for fun activities:

Beyond Left vs Right: 14 Types of Ideological Bias

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Authoritarianism versus libertarianism, nationalism versus globalism, traditionalism versus progressivism — ideological bias in politics (and beyond) is no longer just about left versus right.

Sometimes people get mad about the AllSides Media Bias Chart.

“How can you put Jacobin and the New York Times (both rated Left) in the same category?!” they say. “There’s no way Breitbart is the same as the National Review (both rated Right)!”

We stand by our ratings, but the angry tweeters have a point — of course the AllSides left-to-right media bias spectrum doesn’t tell the full story about political ideology. Our scale is a simplified representation of a complex array of beliefs and ideas — there are plenty of shades of grey in between. Just because a writer or media outlet is rated Left, doesn’t mean you can predict their views on all issues. Our ratings should be viewed as a doorway to starting a conversation and understanding biases and issues more completely.

The “Most Abused” Freedom of Information Act Exemption Still Needs to Be Reined In

By Nick Schwellenbach, Senior Investigator, and Sean Moulton, Senior Policy Analyst. Reposted from

Government documents recently made public show that the federal government continues to abuse a provision of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to unjustifiably keep the public in the dark about important government matters that they have a right to know about. Congress created FOIA to give the public access to the inner workings of the federal government. But the government can misuse the law to avoid transparency and hide documents that shed light on internal problems.

Creating Better Conversations through Meta-Consensus

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Have you ever talked with someone and, a little too far into the conversation, you realized you were talking about two totally different things? That’s happened at the Jefferson Center office, when we had staff traveling to both Athens, Ohio and Athens, Greece.

Similarly, when it comes to talking about politics, it seems people are increasingly quick to argue with one another, when they might be coming to the discussion with completely different assumptions on a given topic. This makes having a productive conversation, coming to a consensus, or simply listening to one another that much harder if you aren’t on the same (or at least similar) pages to begin with.

Luckily, deliberation, and specifically Citizens Juries, can help people establish this initial understanding: it’s called meta-consensus, or “a general agreement about the nature of an issue but not necessarily about the outcome of it.”


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