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Sender: Michael Briand
Subject: Re: Decreasing traffic on the Transpartisan list
Date: Thu, Aug 14, 2014
Msg: 101098

Without gainsaying the validity of Sandy's observations, I would like to reiterate three important points:

1. What seems like abstract, complex argument is often merely a manifestation of very difficult deep issues and our inevitable lack of dexterity in articulating them clearly. They are explorations, and explorations are "less linear" than planned journeys.

2. What appears to be "debate-oriented rather than constructive and practical" dialogue may be just a superficial impression. Beneath the surface may lie a shared desire for clarity and understanding. The "debates" that have appeared on this listserv, however much they may seem at odds with accepted principles and practices of dialogue and deliberation, are intense inquiries conducted from disparate starting points. What matters is not the expression but the intentions of the parties involved. I do not believe any of the exchanges in which I've participated have been intended by myself or my interlocutors to be anything but that. Anyone who has observed or participated in discussions among scientists, philosophers, legal scholars, or others understands that intense engagement that focuses on genuine issues and that does not exhibit rhetorical fallacies constitutes a mutually respectful form of collective inquiry, even if it doesn't appear to confirm superficially to principles and practices of dialogue and deliberation. As has often been noted, D&D is not the only form of discourse that is appropriate in our civic and political life.

3. Let us heed Fisher and Ury: "Go slow to go fast." If in the interest of proceeding rapidly to action we fail to attend adequately to questions or issues about which participants have different views, that failure may come back to haunt us.

I apologize if this seems insufficiently dialogical. But as intensely as I believe in D&D, I believe as well that we must find ways to enable people to argue deeply and passionately without others interpreting their participation as inconsistent with its practices and principles.

Michael Briand Chico, CA 530.345.3709

From: Sandy Heierbacher Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2014 1:27 PM To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] Decreasing traffic on the Transpartisan list

Hi, everybody!

As someone who has managed, moderated, created, and wrangled dozens of listservs over the past 14 years or so, I don't actually think that large listservs are a good platform for coordinating action. I also don't think listservs are spaces for real dialogue, the way NCDD members define the term. Listservs are convenient tools for communicating easily and quickly with a group, and can be great tools for encouraging networking and information exchange among people who have shared interests.

I've actually been very impressed that the Transpartisan List has been as active as it has been, as we've initiated many listservs for issue areas (climate change, race relations, etc.) and geographic areas (Chicago, New England, Cascadia, etc.) that are only used once a month or so when someone wishes to share an announcement. Usually you need hundreds and hundreds of subscribers on a list before it is able to sustain itself. So don't be so hard on yourselves! ;)

That said, my concern with this list is that the conversations have been increasingly abstract, intellectual, and debate-oriented rather than constructive and practical. Those kinds of conversations can be intimidating to those who just want to discuss some practice-related challenges in their transpartisan work. Or who just want to know who's working on what in the transpartisan space.

Several very good people have left the list, and let me know it was because they were not interested in debates that had little to do with practice. Many have also told me (including other list founders) that they simply can't keep up with all the messages, especially when the messages and exchanges are lengthy and abstract.

Our goals for the NCDD Discussion list are to foster networking and information-sharing, to build a sense of community among D&D practitioners, and to discuss practice-related challenges. It's a popular, active list with about 1,600 subscribers (this list has 162), but very healthily waxes and wanes in the number of posts throughout the year. We often tell people to "hang in there" when the list gets busy, as all discussions have their own lifespan. I don't usually see people complain when the list is quiet!

My ideal for THIS listserv, as for all of the listservs NCDD hosts, is that they are welcoming spaces where people practicing dialogue, deliberation, and transpartisan work can get to know who's in the field, and turn to each other for advice and support when needed. It's more likely that action steps will emerge from the face-to-face meetings that are coming up in October than on this listserv. And that cooperative projects can be announced here to gain more supporters and volunteers, but that other online tools (Hackpad, conference calls, Ethelo Decisions, etc.) provide the support needed for those projects to move forward effectively.

Sandy Heierbacher Director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation
* @ncdd & @heierbacher

Join us at the next National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation this October 17-19 in the DC metro area! Learn more at -- and follow the event on Facebook at

On Aug 5, 2014, at 12:39 PM, Evelyn Messinger wrote:

As one of those who was active early on and has been silent lately, I want to thank David Nevins and second his statement. I've been interested in the ideas posted here, but like David I've hoped for action.

Applying our shared interest in Transpartisanship to a cooperative project is the only way to get to the next step, where we would grapple with the facts on the ground and see if a movement could be grown. A listserve can be very effective as a way for a team to coordinate when engaged in accomplishing a mission. But absent a mission, it is simply a place to speak.

Thanks, Evelyn -- Evelyn Messinger Executive Director, Digital Citizen +1.415.377.6278

On Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 2:54 AM, David Nevins wrote:


I should preface my remarks by saying that I am new to listserv and to the NCCD.

I am deeply involved with No Labels, a bi-partisan/transpartisan organization that is making major progress in the area of bringing members of Congress from both sides of the aisle together to dialogue, find compromises, and even agree on legislation to move our country forward. (No Labels currently has 94 members of Congress who are called Problem Solvers, 47 Democrats and 47 Republicans who meet regularly in attempt to bridge the partisan divide)

To answer your question, as to why I think there's been a significant decrease in Transpartisan listserv traffic from the spring I can only present you with my own personal thoughts as to why I am not paying as much attention as I previously had. Perhaps my thoughts relate to others as well.

It is my hope that a structure can be brought to the transpartisan dynamic that is more than just an intellectual sharing of ideas, but instead results in the creation of an organizational framework that will serve as the conceptual plan for a powerful national political movement. My sense is that list.serv is the sharing of ideas, many of them provocative and certainly interesting, but with no direction or focus.

My personal orientation is to action, so I've been focusing my direction in other areas rather then listserv where I think the sharing of ideas results in a plan of action. Having stated all of the above I realize that the purpose of listserv may be designed for just the sharing of ideas, so I fully understand how my orientation might not be a feasible part of the listserv process.

My desire is, and my focus is on making the transpartisan dynamic into a grassroots political movement based on the concept of bridging partisan divides and finding a higher ground. My ultimate goal is uniting the many individuals and organizations that share a belief in governance based on civil political discourse and critical thinking with the purpose of developing a call to action.

Perhaps this analogy related to my involvement with the Aspen Institute will clarify my thinking. Every year the Aspen Institute holds an "Ideas Festival" which is a public gathering of leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to "engage in deep and inquisitive discussion of the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times." This is a valuable and worthy yearly event. However, the Aspen Institute has recently initiated an Aspen Action Forum which they have described in this manner:

For over 60 years, the Aspen Institute has convened the world's leaders to pause and reflect on the critical issues of our time. We invite these leaders to do more than just reflect. We invite them to move "from thought to action" at the Aspen Action Forum.

The taking of an ideas festival to an action forum as the Aspen Institute has done, describes the essence of my thinking as to what perhaps could happen through the interactions initiated on listserv.

That certainly was a long-winded way of answering your question. I hope it helps you in some way.


David L. Nevins

For Political Perspective Visit:

From: Jacob Hess Reply-To: Jacob Hess Date: Saturday, August 2, 2014 at 7:49 AM To: "TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG" Subject: [TRANSPARTISAN] Decreasing traffic on the Transpartisan list

Happy August all! I'm getting pumped about the fall conference coming up - more than all the previous NCDD's I've attended.

I have enjoyed many of the posts on this Transpartisan listserv and have been learning a lot. Mark and Debilyn's questions have really got me thinking - although I've mostly been "sitting with" my thoughts and trying to absorb what others are sharing. I'm preparing a few things I'd love your feedback on via the listserv prior to the conference - including a Red-Blue Dictionary draft that Joan Blades and I are working on (credit to Steve Bhaerman and Amanda Roman for the idea).

For now, I'm curious why others think there's been a significant decrease in Transpartisan listserv traffic from the spring (81 posts in March, 56 in April, 89 in May) compared with the last couple of months (19 in June, 17 in July). I assume this is mostly summer vacationing, although I personally have had more time to read this summer (after getting a bit overwhelmed with the e-mail flow earlier this year). More e-mails are not necessarily either good or bad - but I thought I'd point out the pattern and ask what others thought.

Also, I'm curious about the listserv moderators' impressions - e.g., whether the guidelines are being followed and aims being achieved? I had thought our listserv discussion was building up to the conference - with July focused on action ideas initially. But the questions seem to be evolving from the initial plan, right? In any case, I'd love to hear the listserv leaders' updated thoughts.... --Jacob


Jacob Z. Hess, Ph.D. Co-founder, All of Life 801-712-1346,


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-- Evelyn Messinger +1.415.377.6278


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