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Sender: David Nevins
Subject: Re: Decreasing traffic on the Transpartisan list
Date: Thu, Aug 14, 2014
Msg: 101101

I've been quite surprised as to the depth of responses to my writing in which I suggested that the listserv perhaps could serve more as a call to action then just an exchange of theoretical ideas.

I think much of what Sandy said in her response is true that listservs are not a good format for the coordination of action.

I also believe that Michael Brand hit the nail on the head when he said that despite the fact that my thoughts on a "call to action" will probably resonate with many people that the actual advancing of this aim will "require a process for working through differences that inevitably will arise in the course of conceiving and crafting a plan of action"

As I have stated I am new to listserv so hopefully what follows is not violating any protocol.

Rather then debate the efficacy of using a listserv as a call to action, perhaps if I just open up a subject up for conversation as a call to action, the responses in and of themselves will determine whether a listserv can serve any function in this regard.

Based on the reaction, perhaps a sub group will be formed, or perhaps as Sandy said the result will just be a fostering of a networking and information sharing process. If a networking amongst the responders results in a continuing dialogue amongst the participants, but outside of the listserv so as not to get everyone bogged down in a discussion that does not interest the entire group, that I believe is valuable in and of itself.

So with the above in mind here goes.......

Last week at the Aspen Action forum I made the following pledge as my call to action:

I pledge to work with others using the tools of civil political discourse and critical thinking to establish a national strategic agenda for our country that is endorsed by political leaders from both sides of the aisle.

As idealistic as my pledge might sound I have done so in the context of work I am doing with No Labels to establish a National Strategic Agenda for our country. In this era of highly divided and partisan government, polls show that the American public surprisingly does agree on some broad goals particularly related to job growth, entitlement reform, energy independence, and the deficit. A No Labels poll suggests the public is on board; 80 percent of those surveyed said there should be a single unified agenda for the country that reflects the goals of both parties by the time the next president takes office.

However, it all starts with a plan, and more then 75 members of Congress have already endorsed not only the concept of a national strategic agenda but the outline of four goals of the agenda.

The above is just the start of my thoughts on the subject. An effective call to action that hopes to garner widespread public support must be simple and unambiguous, and that is what I hope mine is. Yes the issues are complex but to get citizens involved the call to action must not be.

Whether I choose to continue the dialogue on the specifics of the national strategic agenda through listserv, or whether I choose instead to do so with a small group of people outside of listserv who show an interest in what I have stated, I sense will become apparent based on the response to the above.

I very much look forward to that response.

David L. Nevins From: Michael Briand > Reply-To: Michael Briand > Date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 5:02 PM To: "TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG" > Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] Decreasing traffic on the Transpartisan list

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: Jacob,

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. Regards, 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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