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Date: Tue, 14 Jul 1998 14:09:40
From: "Shlomo Y. Mantz"
Subject: NDD set-up
Hi, guys. I am writing to discuss with you some ideas for National Deliberation Day which I have been thinking about. I have been thinking about these for a while, and planning this past NDD session here helped me think about them more clearly.
I feel it is important for us to keep thinking of ways to make FIRST more significant and stronger, and ways to make events more relevant and effective. Obviously this involves a lot of people and is a process that takes a lot of time, but we need to keep on adding another step to the process. In that light, I would like to offer a suggestion on making NDD more strong as an event.
The suggestion I have is this;
* I feel that at our NDD sessions, we should invite people to participate who are representatives of social or community groups which have a direct role in the issues.
* The groups we could invite could include social workers, teachers, business leaders, community leaders, law enforcement, labor leaders, advocacy workers, etc, etc. The idea would be to approach them individually, explain NDD to them and specifically invite them to attend.
I realize that we have already established as a basic principle of NDD that it will be open to all groups. What I am suggesting is that we go a little further. Instead of just saying that we are open to all groups, we should actively seek out and invite several groups who would make the discussion a real cross-section of society.
I am saying that any time we have an NDD session, we should make it a basic goal of that session to seek out such groups, and to have them present and involved. I feel this is really important, and, further that it could really strengthen NDD. We need to start asking ourselves, what needs to be done to strengthen NDD? What could make this an event really worth talking about, one which really got attention all around the country?
There are many possible answers to this question. There are many possible viewpoints and there's room for all of them in this discussion. What's important is that we get this discussion started.
Let me just go on with a few specifics. What I think we should do is identify those organizations within each community or neighborhood which have a genuine impact on local affairs, or play a real part in the issues. Then we should go to them, explain NDD, and ask them to send a few representatives, who are from our generation.
In some ways what I am suggesting is very simple. I am simply saying that we should just go to the offices of different community groups, knock on the door, tell them what this event is and ask them to send a few people. The difference is that we will actively engn that process, specifically target groups to invite, and specifically approach them and explain to them the concept of NDD and how their involvement can fit into that. We could really create a new type of communication process.
It's not as unlikely as it may sound. It's really not all that different from asking a group to send a guest speaker--it's another chance for their views to be heard. The only difference from a speaking engagement is that this is an event where they'd have a much greater chance to exchange views with their "audience."
One reason I'm so interested in this is that I do think there's such potential for NDD to become a truly visible national event. Think about it. A day devoted to community meetings of our generation simultaneously all over the country, under the guidance of a national organization, devoted to principles of both personal responsibility and social generosity (the two main contrasting themes of debate on almost all American political issues).
By the way, let me just say that the NYC event did not have the diversity I had hoped for. I don't claim to be perfect myself at being able to put this idea into practice. But I would still like to be in contact with others out there to discuss this idea.
The idea of NDD seems really viable. It seems tailor-made to our era, when people feel more and more detached from the process. This could really turn into a central expression of debate. A day of national discussion could really become one of our civic rituals. FIRST is in the right place at the right time, with the right resources, to be the one to make that happen.
We can be the ones to create a new process, a new kind of national deliberative process. We could provide a concept which would fulfill a real need in our society. What we really need to do is to define the basic components of that concept, so that when we put it out there, it is a complete, fully-formed idea which anyone can take and run with.
One component we have already defined is the idea of open discussion which welcomes everyone's viewpoints and ideas. The component which I am suggesting to add is to specifically identify organizations which play a big role in a community, and specifically invite them to participate.
Right now NDD is an event which mainly functions as a discussion between people of our own type, and that's also good. It mainly includes college students, often of a slightly liberal bent. But we need to start thinking of ways to make this an event which would have a larger impact, of making it a discussion which would be interesting as a source of ideas and as a picture of society to those outside our group.
We can't expect NDD to have a national impact if it is just a few people from similar backgrounds. But think of the potential of a national event in which people of our generation from all parts of society came together across the nation, within the framework of a national organization, to focus on similar issues. It could really have an impact.
I feel we need to do this now because we need to start doing things which would make NDD seem important even to people outside our organization. What would it take to make NDD an event which would really be noted? Think about it.
So far, we have definitely identified broad diversity as a positive goal. But I think it would be better if we could also think up a few concrete steps to take which could really make that diversity happen, to give our NDD sessions the scope, diversity, and insight they need to be really influential.
To do that, we need to add some aspects which will give it more importance. We need to make it an event where contrasting groups and ideas come in contact with each other. We can't do that just by getting attendees from one segment or background. We need to really get out there and bring together the groups which have been out of contact with each other.
I think this could really be an approach that could add a lot of strength to NDD. Think about it. It would make NDD like a national town meeting for our generation. Think of the potential. Instead of just recruiting from within one community, we would be getting the mix of groups which people most want to hear from, and giving them the chance to freely exchange ideas and maybe come up with new proposals.
It's possible to have a discussion between hundreds of people and say nothing new, and it's possible to get five people in a room and have discussions which are totally innovative. The key is the right mix; getting the differing ideas and viewpoints which can really lead to new insights.
The important thing is the picture we give them of the event, the concept which we convey to them. To get their interest, we have to really believe, to really be committed to the idea of a day of discussion between broad sectors of society. We must each have a clear picture in our own minds of what NDD can and should be, before we will be able to tell them.
As I say, this is just one possible idea. I simply tried to figure out the few things which I could do which could really make NDD stronger. So now let me turn to you-- what could we do to get in the mix of people I'm referring to? How do we make this happen? Who are some of the possible groups we should invite? Or maybe, what are some other things we should do?
I think that would be a great use of this listserv--for everyone to exchange their favorite ideas and experiences on working with NDD, and other FIRST events. Why shouldn't we use this as an exchange between different FIRST chapters--a chance to exchange ideas and experiences? Surely everyone out there has some favorite idea on holding NDD.
I think it would be great if we could exchange some ideas. It would be great if we could get a discussion going here, guys. It's up to us to make FIRST stronger, and if we don't do it, it won't happen.
Anyway, I hope my suggestion is useful to you. I think it would be good if we could get a discussion going on this and maybe have an interchange on other ideas on making FIRST stronger.
We have a chance to build something really significant here, guys. It's up to us to build on that. I would hate to see that chance slip away.
Anyway, thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.
Best regards, Shlomo
New York City FIRST chapter
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