Montgomery County, Maryland, bordering Washington, D.C. to the north and west, is where I reside and work. The county is increasingly majority non-white and our racial disparities have been intensifying. The root causes of African American enslavement and centuries of socioeconomic oppression are finally being confronted head-on, with the 2018 Resolution to Develop an Equity Policy Framework in County Government of the County Council. The CC President and County Executive are implementing dramatic steps, requiring training of elected officials and county employees as well as engaging residents in “Community Conversations” to provide “feedback” that will inform upcoming legislation on racial equity and social justice. I attended one of the largest CC forums on June 26th. We formed groups of four to ten and used active listening and participatory communication to discuss why racial equity matters, whether and how we are affected by racial inequity, and what changes we want to see to promote racial equity and social justice. In our frank but civil interactions, noteworthy was that African Americans were present in fewer numbers than Latino and east/southwest Asian residents. An (unrelated) woman and man of African heritage in my group remarked that the forums are not being publicized sufficiently and that a lot of people just don’t trust government, including the police. We agreed that county officials should, as the saying goes, “meet people where they are.” Because the policymaking process is moving so quickly, it is short-shrifting community input. If our diverse communities are given the chance to engage, the eventual racial equity and social justice policy will be best served by a new agency to enforce and assess the new law. Our problems are 400 years old; we shouldn’t make change fast if we want it to last.
I’m grateful for a new friend’s suggestion to build a "Where I'm From" poem (see https://www.sausd.us/cms/lib/CA01000471/Centricity/Domain/3043/I%20Am%20From%20Poem.pdf) to help me focus my often dreamy ambitions. What emerges in the poem (which only took about a half hour, and I am no student of the genre) are my deepest sources of identity: the diversity of nature and culture; family; peace; and a healthy balance.
I am From
I am from a fruit tree
Of Panamanian bananas.
Then from the suburbs, cross-country,
Living in mostly drab houses, except for my parents’ contemporary, custom-built home.
I am from their well-intentioned teachings of service, book-learning and not giving up.
I am from their privileges and their love.
And Mom’s Lebanese roots.
Boutrous. Nassif. Attiyeh.
I am from that speech therapist and her white psychiatrist mate,
Who both care.
I am from a cautious, kind family,
Maybe to a fault.
I am a spiritual hodgepodge.
I am a salad, whiskey.
From the two tries it took Grandma to immigrate
To the mystery of Dad’s birth parents.
Our diaspora means scattered memorabilia,
So we take photos, preferring to leave no trace.
Last week began with a flurry of writing and editing and ended with a birthday surprise. “We need to talk about American whiteness,” an op-ed in The Washington Post, along with the author’s research for a new book, Dying Of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland, were so resonant that I sent off a letter to the editor. Especially after agreeing with my husband that some of my phrasing was academic and unclear, I dismissed the fantasy of a reply. However, a day or so later, I heard from the Post. You may know the drill. Several emails ensued, requesting and suggesting edits. By week’s end, on my birthday, the letter appeared online. The Post’s unintended gift was all the more meaningful because of the collaborative process with several editors. Could it be that they, too, were inspired by the book’s call for mutually respectful listening and dialogue?
In bold, below, is how the editors conveyed the edit they sought:
Jonathan M. Metzl’s April 30 op-ed, “We need to talk about American whiteness,” used yet another woeful incident of racial discord as an opportunity for healing. This research psychiatrist’s prescription of open, reflective, neighborly dialogue to mediate the “politics of resentment” that white privilege generates is a process for learning and living together in our increasingly crowded, interdependent world.
However, with respect, I challenge Mr. Metzl that organizational efforts “among groups with common socioeconomic interests (rather than identities) are more successful in achieving shared objectives.” In my research and lived experience, there is little daylight between interests and identities. They are constantly interacting, overlapping and shifting. To serve us for the moment or the long haul, we activate single or multiple identities. Our identity-based interests are what constitute our diversity. We fail to (ad) minister[[Could we say “apply” instead of administer here? Several of our editors were tripped up by administer. Thanks]] them without equitable government and civil society institutions — not to mention gatherings at Politics and Prose and other privately operated venues.
I hadn’t been able to write what I really meant until they pinpointed where I was tripping up. It was easy to reply:
Thank you for the update. As to the edit you request, I welcome a clearer word than "administer." I intended to refer to "interests" in the prior sentence, so if you all find "apply" makes more sense, I defer to your judgment. Perhaps a different wording, e.g., "We fail to recognize these interests without equitable government..."
And soon they wrote back:
I like your proposed wording and can change it to that.
Thanks so much,
I thanked the editor and then Jonathan Metzl:
The letter looks great in print and online and I appreciate the editorial skill you demonstrated in the publication process. It was the most unexpectedly positive birthday gift (May 3d) I've received in years.
Cheers for all you do,
And she responded!
Dear Dr. Metzl:
I was sufficiently inspired by your research and April 29th op-ed that I replied to the editor. It's here if you are curious. I look forward to reading your book (maybe I will even drive down to Politics and Prose for a copy) and applying it in my own practice.
I hope this month visits you with intentional acts of kindness. You never can tell what your reading and writing will lead to!
In the weeks since my prior blog (below), Marc Elrich was elected by a clear majority of voters as Montgomery County (Maryland) Executive. This former teacher and County Councilmember is an environmentalist and fiscal moderate who is positively geeky about good governance, sound science and program evaluation. His other strength is that he is a dedicated listener. And he will have held EIGHT listening sessions around the majority-minority county of over one million residents. That’s a lot of ear-time. I went to the first session and tonight will attend the final one. This is what I’ve prepared to say:
Good evening, CE Elrich and neighbors. I live and work in Kensington, am a member of Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, a couple of miles away, and a former civic association president. I voted for the planet on November 6th.* I am here to start keeping a promise to do what I can to help stave off our climate emergency, but it starts with a question. what are your plans to implement Resolution 18-974, Emergency Climate Mobilization, passed on December 5, 2017?
You were the strongest ally of the MoCo chapter of The Climate Mobilization on the resolution, which -- I quote –"accelerates the County’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal to 80 percent by 2027 and 100 percent by 2035 and calls upon the County Executive, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) to advise the County Council on “specific methods for accelerating the County’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal.”
As you may recall, The Climate Mobilization sent you a 12-page Transition Memo. We understand that the devil is in the details, whether for action by the County Council or, now, especially, by the County Executive, and TCM looks forward to meeting with you, soon.
How do we mobilize the county for the third priority outcome of your administration, A GREENER COUNTY? The transition memo from TCM provides implementation recommendations, including 18 for public, employee, and intergovernmental awareness and outreach. Wearing my volunteer hat as an OCP ethnic advisory group chair, I recommend using the volunteer groups to facilitate dialogue, education, and information-sharing across our diverse communities. They could also support the work necessary for re-orient organizational culture to a greenhouse gas reduction mindset.
I understand a new climate emergency advisory group or task force has been formed. Why not link it up with the OCP advisory groups to help implement the "Cross-Cutting Environmental Education and Outreach Montgomery County Government recommendations" in the "Report of the Montgomery County Climate Mobilization Workgroup June 5th, 2018"?
You get it. If we don't mobilize a county government-wide and all-resident/business-wide campaign, our climate emergency will turn to a climate disaster. Thanks for listening.
20 December 2018
*November 4, 2018 — http://www.civilstrategies.net/blog/
4 November 2018
As a U.S. citizen, I need to cast my ballot by Tuesday. Since I see most everything through an environmental lens, I will vote only for candidates who have demonstrated their understanding of the climate emergency and commitment to at least slowing it down. No one message reflects my position more than this video, a GOTV message from students at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD. Thanks to my Cedar Lane UU Church friends via 350MoCoMembers for sharing it! Perhaps not coincidentally, at the Swedish embassy’s October 24th panel on digital diplomacy, @SwedeninUSA brilliantly turned the gathering into a salute to the Earth (and beyond) with a group photo of attendees marking #UNDay and the #2030Agenda 17 Goals for Sustainable Development. Yours truly is second row, center, holding a yellow sign with SDG#7: Clean and Affordable Energy. This is personal and there are no degrees of separation among my family on the urgency of saving the planet: the future of my son (who went to Blair!), his generation, and all the rest of us, is at stake. And my husband is standing beside me in the embassy photo.
Caitlyn Gardiner is a homeschooled high school senior who enjoys writing, political science, and studying international relations.. Ze is an intern for the Middle Eastern American Advisory Group for Montgomery County, and runs the group's Instagram account (@mocomeaag). A few weeks ago, ze had the opportunity to attend a conference focusing on a holistic view of the Arab World, and wrote this essay shortly after to capture the highlights of the event.
When people think of the Middle East, it is easy to immediately picture images of violent conflict and war as frequently portrayed by the mainstream media. While this may capture the surface level issues, these snapshot stories fail to communicate the underlying issues, including a continually growing poverty and economic vulnerability rate of 55%, cultural divides, and an education system over-romanticizing the past rather than empowering the present. The third annual Arab Center Washington DC Conference, titled The Arab World Beyond Conflict, was held on September 20th, 2018 and explored these underlying issues through numerous insightful panel discussions and keynote speakers.
On behalf of the Middle Eastern American Advisory Group, the chair, Debbie Trent, and an intern, Caitlyn Gardiner, attended the conference. They enjoyed listening to the productive discussions of the panelists and networking with others at the conference. The day began with panels to frame the current situation in the Middle East. Much emphasis was placed on the lack of freedom of the press and free speech. In one country, laws even allow for any social media account with over 500,000 followers to be shut down simply for allegations of fake news, without any need for evidence. In another country, citizens in an isolated area saw failure of development policies so severe they were forced to eat leaves or starve. With situations this desperate, people may expect to read about them frequently. Noura Erakat, a panelist and Assistant Professor in the School of Integrative Studies at George Mason University, explained that we do not see all of those stories because mainstream media sees Arabs in the Middle East the same way it saw African Americans in the 1940s: invisible.
The final panel of the day was my personal favorite: Beyond Sectarianization: Toward Inclusive Citizenship in Arab Societies. Panelists discussed the need for accountability, transparency, and inclusivity in Arab societies, as best captured by one speaker: “Democracy requires the inclusion of all (and) is impossible without the inclusion of all.” As the conversation progressed to speculating about post-conflict Arab societies, several panelists echoed that there may not be such a thing as a post-conflict society; not because of an inevitability of war, but because disagreement and dislike are a part of free will, and therefore play a role even in times of peace. Therefore, the objective for the future of Arab societies, and the rest of the world, is not to eliminate conflict, but to make open and productive discussions the driving force of democracy.
For more information on the Arab Center Washington D.C., please visit http://arabcenterdc.org/
‘Shout out to the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy — such a great partner of the Public Diplomacy Council of the United States — for promoting the council’s latest edited volume of research and advocacy. On the first of the month, USC CPD has given Nontraditional U.S. Public Diplomacy: Past, Present, and Future another plug.
Yours truly blogged earlier to announce the edited volume’s publication. Then, as now, I am indebted to the ten other contributing authors and council board and members for making the book happen.
Every day there are little things and people that inspire gratitude. What’s your story, today?
Mine is about the hospitality training partnership among the Boston Education, Skills & Training (BEST) Corporation, the Local 26 Boston Hotel Workers Union, Omni Parker House (and other hotels in Boston!), the Aspen Institute, Bunker Hill Community College (a Massachusetts public institution), and probably other organizations.
I am absolutely inspired by the BEST program, about which the Aspen Institute reports that committed union, employer, and local community partners can address the challenge of quality jobs with quality pay and acceptable profit margins. BEST ”is solving this problem by providing best-in-class training that prepares workers to excel and engages hotels in discussions about the value of training.”
Selection and commitment among partners, along with the quality of the partners’ engagement are key to the program’s effectiveness, according to BEST's founding executive director, Marie Downey. When asked about lessons for others developing collaborative curricula and OJT programs, she said: ”they need to work with the right employers. Employers are certainly looking for trained workers, but they have to be willing to share profits. It’s letting employers know in the kindest and gentlest of ways that if they want retention, this is a proven model.”
Communicating in mutually respectful ways pays off for all partners and stakeholders. I am usually the one in my house who harps on the need for genuine dialogue. Ironically, it is my husband who shared the link to the Aspen report, partly out of interest in the work of our son – employed by another local of the same union teamed up with BEST and its partners.
With appreciation to all the partners, and – most of all – the hospitality staffs of Boston, have a great rest of your summer or winter, wherever you are!Read More
Snow melt and rivers connect, sustain and beautify. All living creatures organize around them and other water sources. In the past few years, the push and pull of survival and relationships among human and other societies has prompted my celebrating the U.S.-American “Fourth of July” as an anniversary of interdependence. I hope your nation’s “birthday” was or will be a happy and safe holiday, this year and in the future! I also hope that someday we humans can organize ourselves sufficiently to each have a globally recognized nation.Read More
A recent opinion piece of two accomplished former U.S. officials who have for much of their careers worked for peace in the Middle East is a reminder of the pathetic politics around U.S.-Palestinian-Israeli relations. The Palestinians of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza have been stateless for 70 years. Without a sovereign Palestinian state, just, transparent and inclusive citizen engagement will remain elusive. Collaborative leadership is rarely visible, yet it is central to security for all Palestinians and Israelis. The most patiently suffering and wise among them know this reality all too well. Among them are female civil society leaders – in Palestinian municipalities who have been bravely protesting injustice and establishing social welfare and income-generating cooperatives. One s-hero’s community organizing in Gaza inspires the new documentary film, Naila and the Uprising. Her work strikes a hopeful chord amid the dissonance of Israeli-Palestinian-U.S. relations today. I look forward to seeing the film, to learn how she became an effective leader and peacebuilder. If you are in DC on April 24th, you might still might be able to score a ticket for the second showing at filmfest DC.
As the coordinator of this event and chair of the Section on Effective and Sound Administration in the Middle East of the American Society for Public Administration, I am posting the publicity flyer here. The section's website is down.
FREE PUBLIC EVENT with RSVP
Amplifying Women's Leadership across the Middle East
Panel-Dialogue-Reception at the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) annual conference
Monday, March 12, 7-8:30 pm
Denver, CO - Hyatt Regency Denver, 650 15th Street, Centennial B
As communities across the Middle East continue to advocate for their rights, dignity and equality, now is a crucial moment to look at models of visionary grassroots leadership and the success of nonviolent activism. In particular, women on the frontlines of social and political change in the region should be recognized to bring much-needed visibility and attention to their roles.
The panel will explore cases of Middle Eastern women's leadership, amplifying the work of women organizers, activists, academics, and others through nonprofit international and Colorado-based organizations. One panelist will shed light on the struggle and achievements of the women's movement during the first Palestinian uprising, as documented in Just Vision’s newest film, Naila and the Uprising, and its relationship to grassroots organizing in Israel and Palestine today. Another panelist will look at Beirut and Beyond’s humanitarian relief, reconciliation, and relationship-building work in the region, along with U.S.-based educational efforts, to support Palestinian refugee communities. A third panelist will share the experience of Meet the Middle East in conducting cross-cultural exchanges and training among women. A fourth panelist will share perspectives from his work with One Earth Future to promote the impact of women on good governance and peacebuilding.
The panel will consider the diverse experiences of key stakeholders in the region, as well as the teaching and practice of conflict mediation in public administration. Audience participation is encouraged. Reception to follow.
Panelists and Moderator
Emma Alpert is Public Engagement Manager for Just Vision, working to increase the power and reach of Palestinians and Israelis seeking to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity and equality. Emma has been engaged in filmmaking, educational programs, journalism, and conflict mediation in Cairo, the West Bank, Jordan, and East Jerusalem for over 10 years.
Suzann Mollner, Executive Director/Founder of Beirut and Beyond and has served Palestinian refugees in refugee camps across the Middle East for over 13 years. Prior, her cross-cultural work with vulnerable populations spanned communities elsewhere in the Middle East and in Africa, Thailand, and the United States.
Iman Jodeh is Founder and Executive Director of Meet the Middle East, fostering relationships between the people of the United States and the region through consulting, cultural events, training in conflict resolution, and immersion travel. She holds a master’s in public administration and is a leader in interfaith engagement.
Larry Sampler is the president of One Earth Future (OEF), a foundation seeking a more peaceful world through collaborative, data-driven initiatives. Our Secure Future is an OEF program that strengthens the Women, Peace, and Security movement. Sampler’s prior federal government career includes senior positions at USAID, the U.S. Department of State, and the Pentagon, taking him to Afghanistan, Somalia, Gaza, and Pakistan.
Aziza Zemrani (Moderator) is a founding member of SESAME and upcoming chair-elect. She is Associate Chair of the Department of Public Affairs and Security Studies at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, with cultural competency and leadership development among the areas of her expansive teaching and practice.
This event is co-sponsored by the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and the Section on Effective and Sound Administration in the Middle East (SESAME) and endorsed by the Section on Women in Public Administration (SWPA) and the Section on Emergency Crisis and Management (SECM).
In the seat of Montgomery County government in Rockville, Maryland, yesterday, the all-volunteer Middle Eastern American Advisory Group of the Office of Community Partnerships celebrated our diverse heritage and bridge-building with over 100 residents of our majority-minority county. A group of high schoolers helped MEAAG adult members realize a goal to include additional countries in our celebration: Israel, Morocco and Tunisia. Nadia Hassan, founder of the Young Leaders Institute, presented an inspiring keynote address, touching on her southern California, Muslim, and Lebanese roots, and how they guide her in her advocacy of inclusiveness, love over hate and civil advocacy instead of violence. Below are County Executive Isiah Leggett with Ms. Hassan after her address (image courtesy of Young Leaders Institute).
All are welcome to the public, free, fourth annual Middle Eastern American Heritage Celebration in Montgomery County, Maryland, will be held Sunday, March 4, 2018, 4:00-6:00 p.m. Location is the cafeteria, ground level, Executive Office Building, 101 Monroe St., Rockville, MD. This free, public event is Presented by the Montgomery County Middle Eastern American Advisory Group. It celebrates Middle Eastern diversity in the county and the keynoter this year is inspiring youth leader Nadia Hassan. Interactive exhibits, entertainment, light fare, and local officials await. Check out the program below, for more details:
Cultural presentations, live performances, light regional cuisine
Displays: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey
Resource Tables: Voter Registration, Yalla Vote, Children of Persia
Welcome & Recognition of Elected Officials & Dignitaries~Mimi Hassanein, Middle Eastern American Advisory Group Liaison & Deborah Trent, MEAAG Chair
Keynote~Ms. Nadia Hassan: Young Leaders Making Change
Proclamation of Middle Eastern American Heritage Month~County Executive Isiah Leggett, County Councilmember Nancy Navarro, Kevin Craft for Governor Larry Hogan
Citations presented by Ken Reichard for U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Eve Shuman for U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, Kevin Mack for U.S. Congressman John Delaney (MD-6)
As a public-private partnerships geek, I have been looking forward to Global Partnerships Week. Looking over the agenda and blogging leading up to the conference, I was really struck by the innovative PPP between Drexel University and the People's Emergency Center. As I commented on the GPW blog platform, this partnership encompasses many effective practices in government-citizen relations, diplomacy, development, and peacebuilding. It’s based on mutual interests with wide benefits, grounded in participatory, socioeconomically inclusive design, monitoring and evaluation (“listening” to the beneficiaries and stakeholders; ongoing user feedback process loop). It’s results-oriented, uses locally accessible technology, and supports environmental sustainability goals. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this and other PPPs at GPW 2017.
It’s been one of those happy days when a journal article promising to be practical actually is, and might even be applicable to a paper I’m trying to finish. The article is about how local government-level senior managers in the United Kingdom use storytelling and narratives to get their work done and even improve their organizations. (You can find a blurb here, and the citation is: Orr, K. and Bennett, M. (2016), Relational Leadership, Storytelling, and Narratives: Practices of Local Government Chief Executives. Public Administration Review. doi:10.1111/puar.12680.) It is kind of a stretch to apply it to my paper, which is about public diplomacy at the subnational and national levels in the U.S., but they share the challenge in good governance to being an empathic, pragmatic, i.e., relational, leader. Letting my imagination wander a bit, maybe through the back door of federal level administrators, the following insights on managing relations with elected and appointed officials could be informative. See for yourself in this excerpt from pages 9-10 if you agree that the authors certainly offer vivid storytelling tactics:
"Managing Political Relations with Council Leaders
A second vivid story about relations with politicians—one that he uses in staff development settings—was provided by another chief executive. He recounts the tale in order to demonstrate the subtle art of leadership influence.
Story 8: Homer
A senior director and I wrote a book for a strategic planning series back in the day. We sent it to the publishers in February… In May the Conservatives won a majority, and this guy Homer, became deputy leader of the council and although he had very little formal education, he was a very astute guy. Harry and I decided we would try and get him interested in strategic matters because we knew that the leader was a “paper clip counter,” there was no way that the leader was going to have any understanding of anything strategic so we thought we’d work on the Deputy. So we started feeding Homer ideas, involving him in discussions and he was a very quick learner. In July our book was published and we gave him a complimentary copy and he came back to us a few days later. He said he was “very pleased to see that we’d picked up his ideas!” We d sent it to the publishers in February, long before he was on he scene, but he genuinely believed that they were his ideas and that we ’ d used them in our book! I tell that as a story about how although visible leadership is very important, so is invisible leadership. Sometimes people will only be led if they think it was their idea in the first place. The chief executive is developing the strategic awareness of the political leader through talk and reading. The story suggests how ideas emerge within a relational network and are coproduced by actors. At first glance, Homer takes the chief executive ’ s ideas and claims them as his own. A relational lens suggests that in the process of everyday conversations (“setting to work on Homer”), the
authorship and ownership of ideas become jointly assumed. Over time, this episode became the basis of an instructional story that the chief executive shares to illustrate the complexity of that officer– member relationship to aid others’ learning. This relationship between elected politicians and administrators is regarded as a fundamental question in the study and practice of public administration (Georgiou 2014 ; Svara 2006 ; Wilson 1887 ; Zhang and Feiock 2010 ). Another chief executive described her role as a “buffer” between officers and members and said an important part of her job is to translate one part of the organization to the other and to enable communication between officers and politicians….
“The account suggests how leadership is collective and emergent within the to-ing and froing of organizational life. Political narratives are thus coproduced by a series of actors and networks in relation with each other.”
The storyteller’s scheme may sound manipulative, but haven’t many of us experienced failure when we haven’t taken the time to understand a politician’s priorities and behavior – to relate to her? I reckon that dialogue, public recognition of “her” good ideas, are “invisible leadership” rather than manipulation.
P.S. For you organization and governance theory geeks, the authors engage Karl Weick’s organizational sensemaking approach, about which I have been obsessing for a decade. Hats off also to their engagement with Mark Bevir’s work on governance and storytelling, which underscore the increasing relevance of informality in public administration and all of the functions of government.
Looking for some news you can use in this time of sound-bitten political transition? The 11 contributors to Nontraditional U.S. Public Diplomacy: Past, Present, and Future provide historical analysis, practice-based evidence, and forward-leaning insights for new and continuing actors in U.S. diplomacy’s expanding public dimension. The book is the U.S. Public Diplomacy Council’s newest volume in the Public Diplomacy Council’s series and will be available at amazon.com by mid-January. Find out more about the January 9th launch event in D.C. and the video of the panel discussion that will be available by the 11th.
The volume showcases key innovations and lessons in U.S. diplomacy since WWI. It delivers to practitioners, analysts, students, and others compelling engagement strategies and primary research for shaping and communicating policy among increasingly diverse, collaborative, and powerful publics.
Bob Coonrod on the book:
In his engaging opening chapter, Ambassador Quainton points to the ascendant “power of the public,” and the illusiveness of consensus on the meaning or practice of public diplomacy. What then can we make of a book about the past, present, and, daresay, the future of U.S. public diplomacy?
Quite a bit.
Collectively, the 11 chapters cover a broad array of topics, eras, and situations. They range from the very concrete – U.S. failure in Viet Nam -- to aspirational, evolving transnational applied cultural networks. Yet, inherent in each essay is a simple insight. It is not about who pays for it or who approves it. It is, and continues to be, about how we do it. How we listen, engage, collaborate, assess.
The U.S. presidential election of 2016 is over, and I feel sure that the tumult will continue. More than ever, our democracy needs collaborative, inclusive governance with citizen needs at the center of partisan and governmental policy.
What in blazes does that mean? It means each of us seeking out and listening to one another, ears open and voices quiet. We don't have to agree with each other after one conversation.
I live in a "blue" state with a "red" governor. My state has not experienced a seismic event in the last week, but I have work to do as a citizen to help extinguish spot fires. I am trying to figure out with my increasingly ethnically, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse neighbors, friends, and colleagues what we each can do individually and together to make sense of the political transition we are experiencing.
With sympathy and empathy. Smiling and caring. Patience, reflection, meditation. This is my challenge, and I look to other democracies across the globe for insight, for so many nations are also in tumult.
I have the power to be collaborative, inclusive, and deliberative. This power is bigger than party politics and competition for office, or bureaucracy. It is basic to the preservation of self-government in the United States.
Listening to the world, the nation, my neighbors, friends, and family, I draw strength and compassion. They will be necessary, because citizen-centered governance of increasingly diverse societies is a change that will take a long time.
My USC/Center on Public Diplomacy research fellowship recently found me in contact with Partners of the Americas. They are again accepting proposals for "Capacity Building Grants." These are flexible, strategic grants sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to help launch or expand diverse college and university study abroad programs. Check out this opportunity here.
I've been blogging over at the University of Southern California's Center on Public Diplomacy for the past year in connection with my non-resident research fellowship there, and the fieldwork has taken an interesting turn. In the ever-converging space of diplomacy's public dimension and international development comes a response to the Zika outbreak through public-private partnering. As the mosquito-borne virus spreads, the costs of controling it mount. Governments at all levels in the Americas are working on mosquito eradication, public awareness, and a vaccine. On July 13th, the U.S. Department of State's Office of Global Partnerships and the Bureau of Oceans & International Environmental & Scientific Affairs will convene a "Public-Private Sector Roundtable Discussion on Zika." With so much relevant experience in international crisis response and scientific collaboration, most recently around the Ebola epidemic, discussants will surely be sharing plenty of lessons learned and effective practices. I'll be listening and offering what I can on communication and media interaction as well as culturally sensitive outreach and engagement with citizens in affected nations and their diasporas, pharmaceutical and pest control corporations, philanthropies, and governmental agencies in the U.S. and abroad. Here's hoping for a robust convening that adds to our toolkit for whole-community, sustainable development.