Getting past the political divide: $10,000 awards to promote a healthier brand of politics

Group puts money on the table to find promising alternatives to our current mainstream political dialogue. Photo: jvumn@flickr

SEATTLE, September 18, 2012 — Amidst yet another sometimes bitter election year, a 1,600-member organization, promoting a healthier brand of politics, announced two new $10,000 awards that seek to bridge the bitter divisions in America.

The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) seeks to further ways to facilitate constructive conversations throughout the United States. In addition, it focuses on increasing our capacity and changing our culture to make better decisions and solve problems more effectively in the long term.

In keeping with the spirit of NCDD and to honor NCDD’s 10th anniversary, the organization has launched a pair of $10,000 awards to move the national conversation in a different —and healthier —direction.

“We see these awards as powerful tools to energize not only the dialogue and deliberation community, but also the public officials and citizens who could use dialogue to grapple with the issues we live with every day,” said Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD executive director. “We are so proud to play a role in moving our country away from partisan rancor and toward a culture where people can hear one another and bridge their divides.”

The NCDD Catalyst Awards will encourage leaders and innovators in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution, and community problem solving to combine forces to develop projects. These projects will jump-start the field’s next best ideas and impact our communities’ and our country’s ability to solve its most challenging problems.

One award will be made in the Civic Infrastructure category. Every place has a civic infrastructure: decision-making processes, public and online spaces, and formal and informal networks that enable people to come together to solve problems and build a thriving community. How do we improve these?

The Civic Infrastructure category, funded primarily by donations from the NCDD Board of Directors, will launch a collaborative project that uniquely helps build a more robust, sustainable civic infrastructure in communities and the country. It should also help sustain the public’s collective long-term capacity to come together to solve problems and build thriving communities.

Time to change the appeal of this type of message. Photo: jvumn@flickr

The second award category is called The Bridge Building category. How do we make great strides in bridging political divides and crossing boundaries?

In a time of intense political polarization and legislative gridlock, identifying mechanisms or systems for engagement that transcend or defy this atmosphere are essential — and incredibly challenging. The public must have the ability as well as the opportunity to engage in productive, structured dialogue and deliberation if we are to bridge the current political divide.

The Bridge Building category will provide seed funds for a collaborative project that best enables people to talk and work together constructively during a time of intense political polarization. Funding for the award comes from private donors Roger Harrison and Margaret Harris.

More details about the awards can be found at

Please Comment: Do you think these awards will inspire new and better political interactions?

About NCDD:

The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) is a network of over 1,600 innovators, bringing people together across divides to discuss, decide and take action together effectively on today’s toughest issues. NCDD serves as a gathering place, a resource center, a news source and a facilitative leader for this vital community of practice.

Founded in 2002 by a coalition of 60 organizations, the coalition has taken a consultative role in a broad range of public engagement initiatives, including the White House Open Government Directive launched by President Obama in 2009. NCDD members include organizations as varied as the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Project, AmericaSpeaks, The Public Conversations Project, the Center for Nonviolent Communication, and Everyday Democracy. Individual members are consultants, public administrators, teachers, scholars, activists, facilitators, artists, students and community leaders.


The above article was contributed to Communities by guest contributor, Sandy Heierbacher, Director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation


Read more from Donna Rae Scheffert at Washington Times Communities and Online Leadership Tools.

Donna Rae is an award winning writer, consultant, planner, facilitator, and coach. She holds the coveted ‘Futures’ award was named an Outstanding Faculty member at the University of Minnesota. She has co-authored five books and numerous articles.

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Donna Rae Scheffert

Donna Rae Scheffert is a facilitator, consultant and writer. Find more information online at

She lives in Minnesota with her husband and teenage son and daughter.

Honors and awards include University of Minnesota -Distinguished Extension Campus Faculty Award; Minnesota Rural Futures-FUTURES award; and numerous state and national awards for programs and publications.

Scheffert is an author of practical fieldbooks: Committees That Work: Common Traps and Creative Solutions; Social Capital, Building Leadership Programs, and Facilitation Resources available from

Donna Rae is also a Senior Consultant with and an Associate with

Her civic participation includes: Board Member-Community Action Center; Board Member-Women’s Philanthropic Group, and soccer team coordinator.

Photo Credit: Amber Procaccini

Leadership development expert & educator, Donna Rae Scheffert knows how public action by others for others improves lives - she helps people to get involved and provides tools to propel them toward their goals easier, faster, and with more fun. Read more from Donna Rae at

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