Voices for Democracy and Constructive Conversation

From gridlock to solutions

PACE Voices for Democracy and Constructive Conversation (VDCC) is a nonpartisan effort to partner with local citizens and groups to discuss public controversial issues in a civil manner, primarily through dialogue and deliberation. Dialogue and deliberation processes are facilitated primarily by PACE students, who receive special training and gain invaluable skills by bringing theory to practice.

Voices for Democracy and Constructive Conversation also offers educational workshops on active listening, facilitation training, issue framing, and conflict management. Please reach out if you are interested in us working with you to improve in these areas.

What is public deliberation?

Public deliberation involves people with different opinions coming together—with at least one trained facilitator—to respectfully communicate with each other in order to develop a greater understanding of an issue.

The practice of deliberation is the cornerstone of building a healthy democracy. It connects people, even those with conflicting interests, and allows them to make decisions and act in the face of challenging circumstances. Deliberation can also reveal new possibilities for action that emerge when people come together to discuss an issue.

How has Voices for Democracy and Constructive Conversation worked with the local community?

Voices for Democracy and Constructive Conversation co-sponsors and facilitates opportunities for dialogue and deliberation with local, state, and national groups and organizations on a wide range of topics:

National Collaboration:

Sibling Cities U.S.A. (2023)
In collaboration with Palo Alto, California (Bloomington’s Sibling City) representatives, offered an in-person (locally) and virtual (across the country) dialogue series to bridge regional divides and find opportunities to discuss issues such as race and climate change.

Weaving Community (2020)
As part of a national initiative in response to the Covid-19 crisis, VDCC coordinated and led an online zoom conversation with community members (from both campus and community) to discuss issues of equity, safety, and well-being in the community.       

IU’s Big Ten Voting Challenge: “Talk Democracy” (2016-present)
In collaboration with other Big 10 school representatives, VDCC organizes and leads initiatives in non-partisan voter education. Through this endeavor, we find ways to support students from all parts of campus to have conversations about challenging topics and to learn to broaden their knowledge, perspectives, and skills as a result.

Campus Collaboration:

Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Arts and Sciences (2024)
Collaborated and offered support as free expression facilitators for            conversations about the Middle East conflict.

Student Involvement and Leadership Center – SILC (2023)
Led the development of a proposal to collaborate with SILC to offer a curriculum designed by the Constructive Dialogue Institute.

Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Arts and Sciences (2020)
Collaborated and offered support to facilitate a community conversation in response to the question, “Who’s Represented in America Today?”

Office of First Year Experience, Big Question Series (2018)
Co-planned and co-led a workshop highlighting big questions for students to discuss and to find ways to take action in response to their beliefs.

First Thursdays (2016-present)
Participate regularly with IU’s Arts and Humanities Council’s campus-wide festival to offer opportunities to “talk democracy,” offer interactive activities, support others to register to vote, and address current issues.

City of Bloomington Collaboration:

Facilitators’ Collective (2021)
Participated in conversations about facilitation services offered in the City of Bloomington and how to best collaborate and support others doing similar work.

Divided Community Project, Moritz School of Law at The Ohio State University (2020)
Participated in a training to learn about how to best support local              communities when divisive issues emerge that can be potentially   threatening to the well-being of a community.

Farmers Market, City of Bloomington (2019)
With a strong working relationship with the Community Justice and Mediation Center, VDCC supported the City of Bloomington with mediation and facilitation services in response to racial issues plaguing the farmers’ market environment.

Community Justice and Mediation Center (2019)
Collaborated to help design and implement a workshop entitled “Community Healing with Restorative Justice.”

Sustainability Action Plan, City of Bloomington (2018)
In collaboration with Gnarly Tree Sustainability Institute (Lead on the project), VDCC provided consultation services and helped facilitate community conversations about environmental issues. This process led to the creation of a report to the city.

Bloomington Community Collaboration:

Community Justice And Mediation Center (CJAM) —“ “Community Voices for Health” (2020-2023)
As part of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded project, VDCC functioned in the role as a public engagement consultant and facilitation trainer while providing support in various other ways.

Community Justice And Mediation Center (CJAM) —“Downtown Safety, Civility and Justice Project” (2016)
In response to the Mayor of Bloomington's request, CJAM collaborated with VDCC for support in designing, training and facilitating a three-stage public engagement process to identify perceived problems and generate potential solutions about downtown safety and civility issues.

Bloomington Community Orchard—“How to Share the Harvest” (2012)
“Who gets the fruit?” was one of the most common questions asked about the orchard when it was formed. This community forum explored key issues about fruit distribution, including community concerns, orchard commitments, and opinions about how the harvest is shared.

South Central Community Action Program (Circles Initiative)—“Care of Young Children” (2012)
VDCC moderators facilitated a deliberation about the well-being of young children with Circles representatives and the families they serve.

Local High Schools—“Climate Change” (2011)
Students from Bloomington High School North, Seymour High School, and the Burmese Youth Leadership Program joined with VDCC moderators for a series of deliberations on climate change.

Meadowood Retirement Community—“Climate Change” and “Social Security” (2011)
VDCC moderators worked with Meadowood community members to discuss two complex issues—climate change and Social Security. As a result of the climate change deliberation, Meadowood created a task force to find ways to reduce the retirement community’s carbon footprint.

How to get involved with the Voices for Democracy and Constructive Conversation project

IU students

Participate in facilitation training (offered as PACE-C 440 for 1 credit hour). Contact course instructor to discuss options.

Another opportunity for involvement early in the academic year is to join a planning committee to participate in designing and implementing the annual Issue Forum.

Community members

Community groups can partner with Voices for Democracy and Constructive Conversation by letting us know that you are interested. You will be involved in the planning, implementation, and possibly facilitation, with support from PACE students, faculty, and staff.

Contact us

Lisa-Marie Napoli
PACE Voices for Democracy and Constructive Conversation
Indiana University
Woodburn Hall 300
1100 E. Seventh Street
Bloomington, IN 47405