Community Engagement

From gridlock to solutions

The PACE Voices For Democracy (VFD) project—formerly known as the Community Deliberation Project—is a nonpartisan effort to partner with local citizens and groups to discuss controversial issues in a civil manner, primarily through public dialogue and deliberation. Dialogue and deliberation processes are moderated primarily by PACE students, who receive special training and gain invaluable skills through the experience.

Voices For Democracy also offers educational workshops on active listening, moderator training, issue framing, and conflict resolution.

What is public deliberation?

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

The practice of deliberation is the cornerstone of democratic and community politics. 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 worked with the local community?

Voices For Democracy has facilitated public deliberations with local groups and organizations on a wide range of topics:

Community Justice And Mediation Center (CJAM) —“Downtown Safety, Civility and Justice Project”
In response to the Mayor of Bloomington's request, CJAM collaborated with VFD 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”
“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”
VFD moderators facilitated a deliberation about the well-being of young children with Circles representatives and the families they serve.
Local High Schools—“Climate Change”
Students from Bloomington High School North, Seymour High School, and the Burmese Youth Leadership Program joined with VFD moderators for a series of deliberations on climate change.
Meadowood Retirement Community—“Climate Change” and “Social Security”
VFD 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 project

IU students

The first step is to participate in moderator training.

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 by letting us know you’re interested. You will be involved in the planning and possibly some of the moderation, with support from PACE students, faculty, and staff.

Contact us

Lisa-Marie Napoli
PACE Voices For Democracy
Indiana University
Woodburn Hall 221
1100 E. Seventh Street
Bloomington, IN 47405

lnapoli@indiana.edu
812-855-0123