In this message, Gregg Kaufman, of Jacksonville, Florida, describes some recent forums about income and opportunity inequality that were held in February, 2016, and gave many people a chance to experience a deliberative forum for the first time.
Several Making Ends Meet forums were held in Jacksonville in February. The University of North Florida Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) offered a moderator training course that included a February 17th forum to which OLLI members were invited. Eight first-time moderators worked with 18 deliberators in two groups. Several days later, 40 people gathered for the first in a series of civil discourse deliberative forums at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral. Five moderators who attended a moderator orientation managed two lively groups.
What was notable about these forums was that 66 people experienced a deliberative forum for the first time and responded in positive ways. One gentleman said, “I believe the forum helped me come out of my cocoon and express my concerns and frustrations.” Others remarked about the ability to listen to opposing viewpoints. Once more, the people who devoted time to learning moderating skills recognized the challenges inherent in guiding dialogue and helping people recognize the potential for common ground.
A national emphasis on providing equitable education opportunities and workforce training, corporate tax reform, and linking safety net benefits to accountability for re-training were several of the common ideas emerging from the forums.