With the People

With the People is designed as an ongoing initiative that encourages sustained practices of public deliberation on campuses and in communities across the country.

With the People is an initiative of the National Issues Forums Institute and a dynamic and growing network of national, state, and local partners.

With the People is based on the idea that democracy is strengthened when citizens, institutions, and governments find ways to talk and work with each other.  Deliberative discussions of the issues that impact our lives make a profound contribution to our capacity to do just that.


The National Issues Forums Institute is providing issue guides and supporting materials for deliberative discussions in classrooms, on campus, and in communities. Depending on needs in different parts of the country, materials are available for use in-person or through online platforms that support either face-to-face or text-based deliberation.

Zoom platform: In response to setting new directions for in-person forums during our current climate, several National Issues Forums (NIF) partners have successfully convened virtual face-to-face forums using the Zoom platform.

Common Ground for Action (CGA) is an online text-based platform. Learn more about what happens in a CGA forum and how you can participate by watching this 5-minute video.

Let us know about your forum.  We invite you to share information about your forum by sending the date, time, location, issue, and contact information to NIF for posting on the NIF Calendar of Upcoming Forums.

Share your forum insights by completing the online Moderator Report and inviting forum participants to complete the online post-forum questionnaire


We are able to provide a wide range of complimentary resources to those who wish to convene these discussions: nonpartisan, multi-perspective discussion guides, support materials for conveners and discussion leaders, “bridging pieces” that connect contemporary public issues to the Constitution, questionnaires, training webinars, and outreach materials.

View Issue Discussion Guides and Resources

Click here or on the image below to watch the NCDD August 27, 2020 Zoom launch of the With the People initiative. And click here to see the PowerPoint slides used in the Zoom presesntation.


Video - October 9, Deliberative Dialogue Workshop:  A Deeper Dive to Prepare for Elections and Debates 

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities' (AASCU) The American Democracy Project presented a 90-minute workshop on Friday, October 9th for faculty, staff, and students at higher education institutions. Betty Knighton, Lori Britt, Steven Koether, Katia Campbell, and Kara Lindaman discussed civil discourse and deliberative dialogue, in the context of the ongoing Presidential Debates. 

Click here to watch the recorded workshop.


One idea of what “With the People” means can be found in a recent book by David Mathews, President and CEO of the Kettering Foundation. With the People: An Introduction to an Idea (Kettering Foundation Press, 2020) offers a strategy for bridging some of the divide separating the people of the United States from their government and from the country’s major institutions. It envisions a form of collaboration that would have institutions working with citizens, not just for them. Such a “with strategy” sees people as creators and producers rather than consumers or clients. It encourages collaboration through mutually reinforcing efforts between the citizenry and the government. The book can be downloaded or ordered by visiting www.kettering.org.


Even before the official launch of the With the People initiative we knew that some of you were already making plans to bring deliberative discussion of public issues to your classrooms and communities. And we know the excitement is going to increase as the word spreads about this initiative. We applaud your valuable work and would love to share with others around the country, what you are doing or planning to do.

Please send us your plans, stories about your deliberative projects, audio or video clips, or photos (with permission of those in the photos) about your deliberative forums work. Also, if you, or students you are working with, are interested in writing about some aspect of deliberative forums work (such as the experiences of planning, moderating, reporting on, or participating in a deliberative forum), we’d love to hear from you for the possibility of featuring your writing as a guest post on the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) website.

Please send your submissions to info@nifi.org

We can’t wait to hear from you.

Here are just a couple of examples of what some With the People partners are planning:

Click here to read about what Academic and Student Affairs at Minnesota State has done. 

...Recognizing the power of voting and civic learning as tools in bringing about a more equity-minded society, Minnesota State is offering several opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to engage in practices designed to improve the functioning of our democracy during today’s polarized times.

Click here to read about what the SUNY Center for Professional Development has done.

Constitution Day is an opportunity for students from across the SUNY system to participate in an open dialogue on voting.  Faculty and staff moderators will help guide the discussion and facilitate open and honest conversation...This event will be delivered online, in real-time. 

Learn more about the With the People initiative.

Cick here to read about A Students' National Forum on Racial Justice.

"We included students from Sinte Gleska University, Adams State University, Alcorn State
University, Tougaloo College and West Virginia University at Parkersburg. The students talked
to each other. The current generation of educational leaders listened, and the resulting
conversation was transformational."