You’ve got (future) mail! A message from 2188 to 2013


Dear People of 2013:
We got your letter! No need for forgiveness or apologies, we understand how difficult it can be to only see part of a trend. Wish we could answer each question, but we are limited to 2 pages. When we think we have touched on a question we put its number in brackets like this: [Q14].

[Q3, Q4, Q10-Q13] In the US, the implicit criminalization of poverty threatened to return us to debtors’ prisons of yesteryear. One of the writers from your times saw this coming:

Homelessness is illegal. In my city no-one is homeless although there are an increasing number of criminals living on the streets. It was smart to turn an abandoned class into a criminal class, sometimes people feel sorry for down and outs, they never feel sorry for criminals, it has been a great stabilizer. (Winterson, p. 19)

All that started to change in 2065. The crowdsourced fourth Complete National Count included all the empty homes that wealthy people owned but didn’t live in. Backing that up with data on the traumatic effects of homelessness we were able to pass the One Home per Owner law in 2101 over the objections of many wealthy people. But, when wealthy people sold surplus homes to avoid the added taxes housing markets stabilized. People were not taxed out of their homes, and we had fewer people thrown to the curb by evictions and foreclosures.

Another great spiral of social evolution began with a simple idea: partnerships—mutual, voluntary, co-equal partnerships. For inspiration we looked back to 1992 and Imagine Chicago. [Q6] Because of the power of partnerships, national and international ideas about sovereign governments morphed to consider each person, each family, etc. as sovereign. Gradually, rather than laws which relied on compelling behavior, pledges, which relied on voluntary good and mutual faith, began to get significant traction.

[Q4] Beginning in 2125 up until today, the Shared Fate Pledge has cut unemployment down to under 4 percent. For companies, this means in lean times everyone working for the company, executives included, accepts an hour and pay cut, with those in better paid positions taking more of a cut as a percentage of pay than those in less well paid positions. The key is everyone keeps their jobs. This isn’t new, of course, Lincoln Electric (since 1958 has had a no layoff policy), Southwest Airlines, and the Seattle Public Library were using something similar (though without public pledges) back in your day.

Philosophy and History departments in 2120 engaged the public in conversations keyed to the 500th Anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower. Their theme was “What cultural legacies did those 17th Century Calvinist Puritans leave us?” For example, John Winthrop, speaking on board the Arabella in 1640 led off his remarks with

GOD ALMIGHTY in His most holy and wise providence, hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity; others mean and in submission.

Winthrop said their colony could become the “city upon a hill” but many people questioned if these attitudes led to American Exceptionalism to always strive to be dominant and the separation of people not only by race but also by status or class.

The professors turned matters around and asked what American Humility might mean. “How would the main branches of government act?” “How would citizens view other cultures and nations?” “How would corporations act?”

[Q13] Around 2140, a spontaneous national longing arose to get out and meet each other “in the valleys.” A framework was resurrected from an activity used in high schools in the 2000s called Mix-It-Up Day. Sports teams began to encourage tailgate parties to “mix-it-up” and by 2157 brave families up and down and across the economic levels were “mixing-it-up” on Thanksgiving.

Much evolved from the combination of mix-it-up events and partnerships, but we’re out of space! Thank you for initiating a National Dialogue Network discussion on Wealth and Poverty in the US “back in the day.” Is that how you said it?

Say hello to President Obama from 2188 if you see him!
Letter Back 7 Generations High School – College Partnership


The 2013 NDN public analysis phase begins


Submitted by John Spady: The 2013 National Dialogue Network (NDN) process has now entered “Cycle 4” of a five cycle process where our volunteer working group releases a preliminary graphic report of all responses received as of November 23, 2013 along with the underlying Excel spreadsheet used to create it.

Focusing on Cycle 4

(click to enlarge)

During this phase, the general public is strongly urged to help intrepret the results and submit any and all insights to the working group for review and inclusion in the final summary report that is due before the end of 2013.

I am asking readers of this post to make a small contribution of time to this public analysis phase. Click on both of the following links and just focus on what interests you. Try to understand “what the data is saying.” Then post a comment below with any insights that you are able to glean from the preliminary report.

If you want to see another type of cross tab or have any other questions either ask them below or leave a private comment at 800-369-2342.

Total number of participants who completed the national survey: 105

Preliminary report:

Final Excel data (XLS) download:

View 2013 NDN Participant Responses (105) in a full screen map

Thank you!
John Spady
Volunteer Coordinator for the National Dialogue Network


Race, Poverty, & Wealth — Insights From a Virtual Conversation


Submitted by Ben Roberts: Throughout the months of September and October, 2013, I hosted a national conversation “experiment” on the subject of Poverty and Wealth in America. The overall purpose of the conversation (in cooperation with the new National Dialogue Network) was to generate valuable insights, explore initiatives that might have positive impact, connect people to one another in meaningful ways, and experiment with new approaches to large group dialogue.

Approximately sixty people participated through a combination of online, in-person, and phone-based conversations. All of these various discussions were connected and coordinated via the online platform “hackpad.” Here is a link to the welcome page, from which you can access all the other “pads”:  The dialogue took place in three “rounds,” each focused on a particular set of questions.

In Round One, we asked the following:

“when you imagine a national dialogue about poverty and wealth in America, what question(s) would you most like to explore with others?”

Our various conversations generated a long list of questions that covered a number of themes. A list of resources was also compiled based on participant suggestions.

The diverse array of themes and questions identified in Round One led to a challenging decision about how to focus the conversation going forward. There were many compelling possibilities, as well as the option of pursuing more than one line of inquiry. Meanwhile, one participant who joined the conversation at the point where we were reviewing the notes from the first round’s discussions observed that the subject of “race” had not come up at all.

This omission is indeed striking since, according to Census data, the percentage of Black, Latino, and Native American households that fall below the poverty line is roughly three times higher than that of Whites, while the average wealth of White households is six times that of Blacks and Latinos. And so in Round two, we asked:

“how do you explain these statistics?  And how might an exploration of the relationship between race, poverty and wealth in America help us to examine our own beliefs, understand those of others and discover new possibilities together?

The Round Two conversations were challenging. In the process of wrestling with these questions, a second set of resources was complied from participant suggestions, and I consider this list to be one of the most valuable outcomes of this round and of the “experiment” as a whole. Still, it seemed that, as this round drew to a close in mid-October, there was still much more to explore in this terrain.

For Round Three, we stayed with the race theme, but changed the questions, making them more directly personal:

  • What is the story about race, poverty and wealth that you hear yourself most often telling? The one that you are wedded to and maybe even take part of your identity from?
  • What are the payoffs you receive from holding on to this story?
  • What is your attachment to this story costing you?

A number of stories were complied and discussed in this round. We also brought in Barry Spector, author of Madness at the City Gates, as a special guest conversation starter on one of our interactive conference calls. Participants found it especially challenging to address the questions about payoffs and costs.

By our concluding call on October 31, 2013, a core tension had emerged in our exploration of the race theme. On the one hand, it was clear to most (if not all) participants that racism, both past and present, has taken a terrible toll on the communities of people of color. On the other hand, there was a strong  concern around the possibility that any focus on race leads to division, and that the causes of poverty extend well beyond that single factor.

Thus the dilemma: how do we address the issues that remain unresolved in terms of race in this country in a way that also support our moving forward together as one nation? 

We did not come to any consensus on this final question, but I believe our dialogue moved us forward by calling it out so clearly.

Ben Roberts
Conversation Collaborative

[Editor’s note: Please let Ben know what you think of his post. Add your comments below.]


NDN conversation in Olympia, WA


John Spady joined the conversation on Wealth and Poverty in downtown Olympia this Saturday, October 26. Hosted by Faith Trimble, CEO of The Athena Group and co-facilitated by Galen Radtke, creator of the game of conversation, Wamerjam. The small group of 11 spent 2 hours discussing questions related to the disparity of wealth in America.

The evening started out with two video clips: Wealth and Inequality in America:

What Wasn’t Said in Wealth and Inequality in America:

The group then split into two, and played a round of Wamerjam – a card game that teaches the art of conversation. The topic of conversation was “What Is the Meaning/Purpose of Wealth?” There was a general sense from the group that wealth means something much more than financial wealth. Social wealth would include things like community networks, family, happiness, spirituality, sense of belonging, civic infrastructure, access to education, etc.

Conversations also led to the question of “how much wealth is enough?” and “Who is responsible for distribution of wealth?”

Next the group split up into 3 groups. Participants selected their own roles. They could either be a table host (stay at the same table), participant (contribute fully to a 10 minute conversation at each table), or a bumble bee (bounce around from one table to the next). Each table hosted one question.

The questions were:

  1. How can we transition to wealth being a tool for innovation;
  2. What should our society aspire to for future generations?
  3. What are the patterns of generating wealth?

The conversations were open with no decision points or points of consensus. But many ideas were postulated and several themes emerged:

  • Positive Deviance: Let’s look at who is doing it differently and doing it right – like Scandinavia.
  • We need a mindshift around basic income; basic needs must be met.
  • Need equal access and free education.
  • Free birth control or stop having kids.
  • A need for collective currency/complementary resource sharing.
  • Need a culture shift that values community and human life, creativity and critical thinking, connectedness to the land, gratitude and contentment.
  • Change mentality of conquest and competition.
  • Transition from a fear-based culture to a life-based culture. What do we want to achieve in life, not what do we want to avoid and protect against.
  • Sustainable Thurston is on the right track.
  • Money is a substitute for human energy.
  • Society should aspire to have grandchildren who grow up happy, contribute to society, and forgive us and appreciate us for trying.
  • The bigger we are, the more disconnected we become. Are we too big for social responsibility? Can it just happen at the community level?
  • Past patterns of generating wealth seem negative; are there more positive patterns of alternative wealth that we can achieve in the future? Like community capital, care of basic needs, connection to the earth, spirituality, a new form of currency, everyone being a functioning component of society.

The original meeting was scheduled from 1.5 hours. The group decided to meet for 2 hours, and some stayed past that time frame. There seemed to be a sincere interest in have an ongoing forum for community conversations like this. The Athena Group will consider hosting additional conversation on other topics of a more local or regional nature. The group also agreed that the card game Wamerjam was a fun and useful way to host a conversation.

Thanks to all that attended!


Local NDN Discussion (WI)


Submitted by Dennis Boyer: We held our poverty and wealth discussion last night (Oct 23, 2013). Eight participants comprised of four couples in rural area. About half had previously participated in test discussion of draft discussion guide entitled “Fairness” (work in progress of the Interactivity Foundation). It lasted about 3 1/2 hours and went very well. Dennis Boyer, IF Fellow and member of the Public Participatory Learning Community.


Demographics of 2013 NDN Opinionnaire® Survey


This is an experimental report showing just the current demographic tallies of the 2013 Opinionnaire® Survey’s completed so far. Values are expected to be automatically updated each day. Your comments are invited at the bottom of this post or can be left on the NDN message line at +1-800-369-2342. Thank you!

“We are all in this together” — contribute your opinions and insights to the Opinionnaire® Survey on Poverty & Wealth in America. Visit: to begin the survey.




Univ of Oregon Students for Public Participation (SP2)


UO, SP2 meeting

University of Oregon, Students for Public Participation (SP2), Oct. 15, 2013

Jo Niehaus, graduate student in Public Administration at the University of Oregon and Special Projects coordinator for the UO’s Erb Memorial Union (ERB), recently welcomed John Spady, volunteer coordinator for the National Dialogue Network, to Eugene, Oregon, for a conversation with club  members of the Students for Public Participation (SP2). We met at the cozy McMenamans East 19th Street Café and had a wonderful time talking about the National Dialogue Network, the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2 USA) and its active Cascade Chapter, and also the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. This was the first meet up for UO chapter of SP2 since the start of the term and everyone enjoyed their time together.

Thanks to Jo and her UO SP2 students for their time and interest in hearing about the National Dialogue Network. Everyone is welcome to contribute their opinions to the national conversation of “Poverty & Wealth in America” — join in at

Thank you!


Questions to Future Sons and Daughters


Submitted for NDN contributor Dyck Dewid:

Preface to my questions:  I must apologize for hurting you.  I am from a time when a body of fathers, mothers, and single adults are (collectively) just beginning to use our miraculous intellects to examine our discontent, anger, sadness, shame and suffering, etc…  Many of us are discovering our inner selves and our role in the external world.  I am/we are (difficultly, reluctantly) growing beyond what (we think) we know.  Perhaps soon we’ll stop hurting you.  Of course there has always been the producers of light and beauty, the visionaries, composers, inventors, researchers, writers, artists of all kinds… geniuses of the classics in our history.  Perhaps we in 2013 are now at beginning baby steps of a collective seeing humanity and earth in a different light… one that is not grounded in individuality and self interest.  In this light I ask:

  1. Can you… or have you forgiven me for the human suffering I’ve caused?  (as one of your many forefathers or mothers)
  2. Are arts and ‘the classics’ still revered, and what has been added since my time to light the way?
  3. Please name several most significant happenings since 2013, such as events, works, people, tragedies, that have contributed to sustaining a world civilization.
  4. Has the idea of Capitalism changed?  (i.e. Competing ideas of individual wealth & competition versus generosity & fairness)  Please consider in 2013 the influence of the corporation… its wealth purchasing favorable & clever legislation, its thirst for profit, its dependence on socially accepted (& advertised) ideas of ambition, competition, wealth, comfort, fear, individuality, w/o responsibility or accountability for plunder of earth or society… versus (unprofitable) primarily social responsibility to humanity and earth.  Examples are, consequences of: A government unrepresentative of the people; Continued use of fossil fuels on earth climate; Fracking; Unsustainable use of earth resources for short term gains; Waste disposal and Avoidance of Life Cycle product planning shifting those costs to the public; etc. etc..
  5. What  have people come to know about where to place ultimate responsibility  for systems of government and social disfunction or disharmony?
  6. Are there still individual countries/states or is there one world governing body?
  7. Is there a different, perhaps world economy and please describe what you have?
  8. Is low price still boss in your time?   (versus real value and fairness)
  9. In your opinion, what are the connections you see between ambition for wealth, or having influence of wealth (money and property) and the problems we’re facing in 2013… Global Warming, Large Uprisings around the world against those in power, War, Poverty and hunger and homelessness.
  10. How would you define Wealth and Poverty in your time?  Does it consider Abundance of earth as wealth, and Lack of Realizing that Abundance as poverty?
  11. Do you look at Wealth & Poverty, as most do in 2013, being the ultimate, perhaps insatiable measure of success (where Wealth is money, property and power.. and Poverty is lack of it)?  And although obviously ineffective at achieving happiness and peace, these seem to have been our values through much of our history.
  12. Has society (governance) changed to deal justly and fairly with civil rights and biases that rob women and minorities of their power, their land, their heritage, their freedoms, their just treatment under law?  Is there a connection in this to Wealth and/or Poverty?
  13. In 2013 we have a big problem: seeing diversity as a problem instead of rich in content and ‘another’ truth.  This causes havoc in our ability to achieve harmony in dialogue (and life).  Have you overcome this social diasability?

Infrastructure for Sustaining the National Conversation


There is a great deal of innovation around giving Americans a greater voice in their government, but we still have a long way to go.  That’s why I’m excited to see the National Dialogue Network (NDN) breaking new ground and the Conversation Collaborative’s online experiment from Ben Roberts (a member of the NDN working group.)

The closest thing we currently have to a “national conversation” is the comment section of the NY Times and other major newspapers.  Comments aren’t a conversation.  There isn’t enough back-and-forth exchange for participants to inquire more deeply with each other about comments they don’t understand or to explore opposing opinions in a productive way.

Blended models of online, phone-based, and in-person participation are emerging, and there is so much potential there.  As a board member for the 1700-member National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, I look forward to watching NDN develop and share its lessons learned as it explores ways to fill in the gaps of this vital infrastructure for sustaining the national conversation.  Without such infrastructure for earnest and important dialogue, we cannot bring our nation’s collective intelligence to bear on our collective challenges.


Announcement Sept 20, 2013


Recipient of the 2012 Catalyst Award for Civic Infrastructure, National Dialogue Network (NDN) volunteer John Spady announces that the NDN achieved a major milestone on September 18 when it released its public Conversation Kit on the topic of Poverty & Wealth in America for voluntary and coordinated national conversations. Revisit the May post on NCDD to remember how and why this topic was selected. Groups and individuals are now invited to “Get Involved.” Follow this link and take an action on the topic — and an important first action is to simply download the Conversation Kit, then ask your friends, family, neighbors, or community to join in and help inform the national dialogue. The NDN coordinates distinct individual and community conversations — giving everyone a “sense of place” and voice within the larger national dialogue. NDN’s dedicated volunteer’s seek to revitalize and promote civic infrastructures within communities where all who choose to participate will impact the national conversation by:

  • Focusing intently on an issue over time with others;
  • Listening to the opinions and ideas being discussed in your community and across the United States; and
  • Speaking up about your own opinions and ideas in conversations with your family, friends & community.

Jim Wallis, President and Editor-in-Chief of Sojourners Magazine, appears prescient on the topic when he writes in the March-April 1999 issue:

“The growing economic inequality of American life presents the most crucial moral issue for the health of democracy, according to historian James MacGregor Burns. It’s an issue that affects almost every other issue, from campaign finance to corporate welfare to the daily priorities of the U.S. Congress. The widening gap between the top and bottom of American society is now the 900-pound gorilla lurking in the background of every political discussion. It’s just sitting there, but nobody is talking about it. It’s time we started talking about it. Our moral integrity demands it.  And the common good requires it.”

The NDN is appealing to participants and the general public to raise at least another $10,000 for 2014 so they can continue to develop processes and content for another year of national dialogue. Any amounts raised over $15,000 will be used to develop more professional content, coordination, and promotional grants. Donations can be made online at

Finally, NDN is grateful to the people who volunteered their hearts and hands to make this project a reality. Their collaborations are exactly what NCDD intended when it created the Catalyst Awards and the National Dialogue Network acknowledges their contributions on its About-Us page.