Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 26, 2012


Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Town Hall: Civic Engagement

  |   Video
  • The 100th Arizona Town Hall is exploring the topic of civic engagement and how to get citizens more involved in their government and their communities. Guests include: Kelly Campbell Rawlings, an assistant Research Professor and Co-Director of the Participatory Governance Initiative for ASU’s School of Public Affairs; Jane Prescott-Smith, Managing Director of the National Institute of Civil Discourse at the UofA; and Alberto Olivas, Director of the Center for Civic Participation for Maricopa Community Colleges.
Guests:
  • Kelly Campbell Rawlings - Assistant Research Professor, Co-Director of the Participatory Governance Initiative, ASU School of Public Affairs
  • Jane Prescott-Smith - Managing Director, National Institute of Civil Discourse at UofA
  • Alberto Olivas - Director, Center for Civic Participation for Maricopa Community Colleges
Category: community   |   Keywords: arizona, town, hall, civic, engagement, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, welcome to Arizona "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Former Maricopa county Attorney Andrew Thomas says That he doesn't know if the federal government is investigating him, but if It is, Thomas wants to appear before a Grand Jury to try to clear his name. Thomas was stripped of his license to practice law in Arizona earlier this month For abusing his power as the county's lead prosecutor. There are reports that the federal government is investigating Thomas and Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio on abuse of power.
The justice department approved Arizona's new legislative district map. That means the map will be In place for the next 10 Years unless a legal Challenge is filed. By approving the map, the justice department is saying that the new legislative boundaries do not violate The voting rights of Arizona's minority populations. The state's new congressional district map was approved earlier this month.

Ted Simons:: Participants in the 100th Arizona town hall met in Tucson this week to talk about civic engagement and how to get Arizonans more involved in their communities. Here to discuss the issues addressed at town hall is Kelly Campbell Rawlings, an assistant research professor At ASU's school of public affairs and co-director of the university's Participatory governance initiative. Jane Prescott Smith managing director of the national institute of civil discourse at the university of Arizona. And Alberto Olivas, director of the Maricopa Community Colleges' Center for Civic Participation. All three of our guests were At town hall and wrote Chapters for its 200-page report.

Ted Simons: Good to have you all here. Thank you for joining us tonight. You were very much involved in the 200 page report, so we’ll start with you. What is civic engagement? Give us a definition.

Kelly Campbell Rawlings: That is a very good question. When you look at the issue of civic engagement, oh, I know what that is, voting, participating in elections. And we spent a lot of time this week talking about civic engagement is a lot bigger than that and involves informal and formal activities about people getting involved in their community in some way. Knowing your neighbors, helping out in your community volunteering at a nonprofit, and so really civic engagement is when people take an active stance to get involve to somehow better their communities and that can take a variety of shapes.

Ted Simons: And when you talk about that, folks making an impact on their communities, by doing so that makes an impact on them.

Kelly Campbell Rawlings: Yes, not only makes an impact on them. We know a lot about the effects of civic engagements have personal impacts, in that people develop their sense of empathy for others, self-esteem increased. Do they feel better about themselves in their communities? They learn about the political process through the fact that they participate. But it also has significant impacts on communities and on politics in general that decisions are better the more people who are involved in making them.

Ted Simons: You mentioned empathy, and I know that you -- different chapters were written by different guests here, your chapter and focus was on civil discourse. Give me a definition. What is civil discourse?

Jane Prescott-Smith: Civil discourse is being able to talk with someone in a frank, vigorous direct way in order to move a public policy agenda policy forward. One of the things that is really interesting is people hear that word civil and they think, oh, you mean nice. We're supposed to be nice. And that really misses the point. In fact, I told a story the other day about your mother probably always told you if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. That is not a good idea when it comes to the public sector. In fact, it is really important to get out on the table the things that you disagree with. And so it is important to even confront someone but to do it constructively in a way that will advance the conversation. You can disagree, but disagree with curiosity.

Ted Simons: How much has difficult civil discourse, to put it mildly, things like the anonymous postings on the internet and news sites and these sorts of things, how much has that affected the overall civic engagement?

Jane Prescott-Smith: I think that has affected it quite a bit. Some people tune out. They don't want to deal with that negativity, and rather than engage and get the conversation back on track, they simply opt out of it. Which is a problem. We want as many people to be engaged as possible. And so we have to find ways to encourage people to engage in a more civil way.

Ted Simons: And one of those ways would be by way of a deliberative democracy. And again let’s define terms here.

Alberto Olivas: Deliberative democracy is a range of things that you can do at the individual level or organizations, community, political issues that is free of the fear of am I going to get into a fight? Am I going to have a terrible experience? It is tied to civil discourse. Are we able to talk through our differences in a way that we're learning through each other and not trying to attack and defeat the other side.

Ted Simons: Are there models for that?

Alberto Olivas: There is a lot of models for doing it. We go around and work with different communities in the state to teach them how to frame an issue for the public to deliberate in a way that encompasses the range of ideas how to deal with a given problem. Everyone can see their perspective is represented. Their ideas will be given respect and some consideration. We do that in town hall, public forums. We don't bring in a lot of experts on the topic. We bring people from the community. We say, here, this is a problem for all of us in this community. Here are the major schools of thought about what to do about that and let's look at each one and determine what are the salient good points, what are the tradeoffs and consequences and what can we all agree to as a community that meets our common interests?

Ted Simons: So what Alberto’s talking about with deliberative democracy and what Jane’s talking about with civil discourse, again, back to the umbrella, civil engagement, folks that are able to debate in a civil manner and those willing to engage themselves in deliberative democracy --

Kelly Campbell-Rawlings: That is a challenge facing people. If you don't feel that you have something to contribute to the conversation, or haven't been involved you may feel intimidated by the process. Three things we know that lead to people becoming involved. One they have the motivation to get involved. Oftentimes that is what we focus on. If you are not involved, then you must not care. We know motivation is trickier than that. You can have the motivation and you can really care, but there also has to be an opportunity for you to participate. You also have to have the ability. We know a lot of people are not engaged because they don't have the time, they don't have the resources. It takes time as we found out through the Arizona town hall, three-day process. People have to be able to take the time to do that. You have to feel comfortable speaking in public. There’s lots of ways in which we can develop the skills necessary to participate, whether that is through classes in school or the act of participating. When people have the skills, they are going to feel more comfortable. But if the opportunities don't exist or they don't know how to find the opportunities, and so I think then they're not going to participate. The more we can do to encourage people to look for opportunities or make them available and increase people's awareness of their availability, the more likely they're going to --

Alberto Olivas: Another thing that kept coming up through the course of the three days was how important trust is to all of this stuff. I'm not going to engage in a deliberative discourse with anybody that I don't trust. Or I don't know what their motives are. A lot of times public officials will bemoan the fact that certain parts of the community don't participate in public policy processes, don't come to meetings, don't weigh in, so it must be their fault for not getting involved. But what we really have to dissect in that is the why? Why are certain parts of the community so disengaged? And what we discovered when we do that is that there is a whole lot of mistrust or a lot of perception that they are not welcome or that their viewpoints won't be respected.

Ted Simons: Please, please.

Jane Prescott-Smith: I was going to say one thing that I thought was exciting at this Arizona town hall was the participants came together at the end with great ideas for how to involve more people. For instance, one of the things that happened was they passed the hat and raised money to provide scholarships for people to participate at the next town hall who otherwise could not afford it. Another idea was each person who came to the town hall should make an effort to reach out in their circle of influence to get the word out about the town hall as an opportunity to come together and discuss these things. It takes everybody taking personal responsibility if the civic engagement is going to grow --

Alberto Olivas: There were really specific recommendations that came out about the role that the media can play, education, higher education can play and that individuals, parents, adults working with kids, politicians, the role that we all can play in helping to teach the skills and model the skills of deliberative civil discourse and to provide a space for the community to come together and learn about each other and their common interests.

Kelly Campbell-Rawlings: One of the big points was that this isn't something that is one person or one group or one organization's responsibility to take on. That it really is going to involve a collaborative effort between business and the private sector, between government, between individuals, nonprofit organizations, the media, the education system, that it really is something that we all are implicated in and all need to take some initiative to really see some of these things through.

Ted Simons: And you mentioned people wanting a voice and they don't have a voice, they're not comfortable maybe speaking in public, not comfortable having a voice. And then I look at anonymous boards and it seems like a lot of folks are almost too comfortable speaking on these sorts of things. How do you delineate, how do you get the constructive dialogue going when, you know, a lot of folks it might have been -- they're charging forward and they are charging forward?

Jane Prescott-Smith: Well, it probably is a skill issue, right? They probably are charging forward because they don't know how to make their point in any other way. One ever the things we were talking about earlier is the importance of teaching by using moderators. For instance, you could have somebody watching the thread on a news article, and when they see somebody step over the line, rather than deleting their comment, which is just going to make the person more angry, they could respond to them and say, hey, you know, when you say X, Y, Z, that was in violation of our policy. I don't want to have to purge your comment. Can I make a suggestion about how you could make that way that I could post your comment. Usually when you approach people like that they are glad to learn. It is surprising -- maybe it is not surprising. 100 years ago when I was in high school, we used to study things like debate, right and you had to learn the affirmative and negative side because you never knew which side the teacher would make you argue. This is not done now. Maybe it is not surprising that people want to be involved but don't have the skills.

Alberto Olivas: But also the behavior that you described, public officials, that is their experience with the public, they're angry, come to the meetings full of complaints and shouting and all of the bad behavior. For us we look at that as a symptom of a poor relationship between public officials and the community. This bad behavior is an expression of the sentiment in the community that the only way I can be heard is by yelling as loud as I can.

Ted Simons: Well, it’s an interesting point to bring up. A lot of political campaigns wind up being very negative and a lot of name calling and a lot of mud being thrown because that gets people -- that gets folks' attention. That gets votes. It works for them. How do you -- how do you have politicians expect for people to show up and be all nice or at least sophisticated in their dialogue when the campaigns themselves are far from sophisticated?

Alberto Olivas: Well, part of the problem is that typically in public policy, the public is not actually involved in the process until the very end, decisions have been made -- we try to work with public officials and agencies it find ways to start working with the community much earlier and identify what are the problems that should take precedents to be addressed -- what are the resources, what already exists in the community that helps us come to a desirable outcome. Most of the time the public isn’t brought in until right be for a vote and theyre upset.

Ted Simons: What do we take from the report? You edited it? 200 pages. A lot of stuff in there, a lot of good stuff.

Kelly Campbell-Rawlings: I think the recommendations that will come out from the Arizona town hall report have been -- are being -- are in the process of being accumulated right now, drawing from the original background report. But there is a wealth of recommendations that I think were developed by the participants at the town hall and suggestions regarding increasing civic education throughout the state of Arizona. Their recommendations for government, in terms of increasing transparency and opportunities for participation. Calls to the media in terms of being more accountable trying to provide an alternative model for some of this negative discourse that you were talking about, and so I would encourage everyone to take a look at the town hall recommendations and reports and one of the things that I think we're going to be trying to do is really bringing together the folks who are doing this work to try to create a road map for Arizona in terms of setting benchmarks, some action plans about how do we harness this energy and enthusiasm and this desire to increase civic engagement in the state and make it happen.

Ted Simons: Alright. We will stop it right there. Good discussion. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Alberto Olivas: Thank you.

Giving and Leading: Reinventing Nonprofits

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  • Faced with declining resources and growing needs, nonprofits are finding new ways to survive and thrive by exploring partnerships, innovation and creative ways of doing business. Ellis Carter, a nationally recognized nonprofit law expert, addresses the variety of ways nonprofits are reinventing themselves.
Guests:
  • Ellis Carter - Nationally recognized nonprofit law expert
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: giving, leading, nonprofit, resources, ,

View Transcript
Announcer: Along an isolated stretch of state route 80, deep in southeast Arizona, is a monument to one of the most important events in Arizona history. Off the highway, is skeleton canyon, where the Apache warrior and their followers surrendered to general -- with the surrender, armed conflict ended. Geronimo, his followers and the entire tribe, the Apache scouts army had hired to track him down were deported east. He and his people were never allowed to return to their Beloved Arizona homeland. In 1986 did the governor and state officially welcome back the tribe to Arizona after 100 years of exile.

Ted Simons: With grant money and government funds harder to Come by, nonprofits are Looking for new ways to fund their social causes. In some cases, it means acting a little bit more Like entrepreneurs. Here to talk about that is Ellis Carter of the Phoenix-based Carter Law Group. She's a nonprofit attorney With 15 years' experience advising nonprofits and socially responsible companies. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Ellis Carter: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: The idea of nonprofits reinventing themselves, what are we talking about?

Ellis Carter: Talking about nonprofits acting more like mission-based businesses. Looking for more streams of income, innovative ideas to create recurring streams of revenue.

Ted Simons: The idea is here because of the impact of declining resources on nonprofits, it's real, isn't it?

Ellis Carter: It absolutely is. We have seen since the beginning of the recession, quite a few nonprofits go out of business. Other luckier nonprofits have been able to merge or collaborate with other organizations to keep their programs going, but these pressures continue to persist.

Ted Simons: What about taxpayer funds, government grants? Again, that well drying up a little bit?

Ellis Carter: You know, that is probably the area where we have seen the most shrinkage, the most cuts, government funded organizations, organizations dependent on government contracts have seen huge cuts to their bottom line and they see more coming.

Ted Simons: So, thus, reinvention. Give us an example of how nonprofits are quote-unquote, reinventing themselves with that kind of climate?

Ellis Carter: Yeah, well there is a lot more interest in collaborating with other nonprofits, for profit government -- nonprofits are starting to look at how can we increase our bottom line, but who do we need to partner with in the community to make a real impact on the mission that we were created to address? If that means collaborating with other nonprofits to have a nor cohesive approach to a problem, government agencies, even with business, then there -- they're becoming more open and more aware of the need to do that.

Ted Simons: People hear collaboration, though, and they worry that maybe some of the initial focus, targeted focus could be lost in something that is bigger than what it once was. Is that a valid concern?


Ellis Carter: I think it can be. Collaboration can take so many forms. A lot of times nonprofits when they hear collaboration, they start to think merger. We're going to lose our identity. Mergers can take many different forms. Collaboration is far broader than just a merger. Interestingly, we have a foundation here in Arizona, the lodestar foundation, in cooperation with ASU, did a -- a collaboration prize and they did a study through all of the entries of collaborative projects that were submitted and published that information about all of the different types of collaborative arrangements that they have seen, which is quite instructive. The -- it is really just limited by the imagination. All kinds of ways for nonprofits to work together.

Ted Simons: There are also all sorts of ways I would imagine from what we're hearing for nonprofits to act a little more like for profits. Give us some models there, examples.

Ellis Carter: A lot more calls from nonprofits looking for ways to take their assets, whether expertise, intellectual property, software, tools to help them do their job and actually turn them into for-profit businesses. So of those we call those social enterprises. Sometimes they are work force development programs, where they're creating a business in order to help train their clients and help them become more employable. Other times they are taking a tool or some sort of expertise that they have on their staff and they are trying to turn that into a business or another service that they're able to provide.

Ted Simons: Is that viable, in an economic climate where everyone is trying to get as much as they can and the bottom line is really a bigger bottom line, is it viable?

Ellis Carter: You know, I think it is. I think nonprofits struggle just as much as any company, and -- as you know, many new companies fail. But what we find is that a lot of people are more interested in working with a company that has a mission base -- not just about making money but accomplishing a social purpose.

Ted Simons: And I know that there are things called hybrid organizations and benefit corporations. Talk about those particular avenues.

Ellis Carter: That is a really interesting development. There is an interest around the country among for profits, a legal forum that permits you to pursue both a mission and making money. So, there are new legal forms that have developed in other states. The benefit corporation and the flexible purpose corporation in California, something called the low profit limited liability company. And those are all mechanisms for someone who wants to create a for-profit business but that has a -- a mission basis as well. Dual purpose company essentially.

Ted Simons: How do you define, how do you account for the mission -- I mean -- what is accomplished in terms of of the mission base? A for-profit company looks at the bottom line. What does the benefit corporation look at?

Ellis Carter: I can give you an example. My own firm is actually licensed B corporation. We don't have the statutory basis for a benefit corporation in Arizona, but you can achieve somewhat the same result by working with B-labs, you have to go through a very intensive process. And they look at how you handle -- how you handle your recycling, environmental practices, transparency, how you treat your employees, social benefit, the things you do for the community. If you meet the criteria, you can take a number of steps to become a licensed B corps. It is a mechanism to prevent green washing, companies go out and say we're doing all of these wonderful things but there is no mechanism to make sure that that is the case. My firm is being audited by B labs this summer. That will be very interesting. I told them I would be happy to welcome them to Phoenix in July.

Ted Simons: Do it outside, how is that? How successful are these B corps, benefit corporations, you have a little bit of dual purpose going on here.

Ellis Carter: What I'm seeing -- you can go to I believe it is B laboratories dot net to see all of the different B corps out there. But it’s a growing list, they’re growing like wildfire. One you may have seen is method cleaning products is a B corps. Goat milk ice cream that you can buy at whole foods. All sorts of interesting products, and a lot of these products, they have values in place before they ever became B corps. They're not necessarily having to change everything that they do. I know for myself, we had many of the values in place before we heard of the B corps. So it was just a natural fit.

Ted Simons: Were some of these ideas, these for profit and entrepreneurial ideas, in development before the recession, or was the recession the fire that forged what is happening right now?

Ellis Carter: A lot of the ideas were in development but I think it has accelerated the interest and adoption of these kinds of methodologies to try to create other sources of revenue. If you like, I can give you a couple of examples from right here in Arizona. There is a great company called just be, be just, that was a program that came out of the lone star day resource center. I wish I brought an example here. They make soap, lip balm, and people who were formerly homeless and they are learning job skills. So that’s a work force development training program. They make wonderful products. We gave them away as Christmas presents last year. That is a great example. They are starting to get orders in commercial retail establishments.

Ted Simons: That is a great example. We do have to stop you right there. This sounds encouraging though and we will keep an eye on this. Thank you for joining us.

Ellis Carter: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Friday on Arizona "Horizon's" journalists' roundtable, Arizona gets the national spotlight with Senate bill 1070 getting the supreme court's attention. And Governor Brewer and GOP leaders are said to be close To a state budget deal. Those stories and more Friday On "Journalists' Roundtable." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us and you have a great evening.

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