What’s Next California: What Should The Observers Be Monitoring?

Following my previous post about the upcoming Deliberative Poll here in California, I have been invited to attend the event as an observer. From the invitation email:

I am writing to invite you to observe an exciting civic engagement event this summer that will help chart the course for California’s future.

On June 24-26, a broad coalition of reform-oriented organizations will bring together a random sample of 300 Californians in Torrance for California’s first-ever Deliberative Poll. “What’s Next California?” is an unprecedented attempt to bring Californians into the conversation of whether California’s governance can be improved, and if so, how. “What’s Next” will allow a microcosm of the state to spend a weekend working together to better understand and share their views on a range of issues including legislative representation, fiscal and tax policy, whether local governments should have more autonomy and control over public services, and the initiative process.

“What’s Next California?” will also present an unusual opportunity for policy makers and advocates to observe a deep discussion among Californians and experts with whom they will have the change to consult throughout the process that differs dramatically from dialogues among self-selected members of the public and officials or conventional opinion polling.

The deliberative poll is being organized by the New America Foundation, California Forward, the Public Policy Institute of California, the Nicolas Berggruen Institute, Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute, California Common Cause, and the Bill Lane Center for the American West. It is being managed by the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford and PBS’s MacNeil-Lehrer Productions. The weekend will be moderated by Judy Woodruff of the PBS Newshour and videotaped for a documentary to be broadcast on PBS stations in California and elsewhere.

More information about “What’s Next California” can be found at nextca.org.

I’m delighted to be able to attend and have gladly accepted the invitation. I plan to be there for the kick-off on Friday night as well as for parts of either Saturday or Sunday.

As an observer, some of the obvious things to look at might include the following:

  • Event logistics and setup
  • General mood and attitudes among the participants
  • Quality of the dialogue
  • Use of information resources (evidence)
  • Decision-making processes
  • Overall process facilitation

Given what you know about this project, what else would you like the observers to keep in mind or watch out for during the event? What would you monitor if you could be there in person?

Though I may or may not be able to do extensive live reporting during the event, I will definitely share my impressions afterwards. If you have any suggestions or recommendations for this observer, please share them in the comments below, and I’ll be your eyes and ears. Thank you!

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