Using Deliberative Dialogue to Address Florida Community Challenges

Citizens across the nation feel increasingly removed from our system of governance. Even at the local level, they may wish to be engaged but may feel they need more time and resources to help resolve local issues. In addition, people often believe they need more information to offer a knowledgeable opinion about what should be done to improve their community. To address these fractures in democratic governance, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and the University of Florida partnered to develop the Community Voices, Informed Choices (CIVIC) program. CIVIC prepares Extension faculty to help communities address challenging community issues through deliberative discussions. It complements other Extension programs by creating a platform for community members to learn about and discuss community issues they care about but cannot solve individually. 

To date, CIVIC has delivered at least 18 in-person or virtual deliberative forums. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted our ability to recruit participants, so although participation has been limited, the small groups have generated meaningful conversations that have led to important outcomes. For example, in a discussion on water quality in the Indian River Lagoon, the discussion pivoted from environmental health to human health. From there, a partnership was formed with a nearby organization researching fish toxicity, and a youth fishing clinic was held to raise awareness of water quality issues and collect fish for their research. CIVIC will soon pilot deliberative discussions on food security in three locations around the state, and a climate change issue guide is being developed.

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Seals, Linda. “Using Deliberative Dialogue to Address Florida Community Challenges.Southern Ag Today 3(35.5). September 1, 2023. Permalink