The University of Arizona

"The Next Generation" Initiative: In-State Workshops on Civil Discourse for Legislators

The National Institute for Civil Discourse is committed to advancing the practice of civil discourse to strengthen our democratic traditions and improve governance. Many national elected leaders begin their political careers in state legislatures.  These future national lawmakers are the focus of “The Next Generation” initiative, which aims to cultivate a culture where discourse and collaboration typify public policy development.


The Institute has designed an introductory workshop tailored for state legislators entitled Building Trust through Civil Discourse, which uses active learning exercises to convey knowledge of and explore attitudes about civil engagement.

The goal of this work is to:

  • Strengthen relationships across the aisle,
  • Increase the effectiveness of state legislatures, and
  • Create civility caucuses in participating state legislatures.

Throughout the workshop participants are encouraged to apply the material to practical examples from the legislative setting. As a group, workshop participants develop an action plan for advancing civil discourse in their own legislature with the goal of increasing legislative productivity. According to initiative leader Ted Celeste, a former state representative, “Participants learn how to set aside personal attacks and rebuild trust after a season of negative campaigning.”

This workshop has been presented to the Ohio, Nebraska, Washington, Maine and Pennsylvania legislatures and at numerous regional and national meetings of the Council of State Governments.

The five states that held the workshop are considering hosting a second introductory workshop. Washington will hold its workshop on January 20, 2015. Twenty-three other states are now looking to schedule a workshop of the legislators.

The team of bipartisan legislators and former legislators providing the facilitation for the workshops has grown to 12 after a training session early in 2014, and will expand even further with an additional training in November of 2014. The first workshop led by the recently trained facilitators was in Maine. 

Listen to guest speakers Ted Celeste, founder and program director of Next Generation and Ohio Senator, Frank Larose, 27th District, on Town Hall Ohio speak about Civil Discourse - Civility in Politics on November 25, 2013:

In today's political world, it seems there are only two sides: left and right. However, things get done in the middle. So what's the secret to getting things done?