State Lawmakers Complete Training to Advance Civil Discourse

Sun, 2019-04-28

Group of bipartisan legislators now ready to guide other lawmakers around the country

TUCSON, AZ. – Next Generation, a program of the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD), trained eight current or former state legislators to become facilitators for their unique “Building Trust through Civil Discourse” workshops across the country. The group of lawmakers represented eight different states from both political parties and included current and former majority and minority leaders. Participants were Idaho Speaker Scott Bedke, former Connecticut Senator Toni Boucher, North Carolina House Majority Whip Jon Hardister, former Tennessee Speaker Beth Harwell, former Oklahoma Speaker Jeff Hickman, former Delaware Representative Helene Keeley, former New Hampshire Representative Phil Spagnuolo, and Ohio Representative and former Minority Leader Fred Strahorn.

To become a facilitator, NICD recruits current or former legislators who are passionate about improving civil discourse in states nationwide and committed to working across the aisle.  “It was a pleasure to be a part of the facilitator training workshop,” said Hardister. “It was truly one of the most informative, gratifying and fulfilling conferences that I have ever attended. I look forward to working as a facilitator in the future.”

The “Building Trust through Civil Discourse” workshop aims to provide legislators with an opportunity to improve the level of civil discourse in their state's legislature and empower them to work more effectively across the aisle. It’s an energizing, legislator-led program that aims to improve a culture where discourse and collaboration typify public policy development.

“This group of facilitators represents a remarkable combination of experience and commitment to our goal of civil dialogue,” said Ted Celeste, Next Generation Director and former Ohio state representative. “It’s great to have such a geographically and politically diverse group from around the country”

Next Generation now has trained 48 facilitators who are passionate about improving the civic culture in states nationwide and are committed to working across the aisle. Twenty-Six workshops have already been held in 16 states with over 1,000 state legislators participating. Current or former legislators who are interested in becoming facilitators or bringing a workshop to their state should visit NxtGenUSA.org for additional details and contact information.

“Next Generation is remarkably impactful. From talking about the challenges and need for civil discourse to the creation of action plans, really significant achievements come out of the program,” said Keith Allred, Executive Director of NICD. “It’s hard to point to any program in the country that is working with elected officials and entire bodies of state legislators that advances the ball in concrete ways like Next Generation.”

Next Generation’s goal is to create and strengthen relationships across the aisle through mutual trust based on effective communication. Next Generation is housed at NICD, which works to address incivility and political dysfunction in American democracy by promoting structural and behavior change.

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Informed by research, the National Institute for Civil Discourse programs are designed to create safe spaces for elected officials, the public, and the media to engage different voices respectfully and take responsibility for the quality of our public discourse and democratic institutions. Learn more at nicd.arizona.edu.