AAA-ICDR Foundation® Grant Funds CommonSense American to Expand Program
AAA-ICDR Foundation funding helped expand “CommonSense American Conversations,” a way for members to discuss policy topics ripe for bi-partisan action.
Phase I Interim Report for AAA-ICDR Grant
January 31, 2023
The grant is designed to help increase the scale and impact of the CommonSense American (CSA) program of the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD). The current politically balanced CSA membership (24% Republican, 45% Independent, 26% Democrat) picks the most meaningful issues ripe for bipartisan action. Members then spend at least 90 minutes per year reviewing the brief and weighing in with their views on the topic. We then engage Congress with the results from these everyday Americans when NICD staff brief Members of Congress and their staff on the overall findings.
The funding from this grant helps deepen CSA member engagement through the creation of CommonSense American Conversations. This new component of CSA provides an option for members to discuss with each other the chosen policy topic in a small and politically diverse group. These discussions are convened over a video conferencing platform and moderated by a select set of members who are trained in facilitation. Additionally, the grant funds recruiting new members.
Update on Phase I
1. Trained CSA members to effectively facilitate online, small group conversations.
- We trained five volunteer CSA members to effectively facilitate the small-group conversations. The training focused on online facilitation skills, how to use the online conversation platform, and drew on the principles and best practices of NICD’s Engaging Differences program.
- We created feedback loops with the facilitators to learn from their experiences and help improve the program as they participated in this first phase. They completed short report forms after each of their conversations. We conducted conference calls with them, utilized participant evaluations, and updated the facilitation guide to support success in the experience for participants and facilitators.
2. Created short testimonial videos from participants and facilitators to help recruit CSA members to participate in small group conversations after completing their issue briefs.
- We reviewed the comments from 80 evaluation forms submitted by conversation participants, identified 20 participants that represented an ideological, racial, age, and geographic mix to interview.
- We created an interview guide to build from the feedback provided by participants after their conversations. We wanted to dig a little deeper to learn more from them and to capture their authentic voices that might be shared with other CSA members to recruit them into the conversations. So, we conducted 17 recorded video interviews with the people who agreed to participate.
- We created a webpage, CSA Convos, to host short video statements. We created one video as a combination of voices that included the experiences of five people who participated in the conversations.
- Here are 8 short video segments we created to share the hopeful and moving conversation experiences of these everyday Americans: Teri S. , Peter C., Laura D., Zac S., Wendy P., Michael B., Colby M., and Kathleen R.
- Finally, here are a few written comments from participants:
- I felt a sense of community with my fellows. Teri (R) – TN
- I so appreciate this forum. It gives me hope that we can bridge the divide that media seems to paint as unbridgeable. Yes, I saw things from a different perspective and from ones that I hadn't considered. Wendy (I) – CA
- I walked away feeling more informed and in a better mood than before the call. Matthew (D) – VA
3. Received feedback and tested our recruitment efforts to attract CSA members to participate in the small group conversation opportunities. Starting with some of the basic data from this phase of the program, we know the following:
- 47 Conversations were held
- 199 CSA members registered to participate
- 115 CSA members participated
- 80 participants completed evaluations
Participants provided very positive feedback about the experience:
- How would you rate the conversation experience?
- Excellent (80%); Very Good (15%); Good (4%); Fair (0%); Poor (0%)
- Would you have a conversation again?
- Yes (98%); Maybe (2%); No (0%)
We conducted several recruitment approaches during Phase I of the grant. These included:
- Targeted email invitations to CSA members once they had completed weighing in on the Electoral Count Act brief. Here are two examples of language and images we used: Conversation Invitation 1 and Conversation Invitation 2.
- Added the conversation invitation to a webpage where CSA members come to as they become a “CSA Ambassador.” (CSA Ambassadors have provided detailed demographic information, including their political leanings, in order to help us let Members of Congress know that our results are representative of all Americans.)
- Shared the CSA Convos webpage with them via email invitation toward the end of this period. We will do more testing using video testimonials in the next phase to find the most effective messages and messengers.
4. Engaged 2,500 more Americans in CSA through our marketing campaigns that recruit a politically and geographically representative membership. We experienced great success in member recruitment from September through December 2022, by increasing the membership from 46,000 to more than 53,000 over this period.
To our delight, we have surpassed the membership goal of 53,400 for the grant. We believe this shows a hunger among everyday Americans for opportunities that engage our differences productively and advance commonsense solutions in Congress. As we continue to attract a politically diverse set of everyday Americans that reflect the partisan differences in the country, we will continue to focus on recruiting 1,400 CSA members who are part of historically underserved groups.
Check our News Page for more to come.