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Civic empowerment and community problem-solving

At Unify America, we’re helping communities empower residents to go beyond the ballot box — to build social cohesion, harness the power of different perspectives, and solve local problems.

Using models of deliberation, including the Citizens' Assembly, we help communities implement public problem-solving frameworks and civic engagement opportunities that give residents the time and information to really understand the problem and the trade-offs involved in solving it.

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Deliberation in Montrose, Colorado

The mission of the Montrose, Colorado deliberation on childcare was bold. A group of randomly selected residents, representative of the demographics of their community, would deliberate together over the course of 12 weeks to converge on solutions to a pressing problem in the community: the shortage of affordable and available childcare in Montrose.

So, what happened?

Actions and ideas for solutions

The residents in the Citizens' Assembly deliberated eight actions curated by the team of local childcare experts and generated 16 of their own ideas for further exploration. Five actions ideas received over two-thirds support and were presented to the community. During a February 2024 celebration event, local leaders publicly committed to work on building implementation plans for several ideas and continuing to research others.

Collaboration and understanding

Among the members of the Assembly, 93% felt the deliberation helped them consider new perspectives that they had not considered before, and 91% felt that hearing and understanding the different viewpoints of fellow Delegates led to better solutions for the community. In fact, 91% supported the overall recommendations of the Assembly, even if they don’t agree with every part.

Ongoing public problem-solving

Delegates, community members, and leaders formed a new local nonprofit designed to support the implementation of the Assembly’s recommendations and continue developing opportunities for collaborative problem-solving.

How does this work?

Here are some of the ingredients in a deliberation with Unify America:

Build a shared goal

We help the community focus on what the future could look like.

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Explore a wide range of actions

Instead of coming in with the same old ideas, a Unify America deliberation explores a range of solutions to a problem.

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Select citizens’ assemblies

Citizens' assmeblies are made of representative and randomly selected citizens who are invited to hear various perspectives and make recommendations on how to solve the problem.

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Give citizens the chance to be involved and share feedback

This isn’t a typical town meeting with a line of people making statements that are never addressed. Our process provides opportunities for citizens to have their voices heard, to have their concerns addressed, and to foster connections.

The results? Citizens feel heard. And they've co-created the solution, which builds relationships and buy-in.

Is your community a good fit?

As we begin to test and scale our deliberation processes, we’re seeking communities with the following criteria:

  • Community partners who want to empower local residents and embed more public problem-solving into their work
  • Whose resulting solution will likely create real impact in the community
  • With a public problem that needs to be solved
  • With a group of community stakeholders who would champion the deliberation process so that we can get wide community participation

What issues are best for a deliberation?

Issues that matter to your community! Working with other communities, our staff has tackled issues such as housing strategy, economic development, land use, mental health, community health care, diversity and inclusion, and alleviating hunger in a community.

Why does Unify America make a great partner?

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We’re allergic to boring

Our interactive experiences bring civics to life. We take a dash of behavioral science, mix with plain everyday language, and toss with a bit of lighthearted humor.

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We handle the heavy lifting

A Unify Deliberation is turnkey and designed for busy community leaders. We help build the shared goal, recruit representative and randomly selected jury members, host Unify Deliberations, and determine the solution and a plan for implementation. We also help get the word out to your community with an outreach strategy and marketing/communications support.

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We’re unbiased

With more than 50 years of combined experience in deliberation, creative design, marketing, and community organizing, the Unify America team is an accomplished, unbiased partner.


What’s a deliberation, again?

Deliberation (noun):
A small group discussion that aims at producing well-reasoned decisions on public issues. The topic of a deliberation is a difficult problem or public issue – one we struggle to solve. Participants in deliberation explore information, weigh the benefits and tradeoffs of multiple solutions, and ultimately, make a decision about what should be done.

Unify America’s Deliberation (noun):
When an entire jurisdiction–a community–comes together to deeply consider a range of solutions that would solve a public problem. In a Unify America sovereign deliberation, a governmental body invites community members to volunteer to be part of a randomly chosen, demographically representative group to deliberate on an important issue that affects their community.  The community members are given the time and information to understand the complexity of the issue and the trade offs involved in solving it and deliberate on possible solutions.  The work product resulting from the deliberation is then used by the same governmental body to create change and solve the public problem.In deliberation, people act differently—in a good way. They are able to listen across differences, overcome biases, change their minds, and work together with others to decide a solution to a complex public problem.

What would partnering with Unify America for a deliberation look like?

Well, for starters, we’d be interested in meeting with elected officials, government representatives, and community leaders to learn about a problem faced by your community. 

Then, we would broaden participation to determine a shared goal that addresses that problem. Think about a shared goal as a should statement–what should happen. For example, if the problem was that the community didn’t have enough housing, a shared goal might be, “Everyone should be able to find affordable, safe housing.” We at Unify America believe that most of us want things to get better when faced with a problem–in fact, we usually can find a shared goal. That’s our starting place for deliberation, because once we have a shared goal, citizens can take part in deliberative processes to consider a range of actions that work to achieve that goal. 

A Unify America sovereign deliberation provides opportunities for broad participation and public engagement, fostering solutions that have buy-in from a wide range of stakeholders. Simply put, deliberation creates positive change.

Get everyone involved? Won’t that lead to more fighting?

This isn’t a typical town meeting. In the Unify America deliberation process, community members are put into groups that allow different voices to be heard and foster connection through ideas (instead of a line of people making statements that never are addressed). 

And we explore a wide range of actions that could address the problem, so every idea gets tested. 

Where has this type of deliberation worked?

Lots of places, in communities large and small! Here’s a few examples of where deliberations have been held and their focus:

Get in touch with our team about your community

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About Unify America

Meet Unify America, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to helping communities bridge divides and solve problems. 

We leverage interactive design, lessons from history and from your community, technology, and high quality information into a public engagement process called Deliberation, built to involve community stakeholders to identify solutions and achieve a shared goal.

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