|The Kettering Foundation|
Martin Carcasson works with students at Colorado State University to help communities solve problems while exposing students to community issues. Carcasson, an associate professor of communication studies at Colorado State University (CSU) and founding director of the CSU Center for Public Deliberation (CPD) is “Dedicated to enhancing local democracy through improved public communication and community problem solving.”
The CPD is now seven years old and has trained hundreds of students and community members in facilitation, community issue analysis, and public meeting engagement. Two such meetings titled, Reinventing Transportation took place at two locations in Loveland and Fort Collins, CO in March 2014 focused on creating an aging friendly community.
Carcasson and 30+ of his students partnered with seven organizations including the Loveland Chilson Center, the Fort Collins Senior Center, the Senior Transportation Coalition, the Larimer County Office On Aging and Larimer County Mobility Council to host the meetings which were attended by 90+ community members.
Martín stated the following about the Reinventing Transportation meetings; "Since November 2011, the CPD working with the Fort Collins Senior Center, the Loveland Chilson Center, and the Fort Collins & Loveland Senior Advisory Boards, has engaged over 500 people at five events on how to build on our current strengths and keep Larimer County as a wonderful place for all ages. The March meetings respond to what we heard from both Fort Collins and Loveland; that issues connected to transportation are the most important for us as a community to address and will explore “rethinking transportation” with an emphasis on ensuring our senior population remains engaged and enjoys a high quality of life.”
Martin states in the Kettering interview; "The focus is primarily on the community level, which we describe as Northern Colorado, or perhaps more accurately Larimer County. As we have matured, I would say that we run projects in the community, of which convening public forums is a key aspect. We began as an organization that primarily ran meetings, but a lot of the work we do now is focused on before or after the meetings themselves".
"We essentially provide a set of services tied to deliberative engagement, including analyzing issues from an impartial, deliberative perspective, to working to identify and connect a broad range of stakeholders to the issue, to facilitating productive conversations among those stakeholders, to writing reports on those meetings, and finally to helping groups move towards actions."
Carcasson feels that "communities need capacity for passionate impartiality to take on wicked problems, and that while universities are not really a good fit, they are likely the best shot communities have." He goes on to say, "...organizations like United Way, League of Women Voters, and community foundations can also provide passionate impartial infrastructure, but doing the work well takes so much time and so many different skills, I think it is hard to expect them to be able to do it on their own."
The Reinventing Transportation meetings are an excellent example of the success of Martin's program. The level of analysis from the community feedback received at the events would not have been possible without Martin and his students help. The results are still being analyzed but multiple organizations are eagerly awaiting the CPD final report which will help them to better understand the public's senior transportation needs and concerns.
For the full interview with Martin and to learn more about the CSU Center for Public Deliberation, visit the Kettering Foundation @ http://kettering.org/kfnews/observations-from-a-hub-of-democracy/
Martin Carcasson was interviewed by Jack Becker. Jack Becker is a former research assistant at the Kettering Foundation and currently a graduate student at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He can be reached at email@example.com.