Body Text Size: A A
The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Columbus


How do you define civil discourse?

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013

LWVMC’s January 12 workshop, “Promoting Civil Discourse,” sparked robust discussion about how to define what civil discourse means in specific enough terms to articulate its essential characteristics.

Civil Discourse

Does civil discourse mean simply common courtesy and politeness? Can it support more robust and passionate conversation about issues, which seem to tug and pull at the seams of democracy? Are positions so polarized that necessary problem solving conversations simply aren’t possible?

A number of universities and public organizations have developed institutes and other programs that provide a wealth of information and resources on civil discourse and other related topics. As part of its program planning, the CEEC has reviewed a variety of resources on the general topic of civil discourse and learned of additional organizations and resources from workshop facilitator, Maggie Lewis. Since the LWVMC 4R Strategic Plan’s Goal 1 is “Cultivate the belief in and practice of civil discourse among all community members,” and one of the strategies for implementing the goal is “to model civil discourse in all public events,” the CEEC is compiling a list of resources to inform ongoing discussion of what civil discourse is and is not and how to promote it.  

A small sample of organizations and what they offer is as follows:

National Institute for Civil Discourse (at the University of Arizona): Institute resources include a newsletter, links to research on the subject, a blog, and video clips.

Institute for Civility in Government: Nonpartisan non-profit organization of citizens; runs seminars and publishes “Reclaiming Civility in the Public Square: Ten Rules That Work.”

No Labels: Grassroots nonpartisan group seeking to “stop the fighting in order to do crucial problem solving”; provides a fact checking feature and news updates as well as ways to get involved.

Public Conversations Project: Aims to encourage and participate in effective communication in “conversations that matter” on politics, religion, higher education, etc.; offers a blog and workshops.

Add your voice to this on-going discussion! League members are invited to suggest organizations, books and other publications, or media sources that focus on civil discourse by emailing their recommendations to