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Katz discusses diplomatic life in Portugal

Allan Katz was welcomed back to Tallahassee with open arms and lots of “your Excellency” jokes Monday night as he spoke about his work as United States Ambassador to Portugal, a job he took on in early 2010. The hour-and-a-half presentation was a fundraiser for The Village Square, an organization focused on building constructive dialogue and founded by Katz and Bill Law. “One of the things that makes the job so good is there are very few typical days,” said Katz, responding to a question by Read all »

Tallahassee Democrat: Liz Joyner, “On Jefferson and Adams”

jefferson-and-adams-obit Printed in The Tallahassee Democrat:

“You and I ought not to die until we have explained ourselves to each other.” So began the late-life correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the founding fathers described in the epic HBO mini-series “John Adams” as “the north and south poles of our revolution.” Once friends, differences in opinion and political competition had taken a toll. They, like others in the founders’ generation, had deep philosophical disagreements. But as they went about Read all »

Tallahassee Democrat: Crossing the divide

In the capital city a few years ago, a group of local citizens who happened to know and respect each other in spite of being of different parties, were apparently looking farther down the road than the next election. They predicted the folly of remaining perpetually in two camps and sensed the gridlock that comes of resisting movement toward common ground on what are fundamentally concerns common to all: jobs, health, education, natural resources, public safety and so forth. Read all »

“Recount” makes Knight Foundation news

Knight Foundation KIt was ten years ago last week that America woke up without a president-elect, in what was to become the 37 bizarre days of legal wrangling and political brinkmanship we know as the Florida Recount. To mark the anniversary, Knight Community Information Challenge project The Village Square brought together seven of the central players in the drama that riveted America in the most challenging transition of power in American’s history. The event received national press coverage. Read all »

Associated Press: Hanging chads make a comeback

Associated Press: Memories of hanging, dimpled and pregnant chads were revived Tuesday, 10 years after the start of Florida’s 2000 election recount that made George W. Bush president. Chads, those little fragments voters punched out of paper cards — or left hanging, dimpled or pregnant — are the enduring symbols of the recount. The punch card ballots, now banned in Florida, were just one part, though, of the historic event recalled by judges, lawyers and other participants at a reunion sponsored Read all »

Mary Ann Lindley: “Americana at its most beguiling”

Tallahassee Democrat: “A story so bizarre it’s got to be true,” is the billing given for this Tuesday’s Florida Recount Reunion that The Village Square is hosting downtown. It’s been — how could it be? — a full decade since that historically indecisive presidential election brought the world to our feet here in the Florida capital. Quite literally, for 37 days, the foot of the Capitol and Supreme Court building on Duval Street took on the appearance of a camp site with breezy white tents shielding camera equipment and TV Read all »

Tallahassee Democrat: Peaceful Village

Remember the fracas surrounding the town hall meetings on health care? The founders of The Village Square do. Their efforts to bring together diametrically opposed ideological groups has earned a $72,000 slice of $24 million offered through the Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge. The money will be used to support programs that help concerned individuals follow Albert Einstein’s charge: “To the village square we must carry the facts … from there must come America’s voice.” Read all »

Today’s FSView: ‘We the People’ project wins major grant

The Community Foundation of North Florida, partnering with the local Village Square, recently received a $72,000 challenge grant to go toward renewing the dialogue regarding community issues. “The whole idea is to bring people together that don’t agree politically and bridge the partisan divide,” said Liz Joyner, executive director of the Village Square. The Knight Community Information Challenge is a highly-competitive national competition that chooses only 24 winners every year. The premise of the competition Read all »

Village Square wins highly competitive national Knight Community Information Challenge Grant

Tallahassee, Fla., – The Community Foundation of North Florida, in partnership with The Village Square, recently received a $72,000 challenge grant to revitalize the dialogue among the city’s diverse residents around community issues. The project entitled “We the People” will create a 21st Century virtual and face-to-face public square by offering unique town hall forums, in addition to constructive online engagement through a community problem-solving Wiki. The project’s goal is to renew Read all »

Mary Ann Lindley: Progress calls for ‘healing language’

In today’s Tallahassee Democrat, Mary Ann Lindley writes about our Jim Leach 50-state Civility Tour lecture:

One night last week, I was inspired, however, by a small group of people who are trying to restore civility in public conversation – and therefore help us make better progress in solving our problems. Our big three, the economy, health care, war, are all stymied now by vast differences of opinion and approach – and high levels of mistrust – of each other’s ideas on how to move forward.

The Village Square, an informal civic group that’s now two years old here in Tallahassee, had invited to town former Iowa Republican Congressman Jim Leach, who is now chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Leach isn’t exactly a rock star on a world tour, but he is setting out to visit all 50 states on his mission of reinventing civility as a path to solving some of the above gargantuan problems.

It was just a few days before the earthquake in Haiti when The Nature Conservancy’s Andy McLeod, introducing Leach, spoke of avenues to progress. “Its saving grace is in a society that seeks to cultivate moral sensibility,” he said.

In its government institutions and among its citizens, progress can hardly occur without moral sensibility; that is, respect for each other.

This is notably lacking today with rancor that’s become business-as-usual and widely accepted. Spouting off is habit-forming – if even the loudest spouters realize it’s not very helpful.

Leach is mercifully self-effacing, noting that “few subjects are duller than public manners.” Yet his proposition is a simple challenge that any one of us can apply to ourselves (and our blogs): We can use words, he said, “to bring out our better angels” or we can use them dishonestly to confuse and undermine each other.

When it comes to the rivalry of ideas, Leach said, our choice is to “stir anger, polarize and compel violence” with what we say.

Or, conversely, we can use “healing language” such as Lincoln used in his second inaugural address, inspiring the nation to bind up its Civil War wounds “with malice toward none.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Breaking news: The Village Square’s “We the People” awarded Knight Foundation grant through the Community Foundation of North Florida as one of 24 innovative ideas nationwide

Our project:

Recipient: The Community Foundation of North Florida

Project: We the People

Award: $72,000

In an effort to revitalize the dialogue among the city’s diverse residents, this grant will help launch “The Village Square: We the People,” a 21st century virtual and real world public square. The project will offer unique town hall forums in addition to constructive online engagement and a community problem-solving Wiki. Organizers aim to renew Tallahassee’s marketplace of ideas where good solutions rise from an informed citizenship, and where abundant information can be channeled into constructive results.

The entire Knight Foundation Press Release:


Knight Foundation Spurs New Round of Local News and Information Projects Nationwide

Knight Community Information Challenge Winners Are Part of a Growing Number of Local Foundations Seeking to Meet Local Information Needs

MIAMI (Jan. 13, 2010) – Twenty-four innovative ideas that will help meet America’s information needs have received $4.3 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The projects – submitted by community and place-based foundations nationwide in a Knight Foundation contest – include:

Examining the Chicago area’s changing media landscape – and funding journalism innovators to fill the information voids; 
Creating information campaigns to spread the word about pressing issues, including how to end gun violence in New York City, and improve early childhood education in Boulder, Colorado, and Funding journalists and online news sites in Wyoming, Arkansas, Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida to produce news in the public interest. 

The projects represent the second-year winners of the Knight Community Information Challenge, a five-year, $24 million contest that helps community and place-based foundations find creative ways to use new media and technology to keep residents informed and engaged.

“Information is as important to a thriving democracy as clean air, jobs and schools. As leaders, local foundations are taking the initiative to meet those information needs,” said Trabian Shorters, Knight Foundation’s vice president for communities, who leads the challenge. “These projects help ensure that everyone has the information necessary to make decisions about their governments and their lives.”

Among the winners – a full list is below – are foundations rural and urban, large and small. For the first time, several foundations joined together this year to create regional projects for greater impact.

All are part of a growing movement to help fund local news and information projects and ensure that residents are informed and engaged. In fact, J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, recently found that more than 207 foundations have funded $135.86 million in grants to 128 projects since 2005.

The Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s oldest community foundations, is now a two-time winner. With its grant, the trust will expand its Community News Matters program, which fosters new ways of informing the Chicago region through grants to local media innovators. In addition, the trust will conduct a study examining strengths and weaknesses of the area’s information infrastructure and convene a conference on the topic.

“The Trust, like other community foundations, is acutely aware of the changing media landscape in our communities. We recognize that access to information is essential for the quality of life and democracy of those we serve,” said Terry Mazany, the Trust’s president and CEO. “We applaud Knight Foundation for motivating community foundations across the nation to become real laboratories invested in the development of the future of community news and information.”

The challenge complements the sweeping recommendations of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, a joint project of the Aspen Institute and Knight Foundation.  In its report issued in October, the Commission asserts that democracy in America is threatened by the lack of equal access to quality information. In addition to 15 urgent recommendations, the report provides a checklist that communities can use to determine which information needs are being met, and which need attention. The report is available at www.knightcomm.org.

Both the Knight Commission and the Knight Community Information Challenge are part of Knight Foundation’s Media Innovation Initiative, a $100 million plus effort to meet America’s information needs. More at www.knightfoundation.org/mii

Knight Foundation will again accept applications for the Knight Community Information Challenge beginning in early February. For more information on the challenge, visit www.informationneeds.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.