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Group of bipartisan legislators built relationships, committed to engaging more constructively during public policy process

ATHENS, GA. – Next Generation, a program of the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD), led 20 freshmen from the Georgia State Legislature in a workshop to advance civility in state politics. The workshop, Building Trust through Civil Discourse, aims to improve civil dialogue, understanding, and a culture of civility. It took place at the annual training hosted by the Georgia Legislative Leadership Institute at the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government on August 14.

During the workshop, elected officials grew their skills in civil discourse, shared their personal life journeys, identified areas of common interest, and built and enhanced relationships across party lines.  Legislators left with an action plan they created that was tailored to specific needs of their legislature.

Brent Hill, the director of Next Generation, brings nearly 20 years of legislative experience in the Idaho State Senate, 10 years spent as Senate President Pro Tempore.  “The important questions we ask in every workshop is, ‘How did we arrive at our current beliefs and did we gain insight from others here?’” Hill explained. “This sharing invites us to seek beyond personal beliefs for a deeper understanding of others.”

Keith Allred, Executive Director of NICD, led a discussion about the conclusion of our nation’s Founders that engaging each other with civility and respect across partisan lines is crucial to the success of the American republic.

A select group of trained lawmakers from both political parties facilitated the discussions: former State Representative Kelley Packer (R-ID), Senator John Unger (D-WV), former Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-TN), and former Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-OH).

About 50 percent of Members of Congress start their careers in the statehouse.   NICD’s goal is to engage as many of the 7,000 state legislators in the U.S. as possible prior to their service in Congress.  Doing so can improve bipartisanship in state legislatures and help overcome the gridlock at the federal level.

“From talking about the challenges and need for civil discourse to the creation of action plans, really significant achievements came about thanks to the leadership of these Georgia state lawmakers,” says Hill. “We simply facilitate the conversations. They put in the hard work,” he concluded.

Next Generation’s goal is to create and strengthen relationships across the aisle through mutual trust based on effective communication. Next Generation is housed at NICD, which works to address incivility and political dysfunction in American democracy by promoting structural and behavioral change. For more information on NICD or Next Generation visit: nxtgenusa.org.

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The National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) is a non-profit, non-partisan institute dedicated to addressing incivility and political partisanship in American democracy. Informed by research, NICD’s programs Next Generation, CommonSense American, Engaging Differences, and Golden Rule 2020 create opportunities for elected officials and the public to engage with different voices and improve public discourse. Learn more at nicd.arizona.edu