Building Trust & Effectiveness in Congress
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town halls

We believe there is a need for a more deliberative and civil dialogue between citizens and elected officials. CMF recently released a research report on the effects of online town halls. The Partnership will continue this work by conducting comparative research on in-person town halls, online town halls, and the telephone town halls that are now common on Capitol Hill.


FEATURED ITEM

Polarized Town Hall Meetings

thumb-townhallFor town hall meetings to be effective and deliberative - defined as the discussion and consideration of all sides of an issue - citizens need to be able to hear each other and the Member. Likewise, Members of Congress need the opportunity to explain their own policy positions in a face-to-face venue and to hear feedback from as broad and representative a group of their constituents as possible. Read More


Transition Tasks for New House Members

This month, the first of four Advocacy Leaders Network (ALN) workshops focused on how to begin working with new Members of Congress. With the new 113th Congress established in office, it’s time to focus on fostering good relationships with the Members and their staff. This ALN event hosted a panel of three current and former House Chiefs of Staff who shed light on best (and worst) practices they’ve encountered as they set up new offices. They also shared some insights into what it’s like setting up a new office. Understanding their experiences can also help you build relationships with these Freshmen Members.

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A #Townhall for a New Age

When used correctly, online communications can be remarkably effective in fostering increased citizen engagement with politics and policy. Through our own research, we have found that online town hall meetings have the potential to be a powerful tool for strengthening the relationship between Members and their constituents.

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Advanced Studies: Innovative Ways to Engage Citizens

In our evaluations of congressional websites we found that there is a digital divide in Congress (PDF), with 'A' and 'F' being the two most common letter grades. While we will continue to cover the basics, we also want to highlight a few new and innovative ways Members of Congress are engaging citizens in the 112th Congress.

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Polarized Town Hall Meetings

For town hall meetings to be effective and deliberative - defined as the discussion and consideration of all sides of an issue - citizens need to be able to hear each other and the Member. Likewise, Members of Congress need the opportunity to explain their own policy positions in a face-to-face venue and to hear feedback from as broad and representative a group of their constituents as possible.

Read more »  
 

Town Hall Meetings: How to Promote an Effective Dialogue

CMF partnered with AmericaSpeaks to showcase a model that Members can utilize to conduct large-scale, deliberative discussions with constituents that promote a meaningful dialogue.

Download the slides from the congressional briefing:  as-cmf-town-hall-slides.pdf  (1.07 MB)

Download the audio from the Webinar.

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Online Town Hall Meetings: Exploring Democracy in the 21st Century

Cover of Online Town Hall Mettings ReportThis report summarizes the findings and recommendations from a study of 21 online town hall meetings between Members of Congress and their constituents which were facilitated by the Congressional Management Foundation and our academic research partners.

The report was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and contributions from Harvard's Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

Online-Town-Hall-Meetings.pdf 1 Mb

Key Findings:

  • Trust in the Member of Congress increased 14%.
  • Participants were more likely than non-participants to describe the Member of Congress as "accessible," "fair," and "compassionate."
  • When asked whether the participants trusted how the Member of Congress handled the issue discussed ("immigration," not exactly a softball topic), 58% "approved" after the session, compared to 20% before the session.
  • These sessions were more likely than traditional venues to attract people from demographics not traditionally engaged in politics and people frustrated with the political system.
  • 95% of participants agreed that such sessions are "very valuable to our democracy" and that they would be interested in doing similar online sessions for other issues.
  • Participation in the town hall increased citizen engagement in politics. Not only were they more likely to vote and follow elections in the news, they were more likely to try and persuade others to vote.

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SETTING COURSE

compass

Now in its 13th edition, Setting Course is a comprehensive guide to managing a congressional office:

  • Part I is for new Members, focusing on setting up an office. 
  • Part II helps Members themselves define their role in the office and in Congress. 
  • Part III provides guidance to veteran and freshman offices on managing specific office operations.