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Ideas That Move Youth Challenge

Working with real people in real communities making real efforts to take action that will support the maximum benefit for everyone is what inspires me, lights me up, brings me to life. How do we really take action that brings about well-being and positive movement for 100% of humanity?

What I know is that there is no single answer. There is no direct path there. And there is no shortage of amazing, intelligent, compassionate humans on this planet to invest themselves in truly making a difference. How do we continue to find one another, find the small things we can do that contribute to the larger story? Find the unique piece that we each have to offer and give our whole hearts towards making that contribution to the world? And how do we enjoy life, honor love and connectivity, and celebrate beauty as much as possible while on the journey?

One initiative that I’m working on now that is deeply inspiring me is the Ideas That Move Youth Challenge. Public schools and private schools collaborating together to create a platform where young voices can be heard and their efforts to be leaders are supported.

Check out some of the ideas they have to make Asheville healthier and more sustainable:

  • Aquaponics as Food Insecurity Solution
    Problem: One out of every six people in Western North Carolina suffers food insecurity, not having an adequate healthy food resource.Solution: An urban solution we propose is to create aquaponic farms in Asheville or other urban areas in Buncombe County, particularly areas with low socio-economic demographics. This will produce fish (i.e Tilapia) as well as vegetables (i.e. lettuce, other greens, tomatoes, peppers, etc.). It can even be completely off the grid and therefore provide a stable food source during conditions of extreme weather.
  • Swim For Life
    Problem: Every year hundreds of stories about people drowning are reported in our area. We see this as a preventable tragedy. Youth need to acquire the ability to swim as a survival skill. Due to income and opportunity limitations many young people would benefit from free swimming lessons.Solution: We would like to create a community service project that would work with local public schools to provide free swimming lessons to students who may not have the opportunity to take them otherwise. This would benefit students in many ways, such as increasing their self-confidence, keeping them safe and providing an exercise outlet for the future.
  • Youth Diversity in the Classroom and School Community
    Problem: Many students who attend SILSA do not realize the issues that arise regarding an equal learning environment for all, due to the segregation of social groups and diversity problems on campus. All students need to feel as if they have the same opportunity as others in order to be successful in high school and beyond.Solution: Our idea is to start a Diversity group on the AHS/SILSA campus. We will meet twice a week to discuss current adolescent issues with people from different backgrounds. It will also be a great opportunity to build new friendships with people of various cultures and build more community on our campus. We will also discuss possible ways to address issues that face teens on our campus.
  • Switching Asheville City Schools buses from diesel to biodiesel
    Problem: Asheville City School buses run on diesel fuel which is a nonrenewable resource and creates air pollution. If we continue using diesel fuel in our buses, our air quality will continue to worsen and we will continue using harmful nonrenewable resources. Western North Carolina is known for clean, healthy air. Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen, which is dangerous for students to be breathing.Solution: Asheville City School buses run on diesel fuel which emits harmful pollutants into our clean air. Diesel exhaust harms our environment and everyone exposed to it, including the 25 million children that are transported by diesel fueled school buses. Particulate matter in diesel exhaust has links to causing asthma, bronchitis, and even lung cancer. Biodiesel is a clean, renewable alternative that reduces diesel air pollution. Biodiesel contains virtually no sulfur. This reduces the amount of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter released.
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Wiser Together: Partnering Across Generations

This article originally appeared in Fieldnotes

BY JUANITA BROWN & ASHLEY COOPER

Tucked away in the small Appalachian community of Burnsville, North Carolina, is a family farm and a place of meeting that has recently become the new home base for Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, Co-Founders of the World Café. Together with Ashley Cooper, a young educator, community organizer, and Executive Director of TEDxNextGenerationAsheville, they are collaborating with Juanita’s 90-year-old mother and younger members from the nearby community to deepen the legacy of the farm for future generations.

In these “notes from the field,” Ashley and Juanita tell a story that will also be featured in the Innovation Marketplace at the upcoming Summer Institute.

Together for Life from Juanita Brown on Vimeo.

FIELDNOTES: It looks like you’ve made quite a radical change in your life, Juanita. How did you come to be living in the Appalachian mountains?

Juanita: In the early 1970s my parents, Millie and Harold Cowan, civil liberties pioneers from Florida, bought a broken-down 90-acre farm in one of the poorest counties of North Carolina, near Asheville. For the next four decades they worked with others in the community to create a special and welcoming environment for people from all walks of life. After my dad passed away, David and I brought my mom back to the farm and spent the summer here. Late one night, I had an “illumination” in which I felt completely embraced by the love and care that my mom and dad had invested here. In that moment, I realized that we could never sell this farm in our lifetimes—and that David and I had a unique opportunity to discover what wanted to unfold here.

In a purely intuitive leap, we left our home of 35 years in California to “listen the future into being,” and to embody here the principles of multi-generational collaboration that we’d been exploring in our global work with the World Café community. As you know, we’ve co-hosted many multi-generational dialogues since helping to organize the first multi-gen learning program at the Shambhala Institute in 2004. Our farm project is providing a place based learning field for us to deepen into the principles and practices of intergenerational hosting and partnerships. We see this field as having implications for community resilience and for organizations across sectors that are seeking to engage the wisdom and expertise of all of their members in addressing critical challenges.

FN: And what is the path that brought you into this collaboration, Ashley?

Ashley: Growing up in Georgia, the Appalachian mountains have always been my “heart home.” The West Coast swept me away for many years, but my return was inevitable. The timing fortuitously aligned with Juanita and David’s decision to move to the region. They have been colleagues, friends, mentors, and co-inspiritors over the years. I embraced the opportunity to learn and co-create with them while at the same time being adopted by a new “grandmother,” Millie!

The nature of this project and this place drew me in—the intergenerational partnerships and the shared dedication to processes of engagement grounded in principles that nourish life, justice, learning and the common good. It is a unique opportunity to be part of a group of passionate people, as we move between our roles as learners, teachers, friends, mentors, and family. At the core, we are living the practice of mutual partnerships where appreciation and respect for each other’s contributions is based on recognizing that each of us has unique gifts to offer, whatever our age or stage of life.

FN: Why is multi-generational collaboration and partnership so important to you both?

Juanita: I have always been fascinated by large-scale systems change and what might enable whole societies to shift into more life-affirming patterns. Over the years I had the great good fortune to have older corporate and community leaders take me under their professional and personal wings as I engaged with this work.

I began to think abut the challenges we face at every level of system today. I realized that there is a huge untapped large-scale social change potential in the wisdom, experience, and perspective of younger leaders as well as children. I began to ask myself: How can we honor and use the unique contributions and gifts that reside in all of us, as a single generation, alive and awake together—whatever our age or stage of life?

Ashley: Young children are my key teachers. I learn from their honest perception of the world, bright curiosity, and playful ways of engaging life. They keep me attuned —reminding me to be in the present moment and inviting me to enthusiastically engage my whole self in the process of living.

At the same time, I’ve been greatly influenced by many older leaders and colleagues in the fields of education, process arts, conversational leadership and therapy. Relationships that bridge the lifespan have provided a strong foundation for my life and work. Youngers shake up my field of vision and invite me to see things from a totally different angle. Elders have acknowledged the value of my contributions and enabled me to stretch into the unknown edges of my capacities with greater confidence as I learn from their experiences, stories and insights.

At this time of global challenge to our common future it seems irresponsible to believe that we can make wise decisions without listening to contributions from all members of the circle of life. The wisdom of multiple generations is desperately needed. I also find life more personally exciting and fun when I am partnering across generations!

If intergenerational collaborations provide such potential for large-scale social change, why don’t we see more of it?

Juanita: Collaboration between generations has traditionally looked like grandparents reading to small children, a one-way power dynamic between professional mentors and their younger colleagues, and awkward attempts to manage a next-generation workforce. There are also strong beliefs, held by many, that “youngers are to be seen not heard,” or even that the final decision should always be made by the oldest person in the room. These cultural and societal norms and habits seem to shape so much of our thinking.

Ashley: I can relate to this personally. A colleague once said to me, “I’m older than you, I’m supposed to be wiser than you.” Not everyone will say something that direct, but I often feel that tone of a response, and sometimes it even has more of a dismissive edge. The challenge seems to be our willingness to be humble and genuinely recognize when we are learning. If new understanding is igniting inside of me because of something another person is doing or saying, I am learning from them. They are contributing to my knowing and influencing my actions and decisions. This is a precious gift and we have the opportunity to step beyond traditional boundaries and be open to learn from whoever has the wisdom of the moment to share, regardless of their age or background.

FN: Can you describe how you see your vision for the farm unfolding?

Juanita: We aren’t approaching the visioning process in the traditional manner of creating our preferred picture of the future and driving towards it. More, we are together “listening the future into being.” We are experiencing each of the four seasons and asking ourselves questions such as: What is the story of this farm and its role in the local community?  How are we relating to the land and how is the land relating to us?  How can we honor and deepen the legacy of my parents and of those who came before? Assuming the farm has its own voice, what is it saying to us?  Sensing into the whole, what are the minimum, elegant, next steps?

Ashley: In addition to our own listening and imagining, we are inviting people who visit the farm to share their images of possibility and creative inspirations for this place. We are committed to collective intelligence informing our actions and we trust that this intuitive and collaborative approach will yield paths forward that none of us could have imagined on our own. For example, the local members of our team whose families have lived for generations in this mountain culture have helped us “see” different aspects of this place and its possibilities.

FN: What does this look like right now? How are you spending your days on the farm, Juanita?

Juanita: I´m experiencing the skills and wisdom emanating from the younger members of our team.  For example, Justin, age 22, has a unique capacity to find unexpected and innovative solutions to dilemmas related to renovating our 100-year-old barn while keeping its unique character. Not only am I thrilled to learn from him, but the other young carpenter he is working with will often turn to him and ask for his insight. At the same time, when I, as the elder, ask directly for his opinion, I notice that he will sometimes hesitate as I am breaking one of the unspoken cultural rules about relationships between the generations.

Ashley, as a ¨GiGi¨(girl geek!) has become my technical mentor, I am mentoring her in the next stages of her community organizing work, and we are partnering together on this farm project. Another of our team, Thomas Arthur, contributed the short video and photos about the project which accompanies this article, which I could never have imagined! For me, what is unique about these collaborations is that we are each ¨giving it all we´ve got¨ within the context of the cultural and historical factors that have shaped each of our lives.

FN: What have you been learning so far that may have broader organizational, community and societal, implications?

Ashley: We’re discovering that co-mentoring is a more useful construct than traditional mentoring, eldering, or teaching. By being open to fresh perspectives and actively learning from one another’s life experiences and skills, we are accessing leverage points that far exceed our individual capacities.

Juanita: Organizations of all types are facing critical issues as Baby Boomers, now in their 50s and 60s, enter their older years in a world that is dramatically different than the one they have been operating in. Doing it the way we’ve always done it is no longer an option. Younger employees deserve to be considered equal contributors to innovative solutions rather than needing to “wait their turn.” If organizations are to thrive in these uncertain and turbulent times, these new perspectives and redefined partnerships between generations in the workplace are sorely needed.

Elders can enter the legacy stage of their lives by forming alliances with younger leaders around the crucial challenges that not only organizations but also communities are facing today. This will require a new paradigm for all generations and we want to be part of the movement that is responding to this opportunity!

We’d love to hear your reflections and experiences with intergenerational collaboration and learning—in your organizations and in your communities.
Feel free to be in touch with us at:
Ashley: Ashley@easilyamazed.com
Juanita: Juanita@conversationalleadership.com


Juanita BrownAshley Cooper and Samantha Tan will be presenting a Skills and Lenses for Innovation session on Multi-Generational Leadership: Shaping Tomorrow Together at the Innovation Marketplace during the ALIA Summer Institute in Columbus in June.

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This is a great explanation for the project I am working on right now… Looking at the reality that systems are living organisms and operate like living organisms. What can we thus learn from what we already know makes an organism healthy and vibrant? How can we apply that knowledge towards social organizing, action and innovation?

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14 year-old challenges people to act and care

“People need to stop trying to raise awareness and instead raise care.”

What do you care enough about that you’re willing to take action? I mean really taking action. I’m asking myself this question…

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Supporting Change Through Friendship and Compassion


Glyness Hernandez

Today I honor present and past teachers, visionaries, activists and leaders who have dedicated their brilliance and gifts to creating a world that works for all, opening opportunities in subtle and bold ways for freedom, equality, justice and healing.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

At last year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Rally I was walking with a first grader I worked with. Suddenly he looked up at me and said, “Oh, I know why you’re here today, Ashley.” “Why?” I asked, curious to discover the connection he had just made. “Because this is all about friendship… and you’re the friendship teacher.”

He taught me such a simple lesson in that moment – friendship is at the heart of the work we do and efforts we make towards creating a world where all people may flourish. Every child has the right to reach their full potential and feel loved. Friendship and friendliness are powerful forces that we use to support one another in living our full potentials. We can extend care and compassion, invite intimacy and connect with one another in nourishing ways that leave us feeling loved, respected, appreciated and capable of being the beautiful and potent forces we are.

Today I also want to thank the extraordinary people in my life who care for me, encourage me and have given me so much practical help in my pursuit to become a leader in transforming the United States’ Education System. I applied to Harvard’s new program in Education Leadership last week and have been astonishingly humbled by the generosity, encouragement, feedback, belief and care that has been bestowed upon me and this journey I am on. Thank you to each of you who gave of yourselves to support me. Words fail to carry the weight of my gratitude.

All the conversations I’ve had since stepping into the application process have fiercely enlivened my belief that we can do this. We can make a difference and organize ourselves into action, facilitating the change that is necessary so the dreams of Dr. King and so many other compassionately active forces may come to fruition. Through our friendships, our willingness to drop barriers and open vulnerably to genuine connections with one another, we can create transformative change. I am awed by the people that I know, the work that you are doing, the lives that you are living and the hearts that you continuously touch. I am awed by the human power, the power of love that swells forth upon this Earth and the impact it has in so many subtle and complex ways. And I am eager to meet, connect with and learn from those I have not yet met. I see this beautiful tapstery of connections. We are weaving together the social fabric that supports the well-being and actualization of children on this Earth.

Every child (every person) has the right to feel loved and respected and valued for their contributions. We can create opportunities for children to feel safe and stay connected to their intelligence, creativity and inspiration, as well as their neurological impulse to learn and love. We can affect the future of our world by investing in the livelihood and well-being of our children and the social systems that impact their lives.

“With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is the work I am called to do in service and in love. And I extend the deepest swells of gratitude to the dear friends who support me on this journey and to the many teachers and leaders who have paved the way for me and others who are on this path of living, learning and loving.

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Good Being is Contagious

“Good being is contagious.”

~ Brandon Leonard, Youth Mentor

I met Brandon at workshop during a mentoring conference. His bright spirit and
compassionate perspective was the highlight of the workshop. This comment rocked my world!

Photo by carf from a powerful story that is part of their Children At Risk Foundation. This organization is an incredible example of using social media to invite involvement for a meaningful cause. I just stumbled upon them because they have very moving pictures that are all under a creative commons copyright. I’m in awe as I look more into this rabbit hole of goodness I’ve just discovered. It’s true, good being is contagious.
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A Long List of Links

Here’s a peek at my internet life over the last few weeks. These are all the tabs open in my browser right now. Some are pages I want to go back to, others I have yet to explore, some are open as references for current projects I am engaged in, and a few I just wanted to share with you! Enjoy and please do tell me if something catches your attention.

Happiness, Well-being, Inspiration

  • 10 Things Science Says will Make You Happy:
    #1 Savor Everyday Moments
    – Pause now and then to smell a rose or watch children at play. Study participants who took time to “savor” ordinary events that they normally hurried through, or to think back on pleasant moments from their day, “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression,” says psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.

  • Happiness Can Spread Among People Like a Contagion, Study Indicates:
    The study of more than 4,700 people who were followed over 20 years found that people who are happy or become happy boost the chances that someone they know will be happy. The power of happiness, moreover, can span another degree of separation, elevating the mood of that person’s husband, wife, brother, sister, friend or next-door neighbor.

    Experts praised the study as a landmark in the growing body of evidence documenting the influence of personal connections and the importance of positive emotions…. The implications are you can’t look at individuals as little entities devoid of their social context.”

    “For a long time, we measured the health of a country by looking at its gross domestic product,” said Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego who co-authored the study. “But our work shows that whether a friend’s friend is happy has more influence than a $5,000 raise. So at a time when we’re facing such economic difficulties, the message could be, ‘Hang in there. You still have your friends and family, and these are the people to rely on to be happy.’ “

    “Laughter and singing and smiling tune the group emotionally,” Seligman said. “They get them on the same wavelength so they can work together more effectively as group.”

  • Benefits of Busy Parents Practicing Self-Care:
    What is involved in self-care? It is useful to look at four dimensions of people’s lives in thinking about our range of needs, as well as some activities or techniques that may be readily available for replenishing ourselves. The group was asked to think about people’s intellectual, spiritual, emotional/social, and physical needs and to generate ways people might care for themselves with respect to those needs.

    The intellectual dimension is defined as the need to expand one’s mind. Spirituality includes uplifting or inspirational aspects of one’s life including those that relate to the core value system. The emotional/social aspect involves learning about oneself, especially through relating to others. The physical dimension is concerned with taking care of one’s body. According to Ms. Reeves, it is essential to renew ourselves in these four realms, and each person is responsible for self-renewal.

  • Would You Guys Just Knock It Off? 10 Steps to Peace in Your Household from the magazine Half Full: Science for Raising Happy Kids:
    Positive conflict resolution is pretty simple, but unless you are a lot smarter than me (entirely possible) you might need to reference this list a few times to get the hang of it.

    Each time we take kids through those 10 steps, they learn that they can solve problems in ways that make them feel competent and effective. They’ve increased their ability to cooperate, to empathize, and to build strong relationships. So conflict really is a good thing. And so are fights between friends. Why? Conflict provides the fuel for growth we all need to become healthy, happy, and resilient adults.

  • Imogen Heap kept a video blog, i-Blog, while working on her most recent album. I’m slowly making my way through her videos. I’ve fallen in love with her (I was a fan of her music… but now it’s grown to her person!). Her creativity and bubbling enthusiasm are highly contagious and inspirational for me!
  • 10-Minute Practices to Reconnect with Spirit.
    Roger Walsh, the author of Essential Spirituality, was a guest teacher at Integral Institute’s Integral Leadership seminars, where he presented the seven essential practices of the world’s great Wisdom Traditions. Here is a selection of the experiential exercises led by Roger at those seminars. Each clip is 10-15 minutes long, and is a quick and easy way to recontact the sacred dimensions of this and every moment. Just sit back, relax, and let the next eight minutes be devoted to your higher Self….Experiential exercises led by Roger Walsh
  • Danah Boyd shares a tip for how to deal with your email inbox while on vacation Warning: Email Sabbatical is Imminent:

    No email will be received by danah’s ornery INBOX between December 11 and January 19!

    For those who are unaware of my approach to vacation… I believe that email eradicates any benefits gained from taking a vacation by collecting mold and spitting it back out at you the moment you return. As such, I’ve trained my beloved INBOX to reject all email during vacation. I give it a little help in the form of a .procmail file that sends everything directly to /dev/null. The effect is very simple. You cannot put anything in my queue while I’m away (however lovingly you intend it) and I come home to a clean INBOX. Don’t worry… if you forget, you’ll get a nice note from my INBOX telling you to shove off, respect danah’s deeply needed vacation time, and try again after January 19.

Youth and Education Related

  • Mighty Writers 2008-2009. Students blog their thoughts about why their school, Arbor Heights, should be kept open (and not closed as has been proposed by Seattle Schools).
  • The Guiding Lights Weekend: A playful, experiential conference on the art of mentoring where you will learn concrete ways to motivate, mentor and inspire. The Guiding Lights Weekend is a place to reflect, clarify values, try new things and imagine possibilities. You might just find (or become) the mentor you’ve been waiting for. Join me January 30th and 31st.

    Experiential workshops. Participatory panels. Talking Circles. Big-Idea Presentations. Community conversations. Awards. Performances. A few surprises and a lot of fun!

Social Change, Taking Action, Leadership

  • The Girl Effect:The powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in their society.
  • Playing for Change: Playing for Change is a multi-media movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music.
  • Best Buy @15 Challenge: 15 teams will wil $10,000 to change their communities. Every week, a voter between the ages of 13 and 20 has the chance to win $500 for a school or organization of their choice and an IPod shuffle for themself!

    I learned about this from the team Richards Rwanda: helping girls in Rwanda get an education. Richards Rwanda was created by Jessica Markowitz when she was in the 6th grade, shes now in eight grade. My family hosted a man named Richard who told me about the genocide hat occurred in 1994. Many children lost their parents and could no longer afford school. Richards Rwanda is an all girl group supporting girls in Rwanda to go to school. We hope to build a school or learning center for the girls we are supporting and the next generations.

  • Charter for Compassion: By recognizing that the Golden Rule is fundamental to all world religions, the Charter for Compassion can inspire people to think differently about religion. This Charter is being created in a collaborative project by people from all over the world. It will be completed in 2009. Use this site to offer language you’d like to see included. Or inspire others by sharing your own story of compassion.
  • Is compassion catching on? Tracing the impact of a historic event: An article in ParentMap Magazine and a little self promotion! “I think it’s a slow process,” says Roots instructor Ashley Cooper. “We have to touch people’s willingness to put compassion into action. In my school community, people are talking more spontaneously about empathy and compassion. To me, that’s a great outcome.

    “But I think it’s really important that we move beyond the Dalai Lama. It was fabulous that he was here, but I really feel like it’s up to us as ‘normal people.’ What are we going to do to make something different happen?

    “I feel hopeful, and I feel like Seattle has that capacity,” Cooper says. “It’s a matter of: How much do people want to do these things that are important — and what are we each willing to do to start making a difference?”

  • Let’s Say Thanks In Support of Our Troops: This website gives you an opportunity to send a free printed postcard to U.S. military personnel stationed overseas showing your support and appreciation for their service to our country.
  • Light Up the Night for Equality: On December 20th, we ask that you join us again for a nation-wide demonstration that will make an impact on the private sector. Candlelight vigils will be held at commercial centers in cities across the country in remembrance of the rights that once were for 18,000 marriages, and in honor of the rights that one day will be again – for EVERYONE.
  • Diversitywork.org on A Framework for Transformation and Change: As simple as it may sound, the goal of social justice education is social justice and liberation. Liberation is defined in many ways: freedom, equality, fairness, equal access to resources, respectful treatment, living without the struggles, to name a few. Liberation means human kind will be closer to the achievement of unity. Our society must embark on a transformational process if we our to achieve this goal. Transformation means change, and this change will not come about from well-intentioned people simply wishing it so. Action has to be taken.
  • Project Implicit:
    It is well known that people don’t always ‘speak their minds’, and it is suspected that people don’t always ‘know their minds’. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology.

    This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods. This new method is called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT for short.

    We will ask you (optionally) to report your attitudes toward or beliefs about these topics, and provide some general information about yourself.

  • The Moment of Leadership by Michael Herman: Harrison Owens says, “If you are going to talk about Leadership you have to talk a lot about caring, responsibility, and the point where they cross — which I call Nexus of Caring.” Michael’s response: “I think what Harrison is calling Nexus of Caring, I would call the Moment of Leadership. The crossing of caring and responsibility that is the cause for motion. And it’s just that small, a moment. Like an invitation…The practice of doing something about the thing you care about. Beginning. The nexus of caring and responsibility. The moment of leadership.”
  • Change.gov: Building the community: A guide to comments:
    These online conversations are truly groundbreaking — no other transition team has ever opened these types of channels of communication with the American people. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and look forward to building this dialogue.

    We’ve read through the thousands of comments posted on Change.gov, and are excited by the volume of participation.

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