The Story of Citizen Discourse

““They say conversation, rule a nation, I can tell.
But I can never right my wrongs ‘less I write it down for real.”
— Kendrick Lamar, Poetic Justice



It was a difficult birth mainly due to the length of the labor and uncertainty around what exactly was being brought to life. 

Two years ago I made a choice to dive head first into a destination-less journey.  My unstated and, at the time, unrealized goal was to find more purpose in my life. 

Today, two years later, I honor the scary and exhilarating journey that has led me to today’s mile marker.

A lot has changed over the past two years. When the initial seeds of Citizen Discourse sprouted the notion of the deterioration of democracy and the rise of authoritarianism was merely a hypothetical.

The state of civility (and our union) is weak! 

Many of us sit with a great deal of discomfort, worry, fear and anger as we watch the demise of our values, rights and liberties.  Before our very eyes.  It’s hard to not look away.  But we have to keep our eyes on the prize if we want to preserve, protect and defend these values. 

This is my final post before Citizen Discourse’s transformation into an online media + co-learning platform for teens.  In the very near future this site will be rebranded and reoriented and ultimately function completely differently.  I am so excited to finally share with you my vision.


What is Citizen Discourse?  And what are we trying to accomplish?

At the highest level, Citizen Discourse is an experiment.  Can we rehab our relationship to the role (duties, responsibilities, privileges) of citizen in a civil society?  If a healthy citizen is someone who can think critically, communicate effectively and collaborate with folks from different backgrounds and diverse world views, then what can we do to encourage this kind of emotional development?

Just as segments of society have embraced the slow food movement, in a similar fashion Citizen Discourse invites a slow discourse movement. Understanding requires good listening with focused attention.  Taking your time to think before you speak.  Read and write with thought and intention.   

This fall, Citizen Discourse will pilot an online platform for teens that cultivates a culture of respect.  A safe (and fun) place for sharing, learning, organizing, connecting and engaging.  

By building a technology platform designed with a teen market in mind we will leverage growing partnerships with academia so a user benefits from the best practices in social and emotional development.  Through teen interns and ambassadors, along with a global teen advisory board, we aim to integrate our target markets' voices, ideas, insights into every element of this creation.

What is the user experience?

An invite to Citizen Discourse enables members to join “hives” based on interest area and organizational association.  Organizational “hives” invite a functional approach to collaborating and communicating when members are not meeting in person. Imagine a debate team using a private hive to share relevant articles, craft arguments and offer feedback.  A student council, youth group or book club can coordinate and communicate in a virtual co-working space.   

Content is presented through a post partisan lens by media, nonprofit and academic partners.  Stories can be shared by individual Citizen Discourse contributors in the form of a podcast, video, audio or written word.  We offer a fresh platform where emerging thought leaders, creatives and change agents can be heard.   

Citizen Discourse enables opportunities for our members to step outside their silos, connect with new friends that may share interests and offer different perspectives.  Inviting a connection with members from other parts of their town, state, nation and even globe.  Playing a key role inviting online and in real life connection.

And, most importantly, every community member manages their own profile page that includes a writing workspace.  A private space where journaling and creative expression can be stored.  Incentives (certificates of achievement, greater exposure to user’s creative expression, badges, scholarships) encourage regular use.  

As an organization we aim to be very intentional about our culture and our work.  We recognize that growth comes from change and we will always seek opportunities to grow and evolve.  Starting small and focused. But keeping the big picture in mind. We welcome the many opportunities to align with partners doing good work.  We hope to play a part in elevating the good stuff.

How can I help?

Thank you for asking!  There are countless ways you can get involved.  Including but not limited to:

-Nominate a content publisher. 

-Serve on a board or committee.

-Donate!  (In-kind, hard cash, time, talent and get a tax write off for your 501c3 contribution!)

-Introduce us to fabulous teens who may want to get involved.

-Introduce us to potential strategic partners in the nonprofit, media and academic spaces.

Learn a little more about the growing Citizen Discourse team!  


Back to where I started.  I think I found the purpose I was searching for.  There is nothing I would prefer to be working on right now.  I believe we  must change course and the next generation is a great place to start.  I am committed  to giving Citizen Discourse my best effort.  As my mom would say, it's all you can do. 

I have many to thank for sitting through countless conversations where I struggled to articulate the vision in my mind and you struggled to understand me.   So many have provided counsel. Each of  you holds a very dear place in my heart.  

Your input helped me craft and chisel and better imagine what could be and, now, what is.  To those who rolled up their sleeves and imagined along with me I give you my everlasting gratitude and an invitation to stay in it with me. 

Happy Birth Day Citizen Discourse!

Stay tuned for Chapter 1.

Karen GrossComment