About Deliberate Democracy

Lynne Kolze Profile

About Lynne Kolze and Deliberate Democracy

“Deliberate” —to do something consciously, intentionally, slowly, and steadily, allowing time for a decision on each individual action involved.

I chose to call my business Deliberate Democracy because I believe that democracy is not a given, rather, it must be deliberately  applied and consciously considered in order to fulfill its promise. Only through our focused attention and daily practice can such an important idea and aspiration be realized.

Deliberate Democracy, LLC is a consulting and coaching business that focuses on developing the capacity of citizens to be confident civic leaders and active citizens in the places where they live, work and recreate.

Most of us, if we were lucky, had a year or two of civics or government classes in our educational past. We usually learned about the concept of one person, one vote and the importance of participating in our electoral process. Yet in most instances, we were never encouraged to look beyond voting as our right and obligation as a citizen. While voting is a critical obligation, thinking about our role in a democracy in this narrow way can keep us from accomplishing critical public goals, reduces our purpose to that of a passive recipient of government services, and/or limits our ability to influence and lead meaningful change.

I would like to help to change that dynamic by giving citizens the tools, support and skills they may need to make a difference in the complex world we live in. I am also interested in helping government create the right kinds of platforms and opportunities that build trust and relationships and a more collaborative approach to governing around issues that matter to all of us.

Our Mission:
The mission of Deliberate Democracy is to heal the societal, cultural and political divisions among us, one person at a time. We do this through the hopeful practice of active citizenship and governing for the common good- wherever we may work, live, recreate, or worship.

Deliberate Democracy, LLC is a non-partisan organization based upon a belief that the solution to many public problems often lies within ourselves. Once we develop ourselves as active citizens and civic leaders, we can become more effective at solving problems and leveraging key resources to address them. We also can become a model for others to follow as they seek to make a difference in their world.

Active citizenship and democracy are not givens, but must be sustained through personal commitment and practice in our every-day lives. Please join me as you explore what it means to be an active citizen in your business, government agency, school, neighborhood, or community.

About Lynne Kolze, Founder


Public service and active citizenship are rewarding and hopeful human endeavors. I am interested in finding those professionals and civic leaders who are willing to do challenging, inspirational and hopeful work in the areas of civic leadership development, active citizenship, collaborative governance, cross sector partnership development, accountability and public evaluation.

Please join me (and others) who have taken small steps to better achieve community and water quality goals. At a time when the media and citizens like to talk about the deep divisions among us, I like to talk about the possibilities of what we can accomplish together. There is evidence all around us that a new approach is needed that can significantly counter the collective sense of hopelessness many have. In my work, I am highly focused on what can bring diverse interests together and how I can help others to find the same sense of renewed purpose and hope that I have found doing this work.

I have spent my career, to date, inside government organizations that have worked to address water pollution in the US and Minnesota. Over those years, I watched those government agencies make significant, impressive progress in regulating pollution. I also watched those same organizations struggle to address the most complex, remaining pollution problems – those that are unregulated, yet which are the most ubiquitous and remain stubbornly difficult to control.

For many years, agency staff relied on information and education programs to reach the masses of citizens needed to prevent nonpoint sources of pollution. Yet, after 40 or more years of educating the public, this approach failed to produce the change we had hoped for in our rivers, lakes and streams. Approximately 40% of those lakes, river and streams that have been monitored and assessed are still not meeting state water quality standards.

Good data and information are certainly key to good public decision making, however, using that information within a civic process that engages citizens and inspires action is still a key challenge. Most public sector professionals have not been trained in creating this kind of process. It is something that has, for the most part, not been taught in universities, especially within science or technically-based curricula.

Allowing ourselves to become a nation of silent, secretive, timid citizens is likely to result in a system of democracy and justice that is neither very democratic nor very just.

Dahlia Lithwick

Over my entire career, I have been drawn to the issue of citizen engagement, as I have always believed in the necessity of collective action to solve complex problems. I have spent many years as a public servant researching and practicing a variety of engagement techniques in the field. Yet, at the end of the day, it became clear that engagement tools and techniques alone were not enough. A significant barrier remained which was the way in which many government organizations imagined their relationship with the public. The resulting power dynamics and top-down approach to governance often gets in the way of real collaboration and cooperation.

The “customer service” model of governance has characterized the organizational cultures of most government organizations for decades. I was trained in this model in graduate school during the 1980’s, and I see now how this narrow view of governance has impacted our ability to get the work done that truly matters.

Customer-focused work means that there is a passive consumption of services on the part of citizens and a demand to be served. This dynamic often leads government staff to respond by trying harder and harder to deliver acceptable services to vocal critics, while knowing that most of our remaining problems are so thorny and complex that government alone can never solve them. Consumers of services have little to no role except as reactionary participants. When government cannot deliver the “goods”, public anger typically ensues, frustration mounts and many citizens simply check out of public life altogether. And progress on solving the public problem we collectively care about simply stagnates.

It goes without saying that government must always strive to be more responsive and transparent (public service excellence). However, an equally important function is to model, through practice, a more collaborative form of governance (a way of making decisions) that inspires civil discourse and collective action, and which puts government and the public on a more equal footing – especially in areas where regulation alone cannot solve a specific problem. Good governance provides meaningful governing roles for citizens willing to come to the table, roll up their sleeves and exist in the tension of determining what is best for the common good.

This new governing approach, called Civic Governance, does not threaten the existing authorities of government agencies, however, it does provide a different kind of civic lens through which government’s work gets done.  A civic governance framework requires that interested citizens be given more robust roles as active citizens, partners, organizers and leaders in our quests to create change on the ground. Developing citizen capacity to lead is a necessary part of this approach. As government needs to change, so do members of the public. Civic governance supports interested citizens (inside and outside of government) in developing themselves to be effective contributors and active citizens in public life.

Civic Governance/Civic Organizing was developed by Peg Michels and Tony Massengale of the Midwest Active Citizenship Initiative (MACI). A major tenet of the Civic Governance framework is that in order to keep our democracy healthy and functional, we must acknowledge our role as active citizens who can learn how to practice democracy wherever we are (family, business, government, faith communities, etc.). It is based on the strong belief that democracy is indeed, the best form of governance and that human beings do have the capacity to live in the tension of what it means to govern for the common good.

The civic governance framework provides the structure and process that helps us to develop ourselves as active citizens and civic leaders while also supporting our ability to solve problems together, to get work done and to meet the goals of each organization. It provides the means to inspire citizen engagement while also ensuring that action and accountability remain at the heart of public work.

In my wide search for a functional governance model, I have found this framework to be the most complete, realistic and practical. The framework supports action that is complex, resisting the temptation to oversimplify problems in order to develop cookbook solutions. In my experience, this is one of its greatest strengths.


The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.

Albert Einstein

I am grateful that managers at The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, for which I worked for many years, provided a small grant to the Midwest Active Citizenship Initiative (MACI) and the Citizens League so that we could test whether Civic Governance could be effective in advancing watershed protection work. Beginning in 2013, several pilot projects were initiated in the Saint Croix River basin which allowed MACI and the Citizens League to measure whether the framework was effective at building local capacity, improving collaboration, inspiring meaningful engagement among citizens, better leveraging existing resources, and improving leadership skills among interested citizens at the local and grassroots levels.

My Interests/Calling:  Evidence gathered from the pilots to date has been very encouraging, hopeful and inspiring. Working on these pilots has been the most meaningful and hopeful work of my career because:

  • It brings problem-solving down to the local and grassroots level, while not ignoring the important roles federal and state agencies play in public problem-solving;
  • It builds local capacity to solve problems in a way that inspiresat the same time it models civility, inclusiveness, effectiveness, transparency and accountability;
  • It provides hope by modeling the best of who we are and can be—a nation of engaged, dedicated citizens committed to finding a middle ground –the common good;
  • It empowers all citizens – whether they are inside or outside government to be more than passive recipients of government services. Rather, it develops them as active citizens or civic leaders that have the skills to be effective partners with their neighbors and government agencies in getting work done.

Who I Would Like to Work With:  I am interested in working alongside those civic leaders who wish to have greater impact in their communities and who believe that citizens are a core part of achieving success in addressing complex problems. This is the work I am most passionate about and feel called to do.

I am interested in working with those who want to:

  • Assess what is currently working within a particular context or organization and build on those things;
  • Identify gaps and areas where there are barriers to getting work done;
  • Determine the level of effort that can be put forth to address problems and needs;
  • Develop a vision for how to advance the work of the organization through a more civic perspective;
  • Participate in coaching, training, applying what you learn in real time, on real problems; and
  • Gather evidence that changes bring about improvements that are valuable to an organization over time.

Related Civic Governance and Civic Engagement Publications

  • Civic Governance Case Study, Minnesota Active Citizenship Initiative, 2015
  • Civic Engagement as a Key Strategy for Restoring and Protecting Lake St. Croix, 2013
  • Civic Engagement and the Saint Croix River, Citizens League Common Ground Newsletter, 2012
  • Restoring our Waters, A Starter Guide for Your Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Project, 2010
  • Legislative Report on Civic Engagement in Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Development, 2009
  • Setting the Course for Improved Water Quality: A Total Maximum Daily Load Training Program for Local Government Leaders and other Water Resource Managers (MPCA’s multi-module set, includes PowerPoint™ slideshows and accompanying guide), 2009

Deliberate Democracy is here to help you on your personal quest to be a fair, just, and effective civic leader at a time when our democracy needs you most.

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I look forward to speaking with you.


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