April 3, 2017

About Us

Nova Agora is a digital meeting place for people to be heard, to build empathy, and to transform.

Nova Agora was founded by Natalija Fisher and Jenny Whyte; two change makers who have worked to reduce the barriers to solving tough problems, in the environment and the education system.

We believe that language frames what is possible.

We are passionate about helping people connect with one another to solve today’s complex threats.

We aim to build the empathy needed to respectfully disagree about how to co-create a better future for all.


The Problem

The art of discourse is being lost. Today’s democracies are polarized by entrenched positions. Policy controversies, such as debates on abortion and immigration, have become intractable disputes. To encourage constructive responses, and prevent disagreement from ending in violence, we seek to equip people with the tools they need for non-violent communication.


Theory of Change


The more positions polarize, the more a simple policy disputes move towards policy conflict and ruptured public discourse. Nova Agora recognises that discursive polarization arises from different frames of reference (i.e. values) that underlie competing positions (ex. Clegg, 1989; Falk, 2007; Schön & Rein, 1994).  Polarization is highest when exchange within a policy coalition on shared values is strong and when exposure between divergent discourse coalitions is weak. A lack of diversity or mobility contribute to these feedback loops. Filter bubbles and targeted advertising amplify this polarization.

Haidt and Graham (2007) propose that liberals do not recognize conservative values of loyalty, authority, and sacredness as moral but that acknowledgement of these values could serve to bridge discussion. So, we seek to foster dialogue across discourse coalitions by deconstructing issues.

Inspired by integrative diplomacy, Nova Agora is a peacebuilding tool designed to reframe polarized policy discourse so as to allow for opportunities to converge on shared goals and desired future outcomes.  Nova Agora is influenced by deliberative discourse – a process in which political actors listen to each other, justify positions, show mutual respect, and are willing to re-evaluate their preferences about competing positions (Habermas, 1981, 1991; Fishkin & Luskin, 2005).


Works Cited


Clegg, S. S. (1989). Frameworks of power. London: Sage.

Falk, D. (2007). Policy Framing in the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy, 14(4), 654–666.

Fishkin, J. S., and R. C. Luskin. 2005. “Experimenting with a Democratic Ideal: Deliberative Polling and Public Opinion”. ACTA POLITICA. 40(3): 284-298.

Haidt, J. & Graham, J. (2007). When Morality Opposes Justice: Conservatives Have Moral Intuitions that Liberals may not Recognize. Social Justice Research, 20 (1), 98-116.

Schön, D. A., & Rein, M. (1994). Frame Reflection. New York, NY: Basic Books. International Journal of Policy and Administration, 11(4), 415–441.

Habermas, J. (1981) Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Habermas, J. (1991) Erlauterungen zur Diskursethik, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.