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"Can our field present a united front to the new Administration? Let's start by seeing if we can develop a set of principles for public engagement we can all endorse..."

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    We are facing an unprecedented opportunity in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution and collaboration. President Obama has demonstrated his commitment to participation, transparency and openness in his administration in numerous ways we've all taken note of.

    There are a number of established associations and organizations in the U.S. that unite professionals and promote the practice and principles of consensus, dialogue, participation, collaboration, conflict resolution and other means of achieving largely the same end.

    We suspect that many of these groups will try to communicate with the administration about how to best move forward, but we are concerned about the fact that although most of us speak the same basic language to describe this work, we tend to use many different dialects. This could weaken each of our cases, and overwhelm members of the administration rather than support them.

    Rather than each of us contacting the administration separately with mixed messages and various levels of success, we believe we could make a greater impact working together. Can we collaborate or unify to present a collective source of principles, practices, talent and resources that this administration and nation will need in the next four years?

    As a first step, a few of us have decided to lead a transparent effort to encourage people in our field to collectively agree (as much as possible) on principles or standards for public engagement. We've begun by posting a bunch of existing sets of principles on the NCDD site in forum software that anyone can contribute and respond to.

    After taking a look at people's initial comments, we will choose one of these existing sets of principles as a starting place and begin making edits. Please add any sets of principles or criteria for public engagement you're aware of (sign up, then click "start a new discussion"), and respond to what's posted with your thoughts by adding comments.

    Which principles resonate most with you? What do you agree with? What don't you think represents all of us, and why? How could wording be improved?

    We hope to end up with a set of principles most of you will feel comfortable endorsing. Please help us get there!

    • Tom Atlee, President of the Co-Intelligence Institute
    • Stephen Buckley, CEO of U.S. Transparency
    • John Godec, Board member of the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2)
    • Reynolds-Anthony Harris, Managing Director of Lyceum Patners & Co.
    • Sandy Heierbacher, Director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)
    • Leanne Nurse, Program Analyst for the Environmental Projection Agency (EPA)
    • Steve Pyser, Editor of the International Journal of Public Participation
    • Stephanie Roy McCallum, Immediate Past President of the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2)

    Thank you, Sandy and Andy, for pulling this all together.  It is very useful to be able to see what is out there from various sources regarding their view of "basic principles" of public engagement.

    However, before we all dive in and try to come with something that is common-ground to all (or most) sources, I think we should all keep in mind that the main driver in all this is the President's initiative on Open Government, and the report that he wants delivered by May 21st.

    Ideally, we want the federal taskforce preparing that report to "copy-and-paste" distilled wisdom about what constitutes public participation/collaboration.  What we want to avoid or minimize (because they are under such a time-crunch) is for any of the taskforce members to be reinventing the wheel by semi-randomly googling the Internet for stuff that, to them, sounds half-way intelligent.

    That is why I am recommending that all participants should first carefully read the President's Memorandum as found in this discussion area "Pres. Obama's Memo on Public Participation".


    Thank you!  This is great!  I will invite some of my colleagues in higher education.

    • CommentAuthorgodec
    • CommentTimeFeb 20th 2009

    Let me add my thanks to Sandy for her initiative and everyone else's contributions to this discussion thread to date.  I had a brief conversation with Stephen earlier this week and agree with his assertion that time is of the essence, we need to take advantage of this brief window of opportunity.

    I don't think that I've seen anything on this site that seems off the mark.  I'm confident and most familiar with the theory and practicaility IAP2's Principles but I'm sure that we can develop something that incorporates all of our dialects into one cohesive and inclusive voice.     


    This is a great effort! I'm looking forward to participating in this important effort.

    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeFeb 26th 2009 edited

    The following was posted on 2/26/09 by Daniel Golob as a new discussion.  I've deleted it and moved it here for now.  I could not open the link on my computer, and I don't have an email for Daniel.  If I did, I'd ask him to summarize the principles and best practices in his post.

    We want to keep the forum as usable as possible, so we encourage everyone adding new sets of principles to actually add the principles (and other relevant text) - not just a link. Thanks!

    And if someone can go to, click on "Public Participation: Principles and Best Practices for British Columbia and a document opens for you, please consider posting the main points of the doc as a "new discussion."


    Auditor General of BC Public Participation: Principles & Best Practices

    The Auditor General of British Columbia Canada released a report on public participation: principles and best practices for British Columbia in November 2008.  It's available to download from the AG of BC website at

    • CommentAuthorKathleenK
    • CommentTimeFeb 27th 2009 edited

    This is Kathleen Kanet of Network for Peace through Dialogue. Thanks to NCDD and all who have agreed to present a common agreed upon outline of principles of dialogue and deliberation to the Obama Administration. I am submitting to you our set of Principles of High Quality Dialogue that we use in our evauluation and "checking in" of how well we have done in our programs, all of  which promote dialogue in varied situations.


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    Responses which show an honest expression of one’s own opinion

    • Participants express their own opinion rather than talking about “them” or in universal truths.
    • Participants relate a similar feeling or story to what has been said.
    • Participants state different opinions in a non- threatening way.

    Responses which show empathetic and attentive listening

    • Participants paraphrase the others point of view.
    • Participants ask clarifying questions.
    • Participants make statements recognizing the feelings of the other.

    Responses which show an effort to understand the other

    • Participants respond to others insights with questions, agreements or respectful disagreement.
    • Participants do not try to convince others to change their point of view.

    Responses which show willingness to be transformed by the experience

    • Participants state what they have learned from others.
    • Participants acknowledge changes in their points of view.
    • Participants search for and acknowledge their own hidden assumptions.


    - Kathleen Kanet


    • CommentAuthordineenp
    • CommentTimeMar 12th 2009

    It's enouraging to see the effort that's being made to turn up the volume of those who speak on behalf of the need for government to have good ways to connect with the public.  But the more diversity; the more voices; the more work (and the more kinds of work) being done, the better. 

    It seems to me that the last thing we need is to try to "speak with one voice" in an attempt to explain why it's better to listen to many voices than to listen only to the most unified or loudest.  Shouldn't we be encouraging LOTS of individuals and groups to contact the administration (or anyone else they want to contact)- with their experiences, their visions, their explanations of why public deliberation is so important?  Wouldn't we welcome it if representatives of the administration said, "Yeah, we've been hearing from a lot of people who think this is great stuff ; who are already doing this kind of thing; and who are sharing their guiding principles with us."  Wouldn't that be better than the other extreme which would be if they said, "You're the only people we've heard from about this." 

    Innovation and progress happen best when there are lots of people doing different things, or when lots of people are trying to do the same thing, but doing it a little (or a lot) differently.  We should encourage, and welcome, as much work, and as many voices about that work as possible.  I don't believe this work is a zero-sum game.  I won't accept that the more voices (or dialects) there are speaking out about this work, the more it may "weaken each of our cases."  We need a yeasty environment for this kind of work to expand, thrive, and for it to be taken seriously by our leaders at every level.  If it ever becomes neat and tidy and unified, then it will have become just one more kind of civic busy-work.   


    Thanks for your comment, Patty.  I think it's a "both/and," as they say.  We should all be contacting the administration in as many different ways as possible AND we should try to come to some agreement on basic principles for this work that most of us can agree on.

    This project came about after a couple of things happened simultaneously...

    1. There was a discussion on the main NCDD listserv about "pseudo-dialogue" -- and how, in light of increasing attention to public engagement, the dialogue and deliberation community can help make sure what passes for public engagement is actually 'real' engagement and not just marketing events or one-sided partisan events.  It's because of this discussion that we think the "what to avoid" text under each of the principles is so important.

    2. A few of us at the last meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Future of Public Collaboration and Consensus (me, John Godec from IAP2 and Resolv, and Cindy Cook from ACR's Environment and Public Policy Section) agreed to explore possibilities for working together across organizations and networks during this critical time of opportunity in our field.  We agreed that although each of our organizations, and many others, would probably be doing our best to gain someone's ear in the administration, we ran the risk of annoying more than informing or assisting the administration.  We wondered if we could agree on a standard set of principles (not a major agenda or blueprint for action, but some basic principles), and then, together, approach the administration with more success.

    I was just in a meeting two days ago with Beth Noveck, Obama's director of open government, who made it clear that they're looking for clarity and collaboration from our field.  She's interested in principles that can feed into the open governance directive she's working on.  And she's interested in seeing how organizations in our field are working together to get things done (and how they might be able to work with us, believe it or not).  So hopefully this project is right in line with her directive!

    Otherwise, I think it will still be an important step for our field -- and something we can all use when talking to public officials at all levels of government.

    • CommentAuthorTom Atlee
    • CommentTimeMar 13th 2009

    Just as we are diverse individuals, tribes, nations, colors, and believers, we are all humans seeking to have a livable world for ourselves and those and what we love.

    So, too, just as we are diverse practitioners and professional groups in the field of D&D and public participation, we are also all believers in the power of quality conversation to make a difference in people's lives.

    This project seeks to explicitly articulate that implicit common ground in a way that may be useful for those new to this possibility, and to conjure up an expectation not for perfection or unity, but for something that is simultaneously real and much better than what often passes for public participation that falls far short of what most of us know is possible.

    And it is an exploration.  I will see this effort as a failure if it is the same for years and years.  Our field is evolving, and so should our expectations and the ground we work from.  Our field has many diverse leading edges, and we are still catching up with ourselves...

    • CommentAuthorTim
    • CommentTimeMar 17th 2009 edited
    Another process question/suggestion:

    What's the timeline for finalizing the document?

    At some point, the small team of core editors (Tom, Sandy and others) should probably go ahead and craft the final version. It might be helpful to announce to the forum up to what point people can still expect their suggestions to be incorporated.


    • CommentAuthorRosemary
    • CommentTimeJun 12th 2009

    Since this is an introduction, how about setting it so that it stays at the top of the list of discussions? Is that possible?


    I think making this post "sticky" again (so it stays at the top of the list) isn't necessary at this point, and may even confuse people since now we're using the forum to encourage people to assess the open government dialogue process using the 7 principles.

    We should add a new "intro" post, though, that explains this new project, and we'll make that sticky.

    Thanks, Rosemary!


Special Note:

Welcome to the NCDD website. What you see here, in the way of web design and layout is a work in progress. The forum feature works as you would expect, but we have just begun our web re-design and are testing the "bare bones" with this conversation. Many of the links and buttons outside the forum may not work as expected and we thank you in advance for your patience with us.

This re-design marks a new chapter in the online life of NCDD. It began in 1998 with a small online project called the Dialogue to Action Initiative and became the NCDD website after our first national conference in 2002. Beginning in 2009, we are turning our focus to embracing existing tools, instead of creating our own, as a way to further the networking opportunities of our members and offer examples, through use, of the many great tools that are available to us and our community.

Visit the Main Page of our website to learn more about NCDD. Please let us know what you think of the design! Send your feedback to [email protected].