What would happen if professional organizers and facilitators of dialogue and deliberation decisively and publicly demonstrated their capacity to help cities and states solve their biggest problem — collapsing budgets — and then broadly promoted that fact?
What’s the crisis? States, cities and towns across the United States are collapsing under mountains of debt. The mortgage crisis crashed property taxes, the primary source of revenue for cities. Cities are cutting off services from education to police to road repair. Comparable crises are hitting state governments, some of whom are selling off public properties, utilities and service institutions, resulting in a major privatization of the commons. Some states and cities are contemplating bankruptcy, thereby scaring off bond investors. See these articles for fascinating and troubling information on all this.
Advocates and practitioners of processes like Study Circles, Future Search, Dynamic Facilitation, Open Space Technology, and many other approaches have proclaimed the power of whole-system conversations, citizen engagement and stakeholder dialogues to solve the problems of communities. Shouldn’t the power of such conversations be seriously considered by every legislature and administration? Shouldn’t the dialogue-and-deliberation approach be in the news as much as problematic solutions like staff layoffs, union-busting, bankruptcy, and increasing elementary school classroom size to 60 students?
The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, the International Association for Public Participation, the International Association of Facilitators, and the many networks of practitioners would clearly benefit from greater demand for powerful facilitated conversations. Clearly, the budget crisis is an opportunity of epic proportions. But how might it be engaged? (more…)