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Our regional NCDD events brought together over 700 people total this October and November. A huge shout-out to all the members of our local planning teams!

Archives for November 2008

Summary of the Evaluation Results for NCDD Austin    

Close to 200 people (about 50% of attendees) completed the online evaluation survey

Here’s what people seemed to appreciate most about the 2008 conference…

- the people (the connections made and strengthened, the potential for collaboration)
- the conservatives panel (a huge hit)
- the D&D Marketplace (much appreciated and enjoyed, aside from the drumming which annoyed some folks)
- the slam poets (another huge hit)
- the graphic recording team and their work
- the workshops (not all were hits, but many people LOVED most of the sessions they chose)
- the use of the polling keypads in the plenary sessions
- the tech meeting on Thursday night
- the bookstore
- the food (although some people would have preferred a more modest venue with more food provided)

Here’s what people feel could have been better…

- the opening and closing sessions should have been more participatory, and included more dialogue
- the hotel was too cold and some people felt things were too spread out
- the amount of racial and ethnic diversity at the conference was troublesome to many
- the guidebook should have been easier to navigate (organized by date and time rather than by type of session) and activities could have been posted for all to see (more…)

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You’re Invited… Leadership in a Self-Organizing World    

NCDD member Peggy Holman emailed me today, asking me to share this announcement with the network…

Many of us have been experimenting with new forms of organizing and leading for years and decades. Others are seeking new ways as the old practices are insufficient to the challenges they are facing. It’s time for us to gather to bring together our experiments, efforts, stories, wisdom, and questions.

Please join us for Leadership in a Self-organizing World –

We are convening May 14th through 17th at the beautiful Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, nestled in the Cascade foothills outside Leavenworth, Washington, about 2 hours from Seattle.

Harrison Owen, creator of Open Space Technology, will be joining us and launching his book Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self Organizing World. Harrison uses the term “wave rider” to describe the kind of leadership and organizational/community capacity needed to survive and thrive. We’ll spend our time together pooling our collective learning about what “wave riding” is really looking like, what our pioneering efforts are showing us and what’s next.

An incredible cohort of learners, practitioners and pioneers are gathering in May to be part of this inquiry! Already involved and planning to attend are: Peggy Holman; Joel Levey; Tracy Patterson; Floyd Sheets; Catherine Crim; Candi Foon; Mark Jones; Jan Gray; Christy Lee-Engel; Susan Partnow; Teresa Posakony; Anne Stadler; Dale Nienow; Paul Gleiberman; Steven Wright; Jun Akutsu; John Engle; Gabriel Shirley; Tracy Robinson; Sue McNab; Iris Lemmer; Jerilyn Brusseau.

We hope YOU will be part of this too!

Register now, mark your calendar, and invite all your friends! For more information, visit

I look forward to seeing you there!


Peggy Holman
The Open Circle Company
15347 SE 49th Place
Bellevue, WA 98006

P.S. We’re getting started now by gathering stories, examples of the “new leadership” or pioneering endeavors that illuminate these principles of self-organization or new models of leadership and collaboration. If you have stories to share, post them at (instructions and password are in “Help”). Or send your stories to Anne Stadler ().

Submit a Video for the Make Talk Work Competition    

Make Talk Work bookmarksThe City University of New York Dispute Resolution Consortium (CUNY DRC) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY is running the Make Talk Work® Second International Video Competition with a grand prize of $3,000.

The Make Talk Work® competition seeks submissions of short videos of up to 60 seconds using any of the themes in the 24 Make Talk Work® bookmarks. Funded by the JAMS Foundation, this project aims to increase public awareness about dispute resolution.

The winning videos will be posted on YouTube, the CUNY DRC’s websites and will be made available for workshops, conferences and public events. To see sample images of the bookmarks or to view the 10 winning videos of the first competition, go to

Award categories have been established for youth (17 years of age and younger) and adults (18 years of age and older). Prizes will be awarded as follows:

Grand Prize – One prize for all ages ($3,000 USD)
1st Prize – One Youth and One Adult ($1,500 USD)
2nd Prize – One Youth and One Adult ($1,000 USD)
3rd Prize – One Youth and One Adult ($500 USD)
Honorable Mention – 15 prizes for all ages ($250 USD)

Deadline for Competition submission is April 17, 2009 at 5 p.m. EST. For competition guidelines and information, visit

Call for Proposals for June NYC Dialogue Conference    

The Network for Peace through Dialogue has another conference coming up, in cooperation with Marymount Manhattan College. The conference, titled “Dialogue In/As Action” this year, will take place in New York City on June 12th and 13th. This is a great local conference, and if you are anywhere near NYC, I suggest you attend.  I attended the last one, which was in 2007, and really enjoyed it.  I led a workshop and plan to submit a proposal again this year (proposals are due on January 8th).  Here are the details…

A Conference for Community Groups, Researchers, Teachers, Students and Others

The 2009 Network for Peace through Dialogue conference, “Dialogue In/As Action,” will focus on the rich intersections of the methods, processes, and actions of dialogue that lead to change. The 2009 conference will explore the ground rules for practicing good dialogue, as well as the parameters for putting constructive dialogue into action. The goals of the 2009 conference are to provide a forum for addressing and discussing the following issues:

  • What kind of change can be generated through dialogue?
  • What are the preconditions of dialogue? How can these conditions be fostered?
  • Cases of dialogue in action
  • Cases of dialogue as action
  • Cases of dialogue inaction
  • Cultivating dialogue in and beyond the classroom
  • Transforming dialogue with technology
  • Voices of youth making change (presentations by youth)

Submit a Session Proposal

Be a part of the Conference! Share your expertise, understanding and skills. Session Proposals related to the above topics are welcome until Jan 8, 2009. Click here for the session proposal form.

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Pope Questions Interfaith Dialogue    

NCDD member Martin Rutte just sent me a copy of this fascinating New York Times article, which reports that the Pope has written that “an inter-religious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible…without putting one’s faith in parentheses.”  I’m honestly not clear on what the Pope means by “putting one’s faith in parentheses,” but it reminds me of several conversations we had during the conference planning process for NCDD Austin.  When we talked about organizing an interfaith dialogue among local religious leaders, some of the concerns expressed by representatives of different faiths who had experienced interfaith dialogue were that (1) we don’t want yet another Hummus Dialogue (“gee – we all like hummus!”) and (2) we don’t want a safe, contrived, self-congratulatory conversation that doesn’t get into any depth about the issues.  These two statements seemed to typify what they had experienced in interfaith dialogues before.

And while planning our panel of conservatives (which ended up being the best-reviewed and most appreciated session at NCDD Austin), one of our conservative friends expressed how for a long time he had felt like dialogue demanded that he “check his convictions at the door” in order to have an open mind and let go of assumptions. He explained that people who believe in absolute truths — including people with strong religious faith — can feel very threatened by the idea of open dialogue. Perhaps this is what the Pope was referring to.

Check out the article below, and please leave a comment to let us know what you think. What do YOU think the Pope meant by “putting one’s faith in parentheses”? And if you disagree with his statements about interfaith dialogue, how would you respond to someone who makes these statements?

Pope Questions Interfaith Dialogue

Published: November 23, 2008 New York Times

ROME — In comments that could have broad implications in a period of intense inter-religious conflict, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday cast doubt on the possibility of interfaith dialogue but called for more discussion of the practical consequences of religious differences.

The pope’s comments were from a letter he wrote to Marcello Pera, an Italian center-right politician and scholar whose forthcoming book, “Why We Must Call Ourselves Christian,” argues that Europe should stay true to its liberal, Christian roots. A central theme of Benedict’s papacy has been to focus attention on the Christian roots of an increasingly secular Europe.

In comments from the letter that appeared on Sunday in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading daily, the pope said the book “explained with great clarity” that “an inter-religious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible.” In theological terms, he added, “a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses.”

But Benedict added that “intercultural dialogue which deepens the cultural consequences of basic religious ideas” was important. He called for confronting “in a public forum the cultural consequences of basic religious decisions.”

The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope’s comments seemed intended to draw interest for Mr. Pera’s book, not to cast doubt on the Vatican’s many continuing inter-religious dialogues. (more…)

New England Grassroots Environment Fund Offers Support for Boston Projects    

Just saw this one in the Foundation Center’s RFP Bulletin and thought some of you in and around Boston might be interested or know others who are…

The purpose of the New England Grassroots Environment Fund‘s Boston Grants Initiative is to increase engagement and citizen participation in environmental health, environmental justice, and greenspace issues in the greater Boston area. The initiative’s priority objectives are solving environmental problems and fostering stewardship, increasing community involvement, and building networks among Boston citizens. To meet these objectives, the initiative interprets the word “environment” broadly and will support a wide range of activities.

Organizations interested in applying should contact NEGEF staff before submitting a grant proposal. The program is designed for groups or projects not likely to initially receive funding from larger foundations. Applicants must be working at a grassroots level on environmental health, environmental justice, and green-space initiatives in Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, or Somerville, and must demonstrate a significant element of volunteer involvement in their programs.

Incorporated organizations with or without established 501(c)(3) status and unincorporated ad hoc groups may apply. Individuals are not eligible to apply.

Grant awards range from $500 to $10,000 each. A broad range of activities will be funded, including general operating support, communication needs, technology equipment and systems, technical experts, capacity building, advocacy campaigns, institutional support, training workshops, meeting registration and travel costs, and activities that enhance partnerships in the region.

Visit the fund’s Web site for complete funding program information. The deadline to apply is January 15, 2009.

RFP Link:

For additional RFPs in Environment, visit

Phil Mitchell's Post on NCDD 2008    

On October 30th, Phil Mitchell wrote a great post on the blog about the 2008 NCDD Conference that included the great photo of a graphic recording created at the conference.  Phil was the leader of our challenge area on moving from D&D to action.

Graphic recordingPhil starts his post with “One of the least talked about but most far-reaching worldchanging innovations is the development of new processes of citizen-centered democracy. These processes (such as citizen assemblies) are not just solutions to specific problems; they hold out the promise of better collective decision-making in general. In this time of ultra-polarized, dysfunctional politics, such a promise is a beacon in a dark night. Yet, because most of us are focused on specific issues rather than on process itself, much of this innovation does not get noticed or used to its full potential.”

Later on in his post, Phil makes this astute comment:

“Indeed, tying dialogue and deliberation to actual political outcomes is perhaps the key challenge the field faces. The wonderful fact is that we know how to create the conditions for healthy dialogue and good collective decision-making. The sobering reality is that actually using good decision-making requires taking power away from those who currently hold it, and that is tangling with gravity.”

Visit to see the full post.

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Obama’s Office of Public Liaison to Foster Gov’t-Citizen Collaboration    

I know we’re all wondering if, how and when the new Obama administration will address the need for meaningful, quality public engagement.  Here’s a noteworthy piece of news from a November 14th New York Times article…

“Nearly two decades ago, Valerie Jarrett hired a young lawyer named Michelle Obama for a job at City Hall in Chicago. Now President-elect Barack Obama is hiring Ms. Jarrett for a senior role in the White House.

Ms. Jarrett’s role and title are threefold: White House senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernmental relations and public liaison.

A longstanding member of his tiny core of top advisers, Ms. Jarrett will continue providing him with counsel on a wide-ranging set of issues, she said Friday evening. She will help Mr. Obama manage his relationship with the rest of government, serving as the White House’s point person for state and local officials. Finally, she will supervise the Office of Public Liaison, which she hopes to turn into an active channel for government-citizen collaboration.”

Read the full New York Times article, titled Longstanding Obama Adviser Gets Senior Role at the White House. And let me know if you have ideas for how we can introduce Ms. Jarrett to the dialogue and deliberation community and all we have to offer!

Shaping the Future of Lancaster, PA    

Sandy’s Table at Lancaster 2020On Tuesday (November 11th), I had the opportunity to volunteer as one of dozens of table facilitators at “Lancaster 2020: Shaping Our Future” – a day-long prioritizing and action-planning event for community leaders in Lancaster County. The event was facilitated by NCDD member AmericaSpeaks, and I wanted to participate because Lancaster is only about an hour’s drive away and I haven’t experienced an AmericaSpeaks event since 2002′s Listening to the City event in New York.

I had a great time, and really enjoyed the people and conversation at my table (pictured). Lancaster 2020 was different from most AmericaSpeaks events because it was designed specifically for community leaders and not open to the general public. Despite that fact, though, the group was pretty diverse, with a lot of high school student leaders present, as well as folks from nonprofit agencies, businesses and local government.

The event felt like a well-oiled machine to me, as a facilitator (more refined than Listening to the City had been). The 14-page chart I was given before the event (and which was reviewed via conference call for those of us who couldn’t make Monday morning’s facilitator training) provided a clear outline of what my group would be doing when, how the people at my table would be using their individual keypads, and what my laptop recorder should be entering into our table’s laptop for the theme team to consider. Instruction for table conversations usually came from the front of the room, so I mostly needed to reiterate what was already said. And the community leaders at my table were so calm and competent that I suspected they would do just fine without me there at all.

Participant at Lancaster 2020Each of the 300+ participants were given a 26-page issue guide, which provided statistics and other data about various opportunities and strategies for making Lancaster County more prosperous, extraordinary and caring by the year 2020. Lancaster 2020 Steering Committee members had identified four topics to guide the conversation — the well-being of people, connections and collaboration, economic engine and the physical environment — and 5 or 6 “opportunities” for making progress in each of those areas.  Under the topic “The Well-Being of People,” for example, one of the opportunities was “Ensure access to healthcare” and another was “Increase healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices.” Throughout the day, participants developed a vision, identified values, and prioritized opportunities and actions.

I found the experience particularly interesting because I generally think of AmericaSpeaks’ 21st Century Town Meeting methodology as a “Decision Making” approach and not a “Collaborative Action” approach (see NCDD’s Engagement Streams framework if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). Lancaster 2020, however, was not designed just to provide data to a group of public managers or community leaders; it was designed to get hundreds of community leaders coming up with new ideas for bettering their community and making commitments on the spot — and it seemed to do a great job making that happen.

Lead facilitators for the event were Carolyn Lukensmeyer, President of AmericaSpeaks, and Janet Fiero, Senior Associate of AmericaSpeaks. It was Janet who first told me about the event and suggested I get involved.

The photos on this page were taken by photographer Russell Frost of Frost Imaging.

Hal Saunders' Closing Remarks at NCDD Austin    

We asked Harold Saunders, President of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and long-time supporter of NCDD, to share some of his observations of the conference during the closing session on October 6th. It was our honor to have a respected and beloved elder in our field provide us with some closing comments that help us see the broader picture. Hal has graciously provided us a summary of his closing remarks.


Harold H. Saunders
President, International Institute for Sustained Dialogue

This has been a remarkable experience: imaginative, dedicated people committed at the core of who we are to change how human beings relate—one step at a time. One story of achievement after another. I stand in awe of what I have heard and learned.

Thanks to our leaders, we have worked within a broad framework that has enabled us to analyze and name the challenges before us. Having been named, they can be tackled with new energy and with new precision.

AND YET, many of us leave in the same state of agony that we brought with us. We have shared our doubts in so many ways: Do we make a difference? Can we make a difference? How can we make a difference? How can we know we’re making a difference?

Did a few American citizen soldiers at Valley Forge with George Washington make a difference? Yes, for two reasons: they knew they were part of something larger than themselves, and they persevered.

Did Rosa Parks make a difference? Yes, because she acted in the spirit of something larger than herself and because she and others like her persevered.

Can the course of history be changed?

Yes, one step at a time.

The American Revolution changed history, although that wasn’t evident to the citizen soldiers at Valley Forge.

The Civil Rights Movement changed America, although racism still runs deep. (more…)

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From 52 to 48 with love    

52to48 pictureI just learned about an amazing project through an email from my friend John Steiner. A blogger and twitterer named Ze Frank is asking Obama supporters (the 52%) to reach out to McCain supporters (the 48%) in a gesture of reconciliation on his blog at

Dozens of people from all political leanings have sent in pictures of themselves with touching, pithy, or funny messages for “the 52″ or “the 48″ or all Americans written on pieces of paper, like the image shown here. Zefrank has posted these pictures in a long blog post called “From 52 to 48 with love.”

On the main page of his blog, I found this text about the project:

i would love to see a group project where obama supporters reached out to the mccain folk (and others) in a gesture of reconciliation…

simple messages.
perhaps it is naive. the differences are real, i know. but we have to repair the damage done from this election cycle somehow…
the fringes (all of them) have been allowed to dominate our conversations for too long. to create a cycle of hate, ill-will and revenge.
it’s a tough and delicate challenge – if you want to try it – send a pic of you with a sign, or a vid, or anything to
maybe it works, maybe not – i know it won’t speak to many : but i think we give it a whirl and decide for ourselves, yes?

Check out the photos at from52to48withlove.

Penn State-Abington Students Learn the Power of Dialogue    

Here’s a nice article from Penn State Live at, describing Steve Pyser‘s work at Penn State-Abington. Steve is an active NCDD member; he just coordinated (with Janet Fiero) and moderated the Reflective Panel at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin.

Abington students learn the power of dialogue

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lecturer Steve Pyser enlightened many students to the power of dialogue this summer during his Political Science 001 course: “Introduction to American National Government.” Not only did he teach the students about the founding principles and documents of our democratic government, but he also taught them the fundamentals and importance of the dialogue approach of communication in our politically polarized country.

The dialogue approach, in brief, requires participants to suspend their assumptions and judgment and to begin to listen to others. This is different from “debate” where the goal is to voice one’s opinion, period. Pyser taught the students how to work through the process of dialoguing: how to communicate their viewpoints, frame the issues, and finally, to be confident in their beliefs. Students said they felt respected and that their viewpoints were honored.

The students reveled in the freedom and flow of ideas and opinions. All shared their political thoughts and opinions in conversations facilitated by Pyser. Many had never experienced this before; to share who they are, to be able to explain it and not have their ideas dismissed. One student noted that it was the first time that he felt it wasn’t necessary to conform his comments to the beliefs of the faculty member, that he could actually speak from his heart.

Pyser made sure he didn’t reveal his viewpoints throughout the class and prided himself in knowing that no one knew his politics by the end of the course. “My job is to be a facilitator of conversation,” said Pyser, “not to talk about my political viewpoints.”

During the last week of class, as the capstone achievement of the course, the students participated in an actual dialogue titled, “Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role.” Pyser has moderated many public dialogues including: redeveloping Ground Zero after 9/11, determining the future of the San Diego Airport, and citizen voices on the future of Philadelphia and its waterfront development. Pyser has submitted a report on the students’ dialogue to the National Issues Forums (NIF), a nonpartisan, nationwide network of locally sponsored public forums for the consideration of public policy issues. The results of the dialogue should appear on the NIF Web site later this year.

The benefits of the class were enormous. Since many students didn’t know each other before the class, new ideas and insights were had by all. “The class was all about possibilities…the ‘what if’ factor,” Pyser said. “The full value of dialoguing is a community commitment … respect for others’ opinions, an appreciation for difference, and to be responsible for what you say and how you say it. They came away with a lifelong learning experience.”

To-The-Point Resources for Public Officials    

Terry Amsler just sent this to the NCDD Discussion listserv (email if you want added to the list, or become a member of NCDD)…

Just in case you’re interested –  The Institute for Local Government’s Collaborative Governance Initiative has organized and authored about two dozen civic engagement-related articles appearing in Western City magazine between July and December of this year.  Western City is the monthly magazine of the League of California Cities and reaches about 11,000 local officials in California.  Topics run from planning and budgeting to youth commissions and assessing civic engagement efforts.  These are not in-depth write-ups, but are for local officials who generally have only limited time to read the magazine. All the articles may be found, as they are published, at

Also see our new publication, A Local Official’s Guide to Immigrant Civic Engagement at  A Local Official’s Guide to Developing Effective Youth Commissions and Guide to Public Involvement in Budgeting are forthcoming.

The Institute for Local Government is the research and education affiliate of the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties.  The Collaborative Governance Initiative, a program of the Institute, encourages and supports local official’s efforts to engage in strategic, inclusive and effective civic participation efforts.

Best to all,

Terry Amsler | Program Director
Collaborative Governance Initiative

NCDD Member Kai Degner Running for City Council    

Andy and I are glued to the TV tonight, as I’m sure many of you are, waiting to see who our next U.S. President will be.

But many others are running for various offices as well – including NCDD member Kai Degner, who is running for City Council in the town of Harrisonburg, Virginia.  Some of you met Kai at the last NCDD conference in Austin, or at NCDD 2006 in San Francisco.  He’s a young, focused, high-energy dynamo who created the concept of the OrangeBand.  Andy just checked, and he currently has more votes for city council than any of the 7 others who are running.

I think it’s safe to project that our Kai will win his well-earned position.  You can keep track of his progress at if you’d like. Congratulations, Kai!

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