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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 October 2009

Notes from yesterday’s White House meeting on open gov’t dialogue evaluation    

As many of you know, a survey was conducted in August by AmericaSpeaks, the League of Women Voters, the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), OMB Watch and, to assess the public experience of participating in the White House’s 3-phase online dialogue process feeding into the forthcoming Open Government Directive (OGD).

Yesterday, I and eight others from our group met with six white house officials to (1) discuss our findings, (2) to get a sense of how the White House plans to evaluate future online consultations, and (3) to discuss how the open government community can contribute to enhancing the quality of future public consultations of the White House or federal agencies by playing an ongoing role in assessment. The meeting took place at 1:00 pm in DC at the White House Conference Center.

In attendance from the White House…

  • Chelsea Kammerer, Office of Public Engagement
  • Beth Noveck, Open Government Initiative
  • Robynn Sturm, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
  • Beverly Godwin, GSA (U.S. General Services Administration) Office of Citizen Services and Communications
  • Brian Behlendorf, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Macon Phillips, Director of New Media for the White House (the man behind

In attendance from our collaborative group…

  • Me (Sandy Heierbacher) and Leanne Nurse (EPA Policy Analyst and NCDD Board member) from NCDD
  • Joe Goldman and Carolyn Lukensmeyer from AmericaSpeaks
  • Chery Graeve and Kelly McFarland from the League of Women Voters
  • Sean Moulton and Chris George from OMB Watch
  • Amy Fuller of

I wanted to share some of my rough notes and impressions from the meeting with the NCDD network. No one had their laptops out, so I was just jotting down written notes, mostly when White House folks talked. So this is by no means a full account of the meeting, nor is anything a direct quote.

After quick introductions around the room, we began the meeting by talking about our findings. Generally, there was appreciation among respondents for the White House’s leadership and innovation in launching the online dialogue process. There was also considerable feedback offered to help improve the process for future use, in the hopes that initiatives such as this, done well, can advance good ideas and open government more fully to the public. (more…)

Three days left to complete survey of dialogue & deliberation professionals    

CarolinePicJust wanted to ask all of you one last time to complete NCDD members Francesca Polletta and Caroline Lee‘s survey of dialogue and deliberation practitioners (if you haven’t already).  They’ll be sharing the data they collect with NCDD and others, and the more of you participate, the more valuable the data will be for our field.

Saturday is the last day to complete the survey.  Also- Francesca and Caroline (pictured here, left) wanted me to thank all of you who have completed the survey already!   They are very grateful for your input.

The survey is up at – and here are some more details…

Survey of Dialogue and Deliberation Practitioners

Will you help us to learn more about the field of dialogue and deliberation– and possibly win a cash prize for your favorite charitable organization?

The field of public dialogue and deliberation is growing dramatically– so dramatically, in fact, that no one fully knows what the field looks like:

  • who is doing public dialogue and deliberation work
  • what forms their work is taking
  • what common challenges they face
  • how they would like to see the field develop.

We are two sociologists who want to find answers to those questions by asking you, the experts.

We believe that your insights will help to strengthen the field, and we plan to share whatever information we learn. The survey at the link below will take about 15 to 30 minutes to complete. Your answers will be anonymous, but if you complete the survey we will enter a charitable organization of your choice in a raffle for a $200 donation — a small token of our appreciation for your participation.

Thanks in advance for your help in making the survey a success!

- Francesca Polletta and Caroline Lee

Free bulk issues of Yes Mag’s Purple America issue    

Here is a great offer from my friend Susan Gleason at Yes! magazine.  These free issues are great for distributing at conferences, trainings events, at exhibit booths, etc.

YES! Magazine has a long commitment to the innovations of the dialogue and deliberation movement.  Many of you saw copies of the Fall 2008 issue, Purple America, at last year’s NCDD conference, featuring a set of stories about “Conversations Across the Divide.”  These inspiring stories illustrate how Americans can engage each other in what are often viewed as difficult or highly polarized conversations: an urban environmental activist finds common ground with her rural farmer father; LGBT youth activists initiate conversations on a roadtrip to conservative college campuses; neighbors hold living room conversations about immigration on the Night of 1,000 Conversations, and Evangelicals share their passion for the environment and social justice.

Through a donor-supported program, YES! is making copies of the Purple America issue, containing these stories and more, available to NCDD members in bulk quantities, completely free of charge (international shipping excepted). To request bulk copies (packaged 50 to a box) of the Purple America issue, please contact Susan Gleason, Media & Outreach Manager, at .  Yes! takes care of the shipping charges as well.

The full issue is online at if you’d like to check it out before deciding.

Re-Post: Model Dialogue Coverage on the Oregonian Website    

Restorative Listening Project Online Coverage

I decided to repost this NCDD blog post from April 2008. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can tell our stories about dialogue and deliberation in compelling ways, and the amazing coverage on the Oregonian website Judith Mowry got for her work came to mind.  This unique, engaging, inspiring media coverage featuring audio recordings of dialogue participants in a Portland dialogue program on gentrification is still online, and any of you who haven’t checked it out should do so. It’s just too cool!

You can also revisit the May 28, 2008 article about the Restorative Listening Project in the New York Times (yep – I said the New York Times!), also still online.

Original April 17, 2008 post in the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation blog…

NCDD member Judith Mowry runs a Restorative Listening Project in Portland, Oregon that uses dialogue, storytelling and restorative justice to engage the city in race dialogue. Some amazing press coverage went up today on the Oregonian website which highlights the project using articles, a multimedia website and beginning a year long community wide dialogue. Check it out at

Mowry, now with the city Office of Neighborhood Involvement, designed the project from her background in restorative justice, which aims to mend harm by inviting the sufferer to describe the harm, revealing, for both sides, their shared humanity. “The one who strikes the blow doesn’t know the force of the blow,” Mowry says. “Only the one who has received the blow knows its force.”

I love one page of this web coverage in particular, and the image on the right shows you what the page looks like. The page allows you to click on the faces of dialogue participants and then listen to audio of them talking about what race and gentrification means to them (I clicked on Judith’s name so her image and audio is the one highlighted). It’s an amazing example of how to cover dialogue in the local press using new media.

Be sure to also read the accompanying article by Erin Hoover Barnett, called “Speak. Listen. Heal.” and the column by S. Renee Mitchell titled “A successful crossing of the racial divide.”

Must-Read Study on Sustaining Public Engagement    

At the last NCDD conference, one of the five challenge areas we focused on was the Systems Challenge: how can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, organizations, etc. so that our methods of involving people, solving problems, and making decisions happen more naturally and efficiently? At the IAP2 conference last month, we asked in the final plenary session, “How can we make public engagement integral to our systems?,” so our work is sustained over time?

SustainPEThis is certainly the question of the day in our field, and Everyday Democracy and the Kettering Foundation just released a must-read research report that provides insights on how public engagement activities can grow into a diverse, ongoing practice in communities. The report, Sustaining Public Engagement: Embedded Deliberation in Local Communities, was written by Harvard University researchers Archon Fung and Elena Fagotto.

In the report, Fung and Fagotto argue that the most successful civic engagement efforts not only address particular public issues such as school redistricting, domestic violence, or racism, but also improve the quality of local democratic governance. “Those who build institutions and practices of public engagement often work at two levels,” according to the authors. Not only do they address urgently felt needs in their communities, but, although they may not have intended it, they also improve the machinery of democratic self-government.” (Also see for a new framework I love that helps practitioners think about all three types of D&D goals–including building civic capacity.)

Sustaining Public Engagement features concrete examples of sustained community-led dialogue and problem solving efforts. The report is grounded in case studies of initiatives in Kuna, Idaho; Portsmouth, N.H.; Kansas City, Kan.; Montgomery County, Md.; and communities in Connecticut, West Virginia, South Dakota and Hawaii. The case studies draw upon different approaches to public deliberation, including National Issues Forums, community-wide study circles, and several other locally designed initiatives.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

“We attempt to understand why deliberation in our study communities has successfully spread over time by developing the concept of embedded deliberation. We explain the characteristics of embeddedness and why it is helpful to understand embeddedness on two levels: some practices embed deliberative reflection while others also embed deliberative public action. The first establishes habits of ongoing deliberation to improve community relations, clarifies the understanding of public policy problems, or provides input to policymakers, while the second translates deliberation into action by mobilizing communities and resources to solve local problems.

The first level of embeddedness is a necessary condition for the second. All of the communities that have embedded public action have also developed habits of public reflection. Some communities do not move from reflection to action because the problems they attempt to solve, from limited social trust to the need for public input, require individual transformation or ad hoc involvement, not a sustained mobilization of citizens.

Drawing upon work with researcher Joseph Goldman, we suggest that three factors in communities favor embedded deliberation:

Political authority
Elected officials must support public deliberation and be willing to consider its results and even share authority with bodies of deliberating citizens.

Deliberative capacity
Public or, more often, civic organizations in the community must develop the resources and expertise to convene structured deliberations and to mobilize people to participate in those deliberations.

Demand for democracy
Though rarely evident in our study communities, embeddedness requires a popular constituency that presses for public deliberation when such engagement becomes uncomfortable or inconvenient for local elites and authorities.

We then offer some tentative thoughts about benchmarks and measures of deliberative embeddedness and the kinds of civic leadership and strategies that are likely to sustain local deliberative practices.”

Download the report (for free) from

We Love Kai Degner    

Kai Degner just sent something to the NCDD Discussion list that I wanted to share in the blog. There’s now a great 4-minute video up that captures the energy of his Open Space “Mayor’s Sustainability Summit.”

Kai has been involved in NCDD since 2005, when he wowed us all with his innovative OrangeBand concept which encourages college students to start “conversations that matter” with each other on-the-fly about issues they care about (no tables or meetings needed!). This past year, he ran for city council in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and not only became a city councillor but won the Mayor’s seat as well due to getting the highest number of votes (by far). His campaign was based on smart growth, and on process and citizen engagement.

In his role as Mayor of Harrisonburg, Kai (who, have I mentioned, is not quite 30?!) convenes community dialogues using emergent dialogue methods such as Conversation Café and Open Space Technology. In May, Kai held a successful community-wide Open Space event called the “Mayor’s Sustainability Summit,” involving about 160 people and 120 organizations in an innovative day-long event held in public and commercial spaces throughout downtown Harrisonburg. The cost to the city? $30 for a few supplies (everything else was donated). Visit to learn about Kai’s summits.

In an email to the NCDD network after the event, Kai wrote:

“I’m struck how innovative people find the event to be, which is a wonderful reminder to me that no matter how obvious or useful I see these processes, there are still many folks who have no experience with these other paradigms to have community dialogues and deliberations – and this high profile seat is a way to showcase their utility while also realizing their value for our city.”

Kai just wrote to the NCDD listserv today, saying:

“I write from the Virginia Mayors Institute in Roanoke, Virginia. Yesterday afternoon, I was unexpectedly asked to present for 30 minutes in front of 35 mayors about what “citizen involvement techniques” I’m using as mayor, prompted by the statewide organizer having read about it in my local paper. I shared mainly about the Open Space meetings I’m holding, and was impressed with how engaged and interested the audience was – let that be motivation for you in your communities!”

You can also get a glimpse of Kai in this 2-minute YouTube clip of him presenting about reclaiming debate in the “D&D Marketplace” we held at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin.

From Brad Rourke’s Blog… Learning To Theme    

BradRourkeNCDD member Brad Rourke had an especially interesting post on his blog the other day on the importance of cultivating the skill of “theming.” He makes the point that few organizations attempt to teach this skill, and he includes an exercise to help people experiment with theming.  Here’s part of his post:

“One of the most important skills in working with the public is, I believe, one of the most often overlooked. People whose work is public facing — community benefit organization leaders, public agency heads, journalists — need to be able to theme what they hear.

“Put simply, this means “making sense” of what they hear, but it’s a bit deeper than that.

“People don’t talk in sound bites. They don’t necessarily have coherent frameworks through which they view the world. In talking about difficult issues, their comments may be all over the map. Put a group of them together, and it can feel like anarchy.

“The great public leaders are able to take these divergent strands of conversation and theme them — to extract the handful of important themes running through the conversation. The truly great ones can do it on the spur if the moment, there in the room during the conversation. This can take the discussion to a whole new level, as people see these threads and can then build off of them.

“Much of my career has hinged on the ability to theme what people are saying. I listen in a focus group for the important elements to include in a discussion guide. In a strategic planning session, I listen for the places where the group thinks they have agreement but really don’t. In a marketing meeting, I listen for a clients needs — both the ones they acknowledge and the ones that, perhaps, they don’t.”

Read the full post at

In the exercise, Brad tells people to look for and jot down the following things from a discussion:

  1. Where people get stuck
  2. What people’s starting points are
  3. What values are underlying their statements
  4. Trade offs they would be willing to make
  5. Where there is agreement
  6. What people are not saying

In Dynamic Facilitation, facilitators use four flip charts to capture the discussion under the themes Solutions, Problem-statements, Data, and Concerns. A fifth chart of Decisions is added as group conclusions emerge.

What are some other frameworks practitioners use to capture themes in discussion?  I’m going to start a discussion about this on the main NCDD listserv now, and I’ll add comments here if people share other frameworks with the list.

Who Wants to Deliberate? – Important Article for our Field    

NCDD member Tiago Peixoto (European University Institute) sent this to the main NCDD listserv this morning…

A new article was just published as part of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Faculty Research Working Paper Series titled Who Wants to Deliberate – and Why? (co-authored by Michael Neblo, Kevin Esterling, Ryan Kennedy, David Lazer, and Anand Sokhey).

The abstract is compelling, to say the least:

Interest in deliberative theories of democracy has grown tremendously among political theorists over the last twenty years. Many scholars in political behavior, however, are skeptical that it is a practically viable theory, even on its own terms. They argue (inter alia) that most people dislike politics, and that deliberative initiatives would amount to a paternalistic imposition. Using two large, representative samples investigating people’s hypothetical willingness to deliberate and their actual behavior in response to a real invitation to deliberate with their member of Congress, we find: 1) that willingness to deliberate in the U.S. is much more widespread than expected; and 2) that it is precisely people who are less likely to participate in traditional partisan politics who are most interested in deliberative participation.

NCDD Discount for Upcoming Facilitation Courses    

Dues-paying NCDD members are eligible for 20% discounts for the upcoming courses offered by our friends at the Center for Strategic Facilitation. CSF is a partnership of consultants in the San Francisco Bay Area experienced in training, facilitation and organizational development. The CSF Senior Partners are Marti Roach and Jane Stallman.  CSF is affiliated with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), a leader over the past four decades in promoting lasting change in communities, nonprofits and businesses, which utilizes a distinct and proven approach called the Technology of Participation.

These are just a few of the many great discounts we’ve negotiated for dues-paying NCDD members. (more…)

Proposals Due October 16th for Community-Campus Partnerships for Health Conference    

Friday, October 16th is the deadline for proposals for Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH) conference, May 12-15, 2010 in Portland, Oregon. The conference, “Creating the Future We Want to Be: Transformation through Partnerships” promises to be CCPH’s best yet as hundreds of community and campus partners convene for 4 days of skill-building, networking and agenda-setting!

You are invited to share your knowledge, wisdom and experience by submitting one or more proposals to present at the conference.  Proposals for skill-building workshops, arts-based discussion sessions and posters are being sought for these conference sub-themes:

  • Journeys of transformation
  • Sustaining partnerships and the outcomes they achieve
  • Building capacity
  • Innovative and promising partnership practices
  • Community-based participatory research as a tool for social justice
  • Advancing health equity
  • Interprofessional, interdisciplinary and/or intersectoral collaborations
  • Youth and student leadership

Download the call for proposals at


Find similar posts: D&D Community News

An Online National Issues Forum on Healthcare    

As a past Board member of the National Issues Forums Institute (yes – I’m very important!), I’ve been asked to help spread the word about an important new NIFI project. To foster public dialogue on the rising costs of health care, NIFI has developed a website based on their issue book titled Coping with the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need? This is NIFI’s first online issue book and online deliberation, and you are all welcome to get involved.

Here’s how: Go to the health care workbook website at and complete the quick and simple registration. Then you’ll be ready to log in and give your responses, and share your own stories in the online workbook. Completing the workbook takes about 30 minutes, but you can spend some time on it, log out, and come back later to complete your workbook or to add your own stories.

By completing the workbook and sharing your stories and ideas, you can contribute to a national dialogue on health-care affordability. After you complete the workbook, you will also be asked if you would like to register for the chance to be part of a series of online deliberations this fall.

You can also watch a new online documentary produced by the Kettering Foundation and ThinkTV about the choices now confronting the public. The documentary, Coping with the High Cost of Care: Where is the Public Voice? can be viewed in three parts (each approximately 10 minutes long):

Important Survey for D&D Professionals    

Two NCDD members who are respected scholars in this field – Francesca Polletta and Caroline Lee – are administering an important survey of dialogue and deliberation professionals.  If enough professionals in D&D and public engagement respond to this survey, the data gathered will be of incredible value for our field.

The field of public dialogue and deliberation is growing dramatically– so dramatically, in fact, that no one fully knows what the field looks like:

  • Who is doing public dialogue and deliberation work?
  • What forms is their work taking?
  • What common challenges are they facing?
  • How would they like to see the field develop?

Caroline and Francesca are two sociologists who want to find answers to those questions by asking you, the experts.  They believe that your insights will help to strengthen the field, and plan to share the data they collect with the NCDD network.  The survey at the link below will take about 15 to 30 minutes to complete. Your answers will be anonymous, but if you complete the survey they will enter a charitable organization of your choice in a raffle for a $200 donation.

The survey is up now at and I encourage all of you who do dialogue & deliberation work to take the time to complete it asap.

Amy Lazarus Named SDSN’s First Executive Director    

AmyLazarusThe Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN) recently announced that Amy Lazarus has been selected from a strong pool of candidates to serve as their first Executive Director. SDCN trains, mentors, & connects student leaders using dialogue to ease social tensions on campuses nationwide. SDCN is a project of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (an NCDD organizational member), headquartered in Washington DC and founded by Dr. Harold Saunders in 2002. IISD seeks to promote the process of sustained dialogue for transforming racial, ethnic, and other deep-rooted conflicts in the United States and abroad, and has programs on 15 campuses across the country.

As the first SDCN Executive Director, Amy will lead SDCN as it pursues new partnerships and growth. She will work with SDCN’s team, which includes Deputy Executive Directors Christina Kelleher and Chris Wagner and Program Directors Rhonda Fitzgerald and LaTia Walker.  See the full announcement at

New Report from Knight Commission on Democracy in the Digital Age    

The Knight Commission released its report Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age on Friday (October 2, 2009). The report was officially released at an event at the Newseum in Washington, DC on Friday, with a series of panels of government officials and others.

The Commission seeks to start a national discussion – leading to real action. Its aims are to maximize the availability and flow of credible local information; to enhance access and capacity to use the new tools of knowledge and exchange; and to encourage people to engage with information and each other within their geographic communities. All are welcome to participate in the national dialogue on the Commission’s recommendations by commenting on the report via the internet or through twitter at #knightcomm.

The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy is a group of 17 media, policy and community leaders. Its purpose is to assess the information needs of communities, and recommend measures to help Americans better meet those needs. The Knight Commission sees new thinking about news and information as a necessary step to sustaining democracy in the digital age.

Here are the 14 recommendations in the report: (more…)

OMB to issue open government directive within a few weeks    

Gary Bass, director of OMB Watch, alerted me to an article by Aliya Sternstein posted yesterday (October 2nd) at The article, titled OMB to issue transparency directive within a few weeks, announces that the Obama administration will issue the open government directive two to three weeks from now.

AneeshChopraOMB (Office of Management & Budget) Director Peter R. Orszag will issue the formal guidance. “It will echo many of the recommendations made by the public,” said Tom Gavin, OMB spokesperson.  Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer responsible for issuing the recommendations (pictured here), revealed some of his recommendations on September 9th at a government transparency conference in Washington.  Chopra said federal agencies will be directed to create their own individual plans for open government.  They will have to flesh out certain required items, including an explanation of how they will engage the public in policymaking.

As I’m sure you remember, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy conducted a three-part consultation with the public and stakeholders this summer through forums, blogs and wikis on the three principles outlined in Obama’s memorandum on transparency and open government:  transparency, participation, and collaboration.

Our community got involved in force, and the NCDD blog is a good place to go for archives of all that happened.  A search for “open government” in NCDD’s News & Perspectives blog will take you through months of developments (here’s a direct link to those search results:  Our post, Obama, Public Engagement, and the D&D Community… An (Extraordinary) Half-Year in Review, is also a great piece to look over for a refresher of all that went on and how the NCDD community got involved.

Read the full article, OMB to issue transparency directive within a few weeks, at

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