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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 2009

10% discount for NCDD members on Leadership Currency training    

Are you interested in increasing your Leadership Currency? Are you motivated to access the connective power within yourself, your organization and your networks? Led by four experts in personal transformation, group dynamics and organizational development, the Leadership Currency experience is designed for leaders and high-level managers. If you want to boost your collaborative performance, this is for you!

The group will meet four times over the course of 2010. The process includes monthly interaction by phone and online with facilitators from the Institute on the Common Good at Regis University and your peers. Our quarterly gatherings for 2010 are January 26th-29th, May 11th-14th, September 21st-24th, and December 7th-10th. The January experience is set to take place at The Nature Place, located on 6,000 acres of private land deep in the heart of Colorado’s mountain ecosystem.

If you are looking to:

  • Integrate your passion in to your everyday work.
  • Learn ways to inspire a new level of teamwork, focus and energy in your team and your networks.
  • Recognize the emerging future and create strategies that move you forward with intention rather than in reaction.
  • Bring a new found inspiration to your career and your business that results in a significantly higher level of prosperity and success.
  • Develop a highly functioning team that works together as a self-correcting system.

Join this group experience. The cost of the experience is $3,150 for NCDD members (this reflects a 10 percent discount), payable in various installment plans. Don’t hesitate to call 303-458-4967 and we will connect you with one of our four coach/facilitators so you can talk one to one and have your questions answered. Call 303-458-4967 to sign up. More information is at

Master’s and doctoral theses on group facilitation    

Stephen Thorpe, board member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), shared a link to his doctoral thesis on online facilitation on the IAF Forum on Friday, as well as a link to an older post listing (mostly) downloadable masters and PhD theses on facilitation. Add details about your own thesis using the comment field, and I’ll make sure Stephen gets the data to add to his list.

Ball, Dianne Lesley (2004). Facilitation of action learning groups: an action research investigation. Unpublished PhD thesis, School of Industrial Relations & Organisational Behaviour, The University of New South Wales, Australia.…y/unsworks:871

Butcher, Martin (2007). Participatory Development: Methods, Skills and Processes: A design framed action research thesis. Unpublished PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Australia.

Cook, Susan (2000). A personal description of small group facilitation. Unpublished masters of education thesis, Malaspina University College, Acadia University, Canada.

Fisher, Lynn Patricia (1974). Small group facilitation of participant goals: the participants’ views. Unpublished PhD thesis, Ohio State University.

Hunter, Dale (2003). The Facilitation of Sustainable Co-operative Processes in Organisations. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Western Sydney.

Hogan, Christine F. (2001), The makings of myself as a facilitator: An autoethnography of professional practice, Unpublished PhD thesis, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia.

Jay, Leighton (2008). An analysis of the critical contingency factors influencing the use of group facilitation in organisations. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.

Martin, M. A. (2003). The nature of the lived experience of co-facilitation: A phenomenological approach. Unpublished PhD Thesis, School of Management, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia.

Roberts, Gerard Michael O’Brien (1997). Action researching my practice as a facilitator of experiential learning with pastoralist farmers in Central West Queensland. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Western Sydney.…roberts00.html

Schuitevoerder, Ingrid Rose (2000). Process-oriented dialogue : an inquiry into group work and conflict facilitation. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Western Sydney, Australia.…sitory/uws:349

Sheehan, Michael James (2000). Learning and implementing group process facilitation: individual experiences. Unpublished PhD thesis, Faculty of Commerce and Management, Griffith University.

Thomas, G. J. (2007). A study of the theories and practices of facilitator educators. Unpublished EdD Thesis, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.…ral_thesis.pdf

Thorpe, Stephen J. (2009). Enhancing the effectiveness of online groups: an investigation of storytelling in the facilitation of online groups. Unpublished PhD thesis, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland.

Wardale, D.V. (2006). Managers’ and Facilitators’ Perceptions of Effective Facilitation Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Western Australia, Perth.

Re-Post: “Open Policy Making 101″ Checklist    

The following was originally published on November 13, 2009 on Tim Bonnemann’s Intellitics blog. With Tim’s permission, I’m re-posting his great post rather than composing something new (thanks, Tim!).

Over on the recently re-launched Ascentum blog, Joseph Peters (Partner at Ascentum) and Joe Goldman (Vice President of Citizen Engagement at AmericaSpeaks) just published a neat list of ten key questions to consider before launching an online public consultation: Open Policy Making 101: 10 Questions To Ask Before Launching Your Online Public Consultation:

  1. What do you want to know?
  2. What is your commitment to participants?
  3. Who needs to participate?
  4. How hot is the issue?
  5. What type of contribution are you looking for?
  6. What type of data will you collect and analyze?
  7. What are your timelines?
  8. What resources are available to support the process?
  9. How can participants stay involved?
  10. Which online tools should you use?

The document (PDF, 916 KB) lays out these principles in good details. Once again, the recommendations are concerned about good process first and tools second.

Their take on timelines is fairly specific, and I would like to hear if others in this field can either confirm or add to it:

Generally speaking, a process that is open to the general public should be live for four to six weeks to ensure adequate participation.

Finally, here’s their item number ten:

10. Which online tools should you use?

This question is intentionally left until last in this list. Many organizations choose a shiny new tool and decide to use it before carefully considering their overall approach. This ends up having the software drive the process and not the objectives. There are many tools and solutions to choose from, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. The options are endless, but you need to match the tool to your strategy based on the questions you have already answered from the list above.

Exactly. And supporting that mapping process of finding the right tools for the job is something we’d like to see ParticipateDB grow into over time.

IJP2 Article Part 4: Frame in terms of general goals and desired outcomes    

At the October 2008 NCDD conference in Austin, Texas, one theme that emerged in the “Framing Challenge” was the idea of framing dialogue and deliberation in terms of general goals and desired outcomes.

2women200pxMany times, the potential for concrete outcomes or results needs to be underscored in big, bold letters. This often means identifying language that explicitly connects the public engagement process or program to solving a particular problem people are facing. In the online dialogue we held before the conference to explore the five challenge areas, Judith Mowry described learning that an especially effective “way to bring people to the table” is to make clear for them “what’s in it for me?”

Citizens, community leaders and elected officials tend to talk in terms of solving problems and addressing issues, and think in terms of outcomes and content rather than process. Several conference attendees reported more success in drawing people to the table when they framed public engagement work in such terms. Theo Brown mentioned much greater drawing power for AmericaSpeaks events when they are able to highlight concrete action and policy outcomes. Facilitator Lucy Moore described “lofty policy goals” as key in bringing many stakeholders together for her dialogue about Grand Canyon issues.

Of course, it can be tricky to promise even general outcomes like “citizen action” or “impact on policy” for programs designed, by their very nature, to allow the participants themselves to identify specific action or recommendations. In their workshop, Virtuous and Vicious Cycles: Beyond a Linear View of Outcome and Impact, Maggie Herzig and Lucy Moore noted that overly defining outcomes from the start can undermine participants’ ownership of their efforts and underappreciate the possibilities that were unimaginable before the initiative began.

Herzig and Moore pointed out that for some groups, an overly-defined outcome is enough to turn them away. People with more conservative political views, for example, can be quickly turned off by talk of “social change” or “community organizing” that seems inherently progressive. Talk of influencing government policy can also be a red flag for conservatives like panelist Pete Peterson, Executive Director of Common Sense California, a self-identified “communitarian conservative” who would like to see public engagement efforts focus more explicitly on empowering citizens to take responsibility for community problems themselves rather than turning to government for help or demanding government action.

Peterson emphasized the importance of not allowing a more deliberative democracy to replace self-reliance. After all, government is not the answer to many of our problems, and we cannot expect it to be. Similarly, panelist Grover Norquist stated frankly, “I don’t like it when 12 people or 12,000 people get together and tell someone what to do.” Peterson, Norquist, and others on the “Conservatives Panel” suggested framing public engagement around more traditional values like “voluntary, civic solutions to problems” (rather than only political solutions) and “individual responsibility in addition to collective responsibility” in order to attract more conservative participants.

PhilipThomas200pxWhile there may not be a single framing of public engagement that works for all audiences, practitioners are increasingly finding success in focusing on the purpose or potential outcomes (in general) of engagement. Specifically, framing in terms of problem solving and identifying and working towards a desirable future seems to resonate with broad audiences. In the online dialogue, Joseph McIntyre described his efforts to frame public engagement work in a broadly accessible way:

We frame our work leading wisdom circles in sustainable agriculture as reinvigorating local democracy and specifically we create “citizen think-do” tanks that attempt to bring perspective and the common good back into the center of our communities. For us, the call to represent “our best hopes and aspirations for a future worth having” resonates strongly with both the rural conservative and urban environmental members of our alliance.

It is also helpful to consider the way organizations like NCDD member Everyday Democracy (which reinvented itself recently by changing its name from the Study Circles Resource Center) talk about the work they do in communities. Everyday Democracy’s website states simply that “we help your community find ways for all kinds of people to think, talk and work together to solve problems.”

Note from Sandy:

This is my fourth blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community.  The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin:  The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?) and the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?).  You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

IJP2 Article Part 3: Understand the specific concerns of conservatives    

A major theme in the Framing Challenge at the 2008 NCDD conference was the need to understand the specific concerns of conservatives.

menatconf_200pxThe public engagement field and related fields struggle with the fact that many more progressives than conservatives are attracted to this work. The vast majority of practitioners are politically progressive, and it is typically more challenging to recruit people with more traditional or conservative views to participate in dialogue and deliberation programs.

During the conservative panel sub-plenary on the second day of the conference, panelists Joseph McCormick, Grover Norquist, Michael Ostrolenk and Pete Peterson mentioned several words that can turn conservative communities away from public engagement: grassroots, organizing (“I don’t want anyone to organize me”), consciousness and enlightenment (“something you have and I don’t?”).

In their workshop, Attracting Conservative Citizens to Dialogue Events: Liberal-Conservative Campus Dialogue & Mormon-Evangelical Interfaith Initiatives, Jacob Hess and Reverend Greg Johnson explained some of the sources of wariness of dialogue by many social conservatives. One is the fear of being asked to give up truth or absolutes, as dialogue can seem to assume that all truth is relative.

One participant wrote this reflection about Hess and Johnson’s powerful session:

“I had a big, big revelation [during your session]. At 64, I have thought my whole life that to be open-minded, all accepting, non-judgmental toward different people, beliefs, and values was an absolute good thing. How could it be bad to be tolerant, embracing, accepting all beliefs as valid? Wouldn’t everyone appreciate that attitude, since it includes everyone? What I heard from you is that having an absolute truth is fundamentally, critically important to you. It is the most important thing. It may be easier for you to deal with each other, or with others who have conflicting versions of the truth, than to do deal with someone like me who doesn’t seem to advocate any particular truth, but sees it all as relative.”

Others shared similar realizations after this workshop. Often, dialogue is said to bring people together whose viewpoints and experiences contribute important “pieces of the puzzle” for making progress on issues like racial inequity, education reform, and youth violence. But framing dialogue in relativist terms may backfire for some audiences. According to Hess and Johnson, it may be important to reassure conservatives that “truth Capital T is still welcome” – as long as they also agree to be open to learning more.

Another concern brought up in Hess and Johnson’s workshop is the fear of a hidden [liberal] agenda. Pete Peterson confirmed this on the conservatives panel, suggesting people with more traditional views might respond better when dialogue is framed as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. When dialogue is seen as a “tool,” the question arises from all sides “What is the hidden agenda? To change my mind so I agree with you? To challenge my beliefs or values?”

Peterson’s comment echoed another concern Hess and Johnson explored in their session: the fear of being changed. Dialogue can be seen by people with deep-rooted belief systems as something that might require them to compromise their beliefs somehow. Consider how a conservative Christian might feel when asked to participate in a dialogue on gay marriage aimed at “finding common ground” or moving forward in ways that “work for all” among people with disparate viewpoints. Panelist Grover Norquist, Founder of Americans for Tax Reform, likewise pointed out latent fear among some towards events seeking common ground.

There are many theories as to why progressives have shown more interest than conservatives in public engagement work, but the fact remains that the outcomes of public engagement projects cannot be easily categorized as serving left-wing or right-wing agendas. Participants sometimes recommend tax increases or new government programs to address the issue at hand; other times they call for business or nonprofit groups or take over tasks that had been the responsibility of government. Often, they call for citizens to take more direct responsibility for solving community problems.

Note from Sandy:

This is my third blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community.  The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin:  The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?) and the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?).  You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

Repost: Transpartisan Town Hall, Fresno, CA    

Joseph McCormick posted this today to the Transpartisan Alliance’s social network. (You can join the TA network here.)  I thought some of you would be interested…

The other night about 35 people in Fresno got together at “the big red church” to talk about Ending the Political Un-Civil War. They were real estate brokers, retirees, non-profit leaders, former senior business executives, conservative columnists and politicos from the left and right. The purpose of the evening was to engage this group of community thought leaders and networkers in the possibility of a new way to going about politics. A way that moves beyond traditional dualities and fixed positions by applying proven techniques of dialogue, deliberation, and conflict resolution.

Invitations for the evening went to all sides and was promoted on Alan Autry’s conservative radio show, but to be honest those who showed up tended to be more progressive. In the future transpartisan events will be coordinated with groups like the local Tea Party (which had a concurrent event that night) so that, ideally, participation is approximately a third progressive, a third conservative, and a third independent or unaligned. (more…)

IJP2 Article Part 2: Consider how different framings affect different groups    

Another clear theme in the Framing Challenge at the 2008 NCDD conference was the importance of understanding how different groups of people respond to the various ways public engagement is currently framed. In the online dialogue and at the conference itself, many pointed towards acquiring and cultivating greater sensitivity to the ways that distinct language ‘plays out’ for different groups.

conversation_croppedblogThe concept of blind spots in our language – terms and phrases that dissuade or confuse without our realizing it – was discussed in the online dialogue. Susan Partnow, a leader in the Conversation Cafe movement, remarked that she had been surprised in the past when her efforts to be inclusive and welcoming fell short. She proposed a need to “assume you are making a lot more assumptions than you think you are.”

“Different language pushes different people’s buttons,” stated Avril Orloff, who led our 5-person Graphic Recording Team for the conference. While many cringe at “touchy feely” terms like heart-work, wholeness, and consciousness, “others [like me] sigh over bureaucratic-sounding language like multi-stakeholder engagement, whole systems change and the dread empowerment.” Kai Degner, Mayor of Harrisonburg, Virginia and founder of the OrangeBand Initiative, summed it up well when he said that people in the dialogue and deliberation community often talk about the work they do in ways that are “either too new-agey or too ivory tower.”

Many anecdotes were shared of instances when blind spots in language unintentionally dissuaded people from participating. Erin Kreeger related how some clients talk in terms of decision making but cannot relate to the term deliberation – “even though their processes are what many of us would call deliberation.”

Another colleague of Kreeger’s “would never use the term democracy because it’s too loaded and manipulative when used in the contexts he works in.” Jim Driscoll, who co-led a workshop with several Iraq-era veterans on his program Vets4Vets, shared how a donor reconsidered a large gift “because the organization had used the word democracy in the proposal… he thought it must be a ‘feel good’ organization and he is a hard-nosed conservative.” Irene Nasser related how even the concept of collaboration can turn people away from participating in Jewish-Palestinian dialogue, since potential participants often see each other as the enemy and have no interest (yet) in working together.

As Framing Challenge leader Jacob Hess wrote in his report on this challenge, the degree to which we can “surface ways in which different terms play out differently across different communities, we can move forward more deliberately to accomplish what we really want in drawing diverse communities together…. The aim is to be mindful about the language we use, being aware that different words that really resonate with us may need some explaining, translation or upgrading for another setting.”

Note from Sandy:

This is my second blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community.  The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin:  The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?) and the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?).  You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

Also, see NCOC’s 2008 Civic Health Index (p. 17-18) for a fascinating summary of people’s reactions to terms we often use to describe public engagement work: democracy, citizenship, civic engagement, service, social entrepreneurship and community organizing. 13% of survey respondents responded negatively to the word “democracy” when asked to share the first thing that came to mind. 20% cited some kind of right or duty, such as voting. 12% mentioned rules of decision-making, such as majority rule, and 9% cited the government.

IJP2 Article on Framing and Systems Challenges    

An article of mine was published in the latest addition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community.  The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin:  The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?) and the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?).

I want to make sure the D&D community sees and benefits from this article (it was a lot of work! – plus I quote and mention many of you)…  so I plan to share segments of the article here on the NCDD blog every few days for the next month as food for thought.  Feel free to add your thoughts and reactions using the comments field.  I would love for the article to spur more conversation in our community about these critically important issues.

You can download the full article from the IJP2 site. Note that the current edition of the Journal also includes great articles from NCDD members David Campt (on using audience response keypads), Janette Hartz-Karp and Lyn Carson (on the Australian Citizens’ Parliament), and others.

framing_graphic_200pxNow for blog post #1…

The Framing Challenge: Presenting dialogue and deliberation in an accessible way

Oftentimes, people’s assumptions, fears or reactions to dialogue and deliberation have much more to do with framing than with the processes themselves. Subtle cues in how we talk about and present this work can put people on the defensive and turn them away. In this challenge area, we explored how public engagement processes can be made more accessible to more communities—not by radically changing the practice itself, but my making sure the “packaging” is as welcoming, accessible and compelling as possible. The crux of this work is to provide the space for people with a wide variety of perspectives and experiences to solve problems together, and the ability to draw in people of all educational levels, ages, income levels, and political perspectives is vital.

Our leader for the “Framing Challenge” was Jacob Hess, a young social conservative who says he has “found a home in the dialogue community.” The first time he was invited to a dialogue at his college, Jacob saw how the ways we talk about, portray and frame dialogue can strongly affect whether diverse groups feel comfortable participating. Conservatives are just one group for whom this challenge matters, but the NCDD community has been particularly concerned about attracting more conservatives to this work since the first National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation in 2002 – when keypad polling showed that a surprisingly low number of conference attendees had voted for President Bush in 2000. (more…)

Open Government: Strategies and Tactics from the Play Book    

Lucas Cioffi sent the following announcement to the NCDD Discussion list today. The lead organizers of the event are 3 NCDD members: Lucas Cioffi (AthenaBridge), Stephen Buckley (, and Kaliya Hamlin (

To the Open Government Community,

You are invited to Open Government: Strategies and Tactics from the Play Book. This will be the first in a series around the Open Government Directive and specifically designed to create a community of support for implementation.

Who: Those who are blazing the trail of open government– this first event is for pioneers who have already begun work prior to the Open Government Directive being released.

Why: Successful implementation of the Open Government Directive will require a sustained effort by the open government community. This series of workshops will build upon previous conferences to foster sustained knowledge sharing among open gov pioneers until the open government movement goes mainstream within government.

What: This event will provide space for conversation about effective open government practices that have already been implemented, with an eye toward the upcoming Open Government Directive. Video and slides from all the presentations will be compiled into an evolving resource entitled the Open Government Play Book that to which anyone may contribute.

When: November 16, 2009 from 9:30am-12:30pm

Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Room A5, 901 G Street NW, Washington, DC and streamed live online.

How: (1) 90-minute lightning round of 5-minute presentations by open government practitioners working within government agencies. (Presenters must be government employees at the federal, state, or local level. Full-time contractors who work within government agencies are also eligible. Presentations will last 5 minutes and cover a specific implementation effective practices for making government more transparent, participatory, or collaborative.) (2) 60-minute discussions about the release of the Open Government Directive.

RSVP here:

Please note, this will not be a fancy event. Participants should come for good conversation and to listen and learn from each other.

This event has been planned with the advice from the 60+ members of this Google Group. Lead organizers are Lucas Cioffi (AthenaBridge), Stephen Buckley (, and Kaliya Hamlin (

National Town Hall on Adults with Autism Coming Up    

I received an email Friday from Dianna Dauber at AmericaSpeaks about their upcoming Advancing Futures of Adults with Autism (AFAA) National Town Hall on November 13th. Dianna told me they’re still recruiting participants for the Chicago site (the Hub) and for the online virtual town meeting site. I don’t believe they’re in need of facilitators at this point.

If you want to experience some innovative online dialogue and you are concerned about autism-related issues, you may want to register as a participant in the “Virtual Town Hall.” In the Virtual Town Hall, participants will be at virtual tables with a facilitator and nine other remote participants, connected to live video webcast of the event from Chicago and a chat room for participants. Virtual Table participants will dial into a toll-free conference call line set up for their table group discussion. A facilitator will lead each table and send their table’s responses directly to the Theme Team.

Phase One of AFAA was a two-day Think Tank that took place in January 2009, where experts in a variety of fields identified key issues and possible solutions to the challenges that adults with autism face. Phase Two is the National Town Hall meeting on the 13th, where Americans will come together across over a dozen cities throughout the nation to create a policy agenda for addressing the needs of adults with autism, and to provide specific steps to provide more opportunities on a local level. Phase Three will be an Autism Congress in Washington, D.C. in 2010, with the goal of advancing the policy priorities that come out of the AFAA National Town Hall meeting with national-level policy makers. (more…)

Report on Online Town Hall Meetings from the Congressional Management Foundation    

online-town-hallsBe sure to check out Online Town Hall Meetings: Exploring Democracy in the 21st Century (2009, Congressional Management Foundation), which tackles the lack of information out there about how the internet might facilitate and enable conversations between citizens and Members of Congress.

The report is based on 20 online town hall meetings facilitated in 2006 with U.S. Representatives and one event in 2008 with a U.S. Senator, with a total number of participants in excess of 600. The “online town halls” were not remarkable process-wise; the Member of Congress and moderator spoke over VOIP (internet phone, like Skype) and constituents typed in questions and comments online (yep – online versions of the typical town hall meeting). But the research is solid, and if you’re looking for data to help you convince a Member of Congress to engage their constituents using basic online technology, look no further.

Researchers found that:

  • The online town halls increased constituents’ approval of and trust in the Member of Congress.
  • The online town halls increased constituents’ approval of the Member’s position on the issue discussed (in this case, immigration was the most popular issue discussed).
  • The town halls attracted a diverse array of constituents–including those not traditionally engaged in politics and people frustrated with the political system.
  • The town halls increased engagement in politics (voting, following elections, persuading others to vote).
  • The town halls increased the probability of voting for the Member.
  • The discussions in the town halls were of high quality (quality of information, use of accurate facts, respect for different points of view, etc.).
  • The sessions were highly rated by constituents; participants wanted to see more of these types of sessions.

What do folks think of these findings (from the Executive Summary)? How can we build on this data to make an argument for higher-quality forms of online engagement?

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