Engagement Streams Framework
NCDD’s Engagement Streams Framework helps people navigate the range of dialogue and deliberation approaches that are available to them and make design choices that are appropriate for their circumstance and resources. Although it was designed for beginners to these processes, the tool also helps more seasoned practitioners understand where their own experience resides on the continuum, and which methods they may want to learn more about depending on the needs of their clients and communities.
The framework is a series of two charts that categorize the D&D field into four streams based on intention or purpose (Exploration, Conflict Transformation, Decision Making, and Collaborative Action), and show which of the most well-known methods have proven themselves effective in which streams. The second chart goes into more detail about 23 dialogue and deliberation methods, and includes information such as group size, meeting type and how participants are selected.
Here are all the different documents you can download (click on the titles):
We spiffed up the original streams charts to make them more readable and easier on the eyes. This 9-page document provides a one-page introduction to the framework, a two-page overview of the four streams of practice, and 6 pages detailing the D&D methods. A Numbers (mac) version of this document is also available – just email for a copy.
The Excel version of the Engagement Streams Framework (most recently updated of all downloads!)
This is the original format, which provides two straightforward charts on two separate tabs. To ensure legibility, it should be printed out on 8.5 x 14″ paper. The Excel version has been updated to include all 23 methods, and to include active links to more information about each method. You can also download a PDF of this legal-size version of the framework.
This fun handout (pictured above) provides a snapshot of the four streams of practice – Exploration, Conflict Transformation, Decision-Making, and Collaborative Action. It introduces the purpose for using each stream and lists some of the dialogue and deliberation methods that have proven themselves to be effective in each stream.
We like to provide people with this additional handout when we present the framework at conferences and meetings. The handout lists and briefly describes the methods included in the Engagement Streams framework and directs people to the best place online to learn more about the model, get assistance, or obtain training in the method.
Acknowledgments and Citations
Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD’s Director, initially developed this resource to help inform workshops she presented in October 2005 with Tonya Gonzalez (at Everyday Democracy’s national conference) and Jan Elliott (at the Canadian Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation).
This framework built on a number of previous efforts to categorize or describe the public engagement and conflict transformation fields. All of the scholars and practitioners whose work was utilized to develop this framework (Barnett Pearce, Harold Saunders, Patricia Wilson, Tom Atlee, Matt Leighninger, Archon Fung, and others) were contacted for their feedback on the charts. Many of them provided ongoing feedback as we developed the charts.
The framework is most similar to and borrows most heavily from the four “social technologies for civic engagement” identified by Patricia Wilson in the article “Deep Democracy: The Inner Practice of Civic Engagement” (Fieldnotes: A Newsletter of the Shambhala Institute, Issue No. 2, February 2004). Download Wilson’s article here.
NCDD’s Engagement Streams Framework was featured in the May 2006 issue of IAP2′s Participation Quarterly publication. It was featured in a book published by the United Nations Development Programme called Democratic Dialogue: A Handbook for Practitioners, and is described in Sandy Heierbacher’s chapter on D&D in the 2nd Edition of The Change Handbook. Since 2005, it has been used by practitioners countless times to help community leaders and public managers understand their options.
Feel free to use and share this data widely. The framework can be cited in publications as:
NCDD’s Engagement Streams Framework (2005). Created by Sandy Heierbacher and members of the NCDD community. National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation.
This resource is continually updated and improved, so please let us know how you think we can improve the framework by emailing .
Here are a few ways people are using the framework:
“I’ve used the Framework for several years with the Leadership Austin classes, to help them understand where dialogue fits into the continuum. Because so few of them have any experience with dialogue, this approachable, easy to understand visual helps them “get it” and differentiates dialogue from other processes. It also quickly gives them several models of dialogue, so they understand that there are many ways to approach it.”
- Juli Fellows
“We built the Streams of Engagement framework into our online Issue Guide Exchange. When someone uploads a guide to the tool we give them the option of identifying which streams of practice the guide addresses. Then, when someone is searching for guides, the streams of practice provide them with another way to figure out which guides will best meet their needs.”
- Carrie Boron, Everyday Democracy
“I just discovered the framework and am using it in a group facilitation workshop I’m teaching to AmeriCorps interns. My intent is to get them to think about what type of facilitation they are attempting and what outcomes they are looking for and then looking at what methods make the most sense, given the desired outcomes.”
- Marty Jacobs, Systems In Sync
“I’ve used the engagement streams cartoon mostly, since it’s a great tool for introducing people to the ideas of different uses for the methods. I’ve used it and prepared it for Carolyn [Lukensmeyer] to use at presentations for United Way leadership, state elected officials, and college classrooms.”
- Susanna Haas Lyons, AmericaSpeaks