The 2002 NCDD Conference

The first National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation was a highly participatory, high-energy event which brought dialogue and deliberation leaders together across models, topics, regions, applications and philosophies for a unique learning, networking and planning experience.

The event was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and took place at the Radisson Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, October 4-6, 2002.

How the Conference and the Coalition Came to Be

A photo of Cricket White and Jim Snow.

Cricket White and Jim Snow

The momentum that led up to the event began at MRA's Connecting Communities conference in June 2001 (MRA is now called Initiatives of Change), when Jim Snow of George Mason University's ICAR program and Tamra d'Estree of Denver University began talking about the need for a conference that would allow dialogue and deliberation practitioners to experience each other's models, share strategies and get to know their colleagues in the field.

Cricket White of Hope in the Cities joined the conversation and quickly began drawing in other conference participants who were involved in leading dialogue and deliberation efforts. Cricket's enthusiasm was contagious, and the following people began seriously talking about how we could make this idea a reality:

A photo of Melissa Wade.

Melissa Wade

Upon returning home, Sandy Heierbacher created a listserv (email discussion list) so that the group could communicate with one another readily, and we wrote to each other excitedly about planning an event which would bring dialogue practitioners together to learn about each other's dialogue models and strategies and to address the disconnect and lack of infrastructure that exists in the dialogue community.

We also reached out to others in our networks, and were joined by the following people who became actively involved in our planning efforts:

A photo of Sandy Heierbacher.

Sandy Heierbacher

It soon became evident that although everyone on the listserv was committed to organizing a gathering of dialogue leaders, each person had different ideas, needs and a unique vision for the event. In order to create some clarity about what ways dialogue practitioners could really benefit from such an event - and whether or not there was demand for an event like this - the group decided to design a needs assessment, and invited dialogue facilitators, organizers, researchers, students and participants to complete an online survey.

115 people from throughout the dialogue community completed the survey. The results, which were posted on the Dialogue to Action Initiative's website and publicized throughout the dialogue community, are both interesting and informative, and confirmed that dialogue practitioners have a strong need - and many great ideas! - for a dialogue conference.

Making the Conference Happen

A grant proposal was then written and presented to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (thanks to David Schoem mentioning our efforts to Terry Amsler of Hewlett!). After some rewriting and waiting, we received the good news on Thursday, May 23!

As soon as we heard the news, we moved into high gear. We had already found a great location and had agreed on October 4-6 as the dates for the event, but that left us with little over four months to organize a national conference! Sandy Heierbacher immediately sent out an announcement to about 2500 contacts throughout the dialogue community, hoping to not only encourage people to plan to attend, but also to join our Organizing Team and our Coalition.

We wanted this conference to be welcoming, relevant, informative and inspiring to practitioners and theorists representing the entire spectrum of dialogic practice, and assembling a broad-based Organizing Team was an important step in achieving this goal.

Within a couple of days, we had received over 400 email messages from dialogue leaders who wanted to express their excitement about the event. Many of these leaders accepted our invitation to join the conference Organizing Team or have their organization become a part of the Coalition for a National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation.

A picture from the conference.

A snapshot from one of the plenary sessions.

With a large organizing team of 60 incredible people who had faith that we could pull this off in four months - not to mention six absolutely phenomenal committee chairs - we were able to put together an event that includes 56 top-notch breakout sessions that exposed dialogue practitioners to a plethora of dialogue methods, models and tools, and three large-group sessions that took conference participants through a dialogic process to help them determine what actions we should take as a group to move our field forward. Click here for more details about the event itself (info about the break-out sessions and descriptions of the methods used during the plenary sessions and their results).

For those of you who weren't able to attend the conference, it was a really wonderful event. The atmosphere was extremely positive and just charged with energy, and the overwhelming attitude of participants was one of gratitude for the opportunity to be together with fellow D&D practitioners and excitement about what they could learn at the conference and share with others, and what we could begin doing together to strengthen our field.

The large-group sessions were high-energy and were effective in getting the group to think about what the field needs and how we might begin working together to meet those needs. And the break-out sessions were highly varied and very well-facilitated. Overall, the conference was too short and the schedule was too tight, but the spirit was one of learning about new methods and tools, meeting new colleagues and fostering new collaborative efforts.

Next Steps

A photo of one of the Next Steps groups.

One of the Next Steps groups listening to another group present at the final plenary.

Twelve "Next Steps groups" formed at the conference to address specific needs that are vital to dialogue and deliberation practitioners and the greater D&D community. The groups are focused on the following important topics:

Read more about these Next Steps groups and our other initiatives and projects - including info on how you can get involved.

Since the conference, the 50 organizations which made up the Coalition for a National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation have decided to continue working together to strengthen and unite the dialogue and deliberation community. Since the conference has ended but the work has not, the Coalition decided to become the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation(NCDD).

Since the 2002 conference, we have been inviting organizations and practitioners from across the dialogue & deliberation community to join our efforts. If you are interested in becoming a member of NCDD, please click here for more information about what this means and how you can join.


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