The Twelve Next Steps Groups

Twelve ?Next Steps groups? formed on the last day of the National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation to address various needs and issues and/or make recommendations that are vital to the dialogue and deliberation community. Below are summaries of the groups' plans or recommendations, a list of the participants in each group, and a summary of NCDD's current activities which relate to each group. Thank you to the Study Circles Resource Center for designing and leading the Next Steps Forum!

The Connecting to the Arts Group

A photo of one of the Next Steps groups.

A snapshot of one of the Next Steps groups.

The Connecting to the Arts group is interested in exploring parallels and intersections between the arts and civic dialogue; examining how the arts can contribute to various dialogue goals, including action; expanding the reach and value of dialogue through the arts; and developing better understanding about artistic forms that embody dialogue or are dialogic in nature and that may enhance dialogue work.

What NCDD is doing:

The fact that the 2002 conference had a strong arts component was a pleasant surprise to many of the participants. Most of the arts-related break-out sessions and arts-based practitioners were there thanks to the presence and leadership of the Animating Democracy Initiative of Americans for the Arts. NCDD continues to collaborate with ADI in several ways.

A photo from ADI's National Exchange.

Two happy participants at ADI's National Exchange in October 2003.

NCDD helped the Animating Democracy Initiative publicize its National Exchange on Art and Civic Dialogue, which was held in Flint, Michigan, October 9-12, 2003. NCDD is also working with ADI to help expose more people throughout the D&D community to the myriad ways that the arts can and are fostering dialogue and deliberation. To do this, we plan to develop a "D&D and the Arts" section for the NCDD website, which will feature resources such as instructions and ideas for integrating D&D with the arts, links to arts and D&D projects and organizations, and lists of artists to contact for assistance.

We are also exploring other ways to link our members to useful arts information and resources. We may ask ADI's arts-based civic dialogue projects to provide us with information to post on our website about their projects (emphasizing action steps and what's needed). Also, Connecting to the Arts member Leah Lamb is interested in interviewing individuals who integrate art and dialogue in order to develop written documentation to shared on the NCDD website.

The Connecting to the Arts group is also interested in helping to develop a one-on-one peer network within NCDD. In particular, they would like to see arts-based practitioners developing personal mentoring relationships with non-arts-based practitioners, helping both groups to understand one another better and learn from one another.

An ongoing listserv exists for the Connecting to the Arts group as a part of NCDD's online community. The group has agreed to expand the purpose of the list so that it can serve as more of a networking tool, allowing people interested in the cross-sections between D&D and the arts to pose questions, explore ideas, share resources and seek advice.

And finally, the Connecting to the Arts group will play a role in planning an arts component for future NCDD conferences.

Dialogue & Deliberation Toolbox Group

This group is interested in the collection, classification, description, and utilization of tools and methods, for the training, practices, self-reflection, troubleshooting and development of the international dialogue community.

What NCDD is doing:

NCDD is in the process of creating an online mechanism that will allow the Toolbox Group and others to store, examine, discuss and evaluate a variety of tools used for dialogic and deliberative processes.

In addition, NCDD is expanding the Resources section of its website significantly. Some of the tool-related features that will be added to the site within the next 8 months or so are:

Education & Dialogue Group

This group emphasized the importance of learning about what each other is doing in their respective locations in education. They expressed interest in sharing resources, tools and curricula that are already in place and displaying these on the NCDD website as well as the website run out of the Pennsylvania Center for Civic Life.

They discussed coordinating future networking efforts at related conferences, and even talked about institutionalizing such meetings as an official part of the national conferences of such organizations as the American Association for Higher Education or the Association of American Colleges & Universities.

The group also emphasized the importance of more long-term goals including the development of programs or programming which would prepare educators and both formal and informal educational organizations to incorporate dialogue into their pedagogy, curricula and governance structures.

What NCDD is doing:

NCDD has been working with the Democracy Project of the Society for Values in Higher Education to help ensure the success and impact of its innovative April 2003 working conference ?Discussion, Dialogue, and Deliberation: Three-D Teaching and Learning.? We helped get the word out about the event, and we will soon be posting resources on our site that were shared and developed at the event, so that others who could not attend can still benefit.

The conference was attended by some of the key leaders in dialogue and deliberation at U.S. colleges and universities, and the participants in April's SVHE conference expressed interest in initiating an internal NCDD network, or ?section,? for members involved in higher education.

We are also working in conjunction with SVHE and its network to develop another kind of higher education ?section? ? a section on the NCDD website that will be devoted to resources, information and tools useful to D&D practitioners and scholars who are based at colleges and universities. This section would serve as a repository for ideas, articles, research results, best practices, funding opportunities, announcements and more.

NCDD is also keeping in contact with Pat Gurin (Director of Research at the University of Michigan's Intergroup Relations program), who is spearheading a collaborative 6-campus research study of intergroup dialogue programs. This research has the potential to be of great benefit to our field, and NCDD has offered to help the project disseminate its progress and eventual findings via our website and email bulletins.

In addition, NCDD is in the process of gathering information about educational programs that place an emphasis on teaching students dialogue and deliberation techniques.

Advancing Diversity Group

A photo of the Advancing Diversity group.

A snapshot of the Advancing Diversity group at the conference.

The Advancing Diversity group is focusing on improving the climate for the coalition and future conferences with regard to diversity and racism. The group's vision statement is: Assuring that the Coalition in its organization and programming provides models for thinking about and exploring diversity as well as models that honor diversity. The group hopes to develop a process continuum that legitimizes the importance of differences as a valued quality in the work of the NCDD and that moves in continuous circle of growth: Consciousness, Contact, Awareness, Tolerance, Acceptance, Respect, Appreciate, Honor.

What NCDD is doing:

As requested by the Advancing Diversity group, NCDD will establish a position on the Steering Committee to be filled by someone who is passionate about diversity, who can proactively develop creative ways to facilitate the growth and development of the Steering Committee and the NCDD membership, and who can develop strategies that enable compassionate intervention when necessary.

The Advancing Diversity group also plans to develop a training for Steering Committee members; to identify salient diversity issues for NCDD; to develop different processes using a series of varied multicultural/multiracial interactions, exercises and celebrations for ongoing work on diversity; and to develop a pre-conference program on diversity based on the ethics and values of the Advancing Diversity group for the next conference.

The Advancing Diversity group's work will initially focus on the following concerns:

International Networking Group

This group recommended that NCDD find ?sister organizations? in other countries with which?to interact and connect, and look for other ways to network in order to find individuals and organizations that do D&D work internationally. They suggested we contact some of the North America-based organizations not represented at the conference that do international dialogue and deliberation work in order to have more of an international presence in NCDD membership and at future conferences. Another recommendation was to provide a separate fund to create up to 10 scholarships for people from the international community to attend the next conference.

The International Networking group felt that the D&D community should find and follow through on funding opportunities to support D&D work with other countries. They also suggested that members of the D&D community collaborate to develop an International Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation. They offered the Office of Citizens Exchange as a possible source of funding for such efforts.

What NCDD is Doing:

For the time being, NCDD is focused on developing a strong network within the United States. We welcome members from other countries, but we are not actively recruiting internationally. When we begin planning for the next conference, we will actively recruit participants from other nations and from organizations and individuals that work internationally.

Marketing & Media Group

The Marketing and Media group seeks to build relationships with the media and decision-makers and to increase their understanding of dialogue and deliberation. The group is also interested in finding ways to define our message (articulating what dialogue and deliberation offer in a compelling way), ?work? the message (writing articles about dialogue, getting ideas into the mainstream), and build understanding through engagement (engaging media in a ?day of dialogue? to raise awareness).

What NCDD is doing:

The Marketing & Media group is working on developing a "Dialogue Bureau." The Dialogue Bureau would be a network of leaders of dialogue and deliberation groups who are willing to speak with the media about the key findings and concerns of their group. The Dialogue Bureau would deepen media coverage of an issue while providing D&D leaders ? and D&D in general ? with increased publicity.

NCDD Steering Committee member Tom Atlee is also working with a group of NCDD members to design an interactive, collaborative process that would enable people from throughout the field to work together to create one or more statements about the visionary mission of dialogue and deliberation and its practitioners. This process would create coherent statements of the visionary role of D&D in our society's effectiveness, survival and evolution.

Funding Group

The Funding group recommended that D&D organizations and programs begin to share information about and connections with foundations that support our work, and find ways to foster collaborative grant writing. They suggested that we try to map our collective resources and needs in order to approach foundations in a more strategic, cohesive way. The Funding group also recommended that representatives from foundations interested in dialogue and deliberation be brought together for a collaborative Day of Dialogue.

What NCDD is doing:

NCDD has been developing a chart of funders who are interested in dialogue and deliberation-related work (civic engagement, conflict resolution, peacebuilding, etc.), and has already shared this chart with a number of practitioners who have inquired about funding opportunities. We are currently exploring ways we could encourage others to share their information about funding with us, and how we might best display this information online.

Mission and Vision Group

The Mission and Vision group recommended that NCDD consider the exploration of who we are (as both a network and as a field or community) and what we are doing to be an ongoing conversation producing occasional insights and decisions, but never firmly nailed down. The group recommended that explore who else should be involved in this conversation about our mission and vision before any firm statements are made.

What NCDD is doing:

NCDD has not yet made any firm decisions about its mission or vision. It remains guided by the mission of the conference to strengthen and unite the dialogue and deliberation community. A group of talented NCDD members is beginning to explore and make decisions about NCDD's governance procedures, mission, vision, values and long-range plan. A number of the group's members are highly skilled and experienced in nonprofit management, systems thinking and visioning.

The National Dialogue Project

The National Dialogue Project was created to connect dialogue and deliberation organizations, practitioners and networks to support citizen engagement. Fostering a National Dialogue on Iraq was to be this group's first major project.

What NCDD is doing:

This group is not currently active for a number of reasons, although the group has accomplished quite a lot. The main reasons this group is not active are: differences of opinion of group members (immediate, one-time dialogue on Iraq vs. long-term, established project); lack of resources available (for compensating group leaders, for publicizing efforts, etc.); group members' lack of time to dedicate to the project; a loss of momentum of group members once decisions were placed in the hands of a few members; and the increasing powerlessness peace-oriented members felt as the war became more and more imminent.

Substantial strides were made in creating the tools and infrastructure for the National Dialogue Project, however, and NCDD hopes to utilize some of these tools in the future. Most significantly, a mechanism was developed to collect information about dialogues after they occurred, and to share those details with other practitioners who visited the site. The mechanism was to be, among other things, a means of compiling information about the outcomes of dialogues on Iraq, so that these outcomes could potentially be used to inform decision-makers and the media of citizens' views. The website can still be viewed at

The executive committee of the project remains committed to the idea of a National Dialogue Project, assuming that broad-based support is obtained from the dialogue and deliberation community. However, they are looking at a much longer time frame for goal-setting, program developing and implementing than was originally estimated, and are not currently working actively on the project due to other obligations.

Once the war in Iraq began, NCDD was able to provide the dialogue and deliberation community with some vital resources. We created an interactive web log (?Blog?), called the Iraq Crisis Forum, to provide D&D practitioners with the support, resources and ideas they needed for organizing, facilitating and encouraging D&D during wartime. Visitors were welcome to add comments to existing postings, or to send us ideas for new postings.

37 entries were posted to the Iraq Crisis Forum in all, under the following categories:

Entries had such titles as:

The Iraq Crisis Forum reached a lot of people. The announcement about it was forwarded to many listservs and posted on many websites, and we received more hits than usual due to the people visiting the forum. The Forum received more visitors in April than any of our other pages, by far. The main page of the forum itself received 41,399 hits in the month of April.

Networking and Communications Group

The Networking and Communications group emphasized the need for local and regional gatherings as well as additional national conferences. They recommended that NCDD develop ways for conference participants to stay in touch with each other ? and with other practitioners and scholars who were not in attendance at the conference ? via the website, online newsletters, listservs, and perhaps a directory of people and organizations.

What NCDD is doing:

Above all else, NCDD's efforts are focused on providing opportunities for NCDD members and potential members to network and collaborate. We do this by providing a reliable way for D&D programs to publicize their events, resources and news throughout the field (and to stay updated on what others are doing), by providing ways for members and others to communicate about issues important to their work, and by freely and openly sharing the information we have access to. We are also in the process of establishing new networks and opportunities for networking and creating new interactive, useful features on the NCDD website.

Establishing Ways for Members and Action Groups to Communicate

One of the things NCDD was able to do only a few weeks after the conference was to create the ?NCDD Online Community? ? a feature on the NCDD website which allows conference participants, NCDD members and others to engage in a variety of discussions, join in the work of some of the action groups, and stay abreast of what other groups are doing and discussing.

EdGateway provided us with their software and technical expertise for free, thanks to their relationship with conference participant Laurie Maak, Online Dialog Producer at Internet Catalyst.

We were able to pre-register all of the conference participants in the Online Community, and subscribe them to the NCDD Discussion, a new forum that would allow us conference participants (and other interested folks) to keep in touch with one another more easily. Several of the action groups that formed at the conference also began utilizing the Online Community to communicate with one another.

The Edgateway service allows for a high level of transparency and a feeling of community, while providing the user with important options. Members of each EdGateway discussion group are able to view and send messages online (like a bulletin board) or in their email (like a regular listserv). Registration is simple, and anyone who is registered can keep abreast of what's going on in all of the lists without overloading on email messages. The online community can be viewed at

In addition to these discussions, we set up a Yahoo group which is used for announcements only as a way to be sure to reach all members and only members. This was created because not all new NCDD members were joining the NCDD Discussion at EdGateway despite reminders, and because the Convenor needed a way to be sure to reach NCDD members who were checking the messages online and not receiving messages in their inbox. To ensure that members won't receive an abundance of emails, this group is only one-way (replies cannot go to the entire list) and will be used sparingly.

We also recently established a feature on the main NCDD page which will allow members to write short ?commentaries? about a recent trip, training or conference, or about a program they are focusing on. Whenever possible, these commentaries will be accompanied by pictures (including at least one photo of the member or members providing the commentary). This is meant to be one more way NCDD members can get to know each other's names, programs and faces. The current commentary overviews Sandy Heierbacher's recent trip to Seattle, during which she met with four NCDD members. Each of their pictures is displayed, along with descriptions of and links to their programs.

Establishing New Networks and Opportunities for Networking

NCDD members are working together to initiate regional networks of NCDD members and other D&D folks. Many practitioners have expressed a need and desire to network and collaborate regionally and locally with others who do D&D work.

Other NCDD members are in the process of creating internal NCDD networks, or ?sections,? to help D&D practitioners and scholars connect and develop relationships with others in their areas of interest. Two sections are currently being developed: a Higher Education section and an Arts section.

And a group of NCDD members is exploring how and whether to create a one-on-one peer network within NCDD. This would be similar to a mentor program, in which NCDD members would elect to participate, but the basis for selecting matches would vary depending on members' interests and needs. Some members may want to develop a peer relationship with someone outside of the U.S., others might want to partner with an artist, or with someone from a specific organization or someone with many years' more experience than them.

Freely Sharing Information

NCDD believes that for the D&D community to develop to its full potential, information must be shared as freely and openly as possible. NCDD has been continuing the Dialogue to Action Initiative's vital work of updating practitioners and scholars on new resources, upcoming opportunities and events, relevant funding options, and other important information. As always, this information is accessible to anyone who visits, without requiring membership, subscription or even registration. The site is now visited by over 12,000 people each month, and our monthly email update, which lists the headlines of what's new on the site (and in the field), reaches over 4500 individuals.

Our database currently has over 3200 listings of individuals and organizations involved in dialogue and deliberation work. Although we do not share our entire database with anyone (it represents years of work), we often sort it by state or country in order to share segments of the database with people who are interested in connecting with, collaborating with, or creating networks with others in their area. We have shared segments of our database 12 times since the beginning of 2003. For instance, we shared our Illinois entries with someone from Chicago who was interested in networking with others in his region, and we shared our New York and Washington, DC contacts with an Australian practitioner who was visiting those cities.

Future Web Features and Events that Promote Networking & Communications

NCDD is also developing several interactive features for the next version of the NCDD website. These features are designed to promote networking and communications, as well to build knowledge.

One of these new features will be a ?Practitioner Advice Forum.? The interactive forum will allow D&D practitioners to ask for advice and offer advice for other practitioners. Our goal is to have a variety of answers to each question so that practitioners can benefit from a number different perspectives. Ideally, this forum will be a great place to find answers to such questions as ?How do you define/explain dialogue or deliberation to someone who is brand new to it??, ?How can I attract media attention for my D&D efforts?? and ?What strategies can I use to get a good representation of the public/community involved in my program??

We are also in the process of designing an online mechanism for gathering and displaying information about dialogue and deliberation projects after they occur. Since there is currently no record ? online or off ? of dialogue and deliberation projects and programs that have been held, we hope to provide way for facilitators to easily share with their colleagues the what, when, how, who, why, so what and what now of their programs.

Online Working Group

Although this group did not form at the Next Steps forum, the group did form at the conference. This group considers itself to be the ?Online Working Group of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium.? The group is comprised of researchers and practitioners who seek to advance the development and use of internet technologies to enhance deliberative democracy. The working group was formed immediately after a group of online D&D practitioners ran a break-out session at the conference. The group is formally linked to the Deliberative Democracy Consortium because the concept for the working group came from an earlier meeting of the consortium. The group communicates through a monthly conference call and a listserv, and runs the Blog at

What NCDD is doing:

NCDD is in the process of gathering and organizing information about high-tech tools, products and programs for use in D&D processes (discussion mapping tools, polling tools, online techniques and technologies, etc.). This information will be posted on the NCDD website.

Research & Development Group

The Research & Development group provided NCDD with the following recommendations: Both theory-based and evaluative research pertaining to dialogue and deliberation should be collected and advanced.? Information on current research and support for research should be collected and shared throughout the field. There is a need for research to be applied more often and more effectively to practice, and for practice to be applied more to research efforts. To do this, resources such as tools and instruments, case studies, research papers and evaluations need to be made much more accessible and available. We need to find ways to learn across methods, advance cross-cultural and international research, collect and create tools for community self-assessment, create a clearinghouse of lessons learned and find ways to be collaborative in our research.

What NCDD is doing:

NCDD is following through on a number of the R&D group's recommendations.

Collecting and Creating Dialogue & Deliberation Evaluation Tools

NCDD is collaborating with the Deliberative Democracy Consortium to create an evaluation tool or series of tools which can be utilized in different circumstances. For the first phase of this project, NCDD is currently gathering examples of evaluation tools and processes that are already being used in the field. NCDD and the Consortium will be collaboratively analyzing the tools that were gathered, examining what elements seem to be most useful in particular circumstances, and looking for common threads in the tools that may be appropriate in many different circumstances.

We plan to design a new evaluation tool ? most likely involving both pre- and post-event participant surveys and facilitator surveys ? which can be used or modified for a wide variety of different deliberative dialogues (online, face-to-face, national, local, etc.).

Creating a Clearinghouse for Research

The NCDD website is currently being redesigned and expanded. One of the new features on the site will provide space for scholars to post or announce new research results, articles and summaries of dissertations, and for practitioners to post information about their programs, key learnings, tools, etc.

People who are interested in joining NCDD are asked to consider and convey what they may be able to contribute to the Coalition before they officially join. Many practitioners and scholars have already offered to share their research results and project summaries with us, allowing us to post the information on the NCDD website.

Here are four examples of the kinds of resources we could feature in the above two sections of the NCDD website, taken from emails sent by new NCDD members:

This new feature will allow NCDD members to easily share their research and experiences with one another ? and with other practitioners and scholars.

Collecting Information on Current Research

NCDD is gathering information about dialogue- and deliberation-related research that is currently being conducted or planned by scholars and practitioners. We plan to provide an ever-changing chart on our website that will include the name of the scholar/practitioner, their institution or organization and a brief synopsis of their current or planned research.

NCDD's Convener currently receives one or two emails each week from doctoral students and other scholars who would like to know if their research ideas area already being explored by others. This project, although challenging, will foster collaboration among researchers and prevent duplication of efforts, while also providing some additional recognition to those doing vital research on these practices.


Return to either the NCDD Conference Overview or the top of this page...