The Large Group (Plenary) Sessions
The three plenary sessions ? one each day ? put participants through a deliberative dialogue process to help them decide how we should move forward together to strengthen and unite the field and the practice. Below is a synopsis of the three sessions and their findings.
Friday's Large-Group Dialogue Process
Designed and administered by members of the Conference Organizing Team.
- Eric Boyd, Executive Director of Los Angeles Days of Dialogue
- Randy Ross, Program Development Specialist, New Jersey Office of Bias Crime and Community Relations
Katie Howard of the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center speaking to her group at Friday's plenary session.
In facilitated small-group dialogues, conference participants introduced themselves and shared their reasons for coming to the conference. They shared what dialogue and deliberation mean to them ? both literally (what do those words mean?) and figuratively (what meaning do they have for you personally?). They moved on to talk about what their individual needs are as dialogue and deliberation professionals. And they concluded by discussing what their hopes are for the practices of dialogue and deliberation, and for the dialogue and deliberation community.
A group of volunteers compiled the handwritten notes taken during this session. They found that the greatest hope that participants expressed is that the practices of dialogue and deliberation (D&D) will improve our world through a) personal transformation, b) stronger communities, and c) reinvigorated democracy.
Participants also hope that D&D will become embedded in our processes of governance, mediating institutions, and the consciousness of the public.
Additional shared hopes included:
- The practice of D&D will gain greater recognition (?same status as opinion polling?). This will bring more funding to the practice.
- D&D will be accessible to everyone and truly inclusive. D&D skills will be taught throughout the educational system.
- We will build a community of practice that supports sharing, working and learning together. We will be more intentional about considering who has been left out of gatherings like this and increase our own diversity (including ideologically).
- We will develop shared models, assumptions and terms within the D&D community. We will avoid jargon, clich?s and terms that are too narrow.
- We will develop better measures and practices to evaluate our work.
The group also developed this important statement:
Dialogue and deliberation have a diversity of purposes, ranging from personal growth and learning to collective action and impacting governance. As a group, we have disagreements about the nature or role of action and change in our work. This group needs to be clearer about the hopes that inform our different ideas about the role of action and change.
Saturday's 21st Century Town Meeting
Designed and administered by AmericaSpeaks.
- Joe Goldman, Associate of AmericaSpeaks
A snapshot from Saturday's AmericaSpeaks session
In facilitated small groups, and equipped with electronic, wireless keypads for each individual and wireless laptops for each table, participants were asked to identify opportunities and challenges that have the potential to effect our ability to move our field of practice forward. Throughout this session, participants were polled (via the keypads) on various questions and issues, and notes that were typed into the laptops were compiled by a volunteer Theme Team.
The opportunities that were identified are:
- We are at a national moment that demands dialogue and deliberation on issues such as the economy, 9/11, trust in institutions.
- Engage the nation in a dialogue on war with Iraq. ?It's not about the war, it's about using the democratic way to discuss the issue.?
- We have identified issues and intentions within the field. ?It is a great time to build on them,? define the field, increase connections and ?move forward together.?
- Educate everyone about D&D and ?reinvent the way we are with each other in groups, in society, nationally.?
- Create a shared toolbox for D&D practices, combining methods from all corners of the field.
The challenges that were identified are:
- Representation: Including typically underrepresented groups and a range of political perspectives.
- Funding: Making the case for the value of the dialogue process; demonstrating outcomes; competing among ourselves.
- Decision-makers: Openness to sharing power; the view of dialogue as a means for input and changing mindsets.
- Barriers to Participation: Resistance due to time; question of value; apathy; need to create incentives for participation.
- Building on Connections Here: Remaining open as a field to other disciplines that can deepen and enrich our practice and thinking; maintaining values as we build.
- Outcomes: Developing better tools for evaluation of both process and outcomes.
Participants were then asked to develop a set of specific action items that the field should pursue. These ideas were compiled and given to the facilitators of Sunday's plenary session.
Sunday's Next Steps Forum
Designed and administered by the Study Circles Resource Center.
- Michael McCormick, Program Director at SCRC
- Gwen Whiting, Associate of SCRC
A snapshot from Sunday's Next Steps Forum.
At this session, conference participants were asked to choose a ?Next Steps group? to join based on their interests. The groups, which are listed below, were gleaned from Saturday's plenary. After meeting in these newly-formed groups and discussing their different and shared perspectives regarding their particular Next Step, participants reported out creatively (there was some singing involved, and lots of energy) about the main themes of their discussion.
At this point, everyone was given the (optional) opportunity to change groups based on what they heard and which group they feel best meets their needs, interests and abilities. The new groups then discussed how to proceed with the next steps (What action needs to be taken? What obstacles might we face? What resources do we need? Who will take responsibility for what?), and reported out again.
The twelve ?Next Steps Groups? that developed focused on:
- Connecting dialogue and deliberation to the arts
- Creating a shared dialogue and deliberation toolbox
- Integrating dialogue and deliberation into educational environments
- Advancing diversity and expanding connections
- International networking
- Marketing dialogue to the media and the public
- Meeting practitioners' funding needs
- Developing our mission and vision
- Convening national dialogues (starting with Iraq)
- Networking and communications within D&D
- Networking and collaboration among online D&D practitioners
- Research & development