Plenary Sessions and Special Programs at NCDD 2004

Below you will find a listing of conference plenary (large-group) sessions and special programs...

World Caf?

Saturday night at 7:15 p.m.

Our hopes for this plenary session, which will be held on the first evening of the conference, are to provide an engaging conversational space for conference participants to identify 1) shared values, 2) the unique contributions of the dialogue & deliberation community, and 3) shared hopes for this community. We'll experience a unique approach to large-group dialogue which is spreading throughout the world, and to enjoy some great music and desserts!

The World Cafe is a simple, yet powerful conversational process for fostering constructive dialogue, accessing collective intelligence and creating innovative possibilities for action, particularly in large groups. World Cafe conversations simultaneously enable us to notice a deeper living pattern of connections at work in our organizations and communitiesthe often invisible webs of conversation and meaning making through which we already collectively shape the future, often in unintended ways.

The process is simple, yet often yields surprising results. In a World Caf? gathering, you join several other people at a Caf?-style table or in a small conversation cluster exploring a question or issue that really matters to your life, work or community. Others are seated at nearby tables or in conversation clusters exploring similar questions at the same time. People are noting down or sketching out key ideas on the Caf?'s paper tablecloths or large cards.

From these intimate conversations, members carry key ideas and insights into new small groups. This cross-pollination of perspectives is one of the hallmarks of the World Caf?. As people and ideas connect together in progressive rounds of conversation, collective knowledge grows and evolves. A sense of the larger whole becomes real. Innovative possibilities for action are made visible.

Our Host: Juanita Brown, Ph.D.

Juanita Brown collaborates as a thinking partner and design advisor with senior leaders across sectors in creating and hosting forums for constructive dialogue on critical organizational and societal issues. With her partner David Isaacs, Juanita is the co-originator of the World Caf? approach, which is rapidly spreading throughout the world. Juanita served as a Senior Affiliate at the MIT Sloan School's Organizational Learning Center (now Society for Organizational Learning) where she participated as a member of the Core Team of the Center's Dialogue Project, one of the early research initiatives in this field. Juanita has also served as a Research Affiliate with the Institute for the Future and is a Fellow of the World Business Academy. She is currently co-authoring a book The World Caf?: Shaping our Futures Through Conversations that Matter (Berrett-Koehler, Spring 2005).


The World Caf? website ( includes an overview of the principles, a free downloadable guide to hosting a Caf?, and numerous stories and articles about the Caf?. Pegasus Communications also offers The World Caf?: A Guide to Hosting Conversations That Matter, which is available for $15.00 through


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Reflective Panel on Dialogue & Deliberation

Sunday, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.

This plenary session was designed to enable us to tap into and expand upon both expert and community knowledge. In this interactive session, five prominent leaders in our community will lead us in a conversation addressing the all-important question ?How can we have a greater collective impact on the challenging issues of our time?? Our panelists will be?

James Fishkin is the Janet M. Peck Chair in International Communication at Stanford, where he also teaches and directs the Center for Deliberative Democracy. He is the author of Democracy and Deliberation and co-author of Deliberation Day. Jim is the creator of Deliberative Polling, which combines small-group deliberation with scientific random sampling. He is also a key organizer of ?PBS Deliberation Day,? an October 16, 2004 project enabling thousands of Americans to deliberate on key issues facing the nation.

Glenna Gerard is co-author of DIALOGUE: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation (the first comprehensive work on the subject published in the U.S.) and co-founder of The Dialogue Group. Glenna is a pioneer in the development of the dialogue process, with over 14 years' experience developing the art of applying and facilitating dialogue within a multitude of organizational contexts.

Martha McCoy, as Executive Director of the Study Circles Resource Center and President of the Paul J. Aicher Foundation (formerly the Topsfield Foundation), provides leadership in developing strategies for grassroots citizen involvement in some of the most critical issues that face communities. Martha and her staff travel widely to work with local public officials and community coalitions around the country, and to collaborate with national and state-level organizations that are integrating deliberative dialogue into their work.

Harold Saunders is the Chairman & President of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and the Director of International Affairs for the Kettering Foundation. Harold conducts non-official dialogue - a ?public peace process' - among those in deep-rooted ethnic, racial or religious conflict. He served in the U.S. government for 25 years; while Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (1978-81), he participated in drafting the Camp David accords and the Egyptian Israeli peace treaty and helped negotiate the release of American hostages in Iran.

William Ury is co-founder of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, where he directs the Global Negotiation Project. He is co-author of Getting to YES and author of Getting Past No and The Third Side. Bill works with community, government, and business leaders around the world on transforming adversarial relationships into mutually beneficial partnerships. Working with former President Jimmy Carter, he co-founded the International Negotiation Network, which seeks to end civil wars around the world.


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National Playback Theater

Monday, 8:30 to 10:00 a.m.

In this plenary, we will begin our last day together with an innovative example of how the arts can foster and enhance dialogue. We will utilize this international form of theatre to reflect on our learnings and experiences over the weekend, encourage unresolved conflicts to emerge, draw out ideas to help us make the most of our last day together, and rejuvenate us for the ?ride' home.

Playback Theatre is practiced in hundreds of settings in many localities and cultures around the world, as both an art form and a means of generating community power and possibility. This improvisational form of communication was developed in 1975 by Jonathan Fox in the mid-Hudson Valley of New York. The National Playback Theater ensemble was founded by Leilani Rashida Henry to integrate the principles of art, spontaneity and authenticity to facilitate dialogue and enhance cohesion and transformation within organizations and communities.

National Playback Theater unites improvisational artists from around the United States. Using music, movement and non-scripted theater, its performances create interactive dialogue and build community. In the telling and seeing of their stories played back, people discover or reinforce their common humanity and shared experience. Boundaries and conflicts start to dissolve, trust is built, learning is supported and uncharted terrain becomes safe and exciting. Participants are ?consistently enthusiastic? about the power of National Playback Theater's work to bridge the connection between mind and heart.

Lead Conductor: Leilani Rashida Henry

Leilani Rashida Henry a life-long performing artist with professional dance experience. She is a former member of Playback Theater West and President of Being and Living Enterprises Ltd., an organizational development company. Leilani has presented at the International Playback Theater conferences in Japan, Washington State and Finland. For more information regarding National Playback Theater, contact Leilani at 303-838-3818 or


Lorenzo Aragon - Freelance actor and director
Cat Callejas - Pacific Playback Theater
Kevin Gray - Playback Theater West
Victor Waring - Playback Theater West
Deb Witzel - Playback Theater West


James Hoskins - Recording and performance artist?


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Modified Open Space

Monday, 10:15 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

This is your time to propose a dialogue, discussion or workshop on any topic that still needs addressed. The planning team wants to ensure that all conference participants have the opportunity to start action groups, resolve conflicts, present models, or address key issues facing our community; the chance to make sure your needs for learning, for closure, for action, and for networking can be met on this last day of the conference.

Open Space starts with a circle of chairs. Participants create their own agenda by identifying issues and topics for which they have passion and interest and for which they are willing to host discussion groups. Participants move from group to group whenever they feel that they can no longer learn or contribute to a discussion, or when they feel drawn to another topic. The cross-pollination from discussion to discussion and topic to topic in a non-linear way allows participants to jump quickly from familiar ways of thinking into innovation and action. Open Space Technology, created by Harrison Owen, can be utilized by groups of 5 to over 2000.

How can such a process be productive without a pre-designed agenda or outcome and little or no intervention by a facilitator? Won't that create chaos? Won't chaos lead to catastrophe? Where is the structure? Actually there is very specific structure to the Open Space process - just not the structure people usually create for meetings. The result is a new way of working, thinking and communicating, and the results are innovative, concrete, positive, and substantial. Open Space has been used as the format for conferences, strategic planning, retreats and conflict resolution. It has also been used for intergroup understanding, community development and peacebuilding in small towns and villages, schools, hospitals, churches and more in over 90 countries.

Our Facilitator: Lisa Heft

Lisa Heft has been an independent consultant, facilitator and Master Level interactive learning specialist since 1974. She has presented and consulted in Brazil, South Africa, Switzerland, Canada, Zambia, Spain, Thailand and the U.S. She facilitates meetings, retreats and participatory conferences in Open Space; she also evaluates curriculum, trains trainers and offers workshops in interactive learning methods and in the method of Open Space Technology. Visit Lisa's website at to learn more.


You do not have to be a professional facilitator to convene an Open Space event, but it is helpful to read and learn about the basic method, what not to do and when not to use Open Space. Read Harrison Owen's book Open Space Technology: A User's Guide to learn about the method and some of the theory behind it. If you learn best through interactive, experiential learning, workshops are offered by Harrison Owen and colleagues (including Lisa Heft) through


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National Issues Forum on Americans' Role in the World

Monday, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

On Monday night, members of the National Issues Forums network including Dolores Foley of the University of Hawaii and Taylor Willingham of Texas Forums - will be hosting a National Issues Forum for both local community members and conference participants who are still in the area. Anyone in Denver at this time is welcome to join us for this deliberative conversation about Americans' Role in the World.

What is NIF?

National Issues Forums (NIF) is an independent network of civic and educational groups which use ?issue books? as a basis for deliberative choice work in forums based on the town meeting tradition. NIF issue books use research on the public's concerns to identify three or four options or approaches to an issue (there are never just two polar alternatives). Presenting issues in this way invites citizens to confront the conflicts among different options and avoids the usual debates in which people lash out with simplistic arguments. The term ?National Issues Forums? is used to refer to a network of organizations and a deliberative process.

What will happen on Monday evening?

The evening's discussions will focus on four different perspectives people have about Americans' Role in the World. Each approach shows a distinctive perspective on what our global priorities should be and what costs and tradeoffs we should be prepared to accept if we move in that direction.

No one approach is the perfect solution, nor are the approaches mutually exclusive. They do, however, frame the discussion in such a way that we can talk about the costs and consequences of each perspective. What criteria will we use to govern our actions as a nation and as citizens operating in an increasingly interconnected world? What kind of world do we want to create for our children and grandchildren? What needs to happen for us to move in that direction?

Why should you participate?

In addition to experiencing a leading deliberative technique and interacting more with your colleagues and people in the local community, you will enrich your thinking about this important issue. The NIF process helps people who use choice work in their discovery to see issues from different points of view. At their best, forums help participants move toward shared, stable, well-informed public judgments based on what is valuable to them about important issues. Through deliberation, participants move from making individual choices to making choices as a public.


You can learn more about National Issue Forums by visiting the websites of the National Issues Forums Institute, at, and the Kettering Foundation, at


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Networking Reception on Saturday evening (before the World Caf?)

On the first evening of the conference, instead of having one of those long sit-down dinners that can be agonizing if you don't know many people or choose the wrong table to sit down at, we'll enjoy a tapas dinner during the semi-structured networking reception. As you arrive, you'll notice that some of the cocktail tables are labeled with pre-designated topics (like Jewish-Muslim dialogue); these topics were proposed by your colleagues before the conference.

You may join a table where a topic interests you, or just mingle and munch for a while. While we don't expect you to have in-depth discussions or quality dialogues about the various topics, we hope people who share similar interests and experiences have the chance to meet, and to begin to hear about each other's work. You can also propose a new topic, which we'll announce later on in the reception.


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Dinner in Denver on Sunday night

Giving you a free evening on Sunday night accomplishes several things: it gives you a break from the conference atmosphere, allows you to spend some time in the city, and gives you another opportunity for some quality networking and relationship-building.

The Logistics Team has identified a variety of fun, affordable restaurants where conference participants can meet up (you'll have to pay for your own meal). We'll post all of the restaurants on newsprint in the Student Center on the first floor, and you can do one of two things: 1) choose a restaurant that doesn't yet have a topic assigned to it and propose an area of interest for people to gather around (perhaps you want to meet others who do LGBT dialogue, or who live in the Southern states, or who are concerned about political polarization in the U.S.,?) or 2) find the topic that most interests you and add your name to that sheet.


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Integration Groups that meet over Lunch

At busy conferences that seem to buzz by without our permission, it's easy to return to our busy routines without changing or doing anything differently despite everything we learned at the gathering. It can also be very hard to develop lasting relationships with the people you meet, just because of the sheer number of people and goings-on.

The Integration Groups that will be meeting over each day's lunch period are designed to address both of these difficulties. At registration, you will be assigned randomly to your Integration Group, which will help you process what you're learning and experiencing at the conference, and help you identify ways to integrate your learning back into your day-to-day work. Integration Groups will use the Conversation Caf? process, and will be hosted (lightly facilitated) by people who have been prepared in advance by the planning team.


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