Feedback Wanted

These are the posts we especially want your feedback/ideas on. So please click on the titles of the posts that interest you and add your comments to the field at the bottom of the page!

Notes from 1-31-09 Austin Focus Group    

On Saturday, January 31st, we conducted an intentionally small focus group with just a few people from the Central Texas conference planning team. Present were Diane Miller, Juli Fellows, Tobin Quereau, Steven Fearing, Patricia Wilson, Taylor Willingham and Terry Crain.  We wanted to discuss two things with the focus group:

1. A local D&D network
What would you want from a local network of dialogue and deliberation folks? What can NCDD to support a local network? How can we make the network as low-maintenance and self-organized as possible?

2. A local, multi-process D&D “demonstration project”
What might a demonstration project look like in Austin? What role would NCDD have? What role could outside NCDD members/method leaders have? See www.thataway.org/events/?p=221 for more info about the demonstration project idea that came out of the 2008 NCDD conference.

Here are some things group members seemed to agree on…

Asset mapping and project mapping.
We need to map the existing resources (D&D, but also broader civic engagement) in Central Texas. We want to know who’s doing what work in Central Texas, and be able to connect with each person/organization. We need to figure out what technology will best enable us to do this.

Assessment and learning.
We want people to start doing some basic reporting on their programs. What were the successes? What was challenging? We want to capture learnings from public engagement initiatives, and make them available to those doing this work.

Coordinate activities.
In any given issue (health care, climate change, etc.), there are many activities being run already. Rather than start from scratch on a demonstration project, why not start recording and assessing what’s already happening? We can agree in principles, on elements we think should be consistent across programs, and on assessment measures, and then ask people to practially continue what they’re already doing. This would strengthen our capacity without starting from scratch, and give us data to amplify citizens voices and make a greater impact.

Learning community.
The people in the room were more interested in forming a small learning community than in establishing a larger local network. Members of a learning community would meet to share learnings and challenges, and might work together on projects. They would run professional development activities for each other, such as informal trainings in different D&D methods. Although NCDD would want to help with a more exclusive learning community however we can, we are determined to help create the space for a larger, open local network of practitioners and scholars.

Demonstration project.
The group felt that they had the human resources locally to be able to design and run a multi-process D&D demonstration project, without much involvement of outside process leaders. The involvement of NCDD was most welcome in several ways:

  1. To bring in additional funds (it was felt that, as a national organization, NCDD would be more successful with national and local funders)
  2. To provide guidelines and evaluation mechanisms that could be standardized among multiple programs
  3. To collect and amplify the results of public engagement programs

Group members agreed that any demonstration project should focus on one particular topic that is timely in the community. They agreed that the issue needed to be one where we could have some control over the process (local government is not already planning a major engagement initiative around the issue, for example). And they felt that a key ingredient of any project would be to have specific goals, and be very clear about what you’re trying to accomplish (too many things have been happening lately with no clear endpoint or purpose).

A couple of clear next steps emerged…

Larger-Scale Networking
NCDD is going to create a larger listserv to help public engagement folks in Central Texas connect, share resources, and announce opportunities (or we partner with Texas Forums to do this together).

Mapping Resources and Projects
Research technology that would allow us to map out who’s doing what D&D work in Central Texas. Look into whether we can also get people to start doing basic reporting on their programs (what were the successes? what was challenging?).

A small group met to talk about these things in depth.  What do others from Central Texas think about the idea of a demonstration project, or how best to run a local D&D network?  Your ideas and feedback are most welcome!

Find similar posts: Feedback Wanted, NCDD2008, Reports, Texas

Summary of Demonstration Project Idea    

The idea of an NCDD-led “demonstration project” emerged at the 2008 NCDD conference from a two-part workshop titled “How can WE revitalize democracy with D&D?” The workshop was co-led by DeAnna Martin of the Center for Wise Democracy and Adin Rogovin of the Co-Intelligence Institute.

The workshop brought together method leaders and practitioners in a dynamically facilitated fishbowl conversation to explore how we can weave together our work to enhance democracy. Workshop attendees were invited to observe the process and a couple of chairs in the fishbowl were left available so audience members could join in.  At different times the fishbowl conversation included: Tom Atlee, Theo Brown, Lucas Cioffi, Peggy Holman, Sen. Les Ihara, Julianna Padgett, Pete Peterson, Jim Rough, Elliot Shuford, John Spady, Patricia Wilson, Landon Shultz, Alexander Moll and others.

A demonstration project could…

  1. Give us the opportunity to collaborate on a tangible project that helps us learn and move forward together
  2. Generate momentum and resources for ongoing, sustainable, integrated method use
  3. Help us learn how to better meet the interests of decision makers
  4. Introduce a variety of D&D methods into governance, and integrate these methods into a system that is a citizen platform for having citizens make wise decisions in an inclusive way
  5. Build capacity at the local level and build capacity for our field – through capturing case studies, stories, and bringing leaders together to learn from one another
  6. Funnel into national processes (and vice versa) (more…)

Find similar posts: Feedback Wanted, NCDD2008, Reports

Summary of the Pre-Conference Online Dialogue on the Framing Challenge    

Challenge B: Framing this Work in an Accessible Way

Articulating the importance of this work to those beyond our immediate community (making D&D compelling to people of all income levels, education levels, and political perspectives, etc.) – and helping equip members of the D&D community to talk about this work in an accessible, effective way. Below is an outline of the great conversation we had at CivicEvolution.org about the Framing Challenge six months before the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin.

Summary created by Madeleine Van Hecke

I. What is currently happening that makes talk about D & D inaccessible or ineffective?

  • Off-putting Language (too touchy-feely at one end, too abstract and academic at the other) alienates people who might otherwise be attracted to D & D.
  • Uninspiring “colourless” language fail to engage people emotionally and so d & D approaches don’t capture the imaginations of others and don’t rally people to political engagement.
  • Language that others can’t/don’t relate to because it’s not part of their culture or is viewed negatively in their culture.
  • Using “liberal” sounding language that has troubling connotations to more politically conservative folks.
  • Using language that is blatantly disrespectful to more politically conservative folks.

II. What might we do to help D and D members talk about this work more effectively?

  • Use Graphics and Imagery to make basic D and D ideas more accessible and understandable.
  • Develop principles about what D & D means and base PR on that meaning.
  • Brainstorm with others to develop more vivid and understandable terminology.
  • Review what language is currently being used by D & D members that seems to be effective in their area.
  • Explore what is off-putting about some of our current language.
  • Explore the language used by people who are using D & D processes but don’t call them that.
  • Use language that explicitly connects D & D to solving the particular problem that the other person or group is grappling with.
  • Have people available to demonstrate what D & D is.
  • Create a guide that translates the different languages that D & D practitioners speak.
  • Encourage respect for the different languages that D & D practitioners speak.
  • Look at the “pattern language” that Tom Atlee and Peggy Holman explore in their pre-conference workshop as a possible resource.

Full Summary

Articulating the importance of this work to those beyond our immediate community (making D&D compelling to people of all income levels, education levels, and political perspectives, etc.) – and helping equip members of the D&D community to talk about this work in an accessible, effective way.

Clarifying Challenge B, defining some proposals for that challenge.

PROBLEM: Given the excitement and real curiosity I’ve experienced in people from all walks of life intrigued with D&D processes-teachers, parents, youth, elders, particularly, this challenge appeals to me. What simple tool would (easily) help us disseminate D&D and empower community or do we have it already?

SOLUTION: Clarify, edit the language of this challenge to clearly address it with an on-going team of 4 – 6 people in regular dialogue. Synthesizing what’s working/not working in this challenge. Develop proposals to make D&D processes accessible – effectively, simply and sustainably. Deliver them through NCDD 08 conference to vote on those proposals.

I. What is currently happening that makes talk about D & D inaccessible or ineffective?

A. Off-putting Language

The language some people use to describe D & D turns some people off because it is too new agey using “touchy-feely” jargon (talking about heart and meaning, love, togetherness) and turns others off because it is too ivory tower using academic jargon that goes over people’s heads (referring to deliberative democracy, whole-systems change, multi-stakeholder engagement).

Example: “I have seen many of our friends and colleagues in this field shoot themselves in the foot when they unknowingly use language that turns off young people, conservatives, power-holders, and others. It’s a problem, but they are very attached to the terms they use and can’t see the negative impact those terms have on people they’d like to reach.”

B. Uninspiring “colourless” language

The language currently used to label D & D work tends to be abstract and “bloodless,” so it isn’t terribly meaningful to people who don’t already know that the terms mean and it doesn’t trigger an emotional response (such as dialogue and deliberation, capacity-building, civic renewal, the arts of democracy). This also makes it hard to increase national awareness of D & D.

Example: Developments (in dialogue and similar approaches) “have flown under the national radar. One of the main reasons is the abstract, technical, unappealing language used to describe the work. Terms like “deliberative democracy” have so far failed as a rallying cry for citizens, public officials, or other audiences… The relationship between citizens and government is undergoing a dramatic shift; our language about democracy needs to reflect these changes. (Matt Leighninger)

C. Language that others can’t/don’t relate to.

“Many of my colleagues (people who I think are brilliant, are doing terrific work and who get a lot done and many of whom do not live or work in the U.S.) do not feel a part of or are interested in becoming a part of NCDD… partly because of language that creates a wall. For example, one colleague of mine said her clients talk a lot about decision making but do not relate to the term deliberation – even if their processes are what many of us would call deliberation. Another colleague says he would never use the term democracy because it’s too loaded and manipulative when used in the contexts he works in.” (Erin Kreeger)

D. Using “liberal” sounding language that has troubling connotations to more politically conservative folks.

Example: Jacob Hess notes that right-leaning students at the University of Illinois aren’t inclined to sign up for their dialogue program because it’s described as reflecting a “social justice” paradigm, a portrayal that remains negative to many social conservatives-code for ‘the liberal/diversity agenda.’”

E. Using language that is disrespectful to more politically conservative folks.

“At the last NCDD conference there were quite a number of times when I cringed at things I heard. Different speakers made references to “Carter = good, Reagan = bad” (which was accompanied at the appropriate times by cheers and boos) and to “Joe Sixpack” (accompanied by scattered snickers of derision). I couldn’t help thinking that if I were more conservative, I would definitely feel isolated, unwelcome and put down by such comments. I hope that we can all be more conscious of how we use language in ways that may turn away the very people we most need to engage.” (Dave Joseph)

Inspirational Quote:

“Language can either inhibit or facilitate the development of meaningful human relationships, so it is worthwhile to be careful and intentional about the words we use.” – – Landon Schultz

II. What might we do to help D and D members talk about this work more effectively?

A. Use Graphics and Imagery

Put some of the basic D and D ideas into a graphic form to make it more accessible to visual learners and to be more memorable and understandable to everyone by conjuring up images that have emotional pull in people’s minds. (Deborah Goldblatt and Avril Orloff)

B. Develop principles about what D & D means and base PR on that meaning

Develop a concise set of principles about what D & D means – “a basic floor of understanding beneath our feet which will allow us to have consequential interaction with the public (and each other) instead of continually re-establishing what D&D means” -  that could serve as a PR platform. (Brian Sullivan)

C. Brainstorm to develop more vivid and understandable terminology.

Brainstorm with others to develop introductory terminology that is understandable to beginners that can act as one public face of D & D, using methods such as generating metaphors, recalling the kinds of phrases people often use when referring to the problems D & D is attempting to solve, etc.

Examples:

Landon Schultz “I would like to propose ‘Resonance’ as a key term for the work we are doing in dialogue.”

Deborah Goldblatt offers some of the phrases that often come up in intergenerational dialogue: “in my day we would never have tolerated…,” “you mis-heard me,” boxed-in, “yeah,yeah,yeah…blah,blah,blah…I got it, I got it…,” generative listening, uncovering blind spots, resonance…very cool, learning a lot, when can we do this again?

D. Review what language is currently being used by D & D members that seems to be effective in their area.

Example: Some wisdom circles in sustainable agriculture create “citizen think-do” tanks that attempt to bring the common good back into the center of our communities to work towards “a future worth having,” phrases that appeal to both rural conservative people and urban environmental members. (Joseph McIntyre)

E. Explore what is off-putting about some of our current language to see what we might want to avoid in the language we do use, such as excluding others who don’t share our academic background.

Example: “What is it about these words, phrases, expressions that turns people off? …Personally, the bureaucratic language turns me off because … it excludes those who aren’t versed in the jargon… maybe “heart language” is a problem to others because it sounds insincere …” (Avril Orloff).

F. Explore the language that people who use D & D processes but don’t call them that use to describe their work. Consider integrating some of that language into our descriptions of D & D.

Example: Others talk more in terms of solving problems and addressing issues, and think more in terms of outcomes and content than process. Everyday Democracy now describes their work this way: “We help your community find ways for all kinds of people to think, talk and work together to solve problems.” (Sandy Heierbacher)

NCDD site says: “Welcome to the online hub for those dedicated to solving tough problems with honest talk, quality thinking and collaborative action.”

G. Use language that explicitly connects D & D to solving the particular problem that the other person or group is grappling with.

Example:  “Coming from a background of mediation I’ve learned that the most effective way to bring people to the table is to address the question of ‘what’s in it for me?’ … In the political environment in which I work I often face resistance to “process” as time consuming, touchy-feely” and too difficult as an alternative to just having the powers that be mandate. What has been effective for me with politicians is to talk about building “political will” which only exists when people believe that the solution meets THEIR needs and interests.” (Judith Mowry)

H. Have people available to demonstrate what D & D is.

Form an “ambassadorial team” from the NCDD skilled network who would be called on to demonstrate D&D on a voluntary basis when requests come through NCDD. A standard presentation could be created for a variety of purposes: for example – a rotary club, community councils, peace and conflict departments in schools….etc.

I. Create something that translates the different languages that D & D practitioners speak.

Create a thesaurus or “cross-walk” that shows how all the different terms relate to one another rather than asking or expecting people to give up their ingrained or preferred language. (Rod Reyna)

J. Encourage respect for the different languages that D & D practitioners speak.

Urge everyone to be respectful of other people’s language, viewing it as a gift to the larger group (Rod Reyna) and also “be a bit forgiving …In what we say, and in what we hear from others with different experiences.” (John Spady)

K. Look at the “pattern language” that Tom Atlee and Peggy Holman explore in their pre-conference workshop as a possible resource.

Summary of the Pre-Conference Online Dialogue on the Systems Challenge    

The “Systems Challenge” focuses on rooting the values and practices of dialogue and deliberation in our public and private systems (governance, schools, organizations, etc.) so that using more democratic methods of involving people, making decisions and solving problems can happen more naturally and more easily in such systems. Below is an outline of the great conversation we had at CivicEvolution.org 6 months before the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin.

Summary created by Madeleine Van Hecke

A. What makes it hard to root D & D values into larger systems?

  1. Lack of accessible language to communicate with others about D & D.
  2. Dysfunctional democratic institutions that impede genuine democracy.
  3. Educational systems that discourage inquiry and dialogue.
  4. Difficulty in making D & D practices used to address temporary issues standard practices.

B. What might help to root D & D values into larger systems?

  1. Envision what “success” in rooting D & D in larger systems would look like – and what the steps needed to achieve that would look like.
  2. Model D & D as a normative practice.
  3. Work to create structural changes in the system.
  4. Have a conference session to explore how people are using film and other media to introduce D & D ideas.
  5. Demonstrate that D and D practices can help solve a problem important to the system.
  6. Make D & D practices part of the professionals’ tool kit.
  7. Make D & D practices part of the ethical code of professionals.
  8. Make more people responsible for decision-making.
  9. Find ways to use technology to advance D & D without leaving behind those who are not part of the technological culture.
  10. Influence educational settings so that they encourage D & D practices and help students develop D & D values and principles.
  11. Encourage changes to make schools more humane and more conducive to students’ learning D & D principles.
  12. Ways to explore this challenge further in a conference session.

Full Summary

I. What makes it hard to root D & D values into larger systems?

A. Lack of accessible language to communicate with others about D & D

We need an accessible language (see Challenge B which deals directly with this need) in order to make D & D integral to other systems. Decision-makers won’t support the use of dialogue, facilitation, etc. until they experience “that heartfelt feeling that some essential (and heretofore missing) piece in the puzzle of their understanding has just slipped into place,” and for that to happen, we need “clear identity as a field” that is expressed in compelling and accessible language. (Brandon Williamscraig)

B. Dysfunctional democratic institutions that impede genuine democracy.

“We (NCDD) talk about democratic agencies and conversations as if they were not tainted” (but) “as long as governments represent the wealthy and powerful and dominant white cultural values, few people can have “access to, or a functional relationship with our government… we need to embed dialogue (not deliberation) into our institutions” in order to remove the sense of separateness and isolation and regain our sense of society as “an infinitely diverse totally interdependent occurrence held together by love.” How to do this? “There was a great model proposed in 5th century Athens, and Socrates gave his life for it.” (Rogier Gregoire)

“I’ve spent many an hour (and brew) contemplating the chicken or the egg question of democracy and D&D in a top-down culture. It probably calls for broadly democratic movements willing to put narrow agendas aside to build democratic culture and D&D literacy at the same time.” (Dennis Boyer)

C. Educational systems that discourage inquiry and dialogue.

“The misunderstanding or resistance to dialogue in the society is the result of a 100 years of social engineering in our schools (which is based on) an answer driven instructional model that discourages if not outright prohibits inquiry, essential to dialogue.” (Rogier Gregoire)

D. Difficulty in making D & D practices used to address temporary issues standard practices.

Most of the civic experiments that have emerged in the last decade have been temporary organizing efforts, mobilizing a diverse, critical mass of people to address an important public issue over a short period of time. (But) Even when they are successful … temporary efforts don’t often lead to structured, long-term changes in the way citizens and government interact. So “how can we ‘embed’ democratic principles in the work of our public institutions, so that deliberation and democratic governance become commonplace in the way that our communities (and countries) conduct their public business?” (Matt Leighninger)

Caveat about this challenge:

(Caveat from Jacob Hess) “While supporting the goal of making D & D integral to various systems, Jacob Hess reminds us that sometimes establishing an alternative approach separate from the dominant system is more effective than trying to integrate a new approach into a system which resists change and may dilute or distort that ‘authentic alternative’ – so let’s do ”both-and.”

II. What might help to root D & D values into larger systems?

A. Envision what “success” in rooting D & D in larger systems would look like – and what the steps needed to achieve that would look like.

“If we start by describing the desired state then we might have another way of describing this challenge and the title of the challenge… (would success be) when a town hires a Director of City-wide D&D to help people talk about their problems using D & D… Or is it “success” when they no longer need a position dedicated to D&D because it is so second nature, it is a pattern of behavior, the norm of the community and everyone has the skill to lead and/or participate? (Taylor Willingham)

B. Model D & D as a normative practice (rather than “convincing” systems to adopt D & D)

“If we are living D&D in our own practice and orgs and communities etc. then that introduces and models and becomes a norm of practice in a way that doesn’t focus on convincing.” Erin Kreeger reflects on her experience in coming out as a lesbian in high school and then being asked to educate others through speaking on panels and at conferences. She found that she “made a lot more progress by “being out” than “coming out.” … (that is) “When I treated me being a lesbian as something normal, it truly became more normal for other people.” Should we approach D & D in this way, as a “normal” way of relating/communicating?” (Erin Kreeger)

C. Work to create structural changes in the system

Matt Leighninger describes the structural changes that he believes necessary to have D & D that leads to action and policy change occur in our lives. Basically, it needs to be “an organized effort, staffed, structured, connected to decision-makers” – and to be sustained it needs “to be staffed more permanently, made politically legitimate, and incorporated into an updated legal framework for citizen participation.” (Matt Leighninger) Matt discusses this in this book Visions of Embeddedness, 2006, Vanderbilt University Press.

D. Have a conference session to explore how people are using film and other media to introduce D & D ideas.

“Documentaries often have D&D materials to support their media. For example, see Unnatural Causes, a film currently running on PBS: http://www.unnaturalcauses.org/. I would love to see a workshop at the conference on how people are using film to stimulate discussion” using guides based on D & D principles.” (Taylor Willingham)

E. Demonstrate that D and D practices can help solve a problem important to the system.

One way to introduce D and D into larger systems is to identify a “felt need” that D & D can address. Example: The problem of bullying is being addressed in some schools through what is essentially having children and teens experience a dialogic process. For a documentary film showing the teens in some of these sessions, see the clip entitled “Teen Files” at http://www.challengeday.org/our_program/videos.html”http://www.challengeday.org/our_program/videos.html (Madeleine Van Hecke)

F. Make D & D practices part of the professionals’ tool kit.

For public administrators and policy analysts D&D could be regarded as a part of the professional toolkit and might also be installed in “best practices.” (Dennis Boyer)

G. Make D & D practices part of the ethical code of professionals

For those within regulated professions with codes of ethics or standards it may be worth the effort to expand the concepts of public input, open meetings,due process, and other procedure requirements to include more fully deliberative means of public governance interaction. (Dennis Boyer)

H. Make more people responsible for decision-making.

There might be ways to install D&D in employment relations, corporate social responsibility, and regulatory environments through enlarging deliberative obligations to broader categories of stakeholders, shareholders, and employees. (Dennis Boyer)

I. Find ways to use technology to advance D & D without leaving behind those who are not part of the technological culture

How do we insure the techno savvy advanced enable those without the means to participate fully in the conversations ? … Perhaps one year is devoted to making NCDD technologies available to as many populations as possible. (J. Allen Johnson)

J. Influence educational settings so that they encourage D & D practices and help students develop D & D values and principles

Explore what educational strategies D & D has that can be imported into an educational environment that supports transformation and encourage the spread of the “best educational” practices when these involve students learning the tools needed for D & D. Encourage “transformative changes in the teachers themselves in terms of how they view education, learning, children’s capabilities, etc.” (Patricia Boone-Edgerton Longoni)

Make sure that theses “best practices” represent efforts at transformation and that they they are sensitively adapted to the new situation. (Rogier Gregoire)

K. Encourage changes to make schools more humane and more conducive to students’ learning D & D principles.

These changes would include:

Improve the ability of teachers to collaborate openly in the management of classroom practice; rethink the design of the modern school in ways that lead to transformation from within, not imposed; implement a methodology for determining instructional effectiveness that is not based on everyone producing the same right answer; abandon competition as a motive for intellectual effort; promote civic sensibilities, fellowship, and communal responsibility as an aspect of instruction; support critical thinking and an an inquiry based pedagogy; question the assumptions and mythologies that promote and perpetuate racism, for one critical but practical policy. (Rogier Gregoire)

L. Explore this challenge further in a conference session

Have a conference session that focuses on how to introduce D & D into larger systems, including how to describe what D & D can do for that system that would make its value apparent to decision-makers.

Sample Questions to be addressed:

1) What are some effective ways to make more organizations aware of the benefits of D and D?

2) What keeps organizations from adopting these approaches (e.g., lack of confidence in their ability to implement some of the approaches?)

3) What can the D and D organization do to help the organizations address those obstacles?

4) What are some creative ways to use media (films, documentaries, a work of fiction, etc.) to illustrate D and D to newcomers?

5) What are some creative ways to get top-level decisions makers (e.g., CEO’s) in a situation where they personally experience the benefits of D and D?

6) When D and D has been adopted and made an integral part of a system, how did that happen? (Madeleine Van Hecke)

Books by Conference Attendees for the Bookstore?    

I wanted to give all conference attendees the chance to recommend books we should include in the NCDD 2008 conference bookstore. I already provided the folks organizing our bookstore with a list of suggestions, but I’m sure I’ve missed some books you guys would recommend we include. I’m especially interested in books YOU folks (conference attendees) have published recently.

Phil Neisser, who will be joining us in Austin, just sent a message out to the NCDD discussion list about his new book, United We Fall, which posits that ordinary political conversations, neighborhood encounters, and public debates need to include the “extreme” points of view that are often hidden on the sidelines, considered to be too “radical,” or dismissed as the work of “the enemy.” It sounds like a great book, and I think we should have it at the conference bookstore if possible.

Phil’s message made me think our conference presenters and attendees have probably written a bunch of other books we should consider for the bookstore.

Now, I can’t guarantee that your book will end up being sold, but local planning team member Sherry Lowry will certainly ask the bookstore folks to consider it. So please use the comment field below to submit your suggestions. Include the title, author, year published, and publisher if possible.

I’d like to have any additional book suggestions submitted to the bookstore folks by Friday, August 29th at the latest, so don’t delay!

Scenarios from 8-4 Interfaith Sub-Plenary Call    

Below is a summary of a brainstorming call about a sub-plenary session scheduled to be held at NCDD Austin on Saturday, October 4th from 2:15 to 4:00 pm. Those of you who were on the call are strongly encouraged to use the comment box at the bottom of this page to share your reactions to the three scenarios outlined. Which scenario do you prefer? Are there elements of one scenario you would like to see incorporated into a different scenario? Is there something missing? Anyone else viewing this post is welcome to add their thoughts and ideas as well!

Present on the 8/4/08 call:

  • Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard
  • Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD Director
  • Maggie Herzig, Public Conversations Project- Co-Founder
  • Dave Joseph, Public Conversations Project – Programs
  • Diane Miller, Leads Central Texas Team
  • Tom Spencer, CEO of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries
  • Stephanie Ruloph, Conference Manager and Coordinator of Interfaith Sub-plenary

Some things we agreed on…

  • we don’t want yet another Hummus Dialogue (“gee – we all like hummus!”)
  • we don’t want a safe, contrived, self-congratulatory conversation that doesn’t get into any depth about the issues
  • we do want to encourage our speakers to tell stories, and to be honest about the challenges they have faced and where they need help
  • we want to develop some finely-tuned questions in order to focus the conversation
  • we may not be able to pull off a real dialogue on stage during the time allotted, and given the public setting
  • a moderator will be on stage with the panelists, helping the conversation along (more…)

Suggest a Topic for Friday’s Networking Session    

You’re coming to the conference, in large part, to meet people who share your interests. At NCDD conferences, people tend to leave knowing that they’ve built a slew of new supportive, collaborative relationships.

To help this along at NCDD Austin, we’re holding a structured networking session during the very first plenary session of the conference. This networking session will allow participants, right off the bat, to meet people with similar interests as them. Maybe you’re passionate about a particular issue, like climate change, racism or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps you focus on a specific area of D&D work like restorative justice or deliberative democracy. Maybe you’d like to meet other researchers who are at the conference, other college students, or others from outside the U.S.? This networking session will give you the chance to meet others like you.

But like everything we do at NCDD, this will work best if you’re involved. If you are passionate about a topic, process, etc. and you’d like to meet others who feel the same, or you’d like to meet others in the same circumstance as you, please submit that topic for consideration.

All conference participants are invited to suggest topics for this networking session – whether or not you are willing to serve as the “table host” for that topic and move the conversation forward with some light facilitation. The point of this session is networking – meeting and starting to get to know others who share your interests, so hosts will ensure people have the chance to introduce themselves and share how their work relates to the topic.

One suggestion:  focus broadly, like the topics suggested above (“using D&D to address climate change” rather than “using D&D to encourage high school students to recycle”).

Complete this form to suggest topics and/or offer to serve as a table host. And visit www.thataway.org/events/?p=155 to see the topics people have submitted so far.

The Challenge Process at NCDD Austin    

At the first three NCDD conferences, we used a multi-tiered process to encourage participants to think about what needs to be done to move this “field” or community of practice forward.  What are we not doing as well as we could be or should be doing?  What vital questions do we seem not to have sufficient answers to?  What are our greatest barriers to doing this work effectively?

At NCDD 2008, we focused in on 5 of the most pressing and challenging issues our field is facing – issues that past conference participants agreed are vital for us to address if we are to have the impact we’d like to have on our communities and in our world…

  1. Making D&D Integral to our Systems
  2. Framing this Work in an Accessible Way
  3. Strengthening the Link Between D&D and Action/Policy Change
  4. Walking Our Talk in Terms of Bias and Inclusion
  5. Demonstrating that D&D Works

In the opening session, attendees met the “Challenge Leaders” and the graphic recorders who worked closely with them.  Attendees were asked to share their insights, questions and ideas with both the challenge leaders and graphic recorders throughout the conference.

Workshops, presenters, panelists, and the outcomes of some of the pre-conference workshops and activities also contributed new insights, clarity and direction to the process.  These insights and the graphically recorded narratives were summarized during the closing session.

Coordinator of the Challenges Process:
Steven Fearing, Facilitator for the Texas Dept. of Aging and Disability Services

The Five Challenges

Learn more about all the concurrent workshops that are listed below at www.thataway.org/events/?page_id=158.

1. Systems Challenge – Embedding D&D in Our Public and Private Systems

Most civic experiments in the last decade have been temporary organizing efforts that don’t lead to structured long-term changes in the way citizens and the system interact.  How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, organizations, etc. so that our methods of involving people, solving problems, and making decisions happen more naturally and efficiently?

Challenge Leaders:
Matt Leighninger
, Executive Director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium
Will Friedman
, Executive Vice President of Public Agenda

Read more…
Summary of the pre-conference online dialogue held at CivicEvolution.org on the Systems Challenge: www.thataway.org/events/?p=189

Relevant sessions held at NCDD Austin…

  • Deliberative Democracy and Higher Education (Thurs pre-conference workshop)
  • Including Our Voices: Young Adult Leadership in the D&D Community (Fri 1:30)
  • Creating Room at the Head of Our Tables: Exploring New Mentoring Roles As Young Leaders Emerge (Fri 1:30)
  • University and College Centers as Platforms for Deliberative Democracy (Sat 9:00)
  • Embedding D&D Into Government Systems (Sat 9:00)
  • Fireside Chat on Embedding Citizen’s Voices in Our Governing Systems (Sat 12:00)
  • If There’s Something Strange in Your Neighborhood, Who Ya Gonna Call? Ex-ten-sion! Li-brar-ies! (Sun 9:00)
  • Direct Democracy in the Mountains: Lessons from the Past, Prospects for the Future (Sun 11:00)

2. Framing Challenge – Framing D&D in an Accessible Way

How can we “frame” (write, talk about, and present) D&D in a more accessible and compelling way, so that people of all income levels, educational levels, and political perspectives are drawn to this work?  How can we better describe the features and benefits of D&D and equip our members to effectively deliver that message?   Addressing this challenge may contribute greatly to other challenges.

Challenge Leader:
Jacob Hess, Ph.D. Candidate in Clinical-Community Psychology at the University of Illinois

Read more…
Summary of the pre-conference online dialogue held at CivicEvolution.org on the Framing Challenge: www.thataway.org/events/?p=190

Relevant sessions held at NCDD Austin…

3. Action and Change Challenge

How can we increase the likelihood that D&D engagement streams of “exploration,” “conflict transformation”, and “collaborative action” will result in community action?  How can we increase the likelihood that the “decision making” engagement stream will result in policy change?  What can we learn from promising D&D efforts that did not result in the action or policy change desired?

Challenge Leader:
Phil Mitchell, Director of Seattle Climate Dialogues

Relevant sessions held at NCDD Austin…

  • Choosing Deliberation and Dialogue Techniques that Work (Thurs pre-conference workshop)
  • How can we Combat Climate Change with Dialogue and Participation? (Fri 1:30)
  • Exploring How our Work in D&D Contributes to Social Change (Sat 9:00)
  • Virtuous and Vicious Cycles: Beyond a Linear View of Outcome and Impact (Sat 9:00)
  • The Role of the Facilitator in International Development: Collective Reflection for Sustainable Change (Sat 11:00)
  • Connecting the Dots: How Does Dialogue and Deliberation Work Lead to Change? (Sun 9:00)
  • Findings About Public Participation from the New National Academy of Sciences Report (Sun 11:00)

4. Bias and Inclusion Challenge

What are the most critical issues of inclusion and bias right now in the D&D community and how do we address them?  What are the most critical issues related to bias, inclusion, and oppression in the world at large and how can we most effectively address these issues through the use of dialogue and deliberation methods?

Challenge Leader:
Leanne Nurse, Program Analyst for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Relevant sessions held at NCDD Austin…

There are too many relevant activities to list them all. Here are a few:

  • Whiteness Learning Lab (Thurs pre-conference workshop)
  • Traces of the Trade Viewing (Thurs pre-conference activity, 7:30)
  • Debriefing Issues Raised in Traces of the Trade (Fri 1:30)
  • Including Our Voices: Young Adult Leadership in the D&D Community (Fri 1:30)
  • Creating Room at the Head of Our Tables: Exploring New Mentoring Roles As Young Leaders Emerge (Fri 1:30)
  • Coming To the Table: Addressing Racial Reconciliation in America (Sat 11:00)
  • Either sub-plenary – the Conservatives Panel or Cultivating Trans-generational Leadership in the NCDD Community (Sat 2:15)
  • Lessons Learned from Facilitating Dialogues about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict within the Jewish Community (Sun 9:00)
  • “The Straight Talk Dialogues” From Practice to Research (Sun 11:00)
  • Taking It To the Streets:  Innovative Approaches to Dialogues Addressing Racism (Sun 11:00)

5. Evaluation Challenge – Demonstrating that D&D Works

How can we demonstrate to power-holders (public officials, funders, CEOs, etc.) that D&D really works?  Evaluation and measurement is a perennial focus of human performance/change interventions.  What evaluation tools and related research do we need to develop?

Challenge Leaders:
John Gastil, Communications Professor at the University of Washington
Janette Hartz-Karp, Professor at Curtin Univ. Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Inst.

Relevant sessions held at NCDD Austin…

  • Evaluating Dialogue & Deliberation: What are we learning? (Sat 11:00)

Note: Many other workshops can and hopefully will feed into this challenge – especially those focused on how D&D relates to action and policy change.

More about how we addressed the 5 challenges

We wanted to address all five of these issues in meaningful ways, and to give all conference participants the opportunity to focus some of their time and attention at NCDD Austin on these challenges if they chose to.

Day 1:
One or two point people were assigned to each challenge area before the conference.  These “challenge leaders” introduced the challenge areas during the first plenary session after the welcoming.  They were asked talk about why their challenge area is important to them, and to the future of our field/community of practice.

Throughout the conference:
Many of the workshops and other sessions offered at the conference addressed (directly or indirectly) one or more of the challenge areas. Workshop leaders, plenary facilitators, etc. whose sessions address a challenge area were asked to summarize (1) key points, concerns and data regarding the challenge and (2) ideas that are identified for addressing the challenge. They were asked to share these summaries with the challenge leader tracking that challenge.

Our graphic recording team created five gorgeous posters – one for each challenge – that were displayed throughout the conference in the main ballroom where the plenary sessions were held.  Conference participants were encouraged to add to the posters (on sticky notes) their thoughts, insights, and ideas related to the challenges. The point people for the challenges kept track of what’s new on their posters, added their own sticky notes on what they’ve been gathering, and gleaned themes and ideas from the posters. The graphic recording team translated the thoughts and ideas on the sticky notes and added them to the graphic murals

Conference participants also had the opportunity to address the challenges areas over meals, during breaks, on Saturday evening, etc.

Final day:

During our final plenary session, we heard prepared report-outs about each of the challenges from the challenge leaders. The challenge leaders also submited written versions of their report-out (with any additional information they would like to include) after the conference.

Call for Artists for NCDD 2008    

Art can be a powerful catalyst for and component of dialogue. Visual and performing arts can bring meaning or elicit feeling that can’t always be easily expressed in words, bringing us to a deeper level more quickly than discussion alone. Since our first conference in 2002, NCDD has experimented with the arts at our events, and our attendees have thanked us for the experiences and new ideas they have gained because of it.

NCDD is now looking for artists, arts groups, and arts organizations who may be interested in playing a role at our next conference. The 4th National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation will take place October 3-5, 2008 in Austin, Texas, and we are primarily looking for artists whose work involves or stimulates dialogue or engagement in innovative ways.

We are open to many different types of arts, in different venues at the conference (plenary session performances, art activity stations, art displays, concurrent workshops, etc.). And although our funds are tight as this is a nonprofit conference, we will work with artists to cover expenses and make sure they benefit from the exposure they receive from playing a role at the conference. And for special circumstances, we will consider providing a stipend to the artist or group.

This is a great opportunity for artists who want their work to be exposed to over 400 community leaders, activists and thought leaders in communication and collaboration, and who want to learn more about this field.

Here are some examples of things we’ve experimented with in the past:

  • graphic recording (2002, 2004 and 2006)
  • workshops on digital storytelling, dialogue and dance, using film as a stimulus for dialogue, using the arts to promote youth dialogue, etc. (2002, 2004 and 2006)
  • spoken word poetry (2006)
  • drumming (2006)
  • Unconditional Theatre (2006) and playback theatre (2004)

You can read more specifics about how we’ve utilized the arts at NCDD conferences at www.thataway.org/events/?page_id=8

If you are an artist interested in pursuing the possibility of performing or playing a role at NCDD Austin – or if you want to suggest an artist you know about – please contact NCDD Director Sandy Heierbacher at [email protected]. And you can learn more about the upcoming National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation at www.thataway.org/events if you’re interested.

How Can We Address the Major Challenges Facing our Field?    

For the next couple of months, members of the 2008 conference planning team and members of the greater dialogue and deliberation community are coming together at CivicEvolution.org to conduct an important experiment. We will be working together, using an online platform for dialogue, deliberation, and action planning, to determine how we can make progress on seven major challenges facing our community.

The seven challenges we’d like to address emerged from the first three NCDD conferences, and it is our hope that we will tackle these challenges in creative, collaborative ways – at, before, and after the fourth NCDD conference in Austin this October. The challenges focus on questions we face as a community, like “how can we talk about this work in a more accessible way?” and “how can we embed dialogue and deliberation in systems like schools, organizations and government?” Our online dialogue at CivicEvolution will help us decide how to best approach this daunting task, and we hope to see you there!

We will work together in three stages:

  1. Review and refine the 7 challenges and launch numerous new dialogues to further explore elements of each challenge. (Example: Ted initiates a new dialogue focused on what words and phrases appeal to young people under the “Framing this Work in an Accessible Way” challenge.)
  2. Participate in these new dialogues to explore the challenges in depth and develop common ground upon which we can propose ideas that can be further developed and incorporated into an action plan. (Example: After some online dialogue about language that is accessible to young people, Ted and Nancy decide to propose the idea to recruit 50 young people to attend NCDD Austin and engage them in dialogues and discussions on language throughout the conference.)
  3. Work together as teams to develop detailed proposals for accomplishing the team ideas. (Example: Ted, Nancy, and several others decide on the steps it will take to move from their idea to action.)

Below are more details about the three stages and some how-to info you can refer to as needed. (more…)

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