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

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 on the Systems Challenge:

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 on the Framing Challenge:

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.

Be The First To Leave A Comment…

Leave a comment of your own.RSS feed for comments on this post.TrackBack URI

No comments yet.

Leave a comment…

© 2003-2010 National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation.
Learn more about us or explore this site.