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Seeking a Modified Tent Design to House "D&D"
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2005 12:19 pm    Post subject: Seeking a Modified Tent Design to House "D&D" Reply with quote       

The following is a transcript of a discussion on dialogue vs. deliberation that occurred on NCDD’s main discussion list. This discussion was begun by L. Wallace Clausen on March 25th, 2004.

To subscribe to this discussion list, go to www.edgateway.net/ncdd. Email [email protected] if you need help subscribing. Enjoy!

L. Wallace Clausen:

The recent prolonged exchange on dialogue (mostly) and deliberation (some) has been remarkable and very rewarding. But it strikes me that the folks who are most into one or the other of these forms of positive human interaction really have very different mindsets and aspirations. The heart of what they are seeking differs. The relevance of action differs. The context — e.g., civic engagement and democracy, cf. engagement with the universe — is different.

For a new project, I am getting back into the National Issues Forum approach and materials after some time away. Remarkable stuff, as an aid to deliberation. But its thrust feels totally different from, say, a gathering for generative dialogue.

From the early stages of the 2003 conference and its precursors, these two forms have been joined: “Dialogue and Deliberation”, “D&D”, the excellent article by Study Circles on “Deliberative Dialogue”, etc. At the top level, I have no problem with these two forms being in the same, welcoming tent … or e-tent. But I think it would be helpful to partition what’s inside the Big Top in such a way that the richness and relevance of each form — of dialogue, and of deliberation — can flow, progress, thrive without being anchored to the constantly-repeated D&D pairing.

Perhaps a sign: “Ye who enter this room of the tent, please consider putting on a hat that has these qualities …” And then maybe a public square between the two rooms …

Happy Spring!

Wally Clausen
Clausen Associates
Weston, MA

Sandy Heierbacher:

I read Wally’s email yesterday with great interest. Although many dialogue models include and embrace deliberation to some degree – and vice versa – the recent conversation on the list hasn’t been centered around those kinds of models. For me, it’s gotten harder and harder to talk about dialogue without also talking about deliberative communication that leads to quality decision-making. At the same time, it’s gotten harder for me to talk about deliberation without emphasizing the need for quality dialogue to build trust and create a safe space for everyone to participate on equal ground.

I do feel that dialogue and deliberation should be under the same tent. At the same time, our tent needs to welcome those who are all about dialogue and those who are all about deliberation. As a community, we need to have a norm of respecting each other’s experience. We should trust that all of the different processes and techniques each of us has embraced have merit, and that understanding them better would teach us something.

At the same time, we need to be questioning. When is a particular model or technique not appropriate? In what kinds of groups, issues or circumstances would it not be successful? As Terry said, one of NCDD’s roles should be to help all of us begin to figure out what specific processes work best in different circumstances. The big question for me is “How can we do this in a collaborative way that does not feel threatening to anyone?” As Susan said, that is one of the ambitious things we’d like to experiment with at the conference this October. (If this interests any of you, let me know and we’ll put you to work on that project.)

Wally suggested that dialogue and deliberation each be given their own space under the big tent, so that they can each flow, progress and thrive without being anchored to each other constantly. I think this exists in some ways outside of NCDD – online and face-to-face spaces where Appreciative Inquiry people get together or public participation people get together, etc. NCDD was created to bring together these various streams of D&D practice so that we could strengthen the field/movement/community as a whole and make a greater collective impact on society.

But if more learning, networking and self-analysis are needed within these streams of practice – and especially within the larger areas of dialogue and deliberation, NCDD could certainly provide that kind of space. For one thing, our conferences could fill this need. For another, the interactive features on our website could be used to provide separate space for dialogue, deliberation, and different streams of practice within those two categories – specifically, our discussion lists (www.edgateway.net/ncdd), our brand new yet-to-be-seeded forum (www.thataway.org/discussions/forum/), and our already bustling wiki

We are planning to add another major feature to our website soon that may also meet this need. We are developing what we’re going to call a “Learning Exchange” or “Knowledge Exchange” – a section in which people can post research results, articles, dissertations, case studies, best practices reports, stories about their work and other quality materials. The home page of this feature would be like the “public square” Wally suggested, and people will have the option of entering different “rooms” based on their interests and needs at that time. We are planning to start off with a room geared towards people doing D&D-related work at colleges and universities, and another geared towards those involved in arts-based civic dialogue. At the same time, we’ll encourage people in those two streams of practice to utilize our forum to leave messages for one another, discuss the works that are posted, and talk about what else they’d like to see happen.

Since the boundaries of “dialogue” and “deliberation” overlap so much, it’s hard to imagine a separate space for those two broad processes. But there could be a space for Bohm Dialogue and a space for Deliberative Democracy. I’d be curious to hear what you think of this possibility, Wally (and others). Would this create the space you talked about, or is it off the mark? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this.

Anyway, very thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Wally. And the discussion in general lately has been so rich and personal – I really appreciate everyone taking the time to connect with each other in this way.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2005 12:22 pm    Post subject: Seeking a Modified Tent Design- continued Reply with quote       

James T. Knauer:

Hi Everyone,

I am working with Anoek Inbar and Mohammed Attah to design networking opportunities for the conference and we would appreciate suggestions. Networking received the third highest ranking on the conference needs assessment, 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, so there is obviously a lot of interest. Let me float some preliminary thinking and invite you to share your ideas with us and the list. Lots of networking will occur, planned or not. Planned networking should be tailored to address specific needs. While many of us are very busy people not looking for new responsibilities, there are undoubtedly undiscovered opportunities for collaborative activities that would support and enrich our current commitments without imposing major new demands on our time. How can we plan activities that would help us discover those opportunities? As part of the conference registration process, we could invite conferees to submit a paragraph introduction to a “match-making” service. Statements of Networking Interest (perhaps 150 words or less) would describe current activities and indicate collaboration interests, such as, people working in the same (or different) geographical area, institutional type, D&D method, scope of activity, etc. These statements could simply be placed on the wiki by those interested. And/Or the wiki might be used to post Networking Requests with topic. Based on all this input, networking meetings with assigned topics could be built into the program. Here is a sample Statement of Networking Interest.

My current work is focused on Democracy Lab, an online service to high schools and colleges that promotes deliberative learning and civic engagement. We provide 10-week, NIF-style forums for use in classes, placing students in small groups with others from around the country. We also mentor student civic leadership teams, sponsored by their schools and committed to integrating deliberative learning into their own programs. Finally, we have research underway exploring the impact of online deliberative experiences on civic engagement and engagement in learning. I am interested in exploring collaboration possibilities with Individuals using D&D in school settings Non-school organizers of face-to face dialogue interested in online dialogue and interaction with students Other organizers of online deliberative dialogue Researchers interested in civic engagement and deliberative learning.
Please help us be creative in designing this important part of the conference by sharing your ideas.


James T Knauer
Director, Pennsylvania Center for Civic Life
Professor of Political Science
Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania

Jim Durkin:

Conference networking — call for ideas Dear Jim, et al.,

Back in March, I engaged in a discussion (definitely not a dialogue!) with Gregoire about Bohm’s ideas on dialogue. As an advocate of the Reason/Heron Cooperative Inquiry flavor of Action Research I expressed the Thought that Bohmian reflection required a complementary action phase to balance it. It roused a little energy on the NCDD Listserv and acquired the handle “Dialogue Without End?” Since I never trust anyone who is more than 80% right, including myself, I felt the desire to look through Bohm’s writings in more detail first hand. What I read about his ideas about what Bohm called “Thought” surprised me! First of all, he presented his ideas simply and clearly, and with little trace of the argot of psychology which as a psychologist, I am so used to. So “Thought” has sociopathic tendencies, and we are less the perpetrators of fragmented and incoherent “Thought’ processes than the victims of flawed “Thought.” This was strong medicine for me.

Somewhere in On Dialogue, Bohm emphatically states that Dialogue is not “some kind of group therapy.” But the implications of the sociopathy of “Thought” seemed acutely relevant to the faltering attempts that group therapy clients make to disclose their ideas, desires, and feelings to the other group members by way of “Thoughts.” They pose problems (“My mom was really on my case last night!”) unaware that they are posing paradoxes. But the way “Thought” preys upon the communication of our ideas, desires, and feelings affects many other kinds of discussion groups besides therapy groups. And this (finally) is why I am responding to your call for NCDD conference assessment ideas.

I diverted myself from the work on my Project AVATAR (Augmenting Virtual AgenT Action Research) Model and worked up a Survey Form so group psychotherapy clients could self-assess the degree which our culture-dictated “Thought” imposed limitations upon them in their attempts to get their “true self” across to the other group members. When I read your call, it struck me that this instrument, appropriately modified, could serve as a slightly different session evaluation form. As everyone knows, the typical post-session evaluation questionnaire asks inane questions with the answers built into the questions like “How much did you enjoy/learn from this session?” These reveal little other than that attendees do tell organizers what they want to hear. “Thought” strikes again! This new survey casts discussion session evaluations in a Bohmian framework. It redirects the focus from the content of the product to the quality of the process, which is, I believe, what the Bohmians are really after in Dialogue.

See the attachment for a copy of the form. If you can’t print in out in 8.5 X 14 format or rescale it to 8.5 X 11 format, I can send over the 8>5 X 11 version direct. I myself am intrigued with the networking assessment information sitting there latent in the three “Guess the Other’s Responses” scales at the bottom of the page.

Now that I have finished this I am not so certain that this is you had in mind when you put out the call for “ideas” I have really just completed this Survey Form and have not had the chance to try it out with any of my groups. Just another half-baked untested idea, maybe. But I would be willing to work (and test out!) the Survey Form in time for October, if you guys took a shine to it. If not, we’ll write it off as: “Flawed Thought.”

Good luck,

Jim Durkin PhD
Collaboration Laboratories

Last edited by Karlita on Thu Jul 28, 2005 12:33 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2005 12:28 pm    Post subject: Seeking a Modified Tent Design- continued Reply with quote       

Michele Woods Jones:

In terms of our upcoming conference, I am hopeful that we will not find it necessary to segregate the streams of practice at this point. There is so much to be gained from an inclusive approach with respect to understanding and utilizing components of both D&D to develop new methodologies, to develop new insights and to develop new relationships and partnerships that can benefit students and practitioners alike.

1 Voice 4 Justice & Peace
Michele Woods Jones

The opposite of love is not hate — it is indifference.
— Beah Richards

The world is a dangerous place to live – not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
— Albert Einstein

Barbra Heller:

Message well said, Sandy. Thank you for such a thoughtful delineation of the issues.

Peace and Blessings
Barb Heller

Kenoli Oleari:

Thanks for all the good talk on this subject. We live in such a specialized society, it is inevitable that people will focus on different aspects of group interaction. I tend to fall into a synthesist roll, focusing on the large picture and sometimes even missing the important detail work. From my vantage point, groups and issues go through stages of development, needing different process methodologies at different stages. Some kind of dialog or conversation process is important at every stage, since this is how humans communicate. Outcome and closure is also important, at least in some cases. Dialog tends to be “divergent” and deliberation tends to be “convergent,” though they certainly overlap.

In addition, there are various ways to approach each stage, whether it be dialog, deliberation or something else (is there something else?). In small groups or processes that focus on conflict management communication skills may be emphasized; in larger groups or large functional work teams with diverse makeups, there is less emphasis on interactive process and more on group process design and group dynamics. Bohmian dialog, t-group, tavistock and other “laboratory” models go deep into various frameworks of group, interpersonal and even intrapersonal dynamics. Deliberative councils have their own flavors.

In addition, we are starting to broaden our perspectives on important things much of the world is generally pretty set on. For instance: how change happens, how groups make decisions, what a decision looks like, what is a meaningful outcome, “system” level interventions, and other key aspects of group dynamics. This also undermines the efficacy of prescriptive approaches, especially approaches based on conventional wisdom.

In my practice, I try to move with a group, responding to the specific stage, participation, purpose and shape of the group or issue. From this perspective, I avoid prescriptions or working from pre-determined skill sets. While I know it can be a useful exercise to design and introduce stock tools for specific needs (and I do this, as I am sure most of you do also), it is important for me to remember that every situation is different and needs responding to from the client’s perspective, not from mine. I’m a participant in an inquiry, not an “expert” with a solution. For this reason, what tends to remain static are the underlying principles from which I am working. The application is quite fluid.

What is useful to me in groups like NCDD, is the process that goes on here, the dialog, topics, issues and dynamic interaction and learning. It stimulates me, gives me practice with people that may be more adventuresome than the average client, tweaks my thinking, and broadens my perspective. It provides a community of practice, a framework for co-intelligence.

For me a big tent superbly meets these needs.


Kenoli Oleari, Horizons of Change

Last edited by Karlita on Thu Jul 28, 2005 12:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 28, 2005 12:30 pm    Post subject: Seeking a Modified Tent Design- continued Reply with quote       

Terry Amsler:

I think Wally’s comments are important. The point of course is not that deliberation and dialogue have to be considered of fundamentally different value, or that they always and forever totally separate processes; rather this attention to differences helps those interested in these emerging set of practices to think more critically about the different purposes of such practices and when, where and under what circumstances they may be appropriately applied. And how and with what criteria they should be judged. A big tent of people sharing their commitments, values, skills and learning is a good thing. A big tent of undifferentiated ideas in which sets of unclear practices with vague purposes all are uncritically thrown at problems and issues is not. It seems to me that NCDD is a good place for people to talk about the differences that Wally raises.

(…and this has indeed been a great exchange of ideas to date on dialogue, etc.)

Terry Amsler

Susan S. Clark:

Well put Terry! We started talking with Sandy’s conference committee about how the October conference is a great opportunity to begin providing that type of structure to the tent. A key question in my mind is whether to have some small group try to draft that structure in advance of the conference or, alternately, create a more collaborative process on-site that lets the proponents/practitioners of the different dialogue and deliberative practices self-organize along attributes that emerge out of the process. I see merits to both.

Susan Clark

Kenoli Oleari:

What are the principles of group interaction that we are working from? This seems like a rich large group conversation which would inform any attempt at creating a structure.

Here are a few I use:

We need each other because we need to hear all perspectives in order to create a good picture of the whole.

All ideas are valid.

There are many different ways of getting to the same goal.

We learn in different ways and by moving between different vantage points.

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