exploration

The “exploration” stream of D&D practice is used primarily to encourage people and groups to learn more about themselves, their community, or an issue, and to possibly discover innovative solutions. We consider Bohmian Dialogue, World Café, Conversation Café, Council process, and Open Space to be proven methods for exploration.

IJP2 Article Part 5: Cultivate the ability to adapt framings for different audiences    

woman200pxAt the October 2008 NCDD conference in Austin, Texas, one thing people seemed to agree on related to the “Framing Challenge” was that dialogue and deliberation practitioners need to cultivate the ability to adapt framings for different audiences.

How practitioners should emphasize potential action outcomes depends, in part, on whom they are trying to reach. It may not be necessary to attract people from every group to every program. Talking in terms of social justice, social change and racial equity may work well when recruiting people of diverse ethnic backgrounds to a dialogue on racism, while focusing on learning about an issue may welcome conservatives into a conversation about the separation of church and state.

Once we understand how various framings play out with different groups, we can adapt our language to different audiences. On our Reflective Panel, David Campt emphasized the need for practitioners to be able to tailor both their language and their practice to distinct groups.

How the topic of discussion is framed is potentially more important than how the program or process is framed. On the “Conservatives Panel,” Joseph McCormick mentioned framing a discussion on global warming as a dialogue on “energy security and climate change” to draw more conservatives. Theo Brown spoke of a similar multi-partisan initiative that abandoned a “gun control” framing for one centered on “reducing violence.”

The point here is not to encourage practitioners to become masters of “spin,” but to use language that people from potentially underrepresented groups can relate to, while remaining open and honest about the purpose of the program. Whether a program is designed to inform the mayor’s policy decisions, encourage citizen action on race issues, or build understanding among conflicting groups, it is important to be clear about the program’s aims from the start.

It should also be said that although collectively and individually, we seem to be developing more sensitivity to the impact language has on different groups, we try to encourage NCDD attendees not to shame or lecture each other, or worry overly about offending. As Jacob Hess said in his report on the Framing Challenge, “I came to NCDD San Francisco (2006) a ‘closet conservative’ – with most people ignorant of my background. I experienced so much warmth, optimism, and spirit there, that I had no chance of feeling unwelcome.” One of Hess’ personal conditions of good dialogue is the old Biblical emphasis on “being not easily provoked” (1 Corinthians 13) and we should all be a bit forgiving in our use of language.

Note from Sandy:

This is my fifth blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community. The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin: The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?) and the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?). You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

This is the last segment from the section on the Framing Challenge.  Here’s a quick overview of all 5 segments:

1. Develop a common language of practice with more universal appeal
Can we identify common yet compelling language that represents the work we do in dialogue and deliberation? Can we get clear on our theories of change?

2. Consider how different framings affect different groups
Some terms we use in this field turn people away because they are too “new-agey” sounding; others because they are too academic or jargony, or because they have negative connotations or implications for certain audiences. Practitioners are acquiring and cultivating greater sensitivity to the ways that distinct language ‘plays out’ for different groups.

3. Understand the specific concerns of conservatives
Progressives seem to be more drawn to public engagement work than conservatives. Understanding and acknowledging conservatives’ concerns about this work is key.

4. Frame in terms of general goals and desired outcomes
While no single framing works for all audiences, practitioners are finding success in focusing on the purpose or potential outcomes (in general) of engagement rather than focusing on process.

5. Cultivate the ability to adapt framings for different audiences
How practitioners should emphasize potential action outcomes depends, in part, on who they are trying to reach. We must use language to which people from potentially underrepresented groups can relate, while remaining open and honest about the purpose of the program.

IJP2 Article Part 4: Frame in terms of general goals and desired outcomes    

At the October 2008 NCDD conference in Austin, Texas, one theme that emerged in the “Framing Challenge” was the idea of framing dialogue and deliberation in terms of general goals and desired outcomes.

2women200pxMany times, the potential for concrete outcomes or results needs to be underscored in big, bold letters. This often means identifying language that explicitly connects the public engagement process or program to solving a particular problem people are facing. In the online dialogue we held before the conference to explore the five challenge areas, Judith Mowry described learning that an especially effective “way to bring people to the table” is to make clear for them “what’s in it for me?”

Citizens, community leaders and elected officials tend to talk in terms of solving problems and addressing issues, and think in terms of outcomes and content rather than process. Several conference attendees reported more success in drawing people to the table when they framed public engagement work in such terms. Theo Brown mentioned much greater drawing power for AmericaSpeaks events when they are able to highlight concrete action and policy outcomes. Facilitator Lucy Moore described “lofty policy goals” as key in bringing many stakeholders together for her dialogue about Grand Canyon issues.

Of course, it can be tricky to promise even general outcomes like “citizen action” or “impact on policy” for programs designed, by their very nature, to allow the participants themselves to identify specific action or recommendations. In their workshop, Virtuous and Vicious Cycles: Beyond a Linear View of Outcome and Impact, Maggie Herzig and Lucy Moore noted that overly defining outcomes from the start can undermine participants’ ownership of their efforts and underappreciate the possibilities that were unimaginable before the initiative began.

Herzig and Moore pointed out that for some groups, an overly-defined outcome is enough to turn them away. People with more conservative political views, for example, can be quickly turned off by talk of “social change” or “community organizing” that seems inherently progressive. Talk of influencing government policy can also be a red flag for conservatives like panelist Pete Peterson, Executive Director of Common Sense California, a self-identified “communitarian conservative” who would like to see public engagement efforts focus more explicitly on empowering citizens to take responsibility for community problems themselves rather than turning to government for help or demanding government action.

Peterson emphasized the importance of not allowing a more deliberative democracy to replace self-reliance. After all, government is not the answer to many of our problems, and we cannot expect it to be. Similarly, panelist Grover Norquist stated frankly, “I don’t like it when 12 people or 12,000 people get together and tell someone what to do.” Peterson, Norquist, and others on the “Conservatives Panel” suggested framing public engagement around more traditional values like “voluntary, civic solutions to problems” (rather than only political solutions) and “individual responsibility in addition to collective responsibility” in order to attract more conservative participants.

PhilipThomas200pxWhile there may not be a single framing of public engagement that works for all audiences, practitioners are increasingly finding success in focusing on the purpose or potential outcomes (in general) of engagement. Specifically, framing in terms of problem solving and identifying and working towards a desirable future seems to resonate with broad audiences. In the online dialogue, Joseph McIntyre described his efforts to frame public engagement work in a broadly accessible way:

We frame our work leading wisdom circles in sustainable agriculture as reinvigorating local democracy and specifically we create “citizen think-do” tanks that attempt to bring perspective and the common good back into the center of our communities. For us, the call to represent “our best hopes and aspirations for a future worth having” resonates strongly with both the rural conservative and urban environmental members of our alliance.

It is also helpful to consider the way organizations like NCDD member Everyday Democracy (which reinvented itself recently by changing its name from the Study Circles Resource Center) talk about the work they do in communities. Everyday Democracy’s website states simply that “we help your community find ways for all kinds of people to think, talk and work together to solve problems.”

Note from Sandy:

This is my fourth blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community.  The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin:  The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?) and the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?).  You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

IJP2 Article Part 3: Understand the specific concerns of conservatives    

A major theme in the Framing Challenge at the 2008 NCDD conference was the need to understand the specific concerns of conservatives.

menatconf_200pxThe public engagement field and related fields struggle with the fact that many more progressives than conservatives are attracted to this work. The vast majority of practitioners are politically progressive, and it is typically more challenging to recruit people with more traditional or conservative views to participate in dialogue and deliberation programs.

During the conservative panel sub-plenary on the second day of the conference, panelists Joseph McCormick, Grover Norquist, Michael Ostrolenk and Pete Peterson mentioned several words that can turn conservative communities away from public engagement: grassroots, organizing (“I don’t want anyone to organize me”), consciousness and enlightenment (“something you have and I don’t?”).

In their workshop, Attracting Conservative Citizens to Dialogue Events: Liberal-Conservative Campus Dialogue & Mormon-Evangelical Interfaith Initiatives, Jacob Hess and Reverend Greg Johnson explained some of the sources of wariness of dialogue by many social conservatives. One is the fear of being asked to give up truth or absolutes, as dialogue can seem to assume that all truth is relative.

One participant wrote this reflection about Hess and Johnson’s powerful session:

“I had a big, big revelation [during your session]. At 64, I have thought my whole life that to be open-minded, all accepting, non-judgmental toward different people, beliefs, and values was an absolute good thing. How could it be bad to be tolerant, embracing, accepting all beliefs as valid? Wouldn’t everyone appreciate that attitude, since it includes everyone? What I heard from you is that having an absolute truth is fundamentally, critically important to you. It is the most important thing. It may be easier for you to deal with each other, or with others who have conflicting versions of the truth, than to do deal with someone like me who doesn’t seem to advocate any particular truth, but sees it all as relative.”

Others shared similar realizations after this workshop. Often, dialogue is said to bring people together whose viewpoints and experiences contribute important “pieces of the puzzle” for making progress on issues like racial inequity, education reform, and youth violence. But framing dialogue in relativist terms may backfire for some audiences. According to Hess and Johnson, it may be important to reassure conservatives that “truth Capital T is still welcome” – as long as they also agree to be open to learning more.

Another concern brought up in Hess and Johnson’s workshop is the fear of a hidden [liberal] agenda. Pete Peterson confirmed this on the conservatives panel, suggesting people with more traditional views might respond better when dialogue is framed as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. When dialogue is seen as a “tool,” the question arises from all sides “What is the hidden agenda? To change my mind so I agree with you? To challenge my beliefs or values?”

Peterson’s comment echoed another concern Hess and Johnson explored in their session: the fear of being changed. Dialogue can be seen by people with deep-rooted belief systems as something that might require them to compromise their beliefs somehow. Consider how a conservative Christian might feel when asked to participate in a dialogue on gay marriage aimed at “finding common ground” or moving forward in ways that “work for all” among people with disparate viewpoints. Panelist Grover Norquist, Founder of Americans for Tax Reform, likewise pointed out latent fear among some towards events seeking common ground.

There are many theories as to why progressives have shown more interest than conservatives in public engagement work, but the fact remains that the outcomes of public engagement projects cannot be easily categorized as serving left-wing or right-wing agendas. Participants sometimes recommend tax increases or new government programs to address the issue at hand; other times they call for business or nonprofit groups or take over tasks that had been the responsibility of government. Often, they call for citizens to take more direct responsibility for solving community problems.

Note from Sandy:

This is my third blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community.  The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin:  The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?) and the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?).  You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

IJP2 Article Part 2: Consider how different framings affect different groups    

Another clear theme in the Framing Challenge at the 2008 NCDD conference was the importance of understanding how different groups of people respond to the various ways public engagement is currently framed. In the online dialogue and at the conference itself, many pointed towards acquiring and cultivating greater sensitivity to the ways that distinct language ‘plays out’ for different groups.

conversation_croppedblogThe concept of blind spots in our language – terms and phrases that dissuade or confuse without our realizing it – was discussed in the online dialogue. Susan Partnow, a leader in the Conversation Cafe movement, remarked that she had been surprised in the past when her efforts to be inclusive and welcoming fell short. She proposed a need to “assume you are making a lot more assumptions than you think you are.”

“Different language pushes different people’s buttons,” stated Avril Orloff, who led our 5-person Graphic Recording Team for the conference. While many cringe at “touchy feely” terms like heart-work, wholeness, and consciousness, “others [like me] sigh over bureaucratic-sounding language like multi-stakeholder engagement, whole systems change and the dread empowerment.” Kai Degner, Mayor of Harrisonburg, Virginia and founder of the OrangeBand Initiative, summed it up well when he said that people in the dialogue and deliberation community often talk about the work they do in ways that are “either too new-agey or too ivory tower.”

Many anecdotes were shared of instances when blind spots in language unintentionally dissuaded people from participating. Erin Kreeger related how some clients talk in terms of decision making but cannot relate to the term deliberation – “even though their processes are what many of us would call deliberation.”

Another colleague of Kreeger’s “would never use the term democracy because it’s too loaded and manipulative when used in the contexts he works in.” Jim Driscoll, who co-led a workshop with several Iraq-era veterans on his program Vets4Vets, shared how a donor reconsidered a large gift “because the organization had used the word democracy in the proposal… he thought it must be a ‘feel good’ organization and he is a hard-nosed conservative.” Irene Nasser related how even the concept of collaboration can turn people away from participating in Jewish-Palestinian dialogue, since potential participants often see each other as the enemy and have no interest (yet) in working together.

As Framing Challenge leader Jacob Hess wrote in his report on this challenge, the degree to which we can “surface ways in which different terms play out differently across different communities, we can move forward more deliberately to accomplish what we really want in drawing diverse communities together…. The aim is to be mindful about the language we use, being aware that different words that really resonate with us may need some explaining, translation or upgrading for another setting.”

Note from Sandy:

This is my second blog post featuring content of an article published in the latest edition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community.  The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin:  The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?) and the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?).  You can download the full article from the IJP2 site.

Also, see NCOC’s 2008 Civic Health Index (p. 17-18) for a fascinating summary of people’s reactions to terms we often use to describe public engagement work: democracy, citizenship, civic engagement, service, social entrepreneurship and community organizing. 13% of survey respondents responded negatively to the word “democracy” when asked to share the first thing that came to mind. 20% cited some kind of right or duty, such as voting. 12% mentioned rules of decision-making, such as majority rule, and 9% cited the government. www.ncoc.net

IJP2 Article on Framing and Systems Challenges    

An article of mine was published in the latest addition of the International Journal of Public Participation (IJP2), titled Taking our Work to the Next Level: Addressing Challenges Facing the Dialogue and Deliberation Community.  The article outlines our learnings in two of the five challenges we focused on at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin:  The “Framing Challenge” (How can we talk about and present D&D work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?) and the “Systems Challenge” (How can we make D&D values and practices integral to government, schools, and other systems?).

I want to make sure the D&D community sees and benefits from this article (it was a lot of work! – plus I quote and mention many of you)…  so I plan to share segments of the article here on the NCDD blog every few days for the next month as food for thought.  Feel free to add your thoughts and reactions using the comments field.  I would love for the article to spur more conversation in our community about these critically important issues.

You can download the full article from the IJP2 site. Note that the current edition of the Journal also includes great articles from NCDD members David Campt (on using audience response keypads), Janette Hartz-Karp and Lyn Carson (on the Australian Citizens’ Parliament), and others.

framing_graphic_200pxNow for blog post #1…

The Framing Challenge: Presenting dialogue and deliberation in an accessible way

Oftentimes, people’s assumptions, fears or reactions to dialogue and deliberation have much more to do with framing than with the processes themselves. Subtle cues in how we talk about and present this work can put people on the defensive and turn them away. In this challenge area, we explored how public engagement processes can be made more accessible to more communities—not by radically changing the practice itself, but my making sure the “packaging” is as welcoming, accessible and compelling as possible. The crux of this work is to provide the space for people with a wide variety of perspectives and experiences to solve problems together, and the ability to draw in people of all educational levels, ages, income levels, and political perspectives is vital.

Our leader for the “Framing Challenge” was Jacob Hess, a young social conservative who says he has “found a home in the dialogue community.” The first time he was invited to a dialogue at his college, Jacob saw how the ways we talk about, portray and frame dialogue can strongly affect whether diverse groups feel comfortable participating. Conservatives are just one group for whom this challenge matters, but the NCDD community has been particularly concerned about attracting more conservatives to this work since the first National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation in 2002 – when keypad polling showed that a surprisingly low number of conference attendees had voted for President Bush in 2000. (more…)

Three days left to complete survey of dialogue & deliberation professionals    

CarolinePicJust wanted to ask all of you one last time to complete NCDD members Francesca Polletta and Caroline Lee’s survey of dialogue and deliberation practitioners (if you haven’t already).  They’ll be sharing the data they collect with NCDD and others, and the more of you participate, the more valuable the data will be for our field.

Saturday is the last day to complete the survey.  Also- Francesca and Caroline (pictured here, left) wanted me to thank all of you who have completed the survey already!   They are very grateful for your input.

The survey is up at https://opinio.lafayette.edu:443/opinio/s?s=1176 – and here are some more details…

Survey of Dialogue and Deliberation Practitioners

Will you help us to learn more about the field of dialogue and deliberation- and possibly win a cash prize for your favorite charitable organization?

The field of public dialogue and deliberation is growing dramatically- so dramatically, in fact, that no one fully knows what the field looks like:

  • who is doing public dialogue and deliberation work
  • what forms their work is taking
  • what common challenges they face
  • how they would like to see the field develop.

We are two sociologists who want to find answers to those questions by asking you, the experts.

We believe that your insights will help to strengthen the field, and we plan to share whatever information we learn. The survey at the link below will take about 15 to 30 minutes to complete. Your answers will be anonymous, but if you complete the survey we will enter a charitable organization of your choice in a raffle for a $200 donation — a small token of our appreciation for your participation.

Thanks in advance for your help in making the survey a success!

– Francesca Polletta and Caroline Lee

https://opinio.lafayette.edu:443/opinio/s?s=1176

Free bulk issues of Yes Mag’s Purple America issue    

Here is a great offer from my friend Susan Gleason at Yes! magazine.  These free issues are great for distributing at conferences, trainings events, at exhibit booths, etc.

YES! Magazine has a long commitment to the innovations of the dialogue and deliberation movement.  Many of you saw copies of the Fall 2008 issue, Purple America, at last year’s NCDD conference, featuring a set of stories about “Conversations Across the Divide.”  These inspiring stories illustrate how Americans can engage each other in what are often viewed as difficult or highly polarized conversations: an urban environmental activist finds common ground with her rural farmer father; LGBT youth activists initiate conversations on a roadtrip to conservative college campuses; neighbors hold living room conversations about immigration on the Night of 1,000 Conversations, and Evangelicals share their passion for the environment and social justice.

Through a donor-supported program, YES! is making copies of the Purple America issue, containing these stories and more, available to NCDD members in bulk quantities, completely free of charge (international shipping excepted). To request bulk copies (packaged 50 to a box) of the Purple America issue, please contact Susan Gleason, Media & Outreach Manager, at [email protected].  Yes! takes care of the shipping charges as well.

The full issue is online at http://yesmagazine.org/issues/purple-america/ if you’d like to check it out before deciding.

Re-Post: Model Dialogue Coverage on the Oregonian Website    

Restorative Listening Project Online Coverage

I decided to repost this NCDD blog post from April 2008. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can tell our stories about dialogue and deliberation in compelling ways, and the amazing coverage on the Oregonian website Judith Mowry got for her work came to mind.  This unique, engaging, inspiring media coverage featuring audio recordings of dialogue participants in a Portland dialogue program on gentrification is still online, and any of you who haven’t checked it out should do so. It’s just too cool!

You can also revisit the May 28, 2008 article about the Restorative Listening Project in the New York Times (yep – I said the New York Times!), also still online.

Original April 17, 2008 post in the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation blog…

NCDD member Judith Mowry runs a Restorative Listening Project in Portland, Oregon that uses dialogue, storytelling and restorative justice to engage the city in race dialogue. Some amazing press coverage went up today on the Oregonian website which highlights the project using articles, a multimedia website and beginning a year long community wide dialogue. Check it out at www.oregonlive.com/special/index.ssf/2008/04/speak_listen_heal_index_page.html.

Mowry, now with the city Office of Neighborhood Involvement, designed the project from her background in restorative justice, which aims to mend harm by inviting the sufferer to describe the harm, revealing, for both sides, their shared humanity. “The one who strikes the blow doesn’t know the force of the blow,” Mowry says. “Only the one who has received the blow knows its force.”

I love one page of this web coverage in particular, and the image on the right shows you what the page looks like. The page allows you to click on the faces of dialogue participants and then listen to audio of them talking about what race and gentrification means to them (I clicked on Judith’s name so her image and audio is the one highlighted). It’s an amazing example of how to cover dialogue in the local press using new media.

Be sure to also read the accompanying article by Erin Hoover Barnett, called “Speak. Listen. Heal.” and the column by S. Renee Mitchell titled “A successful crossing of the racial divide.”

We Love Kai Degner    

Kai Degner just sent something to the NCDD Discussion list that I wanted to share in the blog. There’s now a great 4-minute video up that captures the energy of his Open Space “Mayor’s Sustainability Summit.”

Kai has been involved in NCDD since 2005, when he wowed us all with his innovative OrangeBand concept which encourages college students to start “conversations that matter” with each other on-the-fly about issues they care about (no tables or meetings needed!). This past year, he ran for city council in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and not only became a city councillor but won the Mayor’s seat as well due to getting the highest number of votes (by far). His campaign was based on smart growth, and on process and citizen engagement.

In his role as Mayor of Harrisonburg, Kai (who, have I mentioned, is not quite 30?!) convenes community dialogues using emergent dialogue methods such as Conversation Café and Open Space Technology. In May, Kai held a successful community-wide Open Space event called the “Mayor’s Sustainability Summit,” involving about 160 people and 120 organizations in an innovative day-long event held in public and commercial spaces throughout downtown Harrisonburg. The cost to the city? $30 for a few supplies (everything else was donated). Visit www.HarrisonburgSummits.com to learn about Kai’s summits.

In an email to the NCDD network after the event, Kai wrote:

“I’m struck how innovative people find the event to be, which is a wonderful reminder to me that no matter how obvious or useful I see these processes, there are still many folks who have no experience with these other paradigms to have community dialogues and deliberations – and this high profile seat is a way to showcase their utility while also realizing their value for our city.”

Kai just wrote to the NCDD listserv today, saying:

“I write from the Virginia Mayors Institute in Roanoke, Virginia. Yesterday afternoon, I was unexpectedly asked to present for 30 minutes in front of 35 mayors about what “citizen involvement techniques” I’m using as mayor, prompted by the statewide organizer having read about it in my local paper. I shared mainly about the Open Space meetings I’m holding, and was impressed with how engaged and interested the audience was – let that be motivation for you in your communities!”

You can also get a glimpse of Kai in this 2-minute YouTube clip of him presenting about reclaiming debate in the “D&D Marketplace” we held at the 2008 NCDD conference in Austin.

An Online National Issues Forum on Healthcare    

As a past Board member of the National Issues Forums Institute (yes – I’m very important!), I’ve been asked to help spread the word about an important new NIFI project. To foster public dialogue on the rising costs of health care, NIFI has developed a website based on their issue book titled Coping with the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need? This is NIFI’s first online issue book and online deliberation, and you are all welcome to get involved.

Here’s how: Go to the health care workbook website at http://nifi-healthcare.dialoguecircles.com and complete the quick and simple registration. Then you’ll be ready to log in and give your responses, and share your own stories in the online workbook. Completing the workbook takes about 30 minutes, but you can spend some time on it, log out, and come back later to complete your workbook or to add your own stories.

By completing the workbook and sharing your stories and ideas, you can contribute to a national dialogue on health-care affordability. After you complete the workbook, you will also be asked if you would like to register for the chance to be part of a series of online deliberations this fall.

You can also watch a new online documentary produced by the Kettering Foundation and ThinkTV about the choices now confronting the public. The documentary, Coping with the High Cost of Care: Where is the Public Voice? can be viewed in three parts (each approximately 10 minutes long):

  • View Part I of Coping with the High Cost of Care: Where is the Public Voice?
  • View Part II of Coping with the High Cost of Care: Where is the Public Voice?
  • View Part III of Coping with the High Cost of Care: Where is the Public Voice?

Important Survey for D&D Professionals    

Two NCDD members who are respected scholars in this field – Francesca Polletta and Caroline Lee – are administering an important survey of dialogue and deliberation professionals.  If enough professionals in D&D and public engagement respond to this survey, the data gathered will be of incredible value for our field.

The field of public dialogue and deliberation is growing dramatically- so dramatically, in fact, that no one fully knows what the field looks like:

  • Who is doing public dialogue and deliberation work?
  • What forms is their work taking?
  • What common challenges are they facing?
  • How would they like to see the field develop?

Caroline and Francesca are two sociologists who want to find answers to those questions by asking you, the experts.  They believe that your insights will help to strengthen the field, and plan to share the data they collect with the NCDD network.  The survey at the link below will take about 15 to 30 minutes to complete. Your answers will be anonymous, but if you complete the survey they will enter a charitable organization of your choice in a raffle for a $200 donation.

The survey is up now at https://opinio.lafayette.edu:443/opinio/s?s=1176 and I encourage all of you who do dialogue & deliberation work to take the time to complete it asap.

Expanding “Public Participation” in Hard Times    

Here is a must-read article by NCDD member Tom Atlee, founder of The Co-Intelligence Institute. The piece outlines an expanded vision of “public participation” that Atlee feels is vital in this time of economic crisis and seemingly unsolvable local and global problems.

The article is aligned with some of the things I’ve been thinking about and working on lately, one of them being the Goals of Dialogue & Deliberation graphic I created recently based on Martin Carcasson’s work. (See my article on the new graphic if you’re interested.) Atlee asserts that communities and institutions that best survive this turbulent time will be those that “most successfully create conditions within which their constituents can actively and successfully self-organize.”  To me, he’s talking about building civic capacity — something all dialogue and deliberation efforts (in theory) can contribute to. Atlee advises communities to invest “existing management resources” (staff time, tax money, political capital, etc.) in building internal capacity for citizens and local institutions to work together to solve their own problems.

Expanding “Public Participation” in Hard Times

Most governing bodies today face a situation of rapidly growing governance challenges while resources needed to address these challenges shrink significantly.

In my own networks I hear increasing concern that economic, social, and environmental crises may combine into disasters that overwhelm traditional democratic institutions and leadership.

Public officials seem increasingly interested in public participation — from the Obama administration down to my hometown of Eugene, Oregon.  But I hear complaints about lack of adequate resources to manage it.

It seems to me there are powerful inexpensive approaches — both face-to-face and online — that can be leveraged to engage people in ways that actually lighten the load and expense of government, especially when we tap into people’s existing passion to make a difference. (more…)

New Framework for Understanding the Goals of Public Engagement    

In a new occasional paper published by Public Agenda’s Center for Advances in Public Engagement (CAPE), NCDD member Martin Carcasson of Colorado State University’s Center for Public Deliberation outlines three broad categories of goals for deliberation. The essay explores how a clearer understanding of the goals and purposes we are trying to achieve through public engagement can sharpen our methods and increase our impacts. It offers a practical framework to help practitioners systematically consider both their short-term and long-term goals and the strategies that will set them up for success.

Carcasson’s paper is titled Beginning with the End in Mind: A Call for Goal-Driven Deliberative Practice (Summer 2009), and can be downloaded for free from www.publicagenda.org/cape. I was deeply impressed by the paper and Carcasson’s brilliantly simple “Goals of Deliberation” framework. Carcasson points out that although “first-order goals” like issue learning and improved democratic attitudes are often discounted as we focus on our primary goals related to concrete action and impact on policy, those first-order goals still impact the big-picture goal of increasing a community’s civic capacity and ability to solve problems.

DD Goals GraphicAt the No Better Time conference in July 2009, I spoke to Carcasson about expanding his “Goals of Deliberation” framework slightly so public dialogue for purposes of conflict resolution or conflict management are also emphasized in the framework (he was very interested). In the paper, Carcasson writes about “improved relationships” between individuals and groups as a first-order goal, and mentions that conflict management is another second-level goal… yet his framework figure did not feature those goals.

In close communication with Carcasson as well as Will Friedman and Alison Kadlec of Public Agenda, I expanded on the framework to create the Goals of Dialogue & Deliberation graphic pictured here. Click on the graphic to view a larger image.

Both the original and the adapted frameworks emphasize improved community problem solving and increased civic capacity as longer-term goals of public engagement work. As we work from project to project, we can lose sight of the fact that our work is contributing to the bigger picture goal of more democratic, effective communities and cultures. In the online dialogue we held at CivicEvolution.org on the “Action & Change” challenge before the 2008 NCDD conference, Joseph McIntyre of the Ag Futures Alliance noted that although public engagement work can lead to numerous types of action outcomes and products, often “D&D is simply plowing the field and planting the seeds that will result in the changes needed. In my case, D&D is part of an evolutionary change.” (more…)

Call for Proposals to C2D2 2009    

C2D2 logoOur sister organization, the Canadian Community for Dialogue & Deliberation, is holding its third national conference this fall. The 2009 Canadian Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation will take place October 22-25 in Toronto, Ontario, and early registration ends on July 31st. Registration is currently $393.75 CAD with taxes, and the rate will increase $100 CAD beginning in August.

C2D2 is about to announce their call for proposals, and you can download the call and application here. Proposals are due July 31st for concurrent sessions, field visits, marketplace showcases, and night-cap dialogues. Proposals should fall under four broad areas: leading change, conversations, stronger communities, and healthier democracies. Youth are especially encouraged to share the innovative and impactful work they’re doing.

Contact Miriam Wyman at [email protected] if you have questions, or visit the C2D2 2009 conference site.

Now’s the Time to Submit Session Proposals and Facilitator Applications for Engaging the Other Conference    

Engaging the Other bannerThe 4th Annual International Conference on “Engaging The Other:” The Power of Compassion is taking place November 12-15 in San Mateo, California (outside San Francisco), and we encourage all NCDDers interested in conflict resolution and intergroup relations to attend! NCDD is co-sponsoring this event with the Common Bond Institute and the International Humanistic Psychology Association, and registration will be discounted for NCDD members ($290 rather than $350 for the early rate).

Engaging The Other (ETO) is an innovative interdisciplinary conference examining concepts of “The Other” from a universal, cross-cultural perspective to promote wider public dialogue about concepts of “Us and Them.”

Now is the time to submit your proposal for a concurrent session (workshop), and/or to sign up as a dialogue group facilitator. Participation in either role saves you 50% on the regular registration rate! (more…)

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