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Archives for September 2008

Free Conversation Café and Host Training on October 2nd    

We’re holding a free Conversation Café and host training the night before the conference begins, open to conference participants and anyone else in Austin that wants to join us. If you’re in Austin or know people who are, please send them a link to this post, or give them this Conversation Cafe flyer.


Are you curious to learn how ‘the other guys’ are thinking?  Have you wondered how to talk to others who hold very different points of view?  Come experience a FREE Conversation Café at the Renaissance Austin Hotel (Ballroom B) on October 2, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. when we will explore the theme of learning from differences.

Conversation Café is a simple but powerful process that fosters fascinating and lively conversation with a diverse group. It offers an easy-to-use format that helps people feel at ease, speak with sincerity and listen with respect. The result is a shift from small talk to “big talk” about questions that matter.

You can also learn how to be a conversation host by attending the FREE workshop from 6:15-7:30 p.m. offered by Conversation Café co-founder Susan Partnow. You will be joined by others from around the U.S. (and a dozen other countries!) attending the National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation.

You’ll have fun, get inspired and leave with an empowering tool that can help you create more satisfying and meaningful conversations in your community, workplace, neighborhood or just at your kitchen table. Be sure to invite your friends, family and co-workers to join you for this special event!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

FREE Workshop for Volunteer Hosts
6:15 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

FREE Public Conversation Café (ages 16 and up)
7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Renaissance Austin Hotel
9721 Arboretum Boulevard, Austin
Ballroom B

For more about Conversation Café go to You are also encouraged to review the Volunteer Host training guide at

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Saturday's Sub-Plenary, a Panel of Conservatives    

Here’s the final info for Saturday’s sub-plenary session (one of two large sessions) featuring four conservatives who support public engagement work.

Walking our Talk: What the D&D Community Can Learn from Conservatives

Saturday 2:15 to 4:00 pm – Ballroom A

The D&D community and related fields struggle with the fact that this kind of work attracts many more progressives than conservatives. The vast majority of D&D practitioners are politically progressive, and it’s often more challenging to recruit people with more traditional or conservative views to participate in dialogue and deliberation programs. This is a major problem for a field that embraces inclusion as a core principle, and we want to address this challenge head-on at NCDD Austin.

Join us for a panel discussion and dialogue featuring conservative leaders who support public engagement. Panelists will share their thoughts and ideas about the state of American civic engagement and the fields of dialogue and deliberation. Learn about language commonly used in the D&D field that inadvertently turns off people with more conservative views and/or traditional values. At a time of increasing division and polarization in the U.S., more effective ways of engaging with those whose worldviews differ from ours is critically needed. This is a unique opportunity to interact with four leaders who strongly value civic responsibility, engagement and community, but approach it from different points of view.

Our panelists…

Joseph McCormick
Joseph McCormick is the co-founder of Reuniting America, a network of individuals, associations and organizations engaged in dialogue across divides since 2004. Joseph was a Republican nominee for the U.S. Congress in Georgia in 1998 in one of the most conservative districts in the country. As a veteran of our political civil war he recognizes the most destructive force in our country today is Americans taking sides against other Americans. As a result of his experience he has become a pioneer of the transpartisan movement, teaching people how to increase their political empowerment by constructively engaging across political divides. He is a former officer in the U.S. Army Rangers and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and Yale University.

Grover Norquist
Grover Norquist, who is of Swedish descent, grew up in Weston, Massachusetts and has a BA and MBA from Harvard University. After leaving professional school, Norquist became executive director of both the National Taxpayers Union and the national College Republicans organization, holding both positions until 1983. Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985, at the request of President Ronald Reagan, and has headed the organization ever since. Mr. Norquist is author of the book Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives. The book is an optimistic look at how the conservative movement can and will grow during the next 25 years. Mr. Norquist also serves on the Boards of the National Rifle Association of America and the American Conservative Union.

Michael Ostrolenk
Michael D. Ostrolenk is a public policy consultant who works on health, education, privacy and national security related issues. Michael is the founder and national coordinator for the Medical Privacy Coalition, and Executive Director of the Transpartisan Center in Washington DC. He is the co-founder and National Director of the Liberty Coalition, a transpartisan coalition of groups working to protect civil liberties, privacy and human autonomy. He is also co-founder and President of the American Conservative Defense Alliance, which works to promote a traditional conservative foreign and defense policy. Michael has written for a wide variety of publications ranging from USA Today to The American Conservative Magazine. He has also done dozens of talk radio interviews on national security related issues.

Pete Peterson
Pete Peterson is executive director of Common Sense California, a bi-partisan organization that supports and promotes civic engagement throughout California. In 2005, Pete ran for the Republican nomination of a county-level office in his native New Jersey. Pete has worked on several Republican campaigns both for state and national office. Based on his experiences and current work, he sees a growing partisanship becoming one of the great challenges to American governance in the coming decades. He has written several opinion pieces about the need for greater policy-making power at the local level and a removal of ideological influences in local decisions. Pete is a graduate of The George Washington University and has a Masters in Public Policy from Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy. He was a Public Affairs Fellow of the Hoover Institution in 2006.

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D&D Marketplace Presenters    

Friday 4-5:30 pm

Meet some of the movers-and-shakers in the field, and learn about some of the newest and most innovative D&D tools, resources, and programs during this 90-minute plenary session. Presenters include… (more…)

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Saturday's Reflective Panel    

We will end our second day together on Saturday (October 4th) with our signature “Reflective Panel” featuring four prominent leaders in our field: Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Bill Isaacs, David Campt and Najeeba Syeed-Miller. The Reflective Panel is the closest we come to a “keynote speech” at NCDD conferences, enabling conference participants to hear from D&D figureheads without enduring long speeches without any dialogic quality to them.

Each panelist will address major challenges facing the D&D community as part of an Inquiry Circle.  Unlike traditional “talking head” panel presentations, conversation in this space flows among the panelists without long monologues.  The Inquiry Circle builds collective intelligence while honoring and modeling the spirit and power of dialogue.

After a couple of rounds of the inquiry circle, you will have the opportunity to discuss what you heard and what question your table would like to submit to one of the panelists. In the final segment of this session, the panelists will respond to some of these questions, touch on emergent themes and insights, and share closing thoughts.

Steve Pyser will be moderating the Reflective Panel. Learn about our panelists… (more…)

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New AARP Report on Civic Engagement among Elders    

I just got an email from uber-connected Cynthia Gibson (you know - author of Citizens at the Center) about an AARP report that will be rolled out tomorrow as part of the Service Nation event. The report, titled More to Give: Tapping the Talents of the Baby Boomer, Silent and Greatest Generation, is authored by Robert Putnam, John Bridgeland and Harris Wofford.

It discusses the civic behaviors and attitudes of Americans as they transition from work to retirement.  The primary purpose of the report is “to spark a national dialogue and movement around the civic engagement of [the Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation, and the Greatest Generation]” and is based on a series of focus groups and a nationally representative survey that was conducted of Americans age 44-79. Download the AARP Report now.

NCDD Austin's 5-Person Graphic Recording Team    

The Graphic Recording Team at NCDD 2008 included Sunni Brown, Julie Gieseke, Mariah Howard, Marilyn Martin and team leader Avril Orloff. NCDD owes each of these women a huge debt of gratitude for the incredible contributions they made to  the 2008 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation!

Graphic recording has long been a feature of NCDD conferences, but for the 2008 conference we took it up a few notches. Instead of just one or two graphic recorders, we had a whole team — and rather than having them record quietly in the back of the room, we closely integrated the graphics with the rest of the program.

In addition to recording the plenaries and sub-plenaries, the graphic recording team created mural-size posters for each of the five challenge areas we focused on at the conference. The posters were displayed throughout the conference, and the graphic recorders worked with our challenge leaders to add to the posters each day as new thoughts, insights and ideas emerged related to the challenges.

Conference participants were also urged to contribute ideas to the posters, and many did. And to help people along, our Graphic Recording Team offered a graphic recording demo/session at the D&D marketplace on the first day of the conference, giving dozens of conference attendees the opportunity to try their hand at graphic recording and learn some basic graphic recording skills.

Avril Orloff created the mural that captured themes related to the Framing Challenge, which explored the question “How can we talk about and present dialogue and deliberation work in ways that are accessible to a broader audience?” At the 2008 conference, we focused on the need to attract more conservatives to D&D work in particular. Click on the image below to see a larger version of this mural on Avril’s website. You can learn more about Avril’s work at


Many more images of the graphic recordings created at NCDD Austin have been uploaded to Flickr by conference participants. Be sure to check them out at

What are Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation anyway?

According to graphic facilitator Brandy Agerbeck (, graphic facilitation is the practice of using words and images to create a conceptual map of a conversation. A graphic facilitator is the visual, usually silent partner to the traditional, verbal facilitator, drawing a large scale image at the front of the room in real-time.

Agerbeck describes graphic facilitation as both a process and product. Watching the graphic facilitator create the map as the group speaks is highly experiential and immediate. It focuses the group as they work, aiding concentration by capturing and organizing their ideas. Everyone can watch their ideas take shape; the manifestation is most resonant with the visual, spatial and systematic thinkers in the group, but it’s a powerful tool of recognition for everyone. After the event, the map becomes a document; evidence of the meeting’s progress and direction. This resulting conceptual map is an engaging and meaningful tool, because the audience watched its creation in relationship to their experience. Images being emotional and subjective, participants can interpret the image and recall their own ‘Aha!’ moments.

According to, graphic facilitators (or ‘visual practitioners’) use visual methods to assist learning and communication between groups and individuals. Graphic facilitators tap into the power of ‘visual thinking’-they literally draw information out of people, functioning as facilitators and scribes to get the wisdom of groups into a tangible form. Some use visual presentations to ‘PUSH’ information to people. Other use a ‘PULL’ approach, gathering the information that is pulled out of people, into graphic displays or renderings. Whatever approach is used, the artifacts that are created have a very graphic or visual nature.

What Are the Benefits of Working Visually?

As human beings our world is speeding up and the amount of information that we are forced to digest is growing exponentially. One of the prime benefits of working visually is that it is humane! The human brain processes information visually - pictures help convey reams of data efficiently. Visual Practitioners know and use the efficiencies of visuals. We know how to extract and distill the key messages, wisdom and knowledge held within an individual or group.

Working graphically is efficient and effective - as such it saves time, money and much aggravation. Comprehension increases, participation increases, the quality of decision-making tends to increase; all in all, working visually helps people more effectively see their circumstances, understand themselves and one another, and results in smoother decisions and agreements.

The ease of reproduction is another large benefit of working visually, particularly in the case of business meetings or settings where meeting minutes and summary notes are of prime importance. No longer does someone have to slave over the transcription of an important meeting - most of the approaches that visual practitioners use do not require additional writing work; the minutes are literally created as we go (particularly in graphic recording and graphic facilitation venues).

Benefits of interactive, highly facilitated approaches to graphic recording:
Increases Clarity And Comprehension (People Literally See What They Mean); Boosts Learning For Visual And Kinesthetic Learners (Over 88% Of People); Heightens Thinking Levels (Enables Higher Level Of Dialogue And Discussion); Saves Time And Increases Efficiency By Reducing Repetition And Redundancy; Lowers Misunderstandings And Helps Resolve Conflict; Increases Quality Of Decisions And Understanding Of Commitments And Accountabilities; Shrinks The Need For Traditional Meeting Minutes And Reports (The Charts Become The Report).

Benefits of passive, off-on-the-side scribing approaches:
Collects Key Information Without Invasive Questioning Or Interruption; Expands Retention And Understanding Of Key Themes And Main Ideas; Increases The ROI For Speakers & Presenters (Documents Their Crucial Points); Builds A Graphic Summary That Leaders Can Use To Summarize/Interact With; Equips Participants With A Unique ‘Takeaway’ Of Their Experience (Paper Or Digital); Makes For Easy Sharing And Communication Of The ‘Gestalt’ Of The Event.

Resources on Graphic Facilitation

Grove Consultants International, a well-established group of graphic facilitators based in the San Francisco Bay area, feature a number of video demos on their website.  The short videos walk users through using their most popular planning templates.  At, you’ll find a number of other great resources on graphic facilitation.  A great place to start is at the resources section of their online learning center.

The International Forum of Visual Practitioners website, at, features a nice database of graphic facilitators you can hire. For over 25 years, business people, artists, communities, governments, educators, and individuals have been leveraging the power of their Visual Practitioner community of graphic recorders and graphic facilitators.

This introductory text about graphic recording and graphic facilitation was excerpted from and

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Saturday's Poetry Slam at NCDD Austin    

Thought I’d add a quick post about this… Our thanks to Central Texas Team member and NCDD Board member Taylor Willingham for coordinating this performance!

Austin City-Wide Youth Poetry Slam

This performance during Saturday’s lunch is sponsored by the Texas Youth Word Collective (TYWC) - a nonprofit youth literacy program that encourages middle school and high school students’ interest in writing through youth poetry slams, open mics and online anthologies. It is our hope that the performance will inspire you and get your minds all warmed up for the sub-plenaries taking place after lunch.

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