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How the Conference and the Coalition Came to Be

The National Conference on Dialogue and Deliberation was a collaborative effort among practitioners who represent a variety of prominent and up-and-coming dialogue organizations.

The momentum that led up to the event began at MRA?s Connecting Communities conference in June 2001 (MRA is now called Initiatives of Change), when Cricket White of Hope in the Cities began talking to a small group of leaders in the dialogue community about the need for a conference that would allow dialogue practitioners to experience each other?s models, share strategies and get to know their colleagues in the field. Cricket?s enthusiasm was contagious, and the following people began seriously talking about how we could make this idea a reality:

Sandy Heierbacher of the Dialogue to Action Initiative
Randy Ross of the New Jersey Office of Bias Crime and Community Relations
Jim Snow of George Mason University?s Institute for Conflict Analysis & Resolution
Melissa Wade of the Study Circles Resource Center
Mike Wenger of NABRE (the Network of Alliances Bridging Race & Ethnicity)
Cricket White of Hope in the Cities (of course!)

Jim Snow, a key member of the conference's Organizing Team, fosters dialogue at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Upon returning home, Sandy Heierbacher created a listserv (email discussion list) so that the group could communicate with one another readily, and we wrote to each other excitedly about planning an event which would bring dialogue practitioners together to learn about each other?s dialogue models and strategies and to address the disconnect and lack of infrastructure that exists in the dialogue community.

We also reached out to others in our networks, and were joined by the following people who became actively involved in our planning efforts:

Reena Bernards of The Dialogue Project
Chip Hauss of Search for Common Ground - USA
Maggie Herzig of the Public Conversations Project
Jennifer Murphy of George Mason University?s Institute for Conflict Analysis & Resolution
Maggie Potapchuk of NABRE (the Network of Alliances Bridging Race & Ethnicity)
Polly Riddims of Fusion Partnerships, Inc.
David Schoem of the University of Michigan
Toni Tucker of Dayton Dialogues on Race
Michele Woods Jones of the Citizens? Unity Commission

It soon became evident that although everyone on the listserv was committed to organizing a gathering of dialogue leaders, each person had different ideas, needs and a unique vision for the event. In order to create some clarity about what ways dialogue practitioners could really benefit from such an event - and whether or not there was demand for an event like this ? the group decided to design a needs assessment, and invited dialogue facilitators, organizers, researchers, students and participants to complete an online survey.

115 people from throughout the dialogue community completed the survey. The results, which were posted on the Dialogue to Action Initiative?s website and publicized throughout the dialogue community, are both interesting and informative, and confirmed that dialogue practitioners have a strong need ? and many great ideas! ? for a dialogue conference.

Making the Conference Happen

A grant proposal was then written and presented to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (thanks to David Schoem mentioning our efforts to Terry Amsler of Hewlett!). After some rewriting and waiting, we received the good news on Thursday, May 23!

As soon as we heard the news, we moved into high gear. We had already found a great location and had agreed on October 4-6 as the dates for the event, but that left us with little over four months to organize a national conference! Sandy Heierbacher immediately sent out an announcement to about 2500 contacts throughout the dialogue community, hoping to not only encourage people to plan to attend, but also to join our Organizing Team and our Coalition.

We wanted this conference to be welcoming, relevant, informative and inspiring to practitioners and theorists representing the entire spectrum of dialogic practice, and assembling a broad-based Organizing Team was an important step in achieving this goal.

Within a couple of days, we had received over 400 email messages from dialogue leaders who wanted to express their excitement about the event. Many of these leaders accepted our invitation to join the conference Organizing Team or have their organization become a part of the Coalition for a National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation.

With a large organizing team of 60 incredible people who had faith that we could pull this off in four months ? not to mention six absolutely phenomenal committee chairs ? we were able to put together an event that includes 56 top-notch breakout sessions that exposed dialogue practitioners to a plethora of dialogue methods, models and tools, and three large-group sessions that took conference participants through a dialogic process to help them determine what actions we should take as a group to move our field forward. Click here for more details about the event itself (info about the break-out sessions and descriptions of the methods used during the plenary sessions and their results).

For those of you who weren?t able to attend the conference, it was a really wonderful event. The atmosphere was extremely positive and just charged with energy, and the overwhelming attitude of participants was one of gratitude for the opportunity to be together with fellow D&D practitioners and excitement about what they could learn at the conference and share with others, and what we could begin doing together to strengthen our field.

The large-group sessions were high-energy and were effective in getting the group to think about what the field needs and how we might begin working together to meet those needs. And the break-out sessions were highly varied and very well-facilitated. Overall, the conference was too short and the schedule was too tight, but the spirit was one of learning about new methods and tools, meeting new colleagues and fostering new collaborative efforts.

Next Steps

Twelve ?Next Steps groups? formed at the conference to address specific needs that are vital to dialogue and deliberation practitioners and the greater D&D community. The groups are focused on the following important topics:

Staying Connected (Networking and Communications within D&D)
Research & Development (Developing Our Understanding and Capabilities)
Mission and Vision (Slowing Down to Figure Out Who and What We Are, and Who?s Missing)
Connecting to the Arts
Creating a Toolbox for D&D Practitioners
Expanding Diversity and Connections
Marketing Dialogue to the Media and the Public
Integrating Dialogue into Educational Environments
Meeting Practitioners? Funding Needs
Convening and Coordinating Nationwide Dialogues
Involving International Practitioners and Issues
Networking and Collaboration Among Online D&D Practitioners

Click here for more information about these Next Steps groups ? including info on how you can get involved.

Since the conference, the 50 organizations which made up the Coalition for a National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation have decided to continue working together to strengthen and unite the dialogue and deliberation field. Since the conference has ended but the work has not, the Coalition has decided to become the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD).

We are in the process of inviting organizations and practitioners from across the field to join our efforts. If you are interested in becoming a member of NCDD, please click here for more information about what this means and how you can join.

More from the 2002 Conference:

A List of the Break-out Sessions from the Conference

The People Behind the Conference

Conference Main Page

Site MenuPress InfoHistoryContact UsGet InvolvedFrequently Asked Questions

Last Updated:? January 5, 2003.