One of the challenges we faced while organizing the National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation was ensuring that people, methods and organizations from all of the various ?communities of practice? surrounding the processes of dialogue and deliberation were represented ? as conference participants, as session leaders, and in the resources we developed for the participant handbooks.
This conference, to our knowledge, was the first major event to bring together experienced dialogue and deliberation practitioners from the entire spectrum of the practice ? for the purpose of learning about each other?s methods and principles and determining if and how we can begin working together to strengthen our field and further our practice.
The conference Organizing Team was large and represented the diversity of the field well, but some of the committees turned out to be more diverse than others in terms of type of dialogue and deliberation experience among members. The conference director felt that it was imperative for every committee to be made aware of and to keep in mind the various sectors of practice when, for example, determining where to publicize the conference, compiling resources for the handbook or deciding what types of sessions should be offered.
Very little information was available, however, that identified or defined these overlapping communities of practice. Some Organizing Team members felt that our field could not and/or should not be categorized; that any categories we could use would be limiting and would make various communities of practice look like separate camps, when they are really very interrelated and often dependent on each other. So we decided to use the broad categories we came up with as general guidelines for the purpose of ensuring inclusivity and representation at the conference. We acknowledged that all identified sectors overlapped in different ways, and that we were most likely still missing important communities of practice.
We decided to start with an excellent article by Ximena Zuniga and Biren (Ratnesh) A. Nagda that was published in Intergroup Dialogue: Deliberative Democracy in School, College, Community and Workplace, edited by David Schoem and Sylvia Hurtado (2001). The article, entitled ?Design Considerations in Intergroup Dialogue,? described the diversity in methods, history and leadership of the dialogue practice by categorizing the practice into four broad models: Collective Inquiry, Community Building and Social Action, Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building, and Critical-Dialogic Education Models. We immediately added two categories of practice that have become prominent in recent years: Deliberative Democracy and Online Dialogue & Deliberation.
We will attempt to describe each of these communities of practice briefly below, with information gleaned from Zuniga and Nagda?s article and some information we compiled ourselves.
Community Building & Social Action
Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building
Online Dialogue & Deliberation
These are the sectors ? or as some people prefer, communities of practice ? that we used as a guideline for planning purposes. But we knew these were working categories, and wanted to keep developing them. On the conference registration form, we asked people to identify which of these sectors they felt they (or their organization) related to most closely, and to add any categories they felt were missing from the list. The responses were interesting and varied. Most people selected multiple sectors and did not feel the need to add anything to the list. People seemed to feel comfortable saying that they related closely to the Community Building sector, the Deliberative Democracy sector AND the Online Dialogue & Deliberation sector, for example.
Of the 225 registrants who responded to the sectors section, 139 said they related closely to the Community Building and Social Action sector (62%), 119 to Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building (53%), 93 to Deliberative Democracy (41%), 69 to Collective Inquiry (30%), 63 to Critical-Dialogic Education (28%) and 32 to Online Dialogue & Deliberation (14%).
We also received suggestions from 39 people for organizations, models and categories of practice that they felt should be added to the list. We had included a few names of well-known individuals and prominent organizations and models below each sector name, so that people unfamiliar with some of the terms would still be able to recognize whether or not their work related to a particular sector. Many of the suggestions were organizations or models that people felt were missing. Some suggestions left us with questions because we were not familiar with the terms or organizations mentioned. But such is the vastness of our field!
Below are the categories, organizations and models that people felt were missing from our draft list of sectors. We hope to continue collaboratively identifying the various categories of practice for the purpose of defining and better understanding our field:
1. Arts-Based Civic Dialogue (six registrants mentioned this)
2. Dialogic Pedagogy
3. Whole-system work (open space processes, future search, etc.).
4. Promoting skills of dialogue in the media.
5. I think that the one on conflict transformation and peace-building should say underneath "track-two diplomacy." Although I respect him highly, I am uncomfortable with having Hal Saunders name there, since he is only one of many leaders in the field (John Burton, Herbert Kelman etc.).
6. This may fall under the category below- to be discussed at the conference - but I believe that dialogue (deliberation perhaps less so) can be viewed as a fundamental human practice that is to some degree an end in itself. That kind of fundamentalist communication and relationship building/maintaining could be viewed as cutting edge across or underpinning several of the more purposive statements above; e.g., collective inquiry, community building, peace building, and dialogue education/learning. I would like to see that pure human needs and practice capture in some way - without the "sector" or "purpose" tagged on.
7. Online Dispute Resolution. This is a rapidly developing area of practice among Mediators and other ADR practitioners ; [I have practiced as a Mediator online, for several years now, and find it to be most rewarding. [www.squaretrade.com]
8. "Think and Listens" done in pairs or groups up to 14. A dialogue of listening. One model existed in Consciousness-Raising Groups in the Women's Movement.
9. Cultural Transformation - Healthcare focus (dialogue integrated into work cultures to create healthy work cultures).
10. Sorry, but I'm not sure. Collective Inquiry and Community Building. But I think the categories need to be refined greatly to be of use. It would be interesting to develop some system by which we can see how much we all share, where we differ and how it all relates to our purposes as organizations.
11. "Many-To-Many" and Zeitgeist Communication; Symbolic Dialogue; Fast Forum Technique.
12. ?Choice-creating? ... ?Heart-stirring ? dialogue as applied to small-group ?decision-making.?
13. Adult education.
14. Business/Corporate (examples: Long Range Planning, visioning, creative problem solving).
15. Case method teaching, values audits.
16. Civic Engagement.
17. Collaborative Issue Analysis.
18. Communal Discernment.
19. Conversation Caf?s.
20. Critical Response Process.
21. Dialogue and Cultural Competence.
22. Facilitating dialogue between two conflicting individuals in a work context.
23. Family Group Conferences and Community Group Conferences.
24. Generative Dialogue (beyond collective inquiry).
25. Grassroots "pyramid model" for dialogue training/community building.
26. Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process.
27. Many-to-Many ? Communications.
28. Non-violent or Compassionate Communication ? Heart Language is an off-shoot.
29. Peer consulting; generative team learning; governance and leadership applications.
31. Restorative Justice (victim offender community dialogue).
32. Systemic Transformation.
33. The Art of Focused Conversations.
34. The council model ? Native American approaches, also corporate dialogues ? Annette Simmons, etc.
35. Using dialogue to access collective intelligence.
36. Wisdom?generating dialogue (e.g. listening circles).
If you are interested in developing these categories further, utilizing the suggestions above and your own research, let us know.? We would like to have a small group work together on this. ?Contact Sandy Heierbacher at or 802-254-7341 if you are interested.
Last Updated:? January 5, 2003.