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NCDD 2014 conference topic: The business of D&D

NCDD organizational member Tim Bonnemann, founder of Intellitics, shared his thoughts via our great Submit-to-Blog Form on our recent effort to get your input on this year’s NCDD conference, and we are happy to share them.


Well, that was fun. Last month, NCDD asked their community and the world to share ideas for this year’s conference. Using an online ideation tool called Codigital, more than one hundred contributors suggested, refined and ranked nearly as many ideas over the course of ten days (see full results here).

Reading through the list of ideas, I couldn’t help but notice that almost half of them deal with what I like to refer to as the business side of D&D. Taken together, they all appear to address the fundamental question of how to make a living doing this work, whether as individual practitioners or the field as a whole.

Here are the five business-related themes that caught my eye:

1. Understanding the client

About ten or so ideas expressed the need to connect in person with city managers, elected officials, policy makers, public agency representatives, etc. to learn about the obstacles and barriers they face and the shortcomings of public engagement processes they have experienced.

2. Proving what works

Another ten or so ideas focused on the need to share, document and celebrate examples where good work is already happening and creating positive impact: success stories, best practices, role models etc. One of the top 25 most popular ideas in particular suggested to “mov[e] the needle on assessment and evaluation, so we can demonstrate D&D’s power and effectiveness.”

3. Marketing and selling D&D

A couple of ideas dealt with the challenges of communicating this work and the value it provides. How do we “write, talk about, and present D&D” in ways that are more accessible and compelling? What’s our elevator pitch?

4. Funding

Another couple or so ideas suggested to connect directly with funders to better understand their interests and needs, particularly in the context of “Collective Impact” initiatives, and to make it easier (and more likely) for practitioners to successfully access these potential resources.

5. Scaling and going mainstream

And finally, a whole host of ideas showed a strong interest in taking this work to scale and better yet, making it part of the common fabric of society. How can we engage at regional, state, national or even global levels, and what role does the use of technology and mass media play? How can this work become a part of our civic infrastructure?

So there you have it. A motto, a theme? Or at least a potential focus area for this year’s conference.


Tim Bonnemann is the founder and CEO of Intellitics, a digital engagement startup based in San José, CA. Intellitics helps organizations and communities make use of technology in meaningful ways to support dialogue, deliberation and other types of participatory processes. Follow him on Twitter at @planspark.

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This post was submitted by a member of the NCDD community. NCDD members are leaders and future leaders in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution, and community problem solving. You, too, can post to the NCDD blog by completing the Add-to-Blog form at www.ncdd.org/submit.

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  1. Thanks so much for sharing your reflections on the results, Tim! It’s so interesting to see how you’re interpreting the results, as I didn’t see them that way myself. I think plenty of NCDD members are concerned about making a living doing this work, getting funding for projects, etc., that’s certainly true. But I saw most of the ideas as being more concerned about what our field needs as a whole than what individuals need to help their own practice thrive.

    I wonder if the results are kind of a Rorschach Test that help people reveal their own lens for what most needs addressed in the field?

  2. Well, probably true (can we have a session addressing bias in in theming?). 😉

    As I mentioned, this only covers about half of the submissions. I chose to include “scaling and going mainstream” because to me thinking bigger, aiming higher, breaking out of the constraints etc. is a big part of the conversation around how to make this stuff viable long-term. Yes, for individuals, but really for the field a whole, as an “industry” (to stick with the business frame just a little longer) with muscle and staying power.

    Another big cluster was technology (around 10% of ideas). So that’s huge, but I thought that might have been a bit too obvious for someone like me to point out. 😉

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