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We Are All Catalysts: Part One – How We Can Amplify and Broaden Dialogue and Deliberation Work

“After all, the ordinary hero hiding in each of us is often the most powerful catalyst for change.” ~ Tate Taylor

We all have a spark within and we choose every day how we will or will not use our spark. In our NCDD community, we spark conversations–dialogues that change hearts and minds and steadily change the world. Our sparks can be small or big, but we must work intentionally to ensure that the sparks catch fire. What do I mean by this? I mean that it is up to us, as those working firsthand in the creations of spaces for dialogue and deliberation, that we do not work in isolation. Like the catalysts in science, we must interact with others to create the chemistry worth having in our world.

The upcoming 2018 NCDD conference in Denver seeks to “catalyze the catalysts” by asking how we can work together to broaden the use and amplify the impacts of dialogue and deliberation efforts locally and globally. We live in an interconnected world, but it is very easy in our everyday lives to cling to the familiar and agreeable. This includes the media we consume, company we keep, and in our own work. It is up to us to share our work in ways that amplify the benefits and accessibility of both dialogue and deliberation. This means we need to intentionally step up our efforts and in doing so, step out of our comfort zones to facilitate the connections we need most–such as those across ideological divides poisoning our discourse. As Jonathan Haidt shares in his book The Righteous Mind, “When I was a teenager I wished for world peace, but now I yearn for a world in which competing ideologies are kept in balance.”

We see incredible work by D&D innovators every day that are answering this call to bring together our communities in innovative ways that heal and strengthen our relationships. Here are just a few examples (among many) from some of our conference presenters…

Libraries Transforming Communities is a joint effort by the American Libraries Association and NCDD. The initiative is founded on the strengths of the library as a trusted public community space and a place ideal for D&D work and is intended for use by libraries around the world to facilitate healing and idea generation via D&D.

The Center for Public Deliberation at Colorado State University has the mission of enhancing the local civic culture through increased participation and know-how of how deliberation works. Through elevating conversation via civics education, the center celebrates how crowds conversing (rather than arguing) can create better ideas for the whole community. They also recently won a Civvys Award for Local Winner!

The David Mathews Center for Civic Life based in Alabama believes in public forums and have locals define the issues and come together to solve them. The center provides education, services in moderation, and setting up community engagement events.

Make America Dinner Again empowers everyone to act locally with dinners of 8 and 2 moderators that discuss tough issues with an emphasis on respectful conversation and delicious food.

We hope these examples evoke excitement for the D&D community (and for the upcoming conference)! In true NCDD form, we want to engage this community of innovators in discussing how we build capacity for D&D in more communities and design action steps to make this happen moving forward. How have you succeeded in building capacity for engagement in the communities you serve? What do you think the next innovations might look like for dialogue, deliberation, and engagement? What do we need to discuss and think about together as a field, in order to succeed in broadening the use of D&D?

We hope readers will share below their own stories of successes, ideas for new innovations, and even the challenges that we need to tackle collectively in order to achieve this goal of bringing dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement to more communities. Share your thoughts below and engage with others’ responses. NCDD’s staff will be sharing your input at the conference to help us jumpstart further conversations and collaborations we hope will help us all take our work to the next level. You can still join us at #NCDD2018 – get your tickets today!

Stay tuned for the follow-up post, “We Are All Catalysts: Part 2”, where we will shift from examples to best practices to help everyone begin or continue to strengthen and amplify their dialogue and deliberation initiatives!

Annie Rappeport
Annie is a current Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland College Park and the NCDD intern. Her work in dialogue and deliberation began at her undergraduate university, Trinity University in San Antonio and continued with her M.Ed. work at the University of Virginia and professional time with Semester at Sea for over 5 years. She loves combining her fields of the arts and international peace education with D&D initiatives.

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  1. I very much appreciate Annie’s post as an excellent conversation starter. The main response I very much wish to make is that there are very very few actual social movement campaigns in the US today – local, regional or national – which are ACTUALLY bringing conservatives, progressives, and apolitical folks together to work effectively on ending the power of large corporations over all of us, passing local laws that institutionalize these extraordinary wins, and that begin to shift the culture so that left and right once again are able to work together towards common goals.

    The problem all along, as I see it, is that conventional single issue environmental and other activism, frames issues so ineffectively that it almost forces the left and the right to become opponents – jobs vs environment, for example. Whereas if you frame the fossil fuel pipelines and fracking crisis and the health care crisis and the GMO and factory farm agriculture crisis and the big box stores monopoly crisis and the home foreclosures crisis and the free and fair elections crisis as all being mere symptoms of corporate rule, THEN you can reach everyone across the political spectrum much more effectively. Because super-majorities of all political groups think corporations have way too much power in this country. And every one of the above crises can be tackled most effectively using different trans-partisan strategies than the way groups are now organizing and framing everything.

    That’s what our Community Rights movement has been quite successfully doing since 1999, across the country, having already helped 200 communities and counties, both conservative and progressive, to begin to dismantle the legal and political power that corporations have been able to wage against us for so many years. Regardless of which single-issue-based symptom is plaguing that particular community.

    I sincerely hope that Annie and others will pay closer attention to our work, and perhaps even mention it in her Part Two essay, especially given that I have been invited to lead a full-day Community Rights pre-conference workshop on Thursday, and there’s still slots available for those who haven’t yet picked their workshop to attend. More info: http://www.CommunityRights.US.

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