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What are NCDD Conferences like?

Here are some of the typical elements of NCDD national conferences:

  • The general theme or purpose of NCDD conferences is to unite and strengthen the growing dialogue and deliberation community
  • At least one highly participatory plenary (large-group) session each day; the plenaries model dialogue and deliberation techniques while helping conference participants think about where the field should be going and/or tackle key issues facing the field
  • At least one of the plenary sessions allows participants to hear from several key leaders in the field (not a keynote, by any means, but a much more dialogic, participatory format)
  • 5 or 6 timeslots in which people can choose between approximately 10 workshops
  • 50 or more 2-hour workshops offered throughout the conference, led by leaders and innovators in the field; workshops are generally very participatory – not just dry panel presentations in smaller rooms!
  • A dynamic arts component, through which arts that stimulate dialogue are featured and the arts are used to help participants process their experience
  • An afternoon of Open Space, during which participants self-organize dozens of discussions (we did this in both 2004 and 2006)
  • 30 minute breaks between sessions so participants don’t feel rushed and have extra time for informal networking
  • No hard and fast rules (so these elements are subject to change for each event!)
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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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