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The NCDD Catalyst Awards

Crowdsourcing Innovation in the NCDD Community

Congratulations to our two winning teams!

Winner in the Civic Infrastructure category:
A Collaborative Plan for a National Dialogue Network Infrastructure (main contact: John Spady)

Winner in the Political Bridge Building category:
Real Dialogues: D&D Reality Show (main contact: Tim Bonnemann)

A special, heartfelt thank you to the donors who made these awards possible. The Civic Infrastructure award is funded by generous contributions from members of the NCDD Board of Directors and the Bridge Building award is funded by a donor advised fund called the Harrison Giveaway Fund.

We are also greatly indebted to NCDD supporting member Brian Sullivan, who donated the use of his CivicEvolution platform and many hours of his time to the Catalyst Awards process.

Thank you also to all six of our finalist teams. Speaking on behalf of the volunteers, donors, and NCDD Board members who made this awards process possible, we are all extremely grateful for — and inspired by — your creativity, innovation, and commitment to finding new ways to work together to move our field forward.  We hope those of you who didn’t win will move forward with your projects, and invite you to keep the NCDD community informed and involved along the way.


Many more details about the Catalyst Awards…

In conjunction with our 5th NCDD national conference, the Board of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation is delighted to announce the NCDD Catalyst Awards. Two $10,000 prizes will be awarded to team projects organized, led and selected by NCDD members that jump-start the field’s next best ideas and impact our communities’ and our country’s ability to solve its most challenging problems.

Check out all the projects NCDD members are proposing at http://ncdd.civicevolution.org/. Please participate by asking questions, helping shape the final proposals, and signing on to play a role in the projects that interest you!

The Catalyst Awards are a friendly competition to inspire great new collaborative projects. They’re designed to tap into NCDD’s most valuable resource — our membership of 1,700 leaders and innovators in public engagement, conflict transformation and community problem solving. We’re hoping the Awards process encourages our members to self-organize, collaborate and innovate. The team approach will help you address challenges that are too complex to solve on your own.

We will tap into our network as well to identify the winners, as all NCDD members will be eligible to vote for the winning projects!

Although there will only be two Catalyst Awards project winners, we hope to see more than two innovative projects launch through this process.  A $10,000 award is a nice incentive to develop a strong team and an exciting project, but we think the opportunity to create new working relationships with people in the NCDD community, and benefit from our community’s collective knowledge, is worth much more than the amount of the awards.

There are two categories of Catalyst Awards:

1. Civic Infrastructure

This category encourages collaborative projects that contribute to the development of a robust, sustainable civic infrastructure in our communities and our country. Civic infrastructure is the underlying structure needed to support effective dialogue and deliberation work over the long term. It’s about building ongoing, sustainable capacity in our communities to deal with critical public issues. A community or nation with a strong civic infrastructure, among many other things, has institutionalized effective decision-making processes; has the capacity to regularly train moderators and to connect quickly with moderators, process experts, nonprofit organizations, networks, public leaders, and media when needed; and offers numerous physical and online spaces where people can come together to solve problems and build a thriving community.

How can we, in the NCDD community, combine forces to ensure each of us is doing our part to build and sustain civic infrastructure, and to to build on each other’s progress rather than starting from scratch? What might we create together that can sustain our communities’ and our country’s collective long-term capacity to come together to solve problems and build thriving communities?

2. Bridge Building

This category encourages collaborative projects that help our field, communities and nation make great strides in bridging political divides and crossing partisan boundaries. In a time of intense political polarization and legislative gridlock, identifying mechanisms or systems for engagement that transcend or defy this atmosphere are essential–and incredibly challenging. The public must have the ability as well as the opportunity to engage in productive, structured dialogue and deliberation if we are to bridge the current political divide.

What projects can we launch together to make significant progress in this area? How can we build upon past and current efforts in political bridge building in ways that move our field forward–and gain the attention and support of those with the financial and other resources needed to sustain the work?

How are these awards funded?

The Civic Infrastructure award is funded by generous contributions from members of the NCDD Board of Directors. The Bridge Building award is funded by a donor advised fund called the Harrison Giveaway Fund. NCDD is grateful for these gifts and for what they represent: confidence in our organization during its 10th year of operation and in our extraordinary Coalition of civic leaders and innovators.

How do we get started?

First, look over the Catalyst Awards FAQs below for details about the process, criteria, and more.

At this point, we have used the NCDD listserv, blog (see the Catalyst Awards tag for all posts), 2012 National Conference in Seattle, and the proposal development platform CivicEvolution to generate project ideas and begin to build teams and develop project proposals.  Some projects have established their own listservs or other communication platforms to make progress on their projects.

Each of the projects has a space on http://ncdd.CivicEvolution.org where some projects are being honed. CivicEvolution is an online collaboration and project-development software created by NCDD member Brian Sullivan, who is donating his services for the Catalyst Award program.

Are the awards for a project or an individual?

The $10,000 awards are meant as seed funds for team-based projects that will likely require more support. Teams should clarify how they plan to use the $10,000 in their proposals – including whether they plan to use some of the funds to cover project leaders’ time to further develop the project and seek additional funding.

Prior to coming together at the 2012 NCDD conference in Seattle (October 12-14), all NCDD members—even those not able to make it to the conference—were invited to start developing, proposing, and reacting to each other’s project ideas. Projects can apply to any level—local, state, national, or even global—but they must be collaborative (involving more than just one NCDD member) and must benefit our broader community in some way.

What is the format for submissions?

At each stage of the process at CivicEvolution, you will be asked to answer the same four basic questions (What? Why? Who? and How?), but with higher levels of refinement at each stage. Brevity and clarity are critical so voters can understand what you are proposing and make their decisions easily. The CivicEvolution site will guide you through the proposal-creation and team-development process and provide the platform for NCDD members and conference participants to provide input on your project and to get involved if they are interested.

The four questions:

  1. What? What is a descriptive project title? What is the mission statement for your project?
  2. Why? How does this project address the challenge posed in the award category you’re going for? Why is this important to do? How will it solve a problem or fill a void? How does it specifically advance our field? How does this project meet the criteria for the awards?
  3. Who? Who is on the team? Who is leading? What is your governance structure for the team (how will you make decisions)? What skills and resources are they bringing to the project?
  4. How? What is your high-level plan for getting this done? How might you spend the seed money? What is a realistic timeline and budget? Other than money, what NCDD or other resources might you need to succeed?

What are the criteria for project submissions?

To be eligible for an award, projects must…

  1. Be relevant to one of the two categories: civic infrastructure or bridge building.
  2. Be collaborative, involving people from more than one organization in meaningful ways.
  3. Be complete. Submit your proposal on CivicEvolution for initial review by Sunday, November 25th, and submit your final proposal by Sunday, January 13th via this form on the NCDD site.

Additional criteria the Review Board will look for…

  1. Be bold. Create projects that accelerate the work of many in our field.
  2. Address an existing problem in a strong and compelling way.
  3. Provide multiple inroads for others in our field to get involved in the project in different capacities over time.
  4. Create something tangible that people can see and put to use.
  5. Develop a plan that is well thought-out and realistic.
  6. Build a team that covers the skill sets you need to get the work done, and clarify who is taking on various roles.
  7. Develop a clear, simple governance plan for the project that shows the team has agreed on how decisions will be made.
  8. Identify benchmarks of success, whether quantitative or qualitative.

When it’s time to vote, members will be asked to consider all of the above. Projects that do not meet the first three criteria will not be eligible for the voting stage.

How will the Catalyst Awards process work?

We see the two $10,000 awards as a great incentive, and as much-needed seed funds to support two innovative projects—but the most important aspect of the Catalyst Awards project is actually the project development process.

NCDD members and conference attendees are an extraordinarily innovative, intelligent and entrepreneurial bunch. The Catalyst Awards program is designed to build on those strengths while meeting some of the persistent needs in our field, our communities, and our country.

The program will consist of four phases:

The Brainstorming Phase

During the brainstorming phase (September 13 through mid-October), NCDD members and NCDD Seattle attendees can propose and start reacting to each other’s project ideas on the NCDD listserv, as well as via Facebook and LinkedIn groups, phone, and email to share your ideas and get a sense of people’s reactions. Remember—these are collaborative projects, and you’ll want to get others excited about getting involved!

During the week of September 1st, we began using CivicEvolution.org to give people a place to post project ideas, gain collaborators, and gather feedback and ideas. CivicEvolution is an online collaboration and project-development software created by NCDD member Brian Sullivan, who is donating his services for the Catalyst Awards program.

The NCDD Seattle conference provided another opportunity for new projects to emerge, and space was provided to encourage that to happen.

The Proposal Development Phase

Proposal development officially kicked off as we returned from the conference in Seattle, and lasts for 13 weeks through the holidays. Final proposals must be submitted by midnight PT on Sunday, January 13th, 2013. During this phase, teams will form and work together to to flesh out the details of their proposals. Project coordinators (individuals who submitted proposals on CivicEvolution) are asked to keep an active, up-to-date, and collaborative presence on CivicEvolution to ensure the community has a chance to contribute its extensive knowledge and experience.

Project coordinators and their teams are also encouraged to utilize the NCDD blog, listservs, Facebook group, and LinkedIn group to reach out to the NCDD community about their project, answer any questions people may have, and get people signed onto your team to help develop the final proposal and to play meaningful roles in the project.

The development period is split into two phases, and we are conducting a constructive project review in the middle. Just after Thanksgiving, we asked teams to submit their draft project proposals for evaluation by our review board. A smaller group of NCDD Board members and other leaders in our field is functioning as a transparent review board, inspired by the Oregon Citizens Initiative Review. They examined the draft project proposals and weighed them against the criteria we’ve established for projects.

First review

Initial proposals were due on Sunday, November 25th to be eligible to compete for either award. The review board provided detailed reflections on how the projects seem to be meeting the various criteria, the perceived quality of the teams’ project plans, the level of support and involvement the projects seem to be garnering, and more. The review board evaluated each project against the criteria with a rating from 1 to 10, with 10 indicating maximum compliance. Since most project coordinators waited until the deadline to add their project to CivicEvolution, and/or hadn’t yet focused on developing a team, most of the draft proposals were very bare bones and the reviews focused on the work that still needed to be done for projects to qualify for the Catalyst Awards.

The review board’s evaluations and recommendations were shared with project coordinators on Monday, December 10th. Teams now have 5 weeks to use the evaluations and suggestions from the review board to build strong teams and develop their project proposals.

Final submission

Final proposals must be submitted on or before Sunday, January 13th via an online form. Our review board will examine the final proposals and determine which proposals meet the criteria for the Catalyst Awards. Those that meet the criteria (relevant, collaborative, and complete) will then be put to a vote by all NCDD members to determine the two winners.

Please note that originally we were planning on having the review board rate the proposals on the criteria and write up summaries of how the proposals met those criteria, similar to what was done during the first review. We’ve decided to depart from that original plan and try to simplify the process a bit. The review board will be strict about only allowing proposals to be voted on if they meet the criteria, but NCDD members will judge the final qualifying proposals based on the teams’ submitted text without the addition of review text and ratings.

The Voting Phase

Voting will commence on Monday, January 28th. We will open up voting to all 1,700+ members of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation. Our members will choose the two winners by voting for the projects they believe are most likely to have the greatest impact. Individual members of NCDD (no matter if they are Supporting Members, Sustaining Members, or non-dues-paying Members) will each have one vote in each category. Organizational members will have up to three votes in each category—one for each of the contact people listed in the online members network. Conference attendees who aren’t members of NCDD will need to join NCDD in order to vote.

Members will see a list of project titles and corresponding project coordinators and brief summaries, as well as links to the full proposals. Proposals will list details such as names and roles of collaborators, names of NCDD members who helped develop the proposal, brief project summary, and a quick overview of how the project will accelerate the work of many in our field, followed by a more detailed summary of how the project addresses the additional criteria (governance plan, multiple inroads for involvement, etc.) as well as how the $10,000 would be used.

Voting will continue for 10 days until midnight Pacific Time on Wednesday, February 6th. The winning proposals will be announced Thursday, February 7th, 2013.

The Implementation Phase

After the Catalyst Award winners are announced in the two categories, NCDD intends to contribute some of our web resources, connections, staff time, and influence within the network to help the winning teams in every way we can. Our network is never short on good ideas, and it can be challenging for NCDD to know where to lend our support. The Catalyst Awards will show us which projects our members feel are most promising and worthy of support, and we will act accordingly.

Depending on the projects’ needs, NCDD may provide web infrastructure like listservs and space on our blog, outreach to the broader engagement community (our Updates list currently has 26,000 subscribers), persistent prodding to get members involved in the project, connections to potential funders, letters of support, advice about relevant resources for the project, social media outreach advice, graphic design assistance, and more.

What are NCDD’s principles for the Catalyst Awards program?

The NCDD Board of Directors designed the Catalyst Awards program with the following principles in mind…

  • Focused on the Common Good: By improving civic infrastructure, civic capacity, and our capacity to engage effectively across political divides, our whole field benefits.
  • Practical: Our goal is to create the space, incentive and support for our members to launch projects of importance to our field.
  • Collaborative: NCDD members are more effective when working together; this initiative should encourage collaboration at all steps in the process.
  • Inclusive: All NCDD members will feel that they had an authentic opportunity to participate if they so desired.
  • Empowering: The operating assumption is that NCDD members are highly innovative and that if we open up NCDD’s resources to the winners, their projects will be more successful.
  • Transparent: The Board will clearly share its rationale for key decisions related to the award.
  • Adaptive and Continuously Improving: The Board will actively seek members’ feedback for improving the process.

Which award is my project eligible for?

Teams will be asked to select the category they feel their project qualifies for when they submit their final proposal, but the review board will make the final decision about which category each project falls under.

How is the voting for each award conducted?

As stated above, each of our 1,700+ NCDD members will get a single vote in each category. For organizational members, which can have up to three contacts listed in the members network and database, each contact can vote. Organizational members who have only one contact on file with NCDD will get only one vote, since votes are associated with members’ email addresses.

Please note that the NCDD Board decided that projects can only be listed in one award category. Originally, we planned to allow projects to be listed under both categories if appropriate, though no project could win both awards. To simplify the voting process and avoid vote splitting, the Board decided that qualifying projects will be listed under one or the other category, but not both categories.

In the event of a tie in either category, the Review Board will break the tie.

When would our project’s final deliverable be due?

This depends on the project that is chosen and the realistic timeline proposed by the winning team. In any event, NCDD will keep the community posted on progress through our usual channels.

What if I’m not a member of NCDD but I want to participate?

NCDD is an open network of practitioners, organizations, researchers, public administrators, activists and students dedicated to solving today’s toughest problems through honest dialogue, quality deliberation and collaborative action. Dues for individual Supporting Members are only $50/year, but dues are not required, and NCDD welcomes all who are committed to dialogue and deliberation to join us, whether or not you are able or willing to pay dues. Join at www.ncdd.org/join if you would like to be part of the Catalyst Awards process and you’re interested in being a member of the network.

Conference attendees who are not already NCDD members are being offered Supporting Membership status for one year. Just send an email to NCDD office manager Joy Garman at joy@ncdd.org to let her know you would like to become a member.

Not interested in launching or playing a role in a project?

NCDD members and conference attendees are encouraged to participate in several other ways:

  • Use NCDD’s main channels – our NCDD Discussion list, our Facebook group and the LinkedIn group – to (1) add your ideas for projects that others could run with, or (2) share your suggestions and reactions to others’ project ideas.
  • Once people begin adding project ideas to CivicEvolution, keep an eye on what’s happening there and add your comments.
  • Attending the conference in Seattle? Advise project leaders and team members face-to-face at the conference.
  • Once the final projects are posted, vote on who should win the two awards!

Can you say more about what you mean by “civic infrastructure”?

Every community has a physical infrastructure – the streets and power and sewer lines that connect buildings and allow cities to function and grow. But every place also has a civic infrastructure: decision-making processes, public and online spaces, and formal and informal networks that enable people to come together to solve problems and build a thriving community.

Basically, a strong civic infrastructure ensures we have the capacity to make better decisions and solve problems effectively in the long-term.

It can be challenging for individual practitioners and small organizations to focus on the long-term capacity building needed to really sustain dialogue and deliberation practices and embed them in government, organizations, and other structures. Even the larger organizations in our field struggle to do their work effectively because the communities they’re working in largely have not developed the kind of civic infrastructure that would enable them to inform, engage, and empower people effectively.

Instead, we often have to start from scratch—educating community leaders and public officials about what effective public engagement looks like, training people to serve as moderators, building new relationships among leading organizations that represent various interest groups, convincing media that the work we’re doing is designed to benefit all and not cater to a particular group.

In planning for the October conference, we talked to many of our members to see what they wanted to focus on most. One theme we kept hearing was about our need to go to the next level as a field and create the civic infrastructure that could take us there. We all seemed to agree that this was not something any of us could accomplish on our own, so we decided to focus the conference on the question “How can we build a more robust civic infrastructure for our practice, our communities and our country?”

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