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How to Develop Discussion Materials for Public Dialogue

The 28-page guide from Everyday Democracy, How to Develop Discussion Materials for Public Dialogue, was published November 2007. This guide describes in detail the process for developing materials for public dialogue, and has been used to develop the Everyday Democracy discussion guides. From how to get started, this guide provides tips for creating a team that represents though the guide is aimed toward and some best practices for when selecting team contributors. The guide continues with four templates for developing each step of the process when developing materials, some exercises for writing, and some addition optional elements to consider developing.

Below is an excerpt of the guide, which is available for download as PDF on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

ED_Develop_dialogue_materialsFrom Everyday Democracy…

Good discussion materials help people explore a complex, public issue from a wide range of views, and find solutions that they can agree to act on and support. Discussion materials don’t have to provide all the answers; instead, they provide a framework and a starting place for a deep, fair discussion where every voice can be heard.

Keep in mind that this is an art, not a science. As you write, think about your audience. Don’t overestimate what people know, but don’t underestimate their intelligence. Trust the public, and trust the process.

The step-by-step instructions provided here mirror the order that many discussion guides follow. They are designed to help the writing team move through a series of meetings and tasks to produce the discussion materials.

Guiding principles
Your discussion guide should…

– give people a sense that their voice matters.
– connect personal experience to public issues.
– help people understand the power of collective thinking and collaborative work.
– welcome all points of view.
– acknowledge and embrace cultural differences.
– help build trust.
– encourage people to analyze the values and assumptions that underlie their views.
– help people uncover common ground and find better solutions.
– help people move from dialogue to action.

Characteristics of effective discussion guides
An effective discussion guide…

– addresses a current issue with broad public appeal.
– provides a starting place for a safe and open discussion.
– presents many different points of view about the issue, without promoting any particular point of view or solution.
– represents widely held views of citizens and experts.
– is easy for people from all walks of life to use.
– is brief and uses plain, jargon-free language. Quotes or viewpoints should soundlike something people might actually say.
– states each viewpoint clearly, in the “voice” of a person who holds that view.
– helps people learn about the issue.
– helps people explore areas of disagreement.
– may include sample action ideas

Read the full guide on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

About Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy (formerly called the Study Circles Resource Center) is a project of The Paul J. Aicher Foundation, a private operating foundation dedicated to strengthening deliberative democracy and improving the quality of public life in the United States. Since our founding in 1989, we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across the United States on issues such as: racial equity, poverty reduction and economic development, education reform, early childhood development and building strong neighborhoods. We work with national, regional and state organizations in order to leverage our resources and to expand the reach and impact of civic engagement processes and tools.

Follow on Twitter: @EvDem

Resource Link: www.everyday-democracy.org/resources/how-develop-discussion-materials-public-dialogue

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