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Categorizing the Dialogue & Deliberation Community

The following is a working document developed in 2002 to ensure that members of the planning team for the first National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation were aware of the various streams of dialogic and deliberative practice. The 2002 conference was the first major event to bring people together from the entire spectrum of D&D practice, and it was important to us that all of these streams felt welcomed to the conference, and were represented in all aspects of the conference – from the handbook to the break-out sessions. Also see NCDD’s Engagement Streams framework (2005) at www.ncdd.org/streams.

- The Streams of Practice -

Although the following sectors or streams of practice are interrelated and often dependent on each other, the streams do tend to center around different key organizations and leaders, utilize different vocabularies to describe their work, focus on different outcomes, promulgate different models and techniques and draw upon different resources.

We began with the categories outlined in an article by Ximena Zuniga and Biren (Ratnesh) A. Nagda that was published in Intergroup Dialogue: Deliberative Democracy in School, College, Community and Workplace, edited by David Schoem and Sylvia Hurtado (2001). The article, entitled ‘Design Considerations in Intergroup Dialogue,’ described the diversity in methods, history and leadership of the dialogue practice by categorizing the practice into four broad models: Collective Inquiry, Community Building and Social Action, Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building, and Critical-Dialogic Education.

We immediately added two streams of practice that have become prominent in recent years: Deliberative Democracy and Online Dialogue & Deliberation. Another category was later added based on the high number of people who indicated on their conference registration forms that this was the stream of practice they most identified with: Arts-Based Civic Dialogue.

Each of these seven streams of practice are described below.

Arts-Based Civic Dialogue
Arts-Based Dialogue works within many of the categories below. It includes arts-based collective inquiry, participatory creative process, Freire-based theatre, and arts-based social action. It has gained prominence and sophistication in recent years thanks to the Animating Democracy Initiative (ADI) of Americans for the Arts. Since 1999, ADI has fostered artistic activity that encourages civic dialogue on important contemporary issues. The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, The Andy Warhol Museum, Flint Youth Theatre and Urban Bush Women are all examples of organizations that have become known for their innovation in integrating the arts with civic dialogue.

Collective Inquiry
Dialogue practitioners from the Collective Inquiry sector feel that suspending judgments and assumptions is essential to finding shared meaning among dialogue participants. This sector focuses on nurturing participants’ abilities to engage in collective thinking and inquiry for the development of synergistic and meaningful relationships. Originating in the work of the late Physicist David Bohm, this model is central in the work of Linda Ellinor and Glenna Gerard, co-founders of The Dialogue Group, and William Isaacs and colleagues at the Dialogue Project of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Variations of this model have been implemented in organizations and communities throughout the United States.

Community Building & Social Action
Practitioners in this sector strive to involve a broad base of citizens in addressing contentious community issues. These dialogues are usually area-specific, and tackle such issues as racism, educational inequities, development, immigration and crime. The dialogues tend to progress over a fixed period of time, emphasize dialogic elements that ensure that relationships and mutual understanding and respect will be developed among group members, allow group members to deliberate about various possible solutions to community problems and often lead intentionally to action steps. President Clinton’s Initiative on Race helped to spread this sector’s reach, and successful organizations like the Study Circles Resource Center, Hope in the Cities and the National Conference on Community & Justice continue to help build intergroup understanding and solve community problems today.

Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building
Dialogue leaders in the conflict transformation and peace-building sector of practice bring together members of conflicting groups to identify issues of conflict; build understanding, generate empathy and foster forgiveness through dialogue; generate action plans and, if possible, achieve a workable agreement to conflicts or disputes. The dialogue process is driven by a conflict mediation method which asks participants to strive to understand the perspectives of the other group, to become open to the idea that mutual compromises may create a new situation, and to respect and respond to the psychological needs and concerns of the other group. Applications of these models draw from national and international peace studies and conflict mediation movements, and some of the sector’s leaders are individuals like Harold Saunders, who has helped spread the idea of sustained dialogue as an important aspect of the peace process and organizations like the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy which work internationally to help groups transform conflicts and rebuild relationships.

Critical-Dialogic Education
This sector of practice, which has been very active on college campuses in the past seven years or so, integrates sustained dialogue with consciousness-raising and bridge building across differences. The educational dimension of this model focuses on exploring group differences from a social justice perspective with a goal of systemic change. The pedagogy underlying this model draws from Paulo Freire’s 1972 work on liberatory education. This dialogue process, as applied in college settings, facilitates increasing awareness about social inequalities, intergroup understanding and alliance building among participants. Leaders in this sector are Ximena Zuniga, Ratnesh Nagda and others who initiated this type of dialogic practice at the University of Michigan’s Program on Intergroup Relations, Conflict and Community. Variations of this model have been implemented in several college campuses across the U.S., and will doubtless be duplicated more and more.

Deliberative Democracy
The deliberative democracy sector focuses on the importance of citizens deliberating (often with their representatives) about public problems and possible solutions under conditions that are conducive to reasoned reflection and improved decision-making. Deliberative democracy replaces often uninformed public opinion with public judgment, an informed, stable consensus reached through thoughtful deliberation. It often involves dialogue to help ensure that members of a group will be open to others’ opinions and perspectives, even when they conflict with their own, but does not always. Results of deliberative forums are meant to influence the decisions of policy-makers. Some leaders in the Deliberative Democracy sector are AmericaSpeaks, the Kettering Foundation’s National Issues Forums, the Study Circles Resource Center (which overlaps with the Community Building & Social Action because of its focus on citizen-led change efforts), and the Jefferson Center, which organizes Citizen Juries.

Online Dialogue & Deliberation
Dialogue and deliberation among groups of all sizes has thrived online thanks to individuals and organizations that partner structured, civil conversations (a rarity online) with modern technology. Online dialogue and deliberation efforts have spanned the above sectors in terms of application and structure, and have reached people who might not have otherwise engaged with others about topics as varied as interracial dating, environmental justice issues and education reform. Leaders of this sector include such organizations as Web Lab and E The People, which organize their own online dialogues, and Information Renaissance and GroupJazz, which help others organize effective online dialogues and deliberative processes.

- How Did People React to These Categories? -

These are the streams of practice that we used as a guideline for planning the 2002 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation. We knew at that time – and still know now – that these are working categories that need a lot of further development and additions.

On the conference registration form, we asked people to identify which of these streams they felt they (or their organization) related to most closely, and to add any categories they felt were missing from the list. The responses were interesting and varied. Most people selected multiple sectors and did not feel the need to add anything to the list. People seemed to feel comfortable saying that they related closely to the Community Building sector, the Deliberative Democracy sector AND the Online Dialogue & Deliberation sector, for example.

Of the 225 registrants who responded to the section about sectors of practice, 139 said they related closely to the Community Building and Social Action sector (62%), 119 to Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building (53%), 93 to Deliberative Democracy (41%), 69 to Collective Inquiry (30%), 63 to Critical-Dialogic Education (28%) and 32 to Online Dialogue & Deliberation (14%).

We also received suggestions from 39 people for organizations, models and categories of practice that they felt should be added to the list. We had included a few names of well-known individuals and prominent organizations and models below each sector name, so that people unfamiliar with some of the terms would still be able to recognize whether or not their work related to a particular sector. Many of the suggestions were organizations or models that people felt were missing. Some suggestions left us with questions because we were not familiar with the terms or organizations mentioned. But such is the vastness of our field!

Below are the categories, organizations and models that people felt were missing from our draft list of sectors. We hope to continue collaboratively identifying the various categories of practice for the purpose of defining and better understanding our field:

1. Arts-Based Civic Dialogue (this was mentioned so frequently we added it above)

Arts-Based Dialogue works within many of the above categories. It includes arts-based collective inquiry, participatory creative process, Freire-based theatre, and arts-based social action.

2. Dialogic Pedagogy

Working in both higher education and K-12, I think there are really 2 categories there [instead of one category for Critical-Dialogic Education Models]. One is that which happens through formal dialogue programs, the other is that which happens through dialogic pedagogy–using dialogue as a teaching and learning tool in the context of a larger curriculum, not as an ‘event’ or ‘program.’ In fact, that’s where I’m going with much of my dialogue work–how can we prepare people to facilitate dialogue, not just as a program, but in their everyday work (which, for me, is in education).

3. Whole-system work (open space processes, future search, etc.).

Another suggestion: Whole Systems, large group interventions, dynamic facilitation, diversity work.
Another suggestion: Open Space Processes as a means for organization and development.

4. Promoting skills of dialogue in the media.

Another suggestion: Media & conflict transformation.
Another suggestion: Film/media-based methodology for dialogue to action.

5. I think that the one on conflict transformation and peace-building should say underneath ‘track-two diplomacy.’ Although I respect him highly, I am uncomfortable with having Hal Saunders name there, since he is only one of many leaders in the field (John Burton, Herbert Kelman etc.).

6. This may fall under the category below- to be discussed at the conference – but I believe that dialogue (deliberation perhaps less so) can be viewed as a fundamental human practice that is to some degree an end in itself. That kind of fundamentalist communication and relationship building/maintaining could be viewed as cutting edge across or underpinning several of the more purposive statements above; e.g., collective inquiry, community building, peace building, and dialogue education/learning. I would like to see that pure human needs and practice capture in some way – without the ‘sector’ or ‘purpose’ tagged on.

7. Online Dispute Resolution. This is a rapidly developing area of practice among Mediators and other ADR practitioners; [I have practiced as a Mediator online, for several years now, and find it to be most rewarding. [www.squaretrade.com]

8. ‘Think and Listens’ done in pairs or groups up to 14. A dialogue of listening. One model existed in Consciousness-Raising Groups in the Women’s Movement.

9. Cultural Transformation – Healthcare focus (dialogue integrated into work cultures to create healthy work cultures).

10. Sorry, but I’m not sure. Collective Inquiry and Community Building. But I think the categories need to be refined greatly to be of use. It would be interesting to develop some system by which we can see how much we all share, where we differ and how it all relates to our purposes as organizations.

11. ‘Many-To-Many’ and Zeitgeist Communication; Symbolic Dialogue; Fast Forum Technique.

12. ‘Choice-creating’ … ‘Heart-stirring’ dialogue as applied to small-group ‘decision-making.’

13. Adult education.

14. Business/Corporate (examples: Long Range Planning, visioning, creative problem solving).

15. Case method teaching, values audits.

16. Civic Engagement.

17. Collaborative Issue Analysis.

18. Communal Discernment.

19. Conversation Caf├ęs.

20. Critical Response Process.

21. Dialogue and Cultural Competence.

22. Facilitating dialogue between two conflicting individuals in a work context.

23. Family Group Conferences and Community Group Conferences.

24. Generative Dialogue (beyond collective inquiry).

25. Grassroots ‘pyramid model’ for dialogue training/community building.

26. Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process.

27. Many-to-Many ? Communications.

28. Non-violent or Compassionate Communication – Heart Language is an off-shoot.

29. Peer consulting; generative team learning; governance and leadership applications.

30. Research.

31. Restorative Justice (victim offender community dialogue).

32. Systemic Transformation.

33. The Art of Focused Conversations.

34. The council model – Native American approaches, also corporate dialogues – Annette Simmons, etc.

35. Using dialogue to access collective intelligence.

36. Wisdom-generating dialogue (e.g. listening circles).

National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (2002)
ncdd@thataway.org

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