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NCDD’s Engagement Streams Framework

Did you ever wonder how Citizens Juries are different from Deliberative Polling?  When should you use World Cafe, rather than Open Space?  Or are Charrettes what’s called for?  First developed in 2005, NCDD’s Engagement Streams Framework helps people navigate the range of dialogue and deliberation approaches available to them, and make design choices that best fit their circumstance and resources.

No method works in all situations, yet too often people become overly attached to the first D&D process they learn about — and end up with less-than-satisfying results. Although it was designed for beginners to these processes, the tool also helps more seasoned practitioners understand where their own experience resides on the continuum, and which methods they may want to learn more about depending on the needs of their communities or clients.

The framework presents two charts:

  1. The first chart, Engagement Streams, categorizes dialogue and deliberation approaches into four streams based on one’s primary intention or purpose (Exploration, Conflict Transformation, Decision Making, and Collaborative Action), and shows which of the most well-known methods have proven themselves especially effective in each streams.
  2. The second chart, Process Distinctions, goes into more detail about 22 dialogue and deliberation methods, and includes information such as group size, meeting type and how participants are selected.

The full 8-page Engagement Streams Framework (.pdf) should be printed in color on 8.5 x 11 paper, front-and-back (so the charts line up across two pages). Download the doc at www.ncdd.org/files/NCDD2010_Engagement_Streams.pdf.  Last updated October 2010.

Acknowledgments and Citations

Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD’s Director, initially developed this resource to help inform workshops she presented in October 2005 with Tonya Gonzalez (at Everyday Democracy’s national conference) and Jan Elliott (at the Canadian Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation).

This framework built on a number of previous efforts to categorize or describe the public engagement and conflict transformation fields. All of the scholars and practitioners whose work was utilized to develop this framework (Barnett Pearce, Harold Saunders, Patricia Wilson, Tom Atlee, Matt Leighninger, Archon Fung, and others) were contacted for their feedback on the framework. Many of them provided ongoing feedback as we developed the framework.

The framework is most similar to and borrows most heavily from the four “social technologies for civic engagement” identified by Patricia Wilson in the article “Deep Democracy: The Inner Practice of Civic Engagement” (Fieldnotes: A Newsletter of the Shambhala Institute, Issue No. 2, February 2004). Download Wilson’s article here.

NCDD’s Engagement Streams Framework was featured in the May 2006 issue of IAP2′s Participation Quarterly publication. It was featured in a book published by the United Nations Development Programme called Democratic Dialogue: A Handbook for Practitioners, and is described in Sandy Heierbacher’s chapter on D&D in the 2nd Edition of The Change Handbook. Since 2005, it has been used by practitioners countless times to help community leaders and public managers understand their options.

Feel free to use and share this data widely. The framework can be cited in publications as:

NCDD’s Engagement Streams Framework (2005). Created by Sandy Heierbacher and members of the NCDD community. National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation. www.ncdd.org/streams

Two other documents are available for download:

Excel version of the Engagement Streams Framework

Two straightforward charts on two separate tabs. To ensure legibility, print this out on legal-sized (8.5″ x 14″) paper. The Excel version has been updated to include all 22 methods, and to include links to more information about each method. You can also download a PDF of this legal-size version of the framework. (updated August 2010)

One-Page ComicLife Diagram of the Four Streams of Practice (.jpg image)

This fun handout (pictured right) provides a snapshot of the four streams of practice — Exploration, Conflict Transformation, Decision-Making, and Collaborative Action. It introduces the purpose for using each stream and lists some of the dialogue and deliberation methods that have proven themselves to be effective in each stream. This is useful to include in PowerPoint presentations.  Email sandy@ncdd.org if you need a PDF version of this image.

Here are a few ways people are using the framework:

“I’ve used the Framework for several years with the Leadership Austin classes, to help them understand where dialogue fits into the continuum. Because so few of them have any experience with dialogue, this approachable, easy to understand visual helps them “get it” and differentiates dialogue from other processes. It also quickly gives them several models of dialogue, so they understand that there are many ways to approach it.”
     - Juli Fellows

“We built the Streams of Engagement framework into our online Issue Guide Exchange. When someone uploads a guide to the tool we give them the option of identifying which streams of practice the guide addresses. Then, when someone is searching for guides, the streams of practice provide them with another way to figure out which guides will best meet their needs.”
     - Carrie Boron, Everyday Democracy

“I just discovered the framework and am using it in a group facilitation workshop I’m teaching to AmeriCorps interns. My intent is to get them to think about what type of facilitation they are attempting and what outcomes they are looking for and then looking at what methods make the most sense, given the desired outcomes.”
     - Marty Jacobs, Systems In Sync

“I’ve used the engagement streams cartoon mostly, since it’s a great tool for introducing people to the ideas of different uses for the methods. I’ve used it and prepared it for Carolyn [Lukensmeyer] to use at presentations for United Way leadership, state elected officials, and college classrooms.”
     - Susanna Haas Lyons, AmericaSpeaks

Resource Link: http://www.ncdd.org/files/NCDD2010_Engagement_Streams.pdf

We also recommend you download NCDD’s Resource Guide on Public Engagement at www.ncdd.org/files/NCDD2010_Resource_Guide.pdf, which features the engagement streams in full.

  More Resources  

Add a Comment

  1. Joe Raelin Says:

    Wonderful resource.
    Here is a very minor editorial suggestion. The processes are listed alphabetically in the table, and the 21st Century Town Meeting comes first because most sorts place numerics before alphanumerics. But if the 21st were spelled out to be Twenty-first, it would stylisticallly be listed after the s’s!

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