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2009 Dialogue and Deliberation Practitioners Survey results

Sociologists (and NCDD members) Caroline Lee and Francesca Polletta have created a website at http://sites.lafayette.edu/ddps to display the results of the 2009 Dialogue and Deliberation Practitioners Survey. You can also download the full survey results here.

The survey was conducted online last Fall for the purpose of academic research on the deliberation field by the researchers. Francesca and Caroline felt that the field of public dialogue and deliberation has been growing so dramatically that no one fully knows what the field looks like. They sought to answer questions like:

  • Who is doing public dialogue and deliberation work?
  • What forms is their work taking?
  • What common challenges do they face?
  • How they would like to see the field develop?

The data they collected is extraordinarily valuable for the field, and you are encouraged to cite it and utilize it widely. On the site, you can download or browse the survey results, ask a question of the researchers, or join a discussion about the findings.

Some of the results NCDD found most interesting:

Participants were asked to rate the importance of the 5 challenges facing the D&D community that were identified by NCDD conference participants:

  • 34% identified the Systems Challenge as our most important challenge (making D&D integral to our public and private systems).
  • Three of the challenges were seen as most important by 20% each: the Framing Challenge (framing D&D work in a more accessible way), the Action & Change Challenge (strengthening the link between D&D, action and policy change), and the Evaluation Challenge (demonstrating to powerholders that D&D works).
  • Notably, only 6% indicated that the Inclusion Challenge (addressing oppression and bias) as the most important challenge facing our field.

When asked who should take the lead in advancing dialogue and deliberation in the U.S., “professional associations” like NCDD and IAP2 was selected most often (62%), followed by an “alliance of experienced local organizations” (51%), the White House Office of Public Engagement (48%), “national D&D facilitation organizations” like AmericaSpeaks and National Issues Forums (47%), foundations that support D&D (47%).

57% of respondents prefer the term “community of practice” to describe the people and organizations currently leading D&D efforts, compared to 16% who prefer “movement” and 11% who prefer “profession.”

Of the 4 engagement streams (exploration, conflict transformation, decision making and collaborative action), conflict transformation was the only one selected by less than half (38%) of respondents indicating the type of D&D work they practice.

Approaches most commonly used by respondents are small group deliberation (63%), panels/task forces/committees (54%), large group methods (51%), visioning workshops/charrettes (43%), open space/’leaderless” meetings (31%), and online/digital media (25%).

When asked to choose between two ways D&D practitioners should promote the benefits of deliberation, 64% felt practitioners should emphasize useful outcomes over emphasizing D&D as a positive end in itself (36%). (See this NCDD blog post and the Goals of Dialogue & Deliberation graphic for more info on the origins of this question.)

92% of respondents agreed with this statement: “Many people who do not currently support D&D efforts would change their minds if they could experience a single great D&D process.”

87% agreed with this statement: “Expanded access to standardized deliberation tools (community dialogue kits, best practice guidelines, issue guides, etc.) is enhancing dialogue & deliberation in America.”

66% agreed with this statement: “Training facilitators from within the local community is usually preferable to bringing in professionally-trained facilitators from outside the community.”

Respondents indicated that the following areas of research would be most helpful to them:

  • case studies of successful processes (68%)
  • collaborative action research (60%)
  • cost-benefit analyses, including non-monetary benefits (43%)
  • systematic empirical evaluations (40%)

Top 3 sponsors of D&D work are local and regional government (26%), followed by local nonprofits and neighborhood groups (19%), then business and industry (18%).

45% of the 434 respondents indicated that they had done work in the field of organizing/activism prior to getting involved in dialogue and deliberation work.

71% of respondents have an advanced degree or certificate, though in a wide variety of specialties.

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