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Envisioning the Role of Facilitation in Public Deliberation

This 2013 article by Kara Dillard argues that academic research has neglected a critical factor in promoting successful citizen deliberation: the facilitator. In outlining a continuum of a facilitator’s level of involvement in deliberative dialogues, the author finds that facilitators are important to the forum process. More academic investigations into facilitator actions should reveal more of the logic that turns everyday political talk into rigorously deliberative forums emphasizing quality argument and good decision-making.

ABSTRACT
Academic research has neglected a critical factor in promoting successful citizen deliberation: the public forum facilitator. Facilitators create the discursive framework needed to make deliberation happen while setting the tone and tenor for how and what participants discuss. This essay brings facilitators more clearly into scholarly discussions about deliberative practice by offering an expanded and nuanced notion of facilitation in action. I modify David Ryfe’s continuum of involvement concept to outline three distinct types of facilitators: passive, moderate, and involved. Using this continuum, I investigate how various moves, types of talk, and discursive strategies used by each of these facilitators differ during six National Issues Forums style deliberations. Results demonstrate that most facilitators are not neutral, inactive participants in deliberative forums. Analysis indicates that the pedagogical choices made by facilitators about their involvement in forums affect deliberative talk and trajectories. Scholars evaluating deliberation should take into account facilitation and its different dimensions.

Citation:  Dillard, K.N. (2013). Envisioning the role of facilitation in public deliberation. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 41, 3, 217-235.

Resource Link: www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00909882.2013.826813#.UrdW8mRDunE

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  1. Rosa Zubizarreta Says:

    Would love to read this! Don’t currently have access to an academic library.

  2. Sandy Heierbacher Says:

    I know, Rosa – it’s expensive! I’ve already asked Kara if she can share at least a portion of the article with NCDD members. We’ll see…

  3. Jade Herriman Says:

    This is such an interesting topic. I guess anyone interested in facilitation believes that facilitation makes a difference, but how to evaluate the facilitation itself as part of evaluating forums, examine the choices in facilitation approach and the impacts of those choices, and how to make tangible the benefits of quality facilitation – these are areas that do appear under represented in the literature (or perhaps just the literature I’ve read!). Look forward to reading.

  4. Kara Dillard Says:

    Hi Rosa and Sandy,
    Even my university does not subscribe to this particular journal! Here’s a link to what should *hopefully* be a free version of the PDF: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/MS42S877gzWm75IVa8H4/full

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