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Designing Processes in a Hurry

When designing dialogue or deliberation processes, many professionals spend a few weeks or even months planning. But we all know that time is not always a luxury we can enjoy. In the article below, Steve Brigham explains how the AmericaSpeaks team was recently challenged to design a town meeting process in less than 24 hours, and shares the encouraging results that show even when time is scarce, this talented community can make big things happen.  Steve’s article can be found in full on the AmericaSpeaks website here: www.americaspeaks.org/blog/24hourdesign.

We had a fascinating experience last week that challenged us in the use of our model. We were invited in by the Center for Excellence in Public Leadership at George Washington University to facilitate the majority of the 3rd day of a 4 day leadership capstone that they were conducting for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (part of U.S. Department of Agriculture).

AmericaSpeaks_LogoThe Capstone brought together three leadership cohorts from the agency to synthesize, practice and apply the skills and competencies about leadership towards a real-world problem: drafting a new framework from which to develop and launch new landscape conservation initiatives for the agency to consider using going forward.

What was the key challenge for AmericaSpeaks? We typically develop the design for our town meetings and summits well in advance of a big meeting, ideally beginning that process 8-10 weeks before the meeting convenes. In this case, although we came in with some notions of what we might do for day 3, we didn’t begin the design process until we were onsite on day 2 at the same time as the cohorts were participating in a number of intensive learning and evaluation exercises, even in the same room!

We worked with capstone faculty for about 4.5 hours that afternoon and then finalized all of our materials that evening. The next morning, we conducted all our necessary briefings and trainings and then ran our town meeting process for a four hour afternoon session and a 90 minute evening session. It was exhausting and exhilarating!

The result? The full group of 70 participants came to agreement on the key components of a new framework that would guide future landscape initiatives. The following morning, three presenters, one from each cohort, presented to a leadership team of nearly a dozen agency leaders. The presentation went so well that the leadership team has asked to the group to provide a more in-depth report shortly to allow this proposed framework to move forward to implementation in 2013.

The whole experience was rewarding because of the critical nature of many of the landscape initiatives the agency is currently leading, including saving the habitat of the sage grouse in the western U.S. and saving the longleaf pine forests in the southern U.S. Hopefully this new framework will lead to even more successful, public-private landscape conservation initiatives in the future.

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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