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A Message from Vicki and Susan at Conversation Café

I thought I’d share this important message from NCDD members Vicki Robin and Susan Partnow at Conversation Café. It covers this year’s Conversation Week as well as some soul-searching they’ve been doing at CC.

Hello Conversation Café hosts and friends,

Conversation Week 2009 will be March 23-29. It’s time for you to pick your location – and time for us to tell you what support we’re offering at CC-Central.

This year our plan is to give you – our hosts and friends – everything you need to select your community’s own most important question. We’ll post the simplest possible guidance on how to host one, many or a whole city’s worth of Conversation Cafes on whatever topic you select. We’ll also give you the top ten questions of 2007 and 2008 if you want to pick from those and an online tool to make the selection process participatory. We’ll share a couple of questions we find compelling, which you may choose. We’ll give you materials you can use. And most important, we’ll set up a social networking site where you can report what you’ve learned and connect with one another.

In part this innovation is making lemonade out of a lemon. Global Conversation Week has been evolving since our 2007 five year anniversary of the first Conversation Week in 2002. We’ve partnered with some great dialogue projects: Orange Band, Dropping Knowledge, Socrates and Global MindShift. We’ve generated each year the top ten most important questions in the world today via an online question suggestion and selection process. We’ve gathered all of your answers so we could learn together. Through it all we’ve been searching for a mechanism whereby the whole world could sit down and talk about the crucial questions of our day.

We did try to get bigger and more elaborate for 2009, but our resource ran out, and so did our energy. Every element of the big “roll-out” got so far behind schedule that we had to face facts and scale back expectations.

It was very hard… and then suddenly got very easy once we got back to basics – back to our original inspiration for the Conversation Cafes. We never meant to run a growing organization. We only meant to provide the world with the best, simplest little dialogue method that anyone, anywhere could use to enliven their communities, schools, conferences, dinner tables and daily encounters with friends, neighbors and strangers. We intended to make it happen, and then give it away. How did we get stuck in managing an organization? Well, we loved the Conversation Cafes and kept seeking opportunities to make them known.

The new US President, Barack Obama, has called for dialogue – with citizens and with nations, friends and foes alike. The Dalai Lama called the 21st Century the century of dialogue. The central task of our time is to speak from the heart, listen with respect and seek truth together. And this is the core ideal and practice of the Conversation Cafes.

The essence of Conversation Week is that it’s a once a year opportunity for the Conversation Café hosts and guests to get a sense that we are all in one big global conversation. It’s a chance to connect and experience our dialogue community. It’s a chance to celebrate the power of conversation to change the world. We may all choose different questions, but we will all be hosting at once.

We two are each creating our own way to celebrate Conversation Week.

Susan will bring Conversation Week to the Green Festival here in Seattle since it coincides (March 27-29). Is there a big event in your community around Conversation Week? Like Susan you can approach the organizers, tell them about Conversation Week and see if they’d like you to host one or many conversations at their event.

Vicki is engaging her networks in the 2007 question, “How much is enough?” since it is the core question in her newly revised and published book, Your Money or Your Life. Another good one for these times is simply: “How is the economy affecting you – and how are you responding?”

We’re already hearing from hosts around the country that they’ve selected their CW date and location. You can too.

For now the websites – www.conversationcafe.org and www.conversationweek.org – are just as they were last year. You can download the manual as always and pick a location for your Conversation Week dialogue. By February 15 the Conversation Week site will be fully updated with all the materials you need for this year – and for years to come. You’ll soon find on the site:

  • A Conversation Café Manual
  • Support materials: wallet cards, table tents, posters
  • Instructions on how to run a question selection and suggestion process
  • Suggestions for the brave on how to run a city-wide campaign

We are building it now. Come any time. We’ll let you know when it’s fully stocked with support for your CW. In the coming months we as founders will be reviewing every aspect of the CW and CC websites to leave a wonderful legacy of materials, stories, questions, instructions for hosts and guests everywhere to experience that shift from small talk to BIG talk.

As always, we welcome financial contributions, at whatever level is possible for you, to help keep the Conversation Café process and agreements alive, active, and available, generating BIG talk conversations around the world. Just send your check to Conversation Café, PO Box 1501, Langley, WA 98260, or click on the Donate button:

Meanwhile, happy reading!

Vicki Robin and Susan Partnow
For the Conversation Cafes

Sandy Heierbacher on FacebookSandy Heierbacher on LinkedinSandy Heierbacher on Twitter
Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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