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Engaging Students & Youth in the NCDD 2014 Conference

As you may have read by now, the theme for the NCDD 2014 Conference is Democracy for the Next Generation. We chose this theme for many reasons. We wanted to bring more attention to the exciting and innovative ways that next generation technology is changing our field, to think about new ways to embed our work into old processes of governance, and to invite people to join us in envisioning what it would look like for dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement to take an evolutionary leap forward as a field of practice.

NCDD2014-blogimageBut another important reason that we chose Democracy for the Next Generation as the conference theme was because it invites us to think literally about the “next” generation(s) of people who we want not only to be effective participants in democracy, but who we also want to see join our field as practitioners.  We wanted the theme to encourage us to think about how we can involve more young people in the future of our work and the future of democracy – both 10 years from now and 100 years into the future. That is why we are making a special effort to invite students and young people from our communities of practice to attend NCDD 2014.

The “Why”

Involving young people in bigger ways addresses a number of the goals for our conference: expanding the scope of our work, connecting newer practitioners with seasoned veterans, and creating new partnerships, just to name a few. We think that having this kind of focus is particularly important for our field because in many ways, the current cohort of young adults – the Millennial generation – embodies the next generation of democracy as well as the challenges and opportunities for our field’s evolution.

AustinPic2-350Millennials are the most diverse generation of Americans ever as well as the most tech savvy, so thinking about their inclusion means opening up discussion both around technology’s role in our work as well as the challenge of making sure we are ready to engage with diversity and go beyond “the usual suspects” in terms of participants in our work. And since most Millennials are currently in or just a few years past being in college, engaging them in our work also means engaging institutions of higher education in promoting democratic practices and processes, as well as doing more of our own teaching – and learning – about our work with a new wave of potential recruits and participants.

Additionally, let’s face it – the leaders in our field are not getting any younger. 😉 As we see some of the pillars and pioneers of our work getting closer to retirement age, it is vital to have an eye on the development and inclusion of the younger folks in our network who will be the ones to pick up the slack when our contemporary leaders leave the work. If we are thinking about our work on a generational scale, we want to be making conscious decisions around mentoring tomorrow’s leading engagement practitioners and scholars today.

The benefits for youth & students

With all of that said, we at NCDD are putting our money where our mouth is with incentives for students and young people to attend NCDD 2014. We are offering a reduced student registration rate for the conference of just $250 (early bird registration is $375), and we are offering even lower group rates for teachers and other practitioners who are bringing groups of students from their youth-oriented programs. The group rate will be worked out on a case-by-case basis, but one group that came with 8 students to NCDD 2012 worked with us to receive two free student spots in addition to the already-discounted rate. The more students you bring, the bigger the discount!

Student attendee at NCDD Austin workshop in 2010Plus, we are excited to announce that we are looking to identify a cadre of mentors that will support and guide the students and youth who attend this year’s NCDD conference in how to best make use of the conference and get involved in the field. The mentors who are selected will be seasoned D&D/engagement practitioners who are willing to spend some time with the students and youth who attend to mentor them during the conference. We hope that some of the mentors will continue in that role after the conference, to help pave the way for the next generation of practitioners and leaders in our field. It’s a very exciting opportunity for anyone looking for a way into the field!


We know that attending NCDD conferences is a great opportunity for students and young people. But you don’t have to take our word for it – you can hear about it yourself from student attendees and their teachers who have shared their feedback about the NCDD 2012 conference with us.

Kacey Bull, a Colorado State University undergraduate, had this to say about her experience in Seattle:

Attending NCDD was an incredible opportunity for me. It opened my eyes to a world that I didn’t know existed. I had been involved in the Center for Public Deliberation for about a year before I attended the conference and I had no idea how vast the world of Dialogue and Deliberation was.

I learned so many different models and activities, I was encouraged by all the people doing great work, and ultimately it led me one step closer to dedicating my academic efforts and career pursuits to the world of Deliberation. I wish every college student could be inspired by such an event.

And Dr. Martín Carcasson, who helped 8 of his students attend NCDD Seattle in 2012, shared with us his reflections on why bringing students to NCDD 2014 is a great opportunity:

CPD-MartinAndStudents-borderClearly NCDD is the ideal conference for college and university students interested in dialogue and deliberation. It provides students with an excellent overview of the overall field, and a chance to meet and work with many of the national leaders. Over a few short days, they will get exposure to multiple methods and strategies for supporting dialogue and deliberation back on their campuses and community. NCDD’s lively, interactive sessions will put the students in the middle of the work, working side by side with academics and practitioners.

Those experiences will not only be valuable to the students, but the students also provide a great service to the deliberation community by providing new voices and fresh perspectives to the conference events. I had several students attend the conference in Seattle, and those students came back incredibly invigorated, passionate about deliberation, and newly equipped with great ideas and fresh skills.

Several of those students have decided to stay at CSU for grad school, mostly in order to continue their journey with deliberation. Their wonderful NCDD experience certainly played an important role in their growing interest and commitment to the field. As the D&D movement continues to expand, attracting bright new voices will be critical, and bringing your best and brightest students to the NCDD conference is a great step in that direction.

Martín and his students also helped us make a great video, produced by our friends at Song of A Citizen, about their experience at NCDD 2012.

How you can support this effort

  1. Bring a group of young people or students to the conference this October (connect with NCDD’s director, Sandy Heierbacher, at sandy@ncdd.org or our conference manager, Courtney Breese, at courtney@ncdd.org for info about discounts and more)
  2. Serve as a mentor at the conference or suggest people who work with students/youth we should reach out to (contact student/youth outreach coordinator Roshan at roshan@ncdd.org or Sandy)
  3. Make a donation to NCDD at www.ncdd.org/donate earmarked for scholarships for students and youth
  4. Encourage ALL the students you know to take advantage of NCDD’s Student Membership rate, which is only $25/year for full access to all membership benefits
  5. At the conference, do all you can to help the young people who attend NCDD 2014 to feel welcomed and valued
  6. Help us spread the word to students at your schools, youth who are part of your work, and other young people who might be interested in attending — we’d love to have them! Direct people HERE to this post for details.


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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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