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NCDD-CRS Meetings Being Planned Across the Country

One of the highlights of the recent National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation was Grande Lum’s speech on the final day of the conference. Grande is director of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, an extraordinary program that was established 50 years ago as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

GrandeLumGivingSpeechKnown as “America’s Peacemaker,” the Community Relations Service (CRS) has worked with thousands of communities over the years, many of whom came together in crisis and emerged stronger and more unified as a result. CRS delivers four critically important services to communities facing intergroup conflict:  mediation of disputes, facilitation of dialogue, training, and consulting.

See our August 25th blog post at www.ncdd.org/16015 for more details on the vital work that Grande and CRS do.

At the end of his speech (which we’ll be posting soon), Grande committed to holding a meeting between NCDD members and CRS staff at each of CRS’s ten regional offices. Grande is excited to move forward on these meetings, and we have been working with CRS to make these meetings happen in early 2015!

This is an exciting opportunity on many fronts. For one, you will have the opportunity to start a productive relationship with staff of an important government agency based in your area — people who really “get” the importance of process and know what it’s like in the trenches. (As a CRS staff member told me on the phone the other day, “we’re in the same tribe”!)

CRS’s Regional Directors are highly trained professional mediators, facilitators, trainers, and consultants who are experienced in bringing together communities in conflict to help them enhance their ability to independently prevent and resolve existing and future concerns. Regional Directors oversee the regional conflict resolution teams in the development of customized and proactive local solutions.

This is also exciting for the NCDD community as a collective. We often talk about how we can be more responsive during times of crisis that call for dialogue. Developing relationships and making ourselves available to CRS regional directors whose mission, in part, is rapid deployment during crises, can only strengthen our work and increase CRS’s capacity in the process. We also often lament the gap between dialogue and deliberation practice and government, and this addresses that concern as well.

GrandeLum-NextStepBubbleThe 10 regional offices are located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Their four field offices, where we may also be holding joint events, are located in Miami, Detroit, Houston, and San Francisco. The regional and field offices increase the availability of CRS services to rural communities and aid in rapid deployment during crises.

We have been working with CRS to coordinate meetings at each of these cities in early 2015. All NCDD 2014 attendees and supporting members of NCDD whose dues are in good standing are welcome to attend. Please send an email to NCDD’s office manager, Joy Garman, at joy@ncdd.org, if you are interested in taking part.

The meetings will be part meet-and-greet between NCDDers and CRS staffers (including the Regional Directors), part discussions of promising practices for helping communities communicate more effectively, and part exploratory sessions about how we might align our efforts going forward.

We’re thrilled to say that our friends at CRS are open to your ideas about what you would like to see happen at these meetings. Use the comments here to share your thoughts on what you’d like to see on the agenda, and what would be most beneficial to you. CRS and NCDD will carefully consider your input when designing the meetings.

Graphic recording of Grande Lum's speech by the amazing Stephanie Brown.

Graphic recording of Grande Lum’s speech by the amazing Stephanie Brown.

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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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Join In!

We always encourage a lively exchange of ideas, whether online or off. Questions? Please feel free to contact us directly.

  1. We would love NCDDers’ input about what should be covered at these meetings, what questions you have for CRS staff, what you may want to contribute to the meeting, what your format suggestions are, etc. You can send your ideas and input directly to me at sandy@ncdd.org if you prefer, but otherwise please add them here!

  2. Diane Miller says:

    This is such an exciting opportunity to make new connections in our field and explore the unique challenges and complimentary aspects of our work. I’m excited to be involved in connecting NCDD members in Texas with the Regional and Field CRS offices. During our meeting, we can explore how the vital mediation and conflict resolution services that CRS provides in times of crisis fit within a larger frame of engaging the public to help strengthen communities and build lasting civic infrastructure. It will also be a great chance to understand the needs and aspirations of CRS and help practitioners connect locally and broaden our skills and reach.

  3. Lonnie Weiss says:

    I’m interested in meeting the people and exchanging ‘windows’ into our work. Depending on how many participate (I’m in Philadelphia) I could imagine a circle check in as the start to conversation, or a more structured introduction format. Either way, we could all share a bit about our work, our interest, our curiosity, our questions… and go from there. I’m much less interested in formal presentations about CRS or the other agencies/firms/consultancies represented there and prefer to focus on relationship building.

    • Regina sneed says:

      I would start with having CRS staff describe their education and training, how they create a work plan for being in the community, the types of interventions they do and a description of their training they so in schools with racial tensions.

      One interesting question would address issue of how you gain acceptance by the parties in conflict to mediate a dispute. It goes to rapport established by individual person and perhaps the reputation if CRS as an agency.

  4. I appreciate insight about how we create cultures of dialog and deliberation that are deep and wide enough for people can work for change without feeling the need to resort to violence. The complex web of issues in Ferguson (white flight, disinvestment, fragmented governance in metropolitan areas, poor schools, inadequate public transportation, disproportionate felony convictions for blacks and disenfranchisement plus racism) makes me want to lash out, but I don’t since I benefit – for the time being – as a white man. What will get me and my more distracted, more comfortably situated white brothers to the table? Let’s do it rather than talk about it. I need my personal and professional feet held to the fire.

  5. Susan Lebold says:

    I work in Detroit, which serves as a touchstone community for all that has gone wrong in our country over the last 100 years, and also much that is positive. For struggling urban areas, diverse interests need to be able to come together to identify common goals and explore innovative solutions that includes both business development and resident well-being. For example, in Detroit there are numerous efforts occurring on both fronts, but those efforts seem fragmented and there may be little collaboration between projects focused on bringing economic investment into the city and those focused on improving family well-being and neighborhoods. I would be interested in exploring whether and to what extent CRS has already been involved in the Detroit region, and more generally how CRS may be an appropriate vehicle for merging the economic and social justice interests of the different stakeholder groups that are working on various aspects of very complex urban problems.

  6. John Spady says:

    I live in Seattle. I’m interested (first) in listening to what CRS is doing throughout our regional and nationally and (perhaps second) in volunteering to better promote CRS techniques and processes more publicly to individuals, groups, and communities that might benefit from CRS insights BEFORE unexpected and traumatic events occur. It’s a bit like emergency preparedness — helping a community prepare also brings a growing awareness of the underlying reasons that may cause problems — and so foster changes (political and social) to address potential problems before they occur.

  7. Thanks sandy and joy for convening these mtgs. So looking forward! I would love an overview of their work–from issues they address (incl differences and similarities regionally), what models and other tools have been most effective and where they see the work going, where the gaps are in their mission and implementation and how we might support/add to their offerings. Would then appreciate a chance to have a creative conversation where we connect to see what might emerge from partnering. Sounds a bit linear though I would really like to use our time together to get to the core of what I think we all care so much about: continuing to deepen the capacity to create a culture that deals more creatively and less violently w conflicts. Thanks for gathering our input too!

  8. Eric Smiley says:


    I’m very excited about the meetings and would enjoy an opportunity to review the history of CRS’s efforts, particularly in Seattle. What was addressed, who were the participants, what were the outcomes, how many conflicts in total and how was CRS engaged in the conflict?

    I’m expecting that with 50 years there would be quite alot to look at.

    Thanks very much,
    Eric Smiley

  9. What an exciting opportunity! I echo the comments above that suggest we start meetings with hearing more about the work of CRS and perhaps how they work with some of the challenges identified at the NCDD conference – how to build credibility, how to explain the work to the skeptical, instilling hope and realistic expectations, etc. The other topics I would like to include are (1) how we can best support each other’s success and (2) how we proceed with an ongoing virtual or face-to-face conversation so we can continue to learn from each other.

  10. Phil Neisser says:

    I cannot really improve on the suggestions already made, except perhaps to say that I would like to learn from the CRS what their limitations are when it comes to what they are authorized to do, what sort of resources they have that their disposal that might be used to support community dialogue efforts, and what connections they have managed to forge with any relevant actors in relevant communities in the region. If connections have been forged, then maybe dialogue organizers and facilitators could build on them to try to create dialogic events that would attempt to connect local communities to each other, to better connect police to the neighborhoods in which they work, and so on.

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