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How should we tackle our field’s biggest barriers to success?

Ideas & Next Steps from NCDD 2014 Conference

The results of NCDD’s recent Codigital engagement project are quite interesting, and having a record of the ideas shared and how our community ranked those ideas is going to be incredibly useful — for NCDD and hopefully for others in our field.


As a reminder, on the second day of the 2014 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, we created the space for our 415 attendees to launch discussions about four barriers to the dialogue and deliberation community’s success:

  1. How might we overcome the lack of trust in our Democracy, our leaders, and in one another?
  2. How might we make our D&D work more equitable, inclusive and empowering?
  3. How might we more clearly delineate our field of practice for ourselves and those we seek to serve?
  4. How might we eliminate structural barriers in our democratic systems?

Click on any of the four list items to see the full report of the Codigital discussion in that area, including all ideas shared and their rankings.

These four barrier “areas” were identified by looking through the results of an earlier engagement project we ran on Codigital that was focused on the question “What do you want to see happen when our field comes together at NCDD 2014?”

In total for the 4 topics, there were 156 ideas posted and 5494 votes/rankings. 2386 people were invited to participate (all members plus all conference attendees), about about 100 people actively participated. Many more watched, but didn’t jump in.

Some of the ideas NCDDers shared are things that many of us could do, like the #2 idea under the “clearly delineate our field” barrier:

“Create some clear, simple tools and infographics for describing, assessing, and bringing to life dialogue and deliberation work. Identify the good material that is out there already and make it is easy for practitioners or public leaders to use.”

And the top-ranked idea in the “lack of trust” barrier:

“Focus on D&D work at the local level, where engagement efforts are much more likely to influence decisions. Work with public leaders to build/rebuild trust in government decision by decision, from the ground up.”

A few of the ideas are things that are already in place or in the works, like #4 in the “delineating our field” category:

“Gather *short* communication examples that practitioners have found successful: metaphors, anecdotes, sample experiences, images, videos, evocative language, etc. Organize by work context for easy reference. In progress. Need more people to join us!”  (contact Kim Crowley at learnwrite@sbcglobal.net to get involved in this ongoing project that launched at NCDD 2012)

And #14 in the same category:

“Follow up on Grande Lum’s offer at the NCDD conference to hold meetings across the country between NCDD members and DOJ Community Relations Service regional directors to see what kind of collaboration might be possible.” (see https://ncdd.org/16724 for more on this)

Some of the ideas are specific to the NCDD conference, like #10 in the Equity barrier, which focuses on making equity and individual empowerment central themes of NCDD.

Many would require funding and significant levels of collaboration among numerous actors in our field, like #2 in “structural barriers”:

“NCDD members collectively crowdsource, model and invent one or more systems for truly participative democracy, built in a way that could scale to including every citizens’ voice.”

Suffice it to say there is a lot to unpack here, and a lot to discuss!  I wanted to get these results posted without further delay, but we’ll certainly find many ways to dig into these ideas further. What are your reactions to these ideas and their rankings? Let us know by adding your comments to this post.

Also, a huge thank you to James Carr for donating his time and software to NCDD once again. Codigital is a dream to work in, and we really appreciate James’ generous support. James can be reached at james@codigital.com.  I can’t recommend James and Codigital highly enough.

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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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