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NCDD in 2014: A Year in Review

2014 was a pretty darn good year for NCDD. As I reflect on our work over the past twelve months, a few themes really stand out to me:

1. We made huge strides toward our goal of distributing leadership and responsibility for NCDD’s success more broadly.

The members of our amazing Board of Directors really stepped up this year, to launch new committees on membership, outreach and fundraising, to help plan a great national conference, and to strengthen the organization in numerous other ways. Special shout-outs to these Board members for especially huge lifts:

  • Marla Crockett for leading our local team for the 2014 conference
  • Susan Stuart Clark for running our Tech Tuesday series in 2014
  • RoshanWithSign-borderJohn Backman for moderating the NCDD Discussion list — a nuanced task I didn’t think I’d ever be able to let go of!

Roshan Bliss, our Blog Curator (pictured at right), began taking on more responsibility at NCDD by serving as our Student & Youth Outreach Coordinator for the 2014 conference. Thanks in large part to Roshan’s leadership and dedication, we inspired members of our community to donate over $15,000, enabling us to support the attendance of more than 60 young people and students at the 2014 NCDD conference.

And most importantly, we were able to bring on Courtney Breese as Program Director of NCDD!  A young leader in the field, Courtney served on the NCDD Board of Directors for three years while working full-time at the Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration. She served as Conference Manager for NCDD’s last two national conferences. We have a wonderful working relationship, as is evidenced in the photo below — and the fact that we survived working on two conferences together! 😉

NCDD's Year in Review

In addition to all of this, we also distributed leadership to our members in new ways. Members are always involved in planning our conferences, creating content for the website, and so much more, but this year we started engaging some of our members in mini-contracts for critically important work that usually can’t be accomplished by volunteers. We contracted with talented members like Kathryn Thomson, Ben Roberts, Kim Crowley, Chris Berendes, and Kyle Bozentko for report-writing and interviewing tasks.

If you’d like to be on our list of potential contractors and didn’t fill out the “rolodex survey” we conducted earlier this year, it’s not too late. Complete the survey here so we can have a better sense of your skills and interests.

2. We really bumped up our level of professionalism in a lot of ways.

Though NCDD continues to serve everyone who work in dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement, and our website, online events, listservs, membership, and more are accessible and free to all who are interested, we allowed ourselves this year to find new ways to serve our field’s top leaders.

Due to our strong relationship with the Kettering Foundation, and my new role as part-time “Research Deputy” for Kettering, NCDD had the opportunity to convene top leaders in our field both in February at the Kettering Foundation, and in May in DC — in activities surrounding Kettering’s annual Public Voice event (group photo below).  We also helped identify leaders in online engagement who were invited to Kettering in July to preview KF’s new deliberation platform Common Ground for Action.


We provided space at our conference for two groups to convene top leaders in transpartisan dialogue and civic infrastructure work. I was torn about using the limited space we had the day before the conference for invitation-only events, as NCDD’s style tends to be more open-to-all, but realized that all conference attendees would benefit if these meetings brought leaders to the conference who might otherwise not attend.

GrandeLum-NextStepBubble-borderOne of our most exciting initiatives in 2014, launched at the fall conference during Grande Lum’s speech, is NCDD’s work with the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) to plan meetings between NCDD members and CRS staff at their regional offices across the country.  CRS provides mediation, dialogue, and reconciliation services for communities in crisis, and is interested in finding ways to partner with NCDD members who can potentially increase their effectiveness and reach.

We continued offering regular Confab Calls and Tech Tuesday events for our community, with an average of more than 60 participants in each one!  And we continued investing time and energy in collaborative projects we feel are important to the future of our field — including Creating Community Solutions (part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health) and its innovative Text Talk Act project, the CommunityMatters Partnership, Participedia, the Dialogue, Deliberation & Public Engagement Certificate Program at KSU, and numerous projects (many of which are still in progress) in partnership with the Kettering Foundation.

3. And of course, much of the year was devoted to putting on a great national conference.

Our 2014 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation was a major highlight of the year, for us and for our 415 attendees. Words cannot express how amazing it feels to not only be in proximity to hundreds of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet — but to have the honor of hosting them, welcoming them, and organizing a one-of-a-kind event for them. Those of you who attended know what I mean when I say that the raw energy and excitement at the conference was palpable.

We may not solve the world’s problems at NCDD conferences, but we replenish each other’s energy for this critically important work, learn about myriad innovations in the field, and develop tons of valuable relationships and partnerships that last for years.

Please take a minute to watch this wonderful video of highlights from the conference…

NCDD’s Creative Director, Andy Fluke, outdid himself this year, designing gorgeous stage banners and signs, and what I think is our best conference guidebook yet.

And if you haven’t yet checked out our report on how the NCDD community thinks we should tackle our field’s biggest barriers to success (a conversation we began at the conference and continued on the listserv and Codigital.com after the event), please do take the time to look it over. The results of this engagement project give us valuable FieldMapWithGRsinsight into the ideas and actions that resonate most with the dialogue and deliberation community.

You can also learn all about the exciting visual field mapping project we ran leading up to the conference, and see all ten of the gorgeous maps created by the graphic recorders we worked with. And be sure to peek into the conference here on Storify, where you’ll clearly get a sense of the energy, excitement, and absolutely wonderful people who came to the 2014 conference.

In addition to all of this, NCDD continues to grow steadily.  Early in the year, we reached the milestone of 2,000 members (I was so excited!), and we’ve since grown to over 2,200 members. Our subscriber list for the monthly NCDD Updates grew to over 34,000 this year.

Does this make you want to support NCDD with an end-of-year gift? We need your support to keep this work going strong — so please think of us as you consider end-of-year donations. It’s super-easy to donate to NCDD using the short form at www.ncdd.org/donate. NCDD is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization, so your donations are fully tax deductible.

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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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  1. Sarah Rubin says:

    Loved this post. Thanks.

  2. Margaret Harvie says:

    as a very new member it is exciting to be part of it…

  3. enjoyed the thorough update!

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