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What would you like to see at NCDD 2016?

yardsign_300pxNCDD’s staff is in the beginning stages of conference planning, and as we do each conference year, we’d like to hear from the D&D community about what you’d like to see, do and experience at this year’s National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation. Over the next ten days, we’ll be seeking ideas from the NCDD community via email, social media, the blog and a special conference call on April 28th at 3pm Eastern/12pm Pacific.

NCDD conferences look and feel a bit different each year because our events are experiments in collaborative planning, and our planning team is highly responsive to our community’s needs and energy.

  • Remember the graphic recordings and maps of numerous networks within the field at the 2014 conference?
  • Remember the “conservatives panel” at our 2008 national conference in Austin (with Grover Norquist!), where we dug into when, why, and under what conditions conservatives support dialogue and deliberation work?
  • Remember Playback Theatre in 2004, the Catalyst Awards process at our 2012 conference, the showcases and networking sessions, and the great speakers and participatory processes we’ve featured at all of our conferences?

IMG_8202NCDD’s national conferences bring together 400+ of our community’s most exciting leaders, innovators, learners, and doers, for an event that enables us not only to network and learn from each other, but to tackle our greatest collective challenges head-on, and to set the direction for our field.

What we cover at our conferences, and how we cover it, is important for this ever-growing, ever-changing field — and we want your input!  Everyone in the NCDD community (members, past conference attendees, subscribers, social media friends) is welcome to participate.

To help you get started, NCDD’s staff and board would like to share an idea with you and get some feedback. For the 2016 conference, we can’t help but take notice of the extreme partisan rancor of this year’s Presidential election. We think making space at this year’s conference to discuss bridging divides across political lines, race, religion, and other tough policy issues is important. Sharing our stories of how we’re building these bridges is an essential part of this, to share with one another and to amplify our work. We’d like to hear from you whether this resonates, and what ideas you might have for how we should do this. (Plus the Board will send out more info about this idea soon!)

We’re also seeking more ideas. As you consider our intentionally broad framing question, “What would you like to see happen at NCDD 2016?”, think about…

  • IMG_1562What do you think about the idea above?
  • What topics would you like to see covered?
  • What ideas do you have for awesome activities?
  • What would you like to contribute to this year’s event?
  • What could we do this year that might improve your work?
  • What could we do that would help us move the field forward?
  • What can we do while we’re together that we can’t easily do virtually?
  • Dream big, or be specific… it’s all good!

Please share your responses to these questions in the comments below, via our discussion listserv, on social media, and via a special call we are holding on April 28th at 3pm Eastern/12pm Pacific. Sign up for the call to receive the call-in details.

We’re excited to hear your ideas and to get working on putting together another great conference!

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Courtney Breese
Courtney Breese is the Executive Director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). She has a B.A. in Social Work and Counseling from Franklin Pierce University, where she was introduced to dialogue & deliberation.

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

  1. Two things I’d like:

    1) a participatory activity on story-gathering and sense-making. I’d especially love to see a demo of Cynthia Kurtz’ Narra Firma software and use it. Or Barbara Ganley’s methods for using story with community groups.

    2) I co-lead a group in Philadelphia teaching methods of transforming collaboration with groups. We use Liberating Structures. If folks were interested, we’d love to do a session on this, or a longer workshop. If you aren’t familiar with LS, they are easy to use, fun to do, and scalable for any size group. Nothing I have seen changes people’s patterns of communicating and relating faster or more powerfully. Very useful to support generative dialogue.

    Thanks NCDD!!

  2. David Plouffe says:

    NCDD conferences are the best around. Unfortunately this year I will not be able to attend due to travel/conference restrictions at the City of Calgary. The decline of oil prices and the weak Cdn dollar have taken a toll on our Province this year. The City General Manager wants us to take a role model approach and has encouraged us to spend our “learning budgets” within the Calgary or the Province to stimulate the economy.

    Hence, I will not be able to physically attend. Which leads me to my idea having virtual conference sessions (audacious goal – the whole conference?) that could be stream around the world. This can fit with the idea of bridging the divides – i.e. the geographical divides.

    This might be an opportunity for people to test their virtual/digital solutions and open up to a larger audience.

    A few weeks ago I participated in one of the Online CGA Forums. That on-line tool was amazing. Even though the subject was on the US Health Care Costs, which I only have general knowledge, I was total engaged for 2 hours. The moderator and the tool were excellent. Maybe run one of these forums during the conference around the idea of bridging the divides.

    Look forward to hearing what other people think about the virtual idea.

    • Figuring out ways to enable meaningful remote participation in some way, shape or form – mostly during the conference, but also before and/or after, potentially – could be a fun project. Happy to help!

    • Cobie deLespinasse says:

      I posted a question about how to register for a virtual session if they’re held. It’s under the May blog post that invites people to register.

  3. Thanks for this opportunity! I am hoping to attend this year.

    I feel that this is the year for us to explore in greater depth what it means to be a “coalition.” We clearly need a new paradigm in America for deliberating publicly on issues, and I believe NCDD is very well-positioned to do so, but we have to talk about how we do so in the most productive way and in line with our mission.

    So, I think we could have sessions in which presenters talk about how they’ve changed paradigms at local or state or organizational levels, and hear perhaps from community organizers or others who have helped shape broader national change.

    This doesn’t necessarily need to be the entire focus of the conference, but I really think it would add tremendous value.

    • Miles Fidelman says:

      It does strike me that:
      a. we’re at a time where very large scale dialog is needed about critical social issues
      b. any kind of large scale dialog HAS to involve a coalition – and probably multiple settings, media, and techniques

      Which leads me to suggest two possible areas to focus on, possibly in parallel:
      a. lessons learned about how to conduct successful, very-large-scale D&D programs (what are the largest organized dialogues that we know of, how were they organized, etc.?)
      b. some actual coalition building around one or more specific projects (personally, I think there’s a crying need for focusing on how broken our political and party system have become, and what we can do about it – but there are certainly other topics crying, such as getting off the stick on energy and climate change, income inequality, etc.)

      • Just want to echo some of these themes from Miles. Are we capable of getting our arms around the big picture, and coming up with a realistic framework? I’d like to say yes. I think “somebody has to do it” — and why not us….

  4. Manisha Paudel says:

    I’d love to discuss and exchange ideas on prioritization. There are hundreds of issues to work on, hundreds of ways to do that, and thousands of hurdles to cross. How does one (individual, group, organization) prioritize WHILE minimizing (can’t say eliminating) division and/or conflict among people. I believe this will be particularly relevant in the current political game field.

  5. Chaebong Nam says:

    Hi, I hope to see this year’s NCDD conference shedding more light on young people, for they are emerging as key civic-political actors in the digital age. The NCDD community has been extensively discussing great tools and methods, whether digitally-enabled or not, that can be used for facilitating deliberation and dialogue. I would like us to think further about how we can get young people in particular to engage in the extensive ideas and practices NCDD has been working on. I understand that many of the NCDD members are already actively involved in this work, and I’d like to see it getting some more attention this year.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    The challenge with Bridging Divides is that it presumes many people are open to finding common ground and listening to new ideas, information, perspectives and insights. The debate on climate change, among others, suggests this is simply not true. As the Paul Simon song says “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

    So if Bridging Divides is to be the theme, I’d like to see it narrowed to focus on specific, proven methods to “open people up”. One of these I’d guess is narrative/story — stories are subversive and allow information and ideas into minds that would be closed to them if presented more explicitly.

    My own work on complexity suggests that most change happens when a generation closed to it dies off and the next generation, with fewer preconceptions and less emotional ‘history’ about the issue, is open to it. But we can’t afford to wait for that any more. So what are the methods, other than story, that can shift individual worldviews?

    Perhaps we answer that by just collecting stories about radical personal change — what provoked it, how did the individual handle the shift etc. And then try to mine those stories for patterns that can be employed to “open people up”. Or perhaps if story is pivotal to this, we could focus specifically on narrative methods and how they work (and when they don’t), so that we can all get better at collecting, telling and employing narratives in order to Bridge Divides.

    I’d like to be involved in some way but I’m not sure how. It’s possible that the Group Works pattern language (I’m a core member of the development team) might surface other patterns of exemplary group behaviour and process design that are specifically valuable to Bridging Divides (Story is one of the 91 patterns in Group Works).

    Dave Pollard
    Core Member, Group Pattern Language Project
    Advisor to Small Green Enterprises
    Blogger at howtosavetheworld.ca

    • Hi Dave,

      your wondering about “how people open up” reminds me of the current wave of organizational research about the importance of creating emotional safety in groups…

      I wouldn’t presume to reduce that to any one single pattern, but so many of the patterns in the Group Works deck, taken together, feel quite relevant in this arena:

      Listening, Mirroring, Inquiry…

      Honoring Each Person, Embracing Dissonance and Difference, Dwelling with Emotions…

      Valuing the Margins, Generating Possibilities, Informing the Group Mind…

      To me, Story is certainly one of those patterns… AND, in addition, I also see it as a very powerful pattern for helping the “opening up” work that has taken place within a group, to then be shared more widely, and to have a broader impact.

      Both Tom Atlee and Ben Roberts have posted about this over on the e-mail list that is taking place on this same conversation… I will encourage them to post their contributions here, as well.

      • Dave Pollard says:

        Thanks Rosa: I’d agree that creating a safe space is a necessary condition for changing minds in group work, though I’m not convinced it’s a sufficient condition. I’m not sure what the sufficient conditions are, which is why I’d be interested in exploring this issue through collecting unembellished stories of worldview changes where the conditions were evidently sufficient.

        I am an old skeptical curmudgeon, so I don’t really believe that there is a “readiness to hear new stories that can create common ground”. We are stuck clinging to beliefs that the current profligate and ruinous way of life of the privileged Western few can be somehow sustained indefinitely and made accessible to everyone (with a bit of tweaking with recyclables and renewables and some innovation and hard work). Changing minds to bridge divides entails forcing people to look at hard truths they don’t want to hear. Most of us have probably done that ourselves at some point, so for me the question is: What was the process, or critical information or insight or argument or perspective that opened us up to that (probably unpalatable) shift of worldview? And what can we learn from these stories that can be used to open others up?

      • Ben Roberts says:

        You may be right, of course, Dave, that the readiness to hear new stories is not here. My view is that it’s quite hard to know for sure, and I want to do some “probe-sense-respond” work to see what we learn. And I can at least identify lots of data points suggesting a breakdown in the currency of the old stories.

        Neoliberalism, for example, is clearly not resonating the way it has for the past 36 plus years, as demonstrated by the rise of Trump and Sanders. Yet both of them are mostly telling other old stories of authoritarianism and progressive statism.

        What seems possible to me is that a large group of people are getting so turned off by the divisiveness that they are getting hungry for a way out. If a new story provides that, they may find it enormously appealing. And if that turns out not to be the case, I’m prepared to join you in the collapsatarian ranks!

  7. Cross-posting this from the discussion list because Rosa said to:

    I have two little things to contribute, one conceptual and one practical.

    First, I would like to second Rosa in saying that I found Barbara’s proposal inspiring. I have also been thinking about the differences between the world inside the belief-bubble that “coming together across differences” is within our grasp, and the world outside it, where people see such a belief as wrong, naive, or even dangerous.

    For example, one thing that has always frustrated me is people saying, “Of course you think everyone can get along, because that’s what you do for a living. Nobody thinks that out in the real world.” That’s frustrating because I feel that I *am* operating in the real world; I just see different possibilities in it, like I’m looking through a different lens. [I wrote about this in a blog post called “Including the unincluding,” where I asked, “How can you find common ground with people who do not believe in common ground?”]

    So the question I would love to explore together – which is essentially the same one that Barbara Simonetti and Larry Schooler posed – is, can we step outside our belief-bubble and explore the many ways in which people do not accept that coming together across differences is a real thing? Can we make sense of what’s outside that belief and figure out how we can breathe and work in whatever atmosphere there is outside of it?

    Second, the practical issue is that, like David Plouffe, I’ve been thinking about the geographical divide. I can’t tell you how happy I was to find out that the conference would be in Boston this year, because it means I can go to it. My crazy idea is: what if there was a “home team advantage” fund, where people who can get to the conference more easily contribute something so more people from farther away can come? I would be willing to put in $100 this time in the hopes that my expenses might be reduced when the conference is far away for me.

  8. Miles Fidelman says:

    Something that has been occurring to me of late (spurred by a comment on the NCDD-DISCUSSION list):

    There are “conversations” going on all around us, up to the level of “national conversations” – the election, punditry in the media, letters to the editor, on social media, on street corners, in bars, in workplaces, in various meetings both formal and informal. (And I’m reminded of the national climate from various historic periods – ratification of the Constitution, before entering WWII, getting out of Vietnam, civil rights, and most recently #occupy and #blacklives matter). Somewhere between “conversations” and “movement.”

    But, these are all diffuse, and mostly don’t lead to decisions or action (except, perhaps in the case of initiative petitions and political campaigns).

    It might be worth focusing some attention on D&D from the perspective of how to link, organize, and/or otherwise bring some order out of this amorphous chaos of conversation – such that conversation might shift to deliberation and from there to decisions and action of various sorts. (I.e., shift the focus 180 degrees from “how do we engage people in D&D, to how do we support and channel the D&D that is already going on).

  9. Ben Roberts says:

    Like Cynthia above, I tend to do what Rosa tells me to!Missing the formatting that an email allows though!

    I’m so excited to see all the energy around this! Yes, I think we should act as if a “movement moment” is coming, and do what we can to ride the wave if/when it rises (and to help it to surge in the first place). The conference timing is ideal for this role. I have a few thoughts to add to the mix, but first I want to make two offers:

    1) I am willing to host two live Open Space sessions on MaestroConference next week, if there is some interest in talking about this together. Perhaps others who also have the capacity to host virtual Open Space might want to do the same in the following weeks (when my schedule is trickier), so we can really create some communication bandwidth beyond these emails and the blog comments. Please reply to me directly if you would be interested: ben@conversationcollaborative.com

    2) In addition to adding live conversation to the mix, we might want to have a better venue for text-based discussion. A forum is one option. My personal favorite these days is a combo of Slack and Google docs. I would be happy to set that up for us, if desired, and would welcome (but not require) some help in doing so.

    Meanwhile, here are my current reflections:

    –The conference as a showcase. Barbara talked about this event being a showcase for the media. I would also add funders to that audience. To me, this implies something more than a typical conference format—something designed to demonstrate, rather than just discuss, what’s working now. It also means that conversations about the “adjacent possible” might be powerful catalysts, generating new ideas that we could begin prototyping immediately following the conference (with media promotion and funding!).

    –Virtual Participation. Having an element of synchronous virtual participation is worth considering, and is also logistically challenging. Another option is to “bookend” the conference with virtual engagement opportunities. That way, what we do in Boston can be seeded by folks who cannot be there. And any post-conference action or conversation can also be open to the broader community of practice. Another possibility is to have multiple self-organized in-person nodes as satellites to the main gathering, and to connect these up using virtual tools, synchronously and/or in other ways.

    –The role of story and common ground. Barbara proposed presenting a “counter narrative” as the conference purpose. Howard Ward asked “are we meeting human to human, or story to story?” Dave Pollard wrote (on the blog) that “stories are subversive and allow information and ideas into minds that would be closed to them if presented more explicitly.” Ken Homer talks about the need to move beyond “the historical narrative that people are inherently cutthroat and competitive by nature.” Meanwhile, Cynthia Kurtz and others pointed out the challenge of finding common ground when many people don’t see that as possible or valuable.

    My view is that 1) stories ARE how we understand the world, 2) we are currently trapped in old stories that no longer fit or serve us, 3) the mainstream acceptance of these stories may be collapsing, but 4) there is a lack of awareness in the mainstream about generative new narratives to take their place. I believe there may be a readiness to hear new stories and that these can provide common ground in ways that are far more generative than is possible within the inherently divisive old story frames.

    I am inspired to see what happens when we use new stories of possibility as the context for transpartisan dialogue. For example, if we tell the story of participatory budgeting to a group of ordinary citizens and/or local leaders from across the political divides, and then facilitate them in a dialogue about their city’s budget, would we see some amazing breakthroughs? And PB is just one example of the many paradigm shifting New Stories that are out there, many of which are of course from realms other than dialogue. Otto Scharmer’s From Ego to Eco offers just one framing for this, for example. Here are the eight “acupuncture points” within the larger system that he identifies, each of which has its New Story counterparts.

    –The importance of open collaboration. Andrew Rockway wrote about the work being done by the Jefferson Center In Akron. Brian Burt of MaestroConference and VoiceVoice is launching a transpartisan dialogue initiative in the coming months. The Charter for Compassion International is talking with the Bridge Alliance about an initiative in multiple cities timed around the election or just afterwards. No doubt there is much, much more in motion that we don’t know about yet as well. How do we design something that honors and supports the work underway, while also adding to the larger possibility set? Here’s one thought (offered with the caveat that I’m currently holding a hammer, so maybe I’m inclined to see lots of nails!)…

    What about an Appreciative Inquiry-based approach, since that starts from what is working now, and virtual interviews can be conducted easily and at scale? We could do Discovery virtually before the conference, Dream/Design/Destiny when we come together, and then more Destiny virtually after Boston. I’m currently co-leading just such a process (on transforming work/reinventing organizations—info here) anchored by next month’s Integral European Conference. Note that this could be designed so that anyone who wanted to could “plug in” their particular dialogue offerings, as part of each phase. In particular, the Destiny phase will be structured as Open Space, so it naturally supports a set of self-organized offerings.

  10. Cross-posting from Discussion group (with link to our blog article about evaluativism: https://ncdd.org/17611):

    I acknowledge Rosa’s point that this topic is especially interesting to people like me who engage in transpartisan projects. I am deeply grateful that you would consider making evaluativism the focus of a conference.

    That said, I hasten to warn that this is a tough discussion. I winced at the phrase “Americans can and do work together across divides because we are doing it everyday.” Who is the “we”? At least one of the types of person in this great divide may be a type that bridges. Maybe this type of person is like a stem-cell who can become whatever is needed in a given social situation. The existence of such people should not distract us from the fact that making everyone else dependent on such bridgers could qualify as structural violence against the non-bridgers.

    I would second Howard’s recommendation: “What if part of the focus was on …the nature of this divide?”

    I would also recommend focusing on the people in this world who feel like their values do not fit: highly sensitive persons, psychopaths, perfectionists, etc. To deal with the divide ultimately means dealing with the isolation that these people experience (doesn’t social isolation entail social divide?), and it is more honest to face this directly than to speak in terms of the political parties these people need to form to obscure the very personal nature of their hidden diversity and tension. We should not ask people to “out” themselves–that’s dangerous–but devoting an entire conference to this topic without facing it directly sounds like an awful waste.

    Finally, I think we need to agree upfront to be impractical. If we were to reserve dialog for the problems it is most effective at solving, I think we might never apply it to the problem of evaluativism. However, the contribution of dialog to address evaluativism may be crucial. It might seem impractical at first, but be necessary in the end.

  11. Peggy Holman says:

    Cross posting from the NCDD list:

    My ears perked up at the notion of involving media in this exploration. So I’m responding from two perspectives – my work with emergent processes (as documented in The Change Handbook and Engagement Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity) and my work with journalists over the last 16 years.

    When I think about creating space for conversations across divides, I think of three qualities for entry:

    1. A bold, inspiring question of possibility. Barbara has offered to us a great starting point: working together across divides.

    2. A diversity of perspectives. Who are the people who care? To borrow from my Future Search friends, how do we engage the people who “ARE IN” — with authority, resources, expertise, information, and need?

    3. A spirit of welcome. How do we design an experience in which people choose to be physically, emotionally, psychologically, and even spiritually present?

    At this stage, I’m particularly drawn to the conversation about who needs to be involved beyond the people who usually attend NCDD conferences? What might we do to include voices that don’t typically participate in these conversations? Ben’s idea of starting an Appreciative Inquiry before the conference begins is one way to bring in other perspectives. Involving media might also provide interesting and broad opportunity to reach large numbers in a productive way.

    Which brings me to involving media. Much like our niche of people who have experienced people successfully connecting across divides, there are emerging media who are involved in connecting with community in creative ways. Just two examples: Hearken: http://www.wearehearken.com/ and Groundsource: https://www.groundsource.co/.

    The time is ripe to try something bold. I’m game.


  12. Sara Cohen says:

    I’m interested in increasing general awareness of the principles and approaches this coalition represents, through showcasing them on mainstream media. While direct participation is the most powerful way to be turned onto these ideas, being a spectator/viewer/listener can also tap into people’s rising interest in an alternative to polarizing and alienating public dialogue.

    A question I would like to see explored at the conference is what are effective ways to develop and produce media pieces that show this work to a much larger national (and international?) audience in a way that shakes their cynicism, opens their minds, and leaves them hungry for more?

  13. Jillian Post says:

    Hello all,

    I am a Global Peacemaker Fellow at Claremont Lincoln University studying toward an M.A. in Interfaith Action. I already have an M.S. in International Conflict Resolution from Creighton University but I fell in love with the interfaith dialogue aspect of peace work. This fall, around conference time, I will be in the throes of a research/dialogue project on “how early indoctrination affects the treatment of “the other” (interfaith is kind of a hot topic right, but I want depth of conversation!!) I would love to share some aspects of this project at the conference, time permitting of course. I will keep abreast of the details of the conference. (I actually live just outside NYC, where is it going to be held this year, again?)

    In peace,
    Jillian Post
    Global Peacemaker Fellow – Claremont Lincoln University, Claremont, CA
    M.S. International Conflict Resolution – Creighton University, Omaha NE

  14. just hoping that if we are going to continue to talk about bringing people together across divides, that we continue to talk about privilege and power and what we can learn about that from the Black Lives Matter movement. And what does it really mean to “bring people together across divides”? in every setting that means something different. Are you working on a community level, neighborhood level, City? State? totally different ways and meaning. You can’t expect total agreement from two very different points and experiences, so how do you decide what is the outcome for the “coming together” you want to see?

    • Jillian Post says:

      Couldn’t agree more. A socially constructed “coming together” can look a 100 different ways to 100 different people with outcomes that are as “clear as mud”. Then again, it’s not about agreement, not even remotely. It could be about shared knowledge, cleared up misunderstandings, or even expanded cultural or religious literacy. The benefits are myriad and varied and quite frankly, yet to be determined. Finally, as you stated, if power and privilege are not acknowledged, regrettably, more harm than good can come from trying to bring people together across divides. Western cultures get to experience a structural and cultural dominance, pretty much the world over so we have greater responsibility to not “power-over” in matters of dialogue, conflict resolution, or other strategies for peacebuilding.

  15. Mary Gelinas says:

    Thank you, Rosa, for referring us to the blog. Thank you, Barbara (and all the Board and staff for inviting us into this good conversation.) Since I am not able to be on the call tomorrow, I want to share my reflections here.

    1. Regarding Barbara’s post: I wonder about framing this as a counter-narrative. I don’t think the situation is an “either/or” but perhaps a “both/and” in the sense that both narratives (i.e., we are divided and we can talk across differences) have some truth. Perhaps there is a larger, third narrative? For example, it is possible to create processes through which multiple, diverse stakeholders engage one aother constructively while acknowledging and working with divisiveness and interconnectedness.

    2. I think of the know-how to lead and create change (the core of what NCDD is about?) in terms of three baskets (categories?) of knowledge, skills, and tools. I see them as three Matryoshka or nesting Russian dolls. I wonder if this or another framework might help us think about how to design a conference about a third or both/and narrative?

    –The doll at the core, that is invisible at first, is what I think of as self-knowledge and mastery: this taps the burgeoning knowledge available from social psychology, brain science, and the impact of contemplative practices on the brain. Key to this is my belief that individually we are instruments of change and thus have a responsibility to know ourselves and develop our ability to be inclusive and compassionate in our internal state and external behavior. This is an important aspect of creating what Peggy Holman referred to as “Spirit of Welcome.” An important aspect of this welcome is creating psychological safety.

    — The second nesting doll is interpersonal skills. Rosa Zubizaretti spoke to a few of these in her post: listening, mirroring, inquiry. There are many that each of us could probably add. One that is often overlooked is making process observations so people can “see” the dynamics (helpful or unhelpful) that they are often unconsciously engaged in. Once they can see it, they can change it if they so choose.

    — The third outer most doll is process design and facilitation. This includes tapping the multiple models that have been developed and evolved by many people in NCDD. In this outermost doll are all the challenges in custom designing processes (with stakeholders) that (1) frame questions of possibility (Peggy Holman); (2) include diversity of perspectives (Peggy, David Pollard, Cynthia Kurtz); address issues of power and decision-making; get diversity of all kinds to the table and open minds; and use technology in the room and beyond it (Ben Roberts et al). (There is much more to be said here and I have only referenced a few of the posts.)

    Enjoy your conversation tomorrow!

  16. James Webber says:

    I suggest we go beyond and above the political fray and even, bridging differences as a focus. Rather I suggest we tackle the nuanced issues set forth in “Citizens, Deliberation and the Practice of Democracy,” a Triptych from the Kettering Review (2012) as well as “The Ecology of Democracy” by David Mathews (2014). Our democracy is unravelling.

  17. Dave Pollard says:

    Perhaps because I’m not an American (and hence not facing the existential political crisis Americans are these days), I’d be wary of choosing a theme that’s grandiose, heady-sounding and well-meaning but likely to accomplish little more than tell us, once again, “what we need to do” that we know in our hearts is just not going to be done. As mentioned earlier, I think what is key to making significant shifts in any system or arena is understanding what precipitates significant worldview changes in individuals, and then assessing if/how that can be leveraged. Other than collecting unvarnished stories about such change, and doing some ‘sensemaking’ with those stories, I don’t know how this might be done, but I think it’s worthy of exploring. What makes a long-time climate change denier suddenly become a champion of radical climate action? What makes a racist, or sexist, suddenly develop tolerance, respect and sensitivity? What makes a die-hard believer in capitalism and ‘free’ markets suddenly advocate a radical shift to a new, equitable, sustainable economy?

    Since Jill Lepore eviscerated the corporate dogma last year about how change and innovation happen in organizations (and attracted a pretty savage response from the corporate and educational establishment for having dared to do so), I perceive there’s now a bit of an intellectual vacuum around How Change Happens. As much as I like Donella Meadows’ classic ‘ways to intervene in a system’, my experience is that this, too, is more idealized conceptual thinking than a proven prescription for bringing about change.

    I can’t imagine collaborative work that would be of more service to the world right now than understanding how change really happens, and how we can adjust what we do, and how we do it, to help bring about the changes, at every level of human endeavour, that are so desperately needed.

  18. A quick note to share a project (The Pain Opioid Epidemic Project) that I have been working on and hope to make public in the next week or so..
    Below is a brief description and here is a link to the web site…(Not public yet)

    To this point, the project has been mostly a solitary effort..(I’m a full time psychiatrist and a poor writer), however it may be of interest to the NCDD community and can contribute to the various conversations taking place on the list serve and blog..national conversation, media, framework…
    A few points:
    The Opioid Epidemic is a national (international problem) occurring in local communities.
    There is stigma associated with the problems associated with Opioid Use that impact on its devastating impact
    There is an unfolding, bipartisan effort to address the problem
    Any effort on the local level must incorporate “town Hall Meetings” to get meaningful buy-in from the various stakeholder.
    Boston / New England has been hit hard by the epidemic and has developed creative/ out of the box efforts to address it.

    I’d be happy to go on and share my thoughts how the NCDD community can engage with this challenge as well as ways to incorporate an approach to addressing it in the National COnference to take place in Boston.. But,

    Got to run off to work,

    With Gratitude Shimon Waldfogel..

    The Pain Opioid Epidemic Project is an ambitious multi year project motivated by the belief that citizens engaged with various levels of government, the medical system, as well as private industry, academic institutions, and social agencies, supported by meaningful information and tools, can have an great impact on difficult, complex challenges facing our nation. The Pain Opioid Epidemic Project recognizes that a multi-stakeholder, comprehensive public health approach to combatting the nation’s prescription opioid abuse and growing heroin epidemic is crucial. It is up to all of us to prevent and reduce abuse, misuse, overdose and death from prescription drugs. Our approach recognizes that any meaningful solution must address the complexity of the Pain Opioid Ecosystem, including stigma, psychological stress management, pain management by health professionals, opioid use disorders, opioid overdoses, public policy, law enforcement, criminal justice.

  19. Rebecca says:

    A coalition is a pact or treaty among individuals or groups, during which they cooperate in joint action, each in their own self-interest, joining forces together for a common cause. This alliance may be temporary or a matter of convenience. A coalition thus differs from a more formal covenant. Possibly described as a joining of ‘factions’, usually those with overlapping interests rather than opposing.
    Vested interest is the special interest in an existing system, arrangement, or institution for particular personal reasons. is a communication theory that seeks to explain how influences affect behavior.

    Just got off from the online phone conversation discussing various theme titles/content of the conference. Most of the conversation centered around theme. My main take away from that conversation follows:

    When it was suggested the theme be “Transcending Party Politics” The only direct response voiced was:

    ‘Many attendees would be in the midst of the presidential campaign of party politics so the timing of this theme title would not resonate well.’

    My response to that is this:

    If our own membership is personally vested in partisan politics, we as an organization will never realize our goal of Coalition building via Dialogue and Deliberation. I believe the spirit of who we are individually, manifested by our actions, will always trump (no pun intended) our intent as an organization. I heard someone say once “We judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions.”

    In referencing nesting Russian dolls, Mary shares on 4/27 at 12:06pm

    “The doll at the core is self-knowledge. Key to this is my belief that individually we are instruments of change and thus have a responsibility to know ourselves and develop our ability to be inclusive and compassionate in our internal state and external behavior. This is an important aspect of creating what Peggy Holman referred to as “Spirit of Welcome”.

    What do I say to the action of vesting in (divisive by its very nature) party politics? It flies in the face of the intent, the “spirit of welcome”, of inclusivity and compassion.

    A story: I was brand new to NCDD when I attended the conference in 2012. I had already transcended party politics as a result of my heavy participation on and off from 2000-2008, playing on the Republican side. Based on my introductory study, I certainly thought NCDD had also transcended, but the subtle flavor I ran across tasted liberal, sprinkled with partisan conversations a la mode.

    It was also said on the call that the theme was more of a marketing tool to illicit interest and would not necessarily command session content.

    A story: A person I met at the 2012 NCDD conference was founder of another organization and invited me to join. I was immediately recruited to help plan their upcoming 2013 conference. I said “Yes” specifically because I was attracted by the theme. When none of the sessions I attended addressed the theme, I was sorely disappointed. I am no longer a member and have not attended their conference since.

    My additional responses to some of the above sharings:

    Miles on 4/23 at 3:52pm said: “Personally, I think there’s a crying need for focusing on how broken our political and party system have become, and what we can do about it” The operative word for me is “system”
    Bruce responded by saying: “Are we capable of getting our arms around the big picture (for me, system), and coming up with a realistic framework” (for me, “form”)

    Our Declaration of Independence identifies the root problem in governing to be one of “form” not people with a “form”. I agree. I am a self-taught political historian going on 16 years and for many years I followed the many threads of historical and current conversations about form (republic, democracy, oligarchy, monarchy, communism, fascism, communism, nazism, aristocracy, feudalism, tyranny, dictatorship and the list goes on). I got nowhere until I realized they all had one common denominator. They were all “hierarchies” where one or a few rule over the many. Today, I see and continue to see “hierarchy” as THE root problem regarding “form”. I also see the main tool for maintaining “hierarchical rule” to be a process called “divide and conquer” using hegelian dialectics. Madison, the father of the Constitution, indeed himself said that “divide and conquer” would be needed. Two party politics manifested itself during the ratification of our “Constitution” and has divided us ever since. The Bible says “A nation divided against itself, cannot stand”. How well are we standing these days?

    Ben talks repeatedly about “the breakdown in currency of the old stories”. The historical societal/political conversations about the above forms of governing, for me, is an “old story”. Emerging are new stories identifying hierarchy as a problem. I see it as the core problem in every area of our lives, not just politics. At each rung in hierarchy there are leaders/followers….bosses/employees, ministers/congregations, economics-companies-commerce/consumers, educators/students, doctors/patients, the haves/the have nots, Democrats/Republicans, judges-lawyers/litigants, all in competition within each rung striving to be a winner, not a loser, blaming ourselves or others (and making them pay) when we lose. All of us are silently saying to each other “I know, you don’t”, “I’m educated, your not” “I’m good, your bad”, “I’m right, your wrong”. We are all caught up in this system of “hierarchy” and none of us really wants to be on the losing side, so we look out for ourselves when push comes to shove.

    So where is inclusivity and compassion? Is the “big picture” one of “form”? If so, are we capable of dropping “partisan politics” individually and collectively as NCDD and come up with an alternative, realistic framework? One that will work better than the one we have had for the last 6,000 years?

    A new Definition floating around these days: Insanity – Doing the same thing over expecting different results.

    Are we sane or insane?

    • I thought it was fascinating tonight to get an email newsletter from the World Business Academy — founder Rinaldo Brutoco — featuring an announcement of their April radio show — which features an interview of Mark Gerzon, talking about his new book The Reunited States of America. This interview is great — very energetic, and showcasing Mark Gerzon as a strong and very poised guy with an important message. I have talked with Rinaldo Brutoco — a couple years ago — and he told me he wanted to see the “red states” secede from the Union — hardly a “transpartisan” position. But his motto is “taking responsibility for the whole” — and the way I see it — “the whole IS the container for all sides of the discussion”

      The interview is at http://worldbusiness.org/publications/can-we-fix-our-politics-new-business-paradigms/ — and starts at minute 24:30

  20. Miles Fidelman says:

    Perhaps we might spend some time broadening our perspective as to what constitutes the “practice of dialog & deliberation.”

    In some of our recent discussions about “national conversations” (and very large group dialogue), and “civic tech” and social media – I’ve come to wonder about the breadth (or lack thereof) of the experiences and perspectives among our “community of practice.”

    “Dialogue & Deliberation” occurs in a LOT more settings than seem to be reflected in discussion among NCDD members – In the workplace: Staff Meetings, Committee Meetings, Task Forces, Design Meetings, Design Reviews, Brainstorming Sessions, etc., etc., etc.  Outside of the workplace: association meetings, social gatherings, political meetings of various sorts, etc.  And then there are a myriad of on-line settings where people “dialogue & deliberate” – email lists, forums, Facebook, Twitter, etc. We don’t seem to talk a lot about these.

    There are an awful lot of people with experience in chairing meetings, managing design teams, managing proposal efforts, managing & moderating online communities, designing and managing professional conferences, organizing focus groups, conducting public relations and marketing campaigns (ok, that’s about shaping opinion, but closely related) — with titles like “manager,” “proposal specialist,” “event planner,” “market researcher,” “association executive,” etc. — many with professional associations, communities of interest, and other networks of their own.  Again, I don’t see a lot of these titles represented amongst our numbers, or (at least on our email list) these perspectives.

    As we’ve begun to talk about “civic tech,” I’m reminded that there’s are very active research and practitioner communities, dating back to early experiments at least 40 years ago (anybody remember Berkeley Community Memory, or FreeNets?).  And again, there are various professional and other associations in the field. Again – how many people here are active in this arena besides myself (and I see Steven Clift on our member list).

    In our discussions here, I’ve heard lots about people’s experience running small to mid-sized dialog groups, of various sorts, and about some very narrowly focused technology – but I’ve yet to hear anybody talk about experiences as a “community manager” for a large online forum (AOL used to pay people to do this – anybody here ever hold one of those positions).  Except in relation to the NCCD conference, I’ve yet to hear anything about the theory & practice of organizing professional conferences.  How many people here host/moderate significant numbers of email lists, or manage large proposals, or ….?

    It strikes me that, if we purport to be a “community of practice” around dialogue & deliberation – we might want to spend some time expanding our boundaries, building bridges to other communities that practice “dialogue & deliberation” in a broader range of settings, and generally broadening our perspective.

    Maybe a topic for the Conference

    • David Plouffe says:

      Well said Miles. I am one of those NCDD members that uses dialogue and deliberation in the workplace both internally and externally. As a Community Strategist for large Canadian city I manage/participate in Committee Meetings, Task Forces, Design Meetings, Design Reviews, Brainstorming Sessions, Community associations, community engagement, charettes etc etc.

      The practice of D&D has helped me build understanding and knowledge about complex issues such waste reduction/sustainability/homeless/growth management. It has generated innovative solutions to problems such as the City’s organizational cultural (spoke about his at the last NCDD conference.

      Using D&D processes has helped our Neighbourhood Strategy team to inspire collective and individual action in various neighbourhoods throughout our city which I believe has built civic capacity, or the ability for communities to solve their own public issues.

      I believe Slate and CBC have both done pieces on the work of ‘community manager”.

  21. Mary Gelinas says:

    Thanks to Miles and David for their comments about settings for D & D. As a longtime Organization Development practitioner who expanded to also working in public/community settings about ten years ago, I have been focused on how people talk with one another and the various approaches to that for a long time. Although there are significantly different and critical variables in designing and conducting interactions in organizational settings vs. community or public settings, there is a lot that can be learned from and integrated into these various settings. Barbara Simonetti, Susan Partnow, Roger James and I took a pass at this in the 2014 National Conference. There’s lots more that can be explored. The thread for me is (adapting a phrase I heard from Juanita Brown years ago), how to have meaningful conversations about things that matter so we can do good things in the world together.

    • Miles Fidelman says:

      “how to have meaningful conversations about things that matter so we can do good things in the world together”


  22. Lisa Stiller says:

    I agree with Miles! D and D takes place so many other places, and its importance is no less than the more formal settings…in fact, it could be argued that it is even more important. It’s where the ‘ordinary’ happens, as Miles stated…meetings, lectures, presentations, election/campaign townhalls, reps talking to constituents, board meetings and strategy planning, city council meetings, etc. I would love to see more workshops addressing D and D in these settings! I think often we think of D and D as something belonging to those who have a practice, or lots of letters next to their name…but we all are engaged in at multiple times a week! With or without the formal titles…we facilitate meetings, we host workshops and events…and we need the skills to engage people in these settings. This is where the “masses” are really represented, and where decisions about everyday things important to people’s lives take place.
    Lisa Stiller

  23. I am looking for collaborative partners and eventual co-presenters (perhaps in tandem with some of colleagues at the Interactivity Foundation) to work on an NCDD session proposal. My ideas are fairly fluid right now and I’m open to suggestions. Let me know what you think. My initial ideas:

    1) Beyond the Usual Suspects. In terms of the bridge-building theme of the conference, I’ve been thinking about public or societal topics that don’t bring up the conventional fault lines or usual well-practiced responses. For the past year I’ve been working on a civic dialogue project on the Future of Sports and Society. I’m curious about other topics like this that might draw out public engagement in ways that could bridge some of our divides.

    2) A Campus Community More Welcoming of Diversity. This is something currently in the works–so a more developmental topic. We have been working with a small liberal arts college to integrate a small group discussion process into their first-year seminar. The process involves student-facilitated discussion teams to collaboratively explore and develop divergent approaches to course topics. They are not interested in training students to facilitate these discussions outside of the classroom setting, for peer discussions focused around the theme of making the college community more welcoming of diversity. We are in the early stages on this and hope to collaborate with a larger state school to explore how this can take shape at different sorts of schools.

    3) A Congress Welcoming of Diversity? This is the most early-stage idea of these three–though it may be up and running (or even completed) before the NCDD meeting. It involves the real possibility of engaging congressional staff in a sustained series of intensive small group discussions to develop divergent approaches to some area of policy concern. The goal is help meet an expressed interest in working across the aisle and of developing the capacity for legislative staff to collaboratively explore possibilities without having to surrender their policy disagreements.

    Let me know if there’s one or more of these ideas that you’d like to work on with me (and perhaps with others).
    Thanks, Jeff

    • Lisa Stiller says:

      Hi Jeff,
      I have thoughts on number 2 and 3, having taught community college and also spent a lot of time doing.political organizing….can you contact me by email?

  24. Tim Dawson says:

    I will be proposing a workshop that highlights strategies employed by organizations that work closely with municipal governments, government agencies, and government officials to engage residents in decision-making processes.

    My own organization, the Art of Democracy, a consultancy spun out of Carnegie Mellon University’s Program for Deliberative Democracy, has been working closely with the City of Pittsburgh for more than two years to institutionalize Deliberative Community Forums as a best practice for soliciting residents’ input on various decisions, policies and programs, including the selection of a new police chief, identifying priorities for the capital budget, the City’s resilience planning (Pittsburgh was chosen as one of 100 Resilient Cities, an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation), the City’s My Brother’s Keeper action plan, and others.

    I imagine a helpful and illuminating workshop would involve several pairings of organization reps and one of the government folks with whom these organizations work. For example, I will be presenting, as a representative of the Art of Democracy alongside someone from the City of Pittsburgh’s Office of Community Affairs with whom I have worked closely for several years.

    I welcome any contact from others who might be interested in joining me as a presenter and planner for this workshop.
    all the best,
    Tim Dawson

  25. Sara Cohen says:

    I am not proposing to present with you as I am not (yet) a practitioner in this capacity but it’s exactly what I would like to do, and I would be an enthusiastic and grateful participant of this workshop.

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