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NCDD 2006 Opening Session

Originally posted by Dale Ironson for the 2006 NCDD Conference…

The 2006 NCDD conference started off with a bang – literally. After a wonderful buffet breakfast of fruit and pastries we were ushered into the main meeting room by the energizing drumming of the Maracat Drummers. The vibrant pulsating rhythms of Samba like music were stirring and energizing setting an exciting tone for the conference. After the procession of dancing drummers dressed in dazzling colored costumes well over 320 of us took our seats in a large conference room filled with small tables with four seats each. The ballroom walls were covered with paper with the years of each decade from the 60’s to the Millennium (2000) laid out around the room.

There was an air of excitement and anticipation in the air as Priya Parker took the stage to serve as the conference MC. She started out by mentioning how cool it seemed to be in San Francisco, which was a welcome relief for many who were fleeing from the oppressive heat wave in the rest of the country, but a challenge to others who were not used to the cool weather. She mentioned Mark Twain’s famous quote about the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco. Priya then warmed things up by talking about how important her mentor was to her in her development – Hal Saunders and how she talked to Sandy about starting a mentor program to which Sandy response was – Great – Do it! And so she did!

Priya mentioned the sponsoring of this conference by the NCDD organization with its 600 members, mailing list of 8000 and the institutional support that other have generously contributed to making this event possible. This conference was the third conference in a series of conferences that have been held every other year since 2002.

Priya, who is a consultant from New Delhi, India, is a founding member of the US -based sustained Dialogue Campus Network, and is a consultant for Women in Security Conflict Management and Peace in New Delhi, India. She has also worked with the Dali Lama’s peace foundation as well.

Priya then introduced Sandy Heierbacher, the conference director, by referring to Malcom Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point. Sandy, she said, embodies all three of Malcom’s characteristics of trend setters, the salesman, people who can sell an idea, the connector, people who bring people together, and the maven – the knowledgeable ones who people turn to for advice on what they should do or buy i.e. which camera you should buy etc., or in this case which D & D approach you should use.

Sandy received a standing ovation which reflected the audiences deep appreciation for all that she has done in helping establish this field and keep it moving forward which includes creating these conferences, leading the NCDD association, and building the NCDD’s resource rich web site.

Sandy expressed her deep appreciation for the marvelous job that Katie Howard the Conference Manager, Andy Fluke, the conferences creative director and a source of constant support (as her husband/partner), and Polly Riddams, the Logistical coordinator for all three conferences have done. She also acknowledged the excellent work of the conference planning committee, and all the volunteers who helped out in many different ways to create this conference happening.

She also especially thanked the funders who support NCDD’s work and this conference including the Whitman Institute & John Esterle & Edd Conboy, The Hewlett Foundation & Terry Amsler, The Forum Foundation and John Spady, The Study Circles Resource Center, and the Public Conversation Project.

Sandy then spoke of the Spirit of collaboration that defines NCDD. It’s about you caring and helping to define a field. It’s a new thinking being designed by the people her. All those who are dedicated to contributing, It’s a generative conference.

Sandy overviewed the conference by pointing out that during the three days we will be focusing on:
1. The Past – How did we get here?
2. The Present – Identifying the trends in the field today and what we need to do now to move this field forward and
3. The Future – What’s next for you personally and for us as a field and a movement.

This morning we will be taking a look at how we all came to be here – what roads or paths have led us here?, What streams of practice have we been engaged in?

We sometimes seem so different, this is a very diverse group of people, from a wide variety of different backgrounds, but we all have a common vision. We are all here to learn from each other.

Sandy then shared with us the themes from the previous conferences which included:
Themes from Previous Conferences
1. Evaluation and Assessment?This was seen as key and should include both traditional and non-traditional methods.
2. We need to address the issue of: Is this a new field of practice??
What is the history that led us here??
What is our path into this work as a field?
3. As a group, and a movement we need to reach out more.?What we’re doing now is bringing together the choir. It’s about increasing awareness of this work in the world. We need to practice our elevator speeches – i.e. our way of communicating quickly what we’re about so that others can get it quickly – in the space of time it takes to ride in an elevator (about 20 seconds). Practice your elevator speech. The world needs this work. You all know this. Make it easy for people to find you so you can do this work to a greater extent in the world.
4. Accessibility and Inclusivity
?Of people of color, of low income, and diverse people is critical. We need to welcome people including conservatives, traditional people and politicians as well. We need to appreciate diversity, We need to explore our biases and assumptions, and to communicate and think collaboratively.

We need also to provide a real sense of direction for this field in it’s development and address how do we do that effectively?

And we need to do all of this with a sense of joy, fun, lightness and creative aliveness – not feeling burdened by all this as having the weight the world’s problems on our shoulders. It can be a fun, and joyous, and expansive journey. A great adventure to enjoy, participate in, and be energized and stimulated by the nature of the challenges we face and the many wonderful opportunities for service that the state of the world is providing for us to contribute to both today and tomorrow. While these challenges may be significant and daunting, and the stakes are high, this is exactly the time that great warriors and peacemakers would choose to be alive. The members of this group are skilled and courageous and have powerful tools and approaches at their disposal which the world needs and which can make a big difference in creating harmony where there is conflict, sensitivity and humanity where it has been lost, and bringing a sense of hope and optimism for touching the enormous human creative potentials which lie within us as individuals and in the power of coming together as a group in conscious constructive collaboration.

Sandy then referred us to the program book in which there was a section for us to jot down our goals for this conference, notes and follow-up activities.

She also introduced the Orange bands, which when worn or displayed serve as invitations to engage in conversations about things that really matter to us. In essence wearing an orange band is an invitation to ask the wearer to tell you what he or she cares about that they would love to have a conversation about. It’s a way to start conversations about things that matter to you or issues that you want to explore more deeply and talk about with others.

Sandy concluded by noting briefly the many great people and exceptional resources who were in the room. A few of the many she mentioned included – Martha McCoy of the Study Circles Resource Center, Tom Atlee author and director of the Co-Intelligence Institute, Libby & Len Traubman of The Jewish – Palestinian Living Room Dialogues, Vicki Robin (who wasn’t present) and Joseph McCormick.

There are many, many fantastic people in this room. Meet them!

Sandy Heierbacher on FacebookSandy Heierbacher on LinkedinSandy Heierbacher on Twitter
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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