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Saturday Morning Reflective Panel

Originally posted by Beth Kanter for the 2006 NCDD Conference…


An opportunity to hear from five leaders in the dialogue and deliberation community, and to see them engage in dialogue with one another around trends in the field and trends in the world that are or will impact the field.

Spoken word is an artform that allows different poets to come together around do poetry around social justice.Drew Dellinger and Danielle Drake-Burnette from Poets for Global Justice.

(I captured some video and audio clips and will create the link as soon as processed)

Theme Teams:

The peformers culled and captured themes out of yesterday’s workshops. Many people wrote on post-it notes and they sat around last night to deliver the themes to this session in the form of a script. It was performed on stage and a mindmap was created by Nancy M.

The Reflective Panel

Lelani Henry gave us some techniques for listening:

1. Scanning for sound bytes.2. Thinking caps – rub your ears demonstrated by Juanita Brown3. Energy yawn – rub your jaws demonstrated by John Gastil4. Lazy 8 – rub a lazy eight over your closed eyes and activates listening and your heart

Each panelist gave an introduction of their unique lens:

Chris Gates: Mix of perspectives from government and nonprofits and giving.

Leanne Nurse: Giving voice to the voices for people who may not feel safe and for system change. She is a budhist grandmother and emerging artist.

John Gastil: Share some of the literature and how it connects to theme

Juanita Brown: A child of the sixties. Grew up in an activist household. The world cafe was born in her living room and a spiritual journey. I have a deep belief that people can participate deeply in the questions that matter to them without training.

Question: What are the trends you see impacting the field?

The mindmap is here.


Positive Trend: Local government has gotten the message that the old 60’s models don’t work around dialogue. (Town meeting when everyone get 70 seconds to speak and mic is turned on at midnight). They are trying to figure out better models for dialogue.

Negative Trend: Despite community progress, Washington ethic still embodies everything that doesn’t work around democracy. Too easy to conclude that democracy doesn’t work. Difficult to crack the politice culture of DC.

Caution: Not that long ago that people in philthanropy understood that they were the vc of progressive social change movement. Success was never a guaranteed part of that equation. Two things: get lucky and solve problem on first try or that you learn something. When a community brags about a success, the question: Which try was it? We need to rethink success?


From her lens of environment.

1st Trend: Relationship between government agency and ordinary citizens. We’re the government and here to help you. The citizens say this is good or not. It is changing. A reorientation and that we are co-creating outcomes that we all need to survive and thrive.

2nd Trend: System change. What’s going on inside of government agencies to allow dialogue to open up. Creating the beg

inning of an inter-agency network of people who practice dialogue. (Cooperative Conservation effort)

3rd Trend: Using technology – expanded use. New ways to meet face to face


Academic literature is growing rapidly.

A lot of are involved in formal structure for dialogue that fit into a larger society. The literature is brushing the picture of D&D with broader strokes.

Important to think of how it fits into larger process

Media and Elections: Mediated deliberation. For most people on most issues, the media is the medium they might engage. It is a rigorous processing. The experience of how the media works and how it presents. AirAmerica (new radio network) – we’re better off having both. Substantive clash. Mentions Daily Show and how important it is. It is a media education program. Citizen Journalism.

Deliberation within legal bodies, juries, courts: It isn’t what we do for the most part – congress is a metaphor. It is one of the true models of public discourse, but not to be emulated. We need to think about it and be concerned it. We should shake our heads at legislative karoki. The jury is a governmental body and provides for many people a more satisfying experience for D&D.

Communities and Conversation: What is a deliberative community? Try to think about interlocking organizations and institutions. Think strategically about connecting with schools, established members of the community, established media. Who is talking to who? More likely to exposed to contrary points of view watching the media than talking to other people.


I want to be funny, but I don’t know how.

Global Level: We’re at critical fork in the road – environmental disasters, oppression – it’s getting worse and worse – faster and faster. At the same time, we’re seeing new social innovation. Those are incredible signs that things are getting better and better faster and faster. Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solenet — a book about this trend.

Ask the question: Where do we want to stand when we don’t know the outcomes?

Grassroots efforts are that we are remembering our power. We co-create the work through our dialogue networks. There is something happening in the collective remembering.

Technology: The possibilities for a Global Conversation on the Internet are an important trend for our field.

Compassionate Activism: It’s process activism. Co-intellligent solutions from a multi-perspectives.

Weak Signal: There are more people in the room over 50. A movement towards inter-generational collaboration.

They asked for soundbytes heard from the audience:

  • Need to co-create solutions
  • Legislative karoke
  • Possibilities
  • Constant Learning
  • Social Venture Capitals
  • Hope in the dark
  • Compassionate Non-adversial
  • More shouting could be better
  • Advocacy with an eye for long haul
  • Deliberation within
  • Deep species remembering
  • Substantive clash
  • How many are over 50?
  • Institutions are changing
  • Things are getting better and better
  • Cracked political culture
  • collective intelligence on the Internet
  • Dialogue without posters
  • Simult. decline and emergence
  • Community success doesn’t happen on the first try
  • First-person authentcity
  • Bringing everyone to table
  • Intergenerational collaboration for the common good
  • Innovation occurs on the edge of chaos far from the equalibrium
  • Good ideas take more than one try
  • Global Conversaton
  • Where do we want to stand when we do this work
  • Ordinary entering discussion about issues that matters to them most

The panelists offered their reflections. (The mindmap is here)

CG:The culture of disbelief – no one tells the truth. That’s the problem.

LN:The tension between the civil service corp and very steep decline of younger people coming into civil service. We need recognize the tension. Younger people need to consider the value of public service as a calling. This allows change from the inside to take place. We fool ourselves if our technical tools and data are the answer.

JG:Let’s be careful about saying “Them” when talking about government. Every organization – not matter how much it was rooted in dialogue. I wish that every group had a campaign manager as part of their board of directors to help think about the political implications. It recognizing that it is part of the system. Embrace the connections to other institutions no matter how much you want to get rid of them. Be honest about the negative aspects – stay as optimistic while being realistic. Realistic optimism.

JB: Aspects of system change. I’ve spent a lot of time with “them.” My hope around system change – there are great people working in all these enemy institutions. My questions – how can they come to know each other and know that they are not alone. How can we support that possibility in the institutional connections. How can we help these pioneers inside of these tough institutions to keep courage.

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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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