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Lessons, Insights & Reflections from Central Texas D&Ders

Sunni Brown image

The text and images below were originally posted to the Texas Forums blog by Taylor Willingham, and can also be found here. I wanted to include them on the conference blog as well since the main organizers of this gathering are members of the 2008 conference planning team and, in part, they held this meeting to raise awareness of NCDD Austin. I also wanted to show off these fabulous graphic recordings by Sunni Brown and summit participants!

The “Central Texas D&D Summit” held last Saturday (April 19th) brought together 30 advocates of dialogue, deliberation and community engagement in the Central Texas region at the LBJ Library. Participants represented a range of sectors – civic, government, business, non-profit/NGO, education – with a myriad of expertise and knowledge both on issues and approaches, from smaller-scale group dialogues to large, multi-stakeholder initiatives.

While the NCDD 2008 conference was an incentive to convene this group (as well as a capstone project of University of Texas student Jenny Meigs and her professor Patricia Wilson), the ultimate goal is to develop a learning community in Central Texas that can build on the wisdom of so many creative people dedicated to D&D and community engagement. The group hopes to “build a community of practice where we can share our insights, apply what we have learned and deepen the conversation.”

Check out Taylor’s other two Texas Forums blog posts about the Summit: What’s New and Good in Central Texas? and Central Texas D&D Summit.

Much, much more after the break…

The participants in the small groups at the Central Texas D&D Summit had almost 45 minutes to share the lessons and insights they have gained during the course of their dialogue and deliberation work.

Steven Fearing set up the groups with the following comments…

  • This meeting is not a workshop on dialogue and deliberation techniques. Instead it is an opportunity for us to get to know each other and to document what we have done and learned. More importantly, we want to build relationships and find out how we can work together in the future.
  • You will be working in small groups at five tables
  • Each table has a facilitator
  • You have a template prepared by Sunni where you can capture in words and pictures from your group’s dialogue.
  • You will have 45 minutes for this portion and should feel free to take breaks as needed
  • Goal for our time in these small groups is to share and capture key learning, insights, and challenges related to dialogue and deliberation in community work.
  • After 45 minutes, we will come together to capture common themes – such as assets and resources, challenges and opportunities. Sunni will help us integrate all of the ideas we discuss in our groups and chart on our templates into a graphic narrative.

Each group had a beautiful graphic map drawn by Sunni Brown where they could capture their insights. The groups were lightly facilitated by Rod Reyna, Susan Schultz, Tobin Quereau, and Mary Thompson. The facilitators charged the participants:

  • Think of a time when you brought people together to work on an issue or community problem. What lessons have you learned about using dialogue and deliberation for helping people work together? These may be lessons you learned from your successes or things you learned that you would do differently.
  • Think also about challenges you have faced and what you would like to do better, and
  • What else do you need to be more effective in using dialogue and deliberation in your work with communities?

Here are the results of their small group dialogue:

Yellow Group

yellow group
Yellow Group Participants: Susan Schultz, Neil Meili, Stephanie Nestlerode, Steve Swanson, Lindsay LeBlanc

Blue Group

Blue Group Participants: Mary Thompson, Ed Sharpe, Margaret Valenti, Robyn Emerson, Oliver Markley, Patricia Wilson

Red Group

Red Group Participants: Tobin Quereau, Ann Brudno, Jenny Meigs, Tom Moran, Landon Shultz, Mike Aaron, Leilani Rose

Green Group

Green Group Participants: Rod Reyna, Sherry Lowry, Robena Jackson, Cathey Capers, Juli Fellows, Steven Fearing

As the participants described their templates, Sunni captured their themes:


Prior to the reporting out and reflection, Erin Kreeger and Taylor Willingham had a charge for the group:

As you listen to the groups’ posting their templates, listen for assets and opportunities. Think about the opportunities that you identified in this room that will help you in your work. Perhaps you identified asset or opportunities that involve:

  • Connecting with someone else in this room or someone who needs to be part of this community
  • Participation in an event or activity
  • Contributing your expertise or resources

Make note of the ideas as they come to you. After every group describes their template we will have time for collective reflection that Sunni will capture for us in graphic form.

Here are some of the opportunities the group identified to connect:


In keeping with our spirit of reflection and “continuous improvement” (that term is here for Charles’ benefit!) Charles Knickerbocker led us in a period of reflection on the meeting. He asked them what worked and what did we need more of. Here’s what the group had to say:

what worked

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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. Tobin Quereau says:

    I was there, I saw it happening, and I still can’t believe the quality of these graphic images that Sunni was able to create as the action was taking place!!

    This is a lasting legacy of that rewarding morning and I really appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it.

    Thanks, Sunni, and the others who worked so hard to bring this about!

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