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Notes from Conference Call on Bias and Inclusion at NCDD Conferences

Here is a summary of ideas generated on our 5/12/08 call on inclusion and bias at NCDD conferences, and what we may do differently this year. Our thanks to Judith Mowry for putting these notes together!

On the call: Steven Fearing, Deborah Goldblatt, Rogier Gregoire, Sandy Heierbacher, Jacob Hess, Dave Joseph, Erin Kreeger, Lauren Kucera, Windy Lawrence, PJ Longoni, Diane Miller, Judith Mowry, Leanne Nurse, Catherine Orland, Nancy Polk, Polly Riddims, Landon Shultz, John Spady, Carrie Stewart, Brian Sullivan, Mary Thompson, Madeleine van Hecke

Not on the call, but want to be involved: Barbara Heffernan, J. Allen Johnson, Avril Orloff

Addressing issues of inclusion, bias, racism, social justice, etc. at NCDD conferences happens on three main levels…

  1. Interpersonal: Creating a safe space at the conference for everyone (People of Color, white folks, conservatives, young people, etc.) by balancing opportunities to be heard and to speak up with a sense that you won’t be attacked for saying the wrong thing
  2. Field/Community/NCDD: Walking our talk when it comes to issues of inclusion, through recruitment of underrepresented groups, diverse speakers and facilitators, and workshops on these issues
  3. Societal Level: Addressing issues of bias and inclusion in society by using dialogue and deliberation, through workshops, best practices, networking, etc.

Activities for NCDD 2008 that are already in the works:

  • Whiteness Learning Lab pre-conference workshop
  • Having volunteer “Listeners” as in 2004 and 2006

Interests of planning team members on the call:

  • Help every conference participant take a learning step on these issues.
  • Model and support a climate that is open to learning, asking questions, making mistakes, noticing. Letting people know that we all need to keep working on this.
  • Take care not to turn off people who are unawares. Make sure people feel comfortable raising questions about these issues, and aren’t worried about being judged.
  • Inclusion is a value, not an outcome. It needs to be integrated into the whole conference. We need to talk openly and frequently about issues of racism, power, and oppression.
  • While not the focus of the conference, activities that reinforce the importance of understanding and unlearning racism and oppression as a core value of who we are and the work we do.
  • Offering skill development for working with, interrupting and trying to move beyond inherent oppression in dialogue and deliberation forums.
  • Connecting all participants to the value of this difficult but rewarding journey.
  • Cultivating voice. Inviting, encouraging and supporting the voice of the traditionally underrepresented.
  • Providing opportunities for people to take a step toward greater understanding/curiosity from any level.

Ideas people plan to move on:

Bohmian dialogue opportunity. ROGIER will build on this and write something up for team on what this would look like.

Three-session workshop (one session each day): Day one: Getting to know each other, Day two: deep work, Day three: taking it home and into the future. (practitioner as activist/activist as practitioner). LANDON will work on draft proposal and see who else is interested in helping him flesh this out.

Plenary Session/group learning lab. Example: Model “high stress, high-stake, high-conflict” dialogue. (Proposal to focus on diversity of religious viewpoints/world views). SANDY is working on this.

  • Fishbowl observation
  • Table debrief focusing on issues of power/dominate perspective/ cultural value assumptions
  • Tying it together and connecting the dots for group on how it’s applicable to racism/oppression/power inequalities.

Workshop for people of color.

Conference thread/track on issues of inclusion and social justice (Sandy Heierbacher, Deborah Goldblatt, Windy Lawrence, Judith Mowry, Carrie Stewart, Landon Schultz, Rogier Gregoire, Leanne Nurse, and Dave Joseph are interested in helping design this)

Next Steps: Continue to develop ideas via email, conference calls and civic evolution. All agree to do best to stay focused and proposal based!

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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. Rogier Gregoire says:

    I am writing a short piece in Bohmian dialogue that will be avail- able in the next day or so. Personal demands on my time and energy have stood in the way of my posting this earlier. My apologies

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