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Summary of Demonstration Project Idea

The idea of an NCDD-led “demonstration project” emerged at the 2008 NCDD conference from a two-part workshop titled “How can WE revitalize democracy with D&D?” The workshop was co-led by DeAnna Martin of the Center for Wise Democracy and Adin Rogovin of the Co-Intelligence Institute.

The workshop brought together method leaders and practitioners in a dynamically facilitated fishbowl conversation to explore how we can weave together our work to enhance democracy. Workshop attendees were invited to observe the process and a couple of chairs in the fishbowl were left available so audience members could join in.  At different times the fishbowl conversation included: Tom Atlee, Theo Brown, Lucas Cioffi, Peggy Holman, Sen. Les Ihara, Julianna Padgett, Pete Peterson, Jim Rough, Elliot Shuford, John Spady, Patricia Wilson, Landon Shultz, Alexander Moll and others.

A demonstration project could…

  1. Give us the opportunity to collaborate on a tangible project that helps us learn and move forward together
  2. Generate momentum and resources for ongoing, sustainable, integrated method use
  3. Help us learn how to better meet the interests of decision makers
  4. Introduce a variety of D&D methods into governance, and integrate these methods into a system that is a citizen platform for having citizens make wise decisions in an inclusive way
  5. Build capacity at the local level and build capacity for our field – through capturing case studies, stories, and bringing leaders together to learn from one another
  6. Funnel into national processes (and vice versa)

A few standout ideas/thoughts from the workshop…

  • Create a system of conversation (utilizing multiple D&D methods) that is outcome-oriented. Experiment with new processes and see which ones work under which circumstances.
  • Find a city that’s ready (perhaps one with a concentration of D&D professionals) that NCDD could put resources into to create a model for a demonstration project.
  • NCDD could provide a national framework for local demonstrations. Framework would include funding or grantmaking, principles of quality public engagement, strategic partnerships and research.
  • Any demonstration needs to be a part of an overall strategy of NCDD about how D&D can best serve the world in its current situation.

What might a Demonstration Project look like?  One vision…

NCDD would form a national advisory group that represents a variety of different D&D technologies and streams of practice. (There is a lot of interest in this already, from the conference workshops and meetings.) This group would select a city in which to run an initial demonstration project.

We would work with our local D&D contacts to begin forming a local design team. The local design team would eventually include process experts, community leaders, elected officials, local funders and representatives from the business community, and would represent the ethnic makeup of the community. The NCDD advisory group would work with the local design team to draw up a preliminary project plan and secure funding from local and/or national foundations.

The local team would be tasked with utilizing and integrating a variety of D&D approaches/technologies to address a specific community issue, utilizing whenever appropriate the advisory group members and the expertise in the larger NCDD community. The local team would be informed and empowered, but not over-powered or controlled, by the national group. Working with the national advisory group, the local team would be guided by nationally-determined principles for quality engagement, and would focus their efforts and assessment on the 5 challenges from the conference:

  1. Making D&D integral to our public and private systems.
  2. Framing this work in an accessible, compelling way.
  3. Demonstrating to powerholders that D&D works.
  4. Strengthening the link between D&D and community action and policy change.
  5. Addressing issues of oppression and bias at all levels of this work.

The demonstration projects would focus on building capacity at the local level, while building capacity for the greater field by capturing capturing case studies and stories, generating useful data about outcomes and challenges, and bringing together leaders to learn from one another. Locally, we would be working toward the ambitious goal of creating a system of practitioners, tools and supporters that collectively create a “citizen platform” for local issues.

NCDD as grant-maker? Another possibility…

Some people in the workshop were drawn to the idea of NCDD providing grants to cities/communities for local demonstration projects.  Common Sense California came up as a model for this. Pete Peterson explained that CSC has a lean structure – an advisory committee, board, small staff – and they were able to put their program grantmaking together in 3 months. According to Pete, a grant program puts a lot of the work in the hands of the applicants, not the organization.

Having cities compete for grants could bring a lot of attention to NCDD and the selected projects, and can enable people to define what civic engagement means to them. NCDD would establish criteria, such as incorporation into the local decision-making process or requirements for specific resources that NCDD can’t provide. Some suggested criteria of a grantmaking competition include a code of ethics or principles of quality D&D engagement, including a principle of “taking your hands off the wheel of the result.”

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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. […] in Austin? What role would NCDD have? What role could outside NCDD members/method leaders have? See http://www.thataway.org/events/?p=221 for more info about the demonstration project idea that came out of the 2008 NCDD […]

  2. John Spady says:

    Sounds like a good start. I especially like the idea of a national NCDD competition to draw attention to “what works” across the country. National exposure goes almost as far as a healthy grant.
    -John Spady, Seattle

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