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What would YOU like to Confab about?

I’d like to get your ideas on topics for future NCDD Confabs: conference calls and webinars for NCDD members where we explore key issues in the dialogue & deliberation community and encourage new connections among members.

Confab bubble imageWe held several great Confabs last year before we became neck-deep in planning the regional events.  We held a webinar with Beth Offenbacker to talk about an upcoming Public Decisions online conference, a conference call with John Engle to discuss the role our community members could play in disaster recovery in Haiti, a conference call with Martin Carcasson to discuss his work on the goals of dialogue & deliberation, and a Maestro call hosted by Amy Lenzo about online engagement strategies.

The Maestro call was our most popular yet, with about 80 people calling into that Confab!  (See the wonderful graphic recording that Teresa Bidlake created on the call.)

I’d like to get us back in the habit of holding regular NCDD Confabs, and I’d love your ideas. What topics, questions, challenges, etc. would you want to focus on?  What thought leaders would draw you?  And perhaps most importantly, who among you would be interested in organizing or leading a Confab call, and on what topics?  Please comment here and share your ideas!

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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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We always encourage a lively exchange of ideas, whether online or off. Questions? Please feel free to contact us directly.

  1. Lucas Cioffi says:

    I enjoyed a bunch of the confabs last year. I'd like to see one from the perspective of former public sector employee discussing what government really thinks about public engagement, especially their fears and goals.

  2. I am most interested in new/cutting edge approaches to facilitate D&D. It may be that these approaches are about tools (the Maestro call was great on this) or more general areas like the application of system dynamics models to help untangle complexity.

    If it was of interest to NCDD members I'd be happy to host a call around best practices in supporting ongoing community-based dialogue projects. Our longest running multi-stakeholder coalition is entering its 12 year operating in a dialogue-based approach.

  3. Michele Holt-Shannon says:

    I am interested in discussing recruitment strategies for public engagement dialogues. Particularly, recruiting marginalized and underrepresented groups AND ways we can and cannot offset barriers to attendance. For example, I see no issue with offering childcare but feel some dissonance when offering a $25 – $50 gas card to help folks attend or offset lost wages. Would love to talk more about this with colleagues facing similar questions.

  4. Carrie Stewart says:

    I would be interested in a Confab on individual or close-community dialogue on decision making, problem-solving and holding difficult conversations.

  5. Ted Heinz sent this comment to me today:

    I would like to hear more what people are thinking and planning regarding a Transpartisan movement. I would like to hear from Tom Atlee from his perspective and from others that may be organizing actions that fit into the conceptual framework of trans-partisanship.

    (I like this idea a lot, by the way. I think there's a lot going on in the transpartisan realm but it's unclear who the major players are and whether the "transpartisan" meme/term is truly catching on. – Sandy)

  6. Great idea, Lucas. Maybe our featured speakers on a call about what gov't really thinks about PE could be someone who's already part of NCDD and comfortable talking to our community — like Larry Schooler (community engagement coordinator for the City of Austin) and Paul Leistner, director of the City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement. Can I ask why you suggested a FORMER public sector employee? Are you thinking a current public sector employee wouldn't be able to be as forthright?

  7. Joseph – thank you so much for the offer to host a Confab call! When you talk about best practices in supporting ongoing community-based dialogue projects, I think about the issue of embeddedness or institutionalization (basically, creating sustainable structures that ensure dialogue and deliberation are part of the way we address problems in our communities). Is this along the lines of what you're suggesting?

  8. Susan Clark called me today and made two great suggestions for Confab calls:

    1. How are people using the arts in their dialogue work? (Basic practices like starting with music or poetry to inspire a deeper discussion, or much more complex ways of integrating the arts into D&D practice.)

    2. What is civic education's role in dialogue? How can we ensure participants have a basic understanding of issues, of the political process, etc.?

  9. John Backman says:

    Some great ideas here. I also resonate with Lucas's suggestion. If one of our desires is to draw public officials into greater use of D&D, it would make eminent sense to find out what their wants, needs, and constraints are.

  10. Be happy to be part of a call like the one Lucas described. Definitely interested in more confabs about community problem-solving, particularly in the area of long-range strategic planning, where there's less of an immediate controversy and more of a challenge getting people into dialogue.

    Would LOVE a Confab where we discuss bringing hard-to-reach populations into dialogue–people with limited English proficiency, transportation challenges, physical/mental disabilities, etc.

  11. Uncle Myth says:

    Off the top of my head, "Decreasing Dependence-on-Money by Giving" In other words, encourage giving without payment whenever possible (not by 'asking for stuff for free,' but by 'giving stuff for free whether thus asked or not').

  12. Iyobosa Ekhato says:

    The International Institute for Environment and Development has an amazing structure which I think would be excellent for NCDD webinars. They are hosting a travelling series of "provocation" seminars to challenge convention wisdom. It would be interesting to adopt their structure but to focus the provocation seminars on the current state and the future of D&D.

    I am particularly interested in the application of D&D in international development (like participatory budgeting), urban governance…how it syncs with indigenous knowledge systems and practices, application to interfaith practice.

  13. At CommunityMatters, we've also been experimenting with a series of conference calls on various topics related to community building (www.communitymatters.org/conference-calls). We're just about to start planning topics for the next few months and we're very excited about experimenting and partnering with others. Perhaps a joint CM-NCDD call? If that's of interest, let me know! I know there are a number of people in our circle interested in dialogue and associated topics like storytelling, conflict resolution, tools for engagement, etc. I'd be excited to connect about this!

  14. I received this via email from Courtney Breese, NCDD Board member and Program Coordinator at the MA Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC)…

    A couple other ideas come to mind (you can share these if you think there's anything to them):

    1. There's still a lot of interest and questions around online tools for D&D. Presenting some case studies may be the best way to address how these tools can support other D&D processes or how they can bring D&D to the online community. I didn't get to participate in the previous call on online engagement strategies, so I'm not sure if this has already been done but I know from the Boston event there is still a great interest there.

    2. Evaluation and measures of success – another theme I heard in planning the regional event.

    Lucas' idea is also great – I'm guessing he's thinking a current public sector employee wouldn't be able to be as open as practitioners would like. I do think though there is also room to engage other current public sector employees to speak on how public engagement/D&D has been useful/successful to them – and practitioners could learn some valuable insight into what is most important to the public sector, how they might want to frame the opportunities with D&D, etc.

  15. Greetings,

    I am new to the NCDD community, however what I imagine may be valuable would be hearing from those who are actively trying to apply psychological and clinical insights to social, political contexts. My work focuses on how to best support people by recognizing complex psychological dimensions of chronic issues (such as environment), through considering innovative practices and processes in engagement, outreach, communications, and participatory actions.

    My work is situated in the context of a growing community of practitioners and researchers who are interested in addressing emotional or affective dimensions of complex political and social issues. I call what I do, "the myth of apathy" and I am actively seeing communities of practice to work with. I am a trained qual researcher, so recently I've been working with groups on redesigning methods used for exploring public perceptions and views, to get "deeper" insights into the dilemmas or conflicts, emotions that may come up (and make engagement or action more difficult). This work, in other words, can be applied to many levels or stages of public engagement and outreach work, from strategy to group process (workshops, focus groups, etc), to messaging.

    I'd like to see this area – psychologically informed political engagement work – featured and highlighted – either nominating myself, or other colleagues working in a similar spirit (I can suggest them offline as I don't want to promote them without their permission).


    Renee Lertzman


  16. Laura Walth says:

    It would be interesting to hear how public libraries are using D&D to bring the public together at their local libraries.

  17. The above are all topics I'd like to hear more about. Continuing needs I experience are

    A) explaining civic engagement, D&D, etc. succinctly and eloquently to potential supporters or donors;

    B) getting from the report on dialog results to action, and then maintaining commitment by those charged with implementation;

    C) raising public awareness of civic engagement opportunities – maybe that's raising faith that the opportunities are real?

  18. I would be happy to be part of a discussion of the sort Lucas describes. I'd REALLY like to hear a discussion about ways for reaching "hard-to-reach" populations–seniors, the disabled (mentally and physically), youth, people for whom English is not their most comfortable language, etc.

  19. I could offer a case study design on DD of the Inter Faith Gathering in Montserrat Spain in 2004,Reconciliation 2006,Reproductive Health Care in N India.2009

    Also Leadership in Action using DD and 4Q awareness

  20. A suggestion from Martin Carcasson:

    I remember hearing wonderful things at the NCDD conference in Austin about a theories of change panel that I was not able to attend. I can’t remember who ran the panel, but could probably go back and figure it out if you don’t know off hand, Sandy. (Note from Sandy: Maggie Herzig and Lucy Perry ran a workshop on this topic. So did Philip Thomas. And I think Will Friedman and Alison Kadlec from Public Agenda did something on change strategies and action outcomes as well.)

  21. Tim Bonnemann says:

    Lots of great topic suggestions, everyone!

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