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What are your aspirations for your work in dialogue, deliberation and public engagement?

NCDD Board chair Marla Crockett posted this request on the NCDD Discussion list today. We’re looking to learn about your current aspirations for your work in dialogue and deliberation, and use what you share to design this year’s National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation. Feel free to reply via email to Marla or the listserv, or post your responses to the three questions using the comment field here on the NCDD Community blog.

Hi, Everyone—We hope you’ve heard the exciting news that NCDD will hold its biennial national conference in Seattle, WA., October 12-14! It promises to be another innovative and practical meeting–one where you can learn, connect with each other and feel supported. It will also provide a great way to celebrate NCDD’s 10th anniversary, so please plan to attend! Learn more here.

Sandy and the Board want the content of the meeting to be relevant to the issues confronting you and our entire field, so your answers to these three questions will help shape our programming. Write as little or as much as you like, but please send in your responses–especially if there’s a chance you’ll join us in Seattle.

  1. What are the aspirations you have for your work?
  2. What are the challenges you face in reaching these aspirations?
  3. How could the NCDD conference help you address the challenges you face and achieve the change you’d like to see?*

Thanks for your participation. We’ll report back on your answers, plus keep the conversation going so our agenda is collaborative, beneficial and rooted in your everyday problems and hopes.

Marla Crockett
Chair, NCDD Board

*This is an adaptation of Rich Harwood’s Aspirational Triangle, a tool The Harwood Institute has developed for community conversations. For more information, go to www.theharwoodinstitute.org.

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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. Will there be pre-conference workshops like in 2008?

    • We won’t be organizing a slew of pre-conference workshops as we’ve done in the past, Tim, but we’ll wait and see what interesting ideas bubble up for the day/evening before the conference. We might be holding an open-to-the-public community dialogue that night at the Seattle Center, as one of several things we’re doing with them for their Civic Action Month celebrations.

      In Austin, remember how we had three evening options: a conversation cafe, watching the Palen-Biden debate, or attending the pizza-and-beer session on online tools? That was a fun way to ease people into the conference, and that’s what I’d like to see bubble up for Seattle. Did you have an idea, or hope for a particular type of session?

  2. Daniel Clark says:

    One aspiration/challenge we have been working on at AmericaSpeaks is the challenge of scale. We have been known for doing large scale projects, but now, lots of people are saying large scale means hundreds of thousands and even millions of people. How might we get there? How can we translate the principles of dialogue and deliberation to such large scales? How can we promote good quality (if not high quality) dialogue online? How can we use television and partner with a wide range of media outlets to bring the transformative power of dialogue and deliberation to ever increasing numbers of people? Should we even be trying? These are some questions we would like to discuss at the NCDD conference in Seattle.

    • These are great questions to focus on in Seattle, Daniel! NCDD is looking at similar questions… how can we mobilize our members to work on the same issue, at around the same time, but using multiple approaches? Others are asking these questions, too — so this may be truly ripe for our field. Let’s touch base by phone about this soon.

    • Oh hey Daniel – if you sign up for a gravatar (gravatar.com) using the email address you tend to add comments with, your gravatar photo will appear in many blogs like this one automatically when you comment. You’ll need to do this once we add you as an NCDD blogger (finally) anywho, because that’s how we include author photos at the end of blog posts.

  3. Hi Sandy and Maria — thank you for asking these questions.

    The short version of response for me is below. Thanks for continuing to evolve the edges of our work in this field.

    1. Aspirations? — At the broadest level, to help reclaim a human story and memory of the expectation to turn to one another. To re-embody the experience of wholeness and all of the intelligence, clarity, heart that comes from that level of field connection. To remember fields. At a few levels down, to practice all of the above as operating system for the day to day that are part of our jobs, communities, causes. That I feel hungry for.

    2. Challenges? — I’ve heard and used the phrase, “It takes a field to host a field.” There is an ongoing inner journey that seems both deeply personal AND collective at the same time. It is about the skin we wear and the ground we hold in inviting self / other / community into engagement. To welcome the unfamiliar and the not-knowing as learning pattern with each other — that’s a nice repatterning challenge.

    3. How to help? — Offer format that welcomes some self-organized “to the edge” conversations. Would be oh so lovely!

    • Marla Crockett says:

      Hi, Tenneson–Thanks so much for your answers to the questions. Could you flesh out what you mean by “self-organized ‘to the edge’ conversations”? It sounds like you’re interested in an opportunity for Open Space discussions. Is that right? I think it could be a great complement to a more formal agenda, so let me know if I’m on target here.
      Take care,

  4. Larry Bell says:

    At the Museum of Science in Boston, we have been experimenting with various forms of dialogue and deliberation connected with societal implications of new and emerging technologies for almost nine years. Now the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) has launched support for a community of practice around public engagement of with science. About 120 people showed up for the launch meeting representing 86 organizations — mostly science museums. We’d like to bring this community up to speed with respect to techniques of dialogue and deliberation and help them gain some confidence and expertise at employing those techniques in their educational activities. The NCDD conference seems like it could help with that, but unfortunately this year the NCDD conference and the ASTC conference are on exactly the same dates. So we will have to use other means to connect ASTC folks with the great resources that NCDD has available. We are about to launch some online discussion forums for professional development of this group and perhaps we can hook folks up with NCDD through that mechanism.

    • Marla Crockett says:

      Thanks for writing, Larry. Looking at Dennis’s comment right below yours, I see a connection. You’re both interested in embedding D&D in institutions. And the scientific community is an incredibly important one, I think, given the bio-ethical dilemmas that are and will be confronting society. So, kudos to you for that work!

      You also mentioned online discussion forums. This seems like another interest area for members: doing quality online work. So, thanks very much for your thoughts.

  5. In Texas, the Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities (CEDD) was created by Senate Bill 501 in 2011 to help address disproportionality and disparities in Texas health and human services. The focus is on health, child welfare, education, and juvenile justice.

    By maximizing resources and producing better results through the development of strategies, the intent is to effect every system that contributes to disproportionality and disparities for the same populations.
    Courageous Conversations are held w/ different community-based faith, education, court, and citizen groups. It is paramount to discover how to conduct these conversations, in order to achieve understanding by attendees of the impact of these issues, and the value of supporting needed change. I am totally open to receiving ideas from NCDD members to consider. Gratefully, MKW

  6. Dennis Boyer says:

    RE: NCDD Seattle
    NCDD events are always great for networking and exposure to ideas you didn’t know to ask about in the first place. That said I am mostly focused on 1. learning more about experiences with D&D embedding in institutions and 2. expanding the D&D toolkit on thorny and complex issues (currently dealing with climate change).

    NCDD Seattle will hopefully be a place where I can hear stories and ask questions about #1 and hear about experiences in the realm of #2.

    By the way, I may have a climate discussion guide draft ready by then and would be happy to “test it” if there’s an appropriate venue there.

    • Marla Crockett says:

      Hi, Dennis–I appreciate your taking the time to write. Your first point hits squarely on what a lot of people are hoping for. Your second point about “expanding the D&D toolkit”: Are you talking about online tools, or ways to frame such issues? I want to make sure I’m clear about what you have in mind…As for vetting your climate discussion guide, that’s an interesting idea; we’ll see what else bubbles up that might support that kind of peer review. Let me know if anything else occurs to you.

  7. Aspirations – We would like to initiate a standing program for public dialogues on themes related to the shows that we are doing in the theater either prior to or after performances (case by case) to take our mission point of inspiring our community to become not just consumers, but true citizens.

    Challenges – Finding the right people in the community to help facilitate and panel these talks who are qualified representatives from whatever field the talk is based on, who would collaborate with us at the theater to create these talks.

    Help – Perhaps establish a network resource for potential panelists, respondents and facilitators?

    This is work we truly want to begin pushing, but we currently just do not have the personnel to make it happen. If anyone is reading this local to Tampa and might be interested in being a liason between the theater and the community in preparing and executing these tasks, please feel free to write me at djenkins AT jobsitetheater DOT org.

  8. Helen Spector says:

    thanks, Marla and Sandy, for putting out the invitation.

    My aspirations for our work is that we do it together and in a way that reflects the principles that support dialogue, deliberation and sustainable relationships. One challenge is finding each other in real time and actually doing the good work that is needed. We have so many different fields and issues within each geographic area, and different approaches and methodologies that we love to use…

    So I have hopes about how at the conference we might engage about some of the more integrative or broadly supporting principles and approaches that could help us continue to build our own socially cohesive community of practice.

    One of these that I find to be powerful, both for myself and for those with whom I have shared it, is the perspective, stance, and skill set around Seeing Polarities developed by Barry Johnson over the years. I hope that we can find a way to include Barry and his work in the conference, both personally and thematically.

    With the increasing polarization of public and personal rhetoric that we see in the world around us at all levels, I can think of no greater contribution that we can make to our own capabilities as practitioners and citizens than learning about seeing polarities and working with them to build bridges and illuminate conversations that matter about the things that we value most.

    • Marla Crockett says:

      Hi, Helen–Thanks very much for your reply. I don’t think you’re alone in struggling to make sense of complicated issues and various methodologies, so we’ll see how that plays out as a theme. Also, thanks for mentioning Barry Johnson’s work; I’m not terribly familiar with it, but will do more research.
      All the best,

  9. Greg Mowat says:

    Aspiration: Being new to ncdd, I look forward to meeting,learning from,and engaging as many new friends as possible – My interest in ncdd grows from public work, labor movement activities, community organizing, and conflict transformation involvement (successful and not so successful…..) – I aspire to continue to contribute/serve; to strive and not to yield to greed,ignorance, and fear.

    Challenges: My greatest challenge is remaining open and vunerable, I see the conference as an excellent opportunity to engage this challenge making new friends and learning more about being human.

    How can the conference help: I know that the conference will help by being a place of joy,loving kindness, and inviting conversation – I would encourage everyone who participates to bring their best selves to Seattle in October!! P.S. I am willing to devote some volunteer time to help out if that is appropriate; I live in Tacoma just to the south of Seattle and have flexibility as a freelancer to invest some time!! Peace, Greg Mowat

    • Courtney Breese says:

      Hi Greg,
      Welcome to NCDD and thanks for sharing with us your aspirations and challenges. You will certainly be among friends at the conference!
      Thanks also for mentioning your willingness to help out – if you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to fill out the Interest Form at https://ncdd.org/events/ncdd2012/interest-form so we know more about how you would like to be involved!

  10. Hi, and thanks for inviting us in with these questions. I am relatively new to NCDD/D&D as an independent practitioner, but I have been a facilitator and convener in many government contexts over the past 20+ years.

    I would like to see the core values and guiding principles of D&D replicated at all scales, to give meaningful input to people, regarding decisions and issues that affect them. I also have a strong background in complexity theory and its application to human dynamics. I want to expand my understanding of how to apply this lens to the work of designing and convening dialogue.

    My greatest challenge is rather the flip side of my experience strength. As a person who has been an internal change leader for 30 years, I never had to go out and “sell” or seek work. As an independent, I am new to this, and frankly it is not my personal strength. So for me, it would be very helpful to learn from others about building a dialogue consulting practice.


    Bruce Waltuck, M.A., Complexity, Chaos, and Creativity

    • Lucas Cioffi says:

      Hi, Bruce, well said. I think many NCDD members have similar sentiment– we’d all rather focus on doing the work rather than selling the work. The conference will be a great place for addressing this topic.

  11. Great questions, great invitation, great responses so far… thank you, all!

    1. my aspirations… to help develop our collective capacity for tapping into conflict as an abundant and sustainable resource for creativity and wholeness.

    2. my challenges thus far… how to make a contribution, without being seen as “pushing” a particular product? Yes, I do have a “method” to add to the mix… and, I also feel strongly that EACH of our “methods”, has its own unique gift to offer the larger whole…. and that there is enormous potential synergy both among our various “methods”, and, among our various communities of practice.

    3. NCDD’s contribution to all this… you are doing it, by hosting the fields where we can play, connect, learn from one another… thank you!!!

  12. Patricia Fernandez says:

    Hello All!

    What are the aspirations you have for your work? Thank you for asking these relevant questions and giving us a forum to post our thoughts. I will be graduating from NSU with a M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution soon and I want to work as a facilitator. My practicum experience was with Turning the Tide on Poverty through Community Circles and I am now a Independent Service Provider. I facilitated 2 Community Circles, wrote articles in the community newspaper, was interviewed on the radio and connected the participants with extension agents, resources with funds to assist them, and worked with some great people! I learned so much, and now I know that I want to be a full time facilitator. Oh yeah, and for the first time in the program a group of women and I translated marketing material, handouts, and parts of our facilitator manual into the Spanish language. We worked in a small rural town with mostly hispanic and haitian citizens. The difference created by having material in their own language was amazing! From this experience I was invited to a two day workshop at the Kettering Foundation and named a “Champion” by them. A Champion is a person who is one of the reasons the program succeeded in the area it was introduced. It felt so good to be recognized and also very humbling at the same time. I was so happy to make a difference in the lives of the participants; and the professionals I dealt with taught me so much about public engagement. I want to continue to help the hispanic community understand that they already have the tools to make their voices heard, they only need guidance and an excellent program like Community Circles to bring that voice out into the community.

    What are the challenges you face in reaching these aspirations? The challenges I am facing in reaching the aspiration of being a full time facilitator and helping others in small communities engage in dialogue was, and still is that I am only one person. As a independent person who is a volunteer, or an intern, or a “champion”, I am tied to only what I can do when time permits. I have a family that needs me to contribute to the finances, yet I have this passion to help my community. How do I bridge the gap between doing what I love and taking care of my families’ needs? How can I work as a third party neutral when I am not one of the core team members? I do work as a Group Discussion leader in the AVID program at the local middle school, but it is only a few hours a week.

    How could the NCDD conference help you address the challenges you face and achieve the change you’d like to see?* I have so many ideas about how we could put people with the same goals together to move programs forward that deal with communities and education. I actually suggested some of these ideas to the core team. One idea was to use students from the Conflict Analysis and Resolution program to work as the facilitators in the communities already associated with Community Circles. Another was creating Cyber Community Circles, another was a complete translation of the manual to Spanish and Creole. I guess the way that the NCDD conference would help is to continue doing what you do. Keep up the dialogue and get groups together that have the same goals. Use concepts like the 4 Frame Approach by Bolman and Deal to look at interactions between companies, employees, communities, and any one who works with others to look at the issues through the structural, human resources, political, and symbolic lenses. Thank you for letting me post my thoughts and I wish you all success. Patricia Fernandez

    • Marla Crockett says:

      Patricia–Sorry for the lag time getting back to you, but I appreciate your taking the time to write. I’m sure others share your hopes and concerns, so we’ll see what we can do to help at the NCDD conference. I hope we’ll see you there!
      All the best,
      Marla Crockett

  13. Here’s a brief summary from NCDD Board chair Marla Crockett of the great responses we’ve gotten to these questions…

    Hi, Everyone–Thanks very much to those of you who’ve responded to our questions about your aspirations and challenges and NCDD’s conference in Seattle. We want to make sure that the meeting represents your concerns and interests when we all get together October 12-14, so here’s what you’ve told us so far:

    – You want to be and do your best in this field. That includes learning more about the business end of things: how to access funding, build a practice, earn a living, utilize valued techniques yet expand your toolkit, and connect with others doing this work.
    – There’s a desire to help embed dialogue and deliberation practices in communities and institutions, to involve the arts, take on complex issues, understand online tools and options, engage youth, build an infrastructure, and scale the work to large populations.

    It’s not surprising to hear a combination of personal and professional hopes and challenges. NCDD conferences have addressed both in the past, and I’m sure we’ll do that again this year. So, in order to make sure our programming is as thorough as possible, please add your voice to the mix. Tell us which points mentioned above resonate with you the most. Add to the list if you think something is missing.

    Thanks for keeping the conversation moving, and please plan to join us in Seattle this fall!

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