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Introducing new supporting member Simon Wright

Note from Sandy:  Please join me in welcoming Simon Wright to NCDD, and consider responding to his questions at the end of this post. Are you a supporting or org member of NCDD?  If so, I encourage you to send me a nice intro like this for posting on the blog!

Kia ora! My name is Simon Wright. I live in Wellington, New Zealand, and have just become a paid up member of NCDD after a year or so of enjoying your rich discussions and occasionally participating in them.

I first heard about NCDD in 2007 when I was doing the Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement course at the University of Sydney. This was my first meaningful engagement with the theory and practices of D&D and I loved it. Lyn Carson, Jan Elliot and the North Americans based at Fielding University really gave me a sense of great possibilities. I remember some fantastic dialogues with the late Barnett Pearce.

I was lucky to be in a position to put some of my learning straight into practice. At the time, I worked for Toi te Taiao: the Bioethics Council (www.bioethics.org.nz), which was a very unusual government entity – independent, adequately funded and charged with advising the NZ government on the cultural, ethical and spiritual dimensions of biotechnology. Rather than being an expert body, the Council was made up of ‘lay people’, including a significant number of Maori. And the government required it to develop its advice by promoting and participating in public dialogue. In 2007-8, the Council ran its third major public dialogue project on the use of human reproductive technologies. The project was called ‘Who gets born? Pre-birth Testing’. Our process included a public framing of the issues, and face-to-face and online public deliberation. Our process was independently evaluated. After 3 previous attempts to host online dialogues, our work with Manon Abud at Ascentum (Ottawa) helped the online process become a revelation.

The Bioethics Council was disestablished in early 2009 after a change of government. Since then I’ve been working at the Wellington City Council and have managed to introduce some new ideas about involving the public in decision making. I have also been a Board member and worked on the Practice Development Sub-committee of IAP2 Australasia. I am particularly proud of the work Anne Pattillo and I led on the State of the Practice project, in which over 300 practitioners from 5 Australian states and from NZ helped make sense of data about public participation practice in our part of the world. The reports are available through this link – http://www.iap2.org.au/resources/cid/44/parent/0/t/resources/l/layout.

Having introduced myself, could I please ask for some help? I am part of a small group of Wellington City Council officers that has been charged with developing some thinking about the ‘future of communications’ as part of an internal review. I’d be very grateful if you would share any insights you think might be relevant for a small city council with about 200,000 people living in its patch on the other side of the world. Though small, Wellington is the capital of NZ. In NZ, a city council is responsible for community well-being and development, environmental health and safety, infrastructure, recreation and culture, and resource management (http://www.lgnz.co.nz/).

That said, my group has less than 3 weeks to write our report, so if you have ideas, questions, links to articles, etc to contribute, I’ll need them over the next few days. But this doesn’t need to be about my needs particularly – I think it would be interesting to explore the patterns and trends we know about and think about what the future might be. And my hunch is at least some patterns are similar in a lot of places.

Some starter questions:

  • What trends in communication, media, marketing, the web and public engagement do you think city councils should be taking into account as they plan for the future and review how they are do these functions?
  • What social, political and technological trends do city councils need to be aware of and what might their implications be cities and the ways authorities are organised and operate?
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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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