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Catalyst Entry: “Real Dialogues: D&D Reality Show”

The world needs more dialogue and deliberation in order to successfully address challenging social issues, yet most people still aren’t aware of the possibilities. By producing a pilot for a highly engaging reality show based on deliberative practices, the Real Dialogues project will introduce D&D to a broad public. This easily reproducible format will help our field gain mainstream visibility.


Tim Bonnemann
Intellitics, Inc., Founder & CEO

Maria Hadden
The Participatory Budgeting Project, Project Coordinator

Evelyn Messinger
Digital Citizen, President


Working with local partner organizations, this project will create safe, facilitated (online) dialogue spaces and document how ordinary citizens can, despite their differences, engage in extraordinary conversations. Real Dialogues will introduce “bridge building” as a new and exciting alternative to the status quo and will, over time, increase the demand for D&D services at all levels.


Jon Denn

Vic Desotelle
Intellitics, Inc.

Henry Williams


The Project: “Real Dialogues: D&D Reality Show” (working title)

We are media producers, conveners, organizers and technologists who want to bring D&D to a wider audience. We understand that facilitation is crucial for effective communication on difficult issues. Small-group meetings, whether face-to-face or online, tend to be most effective to encourage people to listen and connect with one another.

In times of crisis or when dealing with divisive issues, the lack of a common space where people can gather to talk is sharply felt.

The Internet, with its one-to-one and many-to-many communication capabilities, seems an ideal environment in which to address this problem. While tools are now available that can meet this need, like Google Hangout, barriers to their easy use have slowed their adoption. Nonetheless, the promise of these tools, to provide an ongoing space for dialogue, is clearly recognized.

Through this project we aim to create a model and encourage the video dialogue format; host, promote, and disseminate dialogues online; and provide technical advise and best practices to users of the video dialogue. By creating a model for online video dialogue we will be able to work out processes (finding participants, getting them online, and assuring quality discussions) and share best practices with others so that the format can be easily replicated.

The Plan

Working with one or more partner organizations on the ground, we will host facilitated (online) dialogues around an issue of local or regional importance. For the purpose of this pilot, we will rely primarily on live video chat (e.g. Google Hangouts). To the extent possible and as much as our resources allow, we may integrate in-person dialogues also. We will record, share and archive the conversations on a website that we jointly manage. On the website we will also provide instructions and facilitation guides for others that wish to use the format and provide a space for their dialogues to be shared on our website (citizen-generated content). Working with NCDD members and others, we will program regular content for the site aimed at building bridges of understanding through dialogue and technology.


To create a series of 3 rounds of facilitated dialogues, each among nine or fewer people and one facilitator per session, using the Google Hangouts video conferencing technology. Dialogues will be recorded and shared online via a website and social media. Members of the general public and selected groups will be invited to participate. The resulting videos will be edited to provide content clips that are more accessible and shareable with a larger audience. The subject will be chosen close to the time of the event.

One facilitator will be in control of each conversation, which will continue for 1 to 2 hours. We will work with facilitators to decide exactly how many participants, whether some participants can leave and be replaced, and other such questions. Our facilitation partners will also help decide how to frame the issue and which other options may be worth exploring that might lend themselves for video (e.g. group role playing), and we will work with them from the outset to get the most from the event.

Project Timeline & Milestones

The following are estimated time frames from the date of the award announcement:

  • Create project web presence (week 1-2)
  • Identify local/regional partner organization(s) (week 2-6)
  • Design public dialogue program, incl. outreach and digital engagement components (month 1-2)
  • Plan, organize and host the first three (video) dialogues (month 2-3)
  • Solicit participants and moderate citizen-generated content (month 2-4)
  • Deliver pilot show or series of pilot shows (month 3-5)
  • Documentation, final project presentation to NCDD community, expore next steps (month 5-6)

Our goal is to have the pilot project completed by the Summer of 2013.

The Budget

$10,000 may not seem like a big budget, but it could create and maintain the Real Dialogues Pilot Project. The estimated basic budget breakdown looks as follows:

  • Webdesign and hosting: $1,000
  • Stipends for facilitators: $1,000 (e.g. 20h at $50/hour)
  • Video editing: $1,000 (e.g. 20h at $50/hour)
  • Outreach, promotion & marketing: $2,000
  • Documentation, creation of technical materials: $1,500
  • Stipends for project leaders: $3,000
  • Other: $500

Total: $10,000

The Team

Tim Bonnemann is the founder and CEO of Intellitics, a digital engagement startup based in San José, CA. Intellitics helps organizations in the public, private and non-profit sector apply information and communications technology to engage their communities in well-structured, well-facilitated conversations and other participatory processes, particularly in the context of collaborative problem solving and decision making.

Maria Hadden – A resident of Chicago, Maria first became involved with deliberative processes as a mediator and mediation trainer. She is an AmeriCorps*VISTA alum, earned her B.A. in International Peace and Conflict Studies at The Ohio State University and a M.S. in Public Service Management from DePaul University. She now works as a Project Coordinator for The Participatory Budgeting Project helping communities design their own participatory budgeting processes.

Evelyn Messinger is president of Citizenchannel, a pioneer in citizen engagement media since 1998 that connects Americans to their leaders, each other, and the world. The non-profit serves as a strategic partner in innovative media design for television, Internet and multiple platform media projects.


Vic Desotelle, Intellitics, Inc.

Henry Williams

Governance Plan

Who makes decisions?
As much as possible, the project team will make decisions by rough consensus. If necessary, the project coordinators will be the ultimate decision makers.

When and how will we meet?
We will have regulary (e.g. weekly or bi-monthly) planning calls to discuss project progress and management.
We will meet via Google Hangout and/or conference calls.

How will we communicate updates to the NCDD community?
The project website will allow anyone who is interested to follow the project in detail.
We will provide regular (e.g. monthly) updates from our meetings on project status and share ways NCDD members can get involved.

After the Pilot: Opportunities for Moving Forward

Provided the pilot project is successful, we envision many concrete opportunities how this approach could evolve and spread in the future:

1) Given proper additional funding, the “show” could continue for some time, regularly engaging communities across the country on various issues. This would allow the format to mature, attract a network of collaborators etc.
2) After a while, the pilot and potential follow-up projects could serve as a template for others to create their own mass media entertainment formats.
3) An effort could be made to get this format to a level where it might actually air on TV (the real thing).
4) At some point, once a certain level of capacity has been built to create D&D reality shows or other related entertainment formats, a special task force could be established that can be called in to rapidly develope and deliver this type of content in crisis situations or other scenarios that require a quick response.

Link to your Catalyst Awards page on CivicEvolution:

Link to Additional Web Presence

Questions? Email Tim at tim@intellitics.com.