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Sustaining Dialogue & Deliberation Over Time

Written by NCDD director Sandy Heierbacher to expand upon the text on our “What Are Dialogue & Deliberation?” page.

Several strategies can ensure that the benefits of a dialogue or deliberation program are retained.

Sustain the Dialogue
While a single group may meet five or six times and agree to act together, the opportunity for many more groups to experience the process amplifies its effect. Even if hundreds of people participate in a single dialogue and deliberation process addressing racism in their community and transitioning from talk to collaborative community action, racism will of course not be eradicated. The community can benefit significantly from more dialogue, deliberation, and action.

One way to sustain dialogue is to continually engage on issues of concern. An organization may choose to host a monthly labor-management Bohmian dialogue open to all employees. A public engagement consortium in a metropolitan area may organize Conversation Cafés on political polarization in their city one year, National Issues Forums on health care the following year, and Study Circles on urban development the year after that. The more people become part of the decision-making process, the more they increase their collective capacity to solve their problems, fostering a sense of pride and connection to their organization or community.

Sustain the Action
When a dialogue or deliberation program generates collaborative action, time and resources devoted to supporting action teams and task forces is best included in the planning. Encouragement, support, and advice, fundraising and public relations all support outcomes.

Follow Up on Decisions and Recommendations
For deliberative processes presenting recommendations or consensus decisions to power-holders, periodic follow up with decision-makers helps ensure those recommendations were used. Publicizing the recommendations widely increases the pressure for utilizing the results. The benefit to leadership is recognition for taking people seriously. Ensuring participants feel that their time was well-spent increases the likelihood that they and others will participate in the future.

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