Pre-Conference Options for NCDD 2016

The 2016 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation is just around the corner, and we wanted to bring your attention to some cool options that are happening the day before the conference — Thursday, October 13th.

bumper_sticker_600pxAs you know, NCDD 2016: Bridging Our Divides is taking place October 14-16 in the Boston Metro Area, at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel & Conference Center. All pre-conference activities are taking place at the Sheraton.

The first three events below do require pre-registration, and there is (very reasonable) fee for participating in Essential Partners’ day-long workshop.  See below for details.


Essential Partners (formerly the Public Conversations Project) is known for its high-quality workshops. We’re proud to say that they’re offering their advanced workshop on “Facilitating Public Meetings” on October 13th at the Sheraton!

Leading effective public meetings has become increasingly difficult. Designing and facilitating effective public meetings requires coolness, clarity, courage and skill. This workshop will help participants address the challenges of engaging an impassioned and deeply involved public in constructive conversation.

Dave Joseph, MSW will facilitate the training. The regular rate for this one-day training is $150, but NCDD members pay only $125. Learn more and register today. (Middlesex East)


Do you mean by pro-life what I mean by pro-life? What about socialism? Freedom? Compassion? Answering these questions is the goal of the Red-Blue Dictionary, a transpartisan collaboration to help all Americans explore the varied meanings of commonly used (and misused) words. We’re not building a reference handed down from some great authority on high; we’re exploring what words really mean to all of us down here on the ground.

This free interactive workshop, co-facilitated by Cynthia Kurtz and John Backman, is your chance to learn about the Red-Blue Dictionary, join us in improving it, and explore our diverse experiences with the words we love (and love to hate) most. Email Cynthia Kurtz at to let her know you’d like to participate in this workshop. (Commons II)

5:00 – 7:00 pm  –  DELIBERATION BOOTCAMP

This free evening session will provide an overview of the deliberative perspective and an introduction to many of the key concepts, organizations, and challenges related to the field. Specifically designed for newcomers to the field, the boot camp will help acclimate participants to the conference.

The session will be led by Martín Carcasson, NCDD Board member and Director of Colorado State University’s Center for Public Deliberation. Dr. Carcasson’s presentation will focus on the question of “what kind of talk does democracy need?” and will make the case for building deliberative capacity in our communities.

Email Martín at to let him know you’ll be attending the Bootcamp. (Commons I)


Though the conference doesn’t begin officially until Friday morning, many of you are arriving on Thursday.  Plan on coming down to the hotel bar/restaurant for some informal networking if you’re around (food and drink is on you, though).  Of course, you’re welcome to stick around after 7pm!  (Hotel bar)


NCDD is hosting a pre-conference event for young people and students. This will be a time for attendees 35 and under connect with the other younger conference attendees. During the event, we will be officially unveiling NCDD’s new Emerging Leaders Initiative and all the great ways NCDD will be working to bring younger folks into the D&D field and support them in shaping its future. We will also be kicking off our NCDD 2016 Mentoring Program, which will intentionally connect a cadre of experienced D&D leaders with students and youth attendees during the conference.

NCDD is the New Steward for Conversation Café! – Now What?

In case you haven’t heard, the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation has become the new steward of Conversation Café (CC). Andy has revamped the CC website, which you can check out at, and we are in the process of reconnecting with the CC network and figuring out how we can best support and grow this important community.

NCDD’s Sandy Heierbacher and Keiva Hummel will be spearheading this effort, so feel free to contact either of us if you have questions or want to help out!

We’ve created a new one-way announcement list to share news about Conversation Café happenings once in a while (no more than monthly). We encourage all of you to subscribe to that list if you have some interest in CC’s by sending a blank email to

If you’re a Conversation Cafe host or promoter (or want to be) also consider joining the new Cafe-Community listserv – a discussion list we’ve modeled after the NCDD Discussion list to encourage CC leaders to network, share information, and discuss key issues facing the CC community. To join that list, send a blank email to

Why does NCDD feels it’s important to support Conversation Café?

Back in March 2014, we had an amazing conversation with the NCDD community on the blog here about whether we should play this role, and though there were many eloquent arguments both for and against NCDD becoming the new stewards for the CC method, we decided in the end that it was important to help this elegantly simple approach survive and thrive – and we hope you can support our decision!

We think Conversation Café is a wonderful model for dialogue that can and should be widely adopted across the U.S. and the globe. Our vision for Conversation Café, in part, is that it be used to help communities address national and local crises that call for immediate dialogue.

We think CCs are nimble, accessible, and elegantly simple enough to be used very quickly by many people, and NCDD is particularly well equipped to help new CC groups use other forms of dialogue and deliberation when the time is right.

We also just want to see more people, in more places, engaging regularly in conversations that matter, and feel that Conversation Café is uniquely suited to helping make this happen.

In addition to subscribing to the announcement list or discussion list mentioned above, we strongly encourage any of you who have hosted CCs to take a minute and complete the quick form at to tell us a little about your work and interests. Our main interest right now is to learn about what is currently (and has been) going on in the Conversation Café community, and this would help us a great deal!

Free Online Event with Mark Gerzon on Bridging Partisan Divides

UPDATE: Did you miss the webinar? The Shift Network has posted the recording of the hour-long call, which you can listen to by clicking here.

So many Americans are disheartened by how political polarization seems to be driving a wedge between us. This polarization has become a national crisis with profound repercussions for our personal relationships, collective well-being and the future of our nation.

MarkGerzon-speakingNCDD’s upcoming national conference in October is focusing in on how the amazing people in our field are bridging political, racial, and other divides, and how we can play a major role in healing our nation after the presidential election.

Leading up to the conference, we’re also excited to support an online event that’s taking place on Wednesday, August 17 at 8:30pm Eastern / 5:30pm Pacific that features our good friend, author, and transpartisan political thought leader Mark Gerzon. As you may know, Mark has facilitated retreats for members of Congress and has a long and distinguished history of work on transpartisanship – he’s also a member and supporter of NCDD.

The event, titled “Bridging Partisan Divides: 4 Keys to Reuniting Our Families, Communities & Country,” will highlight practical solutions that have already begun healing divides all across the country, from local communities all the way to Congress. Mark will show participants how to engage in political discourse – even, and especially, potentially “charged” conversations – in a way that creates the opportunity for understanding and bridge-building.

You can register for this FREE virtual event, here:

During this one-hour call event, you will

  • Understand the roots of political divisiveness and how to address them in a systematic way
  • Discover how to make a crucial shift that leads to more connected discussions
  • Receive insights into how to let go of control and focus on deepening relationships
  • See how to champion the “whole truth” and move beyond position-taking to problem-solving
  • Develop more skill in opening to deeper listening and mutual understanding

It’s free to attend, but you must RSVP here:

(Note: A recording will be provided later to all who register, whether or not you listen to the live event.)

Hope to see you on the 17th!  And please share this post with anyone you know who can benefit from this important event.

Participate in NCDD’s Field-Wide Inventory!

What if we knew how many dialogue and deliberation events took place in a typical year? (Or at least had SOME way to guess!) What if we had a sense of which approaches people in the D&D community specialized in and had training in? What if we had a sense of when practitioners and organizations in our field were more likely to collaborate with their peers?

NCDD2012-wFranKorten-borderNCDD’s Inventory Survey was designed to get answers to these questions and more, and we invite you to participate! The results will be shared with our partner in this project, the Kettering Foundation, and will be summarized and distributed widely in the field.

It is our hope to also use some of this data to create a broad-based map of facilitators and organizations, searchable by location, approach used, and issues you specialize in. This map is part of our strategy to connect more people to the facilitation expertise they need, much more quickly than is possible today. We believe that now, more than ever, the skills of dialogue and deliberation are needed to address pressing issues in communities across the country, often in a very quick time frame.

If you or your organization does any kind of dialogue or deliberation work, we ask that you take the time to complete this survey as soon as possible. It should only take you 15 minutes or less to complete and is NOT limited to members of the NCDD community or those based only in the U.S.

Let’s see what we can learn about this vital field!

Register Now for NCDD 2016 at the “Super Early Bird Rate”!

Hi, everyone! Registration is live for the 2016 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, and now is the best possible time to register. For a limited time (through June 15th only), our special “SUPER Early Bird” rate of $350 is active.

yardsign_300pxWe’re so excited about NCDD 2016!  We’re coming together October 14-16 (Friday through Sunday) in the Boston Metro Area at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel & Conference Center in Framingham, MA.

This year’s conference is “Bridging Our Divides,” and our intention is to capture and draw attention to attendees’ stories. The conference is taking place one month before the presidential election, and we suspect many Americans will be hungry for a different narrative: true stories about how Americans across the political spectrum CAN and ARE working together to make progress on difficult issues.

NCDD conferences bring together hundreds of the most active, thoughtful, and influential people involved in public engagement and group process work across the U.S. and Canada. Over 2,800 people, from dozens of countries, have attended our biennial national and regional events, and we’re expecting at least 400 again this year! Hopefully you’re one of them!!

me-butterflyI’m also happy to announce that NCDD co-founder and longtime creative force Andy Fluke is returning to help design and develop material for this year’s conference.  Since stepping down as creative director late last year, Andy has been working as a consultant to several NCDD members on a wide variety of projects including several new publications & ebooks, the launch of a new initiative (CCTN), and the relaunch of one of our favorite programs (Orangeband).  You can learn more about his new venture at or contact him directly at

Learn much more about the conference at, and register today at to take advantage of the Super Early Bird rate.

NCDD conferences are important networking and learning events for our field. Watch this highlight video by Keith Harrington of Shoestring Videos to get a sense of the energy and content of our last conference…

NCDD is collecting blurbs describing your great work!

NCDD is made up of extraordinary organizations and individuals who, in my opinion, are doing some of the most important work on the planet.  For fundraising and outreach purposes, we want to do a better job explaining the work our members do.

IMG_8202For starters, we want to collect short, concise sentences (blurbs) describing your work.  Here are a few examples of some blurbs I wrote a few years ago to illustrate our members’ work…

  • King County’s (Seattle Area) innovative Countywide Community Forums, a project of the King County auditor’s office, engages hundreds of volunteer “citizen councilors” in regular dialogues held across the county on issues local government is tackling.
  • One of our members led the creation of the nation’s first official “Democracy Zone” in Napa, California, where hundreds of white and Latino residents have come together across class and ethnic divides to redefine their community’s concept of “citizen” by focusing on democratic processes and a commitment to common values.
  • Vets4Vets trains Iraq-era veterans to facilitate dialogue among fellow new veterans to help with the reintegration process. Working closely with the VA, Vets4Vets is building a peer support community among the growing number of vets who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Will you take a few minutes to turn one or two of your recent projects/programs into brief one- or two-sentence blurbs like the ones above?  Be as specific as possible in your blurbs, in terms of program location, number of people engaged/effected, outcomes achieved (focusing on one is best), and how your effort exemplifies a DIFFERENT kind of conversation than what we ordinarily see.

Add your blurbs to the comments on this post, and include a link so people can learn more about you.

Thank you in advance for helping equip NCDD to better describe your amazing work!!

Who’s Working on Issues of Income Inequality & Health Care?

A few months ago, I asked the NCDD network who was, is or will soon be working on engaging people around the issues of health care or income inequality. The Kettering Foundation was interested in learning about who is working on these topics (and still is!), as they are topics that the National Issues Forums Institute is currently addressing.

Later this month, Kettering will be holding its annual “A Public Voice” event at the National Press Club in DC, and NCDD has been honored to have played a role for the past several years in representing the broader dialogue and deliberation community in various ways — including in helping to create maps that represent the D&D community, like the one posted here.

This year, in addition to helping with a map and inviting some great people to attend the event, we are helping create a list of deliberative programs that have addressed (or will soon address) these issues. This list will be shown side-by-side with the list of National Issues Forums that have been held on these issues.

These lists will be featured in the publication that is given to the people who attend this year’s A Public Voice event (which includes some big names in DC and in our field!), and distributed online. We think this will be a great way to both highlight members of the DD community and NIF and give DC leadership a good sense of how robust and dynamic deliberative democracy is across the land.

Below is the list I’m starting off with, based on those of you who shared information about your programs with me several months ago. I want to grow both of these lists significantly, so please add your programs – or programs you know about – to the comments.  I need locations, organization names, and program names or topics covered. Please include your contact info in case Kettering wants to learn more.

Income Inequality / Economic Security

Montevallo, AL
David Mathews Center for Civic Life – Making Ends Meet and Economic Vitality

California Air Resources Board and Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (Institute for Local Government facilitating) — Income Inequality, Climate, Wellness

Sonoma County, CA
Ag Innovations – Economic Wellness

Lake Worth, FL -The Guatemalan-Maya Center – Family Financial Planning

Chicago, IL
The CivicLab in Chicago – Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Illumination Project

Johnson County, IA
Iowa Program for Public Life – Affordable Housing

Dubuque, IA
Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque – Community Equity Profile

The Obermann Center Place-Based Inclusion Working Group – Are U A Good Neighbor? (affordable housing)

Boston, MA
MA Office of Public Collaboration – Economic Security

Kansas City, MO
Consensus KC – Forum on the Living Wage

New Hampshire
New Hampshire Listens – The Opportunity Gap

New Mexico
New Mexico First – Statewide Town Hall on Economic Security and Vitality

North Carolina
Winston-Salem, NC
Wake Forest Baptist Church – Making Ends Meet (this may already be covered in NIF listing)

Kitchen Table Democracy / Oregon Solutions / Oregon’s Kitchen Table and Oregon Business Council – Poverty Reduction Initiative

City of Austin, TX
Fair Chance Hiring for the Formerly Incarcerated

Fairfax, VA
Unitarian Universalist congregation – Escalating Inequality
(also happening across the country!)

West Virginia
West Virginia Center for Civic Life – What’s Next, WV?

King County Executive’s Office – Income Inequality

Seattle, WA
University of Washington Dept of Communication and Center for Communication and Civic Engagement – Making Ends Meet (this may already be covered in NIF listing)

Washington, DC
Interactivity Foundation – Forums on Future of Employment, Rewarding Work, Retirement

Eau Claire County
Clear Vision Eau Claire – Poverty Empowerment Summit (2016-2018)

National Dialogue Network – Nationwide Conversation on Poverty and Wealth in America

Health Care

National Institute for Civil Discourse – Creating Community Solutions on mental health

David Mathews Center for Civic Life and Alabama Issues Forums – Minding Our Future: Investing in Healthy Infants and Toddlers

Mobile, AL
David Mathews Center for Civic Life and Bayou Clinic – Health, Education, and Financial Literacy

Institute for Local Government and California Summer Meals Coalition – Income Inequality, Health and Wellness

San Diego, CA
The San Diego Deliberation Network – Forums on Health Care

Merced, CA
Institute for Local Government and Merced Healthy Communities Network – Health in the Built Environment

Miami, FL
University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, Dept Public Health Sciences and Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy – Patient Engagement and Income Disparities in the Hospital System in the wake of ACA

Panama City, FL
Gulf Coast State College – Health Care Costs, Making Ends Meet, and How can we Stop Mass Shootings in our Communities? (this may already be covered in NIF listing)

Carnegie Mellon Program for Deliberative Democracy – Community Deliberative Forum on Allocation of Scarce Resources

Cape Code, MA
Special Legislative Commission on LGBT Aging – Dialogue and formation of Coalition on Cape Cod re: LGBT Aging issues

Orleans, MA
Orleans Council on Aging – One Book/One Community Discussion of Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Global (NGO based in Michigan)
Common Bond Institute – Response to Disaster Health Care Services and Resettlement for Refugees in the Middle East and Europe

Missouri Foundation for Health – Cover Missouri

St. Paul, MN
Jefferson Center – Health Policy Development & Quality Improvement

New York
Syracuse, NY
Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration and the Jefferson Center – Using Public Deliberation to Define Patient Roles in Reducing Diagnostic Quality

Austin, TX
Health and Human Services Department – Provision of Affordable Health Care

Alexandria, VA
S&G Endeavors – Community-Driven Strategies to Improve Health

Community Forums Network / National Dialogue Network – Healthcare Reform

Washington, DC
Interactivity Foundation – Forums on Depression, Mental Health and Community, Human Genetic Technology

West Virginia
West Virginia Center for Civic Life
What’s Next, WV

Fond Memories of Hal Saunders

I’m so sad to share this news with the network, but our long-time member Harold Saunders passed away yesterday at the age of 85. Hal had an incredibly distinguished career – I can’t even begin to do it justice. He developed and practiced the process of Sustained Dialogue, a “public peace process” to transform racial and ethnic conflicts.
 He authored four books on peace building and dialogue. He worked with Kissinger, President Carter, and so many others. He became the Director of International Affairs at the Kettering Foundation. And he was just an all-around incredible human being.

Many of us were privileged to know him, as he always attended the NCDD conferences and interacted with all of us with an open heart and an amazing attitude of humble curiosity and camaraderie. He participated in a panel of field leaders at our 2004 national conference in Denver, and spoke again at our 2008 conference in Austin. Please join me in mourning the loss of our friend and colleague. Contributions in his memory can be sent to the Sustained Dialogue Institute. You can read more about Hal’s incredible work in the Kettering Foundation’s write-up below or read the original here.

kfHarold H. Saunders, assistant secretary of state in the Carter administration and the recently retired director of international affairs at the Kettering Foundation, who spent more than 20 years in high foreign policy positions in the United States government, died on March 6, 2016, at his home in McLean, Va. He was 85.

The cause of death was prostate cancer.

“Hal Saunders served with distinction under six U.S. presidents and was a significant figure in America’s international affairs for more than 50 years. We were fortunate to have had his good counsel for much of that time,” David Mathews, Kettering Foundation president, said. “In addition, we will remember his interest in young people. He reached out to college students and built a network devoted to sustained dialogue, one of the primary themes of his work in recent years.”

“He tackled some of the greatest challenges of our times –  protracted conflict, destructive relationships, weak governance, dysfunctional democracy and the need for a new world view,” Dr. Mathews continued.

After serving as a U.S. Air Force lieutenant and in the Central Intelligence Agency, Saunders joined the National Security Council staff in 1961 and served through the Johnson and Nixon administrations as the council’s Mideast expert, a period that saw the Six-Day War of June 1967, the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the Kissinger shuttles. He was appointed deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs in 1974, director of intelligence and research in 1975, and was appointed by President Carter to be assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs in 1978.

During his tenure as assistant secretary, Saunders was a principal architect of the Camp David Accords and the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. In the early morning hours of November 4, 1979, a call was patched through to his home from Tehran, and over the next two hours he listened to the overrun of the American Embassy. For the next 444 days, Saunders worked tirelessly to free the American hostages, culminating in their release on January 20, 1981.

For his contributions to American diplomacy, Saunders received the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Service, the government’s highest award for civilian career officials, and the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award. After leaving government service in 1981, he was associated with the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution for 10 years before joining the Kettering Foundation as director of international Affairs. In 1981, he also became U.S. co-chair of the Task Force on Regional Conflicts for the Dartmouth Conference, the longest continuous dialogue between American and Soviet citizens.

Harold H. Saunders was born in Philadelphia on December 27, 1930, and attended Germantown Academy there. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in English and American Civilization and received a doctorate in American Studies from Yale University in 1956. He was president of his class at Princeton, later served on the Board of Trustees at Princeton and received the Class of 1952’s “Excellence in Career” award.

Over the past 35 years, Dr. Saunders developed and practiced the process of Sustained Dialogue, which he described as a “five-stage public peace process” to transform racial and ethnic conflicts. He was the author of four books, co-author of another and co-editor of still another, all dealing with issues of international peace.

In 1999 he wrote A Public Peace Process: Sustained Dialogue to Transform Racial and Ethnic Conflict. That experience led to his founding the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (now the Sustained Dialogue Institute), which he served as chairman and president until his retirement on December 31, 2015. He is also the author of The Other Walls: The Arab-Israeli Peace Process in a Global Perspective (1985), Politics Is about Relationship: A Blueprint for the Citizens’ Century (2005), and Sustained Dialogue in Conflicts: Transformation and Change (2011).

Through IISD/SDI he moderated dialogues among citizens outside government, from the civil war in Tajikistan to deep tensions among Arabs, Europeans, and Americans and all factions in Iraq. More recently, he had been collaborating with established organizations in the U.S., South Africa, Israel and the Americas to embed sustained dialogue in their programs.

Dr. Saunders was the recipient of many awards. From Germantown Academy, he received its first Distinguished Achievement Award in 2002. He was given Search for Common Ground’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 and the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Annenberg Award for Excellence in Diplomacy in 2010.

He had served on the board for the Hollings Center, the executive committee of the Institute for East-West Security Studies and on the boards of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, Internews,  and Partners for Democratic Change and had been a member of the International Negotiation Network at the Carter Presidential Center. He served on the governing council of the International Society of Political Psychology, which presented him the 1999 Nevitt Sanford Award for “distinguished professional contributions to political psychology.”

He taught international relationships and conflict resolution at George Mason University and at Johns Hopkins University’s Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Diplomacy and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

He was awarded honorary degrees of doctor of letters by New England College, doctor of international relations by Dickinson College, doctor of humane letters by the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and doctor of arts, letters, and Humanities by Susquehanna University. He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and had participated in a Roman Catholic-Reformed Churches dialogue.

Dr. Saunders’ first wife, the former Barbara McGarrigle, died in 1973. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Carol Jones Cruse Saunders, a son, Mark and daughter-in-law, Robin Stafford, daughter Catherine, a step-daughter, Caryn Hoadley, and her husband, Brad Wetstone, three grandchildren and two step-grandsons.

Burial is private. A memorial service will be held at a future date.

In his memory, contributions may be made to his Sustained Dialogue Institute.

You can read the original version of this Kettering Foundation remembrance at

Save the Date: NCDD 2016 is set for Oct 14-16 in Boston!

It’s time to mark your calendars for the highly anticipated 2016 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation! We’re excited to announce that our next national conference will take place in the Boston area this October 14-16.


Our conferences only come around every two years, and you won’t want to miss this one! Just last night, someone told me they’ve never had more fun at a conference than at the last NCDD conference. But NCDD conferences aren’t just about having fun and enjoying the company of our field’s movers and shakers. They’re about forming new partnerships, strategizing together about how we can tackle our field’s greatest challenges, showcasing some of the coolest arts, technologies, and methods for public engagement — and so much more.

If you haven’t attended an NCDD conference yet, watch our highlight video by Keith Harrington of Shoestring Videos to get a sense of the energy and content of the last national conference…

We can’t wait to see you this October!  I’m particularly looking forward to holding a conference in my new backyard (yay Boston!), and working closely with our local planning team. We’ll be holding the conference at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel & Conference Center.

yardsign_300pxKeep an eye out for registration, a call for volunteers for the planning team, and of course efforts to engage the broader NCDD community around conference content and theming. The call for workshop proposals will be distributed in a couple of months, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about what you’d like to present about and who you’d like to present with.

Please share this post widely in your networks! Building on a 14-year legacy of popular, well-loved events, NCDD 2016 will be our 7th National Conference and just the latest of many events, programs and gatherings that NCDD has hosted since we formed in 2002.

NCDD’s 2015 Year in Review

When a new year begins, we naturally tend to reflect back on the previous year. As we look back on 2015, it’s clear that it was quite a year for NCDD, and it’s inspiring to look back and see all that’s happened.

Keiva-profile-borderThe year of 2015 was one of many transitions. NCDD had some personnel changes as we said a fond farewell to our former Creative Director Andy Fluke and gave a warm welcome to our new Resource Curator and Social Media Coordinator Keiva Hummel (pictured at left). We also brought Ellie Boynton on board to help maintain NCDD’s website.

In the midst of these transitions, I also made a personal transition with a move from rural Pennsylvania to Boston, moving NCDD headquarters (my home office!) closer to hundreds of our members in the process.

GrandeLum-NextStepBubble-borderNCDD also had a very dynamic year in 2015 in terms of programs and projects. 2015 saw the launch of our informal partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, which came out of CRS Director Grande Lum’s involvement in our 2014 national conference. Meetings were held between Community Relations Service leaders and NCDD members in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, New York, Dallas, and Seattle, and a few more are still in the works. The meetings were designed to be informal networking and information-exchange events, and next steps have emerged organically from the events such as a great new collaboration in Chicago, with more on the way.

RoshanPic2014At this time last year, we began a scoping project in which we had Roshan Bliss, NCDD’s Student & Youth Outreach Coordinator for the 2014 conference (and our fearless Blog Curator!; pictured at left), conduct an online youth survey, seek feedback from our network about the role of young people in the D&D field, and host a few “focus group” calls with younger NCDDers in an effort to frame a possible NCDD youth initiative. The results gave us some good insights into how NCDD can support young people and folks who are new to the field, and will form the basis of what a Youth Program we’ll be launching this year.

Our regular Tech Tuesday and Confab Calls continued to thrive in 2015 under the coordination of our wonderful Program Director Courtney Breese. As always, you can check out the archives of the confabs at and watch the Tech Tuesday videos at

Confab bubble imageOur Confab Calls covered such topics as how brain science supports constructive dialogue and deliberation, ethics for facilitators, and strategies for handling latecomers in public engagement programs and disruptors at public engagement events. We talked with NCDD members Pete Peterson (about his experience running for CA Secretary of State on a “civic engagement” platform), Matt Leighninger and Tina Nabatchi (about their great new book Public Participation for 21st Century Democracy), and John Gastil (about the opportunity for organizations to host a fellow as part of the new Nevins Democracy Leaders Program).

Tech_Tuesday_BadgeAnd our Tech Tuesday events, which are designed to help practitioners stay on top of new opportunities and developments in the online engagement realm, featured innovative tools like, Bang the Table, QiqoChat, and Common Ground for Action. In all, we served 450 people through our online events in 2015.

2015 also saw the launch of a new partnership between NCDD and the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State to create infrastructure that will bring more young people into the D&D field. The Nevins Democracy Leaders program piloted its first two fellowship Mccourtney Institute Logoplacements in 2015 with Everyday Democracy and No Labels, and we are thrilled that 2016 will see nearly two dozen bright D&D-trained students placed with leading organizations in our field in fully funded fellowship positions.

In 2015, I continued to work very closely with the Kettering Foundation, in my role as Research Deputy and otherwise. KF’s president David Mathews took the time to write a special message to the NCDD community about the Kettering-sign-outlinedhistoric opportunity we have right now to “find the public voice that’s missing.” I worked particularly closely on Kettering’s annual A Public Voice event at the National Press Club. Also be on the lookout for a fascinating report on the strategies that public engagement practitioners use to develop productive relationships with public officials over time — a collaboration between NCDD, Kettering, and the Jefferson Center.

As we look forward to the coming year, we hope for more and more opportunities like our partnerships with the Kettering Foundation, the McCourtney Institute at Penn State, and the US DOJ Community Relations Service — opportunities that allow us to utilize the infrastructure we’ve built up to serve the broader field. We look forward to launching our youth program, distributing new materials, continuing to provide quality online programming for our community, and of course, hosting the 2016 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation this October in Boston, MA!!!

NCDD’s work is funded mostly by members’ dues and small donations. If you want to support all of the great work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible donation by visiting or renewing or upgrading your membership at

We look forward to enjoying the coming year with all of you, no doubt feeling constantly inspired by the important, innovative work you all are doing.