ConversationCafe Recording and Resources

Last week NCDD held our first virtual Conversation Cafe session, and we were blown away by the turnout – thank you to the 125+ of you who joined us to learn about how to host Cafes online and participated in one on the call!

The level of interest and enthusiasm was overwhelming, and so we wanted to make sure that anyone who is interested in this simple, open-source model for dialogue has the information and resources to do so! The following is a list of links to new and existing materials that everyone is welcome to utilize:

  • NCDD’s current director Courtney Breese, co-founder Sandy Heierbacher, and Conversation Cafe co-founder Susan Partnow, created a bunch of resources for hosting Conversation Cafes online during this pandemic: Resources include a guide for hosts, the mini guide for use in the cafe, topics and questions for cafes, and an instructional on using Zoom for Cafes.
  • Beyond Conversation Cafe, NCDD’s Communications Coordinator Keiva Hummel has helped curate resources for responding to this pandemic. They are available (and can be added to!) over in Google Docs.

The recording of the virtual Conversation Cafe session is available at this link. Please note: the recording includes an overview of Conversation Cafe, the set-up for the cafe, and then the Q&A and wrap-up at the end. It does not include the breakout group conversations. Additionally, numerous resources and lots of information was shared in the chat.

NCDD is excited to see all the enthusiasm for what’s possible. We’ll continue to support these efforts as best we can, particularly by continuing to share resources and events. We’ve created a new Events Calendar to start sharing upcoming events, and a simple form for posting your event.

NCDD can also definitely use your help! If you want to help with social media, blog posts (share your stories of Cafes!), helping to create a stronger community of hosts, or something else you’d like to offer, send Courtney an email at We will convene a team if there is enough interest to support Conversation Cafes in this unique moment. If you are not in a position to give your time right now, perhaps you might consider making a contribution to help support Conversation Cafe: NCDD is a small nonprofit and we steward Conversation Cafe without any dedicated funding support, so any and all contributions are greatly appreciated.

We are all juggling a lot right now, no doubt, but it is so heartening to see you, connect with you, and talk about what we can do for our communities during these difficult times. NCDD looks forward to continuing to work with you all!

Announcing a Virtual Conversation Cafe about COVID-19

Friends, the desire for connection and thinking together is overwhelming in this time of physical distancing. NCDD, along with our member and dear friend Susan Partnow, have decided to offer another opportunity for our network to come together in dialogue to support us all during this time. Next Wednesday, March 25th from 1:00-3:00 PM Eastern/10:00 AM-Noon Pacific, we will hold a virtual Conversation Cafe – all are welcome! Register here to join us.

This Cafe is intended as an opportunity for us to connect around how we are feeling and what we are thinking at this time, as well as exploring what we do next. We hope this will help build community among us in this difficult time, as well as help generate ideas for what we might do individually and collectively.

It will also be an opportunity for you to experience Conversation Cafe in an online format. This model is an elegantly simple process for bringing people together in small group conversations to share, listen to one another, and deepen their understanding of one another and a topic. It was built for face-to-face conversations, but Susan and I have been experimenting with it online and are finding that it may be a great model to help people connect virtually during a time of distancing physically. We plan to share some materials for moving this to an online format in advance of the call!

If you want to participate, please register today!

NCDD Update: ALA Conf, Frontiers, NCL, and CO Workshop

The NCDD staff has been up to some exciting ventures this last month that we wanted to fill you in on! June 22nd, in particular, was a busy day for the NCDD team as we each trekked to several exciting events that were happening in our network; Co-Founder Sandy Heierbacher was at ALA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans, Managing Director Courtney Breese was at the Frontiers of Democracy conference at Tufts University, and I attended NCL’s National Conference on Local Governance in Denver where NCDD Board Chair Martín Carcasson presented.

As part of our partnership with the American Library Association (ALA), Sandy ran a workshop on Host Training in Conversation Café with NCDD member Susan Partnow. They gave this fantastic day-long session to a packed room of participants from public libraries serving small, mid-sized and/or rural communities; where attendees learned how to organize and host Conversation Cafés. In many communities, particularly smaller and more rural areas, libraries hold vital space as epicenters of community engagement and social change. The workshop prepared participants to run Cafés in their local libraries and how to use this great tool for holding exploratory dialogues with the community.

At the Frontiers conference, Courtney did a session on Partnering to Strengthen Participatory Democracy: How Might We Connect and Collaborate?, in which participants learned examples about efforts to connect engagement practitioners with librarians and journalists, and then explored ways to deepen network connections, particularly across fields. The conference was hosted by the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University and a primary focus this year was around how engagement work can better connect to activism. For example, there was a panel of students from Boston public high schools and Ph.D.s from UMASS, who spoke about the walkout they self-organized over budget issues, what their roles were and the ways they organized. Another one of the speakers was someone who had been previously incarcerated and they spoke about challenges of re-entering into society, the roadblocks they experienced, and how this impacted their ability to fully participate in a democratic society.

NCDD member org – the National Civic League, hosted the National Conference on Local Governance which was a jam-packed, one-day opportunity to dive into some of the cutting-edge practices and processes that improve equity within communities. Martín presented a session about Resident Engagement: How to Change Negatives in which he spoke about the neuroscience behind why traditional public engagement efforts often fall flat and how by designing better engagement processes, communities can be more effective in addressing challenging issues. It was a fantastic session with a perfect blend of information, while being engaging and entertaining! If you haven’t attended a session by Martín, I highly recommend you check one out the next opportunity you get! (Secret insider tip: He’s going to be running an exciting pre-conference session the day before NCDD2018 on Nov 1st that we encourage you to check out – Stay tuned to the blog for details to follow…)

Last week, I spoke at the monthly meeting for the Arvadans for Progressive Action about cultivating constructive conversations, in which I shared more about the NCDD network and several helpful tips and resources for making conversations more effective. Despite being a hot Colorado day, it was a great turnout of folks dedicated to working hard to engage the community and create a more equitable world. Huge thank you to all those who attended the event and asked really dynamic questions; and many thanks to the Arvadans for Progressive Action for inviting me to come share conversational tips and wisdom from the NCDD network.

On a related note, NCDD staff would love to come hold a workshop with your group, organization, or event!  We are happy to tailor the workshop to your needs for navigating challenging conversations. I am located in Denver, Managing Director Courtney Breese is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Co-Founder Sandy Heierbacher is in Boston; all of us can travel to our respective surrounding areas to hold workshops. For folks that are located outside of these places, contact us and let’s see if we can coordinate logistics with travel or technology to make a workshop happen for you! Please contact me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]orgfor workshop inquiries.