NCDD2018 Sesh Proposals Due Weds and More Updates

Several reminders about our upcoming 2018 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation happening November 2-4 in downtown Denver!

The most immediate reminder is that session proposals are due tomorrow Wednesday, May 23rd. Are you looking to do a workshop at NCDD2018? Now is the time to get your proposals in! Check out our post on tips for finding collaborators and guidelines for presenting sessions at the conference. We invite session proposals that will highlight the work being done to tap D&D into the peoples’ daily lives, build democratic participation, and better expose D&D work. Our conference team is excited to see what sessions you want to bring!

We want to give you a friendly reminder that the “Super Early Bird” registration rate is available until Thursday, May 31st! On Friday, June 1st, the registration will go up to the”Early Bird” rate of $385, which will be active until July 15th (where it will then go up to the regular rate of $450). Take advantage of this ultra-low rate now to join over 400 leaders, practitioners, and enthusiasts, on Connecting and Strengthening Civic Innovators, our theme for NCDD2018Our goal of the conference is to explore how to bring dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement work’s many tools and processes into greater visibility and practice within our society. Learn more about the conference at and register to secure your tickets ASAP!

In case you missed our announcement, we are now accepting NCDD2018 sponsors! Looking to heighten the profile of your organization and work in the field? Being a sponsor is a great way to do it! NCDD conferences regularly bring together many of the most active, thoughtful, and influential people in public engagement and group process work across the U.S. and Canada (plus practitioners from around the world), and being a sponsor can help your organization can reach them all.

Being an All-Sponsor ($10,000+), Collaborator ($5,000+), Co-Sponsor ($3,000),  Partner ($2,000), or Supporter ($1,000) will earn you name recognition with potential clients, provide months of PR, and build respect and goodwill for your organization every time we proudly acknowledge your support as we promote the conference. Plus you’ll be providing the crucial support that NCDD relies on to make our national conferences so spectacular, including making it possible for us to offer more scholarships to the amazing young people and other deserving folks in our field. You can learn more about the details in our sponsorship document.

Finally, we have our FAQs page up on the NCDD2018 conference page, as well as, information on travel and lodging – where you can learn more about the room block price and fun things (besides the conference) to do while you’re in Denver! FYI we will also be posting on the blog later this summer to help folks coordinate if they want to share a room with someone.

Want to get an idea of what past NCDD conferences have been like? Check out these short videos of our 2016 and 2014 conferences!

OSU Launches Divided Community Project

We were happy to receive the announcement below from The Ohio State University, which recently launched an important and timely project called the Divided Community Project, and they have selected NCDD supporting member Grande Lum, one of our featured speakers at NCDD2014 when he headed the US Dept. of Justice’s Community Relations Service. We congratulate Grande and look forward to seeing the Project’s work develop. Learn more at the Project’s website by clicking here.

Ohio State announces Divided Community Project – Grande Lum joins as Director

Today The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law announces the Divided Community Project.  The project aims to strengthen community efforts to transform division into action and focuses on how communities can respond constructively to civil unrest as well as on how they can identify and meaningfully address the reasons underlying community division.  Earlier this year the Project published its first publications:


Both documents are licensed using the Creative Commons so that (with attribution) they may be copied, shared, adapted and tailored to fit the needs of a community or interest group.

The Project is pleased to announce that Grande Lum, Gould Research Fellow and Lecturer at Stanford Law and former Director of the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, has joined Ohio State’s Divided Community Project as the Director.  In guiding the project, Grande will draw on his extensive experience dealing with civil unrest with the Community Relations Service, where he directed a staff of about 40 conciliators intervening in major domestic conflicts over the last few years, as well as his past experience working, writing and teaching in the dispute resolution field.  Grande will advance the Project’s initiatives to establish pilot programs which plan in advance of civil unrest, offer suggestions for improving practice, develop conflict assessment tools, and advocate for the use of collaborative methods for turning community division into positive action. 

On joining the Divided Community Project, Grande wrote: “I am thrilled to be joining the Divided Community Project, at a time when the country is grappling with polarization at seemingly every turn. I look forward to working with the Project’s extraordinary team to move divided communities toward peace and justice.”

The Divided Community Project’s steering committee is composed of seasoned dispute resolution practitioners and academics: Nancy RogersJosh StulbergChris CarlsonSusan CarpenterCraig McEwen,Sarah Rubin, and Andrew Thomas. Bill Froehlich, Langdon Fellow in the Program on Dispute Resolution at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, serves as the Project’s Associate Director.

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Program on Dispute Resolution serves as the host institution. The JAMS Foundation provided significant funding for the creation of the Project and the Kettering Foundation partnered in its early work.  The OSU Democracy Studies Program and Emeritus Academy have both awarded financial assistance that has supported valuable student research assistance for the project.

An Update on the NCDD-CRS Meetings

As many of you know, NCDD has been working with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service since last October’s NCDD national conference, to organize meetings between NCDD members and CRS staff at their fourteen regional field offices. This was inspired, in part, by CRS director Grande Lum’s speech at the conference.

We wanted to let the network know that meetings have begun taking place in several cities over the past few months, and more are in the works!

GrandeLum-NextStepBubble-borderThese meetings are an exciting opportunity to start a productive relationship with staff of an important government agency based in your area. They are also providing the supporting NCDD members who attend with an opportunity to talk about how we can be more responsive during times of crisis that call for dialogue, and to build relationships that strengthen our ability to respond. See our November 6th blog post at for more information on CRS and our initial plans for these meetings.

Meetings took place this past winter and spring in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Seattle, where our members came together with CRS staff to learn more about one another’s work and discuss opportunities to collaborate and support each other. Some exciting ideas have emerged from these initial discussions, including:

  • Supporting CRS and NCDD members alike by inviting one another to trainings
  • Sharing resources, including facilitators and mediators, and making referrals from CRS to NCDD members, and vice versa
  • Involving one another in regional networking
  • Working together on initiatives, such as CRS’ Student Problem Identification & Resolution of Issues Together (SPIRIT), or building a community responders network in members’ communities

NCDD members have reported back that they learned a lot about CRS and the kind of work that they do in communities in their region, and that CRS staff and NCDD members alike were very eager to explore ways to support one another and possibilities for working together. These initial meetings were just that – the start of what we hope will be a growing relationship between CRS staff and our members in their respective regions.

Meetings are still being planned this summer and in early fall for the following cities: Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. All NCDD 2014 attendees and supporting members of NCDD whose dues are in good standing are welcome to attend. If you would like to attend one of these upcoming meetings, please send an email to NCDD’s program director, Courtney Breese, at

Many thanks to the NCDD members who have stepped up to serve as lead contacts in each of the cities where a meeting is being held. We couldn’t pull this off without their help! Lead contacts for the meetings that already took place were: Nicole Hewitt & Susan Shelton (New York), Elizabeth Hudson (Detroit), Kathryn Hyten (Boston), John Inman (Seattle), and Janice Thomson (Chicago). Our most heartfelt thanks for their help in organizing these meetings.

We are beyond thrilled with the next steps coming out of the meetings held to date, and look forward to engaging more of our members with CRS staff in their region. If you have any additional thoughts about how NCDD members might collaborate with CRS, please share them with us in the comments below. NCDD will share these ideas with the CRS staff and local members in each region as they continue to explore possibilities for these budding connections.

David Mathews’ Message to the NCDD Community

At the 2014 NCDD conference last fall, we were honored to have David Mathews speak during the opening session. For those who don’t know, David is president and CEO of the Kettering Foundation.

DMandMarla-borderFor his talk, we asked David to orient attendees to the past and present landscape in Washington for dialogue and deliberation.  We wanted him to look back to his days in the Ford administration, and reflect on what he and Kettering have learned over the years about how citizen deliberation can influence Washington politics and policymakers.

He took the task very seriously, delivering a thoughtful, engaging speech which received a standing ovation from attendees! After the conference, David took the time to expand on his remarks in a must-read 12-page document he prepared for us, titled “A Historic Opportunity to Add the Public Voice that’s Missing.”

David often talks about how the organizations in our coalition have the unique ability to create the conditions that are needed for a real “public voice” to develop, and could bring this voice to Washington with the right approach. In a letter to me about his expanded remarks, David wrote:

Never in our history have we had so many organizations that are dedicated to letting citizens decide for themselves rather than insisting people support a predetermined position. I believe that NCDD can play a key role in seizing this rare opportunity.

Wow! Please take the time to read and reflect on this important document. Next week, we’ll discuss David’s message to our community on the NCDD Discussion list. You’re welcome to add your comments here to this blog post as well.

David’s speech from the conference…

I also want to share some additional text David wrote in his letter to me about his expanded remarks:

The point I am trying to make now is that there are things about the public that are difficult for Washington to get a handle on, even with all the town meetings, polling data, and focus group findings. These are useful, yet not sufficient to understand how citizens go about making decisions about policy issues.  In what I’ve written, I’ve gone into more detail about what policymakers need to know–most of all, what people will do if they face up to the difficult trade-offs that have to be made in deciding on policies.  There will always be costs and less desirable consequences to consider.

Officeholders know a great deal about what people would like and what special interests want. And they understand what they have to do to retain the support of the base that elects them. But officials have more difficulty finding out what is behind people’s opinions and interests, which is what is deeply valuable to them–what they want to protect above all else.

Officeholders don’t necessarily know what citizens are willing to live with when the things that are dear to them are in conflict, as they often are. (The conflict between freedom and security is a good example.) Even people themselves don’t know what they are willing to live with until they have been in serious deliberations with one another. Deliberation is just a term for the exercise of the human capacity for judgment, and public judgment is indispensable in a democracy where citizens have to make tough choices. Deliberation creates what I am calling a genuine public voice.

As you know, I think the organizations in your coalition, the “talking tribes,” can create the conditions that are needed for this public voice to develop. And, given the dissatisfaction with politics as usual, they have an opportunity to bring this voice to Washington. To be heard, however, the talking tribes, whatever methodology they use, will have provided what Washington is missing.

Never in our history have we had so many organizations that are dedicated to letting citizens decide for themselves rather than insisting people support a predetermined position. I believe that NCDD can play a key role in seizing this rare opportunity.

Please take the time to print out and digest David’s message to the NCDD community, which can be downloaded here. Let’s take the weekend to think about the “historic opportunity” David is describing, and think about how our community might step into this role. I hope we can dive into a thoughtful discussion about this next week!

A Participant’s Reflections on NCDD 2014

We were so appreciative of the reflections on our 2014 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation that NCDD supporting member Cynthia Kurtz shared on her blog that we wanted to share them here on ours. There are great lessons she took away that all of us can learn from, so we encourage you to read her piece below or to find the original version here.

What I Learned at the NCDD 2014 Conference

So I’m back from my first real conference in ten years, and I learned a lot. This is the conference I mentioned a few blog posts back, of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation.

NCDDers-with-signs-borderThe first thing I learned was: I’m ten years older than I was ten years ago. Conferences have always been exhausting, but this one felt like a strange dream in which crowds of faces surged and receded while I surfed on crests of … of … lots of stuff. However, I survived; I have vague memories of the event; and I have some things to tell you.

Natural story workers

One thing that surprised me at the conference was how many people there do story work. Only a few people said they do story work, but a lot of people worked with stories in some way, while they were trying to get people to understand each other.

My initial reaction on pointing this out to myself was, “Sure, but they don’t really do story work. It’s not as intense or authoritative or authentic or deep or….” And in the midst of trying to justify myself to myself, I realized that I may be on my way to becoming pompous.

Do you remember the thing I’m always saying about how the best storytellers are the people who don’t realize they are telling stories? About how, once people begin to be proud of the quality of their storytelling, the quality of their storytelling declines? I’m starting to wonder if there is a parallel process in doing story work. Maybe the best story workers are people who work with stories without knowing it. Maybe, over the years, I have become not only a story performer but a story-work performer as well. I’d like to think I have passed through the story-work-performer state into a state of deep wisdom, where I have become both natural andskilled; but, alas, I find that my skills of denial cannot rise to the challenge of this assertion.

Solutions to pomposity and story-work performing I can come up with include the following.

  1. I could stop doing this work for a while – six months or longer – and see if the pomposity goes away. However, this is not an option, because I still have many promises to keep.
  2. I could keep reminding myself that I am not the owner of anything (except my good name) and that many people have had great ideas about story work. But I’ve been doing that all along, and it doesn’t seem to have saved me. No, humility alone is not enough. I need to take positive action.
  3. I am always encouraging people to share stories. So why don’t I encourage myself to share story work? If I can make a conscious effort to recognize, respect, and connect with the story work other people are doing – even if they don’t call it that, or maybe especially if they don’t call it that – I can regulate myself to open my mind to all forms of story work. I’ve done some of this in the past, but honestly, I’ve done far less than I could have done.

Number three is my new plan. One part of the plan is the “translation dictionary” idea, which I think I mentioned here before. This idea is to develop a set of (relatively brief, don’t worry) writings about how PNI connects to as many fields and approaches and methods as I can possibly find. Before I went to the NCDD conference, I thought I should build a translation dictionary because it would be helpful to you. Now I think I need it even more than you do.

My least-favorite assumption is still alive and well

I am sorry to tell you that the “story work means telling stories” assumption is still going strong. People are still very little aware of natural, everyday story sharing and the functions it provides in society and in communities and organizations. When people talked to me about ideas for using stories in their work, their first impulse was always to talk about how they might use stories to communicate with the public — i.e., to tell stories.

I don’t ever want to minimize the function of storytelling as purposeful communication. It is reasonable and laudable to convey essential messages through stories. However, if this is the only thing people think they can do with stories, or get from stories, that’s a sad thing. Because using stories to communicate is just the tip of the iceberg of what stories can do for a community or organization (or society). Those of us who care about stories have more work to do to get that word out.

It’s getting crowded in here

In More Work with Stories, I connect PNI with nine other fields. But I have been realizing lately that I could probably connect it with ninety, if I broadened the scope to methods and approaches as well. Getting involved with the NCDD has helped me to learn that I have been hiding in a hole in terms of the many ways people have developed to help people make sense of things together. Just because a method doesn’t say anything about stories doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything to do with stories. If it has to do with people and communication, it has something to do with stories.

For example, as part of my NCDD learning, I recently bought The Change Handbook, which describes 61 methods for helping people create positive change. Can you guess how many of those 61 methods I was familiar with before I found the book? Eleven. Why have I not been building more connections? (Because I’ve been writing a book, that’s why; but still.) Now I want to know: How does PNI connect with the World Café? The Art of Hosting? Dynamic Facilitation? Wisdom Circles? Bohm Dialogue? Open Space? Systems Dynamics? Charrettes? Non-Violent Communication? Future Search? And so on.

This universe of connections is yet another reason to build a translation dictionary. I had been thinking about the dictionary as a way for people to understand PNI, and above I described it as a way I could share story work more completely. But a translation dictionary could also help people move back and forth between PNI and a variety of other methods as they build the suites and composites that best fit their contexts and purposes.

I started thinking through what a template for a translation dictionary might look like. I came up with this process:

  1. Summarize each of the two approaches with a paragraph or two. (One will always be PNI, but I’m trying to be general.)
  2.  Look for pairings in each of three areas: goals or principles; concepts or ideas; and methods or techniques. Come up with at least one and at most three pairings in each category.
  3. For each pairing, decide whether it’s a similarity or a contrast. If it’s a similarity, describe how the two elements are similar, and how they are (subtly) different. If it’s a contrast, describe how the elements differ, and how they are (subtly) similar or at least complementary.
  4. For each pairing, describe how it might be used in practice to combine what is best in the two approaches.

I visualize the whole pattern as something like this:

…where the grey circles indicate similarities, and the yin/yang symbols represent contrasts. Here I have vertical circle placements showing the relative centrality of each element to each approach, but that might be too fussy. I like diagrams, but I know some people would not get much out of the extra visual information.

So as I thought about this template, I realized that I had seen something similar before. What I was creating looked a little like a template for a pattern language. You could even say that my categories of goals, concepts, and methods are like the pattern language elements of context, problem, and solution.

Here’s a question for you: Everybody loves pattern languages, and rightly so, but why do we have to stop there? Could there be more kinds of languages than just of patterns? What about connection languages that, instead of describing patterns, describe connections? Might pattern languages, which are typically used within approaches (or transcending approaches), contribute to a lack of sharing among approaches? Maybe pattern languages could connect to connection languages, so that you could follow links from inside a particular approach, through its connection language, and into the pattern languages of other approaches.

What if lots of people made connection languages? What if, someday, it would be considered uncool to talk about one’s approach without also showing one’s connection language? What if connection languages were printed on cards, and people could use them to brainstorm about ways they could combine different approaches and methods to get results for their communities and organizations? What if, instead of going shopping for isolated approaches, groups could find the best combinations of methods and ideas for their contexts and purposes?

These are just wild speculations, and some might not agree with them. My plan right now is to make a start on my own connection language, using a template like the one above (which will evolve), and fold it into the second book. If you are interested in the idea of connection languages and want to work with me, or do something similar, let me know.

The great benefit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time

I went to the NCDD conference pretty much by accident. A champion of my book told me that he was going to the conference and planned to tell people there about my book. I said, hmm, what’s this, and if people there might like my book, should I think about going too? I had been thinking that I could start going to conferences again, now that my son is old enough that I can (stand to) leave home for a few days. So I joined the NCDD and signed up. (Sadly, my champion was not able to go due to a family emergency.)

Ending up in what seemed to be the wrong place at the wrong time was a revelation. Even though I might never have chosen this conference without someone else planning to go there first, it was just the right conference for me to go to. I have long complained about how there are no good story-listening conferences to go to, how people who do the work I do have to show up as beggars at knowledge management and decision support and management conferences. But I’ve now come to realize that this poverty is a strength in disguise.

I would have learned so much less at a conference where everyone already knew what I had to say, and where I already knew what everyone else had to say. It is so very mind-expanding to go to a conference you feel like you have no reason to go to! In fact, I am now resolved to seek out conferences that have as little as possible in common with what I have done before. If I will not be hopelessly lost and over my head, I should not go. If you know of a conference I should not go to, please let me know about it!

Essential energy

What excited me most about this conference was that I was able to connect with people who shared my passion for helping people get along and create better futures together. I sometimes feel alone in what I do, like nobody cares if we stop telling each other stories, like people are content to see stories used only to manipulate and influence. Our nascent PNI Institute is building a new community in the story space, so that’s changing already. But the people I met at the NCDD conference really cared about participatory democracy; about inclusion; about bringing power to the people; about bridging divides; about finding better ways forward. They didn’t consciously work with stories for the most part, but they cared about the things I cared about. Is this my tribe? I’m not a one-tribe person; I like to flit among several tribes. But this might be one of them.

The rest of the story

I have placed my full conference notes here for those who would like to read about what went on (that I saw) at the conference.

My favorite quotes from my conference notes:

  1. Where do you find the public voice? It’s not a trained voice. We hear it every day in every place. In waiting rooms, in bars, around water coolers, in lines at the grocery stores. It is all around us. So why is it unavailable? Because we don’t recognize it for what it is. It is too ordinary.
  2. There is no them once you know them.
  3. It’s healing for people to experience people with other beliefs just listening to them.
  4. Polarization is the antidote to American ingenuity.
  5. Deliberation by itself is not nearly enough when big systems have strong tendencies, and when a merciless climate clock keeps ticking. It is not just an absence of public voice, but strong structural problems. There needs to be an ongoing critical conversation about what our world needs.
  6. We need real human experiences, and a non-judgmental, non-politicized space to describe experiences.
  7. Instead of coming to agreement, we can take the need to agree away and simply try to understand each other. If you do that, it is easier to understand, and you get to deeper issues.
  8. We need to listen to each other in an open-hearted way. We need to have collaborative solutions that have the possibility of going to the next level of facing big issues.
  9. We learn from breaking things, making mistakes, trying to do things when we don’t know how. A game is like that: a challenge you need to approach via play. People know how to play games. If we want to make it accessible, we have to draw on things they know. Drawing on inherent forms of communication and action works.
  10. Giving people a voice ensures that justice and peace aren’t just about fighting each other. It’s the fact that people can work out their issues on their own. Justice will come about because of a common sense of peace.
  11. We have the world’s greatest renewable resource: creativity.

Hooray for creativity! And for collaboration.

You can find the original version of Cynthia’s post on her Story Colored Glasses blog at

Announcing New NCDD Membership Category, New Members Page

As always, our NCDD team is working constantly to create even more ways to support our members, and we are pleased to announce a couple new things we’ve recently changed so that we can support you even more!

IMG_8204First, we have officially changed the former “Student” membership category to “Student/Young Professional.” The new membership type will extend the benefits of discounted annual NCDD membership dues to rising members of the D&D community who are no longer students, but who didn’t exactly start rolling in the dough right after finishing school — as well as new professionals who are just starting to make their way in the field.

We recognize that people of many ages consider themselves “young professionals” and that the word “young” is a pretty fluid term, so for the sake of clarity, people who are 30 years old or younger should feel free to join or renew as “Student/Young Professional” members. The fee for this membership type is only $30/year.

This change was informed by the great small-group conversations we had with the student & youth participants during our recent National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, and it is only the first change we intend to make to help the D&D field become more accessible to young people. Keep an eye out for announcements about new ways NCDD will be supporting young people in our field early next year!

IMG_7985Got an idea for what NCDD can do for new or young professionals in our field? Please leave us a suggestion or idea in the comments section! Also, if you notice your membership or some part of our site still uses the “Student” label rather than “Student/Young Professional,” please send a note about it to

Second, we’ve created a Newest Members Page on our website where you can learn about & connect with folks who’ve recently joined NCDD. We encourage you to check it out at, and join us in extending a warm welcome to all our new members! And as always, be sure to visit to see a geographic map of all 2,200+ NCDD members, and use the directory at to search the member roll. (And if you’re not yet a member, please join today!)

We have had such an exciting year here at NCDD, and as 2014 closes out, we are looking forward to making 2015 the best year yet for our field! We wish you all a happy and safe holiday season, and a happy new year!


Report: How should we tackle our field’s biggest barriers to success?

NCDD has completed a report on the October 2014 engagement project focused on addressing barriers in our field. This project was launched on the second day of the 2014 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, where during a plenary session our 415 attendees launched discussions about four barriers to the dialogue and deliberation community’s success:

  1. IMG_8016How might we overcome the lack of trust in our Democracy, our leaders, and in one another?
  2. How might we make our D&D work more equitable, inclusive and empowering?
  3. How might we more clearly delineate our field of practice for ourselves and those we seek to serve?
  4. How might we eliminate structural barriers in our democratic systems?

The results of this engagement project give us valuable insight into the ideas and actions that resonate most with the dialogue and deliberation community.  This data can help NCDD and others devise clearer paths forward in our attempts to overcome our field’s greatest challenges.

Download the report here

The four barrier “areas” were identified by looking through the results of an earlier engagement project we ran on that was focused on the question “What do you want to see happen when our field comes together at NCDD 2014?”

IMG_8202Conference attendees were encouraged to discuss these barriers to effective dialogue and deliberation work, and to identify new and existing strategies for overcoming them. We asked a note taker from each table to enter the top three “leading edge solutions” from their group under the relevant barriers on new pages we created on Codigital.

The day after the conference concluded, an email invitation was sent to all conference attendees as well as all members of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation — whether they attended the conference or not — inviting them to Codigital to identify existing strategies and co-create new strategies for overcoming persistent barriers to effective dialogue and deliberation work. Users were invited to add new ideas, vote on ideas to prioritize them, suggest edits to the ideas, and vote to resolve edits as a group.

Thank you to James Carr for donating his time and software to NCDD once again. Codigital is a dream to work in, and we really appreciate James’ generous support. James can be reached at

How should we tackle our field’s biggest barriers to success?

Ideas & Next Steps from NCDD 2014 Conference

The results of NCDD’s recent Codigital engagement project are quite interesting, and having a record of the ideas shared and how our community ranked those ideas is going to be incredibly useful — for NCDD and hopefully for others in our field.


As a reminder, on the second day of the 2014 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, we created the space for our 415 attendees to launch discussions about four barriers to the dialogue and deliberation community’s success:

  1. How might we overcome the lack of trust in our Democracy, our leaders, and in one another?
  2. How might we make our D&D work more equitable, inclusive and empowering?
  3. How might we more clearly delineate our field of practice for ourselves and those we seek to serve?
  4. How might we eliminate structural barriers in our democratic systems?

Click on any of the four list items to see the full report of the Codigital discussion in that area, including all ideas shared and their rankings.

These four barrier “areas” were identified by looking through the results of an earlier engagement project we ran on Codigital that was focused on the question “What do you want to see happen when our field comes together at NCDD 2014?”

In total for the 4 topics, there were 156 ideas posted and 5494 votes/rankings. 2386 people were invited to participate (all members plus all conference attendees), about about 100 people actively participated. Many more watched, but didn’t jump in.

Some of the ideas NCDDers shared are things that many of us could do, like the #2 idea under the “clearly delineate our field” barrier:

“Create some clear, simple tools and infographics for describing, assessing, and bringing to life dialogue and deliberation work. Identify the good material that is out there already and make it is easy for practitioners or public leaders to use.”

And the top-ranked idea in the “lack of trust” barrier:

“Focus on D&D work at the local level, where engagement efforts are much more likely to influence decisions. Work with public leaders to build/rebuild trust in government decision by decision, from the ground up.”

A few of the ideas are things that are already in place or in the works, like #4 in the “delineating our field” category:

“Gather *short* communication examples that practitioners have found successful: metaphors, anecdotes, sample experiences, images, videos, evocative language, etc. Organize by work context for easy reference. In progress. Need more people to join us!”  (contact Kim Crowley at to get involved in this ongoing project that launched at NCDD 2012)

And #14 in the same category:

“Follow up on Grande Lum’s offer at the NCDD conference to hold meetings across the country between NCDD members and DOJ Community Relations Service regional directors to see what kind of collaboration might be possible.” (see for more on this)

Some of the ideas are specific to the NCDD conference, like #10 in the Equity barrier, which focuses on making equity and individual empowerment central themes of NCDD.

Many would require funding and significant levels of collaboration among numerous actors in our field, like #2 in “structural barriers”:

“NCDD members collectively crowdsource, model and invent one or more systems for truly participative democracy, built in a way that could scale to including every citizens’ voice.”

Suffice it to say there is a lot to unpack here, and a lot to discuss!  I wanted to get these results posted without further delay, but we’ll certainly find many ways to dig into these ideas further. What are your reactions to these ideas and their rankings? Let us know by adding your comments to this post.

Also, a huge thank you to James Carr for donating his time and software to NCDD once again. Codigital is a dream to work in, and we really appreciate James’ generous support. James can be reached at  I can’t recommend James and Codigital highly enough.

NCDD-CRS Meetings Being Planned Across the Country

One of the highlights of the recent National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation was Grande Lum’s speech on the final day of the conference. Grande is director of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, an extraordinary program that was established 50 years ago as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

GrandeLumGivingSpeechKnown as “America’s Peacemaker,” the Community Relations Service (CRS) has worked with thousands of communities over the years, many of whom came together in crisis and emerged stronger and more unified as a result. CRS delivers four critically important services to communities facing intergroup conflict:  mediation of disputes, facilitation of dialogue, training, and consulting.

See our August 25th blog post at for more details on the vital work that Grande and CRS do.

At the end of his speech (which we’ll be posting soon), Grande committed to holding a meeting between NCDD members and CRS staff at each of CRS’s ten regional offices. Grande is excited to move forward on these meetings, and we have been working with CRS to make these meetings happen in January!

This is an exciting opportunity on many fronts. For one, you will have the opportunity to start a productive relationship with staff of an important government agency based in your area — people who really “get” the importance of process and know what it’s like in the trenches. (As a CRS staff member told me on the phone the other day, “we’re in the same tribe”!)

CRS’s Regional Directors are highly trained professional mediators, facilitators, trainers, and consultants who are experienced in bringing together communities in conflict to help them enhance their ability to independently prevent and resolve existing and future concerns. Regional Directors oversee the regional conflict resolution teams in the development of customized and proactive local solutions.

This is also exciting for the NCDD community as a collective. We often talk about how we can be more responsive during times of crisis that call for dialogue. Developing relationships and making ourselves available to CRS regional directors whose mission, in part, is rapid deployment during crises, can only strengthen our work and increase CRS’s capacity in the process. We also often lament the gap between dialogue and deliberation practice and government, and this addresses that concern as well.

GrandeLum-NextStepBubbleThe 10 regional offices are located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Their four field offices, where we may also be holding joint events, are located in Miami, Detroit, Houston, and San Francisco. The regional and field offices increase the availability of CRS services to rural communities and aid in rapid deployment during crises.

We have been working with CRS to coordinate meetings at each of these cities in late January. All NCDD 2014 attendees and supporting members of NCDD whose dues are in good standing are welcome to attend. Please send an email to NCDD’s office manager, Joy Garman, at, if you are interested in taking part.

The meetings will be part meet-and-greet between NCDDers and CRS staffers (including the Regional Directors), part discussions of promising practices for helping communities communicate more effectively, and part exploratory sessions about how we might align our efforts going forward.

We’re thrilled to say that our friends at CRS are open to your ideas about what you would like to see happen at these meetings. Use the comments here to share your thoughts on what you’d like to see on the agenda, and what would be most beneficial to you. CRS and NCDD will carefully consider your input when designing the meetings.

Graphic recording of Grande Lum's speech by the amazing Stephanie Brown.

Graphic recording of Grande Lum’s speech by the amazing Stephanie Brown.