That's fascinating. I do love stories.

So many times I've had the experience of being in a room of people who look like me bemoaning the fact that people who don't look (or think) like us aren't there. The mission statement endorses diversity, of course, and we've sent e-mails and posted invitations, and still They don't come to Our events.

And I try to remember when I most recently sought out and attended an event — of which there are plenty — where most of the people didn't look or think like me, or when I most recently created and planned an event, from the very beginning, with diverse people. Thankfully, I can think of a few occasions … but not many.

Daniel Horsey  303/503-1645

      Creative Risk
          Dramatic Action

On Aug 31, 2007, at 10:46 AM, Kenoli Oleari wrote:

Daniel -- Your email makes a connection to some important personal experiences for me.

I see friends of mine struggling with this issue all the time.  It has been a theme in some NCDD contexts, especially conference planning.

I have a feeling that the real issue here may be addressed by an old saying by Rajneesh, a spiritual leader from several decades back, "Get out of your own way."

One of the first large group events I was involved in had a "liberal" campus ministry inviting people from religious groups around the world to talk about "Sex: how do we talk about it."

One conservative Christian came all the way from New Zealand.  He was notably the only obvious "conservative" there.  During the conference he told the group that he had come because after reading the brochure, he knew that no conservatives would come and he wanted that voice in the room.    This was ironic, as the group had written the brochure in hopes that it would attract a wide spectrum of people.  The man had a wonderful experience and both he and others talked about how meaningful it had been to connect with people who had viewpoints apparently quite different than they.  What was particularly noticeable, however, to those that shared these experiences, was not the differences, but the similarities they discovered. 

What I learned from this is that most people beyond the exceptional New Zealander, need to have an invitation to come from a familiar source or at least in a familiar language.  For this reason, we always work with a planning team that has a member of all the stakeholder groups we want to include so they can reach out to their own community.

This is useful and gets past the language issues and familiarity issued.

However, what I think is a bottom line issue is that no one is going to come to our events unless they think we genuinely want them to come.  Our words are just what expresses our underlying feelings.  Wanting them there does not mean we think they should be there, or the conversation will be richer if they are there.  It means we want them there because we know we will take pleasure in their presence.

If there is anything that has shifted for me in this work, it is the  way my own personal feelings have shifted regarding who I identify with.  I once largely identified with the "left," feeling odd and out of place around people from conservative or wealthy cultures.  Over the years of working with large diverse groups, I have had the personal experience of seeing the richness and wisdom that grows from the authentic interaction of people from vastly diverse perspectives.  A wisdom surfaces that is not possible without this diversity.  We stand for this phenomenon, though we often don't believe it ourselves.  I think many of us have had epiphany like experience when we struggled to include a voice we believe we didn't like and then found out that having this voice in the room brought something amazing, that this voice spoke a wisdom we had never heard before, had an important thing of value to add.  

Another key learning that I have seen and experienced is the realization that being uncompromising, as long as we are fully present and fully authentic, adds to the interaction between diverse voices.  To connect, collaborate, interact, engage others, there is no reason we have to give up anything of ourselves.  I believe there is a big fear that if we invite people we disagree with, we will have to give up something of ourselves.  This is farthest from the truth.

Because of fears like these, we often fear or dislike people we disagree with.

So now, I take real joy in identifying with humanity, rather than the left or anyone else.  And there is still a big "lefty" side of me, but I now have friends and collaborators that have all kinds of perspectives and take great pleasure in them.

I think the key here is that people are only going to join us if they feel like we really like them and want them to join us.  We can't make this happen if we don't like them but are acting from a sense of duty, ideology, or even good process.    Also If we do like them or want them there, we will find a way to get them there.  It is just a matter of filling our own desire.

It's a human thing!


On Aug 31, 2007, at 7:25 AM, Daniel Horsey wrote:

NOooooo!! Not the "conservatives" question!!

Deep listening and and trust and appreciation, mutual acceptance born of co-creation, joining together instead of inviting into, etc.; surely most living things like that stuff.

Maybe we could pair our puzzle with its reverse. The conservatives in their lairs, sipping cognac, lighting cigars with dollar bills, summoning James to bring another roasted Democrat on a spit, discussing the Ten Commandments, must sometimes turn to one another and wonder, "Why is it so challenging to get liberals involved in this community, and to get them to the table?"

Or maybe NCDD, with its newfound wealth sprung from membership fees, would fund a research project, a kind of scavenger hunt: The first of us to capture a live conservative and drag him (him, of course) to our presence, would win that precious prize, the right to ask the ultimate question — Why?! Why does your kind despise us? Why?!? The answer, along with recommendations for future research, would be publishable and form the basis for a long-term federally funded project, though probably not until after the next election.

Last year I produced a small storytelling event around the war in Iraq. Seven people told short (10 – 12-minute) stories about their personal experiences, we and the small audience talked formally a bit, we had some cheese and fruit, and that was it. A few days later I checked in with the storytellers about their experience. A couple of approximate quotes:

"Near the end, I was standing, talking with P---, and I thought to myself, 'Oh my god! Here I am, talking with a LIBERAL, and we're not shouting at each other!!' It was pretty amazing."

"Y'know, I haven't had any use for soldiers at least since the 60s, except to think that I wish they didn't exist. But J--- (who told his story in full uniform), he seemed like a pretty good guy. I wouldn't mind having lunch with him sometime."

We probably all have had similar transcendent experiences, and we probably all would enjoy experiencing more of them.

When kids in a classroom are ignoring their teacher, I tend to think the teacher's probably not very interesting, and that shushing the kids probably won't work.

Similarly, when an audience isn't paying attention, I suspect the performer (me, all too often) is missing the mark.

So when we don't get full participation in our processes, maybe it's just me, but I wonder about us.

Kind of like this post. If it's more offensive and lengthy than entertaining or engaging, I apologize for communicating poorly.

Daniel Horsey  303/503-1645

      Creative Risk
          Dramatic Action

On Aug 30, 2007, at 8:34 PM, Sandy Heierbacher wrote:

I suppose it's about time for me to weigh in on this great conversation, although I admit I haven't been able to quite keep up with all of it!

I've been thinking that a little history about NCDD might be helpful with some aspects of this discussion, so I'll start at the beginning...

Back in 2001, myself and a small group of others (Jim Snow from GMU's ICAR program, Cricket White from Hope in the Cities, and Maggie Potapchuk and Mike Wenger from NABRE were some of the more active folks in the group as I recall - especially Jim) began talking about organizing a conference that would bring dialogue practitioners together to experience each other's methods and meet our colleagues in the field.  Most of us in this initial small group were interested/involved in dialogues on race, and we talked about a "Conference on Dialogue" and even a (yick) "Dialogue on Dialogue."

As we grew larger and kept talking, many of us came to realize that dialogue - whether focused on relations between groups or any number of other "wicked problems" - often went hand-in-hand with deliberation, especially when a decision needed to be made or action needed to be taken.  At the same time, we noticed that many organizations, practitioners, and researchers that focused on deliberation seemed to misunderstand the importance of dialogue.  And vice versa - dialogue folks didn't always seem to grasp the importance of deliberation.  But there were some organizations and practitioners - like those at the Study Circles Resource Center - who seemed to be very strongly making the case for dialogue and deliberation to be practiced in tandem (read their article on "deliberative dialogue" at, and their successful results spoke for themselves.  You can also read NCDD's take on the relationship between dialogue and deliberation at

So, we felt that holding a "National Conference on Dialogue _and_ Deliberation" was a good idea, and hoped the first conference, in October 2002, would start to create a community of innovators who could learn from the strengths and challenges of each other's work and each other's approaches.  We have built a wonderfully diverse community of practice over the years, and I continue to be awestruck by the intelligence, caring and hope that this community embodies.

At the same time, we have continually struggled with a number of issues that have come up again and again (including in this conversation).  New people are always joining the Coalition and older members have different levels of involvement at different times, so I see conversations repeating themselves - and they aren't necessarily the kinds of conversations that can be resolved.

The language issue always comes up.  Dale just brought up the fact that we use a lot of "insider" language in this group, and that can push newcomers away.  That's definitely true, and we should all watch that better.  But we have also always had to deal with the fact that the different streams of practice NCDD brings together (intergroup dialogue, deliberative democracy, conflict resolution, organization development, whole system change, etc.) all have their own special sets of terms.  I feel that we have been developing something of a common language these last few years, but then I notice that people are creating more and more new terms to describe this work, like "transpartisan," "citizen-centered," "collaborative governance," and "democracy 2.0."  So I have come to realize that the idea of creating a common language is more of an ongoing process than an achievable goal.  (Incidentally, although it's important for our community to discuss the nitty-gritty amongst ourselves, this conversation has also made me wonder if we shouldn't be focusing our energies on simplifying our language and making it more accessible to those outside of this community, rather than talking about the need for new categories and terms.)

The partisan issue also always comes around.  Why is it so challenging to get conservatives involved in this community, and to get them to the table?  Are D&D inherently progressive topics?  I could go on and on.

Another issue that comes up again and again is the need to be able to differentiate from all of the approaches out there. 56 dialogue and deliberation methods are listed and described in NCDD's Learning Exchange (, and 154 methods and tools are listed and described in our "participatory practices category (

In the U.S. more than in other countries, people tend to trademark a specific approach, and then they tend to hold it in higher esteem than all other approaches, emphasizing how it's different from and better than "typical" dialogue methods or "typical" deliberation methods. Often, creators of methods will not admit the weaknesses of those methods, or clearly articulate when the use of their method is not the best choice (instead, they'll claim that their method can be adapted to any situation).

NCDD tries not to favor one method over another because we recognize the power and potential of all methods and that different methods are better for different situations. But we finally took the risk of alienating some of our members by developing our "Engagement Streams framework," which helps people consider their purpose for using dialogue and/or deliberation, their available resources, who should be involved in the process, etc., and understand which methodologies best fit their context. The framework helps people navigate the options that are available to them because too often we hear about the disastrous consequences of a deliberation process being used when a conflict transformation process is really what's needed, for example. But it's not just about "picking and choosing" a method; it's designed to help people start to understand some of the design choices they'll need to make.  The framework is on the NCDD website at, and we welcome feedback as it is always being improved and expanded.

I and a number of others have presented this framework to a variety of audiences (practitioner conferences, youth, community leaders, etc.) and it has been incredibly successful at helping people who are new to this work (or people who are only experienced with one method or stream) to feel equipped to make a good process decisions. That said, it does not and can not cover all of the nuances that D&D organizers need to be aware of. And it may not easily encompass practices like Dynamic Facilitation that get at outcomes in ways that are very different from the other methods featured in the charts (I'm having a conversation with DeAnna Martin about whether/how DF should be included in the framework later today).  It does, however, include a number of the "whole systems" methods Kenoli has been referring to, like Future Search, Appreciative Inquiry, and Open Space.  Maybe this conversation on the list can be the springboard for considering what else may be missing from the framework?

This conversation may also be a great opportunity to solicit some of your opinions and feedback on an important project NCDD is working on.  NCDD is producing a small, easy-to-use guidebook that will introduce people to the range of dialogue and deliberation methods that are available to them, and help them decide when to use which method.  Our vision for this guidebook is that it will be small, glossy, fully of pictures of people in conversation, and that it will be distributed widely and freely at conferences, in communities, etc. in order to raise awareness of dialogue and deliberation, get people interested in using D&D, and help them get started.

We are using the Engagement Streams framework as a backbone for this publication, so now's the time for your voice to be heard if you disagree with how something is framed, think something is missing, or want to see any change at all in the framework.  I invite all of you to go to and look over the draft bones of the Guidebook.  There are pages on the NCDD site for all of the sections of the Guidebook, and all of these pages allow for comments to be added to them.  The sections are (1) an intro section on what D&D are, how they are actually being used, and what they look like, (2) the basics of running a D&D program, (3) identifying what you want to accomplish, (4) an outline of some of the most well-known D&D methods in use today, (5) examples of quality online D&D, (6) conditions for success, (7) and sustaining the results.

I welcome all of your ideas and feedback, and hope many of you end up influencing how this publication turns out.  What's posted so far was written by me, but it was strongly influenced by the work all of you do and the conversations we have on this list, at our conferences, over the phone, etc.  Kenoli asked in his email below who's in charge of perceiving what NCDD's conceptual framework is.  Since I'm the one who writes, gathers, and pieces together most of what's on the NCDD website, it may seem like the answer should be "me." But the reality is that almost all of what I believe/create/purport about D&D comes from what I've learned from all of you.


Sandy Heierbacher
Director, National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD)

Phone: 717-243-5144

Mark your calendar: NCDD’s 4th National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation is set for Austin, Texas, October 3-5, 2008. Watch our 5-minute video at to see why you should join us in Austin! Details at

-----Original Message-----
From: NCDD Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kenoli Oleari
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 3:59 PM
Subject: Re: [NCDD-LIST] Infrastructure discussion

I think you are getting at something here, Roger, though it may not  
be that we are on different planets. Rather, perhaps, that we are  
working with different assumptions (perhaps a way of saying the same  
thing).  It does feel like we are acting like we are talking about  
the same thing while talking about different things.

It might be interesting to take the time to surface our assumptions  
in good old Bohmian dialogue tradition.

I'll reveal some of mine plus a few other things.  I don't really  
know what people mean by dialogue or deliberation, at least regarding  
this particular group and so I am acting on the assumption that it  
means what I want it to mean, which is somewhat different that the  
usual meaning of these terms.  I'm guessing and assuming that my  
orientation is way out of the deliberation camp and partially  
overlapping the dialogue camp and largely in something else that is  
broadly being referred to here as systems change.  It is probably a  
bit disengenuous on my part not to have revealed all of this up front.

There's another area where I am making some assumptions, namely that  
there is not a lot of opening to change the NCDD framework regarding  
D&D, even though I am not quite sure what that framework is.  As an  
organization, I identify with the people involved in NCDD and am not  
sure where I or my practice fits in the NCDD conceptual framework as  
perceived by . . . ? (Who is in charge of perceiving what the NCDD  
framework is?).


Kenoli Oleari
1801 Fairview Street
Berkeley, CA  94703
Neighborhood Assemblies Network
510-601-8217, [log in to unmask]