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 www.thataway.org/exchange/files/docs/DD_Expand.pdf
), and their successful results spoke for themselves.
You can also read NCDD's take on the relationship between dialogue and deliberation at http://thataway.org/index.php/?page_id=713
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.
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 www.thataway.org/streams
, 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 http://thataway.org/index.php/?page_id=952
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.
Director, National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD)
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