12 Years of Herding Cats: Lessons from the NCDD Board on Engaging the Engagers


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  • Herding Cats image from Susan
  • Excited / 10th year in operation
  • Introductory activities - as people walk in the room; they are invited to answer this question posted on the wall chart:
    What terms do you use to describe the work you do relating to dialogue and deliberation? (We’ll invite short phrases like civic engagement, deliberation, intergroup dialogue)
  • Word cloud of members’ recent responses to the question “what is your area of specialization?”
  • NCDD’s mission is to bring together and support people, organizations, and resources in ways that expand the power of discussion to benefit society.
    NCDD fulfills its mission by serving as a resource clearinghouse, a news source, a gathering place, and a facilitative leader for the dialogue & deliberation community & beyond.
  • Highly consultative with our community (we check in with them often for our “big questions), and responsive to their needs.
  • (Handout) Where NCDD is now – 2,000+ members, 33,000 in broader network (subscribers) plus more via social media
    Large enough to offer a variety of programming (confabs, tech tuesdays, book clubs, regional meetups)
    Growing cred and leadership – involvement in white house efforts, KF contract and field mapping, other networks seeking us out aggressively
  • Yet it’s always a challenge to get people to join a network they can participate in without joining, and even moreso to get them to contribute dues.
  • How do you find out about others doing work in your field and related fields? (3-4 minutes in groups of 3 or 4, then quick large group “popcorn”)
  • What do our members seem to value?
  • Most of NCDD’s members are in the U.S. and Canada, but we have more than 200 members from outside the U.S., from more than 50 countries. (Members network didn’t get much traction, so now using map and directory).
  • Which others will go into a little more detail about in a bit. (uniting & strengthening the D&D community)
  • Nearly 3,000 resources. Beginner’s Guide, glossary, best-of-the-best resources page, how to run a basic dialogue
  • (Challenge: distributing the work involved in adding resources, updating resources, keeping this robust. Used to try to keep track of ALL that was going on / available; not possible now.
  • Active, rich, supportive. Also run jobs list, regional lists (Chicago, Central Texas, New England, Cascadia, DC area, etc.), and host lists for others, like C2D2 and Transpartisan group that’s emerging. Challenges: too much email for people to keep on top of; have to have moderation (and ground rules) to keep the list manageable and relevant. Can get sidetracked by difficult members or allow the listserv to get more philosophical than practical. Also hard to handle those who just want to take every opportunity to plug their tool.
  • Ongoing challenge: NCDD offers lots of info and resources on our site, listservs, social media and elsewhere, at a time when people’s attention spans seem to be dwindling.
  • The NCDD organization – Lean startup; experiment and iterate – challenge to know whether ideas are viable and do-able; hard to say no to members who want to see something happen that may not be simple/doable AND viable/needed/useful.
  • Staff (most of whom as part-time) are amazingly productive given the small team. We also provide small stipends for as-needed contractors for heavy lifting on projects and conference logistics.
    Lots of volunteers (loyal ones!), including amazing working board
    Sources of income – conferences (reg and sponsorships), foundation funding / contracts, dues, donations), some sales.
  • NCDD Narrative Part 1: Lessons learned from bridging sectors/practices. Conferences all milestones in a way. Our approach: develop relationships, provide an open platform to anyone to contribute (lean, but challenging – as participation is uneven and often driven by self-interest)
  • Again – just a suggestion as a placeholder – could also do images instead – would be more visually pleasing! CB
  • (Handout) Resources created to help people make sense of the broad, disparate field.
    At first, people had a lot of curiosity about and attachment to particular methods. Lots of confusion about what method to use when, how they were different.
  • PEP; also resource on how to hold better town halls and Resource Guide
  • Highlighted Martin’s work in this graphic to encourage people to think in terms of the big-picture (building civic capacity / infrastructure)
  • MARLA - Discussion #2: Start with moment of personal reflection: What would be the benefit to you – and to society – if the field were even more developed/robust? Share your answer with your small group – and then discuss your shared aspirations for the next phase of the field.
  • Share your answer with your small group – and then discuss your shared aspirations for the next phase of the field.
  • Courtney / Barb – How have the conferences evolved over the years?
  • Barb/Court – What did we learn about regional? Potentially ask group – how can we foster more regional networking effectively (think minimum viable product)
  • Regional events allowed the support to really emerge. Each event also had its own regional sponsors.
  • THE POWER OF NATIONAL. Images from last NCDD conference (plus Susan with her bag from 2014!)
  • NCDD 2012 Sponsors! List keeps growing and growing.
  • MARLA - Two $10,000 awards. Comb of conf work and online work at CE. Designed to catalyze some new ideas and new partnerships, and to learn what projects we should contribute our time/resources to.
  • DIANE - Deeper dive into what we get into at the conferences… focus most on framing and conservatives panel (next slide!)
  • DIANE - Small group discussion: Earlier you discussed your aspirations for the next phase of the DD field. What do you think are the biggest obstacles/challenges to getting to this next phase? What are the biggest opportunities for getting to this next phase? Please each share 1 obstacle and 1 opportunity.
  • 5290 votes!
  • Facebook group for interaction, FB page to automatically share posts from over 50 NCDD members’ blogs (and send them out to Twitter immediately), YouTube playlists, collaborative Pinterest board called “Latest in Public Engagement.”
  • MARTIN / ROSHAN – What does NCDD offer professionals and students in higher ed?
  • We try make sure people who do this hard work feel like they’re part of a larger community/movement, and help them explore their role in building that movement. (No longer feel alone! Can easily learn from others.) Catalyst for the field – in helping them see alignment, identify and work on challenges, develop frameworks and principles, see big picture (civic infra). Mostly by creating an infra to help members connect with, be inspired by, and learn from each other (listservs, confs, blog, r.c., regional events and meetups, confabs, tech tues, book clubs, storytelling tool, etc.)
  • Newtown Hackpad example
    Confs – create space to prioritize, strategize, self-org (yet challenging for new projects to take root)
    Newtown Hackpad example – wanted to help our members figure out how to organize quickly. What’s the right next leap forward for the field and what’s NCDD’s role in launching/inspiring/facilitating that next step? What’s reasonable given our bandwidth? How to get people to use the tools that make adding stories, posts, resources self-organized?
  • Segue to small group discussion of how people see NCDD’s role -- CoP, Collective Impact, nurturing the eco-system – how should we balance these roles? Is one more important than the others? How best can we support collaboration among our members? (In groups of three/four, brief discussion about their perceptions of priority role(s) for NCDD – and then large group) (We can also have this discussion in the large group if we’re running short on time at this point.)
  • 2014 Conference coming up – focus on Democracy for the Next Generation
  • 12 Years of Herding Cats: Lessons from the NCDD Board on Engaging the Engagers

    1. 1. 12 Years of Herding Cats…
    2. 2. National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation NCDD Board of Directors Sandy Heierbacher, Director Roshan Bliss, Blog Curator
    3. 3. Agenda • Welcome • NCDD overview • Lessons learned (part 1) • Discussion: aspirations for the next phase of the field • Lessons learned (part 2) • Discussion: challenges & opportunities for the field • Playing a facilitative role in this community • Next steps
    4. 4. What terms do you use to describe the work you do relating to dialogue and deliberation?
    5. 5. Words NCDD Members Use
    6. 6. NCDD’s Purpose: Strengthening and uniting the “dialogue & deliberation community.”
    7. 7. Supporting Innovators in D&D
    8. 8. Open-Source Philosophy • Membership is open to those who can’t afford to pay the fee • Resources shared widely – no “members only” • Popular listserv open to all • Highly consultative, iterative
    9. 9. Welcoming
    10. 10. Discuss for 3 to 4 mins: How do you find out about others doing work in your field and related fields?
    11. 11. What MembersValue • High quality, extensive website and resources • Large, responsive, knowledgeable network • Communication strategies & style • Biennial national conference as a focal point for field building
    12. 12. Membership Map
    13. 13. Our Conferences
    14. 14. 21 Categories 130 Tags 2,900 Resources
    15. 15. We share NCDD’s Work Many Others’ Work Opportunities to Contribute
    16. 16. The NCDD Discussion list www.ncdd.org/listservs
    17. 17. Too Much Information?
    18. 18. NCDD as a Lean Startup
    19. 19. Lean & Mighty Staff 
    20. 20. Strategic Alliances • Kettering Foundation • CommunityMatters Partnership • Creating Community Solutions • IAP2 Canada, Participedia • And more!
    21. 21. What would be the benefit to you – and to society – if the field were even more developed/robust?
    22. 22. Discuss your shared aspirations for the next phase of the field.
    23. 23. 2010 Regional Events Austin Boston Portland Denver San Francisco
    24. 24. 2010 All-Star Sponsors
    25. 25. 2014 Conference Sponsors
    26. 26. Five Challenge Areas • Framing • Systems • Evaluation • Inclusion • Moving from talk to action
    27. 27. The “Framing Challenge”
    28. 28. What do you think is one of the field’s biggest challenges, and one of the biggest opportunities?
    29. 29. Bridging Tech Enthusiasts & Tech Skeptics
    30. 30. Codigital Experiment
    31. 31. Learning from Social Media www.ncdd.org/social for links
    32. 32. Education Civic/adult educ. Dewey/Freire Experiential and service learning Public reason Habermas/Rawls Public sphere Ethics, logic, and judgment Multi-stakeholder dispute resolution Democratic theory Local/state politics Public opinion Civil society Power/conflict Diversity studies Community organizing Collaborative problem solving Community building Community development Philosophy Political Science/ Public Affairs Journalism Public Administration Sociology/ Social Work Information Technology Natural Resources/ Environ- mental Studies Online deliberation Group decision support systems Public and civic journalism Mediated delib. Law Public law Mediation Deliberative Democracy & Collaborative Governance Communication Conflict resolution Small group/org. comm. Intercultural dialogue Rhetoric/political comm. Urban Planning/ Civil Engineering Cooperative Extension Democratic governance Collaborative decisionmaking and public participation Public Health Deliberation in the disciplines Public role in policy decisions Public role in design charettes
    33. 33. What is NCDD’s role? • Community of practice / hub • Facilitative leader • Encouraging collaboration to achieve shared goals
    34. 34. Newtown Example
    35. 35. What should be NCDD’s role in helping achieve our aspirations for the field?
    36. 36. More at: www.ncdd.org Email: hq@ncdd.org